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Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!

Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 15, 2018

At the turn of the century a young salesman approached a farmer and excitedly told him about a great new book he was selling. It had all the information needed to run a profitable farm: when to plant and harvest, how to predict the weather and care for livestock—everything that would make the farmer a success. The farmer patiently listened and then replied, “Young man, I know everything that’s in your book. My problem is doing it.” We may read our Bible, know how we are to live as Christians, yet find the hard part is to do what it tells us, why is that? It is a matter of obedience.

Why is it so hard for folks to do what they know they should do? Paul wrote that he would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God.” (Romans 15:18 NIV) Malachi begins with a blanket condemnation of Israel’s disobedience to God’s decrees throughout her history. Let’s discover this morning why Malachi saw obedience to God as so important for God’s people as we discover what being obedient means…

READ: Malachi 3:7-12

Why will one child graciously share while another display an Ebenezer Scrooge-like attitude? The other day at Play Group one young mother vainly tried to get her youngster to share. Instead he decided to defiantly declare that the toy was, “Mine!” His self-centered attitude was kind of like the Israelites of Malachi’s day, what had been graciously given by God they saw as “Mine!” It was a…

I. Disobedient attitude of not trusting God! (Vv. 7-8)

“Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ ‘Will a man rob God?’ Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.”

1. Physical things can get in the way of our spiritual trust! God reminds the Israelites of their stubborn attitude: “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.” From the sandy shores of the Red Sea to the wild wadis of the wilderness the Israelites had whined, griped, and complained. If Israel would just return to him in faithful obedience, then he would respond: “Return to me, and I will return to you”. This promise was based on the covenant God made with Israel. When God promises to watch over our lives he follows through because he does “not change”. The Israelites smirk, “How are we to return?” They knew their problem was they were not trusting God! Only a person who willingly confesses their sin can repent, but Israel pretended to be unaware of her disobedience. They falsely believed “If God truly loved me he would do this for me.” Just as God will not work in the life of someone who deliberately sins, he will not work in the life of someone who deliberately distrusts him. We are told to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).” The people’s distrust developed into stealing from God! Stealing from someone was bad enough, but only a fool would try to rob God. Israel robbed God in their “In tithes and offerings.” The quality of their sacrifices was poor and they deliberately brought “blind animals for sacrifice”! The tithe was to be a tenth of all their crops, livestock, or goods. Offerings however were to be above and beyond the required tithe. This was the real sacrifice, not the tithe! The tithe was expected and displayed obedient trust, while the offering displayed sacrifice! Jesus related, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV) The Israelites displayed the disobedient attitude of not trusting God!

EXAMPLE: Every four years we enter into a period of accusation, condemnation, and self-acclamation known as election process. Pundits and politicians proclaim the political piety of their primary politician. Attack ads that focus on the other guy’s shortcomings are common place. No matter what we say concerning negative campaigning, showing your opponent lacks character garners votes. We are saddened when the people we trust prove untrustworthy. It is sadder still when they try to justify their wrongful actions just like Israel did. How about you, dear child of the Lord? Do you trust God with what you have or have you robbed God?

It is curious that many of those who do not believe in God want the government to become the god-like entity that controls every area of their lives instead. It is because of the average American’s sinful aversion to live for the Lord that our nation has reaped what it has sown. A nation that gives God its leftovers should not expect great things from the Lord. In fact, Malachi goes on to relate for us…

II. The result of what disobedience brings! (v. 9)

You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me.

1. The sowing of obedience is the only way of reaping God’s blessing! When Gods’ people do not do the will of God, then the nation they live in suffers the consequences! The Israelites are bluntly told, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” Since the temple was God’s house, failure to support its ministry was considered equal to personally robbing God! Sadly, many Christians today wrongly believe that our nation’s problems are due to non-believers. This is not the case. It is because Christians do not trust God as they should and it is displayed by their willingness to rob God of their tithes and offerings. Jesus speaks to this issue of a believer’s disobedience. Jesus reminded his listeners that God will eventually come and judge. He asked, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” And of course the answer is, “Yes.” Jesus continues to ask, “Will [God] keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7 NIV) This teaching of Jesus follows his discourse on a persistent widow who continually bugged a judge asking him over and over for justice. If we continually come to God asking for justice, yet are disobedient, will he not judge us? When Jesus comes again dear child of God, will he find faith and trust in his children? Here we discover the result of what disobedience brings!

