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Today’s Thoughts – What are you living for? – Mark 15

Today’s Thoughts – What are you living for? – Mark 15
by Pastor Lee Hemen
April 3, 2011

What are you living for? It is a good question to ask. I have often asked others this very question yet in a different way. I ask, “Suppose you were standing before God, in heaven, and he asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’, what would you say?” Yet, this week I have been encouraged by another writer, to consider asking another series of questions: “If you live for many more years, what quality of character will you take into eternity? For what will your life have counted? What lasting spiritual legacy will you leave to those left behind you?”

The author of these questions goes on to state that everyone accepts–intellectually if not emotionally–that they eventually will die. What they do with their remaining years is crucial. A legitimate question to ask anyone–and most of all ourselves–is: What are you living for? In light of eternity, everything hinges on your answer.

In the final moments of Jesus’ life we discover something that simply takes our breath away. Here is the Savior who is so focused on what the will of God is in his life, he is willingly going to his death. How he does it and how he faces his life’s greatest trial is something that cannot but affect those who read it. After all these years as a pastor, it still makes me hold my breath, wonder, and stand in awe. The fact is, I often cry when rereading Jesus’ final moments. No greater love has anyone than this.

It brings me back to my first question, “What are you living for?” If God gives you many more years, how will you live your life? Will you impact the world around you for the sake of the gospel? We cannot control how we were brought into this world, nor do we have much control over how we were raised or what happens to us while we go through life. However, we do control how we respond, grow, mature, and what we do with our faith in Christ.

Jesus knew he was going to die, and he gives us a good example on how to finish well. We will all die sometime, yet how we live the remaining moments in time we have says a lot about what we believe.

What are you living for?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 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 Thought — Have we truly become so pagan?

Today’s Thought — Have we truly become so pagan?
By Lee Hemen
July 3, 2010

I watched the evening news and was dumbfounded by the outpouring of emotion by those who had absolutely nothing to do with a young boy who disappeared here locally. Here’s what I mean: I understand his classmates making cards, drawings, and placing flowers, but complete and utter strangers? I found it rather creepy. But then, I also find it creepy when folks set up roadside shrines to people who get hit by drunk drivers. I have even seen them put up roadside crosses for their pet who got hit by a passing car. I am not trying to be insensitive to people healing in their own way, but this kind of smacks of paganism to me, or at very least a real self-absorption by our society.

In Hinduism they will put up a shrine for almost anything or anyone, place flowers, burn incense, and even give gifts – but why in the world do we do this? I believe it is because as a society we have lost the true meaning of our own spiritual roots. We no longer know how to handle death or tragedy, are embarrassed by it, and then make it all about ourselves! Many folks do not know what they believe about life, death, or any kind of coherent faith practice. Many have simply mashed together a kind of feel good New Age Native American paganistic mumbo-jumbo. I remember a mother who had her daughters buy these huge lilies every year, place them near the pulpit of the church, so they could “remember their father” whom they did not know. When I asked her why, she finally admitted it was because of her own guilt. In fact, she had given her daughters the “gift’ of that guilt and they had now made it their own! Both girls have suffered from it.

My Dad was a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic who hated funerals. I can understand why. Catholics, I was raised one, can really give you a huge heapin’ helpin’ of guilt when it comes to dying. The Last Rites, before you die; the incense after you pass; the votive candles and prayers you pay for so the dead person can get out of purgatory quicker; the prayer vigil and the saying of the rosary over and over and over; the open casket – don’t get me started about that; and then the wearing of black.

I understand that folks need to work through their grief in their own way. I have counseled many people through tough times. And, yes, I was sensitive and compassionate. But for perfect strangers to make a little boy’s disappearance into their own morbid shrine, I find it almost repulsive. One woman said, “I am here to support the family in their time of grief.” This woman does not know the family and they do not know her. Wouldn’t it therefore be better if she found some other folks and prayed for the family or gave a gift to a local children’s charity instead of showing up outside of the little boy’s school to put plastic flowers on a chain-link fence? I know, I know, people are really touched by the loss of a little boy. That I can understand. My church is praying for his safe return and for the family as well. And here is the truth: We need to return to God in order to understand tragedy and death in life.

