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Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4

Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 26, 2017

A child rebelling is as old as well couples having children. Some think that it is worse today than years ago, but it probably isn’t it just may seem that way. However, there has become a shift in how children are disciplined. The issue is not in whether a parent spanks or not but rather in the teaching that there are consequences for one’s actions. Consistency in parenting has degraded in our society and it has infected the school system as well. There are actually folks who think it is harmful to tell a child “no” or to hold them accountable for their behavior. This is simply not true nor is it emotionally healthy for the child to not know their boundaries.

When we look into the pages of Scripture we can sometimes be hard pressed to find good examples of parenting yet we do discover some of the best advice for raising healthy, emotionally stable, and spiritually sound children. And here in Ephesians Paul gives great advice to both parents and children; let’s discover what he writes…

READ: Ephesians 6:1-4

No one likes to have to do what they are told all of the time. It is part of our sin nature to rebel when we are told what to do because we would rather do whatever we want when we want. However this simply isn’t possible nor is it mature. In his instructions to the family Paul writes that…

I. Children are to be obedient! (v. 1)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

1. You would think that this little bit of advice from Paul would be straight forward and easy to understand, but in our day and age people have earned doctorates from dissecting, ruminating, and discussing this ad nauseam to the point where may children are left confused, harmed, and unstructured in life. My dad would tell us that while we may not always like what he told us to do we had better always obey what he told us to do! Obedience is the foundation of any society; if you do not believe me then why do we have laws that people are supposed to obey? Paul succinctly states, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Now notice Paul is not speaking to the world in general but to believers. He writes that children are to obey their parents “in the Lord.” What does this mean? While obedience is kind of a foreign word in our nation today we would do well to remember just how important it is. Recently a young man, who was high on cocaine, was breaking into neighborhood homes, which was caught by police was shot and killed. He did not obey what the police told him to do because he was high, caught doing a criminal act, and was trying to get a very real looking toy gun from his waistband; the officers thought it was an actual pistol because it looked genuine and therefore shot him to death. Obedience would have saved this young man’s life. Paul writes that Christian children are to be obedient to their parents in the Lord. Paul meant in their spiritual instruction, in their personal following of God, and in how they respected him. Paul knew if children followed God they would be obedient to their parents. His reasoning was simple: “for this is right”. Paul would write the Colossian Christians, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20 NIV) Pleasing God is our first and foremost duty in life no matter how young or old we are and we learn that in order to do so children are to be obedient!

EXAMPLE: Often when people think of the word obedient they think it means mindless devotion and nothing is further from the truth. I find it interesting that there are those in our day and age who think children know how to respond sexually concerning their individual identity but they are too young to understand right from wrong when it involves religion, diet, smoking, or criminal activity. Children are to obey because children are immature physically, emotionally, and spiritually to understand all the consequences of their actions. Paul knew Children are to be obedient especially in the Lord!

My father would remind us as kids that respect is earned and not simply given. Few in our day understand this concept because many think that they should be respected simply because they breathe the same air as everyone else. This is simply a false notion and Paul teaches us that…

II. Children are to respect their parents! (Vv. 2-3)

“Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

1. Obedience some would say comes from respect however many have forgotten that respect is not simply given, it is earned. Paul writes that his readers were to “Honor your father and mother” a reality that is often misplaced in our day. A life that is not focused on the Lord and filled with the Spirit of God is one that can never understand what real reverence means. Honor in our day and age is hard for a lot of people to give others because we live in such a victim-oriented world. It seems as if there is special kind of sport or enjoyment in tearing down anything or anyone that might have earned our respect or be honored in our world. National heroes, historical figures, and others are torn and ripped apart with great glee. In fact in some arenas if you are not on the side of the worst degenerates, the most despicable of society, or the absolute immoral you are bigoted, racist, or a phobic of some sort and need to rethink your “preconceived colonial” notions. Proverbs teaches us that “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches (people) wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:32-33 NIV) No matter how old we are we are to give honor, deference to our parents. Certainly there are those whose parents may not have been the best sort but Paul is speaking to Christian households here, those who have given themselves to the love and discipline of the Lord Jesus. Paul wrote that this honor is required because it comes from “the first commandment with a promise”. It isn’t the only commandment with a promise from God nor is it the first or primary commandment one is to learn, rather it is the commandment with the promise of God “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” It is understood that obedience fosters self-discipline, which in turn brings stability and longevity in one’s life. In order for our lives to go well and for us to have a life that is long in the Lord we must learn the lesson of Paul that children are to respect their parents!

