Saturday, March 31, 2018

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

Luke 24:1-8; 36-48 -- We have a risen Lord!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 1, 2018 AM

The message of Easter is the resurrection of Jesus as an event that means much more than a historical fact. His victory over death brings peace and comfort to all who have trusted in him as Lord and Savior. Further, Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for the believers’ resurrection and living with him forever. Therefore, this is the beautiful truth of Easter: We have a risen Lord!

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

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

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

I. Jesus is alive! (Luke 24:1-8)

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

  1. We find that “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” Afterwards, “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” Jesus’ body was gone. And “While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.” Next, however, they heard unexpected words. The news they received began the process of taking them from despair to hope and faith. And the words they heard were from a very unlikely source. They were asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” They did not find the body they were looking for. Instead they saw two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning, an obvious reference to angelic beings. These men reminded them of the words Jesus had spoken about His crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 9:31; Luke 18:31-34). If they could not find what they were looking for, why were they looking for it there? The fact was, “He is not here; he has risen!” They had forgotten what Jesus had told them while still in Galilee, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” It was only after they realized what had occurred they “remembered his words”! We have a risen Lord! Jesus is alive!
 
    EXAMPLE: When a teenager named Poh Fang learned about Jesus’ love for her and received him as her Savior, her parents weren’t sure about the merits of Christianity. So they sent her older sister with her to church to keep an eye on her. But something happened that they didn’t expect. The powerful Word of God penetrated the heart of the older sister, and she accepted Jesus as her Savior as well. Think back to the time you first realized Jesus is truly alive. Consider today that proclaiming the good news to lost people must include the truth that Jesus arose from the dead, for there is no good news without Jesus’ resurrection. How can you help others know that Jesus is alive?

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

II. Jesus provides peace! (Luke 24:36-48)

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

  1. We now find the disciples still discussing what occurred when without warning Jesus himself stands among them! That they were “startled and frightened” was because they still hadn’t grasped the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. That night, Jesus helps them understand this new reality. Jesus immediately tells them, “Peace to you!” The first gift of the Lord Jesus was peace. The Jewish greeting now had a much fuller significance. Christ’s followers had been in terrible turmoil, seeing their Lord tortured and crucified. But now even in the midst of this they could have “peace”. He asks, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” And then reassures them, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” He provides proof by showing “them his hands and feet” and asking for something to eat and then eating with them. Jesus showed his followers all the facts written… in the Old Testament about the Messiah in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. In doing this, he “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Namely, that “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” They could find peace in this because they were “witnesses of these things!” They experienced every bit of the prophecies being fulfilled! In His presence, in his fulfillment, and in his resurrection Jesus provides peace!

  EXAMPLE: Today around the world millions of Christians will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. They will meet in cathedrals, storefronts, and homes. Some will meet openly with thousands of other believers. Others will meet secretly with a handful of fellow Christians for fear of persecution. All will be there affirming the good news that Jesus offers his followers peace in troubling circumstances, just as on that first Easter. We have a risen Lord and because of this Jesus provides us peace!

Conclusion:

We have a risen Lord! Jesus’ resurrection is established by the empty tomb and by His appearances. The risen Christ provides peace in the midst of troubling circumstances. Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of the Scriptures.
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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, March 24, 2018

Being Faithful - Malachi 2:10-16

Being Faithful - Malachi 2:10-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 25, 2018 AM

After learning to say, “No!” we quickly learn to ask the question, “Why?” It is an innate thing with us and it goes back to the Garden of Eden when Eve rebelled and then asked the very same question. It exists in every preschooler and manifests itself in adolescence through our demand to be told the reason for everything that happens to us. We especially hate it when someone dares to tell us, “Because I said so, that’s why!” We want and expect an answer to our inquiry. But guess what? The simple truth is, we do not deserve an answer for every “Why?” we ask, nor should we expect one.

