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Know your role! — 1 Timothy 2:8-15

Know your role! — 1 Timothy 2:8-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 29, 2017

We all have different roles in life, some we like while others we may not like as much. In our world today there are those who are trying to redefine roles that have been in effect for thousands of years. What we used to think of as an absolute truism that was founded in biology and by the providence of God liberal society has redefined and pushed the boundaries of what was once thought of as foundational. Sadly it has become difficult to preach or teach on what Paul taught his friend Timothy concerning roles between men and women.

In order to fully understand what Paul wrote we cannot allow our emotions or today’s politically correct definitions color what Paul taught and why he taught what he did. The church Timothy pastored and the area it was founded in was one of rampant paganism based on slavery and the subjugation of women as property. To force our preconceived modern-day notions on the world of Paul is a fallacy. In fact if you know history you know that the Christian faith changed all of these accepted social norms of Paul’s day. Let’s discover what Paul wrote about knowing your role…

READ: 1 Timothy 2:8-15

Whether we like it or not psychology, sociology, and history has proven that while men and women can often do the same task and do them quite well, men and women do have defined roles that work best when they are adhered to. One such is that children in fact do need a mom and a dad, a male and a female presence in the home. Statistically children raised in such an environment are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, display less violence and rebellion, do better in school, and go on to college. They are far more likely to have a stable family environment of their own as well. Let’s see what Paul writes the early church concerning…

I. The role of Christian men! (Vv. 2:8, 13-15)

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing… For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

1. This passage is often misunderstood but it is really quite simple. Paul knew in a church where the background of the people was not one of honoring one God, one Creator, and the Messiah but rather was focused on a myriad of gods and a dog-eat-dog style of living there would be a radical change because of Jesus. Some folks would be confused. So Paul begins by telling them, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing”. Men were to be the examples for the rest of the church. Paul knew the home, society, and government was primarily the duty of the men. He is not arguing who or what is better but rather what was in fact true. Men were to lead in their worship, why? Paul writes that it is because “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Certainly all believers should “lift up holy hands in prayer” but Paul was addressing the fact that men were to be the example like Adam was supposed to be. “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Paul is referring to the creation account of the fall of all mankind. He is not absolving Adam’s sinful stupidity or saying that Eve was more gullible and therefore guiltier. He is reminding them of what occurred. Both sinned. God told Eve, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 NIV) And he scolded Adam by telling him, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life… By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17, 19 NIV) Both would be punished “But women will be saved through childbearing” [because of the coming of the Messiah] “if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety”. Not just for eternal salvation but in finding personal contentment in the roles given to both. Paul teaches about the role of men.

EXAMPLE: We cannot allow chauvinism to dictate to us that women or men should be treated differently however within the church and within the family there are well defined roles. Women are far more nurturing and men are more single-minded. Women can focus on several things and be aware of what is going on while men are often so focused on one thing they can miss what is going on around them. I had to laugh because while we were at Disneyland there were parents of about four little ones riding Pirates of the Caribbean. The dad was so focused on the ride he missed the fact one child was leaning over the side trying to drink the water and another was trying to crawl into the seat behind them. Now the mother while holding two other little ones on her lap grabbed the one heading to the back while rescuing the one trying to drink the water. As she grabbed them both she deftly thumped her husband on the head and requested that he “pay a little more attention to your children”. He grinned and apologized. Paul teaches us the role of Christian men here in Timothy.

While there are exceptions to every rule there are certain truisms that remain well the same. Far too many men have given up their role of being the male influence while many women have forsaken being the feminine influence thinking that it has little significance in our day and age. In fact recent studies suggest that there is indeed a strong biological tendency for boys to act like boys and girls to act like girls – go figure! Here in Timothy’s letter Paul suggests…

