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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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The Focused Life! – James 4:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 13, 2014

It amazes me how unfocused many in the world are today. They expect and sometimes even demand that others do all the work for them so that they can “focus” on whatever strikes their fancy for the moment. It has infected Christianity to some extent as well. There are those who simply cannot focus on how they are supposed to live for the Lord and expect a quick sermon, a Bible app, or the latest Christian book to solve their particular spiritual problem. James faced something similar in his day and he was trying to get the attention of those he was writing to. He had just told them that “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” His readers were having difficulties in being peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, and having the good fruit of the gospel! In fact, we discover they had a problem in being completely self-serving. When the believer’s life is not focused where it should be, on the Lord Jesus Christ, it usually is focused somewhere else – usually on ourselves! And, this is where they were, so much so that they were now fussing with one another about it. He told them, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” They were not displaying lives immersed in the gospel, they were not displaying lives of righteousness, but instead they were feuding, fussing, and fighting with one another and within themselves!

James writes, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1 NIV)”

The focused life focuses on the Lord and not oneself! James literally accuses them of being at war and coming to blows! Not just with one another, but with their inner thoughts and desires! The word for “quarrels” is where we get our word for machete! They violently wanted what they knew they could not have! These folks had desires or “lusts” that had become the main focus of their lives! So much so that it may have been affecting their friendships and their church! They wanted things their way or no way! They plotted and schemed like army generals on how they could get what they wanted from each other! (Wow!) I have always been mystified how some folks will spend a whole lot of time scheming how to cheat the government, their places of work, or one another rather than spending the same amount of time and effort actually working for what they get in life! Sadly, believers can be guilty of the same kind of blurred vision. They can expect others to do the task they are called to do! It is becoming increasingly rare to see individual Christians witness, disciple new believers, or sacrifice their time talent or treasure for the kingdom! Fewer than 3% of church goers, which includes those who think they are members but never have actually joined the church, tithe. You know, give ten percent of their gross income. Less than 1% have ever actually shared the good news with another person or discipled someone else in Biblical basics. Is it any wonder America is not being converted to the gospel message? We focus our lives on the wrong things.

James bluntly writes, “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3 NIV)”

There are those who declare that they pray or have asked God for direction, but what they really mean is that they thought about it a lot, perhaps even said, “Oh my God, why not me?” but they truly have not sought God’s advice. Here, we discover that the folks James was addressing wanted to go to battle with themselves and one another for what they lusted after! And isn’t this what causes many of the problems we have in our world today? We think we deserve something someone else has, whether riches, goods, oil, or whatever and then get mad when we don’t get it! We often do not receive what we desire “because [we] ask with wrong motives, that [we] may spend what [we] get on [our own] pleasures!” This is contrary to what God is all about. When in fact we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33)! We learn that Jesus said this because he knew that “the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:32 NIV)” Jesus knew that when we seek after what the world lusts for it can lead to alienation of our affection for the Lord. When we have more in common with those who are in the world than we do with fellow believers, something is drastically wrong.

In fact, James retorts, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NIV)”

James calls it for what it is, adultery! We forget in our greedy little lives that anything that pulls us away from God is committing adultery! We are not just his children we are also his bride, his church. We are commanded to be a part of a local church fellowship so that we can use the gifts he has freely given us to serve him and share the good news of Jesus! When we allow family, friends, things of the world or our simple selfishness to continually or consistently interfere with his kingdom work, we are committing adultery! This is why Jesus would bluntly teach, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62 NIV)” Peter would write, “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (2 Peter 2:20-21 NIV)” And he would go on to equate it with a dog returning to eat its own vomit or a washed pig going back to the mud! Our lives in Christ are not about us! This is why Paul would remind us, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1 NIV)” In fact, he teaches us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)” Sacrifices do not demand from God. Sacrifices do not lust after what they cannot have. Sacrifices are sacrifices! Living sacrifices are not to crawl off the altar of their God but to give themselves away for his kingdom purposes! When we seek first our kingdom and our pleasures for our selfish selves, we become enemies of God! We are living contrary to God’s kingdom purposes because “friendship with the world is hatred toward God”!

James knew we often forget what our lives are to be about. We lose our focus. This is why he asks his readers, “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? (James 4:5 NIV)”

One commentary relates that “This is one of the most difficult verses to translate in the entire letter.” However, what I believe James is relating is the fact that when God enters into our lives, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, that he does so because he desires to do so! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)” Paul would remind us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)” We often forget that we were bought with a price and that we are no longer our own. This is why Paul would also write, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (1 Corinthians 2:11-13 NIV)” In fact, we are to be holy. And holiness is more than doing good things or being a good person or living once in a while with some kind of morals. Holiness is taking on the nature and characteristics of Christ! God is jealous of that which he came to die for! After all he gave his very best that we might be saved! It shows and proves his intense love for us! Why is it then that we so often take God’s love so lightly? A focused life understands what God did and just how much he cares and loves us!