EXAMPLE: What would you do if your child lies to you? I remember when I lied to my father about where I had gone for the afternoon. I went to play in a field where I was not allowed to go. When he found out, he grounded me. We did not have TVs, computers, smart phones, tablets, or mp3 players in our rooms. Instead, my father made me take all of my toys and books and place them in a box on the back porch. Grounded meant grounded. I could not go play with the other kids, nor could I enjoy my room. I spent my time cleaning, dusting, and polishing the floor. After a few days, I had the cleanest room in Wenatchee! I learned a powerful lesson: disobedience always brings its own curse. The same is true for God’s people. Dear child of the Lord, what is your disobedience bringing you? Malachi teaches us the result of what disobedience brings!

For the Israelites it brought about God’s curse. When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks. God requires the obedience of his followers. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). And he challenged, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).This is why Malachi reminds us that…

III. God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! (Vv. 10-12)

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

1. Obedience to God is an expression of our love for God! The promise made here is a reaffirmation of God’s word to the Israelites. God states in Deuteronomy 28:1 that if they “fully obey the Lord… and carefully follow all his commands… God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” He challenges the Israelites to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” What the people of Israel were experiencing was a disobedience-curse relationship specified by God. Since the Word of God is sure, his promise would be carried out. In fact, Israel could attest to the truth that she was experiencing certain aspects of the curse because of her unwillingness to tithe! What about your life in God? Are you in disobedience to Him concerning your tithes and offerings? Notice also that this is the only place where His people are specifically asked to “test” God. He is challenging Israel to bring their whole faith into action and to trust his promises, by brining the “whole tithe into the storehouse.” By doing this, God would “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Far too often we live by sight and not by faith. Here God tells us to test our faith and live by it. Faith is never found in what we see. It is found in how we trust God and sometimes that requires uncertainty. Malachi teaches us that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget the answer that Ward Lawrence gave folks who asked him about his certain death. Dying from a very painful form of cancer, it was certain that he would not live much longer. They wondered what it was like or if he had any fear. He replied, “I only know the words of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemerlives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.’” (Job 19:25-27 NIV) If you are trying to live your faith by sight, you will live a shallow weak faith. It will always be a mere shadow of what it could be. Dear child of God, he desires so much more for your life. As Paul would transliterate from Isaiah 64:4, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV) God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him!

Conclusion:

We learned about a disobedient attitude of not trusting God, the result of what disobedience brings, and that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! Bring all your trust to his storehouse and test him in this and see if he will not pour out so much blessing you will not have room for it. In fact, it will most likely overflow into the lives of others around you. That’s the way God works.

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Do you go to Sunday School?

Do you go to Sunday School?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 29, 2018

The apostle Paul wrote his friend and young cohort Timothy these words: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)” Yet sadly in our day many think that by just attending a worship service they have done this; handled the word of truth correctly. Nothing could be further from the truth. We live in a time when things like Wednesday Night and Sunday Evening Services have gone by the wayside and now for many churches they are doing away with Sunday School Classes or promoting Bible Study. It has created a flux of folks who think they know all about the Bible by simply listening to the latest pithy relevant message by their prognosticating preacher, using the Internet to garner spiritual insight, or by reading the latest Christian fad found in their local bookstore.

Paul correctly understood the human condition that it was like water in that it has a tendency to always flow downhill so-to-speak. We are lazy lots who would rather diet and exercise an easy way rather than put in the hardcore self-control and workout that is needed. A pill or prepackaged food will not create the life change needed and the same is true for the Christian who should be growing in their knowledge and understanding of Scripture.

As a pastor I try my best to be in a Sunday School Class on Sunday mornings. I enjoy not only the give and take of lively discussion, I enjoy the friendships formed, and the insights given me by fellow believers. It goes to the basics of what does this passage in the Bible mean, what does it mean for me, and what is its history and context?