II. The role of Christian women! (Vv. 9-12)

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

1. Now here is something that is sadly kind of shocking in our day that Paul would want women too dress with some kind of decorum. He writes, “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety”. The idea here is not one of supporting certain fashion statements over another but rather again he is referring to the fact of the culture Timothy ministered in. Greek women did not always dress modestly. Paul was addressing the fact that Christian men and women should be different than the world around them. Believers are not to try to blend in to the point that they join in the disgusting social norms of the world. I have to be honest I was saddened by the way some of the women dressed in Disneyland. In Paul’s day Greek women would spend a lot of their time, money, and efforts on the way they looked; so much so that a lot of money was wasted on their fashions. So he writes that Christian women should not spend their time on “braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God”. Paul is not giving us a Christian fashion statement here; rather he is trying to teach that Christian women are to focus on God first and not their appearance. Their faith would be seen in their actions! In fact Paul would write that “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.” Now before you want to club me to death what Paul is writing here is that the Christian woman should be able to hold herself in check emotionally, spiritually, and physically. And he goes on to shockingly say that “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Wow is Paul an old chauvinist or what? And the answer is “nope in fact quite the opposite”. Paul was not talking about teaching a Sunday School Class but rather those who would try to lord it over their husbands. Instead a believing wife should be willing to reign in herself in order for her husband to fulfill the role he is supposed to! The wife is not to be a doorstop nor a bully but a partner. Paul suggests the role for Christian women.

EXAMPLE: You can learn a lot of things by listening or asking questions of folks while waiting in lines. Again, while at Disneyland I overheard a kind of rough-looking older woman speaking to two younger college-aged girls in line. They were talking about their tattoos. One girl asked the older woman if she regretted getting some of her “tats” and she immediately responded, “Yes.” She regretted it she explained because the ones she had no longer represented who she was. She went on to say that she had gotten most of them before she came to Christ and they now represented those things she was completely opposed to. She was adorned with skulls, the words “Death”, “Hell”, and something about dying young. One rather large one depicted a scene with demons, flames, drugs, and rock and roll. “Plus,” she went on, “I would not have gotten so many.” Now I am not either for tattoos or against them but this woman depicted exactly what Paul was trying to teach here in his letter to Timothy of just how a Christian woman is supposed to act. Christian women are to reflect Jesus and here Paul suggests the role for Christian women.

Conclusion:

Here in Paul’s letter to Timothy we discover the role of Christian men and the role of Christian women.

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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False teachers exist! – 1 Timothy 1:1-11

False teachers exist! – 1 Timothy 1:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 1, 2017

We live in a day where any convoluted and faulty theology is readily accepted and protected by a non-critical thinking society. My Daddy used to say that it is “okay to be open-minded but not to the point where your brains fall out and you step on them.” Far too many think that acceptance of the individual means we can never disagree with or question what the individual thinks, says, or does. I say “hogwash!” There are false teachers who want you to believe or follow their latest form of theological perversion. Take for instance the recent proclamation that the world was supposed to end last week or is it next week or the week after? Who knows? And do not get me started with those who come up with the latest and greatest end-times scenario, bleah! False teachers exist!

The Apostle Paul wrote his friend and new pastor Timothy in order to mentor and help him in his new ministry as a young pastor. Evidently he was facing some problems that needed some attention. Paul had come to Derbe and Lystra with Barnabas and had become acquainted with Timothy who plainly was a talented young man that God had called to be one of the early church’s first pastors. One of the early arguments against Christianity and Paul was that Paul was teaching a different gospel than Jesus had taught. Theological purity was absolutely necessary and Paul’s detractors knew it. Unlike our day where any view is validated, one did not stray from their master’s teachings in Paul’s day and even in Paul’s day false teachers existed, let’s see what that means…

READ: 1 Timothy 1:1-11

Far from disagreeing to the color of the mat in the foyer or what kind of timbrel to use in worship music the discussion in Paul’s day often went to the core of who Jesus was, what he taught, and what this meant. Paul lets us know that…

I. False teachers exist to promote false teaching! (Vv. 1-4)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work–which is by faith.

1. Like most letters of his day Paul immediately introduces himself and his bona fides; his legitimacy and credentials for addressing the issue in which he wrote his letter to Timothy about. Namely that he was in fact “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope”. My Dad used the bona fides of “because I said so” and that was good enough for us! However, Paul was an apostle sent out by the Messiah Jesus by the strict command of God! His letter was to “Timothy my true son in the faith”. Paul is letting anyone who questions Timothy about his bona fides that he was Paul’s “true son in the faith” and not some false teacher! And he continues by telling them “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul was not in this for himself unlike his counterfeit contenders. So Paul tells Timothy, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.” Timothy’s job as a pastor was to make sure the gospel was taught truthfully and adhered to Jesus’ teachings. Some within Timothy’s church or in the area where he ministered wanted to drag them away from the “grace, mercy and peace” of Jesus and back into endless arguments about superstitions, fables, and family lineages! Paul knew if Timothy stood firm in the truth of the gospel, these heresies would fade because false teachers exist to promote false teaching!