How a society handles these things says a lot about that society. The Psalmist wrote, “We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalms 33:20-22) When God is our focus in life, we find courage, strength, and comfort in all circumstances. We do not need to make other people’s tragedies into our own in order to discover our own guilt. Proverbs reminds us that “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!” (Proverbs 24:10) King David would sing, “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” (Psalms 59:16-17)

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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. You now have my permission…

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Today’s Thought – When is the kingdom of God?

Today’s Thought – When is the kingdom of God?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 1, 2010

And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mark 9:1)

When is the kingdom of God? This is an interesting statement by Jesus to his disciples. We must remember several important things: 1) this statement was said to all of his followers, not just the twelve. There were many others that “followed” Jesus, including women. 2) It is kind of an contrast of his previous comment, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) Jesus is presenting a positive reinforcement here. 3) Jesus emphatically states that, “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come in power.” So, is he referring to his resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, or the destruction of Jerusalem, the transfiguration that will happen shortly, the coming of the church age, or his second coming?

The mere thought that Jesus was simply referring to his transfiguration does not make sense. It was a rather startling event, filled with wonder and awe, but it is extremely odd Jesus would say that “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of god come with power,” and then wham, he does the transfiguration. Did Jesus therefore mean they were all going to die shortly afterwards? I don’t think so. While the resurrection was full of the power of God or the coming of the Holy Spirit was also dramatic, however, both are far more important than the transfiguration. The church age was full of some awesome things, but does not compare to the resurrection or the Holy Spirit’s coming. While the destruction of Jerusalem was extremely a dramatic incident, and eyewitnesses saw some incredible things occurring, it does not compare to Jesus second coming. But the Second Coming cannot be what Jesus is referring to unless somewhere right now several of the followers of Jesus are still alive! So, what was Jesus referring to here? I am glad you asked!

I believe Jesus is referring to all of these things. The kingdom of God was already here with the coming of Jesus, but its full potential and power had not been demonstrated. It was as Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and later rose from the grave. But we continue to see its power as the Holy Spirit is given, the early church is established, and with the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus’ Second Coming is not the establishment of his kingdom, because it is already established. Jesus rules and reigns now. Sure, we get a new heaven and earth (universe) because all things will be made new, but that is the fulfillment and culmination of his promise, not the God’s kingdom coming in power (Revelation 12:10). Besides, again, none of his disciples would be alive in the world when that occurs.

Some could twist semantics by saying, “Pastor Lee, won’t all believers be alive when Jesus returns?” But Jesus is talking about the establishment of God’s kingdom “with power” right then. And, his meaning is clear, he meant for them right then at that time; literally, that it was occurring, would occur shortly, and would be fulfilled in the disciple’s lifetime.

So, what does this mean for us today? We should ask ourselves, “When is the kingdom of God?” The answer is right now and I pray you are part of it.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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. You now have my permission…

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Today’s Thoughts – Can you bargain for your soul?

Today’s Thoughts – Can you bargain for your soul?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 23, 2010

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:36-37)

Can you bargain for your soul? There are some really good questions in life. You know like when you begin to ask yourself, “What will I do for the rest of my life?” “Whom will I marry?” “Is there meaning to my life?” These are all really good questions, but they are not great questions. Great questions go a little deeper and have staying power for our lives. A great question stands the test of time and here in Mark’s gospel, Jesus gives us a great question: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Now that is a great question.

It is a great question because it brings us up short, makes us think, and it stands the test of time. It demands that we the listener give reasons why it would be “good” for someone to “gain the whole world” and yet be willing to “forfeit his soul.” Now before you go off on some odd Hollywood tangent thinking that Satan wants to make a deal for your soul, you are wrong. This rather silly and odd idea comes from a misconception of who Satan is and what he can or cannot do. Satan cannot gain or bargain for your soul. In reality, he has no use for it. This rather idiotic idea often comes from a misinterpretation of when Jesus told his followers, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5) He was talking about the Pharisees who wanted to kill him and God who has the power to throw you into hell, if you do not make the right choice in life to follow his Son, Jesus.

