Category Archives: Religion

God is our helper! – Psalm 70

God is our helper! – Psalm 70
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 17, 2017

A young man found himself in serious financial trouble. His business had gone bust. He was so desperate that he decided to ask God for help. He began to pray. “God, please help me. I’ve lost my business and if I don’t get some money, I’m going to lose my house as well! Please let me win the lottery!” After doing this several nights in a row and he still did not win he decided to pray one last time, “My God, why have you forsaken me? I’ve lost my business, my house and my car. My children are starving! I don’t often ask you for help and I have always been a good person! Please just let me win the lotto this one time so I can get my life back in order!” Suddenly there was a blinding flash of light as the heavens opened, the young man fell backwards, and he was confronted by the voice of God himself: “Young man, you are going to have to do just one thing first — buy a ticket!”

Now I am not advocating wasting your hard-earned money on a lottery ticket; what I am getting at is the fact that sadly this is exactly how many folks view God. They see him as some kind of genie whereby they do not have to personally contribute anything! This short Psalm records a prayer by David for a quick rescue from his present predicament. It also anticipates the rejoicing that will follow. Through the words of David we learn that God is our helper, let’s discover how…

READ: Psalm 70

We live in a fast food, microwave, immediate texting society where we want answers now, if not sooner. David’s day was no different. Here we discover that…

I. David desired God’s help quickly! (v. 1)

Hasten, O God, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.

1. This corresponds almost word-for-word to Psalm 40:13-17 with a very few exceptions so it must have been an important request for David or he simply repeated himself. I prefer the latter. He cries out, “Hasten, O God, to save me”! David is literally requesting that God “snatch” him up and fly him to safety, almost like a hawk snatching up prey but in this case for safety’s sake and not to make David into a tasty meal! David wanted God to rescue him now! This is not new for David as I mentioned before because David had learned where he could go for help. He would sing in another Psalm, “Answer me quickly, O LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.” (Psalms 143:7 NIV) It is kind of like the Apostle Peter who jumped over the side of the boat so he walk on the water with Jesus; he looks at the waves, feels the wind, and he begins to sink because of his fear! He took his eyes off the Lord! He cries out, “Lord, save me!” We are told that “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31 NIV) David did not want to show any doubt concerning his trust in the Lord and so like a lot of us he asks, “O LORD, come quickly to help me.” Who wants a God to take his time? Not me and neither did David. We learn that David desired God’s help quickly!

EXAMPLE: People can move fairly fast if they are properly motivated. Guys, you haven’t seen anyone move faster than a woman who sees her husband come through the living room with a basket full of assorted wash headed toward the dishwasher. Of course there was the time a friend of mine I knew when I worked at Continental Can who barely stopped his wife from putting water from the garden hose in her brand new car via the gas fill! If we desire God to move fast in our lives we need to realize that he is not our personal genie. Someone responded to one of my sermon posts that God had never answered him the way he wanted. He failed to know what David did; God answers those who know and trust him. We learned David desired God’s help quickly!

It can seem sometimes that the whole world has it in for us. Yet did you know that those who know the Lord can seek his protection? We discover that…

II. David asks for God’s safety! (Vv. 2-3)

May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame.

1. We all have heard about the discourse of Jesus on the mountainside where he tells his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you ‘Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’” (Matthew 5:38-39 NIV) So it seems kind of odd or wrong or just plain vindictive that David is asking God for safety in his life against his enemies. However we have to understand first of all that when Jesus spoke the words he did on that mountainside he knew it was impossible for his listeners to do what he was asking them to do! That was the whole point. Their response would’ve been: “Are you crazy! How in the world can we do anything you are asking us to do?” Only those who loved God and knew he loved them could even come close to what Jesus was asking them to do! So notice what David asks God to do: “May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion”! The idea here is that his enemies would be so embarrassed by their false accusations they would be disappointed and publicly ashamed! But David does not stop there he continues: “may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace”! Wow! He wanted them to feel what he felt! In fact, he bluntly asks that “May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ turn back because of their shame.” It may look like it but David is not gloating over his enemies but rather they were gloating over David’s predicament. Proverbs reminds us that “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.” (Proverbs 24:17-18 NIV) Therefore David was kind of reminding God of this spiritual truth and in so doing he was reminding himself as well. The truth we discover here is the fact that David asks for God’s safety!