EXAMPLE: If you have not been in a public school classroom lately I challenge you to go and volunteer for a couple of weeks. Not for just a day or two. Let the class get used to your presence; follow them out to recess, gym, music, and lunch. I think you would come away shocked at the lack of respect, discipline, and focus there is. The one complaint I hear from educators is the lack of support they receive to be able to consistently discipline their students. When there is no consistency kids know it and use it for their own personal gain. Don’t believe me, which parent does a child learn to go to first in order to get what they want? Remember Cain and Able? Respect teaches children to value themselves, others, and their community because they value and abide by specific standards. Children are to respect their parents!

No one likes to be teased to the point where it makes them sad or mad. Teasing someone until they are angry is just plain cruel and the same is true from demanding such high expectations from someone that they can never ever meet. Paul reminds us that…

III. Parents are not to frustrate their children! (v. 4)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

1. Paul wrote in Colossians, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21 NIV) He addresses fathers because they were seen as the head of the household in which the consistency of parental discipline rests. How the peace and structure is often regulated by the mother in the home, fathers are to make sure there is consistency in discipline. People often forget that children first and foremost need structure in their lives. Boundaries give children security and therefore being too harsh or too lenient in rearing children can lead to frustration. So fathers were cautioned by Paul to “not embitter” their “children” with unreasonable demands, petty rules, or useless favoritism. Such actions cause children to become discouraged or angered because they are in constant emotional flux. Consistency in raising children is extremely important and I am reminded of when Paul wrote his friend Timothy “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.  (2 Timothy 3:15 NIV) Timothy’s parents and grandparents were both instrumental in his spiritual maturation and Paul wrote, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV) Training our children in the beautiful things of God is extremely important. Far too many Christian parents live under the false notion that they should allow their children to “decide for themselves” when they get older as to what they believe about God. Where they get this completely ungodly idea is beyond me because by the time a child is an adult it is often too late. And it is a fact that most teens rebel when they go off to college! Paul relates that “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Paul had been trained from his youth that parents were to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) Consistency in discipline is the key and parents are not to frustrate their children!

EXAMPLE: We all laugh at the poor sap who tosses the instructions on how to put something together but anyone who has ever tried to put something together from IKEA knows the importance of following the instructions exactly. Clear and concise instructions are important and in fact this is one of the reasons IKEA has been so successful. They learned that if you had the buyer build their products using easily understood instructions they developed a personal sense of achievement at finishing the project and were very likely to come back and buy more products. The key was using those clear and concise instructions. Frustration occurs when a child does not know what to expect. Parents are not to frustrate their children!

Conclusion:

Children are to be obedient! Children are to respect their parents! Parents are not to frustrate their children!
—-
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 Focused Life! – James 4:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Teachable Life! – James 3:1-12

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

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

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

READ: James 3:1-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Hebrews 12:1-11 – Discipline Yourself!

Hebrews 12:1-11 – Discipline Yourself!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 6, 20 12 AM

Whom would you emulate in life if you could? As I remarked last week, few adults have heroes anymore. We see those who society holds up as heroes and they fall far short of what true heroes are all about. In fact, we have reduced heroism to anyone who faces a difficulty in life, an illness, or anyone who we think is special. Now, do not get offended. I personally believe that heroes are more than that. While there are those who are very courageous and those who are strong in character, that does not necessarily make them heroes. Heroes are those individuals who are, in the face of personal danger, willing to sacrifice themselves or risk it all for others. We want to be careful not to reduce heroism to a politically correct definition in order to sooth our conscience.

Courageous folks who face a terminal illness or overcome difficult circumstances in life are great role models for us and Hebrews has just given us some examples of such individuals and their faith. Some even became heroes because of their willingness to sacrifice themselves for their faith. What does it take to become someone with the courage of convictions as these folks were? We will discover that the author of Hebrews encourages us to “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” I believe it takes discipline. You are to discipline yourself! Let’s find out how…

READ: Hebrews 12:1-11

Jesus taught his disciples, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40 NIV) We look to Jesus for our salvation but we also look to Jesus for our spiritual maturity. Hebrews writes that we discipline ourselves as we…

I. Consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith! (Vv. 1-4)

1. Can those who have gone before us see what is happening to us here on earth? This question is often on the minds of those who have experienced the death of a loved one. While we would love it if our loved ones could view our lives after death, do we truly want them to see us at our worst? I mean it is tough enough that God can see us, but his grace is sufficient for us even when we sin; however, that is not the case with our loved ones in the Lord. Paul reminds us that, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 NIV) I believe those who are with Jesus, do not care about what is occurring here because in a mere moment of time, we will be there as well. Plus the presence of God is better than watching what is happening here. So what does the writer of Hebrews mean when he says, “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses”? He is referring to the examples and encouragement from the faithful he had just described and not actual people. The witnesses in the verse are not modern-day loved ones, but the faithful saints in Hebrews 11 who trusted God. Their lives testify about the value of relying on God no matter what hardships we face. They are active witnesses who speak to us by their example; not passive witnesses who watch us from heaven! Therefore, we are to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This can be easier said than done, yet, we have Jesus. Hebrews therefore encourages, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” When we “fix our eyes” on someone, we look intently at them. This is the idea, when we, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men.” We are to look intently at Jesus, so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart.” The author knew our “struggle” in life is “against sin.” His readers had “not yet resisted to the point of shedding (their) blood.” I believe however, he was aware that they were about to or could very shortly be tested. We are to consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith!

EXAMPLE: The word for “witness” here in Hebrews is the Greek word “martus” where we derive our word martyr. To be a witness for Jesus in the early church meant to be willing to die for one’s faith if needed. They were willing to witness unto death! Early Christians felt that if Jesus was willing to die for us, and his disciples were willing to face imprisonment and perhaps death, then they were to be willing to martyr themselves as well! How could they do such a thing? They looked at Jesus. They also remembered what Paul had written, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (Philippians 3:10 NIV) They wanted that for themselves as well, so they took to heart Paul’s admonishment, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” (Philippians 3:13-15a NIV) We are to consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith!

Paul related that personal discipline was the only way the believer could know the will of God. He wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV) Discipleship comes from the word for discipline. Hebrews reminds us to…

II. Remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline! (Vv. 5-11)

1. When we focus our lives on ourselves, instead of Jesus, we can easily forget who are faith is based in. Hebrews writes his listeners that they had “forgotten” the “word of encouragement that addresses you as sons.” They had forgotten Jesus, the “author and perfecter” of their faith! As God’s children, his sons, we are “not (to) make light of the Lord’s discipline” nor are we to “lose heart when He rebukes” us. Far too often, we can whine or complain when things do not go our way in life, yet if we do, we are forgetting “the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” If we do not “Endure hardship as discipline,” we are again in danger of forgetting that “God is treating you as sons.” And the question remains, “For what son is not disciplined by his father?” Perhaps his readers had forgotten this, have you? When we forget we are the children of God and that He is active in our lives, we are tacitly telling God we do not trust Him. This is sin. Perhaps, our faith is not as valid as it should be if we whine about our discipline. “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” The writer uses the example of our earthly dads and reminds us, “we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.” Now, I did not always like it when I was disciplined, but now I realize it was for my own good. Therefore, “How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” We can understand that “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” We can be so feeble and weak in our faith-walk at times. God always disciplines us for our good. He desires His children to be holy in all they do and while “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” We are to remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline!

EXAMPLE: One of the reasons I believe there is so much violence in our society today is because we do not know how to properly discipline our children and therefore they do not learn proper discipline for themselves. We have allowed political correctness to dictate and thereby mandate to us how to discipline not just our children but ourselves as well. We do not deny our children or ourselves anything. Every child is an “honored” student and we are to make no distinction between ability, sex, or worth. It is a “can’t we all just get along” philosophy. It has infected the church as well. Getting along is not good enough for God, only holiness is. Holiness is only obtained through faith in Christ and personal growth in Him. We are to remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline!

Conclusion:
We are to consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith! We are to remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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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Hebrews 3:7-19 – Don’t harden your heart!

Hebrews 3:7-19 – Don’t harden your heart!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 22, 2012 AM

The comedian Bill Cosby used to tell the story about his preschool children whereby he would ask them to “Come here… come here… come here… COME HERE!” Of course they ignored him. He said it was as if they were “brain-dead.” In fact he went on to say that preteen boys could be the worst. His son gave himself a reverse Mohawk haircut. When Cosby asked him why he cut his hair that way, his response was, “I don’t know!” Well, guess what, Christians sometimes can be just as “brain-dead” in their faith walk with the Lord. We know what we should be doing, but the very thing we know we should not be doing is exactly what we do. And then, when we suffer from the choices we made, we wonder why!

The Apostle Paul would write, “In fact, I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do what I know is right. I do the things I hate…. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong! (Romans 7:15, 19 CEV) The writer of Hebrews addresses this very issue with his sermon. When we rebel against God and do what we know we should not do, we will suffer the consequences of our actions. Hebrews gives us the example of the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea where they utterly failed to follow God. The writer warns his readers: “Don’t harden your hearts!” Let’s discover why and how we can escape the same fate of the Israelites.

