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God is our teacher! – Psalm 25

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

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

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

READ: Psalm 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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God is our judge! – Psalm 50

God is our judge! – Psalm 50
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 27, 2017

“Man, are you gonna get it when we get home!” my brother yelled at me as we ran as fast as we could to the house. I had been roping and branding the dog (more about that in a bit) and he had caught me. And being the kind, law-abiding, and honest person that he was he threatened to “tell Mom.” Well, the race was on to see which one of us would get home first because we both knew that judgment day was coming and Mom was the judge.

Judgment is coming for the entire world but few give it even a moment of their time or thought. We discover here in the Psalms one written by Asaph a leading Levite musician who teaches us about God is our judge. Because God does not treat us as robots, slaves, or machines but rather he allows us to make our own decisions and to either be blessed or suffer the consequences of our choices. Let’s find out what it means that God is our judge for our world and us today.

READ: Psalm 50

“Come back here so I can give you what you deserve!” my mother declared as I stayed hidden under the porch with the dog. I knew what I deserved, the dog knew what I deserved, and certainly my father would shortly know what I deserved; but deserving something and receiving it are two different things. The Psalmist teaches us that…

I. Our judge will be God himself! (Vv. 1-6)

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

1. Asaph understands who God is and immediately calls him “The Mighty One, the Lord” (ale ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, the yehôvâh) and he knew that when he spoke you had better listen! Evidently he had either seen or heard from the Lord and wanted to share what he had experienced. So he related that God “speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.” God was entering his courtroom for judgment. God was in judgment over all creation even “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” He has the right to judge because of who he is. And in fact while we may think we can do whatever we want when we want to Asaph reminds us that when “Our God comes” he “will not be silent” and like “a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.” Literally God consumes like a mighty wildfire everything because of his holiness! He alone “summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people” and proclaims: “Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” God of course is referring to the Israelites who willingly circumcised themselves and sacrificed their best in order to set themselves apart from all other nations for God alone. Our sacrifice was and is confirmed by Jesus’ own blood and sacrifice; therefore we are made his own with God in him! As Hebrews reminds us, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14 NIV) The Psalmist reminds us that our judge will be God himself!

EXAMPLE: As much as we in our human frailty want and sometimes demand retribution we fail to understand what true justice is all about. When I piped up and chirped that my brother indeed deserved “what was coming to him” my father bluntly reminded me that he was the “judge and jury” and not me. In fact he reminded me that he did not appreciate a tattletale. In our day and age there are those who think that they will be okay with God cause they are “good old boys” and harmless. They think God is some kind old dude who sits in heaven and winks at their playful sinful condition. Nothing could be further from the truth. The one who summons both heaven and earth and comes like a wildfire or stormy tempest to consume our sin will pass judgment on all of us. In fact, our judge will be God himself!

All I had done was play cowboys and Indians. I know this isn’t very politically correct but in my day and age that is what we did. And as part of the game I had to brand my livestock and the only livestock I had was our boxer dog Duke. So I used a pair of sheep shears and clipped a huge LH on his right hand flank. After my mother had seen what I had done, she chased me under the house. Now how was I to know she would take such an offense at the innocent play of a young child? Here in this Psalm we learn that…

II. As judge God will examine his people! (Vv. 7-15)

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

1. God now turns specifically to his own chosen people; namely Israel and now us! His words now apply to believers as filtered through Jesus’ sacrifice. Let’s discover what he says. “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God.” What? You mean he is gonna speak against his own? Yes, but notice he is not going to hold us accountable for trying our best to follow him, “I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.” God understands when we do our best to try and follow him. He desires that we strive to be like Jesus but knowing we live in a sin-fallen world God knows we will not be perfect until we see him face-to-face. And God reminds his listeners that “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.” Just as he did not “need” the Israelites to sacrifice animals he knew they did it out of reverence and honor for him. We worship, pray, read his Word, and live for him in order to honor him because we follow him! Hey, if the Living God “were hungry” would he “not tell you, for the world is [his], and all that is in it.” Jesus told us the greatest commandments were to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV) This is truly what God desires and he asks, “Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” The answer was of course; “No”. So what does God require? “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” As judge God will examine his people!