While Satan is an accuser, a liar, and pridefully demonic in nature, he did not create hell, God will. He is not in charge of Hell, God is. And, he has no power to grab anyone’s soul, only God has that kind of power because God is the one who created you and him.

Now, back to Jesus’ question, “What could you give God in exchange for your soul?” this is what he is really asking his disciples and us this morning. The answer is you have nothing you could exchange for it, nothing — except, denying yourself and following Jesus. God had a plan and that plan was his Son would come into the world, share the good news of his coming, be betrayed, die on a cross, and rise again after three days. Jesus was exchanged for your soul. He is the payment price God accepted for your pathetic ignoble life. Come to grips with this reality Dear Child of the Lord, you have absolutely nothing God is interested in whereby you could bargain with him concerning your soul. He has already paid the price. Stop trying to bargain with him and deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow him. Can you bargain for your soul? You now know the answer.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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. You now have my permission…

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Today’s Thought – Are you dead?

Today’s Thought – Are you dead?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 18, 2010

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35)

Let me ask you a question: “Are you dead?” Let me explain: While a lot of people do not place a very big premium on the unborn, they sure love the lives they live. So much so that they will do almost anything to extend them from losing weight, exercising, taking vitamin supplements, to making sure they only eat “natural” or organic food. However, this being the 30th anniversary of when Mt. St. Helens blew here in Southwest Washington, I am reminded of a lot of folks who did not care about their lives very much. In fact, some of them had petitioned the US Government so they could go in a get their belongings out of the blast zone just the day before the volcano blew sky high. Then there was Harry Truman, not the respected President, but the mean old drunken codger who vehemently refused to leave “his mountain” and ended up being buried under 300 feet of hot volcanic ash and debris. I met Harry on several differing occasions and each time he was usually in a drunken fit cussing some poor soul out that happened to get in his way that day. So, I find it interesting how people place a value on their lives.

For Harry, his life was his lodge by Spirit Lake. And he lost his life foolishly thinking that the mountain would never blow him away. When Jesus told his disciples, they needed to deny themselves in order to follow him I bet immediately there were those who wondered what he met. Jesus begins to elucidate by telling them just what the cost of denying oneself is in order to follow him.

If you want to try and save your life by following Jesus, forget it. You have to be willing to lose it for him and the gospel’s sake. You have to be willing to let Jesus save your life, die to yourself, and lose it all for the good news message of Jesus. Here is where many folks, including some pastors I know, blow it like old Harry did. They are trusting in their gut feeling instead of giving themselves completely away and trusting the one who knows best. The gospel is the good news of Jesus being the long awaited Messiah. The kingdom of God had come to earth and God’s one and only son was walking among men giving them the good news. If you try to save anything in your old life and try to hang onto the gospel at the same time, you will lose it. However, if you willingly give everything in your life away for Jesus and his message, you will live forever. Now I am not talking about taking a vow of poverty, wearing gunnysacks, and sandals. I am talking about seeing your life as nothing compared to knowing the Messiah and his message. Jesus is the Messiah, there is no other. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him. (John 14:6)

No Joseph Smith, no Mohamed, no Gandhi, or Buddha, Krishna, or Mary Kate and Ashley will save anyone ever. You cannot save yourself. There is nothing anyone can do except accept the fact that in order to save their life, they must lose it to Jesus. Does that mean I have to give up and surrender my life to someone I cannot see, feel, or hear. Absolutely! Faith, by its very nature “is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Dear child of the Lord, are you dead? If you are still struggling with seeing your old life as dead you can never live for the Lord.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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. You now have my permission…

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Today’s Thoughts – Are you really a disciple of Jesus

Today’s Thoughts – Are you really a disciple of Jesus?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 17, 2010

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

Are you really a disciple of Jesus? Today’s church so easily invokes Jesus’ name. Often times without a thought to what it means to “follow” him. I am told that during the first few centuries of the early church, not only did one have to prove their faith walk with Christ; they also had to publicly swear their allegiance to Jesus. It was a commitment that took applicants sometimes one to two years to complete. Today’s church encourages a lackadaisical or laissez-faire attitude toward faith in Jesus, but Jesus never promoted this way of thinking.

