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God listens! — Psalm 40

God listens! — Psalm 40
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 6, 2017

“Are you listening to me?” was one of my mother’s favorite questions to ask me when I was younger. She wanted to make sure I understood what she had just told me to do; however there were times when as a young person I wished my parents would have listened to me as well. All young people go through this kind of stage in their life. In fact senior adults often express how younger folks do not always listen to them because they think they are too old, senile, or something. Isn’t it good to know then that the believer has someone who always listens to them no matter what age they are?

The Psalmist David knew and experienced God intimately. In our day and age there are a myriad of books, articles, and seminars that try to help Christians to experience God intimately. David gives us some good advice and examples as to just how God listens to those he loves. Let’s discover what he writes this morning…

READ: Psalm 40

Patience was not my strong suit as a young person, it was something that I had to learn and in fact I am still working on in my life! Yet we discover that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength and soar like eagles; running and walking without growing tired. David related that…

I. God listens to those who wait! (Vv. 1-5)

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

1. If patience is a virtue, few of us have it. Yet David writes that he “waited patiently for the Lord”. The idea is one of being silent, listening, and waiting for God to respond no matter how long it takes. When David did this he discovered that “he turned to me and heard my cry”. Far too often we do not have the tenacity to wait patiently for anything in life and then we wonder why we do not experience God as we think we should. For David this was very real occurrence because when he waited on the Lord he sang that “he lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire” and then God “set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand”! Have you ever felt in life you were bogged down by the filth of the world or the desperation of life? David did. But God listened to David and gave him a rock to stand on. God has given us Jesus the solid Rock that no earthly wind or rain can wash away! In fact God went further and “he put a new song in [David’s] mouth, a hymn of praise to our God”! When we are willing to wait on the Lord he gives us firm footing in life, a place to stand in a slimy mud-filled pit of a world. He gives us a new song to sing that influences those around us and “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” because of our patience in waiting for God to speak! David would sing, “Blessed” happy “is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn to aside to false gods” like worldly wisdom, philosophies, or manmade concepts but instead to a listening God who loves and cares for him! David understands who has his life in the palm of his hand, who listens to his prayers, and who responds and so he sings, “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” David learned as we need to as well that God listens to those who wait!

EXAMPLE: I learned a lot from my father about fishing. One of the first things he taught me was patience. If I sat quietly by the stream or by the lake and watched intently my bobber or the lure I was using I would be rewarded for my steadfastness. He would tell me about how to fish the swirls, behind the large rocks, and riffles in a stream. How to look for the concentric rings of fish as they surfaced for food and how to lay a lure or fly just right in the water so as not to scare the fish but to attract them to my hook. He taught me to keep my shadow from falling onto where I wanted to fish and to be silent. He taught me to listen to the flow of the water, the songs of the birds, and the quietness of the woods. He taught me patience. David teaches us that God listens to those who wait!

What we focus on in life says a lot about who we are. For the believer their focus must be on the Lord; we are to “seek fist” his “kingdom” and his “righteousness” and then we will know him better; Jesus’ words not mine. In fact we learn from David that…

II. God listens to those who desire him! (Vv. 6-10)

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

1. We live in a world of hustle and bustle. We think therefore that God wants us to “do something” for him instead of waiting on him. It is a matter of what we desire in life. Are we focusing on ourselves or on him? Too many in David’s day had begun to focus on what they could do for God instead of what God truly desired from them. David correctly understood this and sang, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire… burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” God did not need these offerings especially from those who were really focused on something else instead of him! And so curiously David sings, “But my ears you have pierced”. The meaning is twofold: First, slaves had their ears pierced with an awl by their owners to signify their slavery; David was referring to his willingness to be bound to God. Secondly, David felt that he only heard God when he was in a right relationship with him; when his ears were “pierced” so he could truly hear what God was saying to him! This is why David tells God, “Here I am, I have come”. He was ready, willing, and able to listen to God. Because David listened to God he knew God had a plan for his life. David came to hear what God had in store for his life and so he sings, “I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” One cannot hear God’s voice until they are ready to give themselves completely over to the Lord; to sacrifice themselves and become totally God’s. Then it becomes easy to “proclaim righteousness in the great assembly” because for those who know God understand he listens to them! David could not “seal” his “lips” nor could he “hide” God’s “righteousness in [his] heart” in who he was. God was fully a part of David’s life and not some secondary occurrence he was exposed to once in a while. David was not a nice guy who tried to love God, he was a guy who loved God and became the man God desired and so he spoke of God’s “faithfulness and salvation”. In fact, David never concealed God’s “love” and “truth from the great assembly”. David learned that God listens to those who desire him!