EXAMPLE: I think I am like a lot of folks who do not necessarily like going to the doctor. It isn’t because I do not like my doctor per say because he is a very nice person, however, I do not care for what he does. He asks really personal questions about my habits, weight, height, medications, and then he gets really physical and pokes and prods me and makes me feel utterly uncomfortable when I have to “bare-it-all”! Nothing it seems is hidden from his prying eyes! Well if you hate the doctor just wait until you see Jesus face-to-face! Talk about a complete examination! The Psalmist reminds us that as our judge God will examine his people!

“You wicked little boy!” my mother hollered. “Look at what you did to the dog!” Of course it would have sounded a lot more threatening if she hadn’t been laughing so hard when she yelled it at me. “Just wait until your father gets home and sees what you have done!” There it was, my dad would see the evidence for himself and I was hung out to dry. Here in this Psalm we learn that…

III. As judge God will examine the wicked as well! (Vv. 16-23)

But to the wicked, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

1. God is not forgetful as some would hope or think and in fact the Psalmist writes that he now turns his attention to those who thought they would get away with their ungodly lifestyle: “But to the wicked, God says: ‘What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.’” You see there were folks in Asaph’s day who thought of God only in their own convoluted esoteric terms. You know like those in our day who declare “I believe in God!” but their lives are anything but godly. They literally leave God’s actual words behind them in the gutter where they tossed them. God is not mocked. He sees what our lives are truly like. “When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son.” Kind of sounds like the vulgar, illicit, and abhorrent things folks do nowadays. Paul would say that “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness”… and that “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:18, 32 NIV) There are those who think that because they do not see God or hear his rebuke of their ungodliness that he does not exist, but he warns them, “These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.” To all those noble folks who think that by mocking and laughing at God’s people they were forgotten for what they did God answers them by stating, “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” As judge God will examine the wicked as well!

EXAMPLE: I am reminded of when Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man and those who thought of themselves as godly but were in reality totally ungodly folks did not want to believe it. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, meaning the Messiah, and it was he who had healed the blind man whom they thought of as sinful because of his physical condition. Well then being very indignant “Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say, this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’” (John 9:40-41 NIV) Jesus is returning and like Peter told the crowd “God appointed (Jesus) as judge of the living and the dead”. (Acts 10:42 NIV) And one day they will have to give an account of their lives to him! (1 Peter 4:5) The Psalmist reminds us that as judge, God will examine the wicked as well!

Conclusion:

Our judge will be God himself! As judge God will examine his people! As judge God will examine the wicked as well!
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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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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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Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15

Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 4, 2017
I have learned a lot by being a people watcher and listener. When I was younger it was hard for me to keep my mouth shut; I know it seems hard to believe but it is true! So, over the years I have made it a goal to really focus on how people pray and what they pray and in doing so I have noticed several things. First, a lot of folks misunderstand what prayer is and secondly, interestingly, they copy others in how they pray. Now that I have made you conscious and uncomfortable of how you should pray in front of me, I believe we need to learn what prayer is all about.
Prayer for the Hebrew during Jesus’ day was much by rote. They were kind of “Catholic” in a sense in that they all got together and recited similar prayers all together at the same time. They were not as dreadful as some religions and their overly mind-numbing chanted prayers that begin to sound like so much background white noise than actual prayer. Jesus’ disciples noticed how Jesus intimately prayed and they wanted to learn more. In the midst of Jesus’ landmark sermon on the mount he introduces a lesson in how to pray; let’s discover what he has to say about prayer…
READ: Matthew 6:5-15
Luke tells us that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1 NIV) Here in Matthew is the fuller rendition of what Jesus taught them. We learn that…
I. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! (Vv. 5-8)
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
  1. For Jesus there was never any doubt that his followers would not pray regularly and so he tells them, “And when you pray”. Prayer should be just like our taking a breath, something we do not even thinking about it but we do it anyway. Not like some robot reciting the same catch phrases, wording, or mantra but rather it should be something we naturally do! Notice he warned that when we pray we are not to “be like the hypocrites” who loved fine sounding words. Jesus said that “they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” They loved the sound of their own voices but more than that they loved the attention they got from others! Have you ever known someone who loved the sound of his or her own voice? Jesus bluntly told them, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” However, when the believer speaks to God it is to be one-on-one and personal. It is your conversation with the Creator of the universe and so Jesus quietly tells them, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Now did he mean we should never pray publically? Nope. What Jesus is telling us is that our prayer is not for the ears of others but a conversation between two individuals: us and God! We are not to think about what others think; we are to focus on the one to whom we are conversing. The Pharisees had turned prayer into an act to be seen by men to demonstrate their supposed righteousness. Their prayers were directed not to God but to other men, and consisted of long, repetitive monologues. Jesus taught, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Like the wind rattling through the trees or the sound of rushing water their prayers were meaningless. So Jesus warns us, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
  EXAMPLE: In the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast there is a crude, rude bully named Gaston. He likes himself and the sound of his own voice. Can you imagine telling the person you love just how much you love them in meaningless phrases at the top of your lungs in a crowded public place? While we may think it kind of romantic the first time it would soon get old, embarrassing, and meaningless if you did it all the time. Prayer is not all about you; it is your conversation with the Lord. It is individual and to be special. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
As Baptists we often forget to whom we are praying and while it is a conversation with God we must never forget to whom we are speaking to. We learn that…
II. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! (Vv. 9-11)
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.”
  1. Notice how Jesus taught that our prayer should focus on the one we are praying to. He begins by teaching, “This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven”. He understood that prayer is directed to “Our Father in heaven” and not to some manmade idol, statue, or effigy. God is our father not in that we are biologically related as some heresies teach but rather he is the one who made us, loves us, and sent himself to save us! Like children with loving parents, we depend on him for everything in life! Jesus continued by teaching our conversation with our Father in heaven should also remember his distinctiveness: “hallowed be your name”. God is to be revered and honored because he is God! He is holy, just, loving, all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere. God should be honored in our prayer to remind us to whom we are praying. Our prayer is not to be all about us and in fact we are to pray that God’s purpose and plan for creation should be fulfilled: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom will be established whether we think it will or not. Jesus fulfilled the coming of God’s purpose and no matter what the rest of the world believes, God’s purpose and plan “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Our prayers should fit within the framework, purpose and plan of God which is to “seek and save what was lost”! (Luke 19:10 NIV) Far too often we think our purpose and plans are more important than God’s and that the only reason Jesus came was to give us a better life. I hate to burst your bubble but he did not. He came to give us life in him! We are to be dependent on God alone therefore we are to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” Food was a daily focus for folks of Jesus’ day; not like today where we have refrigeration, grocery stores every four blocks, and availability to all kinds of food within hands reach. We can even get it pre prepared and sent to our homes over our cell phones! Earning enough money and being able to go to the market or being able to grow your own food for the day was a concern. Jesus was teaching that we are to be more dependent on God than we realize. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
  EXAMPLE: Don’t you just hate it when you have to go to some business or family function and you are greeted by folks who have a pasted on smile, nod and mouth they are glad to see you but are really looking for someone more important to greet than you? You know what I mean; before they are done with you they have already dismissed you and moved along. Now suppose you treated your significant other, your spouse, or the person you were dating this way? How long would your relationship last? And yet this is how we often pray. We go through the motions wanting to get through it in order to do the next chore we have to do. Prayer is not to be a check off list of regurgitated phrases. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
Our conversation with God is to be more than about ourselves; it is a reflection of our attitude and our relationship with the Lord. We learn that…
III. Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition! (Vv. 12-15)
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
  1. To truly have a conversation with someone there has to be give and take with both of you listening and sharing. And in this sharing you must be sincere and focused just like when you pray. Our prayer is a reflection of who we are. If we cannot honestly converse with our Creator, Savior, and friend how do we expect our prayers to be answered? Prayer, our conversation with our Father God, should be open and honest. It should begin with us reflecting on our relationship with others and with him! Jesus taught we are to ask him to “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” These are not debts we can repay or owe to God but rather are so called, because on account of them we owe satisfaction to the justice of God. Jesus paid our debt of sin fully, but we must acknowledge the payment daily for the sins we commit. If we cannot forgive others their sin against us how in the world can we expect God to forgive us? Our prayer should acknowledge our inability to make satisfaction for the debt we owe due to our sin and that only God can forgive and fully pay the debt! We are to humbly ask for forgiveness as we have forgiven others who have sinned against us. If we are willing and wanting that the Creator should forgive us we should be as mere humans more than able and ready to forgive fellow sinners. God is to be our guide in life. He is the one we are to follow and so it is quite correct to ask him to “lead us not into temptation”. The idea is not that God would deliberately tempt us or take us where we might be tempted but rather it is asking him to always clearly show us the right path to follow and “deliver us from the evil one”. The idea is we are to ask that we not be led astray by the world or Satan but that we instead would be drawn to God’s wonderful presence! Jesus explains that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Jesus knew the Jews were a people very subject to revenge; an eye for an eye. Believers are not to be this way. Jesus is teaching about personal fellowship. One cannot walk with God and be unwilling to forgive others. Paul said it best, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
  EXAMPLE: Jesus knew he was about to do something so marvelous that it would boggle the minds of those around him. Because of what he would do their relationship with God would change forever. He would pay the price for their sins and the sins of the entire human race past, present, and future! When Jesus did this prayer no longer was a means by which one would come begging before God but it would reflect the relationship the believer now enjoys with his Father in heaven. Paul wrote that we have “received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” And that “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16 NIV)  Again Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8, 10 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
Conclusion:
Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
—-
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 Testimony! — John 1:19-28

