Category Archives: Bible

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect
treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of
error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God
judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the
supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a
testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

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!
—-
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21

Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 5, 2018

I find it kind of interesting that we start life learning to crawl, jog or run through our younger years, and then end up walking or shuffling to the finish line. The Christian life is not to be this way at all. We are to begin by walking hand-in-hand with the Lord and then run the rest of life’s race to the finish line.

Paul understood what running life’s race was all about because he was doing it himself. His desire was that his brothers and sisters in Jesus would finish the same race well. In life we cannot help it if we become handicapped in some way as we age. Nor can we help how we entered into the world. Bad things happen to good people because sin exists. However how we live for the Lord is determined by us and how we run life’s race for him. Let’s discover what Paul wrote the Philippians concerning running life’s race…
READ: Philippians 3:12-21

There are some folks who have a Mary Poppin’s attitude,, they think they are “practically perfect in every way”. Others around them would disagree. Christians should never have this kind of an attitude. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

I. We are to focus on the goal! (Vv. 12-14)

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.

1. Paul not only knew who he followed and why but Paul was also a realist. He understood the world around him and why people often did what they did in life. But far more importantly Paul understood himself. Even though he knew he had been made holy in the sight of God by his faith in Jesus he understood he was not perfect. He still blew it from time to time and so he writes, “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.” Paul knew there was more to life than ourselves. He now lived his life for the Lord Jesus Christ! His goal was not to try to reach perfection; his goal was to live for Jesus! It was like a race for Paul. You do not complete the race until you cross the finish line and Paul realized he had not yet crossed that line in life! So he reminds his readers, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” Paul was still in the race! Far too many believers think that their age, their sickness, or their emotional or physical state somehow disqualifies them from continuing to run the race God has laid out for each believer. This simply is not true. In the face of life’s obstacles we still are in the race but we are in the race with Jesus and we are never alone. However, like Paul we need to remember, “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.” We cannot get caught up in life’s past sin or anything life throws our way because if we do, we stay at the beginning of the race we have entered! We must strain for the prize we have been promised! In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

EXAMPLE: I liked the Disney Pixar movie “Up”. It is about Carl a crotchety old man who promised his late wife a trip to Paradise Falls; a place where a famous explorer found the giant skeleton of an exotic bird. Carl is found to be incapable of keeping his home and so he attaches thousands of helium filled balloons to it planning to float it to Paradise Falls as he promised his late wife. Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer” who visited Carl in his effort to earn his final merit badge, for assisting the elderly, becomes an accidental stowaway. In their journey they both meet up with a dog named “Dug”. He can’t seem to focus on anything and yet becomes a hero. All the characters, even the eventual villain, are focused on the wrong things in life. Friendship is more important than merit badges, life is not lived in the past, and squirrels should not keep you from focusing on what is important. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

I remember when I discovered that maturity does not come with age. Maturity comes when one uses their life’s experiences to become the person God desires them to be. The same is true for wisdom. Age doesn’t make someone wise. Wisdom comes from how one uses the knowledge they have obtained to glorify the Lord. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

II. We mature as we follow Jesus’ example! (Vv. 15-17)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

1. Paul knew that people can get sidetracked in running the race God has set out for each of us. Things tend to get in the way; family, friends, jobs, and personal interests just to name a few. In our day and age there are far too many distractions. This is why Paul writes the Philippians that he knows they can be distracted, however, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” In other words you may disagree about your goal in life but if you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus your life is to be lived differently than the rest of the world. Our view of things should be filtered through our lives lived for the Lord! How are we running the race today? Yet Paul understood that there would be those who would disagree just as there are today and so he told them that “if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” We cannot force the world to believe as we believe; nor can we force fellow Christians to do so either, however, we can give them over to the Lord to deal with. We can trust Jesus with people’s lives we cannot seem to get through to. Does this mean we simply give up? NO! But we pray, talk to the Lord, and trust the Lord to handle the situation and to enlighten us on how we should proceed. Far too many believers don’t talk with God they instead talk at God. Paul tells us what our goal should be in this situation: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” If we have trusted Jesus then we have all we need to proceed in life. We not only have Jesus walking with us but we have fellow Christians as well. We are not to isolate ourselves. Instead we are to “Join with others in following [Paul’s] example”. We are to remember we are “brothers” in Christ “and take note of those who live according to the pattern [Paul] gave you.” In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

