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God listens! — Psalm 40

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

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

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

READ: Psalm 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

God listens to those who wait! God listens to those who desire him! God listens to those who are honest with him!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19

The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 25, 2017

In Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” the Queen of Hearts asks Alice where she comes from, Alice tries to explain that she is trying to find her way home. The Queen retorts, “Your way? All ways here are my ways!” We have all known folks who radiate the notion that “It’s my way or the highway!” And this might pass muster if you are an infant, toddler, or preschooler but it gets old and very tiring from an adult. Yet many live their lives this way. Perhaps they need to reconsider their way of life and consider the way of the Lord instead?

Here in this Psalm we discover the ways of the Lord are truly magnificent. In fact in many ways they are quite indescribable and incomprehensible. The Psalmist David tries his best to describe for his listeners the way of the Lord. Let’s discover what he sings…

READ: Psalm 19

As amazing as some of things mankind has created none of it compares to the creation of God. The Psalmist David teaches us that…

I. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! (Vv. 1-6)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

1. Within the next couple of months, our area will experience a total solar eclipse; a heavenly event only seen a few times in a person’s lifetime and extremely rare. When the ancients saw such phenomenon some thought some evil disaster would occur, however, others like the Hebrews saw it as a manifestation of the creative wonders of God. This is why the Psalmist David writes that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Both the starry skies at night and sunlit days declared and proclaimed God’s creative work because “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” In fact the writer understood that the whole world experienced God’s handiwork, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Therefore in his understanding there was no excuse for people not knowing there was a Creator; a God who made everything they saw in the heavens at night or saw in the sunlight by day! All they had to do was look up! From dawn till dusk a person could see God’s creative work for “In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” Just as the sun burst forth in the morning and seemed to all of sudden appear like a rejoicing bridegroom or a runner ready to run his race we can see the work of God in the sun running its race across the sky each day! All of creation, all mankind had a front row seat to this heavenly spectacle as “It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”  Truly for the Psalmist David the way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

EXAMPLE: Just as artists sign their works, use the same brushstrokes, or leave their fingerprints in the paint; or as sculptures that use certain chisels or polishing techniques that leave telltale marks on the statues they carve, we can see the signature of God in the things he has made. From the atoms that are the building blocks of everything there is to the most complex life form we see the signature of God in his creation. The Psalmist David simply looked to the heavens and saw that they declared God. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

In a world where so many are searching for something and often finding they have not been told the truth it is refreshing to find that God’s words are steadfast and true. The Psalmist David writes that…

II. The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! (Vv. 7-11)

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

1. Not every child is perfect but almost every mother sees their newborn as such. Why is that? I believe it is simply because most every mother instantly falls in love with their child. By their sheer devotion they accept their child completely, utterly, and without hesitation. Faith is a bit like this. It is the individual’s willingness to utterly accept what God has revealed to them. Until one does, they can never ever fully understand or know God’s word. This is why the Psalmist David wrote that “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.” We are imperfect but God’s law is and can restore us completely when we follow its ways. In fact, “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” God’s laws, his ways are not complex, confusing, or hard to understand; one simply follows God wholeheartedly and loves others as he loves himself! “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.” Some of the simplest folks I have known have been truly the wisest and happiest because they adhere to this one godly precept. For the Psalmist David God was not unknowable or a concept and neither were his laws; they gave him insight, light in a sin-darkened world, and a way to view reality as it truly was and so “The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” He knew that when one drew near to God they would be awed by his presence and humbled by the experience because “The fear (the awe) of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.” This is what reminds us who we are and whom we are to worship and is why there was no question of doubt in his mind that “The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” David could absolutely trust in the law of God, his statues, precepts, commands, and ordinances. And as he did they became “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they [were] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” The Psalmist David had come to know God intimately by walking with him moment by moment in following his ways and in doing so he had learned that “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

EXAMPLE: I have found a wondrous consistency in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that I did not find in any other spiritual work I ever read. The Koran, the Vedas, Book of Mormon, or other works seemed shallow, simplistic, disjointed, and totally fabricated. While there are those who will declare that there are also inconsistencies within Scriptures it is usually because they are like someone who looks at a sweet little child’s work of art and can only see the mistakes instead of the heartfelt joy, the beauty of creation, or its simple reliability. No wonder so many folks have not discovered what the Psalmist David did, that the way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