EXAMPLE: Recently as I was taking a nap in my easy-chair when two finely dressed young ladies came to my front door. I was half-asleep with an unshaven beard and I could have sworn flies were lighting on me as I coughed and scratched my stomach while heading to the door. In the fog off my half-asleep mind I still immediately realized who they were and what they represented. One sweetly smiled at me and proceeded to hand me a tablet she used to pull up a video clip. “I have a short video to share with you…” but before she could get out another word I remarked, “Jesus is Jehovah to me.” The made a hasty retreat. False teachers exist to promote false teaching!

Interestingly much of what is taught today about the return of Jesus comes from the likes of

Jehovah’s Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventism rather than what is actually written within Scripture. Rather than teaching what the Bible actually says some authors are more interested in advancing themselves. Paul teaches us that…

II. False teachers exist to promote themselves! (Vv. 5-7)

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

1. Contrary to the fables, superstitions, and endless arguments about genealogies Paul tells Timothy that “The goal of this command [of Jesus] is love”! Wow what a difference between the good news of Jesus and the heavy load of superstition and Jewish fascination with minutiae and trivial arguments! These things are man-focused while the gospel “comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” No believer should ever promote themselves over the good news of Jesus and no Christian should ever do it out of selfish ambition or personal gain! The gospel of Jesus is about the truth of God and should always be given in sincerity and purity. Paul reminds Timothy that “Some have wandered away from [having a pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith] and turned to meaningless talk.” These false teachers of Paul’s day had ulterior motives, “They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” They were stuck in the past and clung to the notion that they could earn God’s mercy, grace, and peace by doing the same things over and over again but never changing themselves! They feared they would lose the audiences and accolades of the people they had enjoyed. Jesus’ taught that salvation could be found in faith in him and happiness in life was discovered by walking with him in fellowship! What were they supposed to do with their genealogical charts and their endless pontificating concerning what the law was all about? They would lose their standing in the synagogue and their financial support as itinerant teachers! Paul knew that false teachers exist to promote themselves!

EXAMPLE: I confess I do not watch Christian television because there are so many heresies promoted on these channels. However, the other day I was bored and so I turned one on in a moment of weakness and there on the stage was a chubby guy with dyed hair and huge charts and graphs on the wall behind him. He was droning on about Jesus’ return we could be prepared if we just followed his teachings. Of course for a mere $29.95, plus shipping and handling, I could have his latest DVD and book about the subject! I wondered out loud that if his teaching on the subject was so important for the world to know why he didn’t simply give it away free! Then I remembered what Paul told Timothy: False teachers exist to promote themselves!

Many supposedly spiritual books, movies, and seminars are completely ungodly. Far too many in our day and age encourage a quasi Christian hedonism rather than spiritual purity. Paul knew that…

III. False teachers are contrary to sound doctrine! (Vv. 8-11)

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

1. Paul did not have a problem with some of what these men were trying to teach but rather how they applied what they were teaching. Paul knew in fact that “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.” Paul was not an enemy of the Law of Moses, however, these men were not using it to teach about Jesus, but instead they were using it to promote themselves. The law of God was a guidepost and a standard to show our sinful nature. Paul writes that “We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious”. Those who followed God had no worries, but the law revealed the ungodly for what they actually were. The Law pulled aside the curtain. Therefore if one used it properly, for the purpose for which it was intended, the law would point them to Jesus! Paul then defines for Timothy what these lawbreakers, rebels, ungodly, sinful, unholy, and irreligious people were! There are those “who kill their fathers or mothers” in order to gain financially. There are “murderers” who kill others without reason; “adulterers” who have sexual relationships outside of their marriages; and “perverts” – this word describes being profane. In other words Paul is describing those who enjoyed and encouraged others to be socially and spiritually deviant. Sound familiar? Paul also included “slave traders and liars and perjurers”. Slavery would end because of Christianity and believers are not to lie or bear false witness ever. Point in fact Paul bluntly remarks that “whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to” him as his apostle was evil as well! Paul knew that false teachers are contrary to sound doctrine!

EXAMPLE: Contrary to what some teach today God is not a black woman found in a shack and Jesus is not a hippie. God is more concerned with your spiritual eternity than he is about your emotional state for the moment. It saddens me that far too much of what is taught in churches, books, and Christian materials has more to do with making excuses for our “Christian” hedonism rather than living a holy life for the Lord. We want to mold Jesus into our modern day world and make him into someone he is not. I learned a long time ago from a very godly man than anyone or anything that makes the qualifier of “Jesus and” or “Jesus plus” is the beginning of heresy. In fact we learn from Paul that false teachers are contrary to sound doctrine!