READ: Hebrews 3:7-19

The writer of Hebrews tells us that…

I. We harden our hearts when we refuse to listen to God! (Vv. 7-9, 15)

“So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did… As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:7-9, 15 NIV)

1. All throughout Scripture God tells his people to listen and Hebrews tells us that “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Listening to God means acting upon what you have heard in the way he desires. When we refuse to listen to God, our hearts, our spiritual selves become harden. Notice what God calls not listening to him – “rebellion.” The Israelites rebelled against God when they “tested and tried” God. Now we certainly live under grace, but the issue here is not one of losing one’s salvation, but rather what occurs when we fail to heed God when he speaks to us! God speaks to us in various ways through the Holy Spirit: through his Word the Bible, through our circumstances, through fellow believers such as the church, and through prayer. Instead of listening to and following God as they should have the Israelites “tested” God by continually griping, by not being satisfied where God brought them, they harden their hearts and were disobedient. Imagine doing this for 40 years! Far from being an ideal period of Israel’s history it was a time marked by tragedy and defeat! The writer quotes from Psalm 95 and interestingly we discover that the people were first invited to “sing for joy to the LORD… shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation… come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song… bow down in worship”, and to “kneel before the LORD our Maker!” (Psalm 95:1-6) As the “the people of his pasture” and the “flock under his care” we are to listen to God. Like the Psalmist David, the author of Hebrews knew that we harden our hearts when we refuse to listen to God!

EXAMPLE: Parents of preschoolers know that you simply cannot tell an immature child to do something once and expect them to do it. We also know that children do not always listen to what we are saying to them. They may hear with their ears, but not in their actions afterwards. We know that true listening is seen when the hearer not only listens but also responds to what they heard. James would admonish us to “not merely listen to the word, and so deceive [ourselves]. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV) Hebrews teaches us that we harden our hearts when we refuse to listen to God!

The writer of Hebrews continues by telling us that…

II. We suffer the consequences when we harden our hearts! (Vv. 10-11, 16-19)

“That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’… Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:10-11, 16-19 NIV)

1. The law of physics teaches us that for every action there is an opposite reaction. The same is true for the spiritual laws of God as well. We reap what we sow, in fact we learn “that is why [God was] angry with that generation”! There are consequences for our sinful disobedience. When God speaks to us and we refuse to listen, we harden our hearts and we become insensitive to God! Like the Israelites our “hearts are always going astray”, and we deliberately refuse to know or understand the ways of God! Sadly, many Christians then wonder why they do not have the peace of God that is promised. We cannot enter into the rest of God when we have “heard and rebelled.” The Israelites died in the wilderness for their disobedience! For forty years they wandered in the desert until all that sinful generation, those that disobeyed God, had died! How sad when Christians blame God for their consequences instead of their continued sin! The author of Hebrews wants us to realize that we display our “unbelief” our lack of faith and trust in God when we have more confidence in our sin than in what God can do in our lives! When God’s people deliberately refuse to heed God’s voice in their lives, they will suffer the consequences of their sin! Now do not think I am saying that we always experience suffering in our lives because of hidden sin, because that simply is not true, however, we suffer the consequences when we harden our hearts!

EXAMPLE: We’ve all heard, “It’s not my fault!” from a child who has been caught doing something they should not be doing. Why would they try to excuse their defiance when they are caught in the act of their disobedience? Like all of us they want to escape the consequences. Adults use the same excuse for the very same reason when they are caught in their sin! Having pastored for 27 years I have heard many folks use many excuses for their sin condition yet all of them boil down to the same plea of “It’s not my fault!” Blaming it on friends, parents, society or upbringing still distills down to the same exclamation: “It’s not my fault!” Even the very first couple, Adam and Eve, used the same excuse. And when we use this as a means of escape our hearts become increasingly hardened by the sin we do. Hebrews reminds us that we suffer the consequences when we harden our hearts.

