Sunday, October 21, 2018

Go the distance! -- 2 Kings 13:4-6, 14-19, 24-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 21, 2018

During an elementary school track meet a young boy ran three of the laps in a race very fast and was out among the leaders. But on the last lap, instead of staying on the track and rounding the end to get to the finish line, he left the track, cut across the football field to the track on the other side, and then finished. Someone asked him why he cut across, he simply said, “I got tired.” Though he ran well, he did not finish well and was disqualified. He failed to go the distance.

There is a definite need in America today for God’s people to serve the Lord with all one’s heart. Some of Northern Israel’s kings rendered admirable service to the Lord for a while, but in time their obedience was well rather incomplete. They sinned and did what they wanted rather than following the Lord. Their examples illustrate the importance of serving God with wholehearted consistency and persistence. Today we will take a look at why it is so important for believers to go the distance…

READ: 2 Kings 13:4-6, 14-19, 24-25

Why do some Christians start well in their relationship with God but then do not serve with wholehearted consistency and persistence? Why don’t they go the distance? We can blame it on a lot of things but whatever the reason God calls his people to go the distance! We discover that…

I. To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings! (Vv. 4-6)

Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD's favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before. But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria.

  1. When Jehoahaz became king of Israel, he continued his predecessors’ practices. He approved of and took part in the worship of the golden calves set up by Jeroboam at Dan and Bethel. Because the people followed their leader’s example and as punishment for their sins, God kept Israel under the oppressive power of the Aramean kings Hazael and Ben-hadad. This condition continued during Jehoahaz’s 17-year reign. “Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD's favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel.” While we are not always faithful, God always is. The word “sought” carries the idea of turning to God in weakness or helplessness. God heard Jehoahaz because God saw the oppression Hazael, king of Aram, inflicted on Israel. The Hebrew word translated “heard” means not only that God listened to the prayer of Jehoahaz but also that He answered his prayer: “The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before.” Just like in the Book of Judges God once again sent someone to deliver his people. He acted to deliver the Israelites and restore them to a time of peace. They were able to live in their own tents or homes as before. Sometimes, people never learn from their mistakes. This can be true of a nation as well. “But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria.” God’s deliverance did not motivate the Northern Kingdom Israel to turn back completely from idolatry and worship him only. Israel continued to practice the sins that Jeroboam, Israel’s first king, initiated when he set up calf worship in Israel. The nation also kept the Asherah pole standing as a symbol and place for the worship of the female goddess Asherah. An Asherah pole was a wooden pole erected to the Canaanite goddess of fertility. May poles that some dance around nowadays are the remnants of this paganism. To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings!

  EXAMPLE: I enjoy being in the company of people who have a sense of humor. Lighthearted conversation sprinkled with laughter is always enjoyable. I also like serious discussions about important spiritual, moral, and political issues, especially when the participants express different points of view with intensity and feeling. I must confess however that I don’t enjoy conversations when I am being rebuked. It’s hard to face my failings. As I look back on my life, however, I must confess that some of the reprimands have brought me moral and spiritual benefit. I remember my uncle who was “disappointed” in me because I took a shortcut in weeding my grandmother’s garden. I remember a coworker telling me he wasn’t satisfied with the job I did. Both made me a better person. Rebukes hurt, but they are helpful. To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings!

Jehoahaz was wise to go to God in prayer for help. The worship of Baal and Asherah had not brought his nation deliverance from Aram. When God delivered the Hebrew people, they should have turned to him in gratitude and served him with all their hearts. However, they fell short spiritually. They accepted God’s favor but continued in their evil ways. We discover that…

II. Persistence pays off in going the distance for God! (Vv. 14-17)

Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king's hands. “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The LORD's arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”

  1. What was a king to do? His army had been reduced to 50 horsemen, 10 chariots, and only 10,000 foot soldiers. His nation was suffering from the incursions of the Arameans and was spiritually corrupt. Now, the Nation’s top prophet “Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died.” The names of the kings here might be confusing. “Joash” and “Jehoash” are two ways of spelling the same name. This confusion is complicated because Israel and Judah both had kings with this name and their reigns overlapped. In verse 10 the king of Judah is called Joash and the king of Israel is called Jehoash. For clarity’s sake, this is how the names will be used. So we find that the “Jehoash king of Israel went down to see (Elisha) and wept over him. ‘My father! My father!’ he cried.” He saw Elisha as his nation’s spiritual father. The word also implies a master, a protector, an advisor, or a governor. God had made Elisha a spiritual leader to Israel! Through the years, Israel had defeated its enemies by depending on Elisha, not by depending on the nation’s military strength. So now the king cries, “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Though Elisha was very ill, he answered Jehoash’s request for help. Elisha tells him “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. “When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king's hands.” The prophet’s action symbolized that God would have his “hand” on the king in battle against Aram. Jehoash would have to face the Arameans, but God would guide him in the battle. The prophet’s next instructions were to open the east window. The Arameans were located in the area east of Israel, which included the area across the Jordan. Pointing the arrow out of the window toward the east, Elisha commanded Jehoash to Shoot! When the king shot the arrow, Elisha declared, “The LORD's arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha promised Jehoash would receive victory over the Arameans at Aphek a city east of the Jordan and near the Sea of Galilee. What circumstances tempt believers to think ministry for the Lord is no longer possible? In what area will you continue to serve the Lord regardless the circumstances? Even while very ill Elisha continued to serve the Lord. Persistence pays off in going the distance for God!

  EXAMPLE: A. J. Cronin a doctor who was forced by illness to take a leave of absence from his medical practice decided to write. He became discouraged when half done and threw his manuscript into the garbage. Later when Cronin was walking the Scottish Highlands he met a man digging in a bog, to drain it for use as a pasture. As Cronin talked with him, the man related, “My father dug at this bog and never made a pasture. But my father knew and I know that it’s only by digging you can make a pasture. So I keep on digging.” Feeling rebuked Cronin went home, picked his manuscript out of the garbage can, and finished it. That novel, Hatter’s Castle, sold three million copies! There are times we may feel trapped by circumstances that demand persistence. Are we willing to keep digging away at whatever “bog” God has assigned to us? Persistence pays off in going the distance for God!

Elisha rendered persistent service to the Lord, even when he was suffering from a terminal illness. Elisha’s actions remind us that the Lord wants believers to continue serving him as long as they are able, regardless of what they are experiencing. We learn that…

III. We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience! (Vv. 18-19, 24-25)

Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”… Hazael king of Aram died, and Ben-Hadad his son succeeded him as king. Then Jehoash son of Jehoahaz recaptured from Ben-Hadad son of Hazael the towns he had taken in battle from his father Jehoahaz. Three times Jehoash defeated him, and so he recovered the Israelite towns.

  1. Elisha instructed the king to “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Now here is the key to understanding what the king should have done, how he failed Elisha’s direction, and therefore failed to follow through with his trust in God! “Strike the ground” with the arrows Elisha told him but the king struck the ground three times and stopped. How many arrows did Jehoash have in his hand? We do not know but if he had followed through he would have been completely successful! Jehoash could have held all the arrows in his hand and struck the ground three times, or he could have shot three of the arrows into the ground. I believe he had a lot more arrows and he had failed to strike the ground the number of times the arrows represented. God desired to give him a complete victory but now he would only enjoy a partial one. How often does this occur in our lives when God asks us to trust him and we only partially follow through? Elisha became angry when Jehoash stopped after striking the ground only three times. The prophet said he should have struck five or six times. If he had, then he would have defeated Aram totally, until he put an end to them. But because he struck the ground only three times, he would strike down Aram only three times. The king’s actions reveal half-heartedness in accepting Elisha’s word from God. The king’s actions suggest a lack of faith and determination to be all he could be in the hands of Almighty God. We learn that after the king of Aram’s death Jehoash seized the opportunity to recapture from Hazael’s successor, Ben-hadad, the towns Hazael had taken from Jehoash’s father Jehoahaz. In the battles for those towns, Jehoash was able to defeat the Arameans under Ben-hadad but only three times, thus fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy. What task or challenge are you facing right now for the Lord in which you are tempted either to ignore or to face half-heartedly? What steps can you take to go the distance with God in this challenge? Jehoash was not limited in his success by the strength of the Arameans but by his own lack of wholehearted obedience. God had promised complete victory, but the king had not been committed to obeying and serving God obediently. God would have gone the distance and defeated the Arameans if only Jehoash had gone the distance with him. We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience!