Because of the lackadaisical attitude of most Christians there is a spiritual shallowness rampant within Christianity today. Many do not know what they believe nor why they should believe it or not. Most are influenced by society rather than being the salt and light they are supposed to be in an ungodly world. In the 80s and 90s it was the heresy of end times theology that crept into believer’s lives, in the early 2000s it is a worldview that is totally contrary to biblical truth and personal holiness. Worship was never meant to be where one is taught the deep spiritual truths of Jesus. It is where we are to worship. Depending upon a message in a moment will not suffice to make an individual one who is “approved… who correctly handles the word of truth”. Christians need to be in Bible Study or a Sunday School Class, whatever you want to name it, in order to mature and understand the word of God correctly. Paul also told his friend Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16 NIV)” And I am reminded of a beautiful little comment by Luke who wrote about a tiny church who saw the importance of getting together with their fellow believers to learn the word of God: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11 NIV)”

My advice then is this: Get your body to Bible Study or Sunday School Class on Sunday mornings and if your church does not offer them, find one that does. Therefore, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)”

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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A new year begins with a new life! – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

A new year begins with a new life! – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 31, 2017

Someone once joked that “Every time I find the meaning of life, they change it!” What motivates you in life? This is a good question to ask oneself when facing a new year because it helps us to perhaps rethink what our lives are about, where we are headed, or what we think of as important. For some it is financial gain, for others it is greater education, and still there are those who think that finding themselves is the most important thing in life. But what if none of these were as important as knowing the truth; the truth concerning yourself, the world, history, and what the meaning of life is truly about. Perhaps in this New Year your life needs to begin again.

There’s the old joke about a man who wanted to know the meaning of life so he journeys to India, climbs a high mountain, and meets with a guru sitting outside of his hut. He asks him, “What is the meaning of life?” The guru responds, “Mushrooms.” The man spends the next 20 years eating mushrooms, growing mushrooms, and even talking to mushrooms but he finds nothing. He goes back to India, climbs the same mountain and tells the same guru, “The meaning of life is NOT mushrooms!” The guru intently looks at the man and responds, “Well, then it must be turnips!” Paul knew that if you want meaning in life you had to have a new life and he teaches about what that means here in these verses. Let’s discover how a New Year begins with a new life…

READ: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

This has been called the “me generation” but one writer states that it more accurately should be called the “Me, me, me generation”. The gospel message that Paul proclaimed is the antithesis of this selfishness and we learn that…

I. A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves! (Vv. 14-16)

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

1. Paul was a motivated man. He had lived his life motivated but he had not always lived his life for his Messiah. Something had happened to Paul that changed his life forever and made it brand new and now the life he led obligated him to tell others about the change that had occurred. There were those who thought that Paul was out of his mind, but if he was it was for a reason: He had lost everything for the sake of God (Philippians 5:14-15) and if he was in his right mind it was for them (v. 13) and so he tells his readers that “Christ’s love compels us”! Why does this truth compel Paul to share Jesus? It was God’s desire “who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”! (1 Timothy 2:4 NIV) Paul now knew that it was Jesus “who gave himself as a ransom for all men”. (1 Timothy 2:6 NIV) He therefore continues by telling them that it is “because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” We either die in our sin or we die to ourselves “And he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” We are not our own, we were bought at a price and so we are to honor God with all that we are! (1 Corinthians 6:18b-19) So Paul bluntly writes that “from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” Paul had been one of them who did not know what life was about and thought of Jesus as just another man but he no longer did and this truth compelled him to tell them the truth! A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves!

EXAMPLE: Christopher Hitchens, an avowed atheist, thinks “that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid”. However, on the contrary, when we look at the world at large we discover that it is things like socialism, communism, and liberalism that has made more people dependent, angry, and self-centered. And history proves Hitchens wrong. Care for the masses, the elderly, the disenfranchised, and the handicapped all began with Christianity. Why? Simply because of what Christianity is all about: We are called to love God completely and others as ourselves. Paul would write “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves!

This is the season of returns. We take back those things that do not fit, we do not need, or that we do not want. Often we do not get back what was originally paid for the present we are returning. For whatever reason it no longer has any redeeming value; therefore isn’t it great to know that…

II. A new life begins when we are reconciled! (Vv. 17-19)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

1. For Paul the truth of his life was self-evident: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” that which mankind has hoped for, longed for, and sometimes even wished for has come true in Jesus Christ! No one was more able to testify to this wondrous transformation than the one who had once persecuted Christians. Paul would dramatically write the Galatians churches, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) This is why Paul could write that “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”. It wasn’t Paul’s idea; it wasn’t the world’s intent or a governmental decree; and it did not come from a seminar. Christ, his Messiah, gave Paul this ministry. And the reason he did is because “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” This word “reconcile” is a wonderful word. It means that God exchanged himself for us! He willingly paid the penalty for our sins. This is why “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! (Romans 8:1 NIV) We know that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV) In fact “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”. (Colossians 1:21-22 NIV) Paul was “committed to… the message of reconciliation”! A new life begins when we are reconciled!