EXAMPLE: In an old country and western song by Tom T. Hall he relates the ungodly philosophy of a scrawny old cowboy who tells him that life is about “faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money”. Sadly this is what many in the world truly think life is all about. They live life full throttle earning more money, living for the moment, and for the thrill instead of for the One who created them in the first place. God is either a far off concept or a curse word for them. They have never heard his voice because they have drowned it out with the desires of the world. Yet if they were willing to have their ears pierced so they could truly listen they would hear his voice calling them. David discovered that God listens to those who desire him!

Honesty is the best policy but many while they desire it from others do not practice it themselves. We live in a world of deceit and therefore we cynically expect politicians to lie to us, the media to distort the truth, and even family and friends to conceal hidden motives. David teaches us that…

III. God listens to those who are honest with him! (Vv. 11-17)

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me. May all who seek to take 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!” be appalled at their own shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The LORD be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.

1. We all want God when we want him. This is something I have learned in my 40-plus years of ministry and 32 years of pastoring: When things get bad, which they always do in life, we cry out to God whom we have not thought about before. As one old pastor said, “We get real about God when life gets real with us.” We find David being totally honest with God. He understood that God cannot hear those who come to him with false motives or pretenses. He desires all of us. So David sings, “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me.” More than anything David desired God but David knew he had sinned and so he confesses to the Lord, “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” David is being straightforward in his prayer to God. He was suffering the consequences of his sinful life and so he cries to the One who can truly rescue him, “Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.” David did not experience the grace of God we as believers now enjoy because of Jesus. God, the Holy Spirit, comes to seal us and stay with us forever but David did not have this intimacy of grace we now enjoy. So he asks for God’s protection: “May all who seek to take 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!’ be appalled at their own shame.” In this we discover that we can be very real with the Lord in our conversation our prayer just as David was. David needed to be rescued from his predicament. From his sin and those who sought to do him evil and so he willingly turns to the One who listens. Yet David also desired that those who were willing to seek the Lord would “rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, ‘The LORD be exalted!’” David wanted to be rescued but he also desired that those who sought to do him ill would know the Lord as he did. And finally David the King and commander sings, “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” God listens to those who are honest with him!

EXAMPLE: Recently I took a camping trip to Montana with my son-in-law and grandson. It was a blast. Not only did we see all kinds of wildlife but we swam in an ice-cold river, experienced nature, and cooked our food out-of-doors. Yet one of the things that I will always remember is going down to the river after dark and looking up at the night sky. Without the light pollution of the cities we could see the Milky Way in all of its glory. As I stood there looking up I experienced a moment of unsettlement. I realized just how miniscule I was compared to the universe God had made. Yet I wanted to shout for joy when I realized that this awesome God who created all of the stars and galaxies speaks to me intimately! I was humbled and confessed to him that I was unworthy of such love. We learn from David that God listens to those who are honest with him!

Conclusion:

God listens to those who wait! God listens to those who desire him! God listens to those who are honest with him!
—-
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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Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4

Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 26, 2017

A child rebelling is as old as well couples having children. Some think that it is worse today than years ago, but it probably isn’t it just may seem that way. However, there has become a shift in how children are disciplined. The issue is not in whether a parent spanks or not but rather in the teaching that there are consequences for one’s actions. Consistency in parenting has degraded in our society and it has infected the school system as well. There are actually folks who think it is harmful to tell a child “no” or to hold them accountable for their behavior. This is simply not true nor is it emotionally healthy for the child to not know their boundaries.