EXAMPLE: Did you hear that some politicians are asking for the pencil industry to change pencils? For the past thirty years America’s public schools have been producing students who are increasingly less educated. Liberal politicians across the country feel that pencil manufacturers are responsible for creating this education crisis and are filing lawsuits against them. They feel “pencils are faulty because they allow students to spell words incorrectly, as well as commit grammatical and mathematical errors”. Some believe that the pencil makers currently have technology available to put Student Safety Devices (SSDs) on their products. But they refuse to do it. These SSDs would prevent students from committing academic errors and help them to be better pupils. Pencil manufacturers, however, claim that their products are inanimate objects that do not cause students to commit academic errors. Of course I jest. It is as silly as forgetting that we are responsible as well for our relationship with God! Here we see that David asks for God’s safety!

There are those who think that all God does it wait around inactive until we ask him for something, nothing is further from the truth. As we listen to the words of this Psalm we learn that…

III. David seeks God’s salvation! (Vv. 4-5)

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “Let God be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.

1. Here is the key to what David has been asking God for the whole time. He related “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you”. The key here is for those who actively “seek” God. We are not to pull God out of a magic hat or rub an old oil lamp hoping that God will suddenly appear and answer all of our desires immediately. Jesus reminded his disciples, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV) This is not a promise of unlimited wealth or a cosmic sugar daddy but rather for those who seek God will find him and discover for their own selves his salvation. God reminds us that “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” (Proverbs 8:17 NIV) In fact David continued by stating “may those who love your salvation always say, ‘Let God be exalted!’” Only those who know God can honestly lift him up in praise because they know his mighty work in their lives! We know that if we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, all that we actually need in life will therefore be given to us! David therefore returns to his original request by asking God, “Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.” David remembered his spiritual condition: “poor and needy” and who could “come quickly” to “help” and “deliver” him without “delay”! Perhaps David remembered the words of Jeremiah, “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:25-26 NIV) Here we learn that David seeks God’s salvation!

EXAMPLE: While taking a routine vandalism report at an elementary school, a local policeman was interrupted by a little girl about six years old. Looking up and down at his uniform, she asked, “Are you a cop?” “Yes,” he answered and continued writing the report. “My mother said if I ever needed help I should ask the police. Is that right?” He looked up and answered her, “Yes, that’s right,” thinking now she needed his help in something that was important. “Well, then,” she said as she extended her foot toward him, “would you please tie my shoe?” What we may think is unimportant might be very important for someone else. How good is it therefore to know a God who listens and acts to those who love him? Here we discover that David seeks God’s salvation!

Conclusion:

David desired God’s help quickly! David asks for God’s safety! David seeks God’s salvation!

This article is copyrighted © 2017 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 is our teacher! – Psalm 25

God is our teacher! – Psalm 25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 10, 2017

I walked over to her and knelt down to ask her why she was crying. All the other kindergartners were having a great time running and playing with one another, only she was sitting all alone and tearful. She looked up at me with tear-stained cheeks and lamented, “Oh, Mr. Lee no one wants to play with me!” I asked, “Did you ask anyone if they would play with you?” “No”, was her reply, “I just knew they wouldn’t want to!” I went to the nearest group of girls and asked them, “Would you do me a favor?” And they all responded they would, so I asked them if they could use another person in their group to play with and of course they could and soon she was playing with her newfound friends.