  EXAMPLE: After getting home from church a little boy’s mother asked what they had taught him in Sunday School. He sighed and responded, “Obedience… AGAIN!” We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience! Oswald Chambers wrote: “The Lord does not give me rules, but he makes his standard very clear. If my relationship to him is that of love, I will do what he says… If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself.” Cindy Casper writes: “When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. Arthur W. Pink said that love is ‘a principle of action, and it expresses itself . . . by deeds which please the object loved.’ To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks.” We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience!

Conclusions:

To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings! Persistence pays off in going the distance for God! We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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, October 13, 2018

Line up with God’s purposes! -- 2 Kings 11:1-3, 12, 15-20

Line up with God’s purposes! -- 2 Kings 11:1-3, 12, 15-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 14, 2018

Sam was the president of the bank in his town. He and his wife enjoyed the excitement and popularity of their community positions. In the eyes of many he was a successful husband, father, and community leader. However, almost every time Sam passed a church on his way to and from work, he felt a twinge of guilt. He knew he and his family were not living up to the standards his father and mother had taught him. Though he and his wife were nominal church members, they were not actively working in the church to accomplish the Lord’s will in their community. Each year, that fact weighed more heavily on his conscience. Believers are called to yield to and act in line with God’s purposes in the world and in their lives.

The verses we will look at this morning we will discover two women, one of whom pursued an agenda directly opposed to the purposes of God. The second woman determined to act in line with God’s purposes and planned her actions accordingly. How do you define success? What is the relationship between success and taking actions to fulfill God’s purposes? Why is pursuing one’s own agenda without regard to God’s purposes wrong? Let’s find out this morning…

READ: 2 Kings 11:1-3, 12, 15-20

I. We will face challenges to God’s purposes! (Vv. 1-3, 12)

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the LORD for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.

  1. This is a sordid tale of murder, scheming, and downright ungodly behavior! The background for this account is God’s promise to David that his descendants would rule over his people forever. When Jehoshaphat of Judah was king, he made an alliance with Ahab of Israel by having his son Jehoram marry Ahab’s daughter Athaliah. Jehoram then became the next king of Judah. A son born to Jehoram and Athaliah, Ahaziah, became Judah’s next king and Athaliah the queen mother. At Ahaziah’s death, she usurped Judah’s throne for herself and became queen. Following the death of Ahaziah, his idolatrous mother then began to murder any of his descendants she could find: “When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.” Her action would have ended the rule of David’s descendants over God’s people, which God had promised would be forever. Do you think Satan was active in this? More than likely, however, an unlikely person steps forward in bravery, courage, and strength. Jehosheba, Ahaziah’s little sister, took the dead king’s small child Joash and his nurse and hid them from Athaliah. Now least you misunderstand what is going on here let me remind you that Athaliah was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and now as Judah’s only reigning queen and the strongest Baal advocate among Judah’s rulers, she would bring about a surge in paganism, ungodly worship, and behavior just like Jezebel. She was just as horrendous and murderous as her mother Jezebel. Israel now faced dark times unless someone stepped forward to do what God desired. And she did: “But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the LORD for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.” In these verses we discover that as God’s people we will face challenges to God’s purposes!

  EXAMPLE: When Jehosheba realized Athaliah was killing the king’s children, she protected one child, Joash. Perhaps she did this out of compassion for the child. Or perhaps she was aware she needed to save at least one descendant of David. Both Jehosheba and Jehoiada exhibited great courage when they chose to embrace God’s purposes and save the life of Joash. They could not let Athaliah defeat God’s purpose to have a king from David’s house on the throne. At great risk they hid Joash, removed Athaliah, and installed Joash as Judah’s king. We too may face great risks in taking God’s purposes and agenda as our own. We will face challenges to God’s purposes!

What risks have you seen Christians take in pursuing God’s purposes and agenda? What encourages you to take such risks? What discourages you from taking such risks? Whatever happens in our lives…

II. We are to fulfill God’s purposes! (Vv. 12, 15-20)

Jehoiada brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king. They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”… Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: “Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest had said, “She must not be put to death in the temple of the LORD.” So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death. Jehoiada then made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people that they would be the LORD’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people. All the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols to pieces and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars…The king then took his place on the royal throne, and all the people of the land rejoiced. And the city was quiet, because Athaliah had been slain with the sword at the palace.

  1. The priest Jehoiada then began making plans to rid Judah of Athaliah and make Joash Judah’s king. He conspired against Athaliah with the temple guards, the army, and the Carites who were mercenary soldiers. Under tight security, Jehoiada brought out Joash from his hiding place and presented him to the people. He put the crown on the young king’s head, gave him a copy of the testimony, and proclaimed him king. “They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the king!’” The noise of the people’s shouts and the trumpets’ blasts reached the palace and the ears of Athaliah. Going to the temple, she found Joash standing in the king’s customary place wearing the crown of the throne of Judah. Joash was surrounded by guards and by people rejoicing and blowing trumpets. She tore her robes and cried out, “Treason! Treason!” But she was taken prisoner. Then “Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: ‘Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.’ For the priest had said, ‘She must not be put to death in the temple of the LORD.’” Because the temple was a holy place and human blood was not to be spilled there. “So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death.” Though gruesome to read, these events stress the awesome responsibility to embrace God’s purposes rather than to oppose them. People do not defeat God’s purposes; they defeat themselves trying to go against God’s purposes. Following Athaliah’s death, Jehoiada made a threefold covenant: “Jehoiada then made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people that they would be the LORD’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people. All the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and tore it down.” To implement their covenant, the people tore down the temple to Baal that Athaliah had erected. They also “smashed the altars and idols to pieces and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars.” Joash began a 40-year reign at age seven because of the courage and desire in the heart of Jehosheba and her husband Jehoiada to do what they could to fulfill God’s purposes. Through their actions, a descendant of David was returned to Judah’s throne. We are to fulfill God’s purposes!

  EXAMPLE: To avoid recriminations by the devotees of Baal, Jehoiada posted guards at Solomon’s temple. At the end of the coronation ceremonies the people led by Jehoiada and his guards conducted the new king to his palace where he sat down on his throne. The people of Judah as a whole rejoiced greatly that once again a descendant of David ruled and that the worship of Yahweh was again made official. They could not let Athaliah defeat God’s purpose to have a king from David’s house on the throne. At great risk they hid Joash, removed Athaliah, and installed Joash as Judah’s king. We too may face great risks in taking God’s purposes and agenda as our own. We are to fulfill God’s purposes!

Conclusion:

We will face challenges to God’s purposes! We are to fulfill God’s purposes!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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, October 06, 2018

Respond to God’s direction! -- 2 Kings 8:1-2; 9:1-6, 10b-13

Respond to God’s direction! -- 2 Kings 8:1-2; 9:1-6, 10b-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 7, 2018

On March 23, 1775, the second Virginia convention met in Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. This convention moved that the colony be armed. In defense Patrick Henry spoke these passionate words: “Gentlemen may cry, ‘Peace! Peace!’ But there is no peace! The war is actually begun! ... Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” Patrick Henry expressed publicly the thoughts of many that God was concerned about what happened to the colonies. Because of the courageous decisions and actions of Henry and others, we enjoy freedom in our nation.

These verses are about how a Shunammite woman responded to a command from Elisha, how an unnamed prophet obeyed Elisha and carried out a dangerous mission, and how some military leaders made a courageous decision in the face of danger. These examples are designed to move believers to follow God’s direction. In fact we will discover that God offers us guidance and expects us to follow it. Let’s see how we can respond to God’s direction…

READ: 2 Kings 8:1-2; 9:1-6, 10b-13

God’s directions either come to us directly from Scripture or they are in harmony with Scripture and its teachings. Here we discover that…

I. Responding to God’s directions can involve making any of several choices! (2 Kings 8:1-2)

Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the LORD has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.” The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years.