When we look into the pages of Scripture we can sometimes be hard pressed to find good examples of parenting yet we do discover some of the best advice for raising healthy, emotionally stable, and spiritually sound children. And here in Ephesians Paul gives great advice to both parents and children; let’s discover what he writes…

READ: Ephesians 6:1-4

No one likes to have to do what they are told all of the time. It is part of our sin nature to rebel when we are told what to do because we would rather do whatever we want when we want. However this simply isn’t possible nor is it mature. In his instructions to the family Paul writes that…

I. Children are to be obedient! (v. 1)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

1. You would think that this little bit of advice from Paul would be straight forward and easy to understand, but in our day and age people have earned doctorates from dissecting, ruminating, and discussing this ad nauseam to the point where may children are left confused, harmed, and unstructured in life. My dad would tell us that while we may not always like what he told us to do we had better always obey what he told us to do! Obedience is the foundation of any society; if you do not believe me then why do we have laws that people are supposed to obey? Paul succinctly states, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Now notice Paul is not speaking to the world in general but to believers. He writes that children are to obey their parents “in the Lord.” What does this mean? While obedience is kind of a foreign word in our nation today we would do well to remember just how important it is. Recently a young man, who was high on cocaine, was breaking into neighborhood homes, which was caught by police was shot and killed. He did not obey what the police told him to do because he was high, caught doing a criminal act, and was trying to get a very real looking toy gun from his waistband; the officers thought it was an actual pistol because it looked genuine and therefore shot him to death. Obedience would have saved this young man’s life. Paul writes that Christian children are to be obedient to their parents in the Lord. Paul meant in their spiritual instruction, in their personal following of God, and in how they respected him. Paul knew if children followed God they would be obedient to their parents. His reasoning was simple: “for this is right”. Paul would write the Colossian Christians, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20 NIV) Pleasing God is our first and foremost duty in life no matter how young or old we are and we learn that in order to do so children are to be obedient!

EXAMPLE: Often when people think of the word obedient they think it means mindless devotion and nothing is further from the truth. I find it interesting that there are those in our day and age who think children know how to respond sexually concerning their individual identity but they are too young to understand right from wrong when it involves religion, diet, smoking, or criminal activity. Children are to obey because children are immature physically, emotionally, and spiritually to understand all the consequences of their actions. Paul knew Children are to be obedient especially in the Lord!

My father would remind us as kids that respect is earned and not simply given. Few in our day understand this concept because many think that they should be respected simply because they breathe the same air as everyone else. This is simply a false notion and Paul teaches us that…

II. Children are to respect their parents! (Vv. 2-3)

“Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

1. Obedience some would say comes from respect however many have forgotten that respect is not simply given, it is earned. Paul writes that his readers were to “Honor your father and mother” a reality that is often misplaced in our day. A life that is not focused on the Lord and filled with the Spirit of God is one that can never understand what real reverence means. Honor in our day and age is hard for a lot of people to give others because we live in such a victim-oriented world. It seems as if there is special kind of sport or enjoyment in tearing down anything or anyone that might have earned our respect or be honored in our world. National heroes, historical figures, and others are torn and ripped apart with great glee. In fact in some arenas if you are not on the side of the worst degenerates, the most despicable of society, or the absolute immoral you are bigoted, racist, or a phobic of some sort and need to rethink your “preconceived colonial” notions. Proverbs teaches us that “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches (people) wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:32-33 NIV) No matter how old we are we are to give honor, deference to our parents. Certainly there are those whose parents may not have been the best sort but Paul is speaking to Christian households here, those who have given themselves to the love and discipline of the Lord Jesus. Paul wrote that this honor is required because it comes from “the first commandment with a promise”. It isn’t the only commandment with a promise from God nor is it the first or primary commandment one is to learn, rather it is the commandment with the promise of God “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” It is understood that obedience fosters self-discipline, which in turn brings stability and longevity in one’s life. In order for our lives to go well and for us to have a life that is long in the Lord we must learn the lesson of Paul that children are to respect their parents!