EXAMPLE: Recently I have been trying to get new life insurance. Believe me when I tell you it is like going through Dante’s levels of hell. People who say they will return your call do not and then there are the people who blandly remind you that it may take several weeks (months) to get a refund when it only took the company nanoseconds to charge your credit card — like I said “Dante’s levels of hell.” Then if you are over the age of 60 you’re toast as far as the insurance industry is concerned. I have therefore decided that I am going to focus on what God has done and will do instead. I have the best life insurer already. Isn’t it great to know that a new life begins when we are reconciled!

Has there ever been a time in your life that you wished you could have a “do over”? Replay a game, re-say some words, or redo a job you messed up. Perhaps there is a relationship you would want to reestablish? Making things right is what Jesus is all about. And Paul reminds us that…

III. A new life begins when we are made right with God! (Vv. 20-21)

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1. Paul’s life had changed. He had a new title and a new job description: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” Paul had experienced a redo in his life! God had given him a new life and a new task. He was now God’s own representative to the message of Jesus! In his life Paul would literally become “an ambassador in chains” for God. He would suffer persecution for his faith and for his tenacity to proclaim the truth of the gospel message. His new life compelled him to do so. And so with a heartfelt plea Paul writes to the Corinthians “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” Just as he had been reconciled and given a new life the Corinthians could experience it for their own selves as well. Nothing they had ever done in life could stand in the way of the cleansing power of Jesus to change them forever! Nothing could because Paul understood and was certain that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Stop for a moment and let these words sink into your very soul. When we place our faith and trust in Jesus we become the righteousness of God! How is this possible? Hebrews reminds us that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” and it is only Jesus “who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:25-26 NIV) WOW! Paul understood well that a new life begins when we are made right with God!

EXAMPLE: The youngster felt horrible. He had allowed a simple popup fly ball to go over his head and land behind him. It cost his team the game. He sat in the outfield with his head in his hands. Unbeknown to him his entire team quietly came out and sat around him. They placed their hands on him, lightly swatted his head with their hats, and begin to remind him of what a great friend and player he truly was. After all it was only a game and there would be others. In that moment those players showed the rest of us the very nature of God. They made their fellow teammate realize his worth to them. It did not matter that he had blown the play or the game because he was worth so much more than that. Just when we think we have blown it in life Jesus shows us just how much we are worth to him. Isn’t it good to know that a new life begins when we are made right with God!

Conclusion:

A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves! A new life begins when we are reconciled! A new life begins when we are made right with God!

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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The crucifixion foretold! — Psalm 22: 1-3, 6-8; 14-19; 27-31

The crucifixion foretold! — Psalm 22: 1-3, 6-8; 14-19; 27-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 9, 2017

What was the most memorable event in your life? What historical event do you remember more than anything else in your life; the one moment in time that will always impact you that you will always remember? Several thousand years ago something occurred that so impacted the lives of those who witnessed it that they had to write down exactly what they had witnessed and how it impacted them. It was the crucifixion of an itinerant teacher known as Yeshua Ben Yoseph; Jesus son of Joseph.

Many churches around the world will celebrate Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by crowds of people proclaiming him the messiah. Jesus would die within a few short days on a cross, crucified by the Romans because of the lust for power by Jewish leadership. However did you know that this event was predicted nearly a thousand years earlier by King David? Jesus’ crucifixion was foretold, let’s discover what David wrote and how it impacts our lives today…

Psalm 22: 1-3, 6-8; 14-19; 27-31

In his life David was not perfect and in fact had sinned against the Lord with Bathsheba. I believe that perhaps this Psalm reflects how God was dealing with his sin. In our deepest trials God can often speak his clearest and in this moment I believe…

I. God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah! (Vv. 1-3, 6-8)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

1. During King David’s time if one sinned they suffered the consequences of their sin and one of them was that God would remove his presence from them immediately. So we find David, a man after God’s heart, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” because this is the way he felt! When we sin as believers God’s grace is sufficient and we never lose his presence! Yet we discover David did and not only felt “forsaken” but realized just how far removed God was because of his sin. He therefore asks in dismay, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” He has been in distress evidently for days and nights but God had not answered. The salvation David desired was not eternal but rather from his present condition! Yet David understood that God was “enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.” God was in control. Here in David’s words is eerily reflected what Jesus may have gone through as he was hanging on the cross. As David goes through his distress he begins to recognize, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” He understands just how far he has sunken in his sin. And in fact he sees that “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’” David, apparently feeling forsaken by God and ridiculed by his enemies, was confident that God would not fully abandon him. I believe that God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah!