In God’s economy trust is manifested when we obey without asking “Why?” When we pridefully think God should justify himself to us God reminds us that his ways are not our ways, nor are his thoughts our thoughts. He desires his children to live by faith and trust. Israel had failed to do just that. Instead they came up with their own way of worship, their own manmade guidelines, and fashioned gods into the images that made them feel comfortable about themselves. God, through Malachi, called them back to a fresh beginning in himself. Would they listen? Let’s find out as we discuss being faithful…

READ: Malachi 2:10-16

When Israel was faced with the scathing retort from Malachi, they demanded to know “Why?” God literally says, “Okay, if you want an answer here it is!” For a fresh start they needed to realize…

I. They were faithless! (V. 2:10)

Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?

  1. Spiritual questions stab the soul and our answers reveal our faith -- Malachi asks three!
    1) The first question is: “Have we not all one Father?” The issue here goes to the idea of what a person truly believes. Malachi is addressing the teaching that God is the spiritual father of us all. Malachi is making the case of one God, who is our father and it goes back to verse 6 where God asks, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me?” So the correct answer would be, “Yes. We have one father and he is God.” If we recognize God is our spiritual father, then he is to be obeyed!
    2) The second question is: “Did not God create us?” This idea goes to who is in charge—just who is the Creator and who is the creation?! In our day we like to think we are in charge. “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want!” We want to decide what is best for ourselves. We do what we like. We worship God how, when, and where it suits us. It is the profane notion that says, “I can worship God anywhere.” Yet God says, “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, and I will accept no offering from your hands (v. 1:10).” If the One who created us wants us to worship him are we not obligated to worship him the way he desires, when he desires, and where he desires? The answer of course is, “Yes.”
    3) The final question Malachi asks is: “Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” God had created and worked with Israel as a nation and as a people. Now Israel was divided. This was totally against God’s will. Amos related that God had “chosen” them from “all the families of the earth (Amos 3:2).” Yet they acted like bickering children and rival siblings. They had profaned God’s sacred covenant by splitting the nation! They were faithless!

  EXAMPLE: Being the siblings we were, Ed and I used to pick on one another. It is a brotherly love/hate thing. Anthropologists believe it goes back to establishing dominance within the gorilla group, establishing a pecking order. Not that I believe this is true for human beings who are created in the image of God. Anyway, I do know that when my Mom would have her fill of our rivalry she would tell my Dad, “You handle it. They’re your boys!” All he had to say was, “Boys, behave because I said so.” And we did. We behaved because Dad had set the law down. He was our Dad and we respected him and the punishment that followed if we didn’t “behave” because he said so. The same was true for Israel and it is true for us as well. Christians are to honor and follow God for no other reason except he said so and it is a matter of being faithful not faithless!

Like all people who have been caught doing what they should not have been doing, the Israelites demanded proof of their untrustworthiness of not being faithful. God responds by telling them that if they wanted a fresh beginning they needed to realize…

II. They were Spiritual adulterers! (Vv. 2:11-12)

Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob--even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.

  1. Spiritual adultery occurs when we fool around on God!
    1) Malachi describes their sin, “Judah has broken faith!” The KJV gives us a better idea of what had occurred and just how God looked at their sin by describing it this way: “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god!” The unfaithfulness Malachi had in mind (v. 10) is called “a detestable thing” (lit., “an abomination”), something abhorrent to God. The abominable unfaithfulness that profaned Israel’s holiness was spiritual intermarriage with pagan idols. They had married themselves to foreign gods instead of being faithful to the one who loved them! They fooled around on God!
    2) Malachi declares the result of sin, “As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord cut him off from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.” The prophet invoked a curse on any Jew who had committed or would commit the sin of idol adultery. It meant that the man would die or that he would have no descendants in Israel. This was a horrible notion to the Israelite. Notice also that “even though he brings offerings to the Lord Almighty” God would see through his hypocrisy. Christians do this very thing when they say they love God, believe in Jesus, yet live with one foot in the world. Christians can commit adultery with their faith and deaden their walk when we fool around on God!