EXAMPLE: If you have not been in a public school classroom lately I challenge you to go and volunteer for a couple of weeks. Not for just a day or two. Let the class get used to your presence; follow them out to recess, gym, music, and lunch. I think you would come away shocked at the lack of respect, discipline, and focus there is. The one complaint I hear from educators is the lack of support they receive to be able to consistently discipline their students. When there is no consistency kids know it and use it for their own personal gain. Don’t believe me, which parent does a child learn to go to first in order to get what they want? Remember Cain and Able? Respect teaches children to value themselves, others, and their community because they value and abide by specific standards. Children are to respect their parents!

No one likes to be teased to the point where it makes them sad or mad. Teasing someone until they are angry is just plain cruel and the same is true from demanding such high expectations from someone that they can never ever meet. Paul reminds us that…

III. Parents are not to frustrate their children! (v. 4)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

1. Paul wrote in Colossians, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21 NIV) He addresses fathers because they were seen as the head of the household in which the consistency of parental discipline rests. How the peace and structure is often regulated by the mother in the home, fathers are to make sure there is consistency in discipline. People often forget that children first and foremost need structure in their lives. Boundaries give children security and therefore being too harsh or too lenient in rearing children can lead to frustration. So fathers were cautioned by Paul to “not embitter” their “children” with unreasonable demands, petty rules, or useless favoritism. Such actions cause children to become discouraged or angered because they are in constant emotional flux. Consistency in raising children is extremely important and I am reminded of when Paul wrote his friend Timothy “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.  (2 Timothy 3:15 NIV) Timothy’s parents and grandparents were both instrumental in his spiritual maturation and Paul wrote, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV) Training our children in the beautiful things of God is extremely important. Far too many Christian parents live under the false notion that they should allow their children to “decide for themselves” when they get older as to what they believe about God. Where they get this completely ungodly idea is beyond me because by the time a child is an adult it is often too late. And it is a fact that most teens rebel when they go off to college! Paul relates that “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Paul had been trained from his youth that parents were to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) Consistency in discipline is the key and parents are not to frustrate their children!

EXAMPLE: We all laugh at the poor sap who tosses the instructions on how to put something together but anyone who has ever tried to put something together from IKEA knows the importance of following the instructions exactly. Clear and concise instructions are important and in fact this is one of the reasons IKEA has been so successful. They learned that if you had the buyer build their products using easily understood instructions they developed a personal sense of achievement at finishing the project and were very likely to come back and buy more products. The key was using those clear and concise instructions. Frustration occurs when a child does not know what to expect. Parents are not to frustrate their children!

Conclusion:

Children are to be obedient! Children are to respect their parents! Parents are not to frustrate their children!
—-
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 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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Sticks and Stones and Little Boys

Sticks and Stones and Little Boys
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 6, 2014

Sticks and rocks are beautiful things, if you do not believe me then you do not have any little boys because sticks, rocks, and little boys go together. I am not sure why, they just do. Perhaps it is our “aggressive” natures outwardly manifesting themselves. I certainly believe this is why too many little boys in our day and age have little or no imaginations because their overly protective parents do not let them enjoy the simplicity of a good stick or rock. Of course the Darwinist would postulate that it comes from our Neanderthal background as cavemen! I do not think so. I believe it is simply the outward expression of boyhood to have a good stick or rock on hand.

I remember well my mother telling me in no uncertain terms, “If you run with that stick young man you will poke someone’s eye out!” Or how she would grumble as she emptied my pockets before doing the laundry, knowing that if she did not then she would hear the clanging of the rocks in the dryer I had treasured in my patched jean pockets. She never realized that you would have to have the stick at just the right angle and then you would have to meet the other unsuspecting person’s head at just the precise time for certain impact. Of course these kinds of miracles happen all the time in the life of young boy because it seems they are always poking someone’s eye out with a wayward stick, scrapping their knees, running in the house, or carrying a ton of rocks in their pockets to pound dents into the inside of the dyer with. I digress. My mother would often lovingly place each rock by the door where the dryer was so I could replace them in my clean jean pockets again!