EXAMPLE: I had to smile the other day as I was bagging groceries at WinCo. Another elderly couple was there in the next line and he was bagging groceries as well. Evidently he and his wife had been having a discussion that overflowed to the bagging area. Her remark made me laugh because she sounded like a preadolescent teen when she said, “Oh you think you’re so mature!” He muttered back, “More than you.” Some folks seem to never grow up I guess. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

Far too many Christians have forgotten that eternity exists. They become so caught up in the things of today they forget whom they are to follow. They can begin to live for the moment thinking that this is all there is in life forgetting the fact that this world is not our home. Paul reminds us that in running the race…

III. We are to remember who we are! (Vv. 18-21)

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1. Paul knew that in running life’s race there are those who would love to distract us in doing so. Misery loves company. Ever wonder why some folks are so bent on destroying your life in the Lord? Paul understood that there were rivals for Jesus’ affection. He writes the Philippians, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Sadly this has not changed because there are still those who desire believers fail in their faith. Yet take hope because Paul pegged them for what they truly are “enemies of the cross”! And he understood their outcome in life’s race: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.” They are headed for an eternity separated from God because they focus on the here and now and what they get out of life. They cannot help themselves because “Their mind is on earthly things.” Do not get enamored with the things of the world because they are passing away, “our citizenship is in heaven”! That is where every believer in Christ is headed! “And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Jesus will either return or we will head home. Our job is to continue in the race God has laid out for each of us! This world is not our home and we are citizens of heaven! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

EXAMPLE: I hate it when I go to a seminar or meeting and they hand out name tags to slap on your shirt or coat. I know they do it so the speaker or fellow guests can know your name but whatever happened to introducing yourself to another person or the speaker before you ask a question? I always think it is because they think I can’t remember who I am. In fact, being the tease I am I stood up one time during one session and deliberately looked confused until I looked at my name tag before I addressed the speaker. I exclaimed, “Whew! I almost forgot who I was until I remembered my name tag!” It got a chuckle from the crowd, which of course is what I was hoping for. I am so glad that Paul reminds us that in running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

Conclusion:

In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal! In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!
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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.

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What’s important? – Philippians 3:1-11

What’s important? – Philippians 3:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 29, 2018

When you’re single what is important changes dramatically after you get married and have kids. And it should. Sadly there are a few men and women who seem not to mature into the role of spouse and parent. They seem to think that life still should revolve around their needs, desires, and wants. This simply is not true. One who lives selfishly this way never seems to ask “What’s important?”

A faithful follower of Jesus has to constantly ask themselves what is important in order to maintain spiritual focus for their lives. Christianity is not a momentary thing. It does not just happen once a week on Sundays. If we do not take seriously our walk with the Lord we will fall prey to the whims of the ungodly world around us. Paul knew this to be true and teaches the Philippians what’s important. Let’s find out what he writes…

READ: Philippians 3:1-11

There were those who were called “Judaizers” Judaizers is a term for Christians who insisted that their fellow Christians should follow the Old Covenant laws. This term is most widely known from its single use in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 2:14) where Paul publicly challenges Peter for compelling gentile converts to early Christianity to “judaize” their faith instead of relying on faith alone in Christ alone. We discover that what is important for Paul is that…

I. Christians should never live a life of works! (Vv. 1-4)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh–though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:

1. Some call it “sacraments” as if there is something sacred in making people earn their salvation by doing certain manmade requirements instead of placing their faith and trust in Jesus. Evangelicals can be guilty of the same thing when we begin to swallow the lie of the world that if we are good enough, nice enough, or do simple acts of kindness then God will wink at our putrid sin and let us into heaven. Paul feared that the Philippians were allowing themselves to swallow the same lie and so begins this section by telling them “my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” That was to be their focus, not rituals. If Paul had to repeat himself he would because he cared about their faith, so he writes, “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” He bluntly tells them to “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.” There were those who were whispering in the unsuspecting ears of the Philippians that they needed to go back to following Old Testament rules of circumcision. Jesus totally did away with such a view. Paul knew what he was speaking about here and tells them, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh–though I myself have reasons for such confidence.” He had been one! A “mutilator of the flesh”! But now Paul had trust Jesus and “put no confidence in the flesh”. In fact “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, [Paul had] more”! Christians should never live a life of works!