The Testimony! — John 1:19-28
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 28, 2014

Did you ever witness something you had a hard time explaining? I have. We were headed home from camping and the night sky filed with a brilliant light that flashed across the starlit darkness. At first we thought it was a UFO, but we knew they did not exist and so then we wondered where in the world the streaking light was coming from. We then realized that we were near Vandenberg Air Force Base. It is a United States Air Force Base located 9.2 miles northwest of Lompoc, California. It is under the jurisdiction of the 30th Space Wing, Air Force Space Command. And then we understood immediately what the strange light was, a rocket fired from Vandenberg.

A person’s testimony is simply them trying to explain to others what they have experienced and witnessed. Here in John’s gospel we are discovering what he experienced and witnessed concerning Jesus. Sometimes it was difficult for him to do so, but John persisted in his testimony and because of that we have one of the most beautiful narratives that describe Jesus’ life and what those around him thought of him as well. Today, we will look at the testimony of what others thought about Jesus…

READ: John 1:19-28

Again, we are looking at John the Baptist and what he thought about his own ministry and the ministry of Jesus. We may wonder why but in the Apostle John’s day many followed John the Baptist and wondered how this cousin of Jesus fit into the narrative of what God was doing in their world. And so, here in John’s gospel we have…

I. The testimony of John the Baptist! (Vv. 19-23)
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
1. As in the other three gospels (Synoptic Gospels), the ministry, words, and actions of John the Baptist was so influential that the religious and secular authorities in Jerusalem decided to investigate him. “Levites” is John’s way of describing some of the city’s leaders. The priests and Levites trucked out to where John the Baptist was doing his preaching to ask about his baptism and what he claimed about himself. So “this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.” John’s gospel begins to introduce for us the public ministry of Jesus to the nation Israel. Some feared that perhaps John the Baptist was the Messiah to come, so they go to find out if he was or not. Yet John the Baptist “did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ.’” In our day and age and in John’s as well, there are those who would quickly claim to be something they are not in order to gain recognition, fame, or perhaps fortune. Over the centuries we have had charlatans a plenty. To each question asked of him, if he were the Messiah (the Christ), Elijah, or some other important prophet John the Baptist readily responds with “I am not” or a flat out “no”. John wants only that which God has given him to proclaim or do. Here is a wonderful bold man of God satisfied with the task he had been given, whether great or small. Frustrated by John’s answers, they finally ask him, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” Do not be mislead here because these snakes wanted an answer that could either give them a way up or a way out of any predicament they might find themselves in when they return with an answer their big city bosses did not like. They either wanted to be able to hang on to the coat tails of John or hang John by his own words. Politicians and pendants have not changed. “Give us something we can take back with us to increase our station with those who sent us.” So, they place the results squarely on John the Baptist himself, “What do you say about yourself?” John the Baptist’s answer is brilliant in its Scriptural simplicity and wonderfully wise in its response and sets into motion the ministry of Jesus to the world. “John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the desert, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’” John the Baptist was the pathfinder, the scout of God, and the testifier to the truth that was coming into the world! John the Apostle gives us the testimony of John the Baptist!
EXAMPLE: John the Baptist was one of those rare men who were completely comfortable in his own skin, even if it was draped in a camel coat! Few men in our day and age understand this. There is a good saying that states, “Real men know a real man. Real men follow Jesus!” John the Baptist was a real man; a man’s man. John was a man who was comfortable with godly things, speaking about righteousness, and willing to risk it all in order to affect his society and his surroundings. Not comfortable in getting all he could while he could, John knew God’s plan was bigger than his meager life and far grander than his existence. John the Baptist did not assume that which he knew he had no right to. He was a giver; a giver of himself, a giver of God’s word, and a giver of the truth. Here, in his gospel, John the Apostle gives us the testimony of John the Baptist!