Sometimes we can feel all alone in whatever self-imposed predicament we have placed ourselves. It is good to know therefore that God has provided for us during these times when we need someone to come along side of us and teach us to step outside of ourselves. Here in the Psalm of David we learn that God is our teacher, let’s discover what that means for our lives today…

READ: Psalm 25

It is often hard for the young to ask for advice or help. It is part of our prideful nature to want to do it ourselves without relying on anyone else. David understood that…

I. God teaches us as he guides us! (Vv. 1-7)

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

1. Who should believers spend time with? Of course our immediate answer is, “God!” However, what does that mean? Is it a quick solution, wishful thinking, or a way of life? Rather than just being a regurgitated formula or mantra David sings, “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.” It is to God that David gives his most intimate secrets to because he knows he can trust God with them. And in his insecurity he cries to the Lord, “Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” In doing so he reminds himself that “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame”. God was David’s vindicator. He defended David and so he sang “but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.” David would have his prayers answered and his needs met; but the key David knew was in how he actually walked with God and is why he would sing, “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” David knew that in order for him to enjoy God’s company he had to remain in his presence. So, David asks God to “show” him his ways, “teach” him his “paths” and to “guide” him in his “truth”. This is both a dangerous and intimate thing for David to do. David is seeking to know God more personally. And so in this David prays three times for God to remember: “Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.” We all want God to remember his love and compassion for us and to forget all about our sins and wrongdoings. David understood that God teaches us as he guides us!

EXAMPLE: In the comedy movie “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) writes for a women’s magazine. She agrees to write an article about everything a woman does wrong in a relationship so she can write more serious things. She meets Ben (Matthew McConaughey). Andie works hard to drive Ben insane and make him break up with her, but Ben continues to stick around in hopes of making her fall in love with him. Andie gets Ben knocked out in a movie theater by talking aloud while watching a chick flick, rapidly moves her things into his apartment, acts overly possessive and sensitive and clingy. No one wants someone who is clingy; you know what I mean. Someone who always needs your attention always needs to be reassured that you “love” them and someone who is always suspicious of any other friendships you might have. God is not the clinging type nor should we be in our relationship with him. Rather we should follow the Lord because we trust him and honor him with our trust. It is called faith. God teaches us as he guides us!

Honesty with God is important because he already knows what we’re up to anyhow. Why anyone would try to fool God is beyond me and here in his psalm David sings that…

II. God teaches us through our confession! (Vv. 8-14)

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

1. As David walked with God he began to understand certain characteristics about God. It is kind of like when newlyweds learn one another’s habits and they learn to love the other person because of them. David learned that “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.” David had ample opportunity to learn about God’s grace and in so doing he learned that God “guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” Like many of us David had to learn humility. Jesus taught that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:3-6 NIV) Those who want to walk with God must learn what he desires and what he desires is all of us; those who can honestly sing with David, “All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.” Therefore we learn along with David that humility is the key to intimacy with the Lord and it begins with open and honest confession, “For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.”  So, like David, we need to ask, “Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD?” It is the one willing to confess their pride and sinful condition. Then God “will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land.” It is never easy to confess our own sinful condition but it is a must if we desire to walk intimately with God yet if we do the outcome is wonderful because “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” God teaches us through our confession!

EXAMPLE: Confession is the place where God meets us at our most vulnerable. If we are not open and honest with him he cannot work in our lives. I find it hilarious when I work on the playground that after watching as one child picks on another child or does something they know they are not supposed to do, when confronted they try to deny it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter even if I tell them that I was watching them the whole time as they did the deed they still try to deny that it wasn’t them. I wonder what God thinks of us when we try to deny or lie to him instead of openly confessing our sins? David related here that God teaches us through our confession!

Have you ever known someone who depends solely on what they learn in books but have no real common sense? Head knowledge is good but heart understanding will truly fill in the cracks for spiritual wisdom. It only comes, David sings, when we understand that…

III. God teaches us to depend on him alone! (Vv. 15-22)

My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you. Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!