A parent that truly loves their child always hurts when they hurt, even if they are the ones who have to momentarily discipline them! As a parent and grandfather I know this to be true. One day a father had to discipline his little daughter for running out in the street without looking both ways for cars. She had been told numerous times to “look both ways” but she wasn’t thinking and darted out into the street just as a car was coming. Fortunately the car was not going very fast, saw her, and stopped. The father’s heart skipped a beat. He ran to her and took her back to the curb where he began to sternly speak with her about her actions of not looking both ways. Didn’t he always remind her? Isn’t she always supposed to look both ways? Couldn’t her one careless act have caused her harm or even death? He told her that he would have to punish her for not listening, and gave her a swat on the bottom. She teared up but stopped when she saw her father weeping as well. She reached out her little hand and touched his wet cheek, “Don’t worry Daddy, it doesn’t hurt that much, and, I will get over it,” she quietly whispered to him. Doesn’t God continually remind us? Doesn’t our rebellious nature constantly cause us harm and death? The wages of sin is death. Aren’t we supposed to listen to his voice and follow him instead of the world? Why are we surprised when we are punished for our disobedience by our heavenly father who loves us?

James was frustrated with those he was pastoring. They were focused on the wrong things in life, wanting more and greedily lusting after what each other had. They actually thought they could use their prayers to God as a means to further their own fortune in life. He had to warn them that they were totally focused on the wrong things. Now let me ask you, what is the focus of your life?

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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The Teachable Life! – James 3:1-12

The Teachable Life! – James 3:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 15, 2014

Are you teachable or do you only like to teach? They say the best teachers are those who are willing to learn themselves. While I am a conservative evangelical pastor, I still spend time reading what other faiths believe or what other viewpoints are concerning the world around me. In our world today it has become increasingly more difficult to try and have ongoing conversations with those whom one disagrees with; especially if you are a Christian. While we live in a world that says it is tolerant of differing views, I dare say what they really means is that they are accepting as long as the views agree with theirs! Often times one can become the enemy simply because you relate the truth. As Paul wrote, “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.” (Galatians 4:17 NIV) They are not very teachable.

The teachable life is not only one of accountability but also one of responsibility! We are accountable for what we know and how we relate it to others, and we are responsible to get it right the first time. James understood that those who desire to teach others about faith in Christ are going to be judged more harshly than those who did not. As Paul would write, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV) Let’s discover what James teaches about the teachable life…

READ: James 3:1-12

From pills to hypnosis there are thousands of ways to lose weight, gain weight, or exercise. We often look at such things as self-help or self-improvement. I know that in order to lose weight I have to be disciplined in what I eat or don’t eat. I have to have discipline in order to exercise or to grow spiritually as well! In fact, James teaches us that…

I. A teachable life disciplines itself! (Vv. 1-2)

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. (James 3:1-2 NIV)

1. James was addressing those who said they already had or that wanted the mantle of “teacher.” In Hebraic society it was an honorable profession to be seen as a teacher. However, Jewish teachers back then did not just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, they taught spirituality as well. They were known as “rabbis.” Evidently there were a lot of folks who wanted to teach, but perhaps they were not very teachable. Again, James addresses his “brothers” in Christ and tells them, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers” and his reasoning was “because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” We forget that teachers, whether parents, public school, or Sunday School are held accountable by not just what they teach. They are held accountable by how they act while they teach! A teacher simply can’t say, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say!” James knew “We all stumble in many ways.” No one is perfect and “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” Herein lays the key to what James was getting to. If you wanted to be seen as a teacher, you had better be able to keep your body in check; the body being the total person. What thing in your life controls you so that others have a hard time seeing you as a teacher? Too many forget that whether we like it or not, the world sees believers as instructors of Jesus’ gospel; and rightly so. A Christian’s condemnation is greater because, having professed to have a clear knowledge of the gospel; he is all the more bound to obey it! We should be judged more strictly because we are holding out the words of eternal life! James knew that a teachable life disciplines itself!
EXAMPLE: One of the hardest things to do is to learn how to be disciplined. Whether it is for a sport, exercise, creating something like a novel or painting, it takes discipline. The same is true for the mature spiritual life. If you want to learn the deep things of God, one must be willing to discipline themselves in order to learn them. Paul told Timothy, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)” James knew that the teachable life disciplines itself!

We live in a society that falsely thinks it has the right to say anything to anyone at anytime and declare it “freedom of speech.” A society that thinks it can say anything at anytime must be willing to be responsible with the words it uses. Believers do not have such a luxury; we must be willing to speak as if it were Jesus speaking through us. This is why James continues by telling us that…

II. A teachable life keeps its mouth in check! (Vv. 3-6)

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:3-6 NIV)