Just a few years ago I opened the backdoor of our church just in time to see a trio of boys walking by with their sticks. They had scrounged them from the trash bin where I had thrown them after tripping over them for the umpteenth time. When I asked them where they had gotten their sticks from, they answered, “What sticks?” I almost immediately responded, “The one’s you will poke someone’s eye out with!” but I held my tongue. Instead, I pointed to the wooden pikes they held in their grubby hands, too which they responded, “Oh, you mean these sticks!”

My grandson has a pile of stones and sticks by the front door our house. If we are buried under a pile of ash from Mt. St. Helens in the next few days I am sure future archeologists will dig up my front door and determine that we worshipped at some shrine whereby we placed certain prized rocks and sticks! And yes, we find them in his pants pockets as well. When asked why he saves them or if we dare ask him to part with even one rock, you would think we are robbing gold from Fort Knox. Each is a prize to be kept and treasured. And in fact he cannot be outside for long without finding a wayward stick to carry, tap on things, and use with his imagination.

See, these two stories prove my point that little boys and sticks and rocks go together. In fact there may be some kind of unknown magnetism between inert discarded branches and random stones and little boys. And I am sure that just as Grog’s mom once told him a millennium ago, “You play with stick, you poke um eye out!” a future mom will declare, “You play with that stick with your anti-gravity belt and you’re gonna poke someone’s eye out!”

Sadly, in our day and age too many “adults” have lost the imagination of sticks and stones and only think of them in the politically correctness of their convoluted narrowly focused world. However, my advice is to let little boys have sticks and random rocks to treasure and play with, as long as they do not poke the dog, hit their little sister, or bonk one other on the head with them. Of course if this happens, so what? You may as well as give up now because even if you do not live where your little boy can find sticks and stones, a boy will find a stick or rock of sorts somewhere. In fact, if you ever go camping they will suddenly appear in your campsite, and fathers, you may never have to hunt for firewood or rocks to make a fire or fire pit with again!

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What God Requires! – Micah 6:6-8

What God Requires! – Micah 6:6-8
by Pastor Lee Hemen
04-13-14 AM

Jesus was preparing to go to the cross and He only had a few days left to impart some last instructions to His disciples. Already He had planned how He would celebrate His last Passover meal with them. He already knew the significance of the bread and the wine He would share. He also knew what He had to do to provoke the Jewish leadership by going to the temple and driving out their wretched money changers. But before all that He would have to make His entrance into the City of David. He knew that some in the crowds that cheered Him today would cry for His crucifixion in a few days. Neither the leadership nor the common crowd understood just how far they had wandered from God and how He would provide a way back to Him. They did not understand what God required.

The same could be said of what Micah teaches concerning Israel’s wandering from the Lord and how they needed to return to Him. Israel misunderstood what God required of them. They were depending upon their own way instead of God’s. Sound familiar? Like his contemporary Isaiah, Micah prophesied about the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the later defeat of the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians. Micah prophesied in the eighth century BC during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. His one statement on what God required of His people stands the test of time as a pillar of what God requires of His people. Let’s discover what Micah teaches…

READ: Micah 6:6-8

Ashes placed on our foreheads cannot bring about the change God requires. Micah’s first question helps us to put a personal perspective on what many of us think concerning our own relationship with God. Micah wondered…