1. Do you blame others when things go south in your life? How do you respond when you are faced with a tough situation? Do you blame God? David poetically shares with us how he responded: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” David knew that only God could “Turn to [him] and be gracious to [him]” when David was “lonely and afflicted.” We can be like David when things go terribly wrong; he laments “The troubles of my heart have multiplied” and asks God to “free me from my anguish.” What was troubling David? He asks God to “Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me!” The psalm of David strongly links the prayer for deliverance and guidance to confession of sin. God’s teaches us that this is what he requires. Though God seems not to regard David’s prayer, faith does not fail, but renews his prayer, confident that God will still hear and save him. David continues by asking God, “Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” The reference is to all the dangers which encompassed him, whether arising from his foes or his own sins. David’s prayer is therefore asking that the divine protection he needs might be balanced with the danger he faced; that he might not be destroyed, either by his enemies or by the sins which he had committed! David had learned that his “integrity and uprightness” were the only things that would “protect” him “because” his “hope is in” God who is both. However David was not just thinking of himself, he knew his actions carried consequences for the nation he ruled because he was supposed to lead it with “integrity and righteousness”. So, his final stanza is a prayer to God to “Redeem Israel… from all their troubles!” David learned that God teaches us to depend on him alone!

EXAMPLE: Feelings are not the same thing as faith. Paul would write, “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3 NIV) I have often been baffled by women who can instantly tell when another woman is hurting, come along side of them for understanding and help but not have a clue as to how to solve their own messed up lives! Peter would write about faith this way: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV) David would sing, “Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you”; David learned that God teaches us to depend on him alone!

Conclusion:

God teaches us as he guides us! God teaches us through our confession! God teaches us to depend on him alone!

This article is copyrighted © 2017 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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Resurrection! – John 20:1-9

Resurrection! – John 20:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 16, 2017

We are at a spiritual crossroads in history. We live in a day and age whereby folks do not use critical thinking but rely on their instinct or passion. This is dangerous because we are then motivated to think that what we feel is more important than facts. Or worse, that we can distinguish what is right or wrong in life simply by how it feels to us. From personal relationships, what we believe in, or to whom we vote for is a matter of feelings and not what we truly know. We end up hurt and confused when our emotions have steered us in the wrong direction.

The resurrection is not a matter of emotion or personal feelings. It is a historical physical fact. This is why later when Mary is crying by the empty tomb and the angel rebukes her by reminding her of the facts, “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.'” (Luke 24:5-7 NIV) And later here in John the angel bluntly reminds Mary to stop relying on her emotions by asking her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (v. 13) As believers or seekers we must come to the realization of the fact of the resurrection because if we do not we are still standing outside of an empty tomb that has no effect on our lives. Therefore this morning let’s look anew at the resurrection.

READ: John 20:1-9

When people die and you put them in their graves, contrary to any TV fiction, they do not get up and walk around! The dead stay dead! Except in the truth of the resurrection! In light of what occurred we must first ask…

I. Why is the tomb empty?! (Vv. 1-2)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

1. Now there are some pretty nifty sleight of hand arguments concerning which Mary was where at what time. However, I believe we have to take each one as they were written realizing that the authors were remembering the event as it was told to them or as they saw it for themselves. John relates what he remembers that “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” It was early Sunday morning, probably right before the sun rose and the sky was still dark but the dawn of the new day could be seen. We discover that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb first. We know from other accounts that she was with other women who wanted to finish the burial preparation of Jesus’ body. Her gratitude and devotion to Jesus came from her deliverance from bondage to Satan. She had been an observer at the cross and now was one of the first folks at the empty tomb. She saw Jesus die and evidently knew where he was buried; now the heavy stone had been removed from the entrance! Mary does the first thing she could think of, “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!'” Mary knew the tomb was empty but did not realize why and could only think of the logical answer, someone had taken Jesus’ body! Why is the tomb empty?

EXAMPLE: Go into any grocery store and Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, or WinCo and you would find aisles of Easter eggs, cards, candy, baskets, bunnies, chicks, Peeps, and chocolate this or that. Yet you would not find the one thing that is most important part to all of Easter: the empty tomb! Easter is not found in bunnies, eggs, baskets, or Peeps. It is discovered in the fact that several thousand years ago folks found the tomb where Jesus’ dead body was laid empty. It therefore begs the question for us every Easter, “Why is the tomb empty?” Paul knew full well that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead”! (1 Corinthians 15:17-20 NIV) The tomb is empty!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but when you’re in the thick of it one’s vision can become very myopic indeed. As the facts of the empty tomb just keep coming and what is revealed makes one wonder…