John was a rare breed, he was literally the last of the Old Testament prophets. From this point on there would be no more prophets of God like that of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Moses or others. The reason is obvious, all the prophets pointed to the Messiah to come, as did John the Baptist. This is why John the Apostle now begins to describe for us…

II. John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus! (Vv. 24-28)
Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
1. The Pharisees were an important sect of Judaism and outnumbered the Sadducees. There were about 6,000 of them and they were most influential toward the general population. They believed in angels, the Messiah, an afterlife, and held a strict interpretation of the Law which also embraced many oral traditions. According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, the Pharisees were the only religious group to survive the Jewish war of 66-70 AD, and their teachings formed the basis for the Talmudic tradition of Judaism. We discover that “some Pharisees who had been sent questioned” John by asking him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” their question to John the Baptist was essentially, “Since you have no official title or you do not claim to be anyone important, why are you baptizing?” Interestingly, John the Baptist knew exactly why they had come to him. We learn that when “he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’ (Matthew 3:7-8 NIV)” In fact, while he did not think he was anyone of importance in the scheme of things, neither were they, because he knew that even “out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham! (v. 9)” His response again is illustrative of who John was and how he viewed himself, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know.” Remember John the Apostle had already told us that Jesus “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:10-11 NIV)” The religious and social leaders of the day did not recognize John the Baptist for who he was and neither would they recognize Jesus for whom he was! John related that simply put, “He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” His message was one of announcement; the Messiah would come and John the Baptist would not be worthy to even do the most subservient task, such as untying the Messiah’s sandal strap! This was John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus!
EXAMPLE: We discover that John the Baptist always kept pointing people to repentance and the Messiah to come. He wanted to prepare them for the coming message of God. If they had not prepared themselves by repenting of their sins, they would not be prepared for what God would do in their midst. In fact, we will see for ourselves that even while many of these same folks see the miracles of Jesus, hear the words of Jesus, they are not willing or ready to receive the gospel of Jesus. The same is true for our day and age. I believe it is because many of us have either been misled or have forgotten what our task in life is to be after we come to Christ ourselves. On the night Jesus was betrayed one of the last prayers he prays is this, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:18-21 NIV)” As Jesus sent his disciples to witness, he sends us as well, and just like John the Baptist our testimony is to be about Jesus!

Conclusion:

We have seen for ourselves the testimony of John the Baptist and the testimony about Jesus! What do you testify about in 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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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering what you thought about betrayal. You know what I mean, not the little path, which leads through the woods to Pooh’s favorite honey tree, but as in deceiving another. Perhaps you have been disloyal to the one who made you and died for you, and you are not sure how to regain the trust you have lost. Maybe you need to realize, while you gave up on him, he never gives up on you. Perhaps you wandered down the wrong honey path and revealed your true self, but now you long to be in that sweet relationship once again. Never fear, he who loves you always does, and he has never left you nor forsaken you. In fact, he is just a whisper away. Confess your betrayal and he will restore you to the right path. Let go of your betrayal and let him heal your relationship today. If you don’t, it makes one wonder…

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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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