Conclusion:

False teachers exist to promote false teaching! False teachers exist to promote themselves! False teachers are contrary to sound doctrine!

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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United! – Acts 2:42-47

United! – Acts 2:42-47
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 11, 2017

Unity, what does it mean to be unified? I know as a military unit you have to work together to achieve the same objective in order to win the battle. As a company you have to be on the same page as to what your objectives, projections, and costs are. And if you are a church the Scriptures teach us that we are to be united as well in order to achieve the kingdom of God here on earth until Jesus returns, but what does that mean and what does it look like?

In our day and age few churches teach about unity except as a spiritual concept or construct but few believers understand or know what it means for the body of Christ, his church, to be unified. In the book of Acts, which is the early history of the first century church we discover that they were united in purpose. Let’s find out what that means for us today…

READ: Acts 2:42-47

If a group wants to achieve anything worthwhile the members have to be on the same page and working together. When they don’t they are dysfunctional, however, in the Book of Acts we discover that…

I. The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! (Vv. 42-43)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

1. Dedication comes in many forms; some make their dedication into a ritual. They do the same things every day in the same way in order to achieve a specific goal. Whether it is running a certain distance, losing weight, or reading through the Bible folks who are successful in achieving their goals have a certain amount of dedication and the early church was no different. However, notice what they were dedicated to: First, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”. There was no New Testament written yet and so they devoted themselves or steadfastly continued in what they had learned about the gospel message and the teachings of Jesus. The gospel became their basic manual and teaching for how they were to conduct themselves and live their lives as Christians. Paul and other apostles began to write commentary in the form of personal letters in how to achieve this. They also continued in “the fellowship” of the church. This means they were members of a local church and made sure to keep themselves in fellowship. The word is the Greek koinonia which refers to a communal attitude and intimate working together. This is possible because believers share the Holy Spirit. Their devotion to learning, being discipled, and to their church was a conscious decision. It demanded personal sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure! Secondly they devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. Now some suggest that this means eating together rather than observing the Lord’s Supper regularly, but I am more inclined that Luke meant it as further evidence of their devotion to fellowshipping with one another in a spiritual capacity. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper and common prayer does unite a church body and we discover that because of their willingness to focus on spiritual learning and furthering their spiritual connection to one another that “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” Much of the modern church has lost its awe of the wonder of God in its midst because we think church should be about promoting us and not our common relationship with the Lord. Here in Acts we discover that the early church was dedicated to their spirituality!

EXAMPLE: She and her children wept when they found out they had to move out of the area. They wept because they were leaving a church family they loved. Being a part of something because it fulfills a check off list for your kids, your personal experience, or the jazzy music is not the same as becoming part of a local body that becomes your spiritual family. When you worship, serve, pray and are discipled together you form mutual spiritual bonds that are strong or even stronger than your physical family. Because we share the same Spirit we call one another brother or sister. The early church understood this and was dedicated to their spirituality!

Families come together as they build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Churches are like families and they too are to build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness; this is done according to the Book of Acts as well. We discover that…

II. The early church was willing to share with one another! (Vv. 44-45)

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

1. Notice that Luke tells us that within the Jerusalem Church “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” In the original Greek it literally states that “all that believed” were together. This is important because it tells us that the first requirement of being part of the church was to be a member. In order to be a member certain criteria had to be met: 1) Members had to be a believers meaning that you had to have placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and you had to have followed through in baptism; complete immersion. The word used in the Bible for church is the Greek word ekklesia, meaning a group of called out (ek – a primary preposition from which the action proceeds, like example) or specifically elected people (klesia a derivative of kaleō – where we get call from) who are called out to do a specific task. In this case the spreading of the good news. Christ does his work through his called out folks in the local church. The church is Jesus’ called out body in the world. As Paul would state, “we are members of his body”. (Ephesians 5:30 NIV) It is through the local church that our time, our talent, and our treasure are best utilized for the furthering of God’s Kingdom! The church knows that “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:29 NIV) We know that “the collection for God’s people” should be done “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income”. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NIV) And Paul again reminds us that our time, talent, and treasure are to be measured out generously: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV) We find that the early church had this spiritual concept down pat and had implemented it in the real world by “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” True believers have a generous spirit because Jesus gave to us generously and was willing to sacrifice for those he never met! The early church was willing to share with one another!