  EXAMPLE: Spiritual adultery doesn’t mean a person has to totally leave God. It occurs when our spiritual affections are lukewarm because we have diluted them. Jesus told the church at Laodicea “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:15-17 NIV).” We leave our first love when we allow the world to attract us more than our love of Jesus does. When the things of God become second place to our success, our education, or our relationships we have done a “detestable thing” and married the “daughter of a foreign god.” We have fooled around on God!

Not wanting the Israelites to think that they were getting off easy God, again through Malachi, continues in his chastisement of his children. God illustrates for them exactly why their sin had affected their relationship to one another as well. They wanted a fresh start, yet they were not being faithful…

III. They had committed spiritual divorce! (Vv. 2:13-16)

Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

  1. Breaking faith with God is like divorcing a devoted spouse – we are to remain faithful!
    1) Malachi teaches us about the outcome of our actions (v.13)! Malachi said the people had “flooded the Lord’s altar with tears.” People are always sorry when they get caught in sin or when they need God’s help. The idea here is one of begging, pleading, or false and phony repentance but God did not care any longer. He knew their true inner nature. John wrote to his friend Gaius, “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:3-4 NIV) It does not matter how “sorry” we are what matters is if we put into practice and renew our marriage vows to the Lord. God is filled with joy over our walk with him!
    2) This is why Malachi shows them the exact sin they were guilty of (2:14-15a)! God doesn’t heed their tears or hear their crying. They asked, “Why?” and he replies, “Because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant (v. 14).” God had made them “one flesh” with himself. God wanted a holy people totally devoted to him! This is why Peter warns us that “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).” God hates divorce and especially our spiritual abandonment from a personal relationship with Him!
    3) Malachi then mentions the cure (2:15b-16)! God’s people are to “guard” themselves in their “spirit” and “not break faith with the wife of your youth (v. 15b).” They were to return to the one they loved in the first place! It would show true repentance. By guarding their spirits they would be acting in accord with God’s purpose and would help preserve the unity of the nation as well as their individual relationship to him! We forget that God sees divorce as an act of spiritual “violence.” This is why he “hates divorce”! This is why he asks, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his.” He continues by asking, “And why one?” God then gives us the answer, “Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Christians are God’s spiritual children, “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” (John 1:13 NIV) We are to remain faithful!

  EXAMPLE: The other night I watched an old John Wayne movie called “The Cowboys”. During the movie some boys that were supposed to be moving a herd of cattle through dangerous country found a bottle of whiskey and got drunk. John Wayne and his cook knew they had done it and the next day when the boys were suffering from the effects of too much alcohol, the cook gave each one a dose of castor oil. As he ladled a large spoonful into each boys unwilling mouth, he remarked sarcastically, “I wonder why you ‘boys’ all of sudden are so sick?” That’s the way the cure for sin is. The cure for our sin may seem distasteful to us but God is gracious and desires that we return to Him. And, yes, it can be hard to swallow! We need to remain faithful!

Conclusion:

We all at some time want to ask the question “Why?” Yet for some of us the answer may be more than we want to hear. These people revealed their true faith; they were spiritual adulterers, who had divorced God from their lives. The writer of Hebrews teaches, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) It is a matter of being faithful!
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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, March 17, 2018

Malachi 1:6-14 – Being honorable!

Malachi 1:6-14 – Being honorable!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 18, 2018

We can dishonor someone by not holding them in high regard. The people of Israel had done this with God. Within the Ten Commandments given most important instructed, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Yet the Israelites had dishonored God.