  1. God is concerned about widows and orphans and other needy people. The woman and her son were the same woman and son whom he raised from the dead after he suffered sunstroke. God had promised this lady a boy and he had come through and now Elisha was watching over her family. Elisha told the woman to take her household and find a place outside Israel where she could stay during the next seven years. The prophet announced that the Lord had called for a seven-year famine in the land. Evidently the woman was now widowed. When Elisha instructed the woman and her family to leave Israel, they did as the Lord directed. They left their home, their farm, and their friends. They left Israel and stayed in the land of the Philistines for seven years. The direction Elisha gave the woman was in keeping with God’s will and plans. Believers need to be sure the direction they receive is God’s and is either directly from or is in harmony with the Scriptures, which reveal God’s will. We do not all of a sudden receive directions from God that are inconsistent with his will and ways. Sometimes God’s advice may seem difficult, hard, or impossible but when God gives us directions we must be willing to make the hard choices and follow him. Later events in the Shunammite woman’s life proved that God takes care of those who respond obediently to  him. Has there been a time when God asked you to follow him, what did you do? Was it difficult to follow his desire for your life? Often when we follow the plan of God it can be difficult just like it was for this woman and her son to pick up and leave their home, farm, and family and go to a foreign place. But she was willing to do so. Responding to God’s directions can involve making any of several choices!

  EXAMPLE: While the woman was away, the state had taken control of her property. Without a husband to reclaim it when the family returned, she went to the king. In the providence of God, the king was talking to Gehazi, Elisha’s former servant, about how Elisha raised this woman’s young son from the dead. While the king and the prophet’s former servant were discussing that event, the woman and her son came before the king. When Gehazi identified her, the king ordered an official to give the woman back everything that belonged to her plus any income derived from her land while she was gone. God honored her obedient response to Elisha by working out the problem that her obedience cost her even though it was seven years later. God honors obedience, though that does not always happen immediately. Responding to God’s directions can involve making any of several choices!

A second choice about God’s direction concerns making a courageous response. Some responses involve possible dangerous consequences. In those situations we discover that…

II. Responding to God’s directions calls for us to be courageous in obeying him! (2 Kings 9:1-6)

The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets and said to him, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!” So the young man, the prophet, went to Ramoth Gilead. When he arrived, he found the army officers sitting together. “I have a message for you, commander,” he said. “For which of us?” asked Jehu. “For you, commander,” he replied. Jehu got up and went into the house. Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head and declared, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the LORD’s people Israel.

  1. One of the “sons of the prophets” responded to Elisha’s instruction with admirable courage. He was to complete the charge God gave to Elijah by anointing Jehu as king of Israel. Jehu was to reestablish God’s rule over the Northern Kingdom. He was also to bring the judgment that God had told Elijah to prophesy on the house of Ahab and Jezebel for their sins against Naboth, the Lord’s prophets, and Israel’s people. His three commands to the unnamed prophet were to “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead.” He was to go, run, and anoint!  Elisha tells him, “Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!” Can you imagine doing something like this nowadays? If the messenger wanted to live he needed to get Jehu alone. Ahab or Jezebel would surely have had him killed for delivering the anointing of God that threatened their power. The prophet was to leave that inner room immediately and flee. He was not to wait around for anything. His mission was urgent and potentially dangerous. The young prophet promptly obeyed Elisha, going to Ramoth Gilead as instructed. Whatever anxious thoughts this young man may have had about this mission and journeying to the scene of the war, he disregarded. Jehu was consulting with his officers. Possibly, they were discussing military strategy for the war. Jehu left his officers and went into the house where they could be alone. Once inside that inner room, the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head. Then he delivered the message from God. He promptly and courageously responded in obedience to God’s direction through Elisha. Responding to God’s directions calls for us to be courageous in obeying him!

  EXAMPLE: Obeying God’s direction to us often requires courage on our part. The prophet’s mission to anoint Jehu as king was dangerous because Israel already had a king, Joram. Elisha was involving this young prophet in an action to replace Joram as Israel’s leader. If God had not instructed Elisha to anoint Jehu, this action would have been highly questionable. Elisha had to have courage for the same reasons the young prophet needed courage. Jehu also had to make a courageous response to accept God’s anointing him to be king with Joram still alive. Sometimes God’s direction may involve personal danger. We should respond to God’s directions immediately, in a courageous manner, and with trust in the Lord. Responding to God’s directions calls for us to be courageous in obeying him!

A third kind of response to God’s direction is doing so publicly. Elisha and the prophet had both made public responses. Believers know about public responses because they generally begin their Christian lives making some kind of public response to Christ’s invitation to salvation. We learn that…

III. Responding to God’s call may mean doing so publicly! (2 Kings 9:10-13)

As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.’“ Then he opened the door and ran. When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, “Is everything all right? Why did this madman come to you?” “You know the man and the sort of things he says,” Jehu replied. “That’s not true!” they said. “Tell us.” Jehu said, “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’“ They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”

  1. We also discover God also had a task for Jehu. The Lord’s message revealed that Jehu was to destroy Ahab’s house and avenge the deaths of the Lord’s prophets and his servants who Jezebel had killed. Jehu was to destroy every descendant of Ahab and bring about the death of Jezebel. After delivering such a frightful and important message, the young prophet opened the door and ran like the wind, just as Elisha instructed. When the prophet left, Jehu’s officers asked if everything was all right. They wondered why a crazy person, a madman, had come to him. Jehu was evasive at first and answered their questions by reminding them that they knew about prophets, how they behaved, and what kinds of things prophets said. They could have had various reasons for calling the prophet a crazy person. The Hebrew word means “mad” and was used in a derogatory sense. Prophets often wore unusual clothing and spoke weird things concerning God. And this “madman” prophet had made a mad dash into and then out of their camp. The officers refused to be put off. They said, “That’s not true!” Those three words translate one Hebrew word that means “lie.” The officers did not know what the prophet had said, so they demanded, “Tell us!” Answering them, Jehu first said that the prophet had declared his message was what the Lord says. His message was from the Lord through Elisha and then through the young prophet as Elisha’s messenger. “I anoint you king over Israel.” The officers responded quickly. They expressed the decision of their hearts by what they did. Each person threw his garment under Jehu on the steps where he was standing. Then, they blew the trumpet for all to hear and shouted “Jehu is king!” Their public actions contained meaningful symbolism. One’s garment or outer cloak was a symbol of power and personality. Through their actions, the officers were showing their personal agreement with Jehu’s becoming king and their willingness to take necessary action so he could begin his reign. Responding to God’s call may mean doing so publicly!

  EXAMPLE: When God gives a direction, he wants those to whom he speaks to be prepared to respond in an appropriate, visible manner. The officers’ response was visible. Everyone around them saw and heard what they did and said. Their response was appropriate. Placing their cloaks under Jehu and blowing the trumpet were appropriate ways to indicate publicly their response to Jehu as the new king. Responding to God’s call may mean doing so publicly!

Conclusion:

Responding to God’s directions can involve making any of several choices! Responding to God’s directions calls for us to be courageous in obeying him! Responding to God’s call may mean doing so publicly!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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, September 29, 2018

Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22

Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 30, 2018

There are those men and women who look beyond their circumstances in life and see God working right in the midst of every situation. I would like to think that I am such a person but I confess this is not always the case. However in those times when it is difficult for me to see the hand of God working in my life I am reminded of this incident in the life of Elisha and kind of find comfort in how he deals with his servant. The reason I do is because more often than not I am like Elisha’s servant and I need to learn to look with faith.