EXAMPLE: This is not communism, which some vainly try to equate it with. It is not the government taking everything from the populace and then doling it out as it sees fit. Rather this is a communal sharing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the lives of Jesus’ body the church by its active members. They were not compelled to do this but did it willingly out of the abundance of their own hearts. The early church was willing to share with one another!

We are often told that “Good things happen to those who do good things.” The Scriptures teach us continually that one reaps what they sow in this life so if a church stays united we learn that…

III. The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth! (Vv. 46-47)

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

1. The outcome of a church fellowship staying close and being united was evident. We discover that the result for the early church was that “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” This would be like our church meeting every day down in front of the county court house praying, worshipping, and singing hymns together! Every day the early church in Jerusalem went up to the temple, at the time of prayer! Wow, can you imagine what kind of witness this was for the early church to the rest of Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin. Later the early Christians would be forced out of their local synagogues and the temple because so many of the Hebrew people were being converted to Christianity. We also learn that in places like Ephesus “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus” instead. (Acts 19:8-9 NIV) In fact, because so many people were converting to Christianity in the area of Asia Minor it affected the sales of silver idols and so “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.” (Acts 19:23 NIV) The fact is that when believers are unified and doing what they are supposed to do they influence their communities, neighborhoods, and nations! We find that the church “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” This is being the salt and light, the holy leaven in a sinful world. The outcome of such unified living is that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” If the church stays united there will be physical and spiritual growth!

EXAMPLE: Some churches depend on programs, music, a really good show to bring in the people, but this is in a way false advertising. When the music, program, or show changes the audience leaves. They are not invited to become part of the family of God, the body of Christ. Instead they were brought into a concert hall atmosphere whereby if the entertainment is not to their liking they will leave and go to the next “spiritual” venue down the road. Yes you can grow a crowd and call it a church, but a true body of believers is made up of those who have commonality in Spirit, relationship, and discipleship of the gospel. We discover that the early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!

Conclusion:

The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! The early church was willing to share with one another! The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!
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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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The principles of a powerful prayer meeting, Part 2

The principles of a powerful prayer meeting, Part 2
By Pastor Lee Hemen’
October 23, 2011 AM

Last time, we asked why Elijah, Moses, Joshua, Jesus and Paul were so filled with confidence when praying about the impossible that they often announced that it would take place even before they prayed! How could they be so sure that God would answer their prayers? I believe it was because they had paid the price of being alone with God. They had come to know the very heart and intent of God. They began to see life from his perspective instead of their own. Fervent focused prayer surged through their spiritual souls and it beat with the intense intimacy they shared with the Father. They sought the Lord until they knew what he was doing and joined him in doing it! Therefore, they saw the power of God displayed in response to their prayers. This is the very essence of what Jesus meant by abiding in him, without which we will not know what God’s will is or what to ask him.

We find that the early church experienced the very same thing in their prayers as well, so much, so that they were confident in their prayers and their outcome. Much of today’s church is based on so much programming, manufactured hype, and commercialism that it often does not depend on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a look at what the rest of the principles are that the early church experienced that helped them to have empowered prayer.

READ: Acts 12:1-12

We are so instinctively “me-centered” in our thinking and praying that it will take spiritual discipline in addition, discernment to force it from our prayers. Until we do, we will not receive what we ask because, as James 4:3 teaches, we will ask wrongly in order to get something from God! However, God-focused prayer calls us to a different kind of lifestyle. When the early church took on this kind of prayer focus, they experienced the power of God. What we find is that the church experienced a…

I. Deep koinonia!

1. Christian fellowship is the opening of a Christian’s heart to one another!
1) There are three episodes from the life of the Early Church that teach us the power the church experienced because of prayer. In Acts 2:42-43 we find that the church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.” Because of their sensitivity to the working of God in their midst a godly “fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.” Then in Acts 4:31-33 we find that “those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them.” Finally, in Acts 5:12-16 we discover that “Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles” and that “believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers.” In fact, those that were sick “and those who were tormented by unclean spirits… were all healed.” What made the difference? It is something that many churches in our day and age lack: koinonia! It was a deep abiding fellowship with one another. Look again and you find that “they devoted themselves” to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. They were of “one heart and soul” and decided to have “everything in common” with each other. Wow! Christians desire people in their lives who truly care, yet almost everything the modern church does, thwarts this. Mega cannot promote intimacy and you cannot program true fellowship. Koinonia comes from a spiritual connection that is based in our relationship with the Lord. John would write, “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” (1 John 2:10 NIV) Peter would say, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22 NIV) The early church’s prayers were powerful because they enjoyed a deep koinonia.