Malachi’s second burden therefore deals with the dishonor God’s people can have for the Lord. While it may be easy for us to point to specific religions today that make idols and worship them, Christians can fail to see the idols we fashion and impure worship in our lives. In this, Malachi’s burden is just as much a message for us as it was for the Israelites. We are to honor God with acceptable sacrifice. Let’s find out what Malachi teaches us about being honorable…

READ: Malachi 1:6-14

From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation relationship is important to God. When God told the Israelites, “You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3 NIV)” he meant it. Therefore, Malachi’s burden begins with…

I. Evidence of a dishonorable relationship! (V. 1:6)

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

  1. A relationship by any other name is not a relationship! Malachi spoke of proper relationships in his society. The Israelites understood that “A son honors his father and a servant his master.” People respected relationships and the structure they had. In fact one of the Commandments stated that a person was to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). However, God asks the applicable question that goes to the heart of the issue, “If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect (fear) due me?” If God was seen as the Father of the Israelite people and also as their Master, where was the respect due Him? God did view Israel as his “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22) and the Commandments stated very clearly that children were to honor their parents. Israel recognized that “O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).” What had happened then to the relationship Israel was supposed to have with God? They had allowed false and perverted ideas of worship to creep into how they honored God. The absurd response of the people, especially the priests, proves the point God made through Malachi. So conceited and into themselves were the people and their spiritual leadership that they have no idea they had flagrantly and deliberately strayed from God! They act like they are the ones offended and arrogantly ask, “How have we shown contempt for your name?” (I can see Malachi stepping aside to get out of the way of the fire from heaven!) Fear of God does not necessitate being terrified of him; but rather having a proper respect and reverence for him, a reverence that leads his people to worship and obedience! They had deliberately followed their own selfish desires instead and dishonored their relationship. Malachi brings evidence of a dishonorable relationship!

    EXAMPLE: America has become a nation of consumers. There is nothing wrong with this except where God is concerned. We consume God instead of offering him our sacrifice. We look for ways to get the most bang-for-our-buck. This is why many hardly give their time, talent, or treasure. Churches offer up bigger and better Sunday morning shows knowing that the consumers in the pews may shop elsewhere. It is contemptible when we continually want God to fill our plastic bag with goodies, but never sacrifice anything for his kingdom. Malachi brings evidence of a dishonorable relationship!

When folks give the Lord something that doesn’t really cost them anything, it is not a sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice demands that it cost the giver. The Israelites should have understood what it meant to sacrifice because they were required to give the very best they had to God in order to show that they truly honored the Lord. Malachi goes on to give…

II. The evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship! (Vv. 1:7-10)

“You place defiled food on my altar. But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. ‘Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?’--says the LORD Almighty. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.”

  1. The proof was in the pudding and it contained a huge hairy fly! The priests were responsible to teach the people God’s covenant and turn their hearts to God! If the priests failed to honor God, what could be expected of the people? God tells them, “You place defiled food on my altar.” The “food” That God refers to here is the required sacrifices that were to be offered. They were warned against offering such sacrifices and thereby profane God’s name (Leviticus 22:2, 32). These offerings were symbols of obedience, trust, and the cost involved. By their actions they were literally “saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible”! God honors righteous sacrifice and they were bringing contemptible ones to his temple and table. Apparently they had become so hardened they rationalized their sin! They arrogantly ask, “How have we defiled you?” They had deliberately brought “blind…, crippled or diseased animals.” If they thought it was okay to do they should try offering them to their Persian “governor”! God sarcastically asks them, “Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” The answer is, “NO!” The people tried to get God to reconsider, “Now implore God to be gracious to us.” But his answer was: “With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?” In our day and age we think that if we feel it then it must be sincere! God knows better. He isn’t “pleased” with half-hearted offerings—they are contemptible and he “will accept no offering from [our] hands”. Notice what God tells the Israelites: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you and I will accept no offering from your hands.” it would have been better if they had just “shut the temple doors” so they did not “light useless fires on” God’s altar instead of bringing their worthless sacrifices and worship! Can you imagine coming to worship only to find the doors nailed shut and a sign outside that read: “Closed because of unholy Worship”? Malachi gives the Israelites the evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship!