When the king of Aram sent a large military contingent against Elisha, the prophet did not fear because he saw by faith that God had sent him protection and help. God had provided a large spiritual contingent that was more powerful than even the Aramean army. God protected Elisha when the Aramean king sent his forces to surround Dothan and capture Elisha and in the process taught those around him to look with faith, let’s discover how this morning…

READ: 2 Kings 6:8-22

We need to view every situation in life with faith. God desires us to see him and his resources are always available for every experience in life. This incident recorded in the life of Elisha teaches us that…

I. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! (Vv. 8-12)

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

  1. Arameans were sometimes at war and sometimes at peace with Israel during the years of Elisha’s ministry. At the time of this particular incident the Arameans were making profitable surprise raids into Israel. So we are told that “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The dates for these events are not clear. Therefore the names of the kings of Aram and Israel are uncertain. History tells us that Hazael or Ben-Hadad were two possibilities for the king of Aram. Jehoram, who was also called Joram, might have been Israel’s king at the time. Whenever the Arameans set up for such an attack, God would reveal the Aramean’s plans to Elisha. Thus God’s prophet always knew where the Aramean forces were waiting to ambush Israel’s forces, or where they were planning to attack Israel. Then the man of God would tell the king of Israel about the Arameans’ movements and what they planned. Elisha was Israel’s early warning system! “Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.” This failure and frustration “enraged the king of Aram”. He did not recognize God was at work through Elisha’s supernatural knowledge of the Arameans’ troop movements. The Hebrew word translated enraged means “to storm.” The Aramean king’s first reaction was to suspect a traitor among his officers. So he “summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’” One of Aramean officers told his king that no one of the officers was a traitor. The person responsible for leaking information about the king’s raiding plans was Elisha, the prophet in Israel. Elisha could tell the king of Israel even the words the Aramean king spoke in his bedroom! Elisha knew even the innermost secrets of the king! These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

  EXAMPLE: These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. Such a conclusion was understandable for surely the king knew about or even had experienced the work of traitors. His conclusion was reasonable and humanly possible. He chose to look at the problem from a human viewpoint and through human reasoning. The king did not know God was working. However, the Aramean servant saw the situation differently. The passages do not explain how or why the servant saw their problem was the result of Elisha’s work. Whether the Aramean was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. His actions teach us that when we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

Whether the Aramean soldier was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. This officer’s actions illustrate the biblical truth of this lesson that seeing life through the eyes of faith is both a choice and God’s gift. In fact we learn that…

II. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! (Vv. 13-17)

“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

  1. To his credit the Aramean king believed his officer and ordered all of his officers to go into Israel and see where Elisha was. The king began making plans to capture the prophet. This Aramean king was another of many kings who tried to silence prophecy that was not in their favor. After a period of time a report came to the king that Elisha was in Dothan, a city about 12 miles south of Israel’s capital city of Samaria. “Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.” The “strong army” translates a Hebrew word meaning “strength” like the strength of an army. The king sent a powerful military force to capture one scruffy man of God. “They went by night and surrounded the city.” By sending them at night, the king thought they could slip up on Elisha. The forces moved to encircle Dothan to keep Elisha from escaping. The king was still looking at the situation only through physical sight and reasoning through human reason. He did not factor God into the situation at all. Elisha’s servant was the first to report their situation. In a panic he rushed to Elisha and said, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The Aramean king wasn't the only one looking at the situation through human eyes, so was Elisha’s servant. The servant’s exclamation “Oh” can mean “Oh, no!” Seeing the enemy forces all around them, the servant could only react in hopelessness and fear. He was looking through eyes of human sight and not of spiritual faith. He saw only the overwhelming enemy, not the more than adequate resources of help available from God. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” “Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Where the servant only saw the enemy’s mighty forces, Elisha saw God’s mightier forces. Both forces were there but God’s were stronger. God answered His prophet’s prayer, and the servant was able to see the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. The servant needed his eyes of faith opened so he could see God’s protecting presence. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

  EXAMPLE: Enemy troops really did surround Dothan, which frightened the servant. But Elisha was right. God’s protecting forces really did surround Elisha and Dothan as well. Both were acting realistically. The servant either didn’t know or had forgotten that God is always present with his people; just like we can when we are in the midst of life’s circumstances. The servant needed to stop looking at situations with human sight alone. The psalmist said, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalms 34:7 NIV). When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

Looking through the lenses God provides requires that we walk with him by faith. We cannot always we see the outcome but we can always rest assured God has our back and desires the best for our lives. In fact we discover that…

III. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working! (Vv. 18-22)

As the enemy came down toward him, “Elisha prayed to the LORD, Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria. After they entered the city, Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.”

  1. We discover this must have been a firsthand account because of the detailed personal information given. We learn that “As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’” Elisha and Israel did not have a great army nor did they have the resources to wage an ongoing campaign, all they had was their dependence on the Lord. That was enough and in fact more than they needed because God held the victory. “So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.” Think of a situation in which you had difficulty seeing any evidence God was at work. Did you eventually believe He was at work? How can that experience help you begin to view each situation today with faith? After God answered Elijah’s prayer to strike the Arameans blind, Elisha led these sightless soldiers the 12 miles from Dothan into the heart of Samaria. “Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ On entering Samaria, Elisha prayed again. This time he asked God to open the eyes of the men of Aram so they could see. When their sight returned, they saw “they were inside Samaria”! This city was encircled with a defensive wall. The Aramean military force was surrounded by Israel’s forces and enclosed within Samaria’s walls. And he led them to Samaria.” Seeing his enemy helpless before him the Israelite King asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” Calling him this showed his respect for Elisha and he could have had the soldiers released, enslaved or killed. Yet this was not the King’s victory, it was the Lord’s! Elisha’s answer revealed the prophet (and God) had other plans for the Aramean forces. Elisha wanted to show mercy to them, not vengeance. Also, he wanted to make the point both to the king of Aram and the king of Israel that God’s horses and chariots of fire had captured and defeated the enemy. Elisha wanted the Israelites and the Arameans to see the hand of God in the situation. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

  EXAMPLE: Instead of having the enemy soldiers killed, the prophet instructed the king of Israel to prepare a great feast for the conquered forces (v. 23). After the feast was over, Elisha instructed Israel’s king to release the captives and allow them to return to their master; his instructions to refrain from killing them and to feed them and let them go free was a demonstration of God’s mercy. Showing mercy and offering forgiveness are expressions of God’s nature and reveal what He prefers to extend to all people. Elisha wanted God to receive the glory for what had happened and his actions teach us that when we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

Conclusion:

When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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, September 23, 2018

Seek the cure! – 2 Kings 5:1-3, 9-15a

Seek the cure! – 2 Kings 5:1-3, 9-15a
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 23, 2018

Our background can and does influence our lives today. How we were raised, educated, and how we were taught about morality, religion, patriotism, and such makes a huge impact on our lives. However as we can later decide for ourselves how we will relate to our world and others, that’s how we grow and mature or degenerate and digress. The choice is ours to make.

Chapter 5 of 2 Kings reveals Elisha was a man of God. We are now introduced to Naaman a commander in his king’s army. He was a man of prominence, power, and influence. He was not used to taking order from those he thought inferior to his status in life. He commanded others but this man of power was also sick with a disease that would have precluded him from being everything in his life he could have been. He could be cured but he would need to do just one thing: seek the cure! Let’s find out what happens…

READ: 2 Kings 5:1-3, 9-15a

God can and does use different people in our lives in order to bring us closer to him. We discover that Naaman was no different. We discover that…

I. When God brings others into our lives we need to be willing to listen! (Vv. 1-3)

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

  1. In these verses we discover Naaman who was the commander of the army of Aram under the unidentified Aramean king. Aram was another name for the nation of Syria. Naaman was a great man, second in power under the king. He was highly regarded by the king because the Lord had given military victories to him. We learn that “He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” The word for “leprosy” can mean any form of skin disease. Whatever it was it would have been a problem for Naaman because any form of skin disease was seen as a curse or at best something or someone who had it was to be avoided. Yet little did Naaman suspect that within his life there were others he never would have thought would be able to help him. It began when “bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife”. This young Israelite captive slave girl would change a prominent warrior’s life forever. Evidently Naaman and his wife were kind to this slave girl because she sought Naaman’s welfare. Naaman could obtain physical and spiritual healing from God through Elisha if he listened to and obeyed good advice. She possibly had heard of Elisha since she was an Israelite captive. Apparently she assumed he could cleanse leprosy in view of his supernatural power. No leper in Israel, though, was healed in Elisha’s day, but Naaman would be if he was willing to listen. The young slave girl tells her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” To experience God’s salvation from sin, a person must hear the message of salvation and respond to God’s call to come to Jesus for salvation. When God brings others into our lives we need to be willing to listen!