EXAMPLE: David’s confidence came from his past experience and we learn that he knew God from his mother’s “womb”; that God had made him “trust in you even at my mother’s breast” (v. 9); and that “From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Interestingly we know that Jesus was God before, during, and after his birth. And Mark’s Gospel reminds us that “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’ In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!’” (Mark 15:29-31 NIV) I believe God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah!

There is nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness when one is accused of something, you want to make it right, and yet those who falsely accuse you will not listen. David knew his sin was wrong and he desired to confess it and…

II. In David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah! (Vv. 14-19)

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

1. David’s despair brought him to the point where he felt as if he were “poured out like water” and he cries that “all my bones are out of joint.” Perhaps in his anguish God allow this forefather of Jesus to see his descendant’s death. David had been promised by God that “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:13, 16 NIV) But also within God’s promise to David there are words of punishment for mankind’s sins: “I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (2 Samuel 7:14-15 NIV) The Messiah, David’s descendant Jesus would suffer for mankind. And like David when he cries out “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me” so would Jesus’. In fact as David continues in his anguish his words are used by the Lord to show the kind of death Jesus would die: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” And just as the Pharisees, Romans, and the dregs of Jerusalem surrounded Jesus as he hung on the cross David remarkably prophesies, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” Just as the Gospels share that Jesus’ legs were not broken by his captors and how the Roman squad assigned to crucify him gambled over his clothes David whimpers, “I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” And yet again in the poetic words of Jesus’ ancestor we hear the sweet melody of hope: “But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.” Luke reminds us that “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46 NIV) How amazing to know that the words of David are remarkably fulfilled in the death of Jesus. In David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah!

EXAMPLE: Isaiah longed for what David sang about; namely the Messiah who would come to rescue his people. Isaiah declared the Messiah would be “pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” And that “He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death” and “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering”. However, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities… because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:5, 9-12 NIV) And like with Isaiah in David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah!

Could David have understood the entire impact that his words would have? I do not believe so and yet this makes it even more remarkable. Yes he knew God’s promise and he knew God always fulfilled his promises, but David could not have completely understood how God’s promise would be fulfilled and how his own words of despair would bring such hope. And so finally we discover that…

III. David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah! (Vv. 27-31)

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him– those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it.

1. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by palm branch waving crowds two thousand years ago no one but him actually understood what would occur. Jesus’ birth, life, and death were foretold by God because it was about him and how he would redeem mankind. David’s poetic prophecy reinforces what God had planned all along. And now we hear David as he declares, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.” Some think that David was declaring that future generations would worship God because they remembered how David was rescued; I do not think so. I believe that when God’s people truly give themselves over to the Lord’s will and confess their sin as David did here and as God works in the lives of those he uses for his purposes as David was he gives them special insight into his predetermined will. God through his Holy Spirit is giving David these words and insight: “All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him– those who cannot keep themselves alive.” Only the Messiah Jesus can do that! And now they will know it to be true because “Posterity will serve him (the future Messiah); future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it.” I am reminded of the words God spoke to Moses concerning his promise, “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you.” (Exodus 34:10 NIV) David began his poem with words of his own personal despair but now that has turned to worldwide rejoicing! As God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10 NIV) David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah!

EXAMPLE: Again on that Palm Sunday so long ago the crowds had no full idea as to who Jesus was exactly, for if they did they would have done even more! The plan of God that began with the words of a messenger of God telling a young frightened virgin she would give birth to the Messiah was coming to fruition. Each plodding step that the donkey took brought the Messiah, the Lamb of God, God himself closer to his predetermined sacrifice. While the process would be horrifying, the outcome would be marvelous. David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah!

Conclusion:

God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah! In David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah! David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah!
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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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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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What America needs now is: You!