    EXAMPLE: How do you think people would feel if they came to an Ash Wednesday Worship and were greeted by having human waste spread across their foreheads instead of ash? Later God would tell the Israelites, “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. (Malachi 2:3 NIV)” Even today there are those who have taken the holy out of worship. They do not bring pure sacrifices yet they think God should bless them. Jesus related that, “by their fruit you will recognize them”. Is there evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship in God’s church today? Malachi’s words should give us pause. Malachi gives the Israelites the evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship!

The Israelites had forgotten that their whole existence was to be God’s witnesses in a sin-fallen world. I believe that much of Christianity has forgotten this spiritual truism as well. We see that it often begins in what we are unwilling to sacrifice for the Lord. He wants our best and we give him what we think we can afford. Like us the Israelites were guilty and Malachi give them…

III. Evidence of spiritual hypocrisy! (Vv. 11-14)

My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

  1. The Hebrew word “because” actually begins verse 11 and is not found in the NIV. It was “because” God’s name would be “considered great among the nations” that the Israelites needed to make “pure” sacrifices. It was a matter of the Israelites witness to the world! When “In every place incense and pure offerings [were] brought to [honor God’s] name, [then his] name will be great among the nations”! Notice how God says the people responded: “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously”! They not only profaned God’s table, worship, by bringing the worst they had but they contemptuously turned their noses up to being God’s witnesses to the world! Levitical law stated they were to get a share of the meat sacrificed to eat themselves, but they didn’t want the diseased food they had originally brought God! They were blatant hypocrites. God bluntly asks them, “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” They didn’t want their own sacrifices why should God want them? God tells them, “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.” No one likes a cheater. Cheaters try to gain an advantage by rigging the rules. These hypocrites tried to garner God’s favor with worthless offerings and they knew it. God reminds them that he alone is is “a great king”, in fact he is the Creator of everything and his “name is to be feared among the nations”! The idea of “fear” is held in awe and reverence, but it wasn’t because of their contemptible sacrifices. Are there evidences where Christians “cheat” God with their blemished sacrifices and then say that God’s church is a “burden”? I suspect there is just like the Israelites did and this is why Malachi gives evidence of spiritual hypocrisy!

  EXAMPLE:  In a typical hypocritical fashion a woman in Oregon was caught driving 103 miles per hour with her 10-year-old grandson in the car. When she was stopped by the police, she told them that she was only trying to teach him never to drive that fast. I suppose she wanted him to do as she said, not as she did. Sadly we can see this in the worship of the Israelites during Malachi’s day and we find it in the lives of Christians as well. Malachi gives us evidence of spiritual hypocrisy!

Conclusion:

What is disrespect? The dictionary defines it as “a lack of respect or esteem.” We can disrespect something or someone by not holding them in high regard. Malachi gave the evidence of dishonorable relationship, evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship, and evidence of spiritual hypocrisy!
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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, March 10, 2018

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 11, 2018

My Mom used to play mind games with us kids when we did something bad. A lot of mothers do this. Here’s what I mean: Right in the middle of scolding us over our bad behavior, she would innocently ask, “Don’t you love your dear old mother?” Or she would declare, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” It was a form of psychological warfare to get a response from us and to have us think about the consequences of our actions. It’s called guilt.

Malachi is kind of like my mother. His message is for God’s wayward children. Didn’t they love God? Didn’t God love them? If that were true, then why were they acting the way they did? Had they gotten spiritually soft? God’s chosen people had gotten so lackadaisical about their faith that they forget what their relationship to God meant! Malachi’s message from the Lord is to illicit a response from his people. Malachi’s message applies to us as much as it did for the spiritually lax Israelites. They needed to be open to God and what did for them. The same is true for us today, let’s discover how...