  EXAMPLE: My mother used to ask us, “Did you hear what I said to you?” when she wanted to know if we were actually listening or not. My dad would remind us that we had better listen to our mother for our own sake. Often when we know we should listen and respond we don’t do so. Naaman learned that when God brings others into our lives we need to be willing to listen!
Interestingly the slave girl’s faith in the Lord may have been an indirect rebuke to Israel’s King Joram who had no faith in God. Naaman had a choice to make and in this we learn that…

II. When God confronts us to make changes we must make a decision! (Vv. 9-12)

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

  1. We find out that Naaman was a man willing to listen and “So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.” The journey Naaman had to make was longer than the Bible shares. It would have taken him days to go to Israel and then to find Elisha, but he does just that. The King of Israel thought he was being set up and tears his robes in anguish and fear. However Elisha tells him to buck up and have Naaman come to him and then he would know “there is a prophet in Israel” (v. 8). So here is Naaman the great commander of Aram outside of the door of Elisha the scruffy prophet and what does Elisha do? “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’” Would Naaman do as he was asked? Would he humble himself? “But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.’” When he was asked to do something easy like find a prophet, Naaman was willing. Most people are more than willing to seek easy answers to their problems. Have them light a candle, walk on bended knees, make absolution, or do something good for another then they will do that; but ask them to trust in something they cannot see and their pride gets in the way. Naaman’s did and he pridefully declares, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” The answer is “no” he could not he had to do what God asked him to do through his prophet. “So” like so many prideful people “he turned and went off in a rage.” When God confronts us to make changes we must make a decision!

  EXAMPLE: Change can be hard in our lives if we try to do it on our own but with the help of God we can do all things. Naaman made known his disgust that he had to dip himself in the river Jordan. He was offended, he was angered, and he knew he had a decision to make. Scripture teaches that when a person obeys God’s call and comes to him through Christ in repentance and faith, that person needs to confess Christ publicly. New believers need to tell others of their commitments, make their public professions of faith in church services, follow the Lord in believers’ baptism, and begin living lives of faith and service. When God confronts us to make changes we must make a decision!

Knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. With the help of others Naaman begins to realize that…

III. When we are shown the cure we must seek it! (Vv. 13-15)

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.”
  1. Sometimes the people God places around us are wiser than we are. “Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, “Wash and be cleansed”!’” Now isn’t this little fact interesting. When others know what we need to do and come to us are we willing to make the right choice and accept their advice and do what we need to do? Sadly this often isn’t the case. Either we humble ourselves or allow our pride to dictate to us what we should do. Humility can go a long way in helping us become the person God desires. Calling Naaman “father” was a term of respect and endearment his servants reasoned with him that he would have done some great thing if Elisha had so instructed. Therefore, why not do as the prophet said and wash himself in the Jordan? Naaman had good advice from a Hebrew slave girl, Elisha’s servant, and then from his own servants.  We learn that finally Naaman “went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” Naaman was not made clean the first time he submerged himself, nor the second time, or the third time and on to the sixth time he still was not cleansed. Did he feel foolish, was he getting angrier at his humiliation as a warrior dipping himself in a river in a conquered country in front of his servants and fellow soldiers? Naaman overcame his initial rejection of Elisha’s command and followed through with faith, trusting Elisha’s instructions. He is then completely cleansed. He then had to do one more thing: “Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him humbled and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.’” Repentance requires faith in action. When we are shown the cure we must seek it!

  EXAMPLE: Every country had gods. Phoenicia had Baal, Moab had Chemosh, Ammon had Moloch, Babylon had Bel, and Egypt had Ra. But these gods were only idols—none of them were real, living gods. Rimmon was the Syrian version of Baal, a god of fertility, storms, and rain. Rimmon was also known as Hadad. Only Israel worshiped the true and living God. Because of what the Lord God had done for Naaman, he renounced loyalty to the Syrian god Rimmon and trusted in the true God alone. Naaman confessed, “I know Israel’s God is the only God.” Naaman knew this—not because he had heard the confession of someone else but through his personal experience with God. Through faith in God, Naaman was made whole physically and spiritually. Like Naaman when we are shown the cure we must seek it!

Conclusion:

When God brings others into our lives we need to be willing to listen! When God confronts us to make changes we must make a decision! When we are shown the cure we must seek it!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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, September 15, 2018

Hold on to God-given dreams! – 2 Kings 4:8, 16-22, 32-37

Hold on to God-given dreams! – 2 Kings 4:8, 16-22, 32-37
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 18, 2018

A prominent woman in Shunem invited Elisha to stay with her and her husband when he passed through. She was deeply spiritual and an example of one who lived by faith. Elisha was appreciative of the woman’s hospitality. When asked what Elisha could do for her, she replied she and her husband were prosperous and did not need anything. Elisha’s servant Gehazi mentioned they did not have a son. Elisha told her that next year she would be hugging a son in her arms. God promised a son a desire that came from her heart. God’s promise to this woman would come true because God made the promise through his prophet. Big God-inspired dreams like this one can come true.

What is your biggest dream? Do you believe it is based on your desires or the Lord’s will? Why do you think so? For some, it’s owning a home, for others a good job or education, it could be retirement or having children and grandchildren. Have you ever asked God what his dream might be for your life? The passage we will look at today teaches us to hold on to God-given dreams!

READ: 2 Kings 4:8, 16-22, 32-37

When I was younger one of my big dreams was to fly jets off an aircraft carrier, to be a Navy pilot. However my dream, although almost came true, did not due to circumstances. Later, after the Lord got a hold of my life his dream for my life came true. Here in the life of Elisha we discover that when we hold on to God-given dreams…


I. God gives us what we don’t expect when we expect it! (2 Kings 4:8, 16-17)

One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat… “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord,” she objected. “Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God!” But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

  1. A gracious spirit is always seen by God as a wonderful attribute. This woman wasn’t gracious simply to be nice she was this way because of her faith. The Spirit of God had influenced her life and actions. She had wealth, power in her local community, and prominence. People respected her and her husband not just because of their position but because of their actions and attitudes. So “One day [when] Elisha went to Shunem” this “well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal”. This woman did not do what she did for fame or personal recognition; she did it because she loved the Lord. Therefore “whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat”. Little did this wonderful woman know but her love of God and her sweet spirit was going to be rewarded. God rewards those who willingly and lovingly serve him and he does it according to his timing and will. “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” There are those who falsely suggest or teach that God will bless someone financially if they follow a certain set of rules or guidelines. Of course only they know what they are and will teach you if you’re willing to give to them first of all. It is all theological hogwash. This lady could not believe what she was hearing because she never expected to be blessed so she cries out “Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God!” I do not believe she doubted God or his prophet she simply could not believe the Lord would want to bless her because of her gracious spirit! “But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.” When we hold on to God-given dreams we discover God gives us what we don’t expect when we expect it!

  EXAMPLE: I knew of a couple who desired to have children but later in their marriage learned that neither of them could. Others tried to encourage them and some even falsely claimed that all they needed to do was to claim the promise of the Shunammite woman here in this passage. There was just one huge problem; the promise here in this passage was for a specific person for a specific time to bring God glory and not for anyone else to claim. Yet “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD. (Psalms 113:9 NIV)” The couple held on to their desire to have children and God blessed them later with a baby girl. God did not do it the way anyone expected but just like the Shunammite woman they learned that when we hold on to God-given dreams we discover God gives us what we don’t expect when we expect it!

There are those who often declare, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:24 NIV)” not fully realizing this is a declaration for the coming Messiah and not the actual day they are experiencing. Sure we can remember the truth to rejoice in each day because God does indeed give them to us but we need to be reminded God’s view of things is much bigger than our own. In fact, when we have God-given dreams we must realize that God’s plans are bigger then our dreams!

II. God’s plans are bigger then our dreams! (2 Kings 4:18-22)

The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. “My head! My head!” he said to his father. His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.”