What America needs now is: You!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 25, 2016

A clear and perfect example that America’s Christians are losing the battle of the soul is seen in the acceptance and embracing of younger generations to ungodly ideals of homosexuality, abortion, legalized drugs, alcoholic pleasure, and sexual relations out of marriage, adultery and pornography. However the other side of the coin is also seen in the outcome of decades of lousy preaching, shallow spiritual teaching, and the acquiescence of Christian parents to train their children in the way they should go. “The chickens have come home to roost.” Nothing occurs in a vacuum and the air has been sucked out of the spiritual construct of letting minors decide for themselves what they will eventually believe spiritually. Make no mistake we are reaping what we have sown and we have sowed very little spiritually into the minds and hearts of future generations. What was once seen as abominable, a few decades ago, many believers today are touting as the new Christian ideal for the modern era. I find it almost laughable that there are those who sanctimoniously say they cannot vote for a certain candidate because it isn’t what Jesus would do and yet project in their lives a failure to follow him by willingly submitting themselves, or their bodies, to the world’s notion of acceptance through what they wear, what they read or watch, and what they do to their own carcasses.

What is the answer? Certainly not rolling over like our dead dog Rover by going further into the darkness of sin. It is time those of us who have spiritual backbones to speak boldly and bluntly to not only the issues of the day, but to actually preach the “negative” aspects of spiritual neglect. You know, the entire Bible even the Old Testament. And not some hyped up notion of trying to massage a new form of legalism but where the New Covenant is far superior to the old because it was completely fulfilled through Jesus! We must preach the straight forward message that if one does not chose Jesus one will suffer the eternal consequences of their stupidity. Instead of watching for signs of our Messiah’s return we would do well to be about his business instead. Following the latest mega chart of some hapless hipster of the last befuddled “daze” we should realize we have been living in those days ever since Jesus ascended home! We must return to the spiritual truth that holiness is not felt but worked out in faith and that if the believer does not walk with Jesus daily one will drift away into the spiritual oblivion of compromise. (Kind of like the church has.)

Scripture is not our personal handbook to pull out in order to feel good about our temporal relationships, natural eating habits, marriages, parenting skills or for that Facebook pithy Pinterest Tweet of the day. It isn’t the Hello Kitty meme of the moment. Scripture is a message from God to a waiting sin-sick world in need of a spiritual cure that only God can provide through Jesus!

Following Jesus is not something you put on when it feels good to you like a good pair of warm jeans out of the dryer. When you decided to follow Jesus you decided to live for him alone; and that included everything that goes with it. He sacrificed it all for you and when you turn your life over to him you are sacrificing your all to follow him! It can personally pinch. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no turning back in Christianity! Stop whining that life is not fair for you or that you are not having fun; faith is found in trust and joy is discovered moment by moment as you decide to let go of your pathetic life and follow him alone.

Return to him because he has always been there for you. It is time America’s Christians to live like Jesus not just in word or feeling but in life. You are the leaven that will give rise to the truth; you are the light of a darkened world and you should not hide under the bed any longer. What America needs now is: You!

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The Lived Life! — The James 4:11-17

The Lived Life! — The James 4:11-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 3, 2014

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor? Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:11-17 NIV)

God sees no distinctions and as we live our lives in him, neither should we. We are to live our lives for the glory of the Lord and not to commit character assassination. James writes, “Do not slander one another.”

How quickly sometimes the intent of our heart is laid bare by the words of our mouth. We say something about another and immediately wish we could take it back; or perhaps, sometimes, we feel self-justified in being honest with another when in fact it might destroy them. We forget that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are to be worthy of the Lord God. It is for a good reason the children’s rhyme reminds us to “be careful little mouths what you say”. Jesus taught, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:22 NIV)” Words mean things. James writes, “Brothers, do not slander one another.” Brothers, meaning all believers, are not to speak evilly of one another. We are not to speak words of death, because we forget our words can kill or murder another with the vitriol we use. Raca was a term used to convey the idea that the person was beneath another’s contempt. That they are worthless or not worth a person’s consideration! James knew that the envy of what others have in life is a strong motivation for folks to have repressed anger towards what they might see as unjust gains. And those who had made it in life might get conceited in the view of themselves and the station in life they had attained. As believers we are to live our lives in such a way as to overlook such class distinctions. God does not see us in such terms and neither should we view one another in the same way. Paul would remind us that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV)” God sees no distinctions and as we live our lives in him, neither should we.