EXAMPLE: John Franklin concluded from his study in Acts that “God worked in their lives in proportion to the degree of their koinonia, the quality of love between believers. Their favor with God flowed from his pleasure in their depth of fellowship.” (“And the Place Was Shaken,” by John Franklin, page 40.) Years ago, when speaker of the house Sam Rayburn heard he had terminal cancer, he shocked everyone when he announced he was going back to his small town in Bonham, Texas. People said to him, “They have got the finest facilities in Washington, D. C. Why go back to that little town?” Rayburn’s response resonates with something inside us all. He said, “Because in Bonham, Texas, they know if you’re sick, and they care when you die.” (Submitted by J. R. Love, Ruston, Louisiana, PreachingToday.com.) He was speaking of the kind of koinonia a small town displays. God empowers the prayers of those who enjoy spiritual koinonia one with another!

We will pray more impassionedly when we trust those with whom we are praying. Trust is built when our lives brush up against one another; when we share our faith and we walk the tough times together. This is why small groups are a key spiritual element to our church’s life. We simply don’t have time to build close relationships in Worship. Koinonia fuels fervent effective prayer that is real, binds wounds, and shares with one another so that friendship and care increases. Without it, our praying together will be surface only and the power of God constrained. However, we discover that it wasn’t just the close koinonia that empowered the early church’s prayer it also came from…

II. Clean hearts!

1. Purity in the heart produces power in one’s life!
1) We find this principle from the very first stories in Genesis where Adam and Eve hide from God to the final chapter of Revelation where God’s holy saints surround the heavenly throne! God has always required a right heart from those to whom he will reveal himself. All who miss this point miss God. Go back and look at when Cain and Abel brought their offerings to God. God respected Abel and his offerings, but he rejected Cain and his offerings. Why? The Bible makes it plain that God’s approval or refusal was squarely based on the person making the offering. God’s response is always directly linked to the condition of the heart of the one worshipping. At the dedication of the new temple, this is why he tells the Israelites, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15 NIV) God answers a person or a people in proportion to how they are walking with him. He never differentiates between the thing requested and the one making the request. Another way to say that is this: God doesn’t just answer prayer; he answers you! David understood this spiritual concept and why he would sing, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalms 51:9-10 NIV) This is also, why Paul warned his friend Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 NIV) Clean hearts lead to empowered prayer!

EXAMPLE: A classic example of this occurred in a prayer meeting in the Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland. Christians there had been imploring God for some time to send revival and spiritual awakening. Finally, during a Friday night prayer meeting, a 16-year-old youth prayed, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior.” (Psalms 24:3-5 NIV) He then began to ask God if his heart was pure. Others in the room began to inspect their walk with God, to confess their sins, and to renew a right relationship with God. At that moment, God began to transform lives on those islands. In fact, as they were praying God woke up most of the town at midnight, and they gathered at the village square asking how to be saved. Once the hearts of those Christians were cleansed, God worked mightily through them. God empowers the prayers of those with clean hearts!

I have often been amazed at churches with two similar worship services where one well be Spirit-filled, vibrant, and hearts responsive; while the other service, with the same message and music, will be cold, flat, and unresponsive. The difference simply depends on the spiritual condition of the hearts of those in attendance. The psalmist was absolutely right when he deduced, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” (Psalms 66:18-19 NIV) A believer either helps or hinders the movement of God’s Spirit in respect to their spiritual cleanliness. In fact, we discover that this extends to the unity of believers as well. In order to have empowered prayer a church needs to be in…

III. One accord!

1. The church consists of two types of folks: the saints and the aints!
1) Five times in the first five chapters of Acts, the KJV Bible relates that the disciples were in “one accord.” Each time the Greek word used is “homothumadon,” which is a compound word meaning, “same passion, combined heat, or shared glow.” The early church shared the same burning passionate heart. This spiritual unity reflected in their praying together, meeting together, fellowshipping together, beseeching God together, and doing miracles together! How important was unity? Jesus prayed, “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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23 NIV) We reflect and bring God glory through our loving, selfless, servant attitude toward one another! This harmony is directly connected to God’s patent presence and power in the pages of Scripture. Paul would admonish his readers that Christians were to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3 NIV) Those who deliberately tried to sow discord in the church were declared as “blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:12-13 NIV) God said they were like a “scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth!” (Proverbs 6:12 NIV) Wow! For a person or church to experience empowered prayer, they have to be in one accord!