II. Where is the body? (Vv. 3-7)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

1. Whether Peter is bewildered or he simply suspects what has happened is not at first clear, but he does the one thing most of us would do, “Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.” Peter and John “Both were running.” Both understood the importance of the news Mary had brought them and as they head to the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid to rest, the younger John, “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” Being younger perhaps John was fearful of defilement of entering a tomb or perhaps he was afraid of what he may or may not find inside. John therefore, “bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.” Whatever the reason, “Simon Peter, who was behind him,” and being older and more impulsive “arrived and went into the tomb” while the hesitant John waited outside in bewilderment. Peter also “saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.” In fact we know this is an eyewitness account because of the detail described by John. Peter saw exactly how the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head was lain aside and how neatly “The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.” The burial cloths were there but the fact remained, where is the body?

EXAMPLE: Where is the body? It was a natural question to ask. The Radio Bible Class relates, “No element in the Easter story is more troubling to unbelievers than the report that the followers of Jesus found the tomb empty that Sunday morning. Some simply deny it, saying that the women and others went to the wrong tomb. Others think that Jesus was not quite dead when He was buried, and somehow He revived and got out of the tomb—even though the Roman soldiers had declared Him dead (John 19:33), an eyewitness saw blood and water flow from the pierced body (v.34), and His body had been wrapped tightly with strips of linen containing 100 pounds of spices (v.39). In the first century, even Christ’s enemies agreed that He had died and the tomb was empty. They bribed the guards to say that the disciples stole His body (Matthew 28:11-15). Jesus rose from the grave in a real body, and that means everything to us. When a Christian friend or loved one dies, we can be confident that we will meet again. The body may turn to dust, but God will not forget it. It will be transformed into a body perfectly designed for heaven (1 Corinthians 15:35-50). This is not wishful thinking. It is an expectation based on solid evidence.” Where is the body? Happily it was not there!

Courage is often found in the strangest of circumstances. Here we discover John found his and…

III. Believed! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

1. John in succinct fashion relates how he had gotten to the tomb first but was either too fearful or awestruck to go inside. What he had seen from the outside of the tomb was curious and so he just had to go in as well. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside.” What he saw inside of that tomb changed his life forever. John had run to the tomb out of curiosity, concern, or fear that someone had stolen Jesus’ body. John had run to the tomb merely as a disciple of an itinerant rabbi, but came away a true follower of Jesus. Believing there was a Jesus and believing in Jesus are two different things. John had loved Jesus’ teaching, he had loved and followed Jesus the man, but now he had to believe in Jesus the Messiah. And not just in a Messianic-type person but in the actual resurrection of Jesus the Messiah! The Living God! The first born! The King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus was no longer just a good teacher; he was John’s Master and Savior. However, John’s personal notation tells us that both he and Peter “still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” But now they did! They believed!

EXAMPLE: When the dark day of Jesus’ crucifixion drew to a close, it seemed that the most wonderful of all lives had come to an end. For a few brief years, Christ had astounded the crowds and His followers with the wisdom of His teaching and the wonder of His miracles. But Jesus chose not to save Himself from the cross, and now His life was over. It seemed that nothing more could be expected of Him. Hope returned, however, on that first resurrection morning. A painting by Eugene Burnand portrays Peter and John running to the tomb. Shortly after dawn, Mary Magdalene had told them that she and her friends had found the tomb empty. In Burnand’s painting, the faces of Peter and John show contending emotions of anguish and relief, of sorrow and surprise, of despair and wonder as they race toward the tomb. Their gaze is eagerly fixed forward, turning the viewer’s attention to the sepulcher. What did they find? An empty tomb—the Savior was alive! Christ still lives. But many of us go from day to day as if He were still in the grave. How much better to look beyond the empty tomb to the One who can fill our lives with the power of His resurrection!  (RBC, Living With Expectation, March 27, 2004) They believed!