  1. This family had been blessed by God beyond their wildest dreams. They had a producing farm and a grand little boy who often went out and joined his father in the fields. In fact, “The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers.” However when he had gotten there something became physically wrong, “My head! My head!” he said to his father. Often times when bad things happen to us we cannot see past our grief. Yet often in our worst times in life God can and does work miracles, we just have to realize it. The father immediately tells a nearby servant, “Carry him to his mother.” The father surely may not have understood that the boy was seriously ill. The son is taken to his mother and “After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died.” The little boy died from what probably was sunstroke. The boy’s condition was much more serious than the father had realized. The child of their dreams died in his mother’s arms. How tragic and sad. The mother’s actions reveal much about her faith. When she saw her son had died, she refused to accept his death as final. She took him up to the prophet’s room on the roof and laid him on the bed of the man of God “then shut the door and went out”. Her first thought was to turn to God by turning to Elisha and his room was the nearest thing right now she could get to his presence. Evidently she knew that he would come and help her in her grief. She does not share with her husband right away about their son’s death but she “called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.’” Because she turned to God to seek his will, the woman did not take part in the normal grief process. People would mourn the death of a loved one many days. Often, they would tear their clothing, put on sackcloth and ashes, and weep and weep often with the aid of hired professional mourners. This woman did none of these customary actions. Later (v. 23) we learn that the mother would not leave Elisha’s side until he agreed to go home with her. She decided that whatever happened she would depend on God. When we have God-given dreams we must realize that God’s plans are bigger then our dreams!

  EXAMPLE: To lose a child is the hardest thing I can imagine and especially an only child. Of course any child lost is horrible but the grief involved is hard to imagine. Children were considered a gift of God and rightly so. When a family goes through this kind of grief it is often difficult for them to see the outcome or how God could be working. Sometimes folks can become so despondent or depressed that they withdraw from the world or loved ones during this time of sadness. Yet the wonderful truth is that God indeed does understand our grief and our loss. Yet many times we learn later on that when we have God-given dreams we must realize that God’s plans are bigger then our dreams!

When we hold on to our God-given dreams we learn that…

III. God follows through! (2 Kings 4:32-37)

When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

  1. Her faith, tenacity, and gracious spirit shine through and get the results she hoped for. Elisha agreed to go back to her home with her to see what God would do. When they get there nothing has changed: “When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.” Dead is dead and her little boy had died. Some want you to think that perhaps he had swooned, was in a coma, or that he had simply fainted. He hadn’t. But then the prophet does something unusual, Elisha goes into his room and “shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD”. Elisha did not need grieving parents he needed to be alone with the Lord so he could focus on the task at hand. I am always amused by those who try to teach that there are specific formulas to follow that are found within the pages of Scripture. There are none because God works with each of us as individuals and what worked for Elisha then would not work for anyone else now. “Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more.” No mystical or magical power was given off by Elisha’s physical touch; he simply was following what God told him when he spoke with him. While Elisha did pray like his mentor Elijah would have done and interceded with the Lord, he did not follow a prophetic formula to revive the dead. It shows his intimate relationship with the Lord had developed. Everything in the text suggests everything the prophet did was in the spirit of prayer and looking in faith to the Lord. To show Elisha and the others that God had answered his prayers “The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.” Again, some suggest that 7 is a mystical number and while it carries significance in Hebraic theology for God working we dare not read too much into the number ourselves. Elisha then “summoned Gehazi and said, ‘Call the Shunammite.’ And he did. When she came, he said, ‘Take your son.’ She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground.” Wow! The mother had laid the boy on the prophet’s bed as a corpse; she picked him up again as her living son whom God had raised from the dead! When we hold on to our God-given dreams we learn that God follows through!

  EXAMPLE: The young couple I told you about earlier decided to adopt a child. After that decision they were told by others not to worry God would make the wife pregnant because that’s what happened to someone somewhere they knew about. Of course this happens to less than 1% of those who adopt. And others warned them to let God be God and he would work it out. If they were meant to have children they would and if not, then that was God’s will. Yet again the couple held on to what God had already told them through his word and prayer, “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD. (Psalms 113:9 NIV)” They adopted a wonderful daughter and now have grandchildren. Like the Shunammite woman they discovered that when we hold on to our God-given dreams we learn that God follows through!

Conclusion:

When we hold on to God-given dreams we discover God gives us what we don’t expect when we expect it! When we have God-given dreams we must realize that God’s plans are bigger then our dreams! When we hold on to our God-given dreams we learn that God follows through!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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, September 08, 2018

A mentor - 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

A mentor - 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 9, 2018

When I began as a pastor, I heard that Sunday School was a way to reach, teach, win, and develop believers. I chose to adopt these concepts. Developing Christians requires personal mentoring as well as teaching. As a church we are to be alert for Christians who are growing spiritually and who give indications they would make excellent workers in the Lord’s kingdom and then mentor them for that task. In spite of our busy schedule, lack of confidence, or belief that only God or staff members can mentor another believer we are all called to mentor others in Christ.

First Kings ends with the ascension of Ahaziah to the throne of Israel, and 2 Kings begins with Ahaziah already reigning as king. 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book. The approximate date for the starting point for 2 Kings is 853 BC. The first two chapters in 2 Kings record the last two acts of the prophet Elijah and the first three miracles of his successor Elisha. Elijah’s mentoring of Elisha provides an illustration of some helpful steps any Christian can take in mentoring another Christian. Mentor means a trusted guide, a tutor, or a coach. Let’s discover what that means for us today…

READ: 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

Whereas Elijah mentored Elisha to be his successor as God’s prophet, most Christians will mentor workers for other tasks like teaching, witnessing, serving, working in Extended Teaching, Trail Life or any number of ministries to which God leads them. What qualifications would you look for in another Christian to determine if that person is ready to be mentored? In these verses we discover how to…

I. Test others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:1-3 NIV)

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.”

  1. Just before Elijah’s home going in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on the way from Gilgal. The Hebrew word translated whirlwind can also refer to a windstorm, a gale, or a violent wind. God took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. In the prophets’ relationship Elijah was able to demonstrate to Elisha what this ministry was all about. Elisha was able to watch Elijah closely and see how he served God as a prophet. When the time came for Elijah to go to heaven and for Elisha to assume Elijah’s work; Elijah tried to get Elisha to remain in Gilgal by telling him to stay there while he went on for the Lord. Elisha responded by saying, “I will not leave you.” So together, they went to Bethel. Three times Elijah tried to leave Elisha behind (vv. 2, 4, 6). Each time Elisha refused to leave. Elijah’s command to Elisha to stay behind was a test of Elisha’s determination to become a prophet. Elisha showed he would remain with Elijah. As the two approached Bethel, the sons of the prophets came out to speak to Elisha. These men were prophets and were being trained or mentored in their religious duties by leading prophets such as Elijah and Elisha. They asked Elisha if he knew the Lord was going to take his master from him that day. The expression from you, or literally “from your head,” alludes to the custom of students’ sitting at the feet of their teachers. Their being in that position made the teacher taller than their heads. Elijah was Elisha’s teacher who was mentoring him for future prophetic service. God had revealed to these students that Elijah’s time on earth was over and that God was going to take him that day to heaven. God had revealed the same sad truth to Elisha also, for he said, “Yes, I know.” However, he told the prophets, “Be quiet,” for that news was very painful. God was also testing Elisha to see if he was ready to assume the prophetic mantle of Elijah.

  EXAMPLE: It is good for churches to test prospects for service within their ministries. Over the decades I have watched as some churches have not done this and suffered the consequences of their inaction. When churches were considering setting a person aside for a particular ministry they would have a time of training, then allowing the candidate to serve within the particular ministry, followed by an evaluation period. These verses teach us this morning that it is a good idea to test others while mentoring them!

Elijah was testing Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity and determination to follow him and become his successor just as God planned. Like Elijah, all mentors need to test those they mentor to see if they are spiritually committed and suited for their particular function in God’s service. Elisha, however, had no trouble passing the test. In these verses we learn to…

II. Mentor others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:7-10 NIV)

Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours--otherwise not.”