Much of the psychological, emotional, and spiritual problems the world faces are because the world’s view of morality has been drastically skewed. The Psalmist teaches us that…

III. The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin! (Vv. 12-14)

Who can determine his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

1. Unless a person is willing to look at and acknowledge their own imperfections they are not being honest with themselves or others and certainly not with God. It can be difficult to do. This is why the Psalmist David asks, “Who can determine his errors?” And if course the answer is “no one can.” We are to narrow in our view of ourselves. Yet if we are willing to honestly look at ourselves and truthfully admit our sins we can be the people God desires. This is why the Apostle John would write, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:8-10 NIV) So the Psalmist David immediately confesses, “Forgive my hidden faults.” These were the sins he tried to hide from God but knew he could not yet he had deceived himself into thinking he could! Kind of like we do. Yet he took his condition one step further by requesting, “Keep your servant also from willful sins” because his whole desire was that “they not rule over me.” He did not want his headstrong nature and stubborn sin or anything that was unconfessed to rule or reign in his life! We often try to make excuses for our ungodly actions but this man wanted to be fully free from any guilt in order to follow God. He knew that if he was honest about his ungodliness then he would “be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” In thinking about the wondrous works of God and his simple yet beautiful precepts the Psalmist David realized his own evil nature. He would write in another Psalm, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (Psalms 51:1-4 NIV) And so it is here we find him praying, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Because like Paul, David knew that “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:10 NIV) The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

EXAMPLE: I find it humorous when a believer is caught in their sin and they blame circumstances, others, or try to justify their actions in that they deserved to commit this sin in this instance! I often want to blurt out, “Don’t you hear yourself?” For all of his faults David was willing to do whatever it took to restore his relationship with the Lord. And here in this wonderful Psalm about God’s creation David teaches us that the way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

Conclusion:

The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!
—-
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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Worship No Other! – Isaiah 44:16-22; 46:1-5, 8-9

Worship No Other! – Isaiah 44:16-22; 46:1-5, 8-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 16, 2014 AM

George leaned over to his wife and grumbled, “Will this sermon ever be over? We’ll never make it home in time to see the game!” Jena sat at her desk watching the clock. “Of all days to work late,” she thought to herself. “I usually spend time in prayer before working out, and I’m stuck here. I really need to go by the fitness center because I have not worked out all week. Looks like I’ll skip prayer tonight.” “I’m going go on vacation,” thought Matt. “I deserve a break. I won’t be able to give my tithe to church, but I think the church will survive without it.” Our worship of God is often reflected in how we invest our lives. Perhaps our worship is not where it needs to be and we are suffering the consequences of our lack of worship.

The trials the Israelites were going through, was due to their inconsistent worship. However, God promised to restore His people. Only He possessed the power and ability to do so. Depending on idols created by human hands would lead to disappointment and ultimate destruction. King Cyrus of Persia would be part of His plan to return the exiles from Judah to their homeland. The Babylonian gods (idols) would not be able to protect their people nor to prevent God from carrying out His will, since the false gods did not exist. God would use Babylonia to punish His people for their disobedient worship. How does this affect us in our day and age? Let’s discover how…

READ: Isaiah 44:16-22; 46:1-5, 8-9

There is a…

I. Worship That Blinds! (Isaiah 44:16-20)
1. Here as he often did, Isaiah used the past tense of future events, so certain was he of their fulfillment. He lived almost 200 years before the events he described would happen. After Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylonia, he issued a decree that allowed Jews to return to Judah. Isaiah describes the Babylonians’ idolatry; the exiles’ involvement in worshipping false gods; the Babylonian gods’ failure to defend their nation; and God’s uniqueness, dependability, and grace. Isaiah had begun his discussion of the powerlessness of idols by describing how metalworkers created idols (v. 44:12). He then focused on the actions of woodworkers who carved idols. They first cut down a tree for a block of wood for carving. Then, with half the log, the worker built a fire to cook his meal and warm himself from the evening’s chill! After having acted in a rational manner in making a fire, the worker then acted irrationally by carving an idol from the second half, bowing down to it in worship, and asking it for deliverance! Such actions made no sense. How could one section of a log produce a sacred image used in worship while the other produced mere firewood? In clear terms, Isaiah indicated the foolishness of idol worship. Idols were mere creations crafted from everyday materials according to the imaginations of a human worker. Only those totally unable to think rationally would not realize the obvious silliness of worshiping an idol carved from half a log when the other half was firewood! Having abandoned God and the desire to understand His will, God allowed them to close their minds to all truth. God allows people to pursue their misguided paths, straying farther and farther from Him. Like a grief-stricken parent, He called to His unresponsive child, Israel. They saw their actions as normal and saw no harm or consequences in what they did. However, they would face the consequences. Through their idolatry, the people created something detestable, disgraceful, and unworthy of God. The worship of idols was an insult to God and indicates people’s spiritual blindness, “He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’” All they had left was ashes. Idolaters pray to an idol; but they may as well pray to a chair, stool, or a heap of ashes! It was worship that blinds!
EXAMPLE: Prophesying to the exiles in Babylon, Isaiah saw they would be so caught up in idolatry, that they would not comprehend their sin or free themselves. Rather than accept God’s greatness, they would bow to idols made in their image and seek to control God for their purposes. What are some of the idols that have blinded your worship? The more we worship false gods in our lives, the more hardened our hearts become to the voice of God and the more closed our minds become to God’s reality and truth. Worshiping false gods blinds us to God and the blessings of life in Him.