Conclusion:

Why is the tomb empty? Where is the body? They believed!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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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Christmas Is About Three Fathers…

Christmas Is About three Fathers…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 25, 2016

The other day as I was changing the diaper of my baby granddaughter it all of sudden hit me that Christmas is about so much more than a baby boy. It is about fathers as well. In fact it is about three of them that I know of. First, I cannot but wonder about the father of Mary who watched as his little pregnant daughter walked slowly down the dusty road leaving Nazareth. The trip would not be long by today’s standards but a huge undertaking for a new couple. Food, clothes, and necessities for a new baby and of course her care had to be carried. We forget people usually did not live past their 40s during this time and at a distance of about 89 miles would be a hard journey. I wonder if he looked at the night sky full of stars noticing that the one which shown brightest was in the sky near the place where his daughter journeyed to and thought about her. Was she safe? Had she given birth? Was Joseph taking care of her? Was the baby born healthy and strong? I am sure this father worried about his daughter so far away from home giving birth for the first time. Loving fathers are like that.

The second father I thought of was Joseph. Here he was a father for the first time, far from home town himself, and the only spot he could find for his pregnant wife was a stall for sheep and goats. It was comfortable at least, with some new hay for Mary to spread a cloak down. But now the baby, his baby, their baby was going to be born. I am sure growing up in a small farming community like Nazareth Joseph had watched siblings, other family members, or friends’ children being born. Certainly he watched as sheep gave birth. But now it would be his bride and his child. He could place the baby in the clean swaddling clothes they brought from Nazareth with some of the new hay in the feeding trough. I wonder as Joseph looked up at the stars shining in the night sky if he realized all the work being a father entailed? The mentoring, the training, the discipline, devotion, and the imparting of the love of God, would he be up to it all? As he looked at his little wife did he wonder at his role in being the father of the Messiah? I am sure he did and so much more because loving fathers are like that.

The third and final father I thought of was God himself. The mystery, the shear wonder, and the amazing thing God the father had decided to do since the beginning of all creation was about to occur. I stand in utter awe thinking about the fact that this was God the father’s plan all along: To come himself in the form of a human baby, born to a young Hebrew couple from a small village, in small stable on such a silent night. The birth as amazing as it truly is, is just a moment in time and fades in stature to the cruel death he would willingly face; a death that would become the sacrifice for all of our sin for those who believe and even those who do not. I wonder that as the stars danced in the sky he had created and as the young woman cried in the pains of childbirth if God the Father did not smile as his plan was being born. It makes me smile. I do not think he worried about anything at all, after all he foreordained it all. He had predetermined that on this particular night that this young couple would give birth, well, to him! He had told them both it would happen just as he knew it would and it did. As angels sang, shepherds trembled, Wisemen wandered, and mad kings plotted the plan of God the Father came together perfectly. The plans of our loving Father are like that.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Is All About Love…

One of the things I have learned over the years is that Christmas is all about love. It begins with God who is love displaying himself in his love for all mankind. And this marvelous and mysterious love has infected all of mankind whether they want to believe in that love or not. The infection has manifested itself throughout the entire world. God’s love does that whether we want it to or not. It is manifested in the godly things we do to one another without asking for anything in return. It is seen in the trust little children have in the belief that God’s love is found in believing in a saintly man who loves children enough he is willing to share that love to those who are willing to be good for goodness sake. It is heard in the songs sung about that silent night when two people became parents for the first time a long way from home and their baby boy would be the hope of all mankind. Love is displayed in the red, green, and white decorations that celebrate the coldness of winter but the warmth of that Godly love. The wrapped gifts given are the shadow of the wonderful Wisemen who journeyed across stream and fountain, moor and mountain to an animal feeding trough outside of a tiny town in an obscure kingdom ruled by a mad king to set before the king of Kings their precious offerings of love. The love of God is reflected in the lights strung on houses, trees, and bushes and buildings; they blind us as Holiday Displays or warm us next to a fireplace as they twinkle on a tree. Each and every part of Christmas may be prepackaged or commercial for some but there deep inside of all the Christmas dress up is the love of God. And whether you like it or not there it is, his love sent in his Son and it is his birthday we celebrate. That’s what Christmas is all about.