James continued by relating, “Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” We are to live our lives with godly care!

We are to live our lives in Godly circumspection; a fancy term meaning, “with great care or caution.” James had probably heard his brother relate that the whole law was summed up in two very important commands when he was asked which law was the most important. “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)” In our rush to gain all we can in this life for ourselves we can be mislead and forget we are commanded to love others as ourselves. This is such a significant truth, Paul would remind the Galatians Christians, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:14-16 NIV)” We forget that when we speak ill of a fellow believer, we are speaking against the body of Christ! When we speak against Christ, we are speaking against the entire summation of the law as expressed in him! James therefore knew that “Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it!” And who are we to judge the law of God in Christ? “When [we] judge the law, [we] are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it!” Shame on us! We are to help one another as believers to mature in Jesus and our faith. We are commanded to do so. We are to carry one another’s burdens, we are to remind the wayward believer of their sinful ways and steer them back to the Lord, and we are to encourage one another until the Lord’s return! However, we are not to set ourselves up as God’s judge and jury. James bluntly reminds us that “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” Now least you get confused, James is not relating that a fellow believer cannot point out the error in a fellow believer’s life, or that we can’t mentor someone in Christ to be the best disciple possible. What James is referring to is the ungodly jealousy that creeps into the believer’s life. When we justify our ungodly actions of pettiness as a godly opinion on why them and not me! Paul would relate, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20-21 NIV)” And the answer is, “He certainly does!” We are to live our lives with godly care!

James wanted to get their attention and writes, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ (James 4:13-15 NIV)” We are to live our lives each day as if we were planning for eternity!

James wasn’t being a pessimist, he was being a realist; he knew we are to live our lives preparing for eternity, but we also live right now. Maybe we need to be reminded of what Irene Cara of Fame sang in that we are “gonna live forever!” Some with God and some separated from him for eternity. Interestingly, the song does have a strong Christian theme in that it speaks of raising your children right, not letting the darkness take them, and leading them to the light. Even though we are bound for eternity, we cannot predict what tomorrow may bring. We cannot even say for certain what will happen to us when we leave this place right now! James knew that a life lived for the Lord understood this. There were those who were so confident in their own way of doing things and so prideful of their own accomplishments, that they arrogantly would boast, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money!” They had forgotten that they were like a mist, a vapor that was here one moment and gone the next. While we are young we think we’re going to live forever. We often do not give a thought about tomorrow and the consequences of our actions, our misused words, or our ill-conceived lives. But tomorrow has a nasty habit of catching up to us. Tomorrow does come no matter how hard we try not to let it, and we cannot predict with certainty what it will bring. This is why James related, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Instead of living for the moment James writes that we ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” The life lived for God maintains a proper perspective. Rather than making everything in life about us, we should include God’s plan first and foremost in our lives. As Dr. Backaby writes, “We should look to see where God is working and join him there.” When all we do is put ourselves first, it is a prideful attitude. Self-centered bragging must be replaced by God-honoring trust. The cure for boasting is belief that God’s will is best for our lives. We often do not consider God’s will because we fear giving up our control or we feel that God will not do what we like with our lives. God related to Jeremiah a wonderful truth, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)” When all we do is think only of ourselves it is boasting and bragging, and “All such boasting is evil.” We are to live our lives each day as if we were planning for eternity!

A life lived for God is one that places God’s will first! James knew the lived life is one where God’s way is placed first and foremost. This is why he finished by relating, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

When we know what should do as a believer in any given situation but either refuse or deliberately decide not to do what we know to be God’s will, it is sin. Literally James writes that we know what we should do but we cast God’s will aside and do our own thing instead! Folks always suffer the consequences of casting aside God’s will. The writer of Hebrews taught, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29 NIV)” We often forget that because we have been given the grace of God we are to live by a higher standard. We cannot presume that because Jesus loves us we can do whatever we want whenever we want without the consequences of our actions catching up to us! This is why Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)” When we push aside God’s will to do our own thing, no matter the reason, it is prideful and it is sin. A life lived for God is one that places God’s will first. Now, let me ask you, “How do you live your life?” Is it one in trust of God’s will or is it one of selfish pride, thinking you know better than God?

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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