There is also a…

II. Worship That Blesses! (Isaiah 44:21-22)
1. Judah’s idolatry would separate the people from God and continue to lead them farther away from Him, but He would refuse to stop loving them. God would encourage His people to remember what He had done for them. God had called a man named Abraham to become the father of a great people. God had led His people out of slavery in Egypt through Moses and into Canaan under Joshua. He had provided David as their king. He also had provided guidelines and prophets to help people maintain their focus on Him. God’s actions throughout history reveal His character. He loves His people even when they do not return His love. He shows grace to His people when they deserved none. He would never forget or abandon His people. “I will not forget you.” He reminds us. God had called Judah not just to receive His blessings but also to serve Him. As a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, God’s people were to witness to His grace, forgiveness, and love. Unfortunately, their idolatry resulted in their being punished, defeated, and exiled. The Jewish exiles in Babylonia probably believed returning to the land of Judah constituted their greatest need. In reality, like today with many believers, sin comprised their greatest problem and forgiveness was and is their greatest need. To return to Judah without having turned from their sin and to God left them in the same state that led to the exile. God reminds them and us, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” This is true for us as well! God assured His people He would stand ready to give them a fresh start. He would forgive their sin and redeem them. They needed only to repent in order to experience worship that blesses!
EXAMPLE: Living here where ocean moisture often meets the dry air of eastern Washington and Oregon, we often drive to work through thick, early morning fog; but by mid-morning the fog has completely dissipated and the sun brightly shines. As the sun dissolves the morning fog and the wind drives away the clouds, so God removes sin. No matter how terrible our sin, God can forgive it. No matter how long we have closed ourselves to God, He can break through with His love and life. No matter how insignificant we may think our service to be, God can use us to bless those around us and help transform their lives. We need to repent in order to experience worship that blesses!

However, we must remember to never be a part of a…

III. Worship That Burdens! (Isaiah 46:1-2)
1. We often allow things in our lives to become idols that weigh us down with the pressures of life; such as relationships, family, jobs, school, Facebook, texting, or other pursuits. The Babylonians worshiped Bel, also known as Marduk, as their chief god and Nebo, Bel’s son. Bel served as god of the city of Babylon and Nebo as god of the city of Borsippa, about 10 miles south. Nebo took on great significance as the number of important Babylonian kings’ named after him, for example, Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus. Each year during the Babylonian New Year’s Festival, worshipers carried the images of Bel, Nebo, and other gods on their shoulders or on animals in a procession into the city. This is why Isaiah mentions, “Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.” They supposedly revealed what would happen to the nation in the next year. However, the Babylonians’ worship of Bel and Nebo proved useless. The Persians conquered Babylon; and after loading their carts and donkeys; they carried away these images that previously had been paraded through the city with reverence. The gods could not save their own images, much less save the empire. The Babylonians had believed their gods wielded great power; but these idols could not ease their burdens nor rescue them! Instead, the idols were loaded onto the backs of and carried away by beasts of burden. “They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity.” Isaiah’s words were to serve as a warning to the Jewish exiles in Babylonia. The idols they had begun to worship in Babylon had no power because they did not exist. Babylon’s trust in their gods proved fruitless. The exiles needed to recognize that worshiping and depending on false gods did not provide salvation but only the burden of false hopes. Trusting in false gods can only lead to disappointment. When difficult times come, false gods can neither sustain us nor provide hope. They burden us with the demands of their worship!
EXAMPLE: One day I found my grandson straining to lift a pair of ten-pound weights over his head—an ambitious feat for a three-year-old. He had raised them only a few inches off the ground, but his eyes were determined and his face was pink with effort. I offered to help, and together we heaved the weight up toward the ceiling. The heavy lifting that was so hard for him was easy for me. Are you worn out from ongoing problems? Are you weighed down with stress and worry? Are your choices in life bringing unnecessary burdens? Jesus is the only real solution. Approaching the Lord in prayer allows us to cast our burdens on Him so that He can sustain us. What sin is burdening your heart today? The false idols of life burden us with the demands of their worship, God never does.