I. How in the world do I come before a holy God?
1. Micah takes on the roll of someone who is coming to worship the Lord and he asks, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” He immediately begins to question his ability to be seen in the presence of God. Why? You see, he views himself differently than many believers view themselves. Micah saw himself as unworthy of coming before the Lord. There was a reason for this. Like Paul, Micah would agree, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)! Micah understood who he was and the nature of God. God was holy! This truth is often lost on some of us today where we think we are the most important thing in the world! In truth, the world does not revolve around you, nor does the plan of God. It revolves around His Son, Jesus. God related early on to Abraham, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1 NIV) The connotation was that God is holy and Abraham needed to be as well in order to walk in relationship with Him! In fact, we find God telling His people, “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44 NIV) So, the worshipper asks, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?” It is a question we should ask. How do we dare come before a Holy Lord this morning? How can we bow down before Him? Remember, we know that God’s ways are neither our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. A Holy God is so far removed, exalted, from us, how dare we come before Him at all? So, the next thought of the worshipper is, “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” The notion here is perhaps that which has been purified in the fire on the altar of God or that which is completely innocent would please God. We forget that a burnt offering was completely burned away and all that was left was ashes. And perhaps we discover that this is how we approach a holy God. Perhaps when we are totally burned away and all that is left is noting of us we can come before His throne?
EXAMPLE: In order to approach a holy God we have to have our sin burned away and become innocent. Sadly, there are those of us who arrogantly think we have the right to approach God. We forget the innocent sacrifice that was required for us to do so. Now we may think if we just feel burnt up enough, dried out in our emotions, we are a burnt offering before God. Or if we are simply saddened by our sin it is enough. Yet we discover that God requires us to be completely His. After all a sacrifice cannot crawl off the altar, it is burned up. Let me ask you, “How in the world do you come before a holy God?” Have you forgotten the innocent sacrifice required for your sin?

The crowds would cheer; strip off their cloaks and the branches of nearby trees to place before Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem. They thought they had a rescuer, perhaps a warrior king, who would change their disgraceful enslavement. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Surely God was pleased with them! About 800 years before, Micah knew better and he would consider…

II. How in the world can I please the Lord?
1. Micah continues as the worshipper and asks, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Perhaps if he just brought more sacrifices, God would be pleased with him? He then could approach a Holy God. We often think by our multitude of doing things, we are honoring God. We think to ourselves, “If I just do more!” Yet we are reminded of the words of God, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 NIV) David knew in his own sinful condition that, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) There are not enough dead animals or vast rivers of oil that could please God to excuse our ungodliness! God is not pleased with the amount of our sacrifice, but with the brokenness of our heart. However, in his insecurity, the worshipper goes on to ask, “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” What he is doing is what a lot of folks begin to do with God when they know they are in sin; he begins to bargain with God! He ups the ante so to speak! “I promise I will do this, I promise to do better; I promise to bring an even greater sacrifice! I know I will sacrifice my firstborn!” And, sadly, many of us do that very thing when we go our own way instead of living for a Holy God. We arrogantly sacrifice those around us, “the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul”! This was sinful and wicked; but such offerings had been made by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, and this very custom was copied by the corrupt Israelites, which many of us have copied with our lives in our day! However, we should never forget that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people”! (Hebrews 9:28) In fact, “with burnt offerings and sin offerings [God was] not pleased” (Hebrews 10:6) and that “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”! (Hebrews 10:10) How in the world can I please the Lord, only through sacrifice, and Jesus already did that for us!
EXAMPLE: I like a good bargain, but we should know better than try to bargain with God, yet many of us try to anyway. Children are infamous for knowing or trying to bargain their way out of trouble. My Dad used to tell us over and over when we tried the tactic of pleading we were “sorry” and that we would “never do it again”, “I appreciate your being sorry, but you still will suffer the consequences of your actions.” Like little children caught doing what we know is wrong, some believers will try to bargain with God. We make foolish statements that we will not to do it again or that we will change, if only He will forgive us this time. When we do we often know we will not change, we are just trying to bargain with God. How in the world can we please God, only through sacrifice and Jesus has already done it for us!

Slowly the donkey colt plodded into the city along the dusty path. With great frenzy the crowds greeted Jesus. Periodically, Jesus would look at the faces, smile, and acknowledge someone in the throng. Today was a day of joy; soon it would be one of great sorrow. Jesus knew what would be required of Him. And here, we discover in the lines of the prophet Micah…