READ: Malachi 1:1-5

Malachi ministered in the fifth century BC, about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. Life was not easy under the political rule of Persia. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Much like today, their hope in God’s promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their intermarrying with nonbelievers, divorces and general moral apathy. They needed to respond to God’s love. Malachi teaches us that...

I. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message! (V. 1)

An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.

  1. One man’s message is another man’s burden! Malachi had a spiritually heavy message he had to share with his people. The word Hebrew mas-saw’ (burden), which this book begins, sets kind of a somber mood. The NIV translates this word as “an oracle”. The word comes from the Old English language of the middle ages. We now think of an oracle meaning a person like a priest or priestess who gives out kind of obscure advice that kind of sounds meaningless unless you are “wise” enough to interpret it. This is not the idea here from Malachi. In the prophetic books the Hebrew word mas-saw’ introduces messages of a threatening nature and this gives the prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding. Something he had to say but did not necessarily want to. It became a burden. Contrary to many modern religious pundits God’s messages are not always welcome and can often be sinister in nature! Especially if we know how we have been acting and we know how we should be responding! Notice that this spiritually heavy message was from God Himself: “The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi”! Traditionally Malachi, “My messenger”, has been viewed as the last prophet of the Old Testament period before John the Baptist, whose ministry Malachi predicted (Malachi 3:1). Nothing is known of his family and he is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the Bible. However, his message is so personal and intimate that the contents clearly indicate it was written by an actual person. Malachi was God’s voice speaking a heavy message to God’s spiritually lax people. Using a series of questions and answers, Malachi engages his listeners in a debate many would have rather ignored, but God’s people from all ages need to respond to Malachi’s message!

  EXAMPLE: My Dad always knew when I wasn’t listening to him when he was getting after me. I would let my eyes kind of glaze over and roll back in my head. Perhaps the blank expression on my face also gave me away. My father knew I wasn’t listening to him and he would confront me about it by declaring, “Young man, you haven’t listened to a single word I said to you!” I would try to play innocent, but we both knew better and the clincher would be when he would say, “All right, tell me what I just said to you.” He wanted me to respond appropriately and I knew I was in real trouble when he would finish by telling me, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This is kind of the way God deals with Israel through Malachi. Our sin and its consequences often hurt us more than it does God. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message!

We can forget that while God is love, his love demands a response from us. Not that we can earn his love because God indeed always does love, but that we need to realize that when we fail to respond the way we should to his love we are rejecting what he has done for us! Malachi reminds us of…

II. Our failure to respond to God’s love! (Vv. 2-5)

“I have loved you”, says the LORD. But you ask, “How have you loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD--even beyond the borders of Israel!”

  1. An appropriate response to love is devotion! Malachi brings the claim of God’s love for Israel (1:2a)! God had always loved Israel. In fact, he could have chosen anyone else but he chose Israel. The Lord’s claim over Israel was vindicated by two considerations. His love expressed in his free choice of Jacob and his rejection of Esau. Yet, like a spoiled child, Israel questions God! “How have you loved us?” What a question to ask! God had deliberately decided not to follow the law of choosing the eldest son Esau over the younger brother. Instead God chose, out of love, Jacob! While Jacob had his deceptive faults, we soon learn Esau was willing to give up and cave in to his own natural sin rather than follow God. The Hebrew words here for love and hatred do not refer to emotions but rather actions. How can a child question a parent’s love when it is shown so dramatically? Yet, spoiled Israel did. Can we be like that as well? Yes! God has loved us and shown his love through Jesus. The vindication of God’s love claim is given: “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” He is expressing his past relationship with Israel and Edom and also his historical and present dealings with these people. This then provides the second consideration which vindicated God’s claim of love. Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been like if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. God restored Israel and not Edom. In fact, God would turn Edom’s “mountains into a wasteland and leave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may try to rebuild, but God would not allow it. They would be called A Wicked Land, as opposed to God’s Holy Nation. God tells spoiled Israel that if she doesn’t believe it, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel was guilty, just like Edom, and perhaps just like we often are of failing to respond to God’s love! What about you this morning, have you failed to respond to the love of God?