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Time for the Christian Empire to Strike Back

Time for the Christian Empire to Strike Back
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 16, 2016

With the latest Star Wars release I thought this would be appropriate. Recently I was watching the TV show Supergirl and was assaulted by the amoral concept of lesbianism. Supergirl’s adopted sister has “discovered” herself and come out of the closet. The following few weeks I was again assaulted by the TV show NCIS New Orleans when an FBI agent discusses with her ex-partner, another female investigator, about their lesbian relationship.

Television has now seen fit to use its medium to assault us with their politically correct notion of what constitutes normal relationships. Not satisfied with their culpability in the utter break down of the morals of our society, their utter disregard for sexual relationships, marriage and family, they now want to bring their notion of what is “normal” into our living rooms. Now I know for decades they have infected their shows with homosexuality and forced us into “accepting” their perverted view of what constitutes love and marriage, but now we are to go a step further and be force-fed the notion that almost everyone we know could be either gay, lesbian, or a transsexual and this is normal.

So now I am obliged to turn off my TV, which I do, or watch hand-picked programming from Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon – which I also do. And the media moguls can’t figure out why more and more of us are heading to these choices instead of watching their sewage or buying cable which is full of graphic violence and porn.

The truth is that less than 1% of the population has any proclivity in this arena but we now have to bend over backwards in being required to watch this and accept it. No actual study supports the numbers being thrown at us through TV programming. Out of the literally thousands of folks I have known over the years few were gay, lesbian, or transsexual. And this includes members of my congregation, family members and close friends. What angers me is that I now have to turn off a TV show that is supposed to be family oriented, like Supergirl, and instruct my grandson that not everyone agrees with this assessment and that it is not an accepted Christian teaching. And worse, why there are those who would accuse him of being “hateful” for having Christian values.

Now it is a good thing to teach him that Christians are to love others, but why do the vast majority of us now have to be on constant guard and instruct our children that this is not an acceptable lifestyle in our faith community and that it can be destructive, lead to drug addiction, psychological and physical problems, and that not everyone is inclined this way? I was amused when fellow believers came and asked me “Why does TV hate Christians?” after viewing a segment of Family Guy where the baby Jesus was kicked.

Over the decades, television has done some great things in instructing us about racial and sexual equality; but it is also guilty of participating in and the endorsement of the breakdown of family, marriage, and an abnormal focus on sex. We now have to suffer through family programming that bleeps out gross vulgarities because television wants the viewer to think every family uses this kind of filthy language around their children. It’s called pushing the envelope.

For the past three years I have worked at a public elementary school and have seen for myself what the breakdown of family, morals, alcohol and drug addiction has done to children. Now we are adding to the mixture the stupid notion those little children, who are easily molded psychologically, into thinking that they could be something biologically they are not. But because of our collective guilt and political correctness we will place on them the burden of our preconceived perverted sexuality. Television no longer entertains; it has become our collective politically correct thought police. It is time for Christians to push back by writing, emailing, and letting sponsors and the networks know they will not buy, watch nor use any product or show that endorses hatred towards Christians and their faith practices.
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This article is copyrighted © 2016 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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Second Sunday of Advent – The peace of God! – Isaiah 52:6-10

Second Sunday of Advent – The peace of God! – Isaiah 52:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 4, 2016

Last week we spoke of how the Messiah would be called by the names of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. There were those who incorrectly thought that the Messiah would bring about the end of war or that everyone would find bliss. Interestingly, there are those in our day who still have misconceptions of who the Messiah is and the peace he brings.

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

READ: Isaiah 52:6-10

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

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

Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.

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

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

God made the first move when he came as a baby. A star would appear marking the way, angels would proclaim him, and shepherds would witness to what they saw. Isaiah teaches us that…

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

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.

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

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

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

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

Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

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

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

Conclusion:
The peace of God comes from Him alone!
The peace of God would be proclaimed!
The peace of God brings salvation!
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This article is copyrighted © 2016 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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