III. What is required of us!
1. Micah addresses Israel with the words of God, reminding them exactly what they are to do, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This advice carries over to believers today. Over and over God has shown His people what they were to do as His people. Over and over God showed them how they were to live before Him. We know several eternal truths that never change: God’s ways are not our ways, He does things differently than we do and in His timing rather than in the hurried-up mode of sinful evil mankind; that we reap what we plant in life and therefore we will, or future generations will, suffer the consequences of our ungodliness; and we are to love God completely and others as our selves. Here, God through Micah reminds His people what is required of them by Him as their Creator, Father, and God. Those who say they follow God are to ” act justly” no matter if the rest of the world acts unfairly; we are to “love mercy” even when the rest of the world desires revenge; and we are to “walk humbly before our God”, even when the rest of the world is drenched in self-indulgence and self-gratification! Walking humbly before God means we live for Him first and foremost in our lives and we willingly place ourselves last. Jesus taught, ” If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 NIV) Christians are to place God and others before themselves. This is “walking humbly” as opposed to “walking in pride”. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the words of Paul who said, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) When we ask, “What does God want me to do?” In truth, we know the answer just as the Israelites did. We know if we are walking in our own self-indulgent sin or not, we know if we place ourselves first rather than the Lord and we know that we are living for the moment rather than eternity. Paul would also say, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30 NIV) Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!
EXAMPLE: We often go through life wondering what we should do or not do. Believers have no reason to live this way because we know what we should do. We often go through making New Year resolutions that we hardly ever keep. We begin with good intentions but before long old habits take over. It may start out just once in a while not following through with our promise to change, then it gets worse and we soon have forgotten what we promised to do. Instead of making goals we never truly intend to keep or that we cannot keep, perhaps we need to follow the advice of Micah and walk humbly before our God! Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!

Conclusion:
1. In order to approach a holy God we have to be burned away and innocent.
2. How in the world can I please the Lord, only through the sacrifice of Jesus!
3. Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance


This article is copyrighted © 2014 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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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 12, 2014

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:7 NIV)

Have you ever wondered dear child of God, ”Is the Lord pleased with me?” Micah continues as the worshipper and asks, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Perhaps if he just brought more sacrifices, God would be pleased with him? He then could approach a Holy God. We often think by our multitude of doing things, we are honoring God. We think to ourselves, “If I just do more!” Yet we are reminded of the words of God, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 NIV) David knew in his own sinful condition that, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) There are not enough dead animals or vast rivers of oil that could please God to excuse our ungodliness! God is not pleased with the amount of our sacrifice, but with the brokenness of our heart. However, in his insecurity, the worshipper goes on to ask, “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” What he doing is what a lot of folks begin to do with God when they know they are in sin; he begins to bargain with God! He ups the ante so to speak! “I promise I will do this, I promise to do better; I promise to bring an even greater sacrifice! I know I will sacrifice my firstborn!” And, sadly, many of us do that very thing when we go our own way instead of living for a Holy God. We arrogantly sacrifice those around us, “the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul”! This was sinful and wicked; but such offerings had been made by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, and this very custom was copied by the corrupt Israelites! Who are you willing to sacrifice for your silly sin? We should never forget that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people”! (Hebrews 9:28) In fact, “with burnt offerings and sin offerings [God was] not pleased” (Hebrews 10:6) and that “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”! (Hebrews 10:10) How in the world can I please the Lord, only through sacrifice, and Jesus already did that for us! Makes one wonder…

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 11, 2014

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life.” (Job 2:3-4 NIV)

Hey there dear brother or sister in the Lord, what excuses do you come up with when you know you should not be doing what you are doing with your life? Did you know that way back when God allowed Satan to consider Job, we discover Satan telling God that sinful people will give up anything and anyone to make excuses for their sin or for their troubles in life. In fact, “Skin for skin” was a proverbial saying, possibly about bartering or trading animal skins! Whose “skin” are you willing to trade? You see, Satan was insinuating that Job would willingly trade the skins (lives) of his own children because in return God had given him his own skin (life). He was implying that Job was selfish. Now you may think, “I would never do that!” But we can do this very thing when we trade the lives of our children, parents, family, or friends for our selfish choices. We often skin others when we say, “I need this relationship” or “I deserve this thing” or “I don’t do this very often”. And, when we do, we skin our children, family, and friends alive for our sin because our sin has consequences not only for our life, but it always spills over into the lives of others around us. Now, I know God knew Job and his integrity before Him, but remember He also knows you and your integrity or lack thereof. Does Satan smile when you make your excuses for your sin knowing you will give up anyone or anything, including God, for your sin? Makes one wonder…

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