1. James knew that control was the key to a disciplined life. He related that “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.” A small implement like a bit could be used to turn a great big horse! “Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” Such small things in comparison to a large animal or a larger ship could be steered by a very small thing like a rudder or bit. Why is it then that people, who have the ability to make rudders and bits for steering other things, cannot keep their mouths in check? James continues, “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.” If we see James using this example in a good sense, (as Gill writes) “the bridled and sanctified tongue, that is influenced by the grace of God, and directed by the Spirit of God, as it speaks great and good things, has great power, weight, and influence”! However, on the negative side there are those who “mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. (2 Peter 2:18 NIV)” James would have us to “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Living in the Northwest we know what it means for a forest to be set on fire and James equates this kind of conflagration with a person’s misused mouth! “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Wow! Just imagine how an unmanageable mouth is used for the fires of hell, yet, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 NIV)” James knew that a teachable life keeps its mouth in check!
EXAMPLE: My father hated it when we would ‘talk back” after being disciplined. He saw it for what it was, disrespect. We live in such a sarcastic age whereby we feel we should be able to express ourselves however we want whenever we want. This includes our speech. Crass and crude words have sadly become the norm for a lot of people, and then they wonder why folks treat one another so badly. Even elementary age children have mouths my Mom would have cleansed with soap. Sadly, even believers think they should be able to say whatever they want whenever they want without being “judged.” This is why Jesus related, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37 NIV)” and Paul reminds us, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6 NIV)” However, James knew that a teachable life keeps its mouth in check!

We recently watched the newer version of King Kong and Andrew kept asking us if Kong was “good or bad.” (He likes to get the bad guys, so this information is important to him.) We told him that Kong was neither good nor bad, just a wild animal. Some think they can act anyway they want because they are just evolved animals. The Bible says this is faulty thinking. Jude, James’ other brother by the same mother, related that this is why “men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. (Jude 1:10 NIV)” James agrees and relates that…

III. A teachable life tames itself! (Vv. 7-12)

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:7-12 NIV)

1. We live in a world whereby folks actually think that human beings are just a higher form of animal, so consequently they see no problem when they act like animals. In fact, there are those who actually glorify it and they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:23 NIV)” However, the Bible teaches us something quite different. It teaches that God considers us as “sons of God” and his children when we come to faith in his Son Jesus. We are in fact created in his image, capable of love, holiness, creating, faith, and service. Yet, James declares that “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.” It is a hard task to do. Those who use their mouths to slice and dice others are like deadly adders. Their tongues are a slithering “restless evil, full of deadly poison”! James knew that in fact if we begin to think of ourselves as animals we will treat one another like animals. We will say whatever comes into our mind not considering the consequences of our speech! Freedom of speech does not give one the right to say whatever they want whenever they want. In fact, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.” One moment we will be in worship praising God and the next we will be on the highway of life cursing those who dare cut in front of us! “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” Paul would accuse, “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:3 NIV)” Words mean things. This is why James would rhetorically ask, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” The answer is of course, “NO!” “My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James knew a teachable life tames itself!
EXAMPLE: I get tired of hearing folks use the excuse that they simply could not help themselves. Of course they could. At some point the choice was made to follow your ungodly impulse or not. It sickened me to hear over and over how it was the availability of guns or the guns themselves that was the problem when the shooting recently occurred at Reynolds High School. This is simply not true. It was the poor choices a young man made who decided he was going to murder as many of his fellow students as he could. The problem is we no longer discipline ourselves. We support violent TV, movies, rampant sexuality, revenge, pornography, and disdain human life. Christians should live differently from the world. James knew a teachable life tames itself.

Conclusion:

A teachable life disciplines itself, it keeps its mouth in check, and it tames itself!

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
May 2, 2014

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. (James 1:9-10 NIV)

I was just wondering about how we have sold our souls to the societal notion of Christianity. We no longer have a clue what it means to be humble before the Lord. At Age 32, Elizabeth Gilbert faced a life crisis of personal conscience – she did not want to be married anymore to her devoted husband or to have his children. Locking herself in the bathroom of her upscale home she began to pray over and over, “I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to live in this big house. I don’t want to have this baby.” A voice, her own, answers her and tells her to go back to bed. Thus, begins her own self-focused “spiritual” journey. She goes through a dreadful divorce, moves in with an uncaring lover, and begins a self-ingratiating spiritual quest. Her final theological epiphany ends the way it began, from hearing her own voice speaking to her she concludes her highest religious dogma and theology is “to honor the divinity that resides within me” and to worship at the feet of the God within. Gilbert wrote, “Eat, Pray, Love.” A hedonistic spiritual journey wrapped in cultural selfishness.

The old time country singer Mac Davis sang, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” This is where the likes of Gilbert self-worship leads. In our Christian culture today, sadly, we have sold our souls to the notion of desiring what our spirit wants for us in the moment. After all the heart wants what the heart wants! We have emotionalized our spirituality. Oprah Winfrey would say we need to know we are “creation’s son… creation’s daughter” and that we are “ultimately I am Spirit come from the greatest Spirit. I am Spirit!” Not much humility found there. However, James knew what it meant to find oneself, it meant to lose oneself in Jesus. We forget Jesus taught that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and everything in life follows after that. Perhaps we have lost what it means to live in humble circumstances, not poverty, but spiritual humility. Makes one wonder…

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