We, however, enjoy a…

IV. Worship That Bears Up! (Isaiah 46:3-5, 8-9)
1. Sometimes, it can be tough to get those you love to listen to your concerns for their lives. God tells them, “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.” As Isaiah prophesied, the great Babylonian Empire that believed it was invincible fell to Persia. The Babylonian idols and those who worshiped them were carried off by the Persians as spoils of war. It underscored the foolishness of trusting in false gods and the necessity of trusting in the one true God. The remnant of Israel that witnessed Babylonia’s fall later saw God restore them to return home. God had been with Israel from the beginning, caring for His people when they were few in number and helping them grow into a great nation. The Babylonian gods had not and could not carry their people, which testified to their non-existence. Only God had carried and saved His people, and only God would continue to do so. God loved His people as a good parent loves a child. God invited Israel to compare Him to other gods. Had any other god nurtured or shown compassion to Israel? Had any other god demonstrated the power to save and been committed to Israel? The answer was no. No other god compared to God either in commitment to Israel or in power to accomplish His will. What about how God has dealt in your life? God tells them to, “Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” They needed to remember God had created, had led, and was committed to His people. Remember refers not just to recalling an event or fact but also to acting on that basis. God called His people to remember two things. First, He urged them to remember His nurturing, guiding activity in their history. Second, He encouraged them to remember that no other god could compare to Him. God alone existed and had the ability to save His people. Only God could bear up Israel through difficult times and bring His people to a restored faith and wonderful future. Our worship of God is the only worship that bears up!
EXAMPLE: In times of hardship, people can feel abandoned. Friends and family may desert us. Perhaps they believe the victim deserves the difficulty as punishment for sin or perhaps they do not know what to say or do to help. Sometimes the future can seem bleak. In such times, only God can bear us up. From the beginning of our lives, God has been present; and He will continue to offer His presence, strength, and guidance. We can depend on Him if we trust Him with our lives instead of the things we foolishly cling to. Worship of Him who bore us is the worship that bears up!

Conclusion:

Worshiping false gods blinds us to the true identity of the only living God.
Worshiping only God brings us the blessings of forgiveness and service.
Worshiping false gods will not help but will only burden us.
Only God can carry us through life’s devastating experiences.

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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Today’s Thoughts, Romans 10:9-10

by Pastor Lee Hemen
April 8, 2008

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

We watch the courtroom drama unfold and the prosecuting attorney boldly steps toward the defendant and declares, “You did it, confess!” We find two lovers sitting on the front porch of the young lady’s house, overcome with passion the young man confesses, “I love you!” Which usage of the word “confess” is best definition for the word Paul uses in Romans? Perhaps both.

We confess that we are guilty of the sin that only Jesus can cure and we are to confess our absolute love for Him as our Savior and Lord. But here it is also the intent. It has to come from a person’s “heart.” The heart meant what made up the entire person: the will, the soul, the mind, and the spirit. All that is you and all that makes you who you are must be willing to openly “confess” your utter faith and trust in Jesus’ resurrection.

What do you “confess” today? Do you completely trust Jesus and the power He displayed in the resurrection? Are yo willing to completely without reservation place your faith in the only One who ever raised Himself from the grave?

They say, “Confession is good for the soul,” and here it certainly is. This confession is where you cast aside any doubt, fear, or hesitation and willingly give your all to Him who was able to raise Himself from the grave: “For it is with your heart that you [truly] believe and are justified [made right with God], and it is with your mouth that you confess [willingness to say it out loud] and are saved!” Are you willing?

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.

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