EXAMPLE: Trail Life for boys is a group that was founded upon certain principles and one of them is that it isn’t awards focused. Some boys’ programs are very focused on helping a boy achieve as many awards as he can in the shortest period of time. In contrast, Trail Life is more concerned with building character than with earning badges and ranks. Trail Life has a robust and prominent ranking and awards structure; however, this is not the focus of the program. The focus is on building character over merely earning awards. I like this because it supports that our lives in Jesus should never be focused on doing things in order to be saved. Paul teaches us what is important in that Christians should never live a life of works!

Far too many people try to placate God instead of living their lives for him. We tend to forget that if God did not love us he would not have come to die for us! In fact this notion was a completely new concept during Paul’s day that a deity would not require pacification in some way. Paul reminds us here in these verses what’s important in that…

II. Christians should never try to appease God! (Vv. 5-7)

circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

1. Paul absolutely understood what he was talking about because his whole life up until he laid aside his pride and came to Christ had also been “circumcised on the eighth day”. He had been changed by his faith in Jesus and because of that change Paul realized that coming to God no longer took a plethora of requirements and crossing off the deeds you did. Paul was “of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin” and quite literally “a Hebrew of Hebrews”. No one could outdo Paul in his strict adherence to following a set of commands, regulations, and manmade requirements. By Paul’s day there were over 600 volumes written by the Jews in order to try as hard as they might to follow the legalistic manmade requirements they self-imposed on one another. Paul would call them “fools” because these people were foolish for spiritually enslaving people. To the church at Corinth he wrote, “You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. (2 Corinthians 11:19-22 NIV)” Paul understood and was angered this kind of enslavement because he had followed it himself and “in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” Paul had blindly believed the fallacy of trying to do one more “good thing” in order to be loved by God and he knew it was ungodly thinking! Paul’s way of thinking changed because he had changed and so he writes, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss (literally damaged goods or a detriment) for the sake of Christ.” Paul knew what’s important for faith and the fact was that Christians should never try to appease God!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget going to the bedside of a beautiful Christian woman who was dying of cancer and her only thought was: “Have I done enough good things for God to love me?” She was part of a Christian denomination that places part of the burden of grace on the believer. So those who belong to it think they have to do a certain amount of good works in their livers in order to offset any unpaid for sin. This is faulty theology. Jesus paid it all on the cross. Paul teaches us what is important in that Christians should never try to appease God!

If something or someone is important in your life you do not treat them as second class, you do not take them for granted, and you never place yourself first. Your relationship would end quickly if you did! In fact, Jesus taught that if you wanted to be great in his kingdom we had to learn to be servants. We discover what’s important when Paul teaches us that…

III. Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first! (Vv. 8-11)

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 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.

1. Paul had come to the right attitude that every believer should. He tells the Philippians, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” I firmly believe that if even just 10% of believers truly believed and practiced Paul’s attitude here in these verses the world would be changed! Paul in fact “consider(ed) them rubbish (quite literally human waste), that [he might] gain Christ and be found in him”. But notice Paul never wanted the focus on himself. Paul truly wanted to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from following” dead laws that did not matter anymore “but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Why was this so important to Paul and why should it be important for us as Christians in our day and age? Faith is the most important thing for the believer. Paul would tell the Romans “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ (Romans 1:17 NIV)” For Paul Jesus was everything and he writes, “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.” In every phrase of this we discover what Paul thought it was important, namely that Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first!

EXAMPLE: The other night on America’s Got Talent a “man” came out and sang and danced and was a complete freak show. The only reason the audience liked him was because he was sadly so outlandish and perverted. It is evident he has given himself to the lowest form of hedonism. Much of the world is like this. It demands that it be allowed to do anything or live anyway it wants to without any repercussion. It has perverted such organizations as the Boy Scouts and even some churches. I believe the world needs to see Christians living like Christ in order to turn the spiritual tide. What’s important? I believe that Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first!

Conclusion:

Christians should never live a life of works! Christians should never try to appease God! Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first!
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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.

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