  1. Elijah and Elisha arrived at the Jordan after their trip from Gilgal and Jericho. Fifty prophets came out and from a distance. The Jordan River here is where it flows into the northern end of the Dead Sea. When they reached the Jordan, Elijah took his mantle, struck the waters and the water parted, allowing them to cross on dry ground to the east side. Just as God parted the waters for Moses when he held his staff over the sea God parted the Jordan for them. Now “Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.” Elijah’s question to Elisha was very important. Before he died, Elijah asked Elisha, “What can I do for you?” This question was another test for Elisha. Would he ask for riches, fame, safety, or something like that? Instead, Elisha’s reply was a request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elisha was not asking for twice the amount of Elijah’s spirit or some form of mystical power. The double portion terminology goes back to passages like Deuteronomy 21:17. A father’s oldest son received a double share of the inheritance. That implied the oldest son would succeed his father and have his father’s authority and blessing. Elisha wanted to follow Elijah in his prophetic ministry. He asked for Elijah’s spirit his zeal because he knew Elijah’s power and ability came from God working in Elijah. Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity made him aware that he would need that same God-given spiritual ability to be Elijah’s successor. Elijah called Elisha’s request something difficult. He knew only God could answer such a request. But he promised Elisha that he would inherit his prophetic office and his spiritual gifts if he remained with him and witnessed his death. If not, then Elisha would not receive what he requested. Elisha must reveal his willingness to stay with Elijah all the way. The older prophet could not produce his spiritual power in Elisha but he could mentor him and prepare him for God to use him. Elijah mentored through example and through teaching. He made sure Elisha saw that God was the source of his power and preaching.

  EXAMPLE: Mentoring another is not an easy task yet every believer is called to do so at different times. It could be someone they lead to the Lord; it could be their children, a spouse, a friend or someone within the church! I had several mentors over the years from friends, pastors, deacons, teachers, and others. God used these men and women to polish the edges, give me greater wisdom, and the ability to learn how to be the best possible pastor I could be. Through the years I have tried to mentor others as well. As believers we are called to mentor others.

In evangelism we often challenge Christians by saying, “Each one should win one.” In discipling others for Christian service, we need to challenge each other by saying, “Each one mentor one.” However there comes a time when the ones we are mentoring must be left on their own to develop and mature in Jesus in their own time. In the following verses we discover that we must…

III. Leave the work to others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:11-14 NIV)

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart. He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

  1. The time came for Elijah to go home with the Lord. As Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking together, God revealed a chariot of fire with horses of fire. God took Elijah up into heaven in the whirlwind. The picture of Elijah and Elisha walking along the road together and talking with each other is a good picture of the mentoring process. The mentor must spend time with the one being mentored. The learner needs to ask questions and the mentor needs to demonstrate what is to be done and to explain how and why the one mentored needs to do these tasks. God often revealed himself through fire, as he did to Moses at the burning bush and to Elijah on Mount Carmel before the prophets of Baal. The appearance of the chariots and horsemen was used elsewhere to describe an appearance of God (see 2 Kings 13:14). God separated them; Elijah to go home with him and Elisha to stay and minister to his people. Elisha addressed Elijah as “My father, my father,” meaning his spiritual father. After watching Elijah go out of sight, Elisha tore his clothes apart in anguish. This action and his intimate address of Elijah as “My father, my father” revealed the grief of Elisha’s heart at the departure of Elijah. Evidently in Elijah’s miraculous translation to heaven in the whirlwind, he either discarded or dropped his mantle. This garment was part of the uniform of Elijah the prophet and served as a symbol of his ministry. Elisha picked up the mantle and went back to the banks of the Jordan where Elijah had parted the waters. Taking Elijah’s prophetic cloak was meaningful symbolism. Elisha was assuming responsibility as Elijah’s successor and began his journey back to Israel to serve the Lord. Using the mantle in the same manner as he had seen Elijah use it, Elisha struck the waters. He asked, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” Elijah was gone. Only his cloak remained. Was God gone also? Facing the obstacle of the river was Elisha’s first test as to whether God really had called him and empowered him to succeed Elijah. When Elisha used the cloak on the river, it divided and he crossed over. God answered Elisha’s question: God was with Elisha as He had been with Elijah! Elijah had left the work to others, namely Elisha!

  EXAMPLE: We need to be reminded that unlike now because of Jesus’ resurrection we enjoy the power and presence of God always. During Elijah’s and Elisha’s day this was not the case. The presence of God through the Holy Spirit had not been given permanently as it is today. Elisha was unsure and he needed to be reassured by the Lord. God show him that he indeed was Elijah’s true successor by parting the waters of the Jordan just as he had done for Elijah. That hairy old garment was not magical or special, it was the people God worked through who were. Elijah had left Elisha to continue the work of being God’s prophet.

Conclusion:

  1. Mentors need to test those they are mentoring to see if they are suited for the task.
  2. Those who demonstrate spiritual sensitivity to serving God should be mentored.
  3. Those mentored must be released do the work for which they have been mentored.
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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, September 01, 2018

God provides! - Philippians 4:10-20

God provides! - Philippians 4:10-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 2, 2018

I have heard fellow Christians extol the fact that God provides all their needs, but I have yet to see very many actually live accordingly. I was drawing coloring books, tracts, and a monthly carton strip for a local puppet ministry known as Friends Puppets. John was the lead puppeteer, writer, and leader. They were in need of a new van and were not bringing in enough funds to cover all their needs. Some on their board wanted to do special mailings begging for funds but John to our surprise spoke against doing it. He related, “God has supplied our needs through our prayers and dependence on him, I don’t think we need to change now.” In that moment he taught all of us that God provides.

Paul understood this as well. He did not have special bulk mailings, emails, texting, Facebook, social media, or GoFundMe for support. Paul was totally at the whim and will of those who cared about the Gospel and reaching the lost. Whether in prison, in sickness, alone, or with the company of others Paul understood his ministry was totally dependent on the mercy and grace of God. Through it all Paul learned that God provides; let’s discover what Paul taught concerning this spiritual truth…

READ: Philippians 4:10-20

What had excited Paul and brought him joy during times of great personal persecution was this little church at Philippi that continued to pray and support him. He did not want them to suffer physically or financially do to his predicament. We discover that…

I. Paul wanted believers to know that God provides contentment! (Vv. 10-13)

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

  1. Evidently the Philippians had wanted to show Paul that they were concerned for him but had not been able to, so Paul relates, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.” Paul wrote this letter as both a thank-you note and as a word of greeting and praise. Paul was thankful that they had “renewed” their effort on his behalf. Notice that he “rejoiced greatly” for their concern. When Paul had been at a low point their gift had come at just the right time and renewed him. We discover that Paul did not beg God’s people to help him in his work, “I am not saying this because I am in need”, instead he placed the need before them and trusted God to meet it! Paul had also learned the lesson of contentment, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”. Changing conditions did not affect the inner contentment Paul enjoyed in Jesus. The word content in the Greek means “self-sufficient.” In fact we find that Paul knew “what it [was] to be in need and [he knew] what it [was] to have plenty.” Paul had “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Through his faith walk with the Lord Paul had learned the secret to the believer's happy life! God in Jesus provided for his every need. Paul remembered that Jesus taught, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25-26 NIV)” Paul tells them, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” It is a spiritual fact and Paul wanted believers to know that God provides contentment!

  EXAMPLE: Hannah Whitall Smith wrote, “Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along the road, bending under a heavy burden, when a wagon overtook him, and the driver kindly offered to help him on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer but when seated in the wagon, continued to bend beneath his burden, which he still kept on his shoulders. ‘Why do you not lay down your burden?’ asked the kind-hearted driver. ‘Oh!’ replied the man, ‘I feel that it is almost too much to ask you to carry me, and I could not think of letting you carry my burden too.’ And so Christians, who have given themselves into the care and keeping of the Lord Jesus still continue to bend beneath the weight of their burdens, and often go weary and heavy-laden throughout the whole length of their journey.” Paul wanted believers to know that God provides contentment!

In our day it is often difficult to understand how early believers suffered and were persecuted for their faith. Even the homeless in our community have places they can go for a meal, medical attention, and such. In Paul’s day nothing like that existed. We discover that…

II. Paul wanted believers to know that God provides through us! (Vv. 14-20)

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

  1. Paul was also grateful for them as well and writes, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” He knew the value of fellowship and a local church that truly practiced what they believed! He tells them, “Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only”. Wow, that’s kind of sad. Paul goes on to explain that “for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.” What a great little church. One has to realize that this church was quite small in size but big in heart. Over and over they tried to do their best to help Paul. Paul however wanted them to realize he was not in the ministry for personal gain in any way and quickly reminds them “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” His desire was that they were blessed by what they were willing to do; sacrificially and personally. Paul was truly blessed by their gifts and graciously reminds them that “I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.” For Paul these things were like “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Believers can forget that when they willingly serve others in the name of Christ it is a wonderful offering and sacrifice to the Lord. It should never be something we do to garner God’s grace but rather something we do because we love the Lord! Paul knew when Christians act out of their love for him, “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”! Paul was so thoroughly and genuinely blessed by what these beautiful believers did that he had to just say: “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Paul wanted believers to know that God provides through us!