    EXAMPLE: I remember my mother giving me the parental curse. It goes something like this: “One of these days I hope you have children just like you!” While God’s declaration through Malachi isn’t quite like this, it is similar in that he tells Israel, “You dare question my love after all I have done for you? Let me tell you something, Buster, there will come a time when you will see my love with your own eyes and recognize it for what it truly is!” That time would come through Jesus. Paul says not only will spoiled Israel ultimately recognize God’s love, but every wayward child of God will: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)” We can be guilty of failing to respond to God’s love in our lives!

Conclusion:

Perhaps you have forgotten just how much God loves you or like Israel did, you may question God’s love. Let me remind you that God loves us with an everlasting love. The spiritual message of Malachi is just as valid this morning. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message and not be like spoiled Israel who failed to respond to God’s love!!
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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, March 03, 2018

Fight the good fight! – 1 Timothy 6:11-21

Fight the good fight! – 1 Timothy 6:11-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 4, 2018

When the father asked his little boy what he should do when another child tried to bully him, he was surprised when the little tike replied, “Hit him hard, hit him fast, and run like crazy!” As children of the King we are to respond differently to the whims of life than the world would. While we are encouraged to “fight the good fight” it is a matter of faith and not fists. Believers are to be different than the world.

Society today frowns on anyone taking a stand for righteousness. Paul wrote that a “time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV)” Paul knew that people could be so perverted that “Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32 NIV)” Yet as believers we are to be different. We are commanded to fight the good fight. Let’s see what Paul wrote Timothy…

READ: 1 Timothy 6:11-21

When others turned away from us there was one who willingly grabbed a hold of us and did not let go. However, unless we are reminded to do so as Paul did with Timothy, we can for get that…

I. We are to grab a hold of the Lord and not let go! (Vv. 11-12)

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

  1. The number one song in America right now is one by Drake called “God’s Plan” and it has nothing to do with that at all. In fact, sadly, you may not want to know exactly what the lyrics do portray. Rather than discussing with Timothy his sexuality, masculinity, or promiscuity Paul addresses the fact that a man of God should desire to remain pure before the Lord and so he writes that Timothy should as a “man of God, flee from all of this” worldly desire that focuses on selfishness and the love of money. Instead, the man of God should “pursue”, run after, desire, and jump at “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness”!  Later Paul would tell Timothy to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22 NIV)” It is the pursuit of holiness with the character outcome of faithful, godly, patient, gentleness which is hard often to find in men in our day and age. In Paul and Timothy’s time it was a dog-eat-dog kind of world. Today it is more of a live like a dog kind of world where such things as holiness and kindness have gone by the wayside. Paul equates this kind of pursuit as a boxing competition where one does his best to “fight the good fight of faith”. Like a Pitbull that doesn’t let go once its jaws snap shut around its prey the believer is to “take hold of the eternal life to which [they are] called”! Timothy was called to serve the risen Lord just as each of us is when come to Christ. In fact, Paul reminds Timothy that he had made his “good confession in the presence of many witnesses”. This is one of the many reasons why we ask you to come forward publically at the end of worship to make a decision. You are showing others your willingness to have them witness your decision to follow the Lord. We are to grab a hold of the Lord and not let go! 

  EXAMPLE: The dog was mangy and ornery. A flea-bitten cur if ever there was one. No one would go near him. No one wanted to. He trotted around town as the bully of the streets demanding his due that is until one day he willingly followed a little red-headed girl home. She showed up at her backdoor with the mongrel scratched, a little ragged and bloody, and mussed up. When confronted by her mother on how in the world she got the dog to calm down and follow her home so willingly, the little girl responded, “I just grabbed a hold of him and didn’t let go!” We are to grab a hold of the Lord and not let go!