We discover Jesus calling the crowd, the world to him as well as his disciples, those who should have by now understood what it required to be a follower of his. The crowd wanted their needs taken care of and a Messiah that would throw the Roman “bums out.” Jesus was neither. And here we find him throwing down the gauntlet in front of both groups so that they would completely understand his position on the matter.

Following Jesus is not as simple as just saying a prayer and having heartburn. Jesus succinctly states, “If anyone would come after me,” which tells us immediately that while anyone does have the opportunity to follow Jesus; the immediate qualifier that “he must deny himself” disqualifies many. People have a hard time denying themselves. And in our day and age, it is far worse because we are encouraged to spend money we do not have on things that we do not need to do inane pleasures. Plus, in today’s society, you do not need to have the means to buy the junk we fill our homes with or do the absurd things we desire.

Now least you think I am being “high and mighty” let me warn you ahead of time that we have a strict rule in our family: If you do not have the cash, you do not buy it. We have only a few exceptions to this rule: When buying a good used car or when purchasing a house. But even here, we make sure we have a large down payment before hand and we shop around for the very best interest rate, and we pay both off early. Now I do not want to get into the argument of Christian finances, but rather the idea of denying oneself. And, I am speaking to those who call themselves “Christian.” If you have forsaken your tithe because you are behind in your bills, you have not denied yourself. If you have appeased family, friends, or co-workers so you are not embarrassed that they might learn of your faith, you have not denied yourself. If you do not regularly give sacrificially above and beyond your tithe, you have not denied yourself. If you do not serve willingly in your church in some way, you have not denied yourself. In fact, denying oneself carries with it the notion that it cost the follower something. You cannot “take up” your “cross and follow” Jesus with your arms full of stuff. A disciple gives himself and his stuff willingly away for the Lord. Now, dear child of the Lord, have you? Are you really a disciple of Jesus? If anything you own or any relationship you have is more important than your following Jesus, you are not his disciple.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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. You now have my permission…

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Today’s Thoughts – Are you being Satan?

Today’s Thoughts – Are you being Satan?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 14, 2010

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:30-33)

How can we become “Satan” in our relationship with Jesus? Here we find Peter becoming just that. We may have to remind ourselves of whom Satan is and what he likes to do. Scripture reminds us that he is a powerful created angel who wanted to be like God, was full of pride, took a whole lot of other angels with him in his pride, and fell from God’s favor because of it. He now is mankind’s accuser before the throne of God, he is deceptive, and a liar.

Peter took on some of Satan’s role with Jesus when he tried to dissuade Jesus from his true task in life. We do the very same thing when we try to persuade Jesus in another direction for our own lives. Now I know you are already trying to make excuses as to why you do not do that and how you could never be like Satan, but oh yes we do.

We do it when we know we should be tithing, but we give all kinds of excuses as to why we do not tithe. We do it when we know we should witness, especially after Jesus has laid someone on our heart and mind, and yet we find anything else to do rather than witness to the person the Holy Spirit has brought to mind. We do it when we know we should have a time alone with God in prayer, but we allow so many other things to steal away our time alone with God. We do it when God has asked us to trust him with the here and now and yet we find so many reasons to go ahead of him and try to make our plan into his plan.

You see Jesus called Peter “Satan,” because Peter presumed to know what was best for Jesus and thereby for him as well. Peter was being selfish. He wanted Jesus to live and not to do the very thing he came to earth to do – die on a cross for our sins! We are just as satanically selfish when we try to convince Jesus we know so much better than he does about our lives in him.

Now, let’s get real here for a moment and ask ourselves, Dear child of the Lord, “Are you being Satan?” Oh I pray not.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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. You now have my permission…

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