  EXAMPLE: While growing up when my father suffered from his heart problems we went through some pretty tough times because he could not work at regular jobs like he had done in the past. My mother did not always make enough to make ends meet. Often we did not have enough food in the house and new clothes for school and supplies were scarce. Yet many times we would find a full box of groceries place outside of our backdoor. We knew it was from the church my father attended. He never asked them but they understood what we were going through and supplied what we needed at just the right time. Later, after coming to Christ I understood why these folks did what they did. They were blessed just as much if not more than we were by their wonderful act of kindness. Isn’t it good to know Paul wanted believers to know that God provides through us!

Conclusion:

Paul wanted believers to know that God provides contentment! Paul wanted believers to know that God provides through us!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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, August 26, 2018

Exhortation, encouragement, and prayer! - Philippians 4:1-9

Exhortation, encouragement, and prayer! - Philippians 4:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 26, 2018

How do others see your faith? How do those who witnessed to you or mentored you find your faith walk? Often time we can get so caught up in how the world sees us that we forget or begin to think it unimportant how fellow believers view us. In fact some try do hard to blend in with the world that their church, Christian fellowship, and their daily devotion to the Lord suffer.

Here in this last chapter of his letter to the Philippian church Paul desired that they know exactly how he saw their faith. And so he end this letter with not just advice on how to be stronger and more devoted believers, he writes to exhort, encourage, and pray for them. In his words we can find spiritual truths that will help us this morning as well. Let’s take a fresh look at what Paul wrote…

READ: Philippians 4:1-9

Lately I have been watching the Little League World Series. I enjoy the sheer joy, sometimes sadness, and frustration that these youngsters openly display as they play a game they love. What is truly inspiring is to listen and watch as their coaches go out to calm them down or sooth their shaken spirits. Like Paul with the Philippian church they urge them to remember the joy they have and to enjoy the moment. Here we find Paul…

I. Exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus! (Vv. 1-3)

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

  1. There are those who think that simply because they know someone who is nice, kind, and or accepting then they are “good people”. I knew a man who was nice, kind and accepted just about anyone but he was a drunkard and spent every penny he made on booze. Just because someone is “nice” doesn’t make them saved. Nor does it mean that God smiles at their little indiscretions. Paul wrote the Philippians that he desired they be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. So, he writes “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” In a world that hates holiness this is extremely important! Evidently some at Philippi had forgotten whom they followed. “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” These two women had become so caught up in their problems with each other it had boiled over into the church itself! These two women, Euodia and Syntyche, did not live up to the meanings of their names. “Euodia” means a “prosperous journey.” “Syntyche” means a “pleasant acquaintance.” Instead they were causing dissention and nothing was prosperous or pleasant about their behavior! Evidently Paul had to ask for help in this matter from fellow church members. “Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” These women who had once worked side-by-side with one another and Paul were pulling in opposite directions! “Yokefellow” her could be a proper name which is “Syzygus” and Paul needed his, Clemet’s, and the rest of the church’s help! We find Paul therefore exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: Interestingly when we went to Wyoming we went on a wagon train ride. The two horses were huge Percherons named Mike and Pay. Each horse knew exactly how to pull the wagon and worked together to do so. They started, stopped, and turned together in perfect unison. I found it also interesting that the teams were almost exclusively made up of all female teams or all male teams. They discovered that these horses worked best, pulled together, and minded well when they were of the same sex and not trying to “impress” or flirt with one another! Christians can lose their focus in life.  We find Paul exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus!

Sometimes every one of us can use a good kick in the pants in order for us to remember who we are. But more than that we sometimes need to be reminded of what our attitude should be like if we truly follow Jesus. We can get so down on ourselves or others. Here we discover Paul…

II. Encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord! (Vv. 4-7)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  1. Life can throw trials and troubles our way but when the Lord is in our lives these things are put into perspective. Paul with a few short sentences reminds us what our attitude should be in life when he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Paul wasn’t telling Christians to be happy all the time nor was he saying we should force ourselves to be exuberant. Rejoicing for the believer should be a way of life because it is a state of being in Jesus! When we have the Creator of all things living inside of us through the power of the Holy Spirit we have everything we need. Certainly there are circumstances in which Christians cannot be happy. But they can always rejoice in the Lord and delight in him. Paul continues by telling believers that we should let our “gentleness be evident to all.” Jesus the gentle Lamb of God is the great pacifier first between God and man and also with one another and can take the angriest heart and make it gentle. And for Paul the reason was obvious because “The Lord is near.” Not just that he would return soon but the plain fact he is always near those who love him. He lives in us! Joy and gentleness and the reminder that Jesus is always near had to be a great encouragement for Christians throughout the ages. When we as believers do feel anxious, and we will sooner or later, Paul reminds us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Paul uses four words to describe our communication with the Lord: Prayer meaning speaking with God, petition meaning our requests, thanksgiving meaning our grateful attitude, and requests which is different than petitions because one is supplications and this is asking for what we truly need. If we can do this then “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul reminds us of our delight in the Lord by encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord!

  EXAMPLE: In Jackson Hole I was reminded how my grandparents endured great hardships to build a life there in the Teton and Jackson area. They lost children to disease, lost a home due to a natural flood, and they could have given up. I learned that they were supposed to be one of the few families chosen by the early Latter Day Saints to open the area up for the heresies of Mormonism. However, my grandmother returned to her Christian roots and she and my mother would clean and set up what is now known as the Church of the Transfiguration in the Teton National Park, an Episcopal church. They were very faithful and returned to what they knew to be true in Jesus. I find it wonderful to discover Paul encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord!

Our walk with the Lord should produce certain spiritual and outward characteristics in our life. Why, because our focus in life is to be different than the world’s. The world wants us to have good feelings about one another, to always be kind, and to accept anyone, anytime, for anything they want to do as long as it fits their personal paradigm of what they think the world should be like at that moment. Paul reminds his readers that because of their salvation they have been changed and their focus in life has changed as well. Paul finishes by… 

III. Praying that believers should practice what they preach! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

  1. Paul ends his teaching by relating, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Aren’t these the very things all believers should focus on in life? These are the attributes Christians are to display in life! For Paul thinking about such things is the same as doing them. In fact you had to actually do them in order to think about them! Being true because Jesus is the truth, being noble because Jesus was noble in life, being right and pure because we are called to holy living, and going after what is lovely, admirable, and whatever is excellent or praiseworthy in life. There are those who think that acceptance of perversion or being kind is the answer to the world’s problems of racism, hatred, or strife but Jesus wanted his followers to be like him; and these characteristics that Paul lists exemplifies Jesus! Never forget that Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24 NIV)” Paul fully understood what this meant because he first and foremost followed Jesus and therefore could write the Philippians that “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice.” Wow! Could we all say the same thing with our Christian example? Could we dare other believers to exemplify or put into practice what they see in our lives In Jesus? I wonder. However if we were to follow what Paul writes here we can rest assured we are following and practicing what Jesus would do. Finally, Paul ends this section by praying that “the peace of God will be with you”! The peace of God is not just the absence of strife or violence; it is the inner change displayed outwardly in our lives in Jesus! What a wonderful thing to read Paul praying that believers should practice what they preach!

  EXAMPLE: Today we will observe the Lord’s Supper. There is nothing mystical or magical about doing so. It in no way imparts any grace or special dispensation to the adherent. If it did we would do it every week and we would not have to place our complete faith and trust in Jesus. Sinful man cannot atone for their sins, we are not holy nor are we seen as the sacrifice God required. If you do not believe me read Galatians and Hebrews. What it does is to remind us of who we follow and what he did for us. We observe it to honor him who sacrificed himself for our sin condition. Now we are to live like we believe it. We are to live everyday in remembrance of him. I find it encouraging that Paul prayed that believers should practice what they preach!


Conclusion:

Exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus! Encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord! Praying that believers should practice what they preach!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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.