I am so glad that when God got a hold of me he did not let go either. However there are those that forget and think that this is all there is to the whole matter. So much so they forget there is a command that we are to “follow” Jesus and Paul reminds us that…

II. We are to follow through on our confession of faith! (Vv. 13-16)

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

  1. Others are not the only witnesses to our decision to follow Jesus. Paul reminds Timothy that when he decided to follow the Lord it was not only fully “In the sight of God, who gives life to everything” but it was also in front of “Christ Jesus” who he made his own public declaration! It was this same Jesus, Paul reminds Timothy, that also “while testifying before Pontius Pilate made a good confession” openly! Paul wasn’t telling Timothy that he could do whatever he wanted to whenever he wanted to because as a man of God called by Christ Timothy was bound by a greater obligation. As believers all are when we commit ourselves to Jesus! Therefore Paul makes it a serious and conscious decision and writes, “I charge you to keep this command” to live a holy and righteous life “without spot of blame”. And Paul meant that it wasn’t something Timothy could do lightly. Too often we allow folks to think that a commitment to the Lord is a moment by moment thing, and it is not. It is a lifelong serious battle. Salvation is a constant ongoing spiritual skirmish in that we are permanently saved, we are being saved as we walk in him, and we will be saved when we see him face-to-face! Until such time we are, like Timothy, to make good on our confession of faith! Timothy was commanded by Paul to stay true “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time”! When would that be? Paul does not give Timothy any time frame or date, but rather he is to keep on keeping on in his walk with the Lord until he returns at the time of God’s choosing! “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” We are to follow through on our confession of faith!

  EXAMPLE: “Keep your eyes on the finish line!” the track coach would remind his team over and over. They were encouraged to “never look back” because if they did they would be in danger of losing the race. Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14 NIV)” Paul wanted Timothy to know that we are to follow through on our confession of faith!

Follow through is important in pitching a baseball, making a free throw with a basketball, or in a spiritual walk with the Lord. If we focus on the things of this world too much we will end up impoverished. Instead, Paul reminds us that…

III. We are to acquire eternal wealth! (Vv. 17-21)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.

  1. Paul was fearful that Timothy could lose sight of what truly mattered in life. He wasn’t far afield either where his concern was focused because so many over the centuries have wandered from their faith when caught up in the lust of acquiring wealth. He tells Timothy “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God”. Sadly, far too many folks who profess faith in Christ have lost their focus when they begin to think that wealth, worldly power, or fame is far more important than their eternal walk with God. There is nothing we own or acquire in life that will matter when we are face-to-face with Jesus! It is the Lord “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” in life! We have need for nothing else. Paul continued by telling Timothy to “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” It is through this kind of living that others will see one’s faith. It is how we are to display Jesus to the world! In fact instead of trying to acquire worldly riches, it is “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” The life we live now lays brick by brick the eternal life we will live with the Lord and that can either be a comforting or disconcerting thing! So Paul ends his letter to his young friend by reminding him to “guard what has been entrusted to [his] care.” He was to make the concerted effort to “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” Not every bit of “godly” wisdom from the world is truly of God and can, like a faulty compass, lead one astray! Paul finishes by tacitly reminding Timothy of God’s love for him by stating, “Grace be with you.” We are to acquire eternal wealth!

  EXAMPLE: As a kid I always hated those Twilight Zone TV shows that depicted someone wishing for wealth or something else and then getting more than what they bargained for. My Dad used to tell us kids, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” Sadly we have all seen the personal destruction of those who have gained fame and fortune only to see it disappear or be utterly destroyed by both. I have learned that the things of this world are just so much shadow. Nothing we gain now will matter when we are gone. What matters is what we eternally invest our lives in. Jesus correctly taught, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)” Paul reminds us that we are to acquire eternal wealth!

Conclusion:

We are to grab a hold of the Lord and not let go! We are to follow through on our confession of faith! We are to acquire eternal wealth!
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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.