Finally, the writer of Hebrews tells us that…

III. We harden our hearts when we do not discipline one another! (Vv.12-14)

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Hebrews 3:12-14 NIV)

1. What can we do? The answer is truly simple, we should “see to it, brothers, that none of [us] has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God!” The problem is when believers insist on continuing in their sin! It displays an unbelieving heart! We may say we believe with our mouths, but our actions and attitudes say otherwise! We have forgotten what we are to do as a church and as fellow believers; we are to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Paul reminds us that we are to “encourage one another and build each other up” and “we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14) The idea here is one of continued discipleship. The problem is that today’s church does not see itself as a body of Christ but rather a spiritual way station instead. Too many see the church as a place for them to enjoy God instead of a community directly responsible for one another’s spiritually. Paul would admonish Titus, a young pastor, “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2:15 NIV) Christians today refuse to allow themselves to be “encouraged” through the discipline or the “rebuke” of fellow believers. We want encouragement but we do not like to be confronted for our sinful condition! When we do not allow ourselves to be placed under the authority of a local church we become spiritually prideful. We are telling God we can “go it alone” and we do not need his church, his body, because we know best. We increasingly harden our hearts when we do not discipline one another!

EXAMPLE: As children we hate discipline, but it is the only way we can mature and make good choices for our lives as adults. The problem begins when society teaches that discipline is wrong and children should be indulged. We have forgotten that discipline involves both encouragement and correction. I remember being trapped where a parent unsuccessfully tried to get their child to behave. They tried talking with the miscreant, they tried bribery, empty threats, and to cajole their outlaw into good behavior. Of course none of it worked because the child knew nothing would happen. This notion has infected the church as well. We dare not say anything negative that might sound strict to degenerate Christians. Many churches no longer have membership because there is no need to have membership if you never disciple your members! Many in the church therefore have sin-hardened hearts. Church is about being indulged instead of serving Christ. We discover from Hebrews that we soften our hearts when we encourage one another!

Conclusion:

Dear Child of God have you become so calloused in your sin that you disdain any rebuke from your fellow believers for your ungodliness? Are you ashamed of what you do when you are away from the house of God? Hebrews teaches us that: We harden our hearts when we refuse to listen to God! We suffer the consequences when we harden our hearts! We harden our hearts when we do not discipline one another!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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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Today’s Thgouths – 2 Timothy 2:3

By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 20, 2008

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:3)

What does it mean to be a “good soldier”? Does it mean we follow the orders given us, trusting those over us who know more than we do about the battle we face? Does it mean we respect rank, knowing that those who are in charge have earned the right to be in the position they are in? Perhaps it is being brave when everyone else is running for cover, showing what courage is in the face of overwhelming odds? Maybe it is going back and rescuing those that have fallen on the battle field with little or no concern for ourselves? Then it could mean being delighted to be allowed to wear the uniform with pride and serving under the banner of a kingdom that never ends? Perhaps it is doing more than is expected of you?

All of these fit well with being a soldier of Christ. Enduring hardship like those who have gone on before us is not often found in today’s church. Recently I was struck with joy at the willingness of a young lady who has given her life to serve in Canada as a missionary. Canada is extremely unchurched with less than 10% of its population that is evangelical Christian. She is a “good soldier of Christ Jesus,” but what about those of us who are called to serve right where we are? To serve our Commander in the local church we are to be a member of? Tithing, serving, giving ourselves each day to the work He has called us to do in our communities? It is easy to give to missions, pray for ministries, or sit and be inspired by praise music and great sermonizing, but each believer is called to be a “good soldier of Christ Jesus” right where they are. Are you? Are you truly a good soldier of the Lord or are you AWOL? Absent without the Lord.

Timothy was evidently whining to Paul about what a tough assignment he had in Ephesus. Paul did not respond by telling Timothy, “There, there little buddy, you can do it!” Nope, Paul instead tells Timothy “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Tacitly in his words are a reprimand for Timothy and for those of us who are less than good soldiers of the Lord. Buck up and endure the hardship you face. It is temporary and your life in Christ is eternal. You live not for today but forever and you need to live like it matters to you. Good soldiers endure no matter what the circumstances because they know it is expected of them to hold the line and fight on with all of what God has given them. Their time, talent, and treasure.

In America we are offended when we are asked to sacrifice. We think that just by showing up on Sunday, once, and by giving something once in a while, or by going to Sunday School or Bible Study is our “sacrifice.” After all, we “gave up” our Sunday, right? How pathetic is that!? Yet far too many American Christians sit on their behinds in comfort rather than fight in the dirt and grime of the trenches. We have made Christianity into a purpose for life, a concept to follow, a commodity to purchase and use rather than seeing it as a life changing call to sacrifice everything we have to further the work of God’s kingdom. Christians are called to be “good soldiers” of the Lord. That means wearing the uniform with pride, serving with integrity, and doing whatever it takes to further the work of the Lord without any regard for ourselves. Are you a “good soldier” that is not afraid to endure hardship for the sake of the kingdom? Oh, I pray you are!

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

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