EXAMPLE: David McCasland wrote in Our Daily Bread about “a demonstration of sheep-herding using a Border Collie, the dog trainer explained that because sheep are highly vulnerable to wild animals, their main defense against predators is to stay together in a tightly knit group. ‘A sheep alone is a dead sheep,’ the trainer said. ‘The dog always keeps the sheep together as it moves them.’” He continued by stating, “The biblical image of God as our shepherd is a powerful reminder of how much we need each other in the community of faith. When writing about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the psalmist said, ‘[God] made His own people go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; and He led them on safely, so that they did not fear’ (Psalm 78:52-53). As part of God’s flock, we who have trusted Christ are under His guiding, protecting hand while being surrounded by the shielding presence of others. We are part of a larger body of believers in which there is safety and accountability. While we don’t give up our personal responsibility for thought and action as members of the flock, we are to embrace the concept of ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ in our daily lives. With Christ as our Shepherd and fellow believers around us, we find safety in the flock.” We are in one accord!

Conclusion:
We find that the early church experienced empowered prayer because of their deep koinonia, clean hearts, and their being in one accord. What kind of prayer do you experience?
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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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Principles for a Powerful Prayer Meeting, Part 1 – Acts 12:1-11

Principles for a Powerful Prayer Meeting, Part 1 – Acts 12:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 16, 2011 AM

There is a plain marker on a neglected grave in a cemetery near the Canadian border that reads, “Daniel Nash, Pastor, Laborer with Finney, Mighty in Prayer.” Who was Nash? He never had the limelight but he shook heaven and hell because he believed in the power of prayer. Charles Finney, a former lawyer turned preacher by the call of God, was one of the key figures during the Second Great Awakening in 19th Century America. In the seven years in which Finney preached, there were an estimated 500,000 conversions. However, if you asked Finney, he would have given the credit for his crusades to Daniel Nash. When Finney went to a city to preach, Nash would arrive several weeks early, rent a room, find other Christians to join him, and start a prayer meeting to pray for souls. He rarely attended but stayed hidden, agonized in prayer for the conviction of the Holy Spirit to melt people’s hearts. Finney and Nash traveled thousands of miles together, in prayer and proclamation of the Gospel. In1831, Nash took ill. On December 20th, while on his knees in prayer over a map of the world, Nash died at age 56.

In this week’s passage, we find the early church faced with insurmountable odds. Foes to the gospel message and the church were everywhere. From the national leadership to the religious establishment, the early church faced almost certain extermination. Yet in the midst of severe persecution, we find the church growing and God doing miraculous things. One should ask, “What did the early church know that today’s church has forgotten?” We will discover principles for a powerful prayer meeting…

READ: Acts 12:1-11

I am interested in prayer warriors like Nash and the early church! Those who willingly do battle for souls, overcome obstacles, and move God’s hand. As we look into God’s Word at the early church in Acts, we discover that kind of prayer. As we are asking God to teach us how to pray as a congregation as well as individuals, I thought it well to show you principles for a powerful prayer meeting. In the next two weeks, we will focus on five principles. Today we will focus on two of these. We discover that the early church…

I. Focused on God!

1. A Christian is out of spiritual sync until they focus on the Lord!
1) It means tuning to God’s agenda and joining him there! Have you ever done a comparison between the way the apostles approached Christ in the Gospels and the way they approached Him in the book of Acts? In the gospels their immature requests included calling fire down from heaven to consume those who rejected Jesus, sending people away hungry, and arguing about who would sit on the right and left hand of the throne when they got to heaven! They constantly demonstrated a lack of faith. Consequently, our Lord rarely did what they asked. However, when you turn to the book of Acts, you find a completely different result. We find 3000 converted in a single day, rooms shaken, prison doors opened, and the church established throughout the known world! What made the difference? Very simply, they went from being on their own agenda to being on God’s agenda. They changed from being self-centered to being God-centered. In fact, we find that when King Herod had Peter arrested, the church prays: “Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Persecution has a way of getting people’s attention. What was true then is certainly true for our lives as well. Whenever we are faced with the extreme difficulties of life, we immediately ask people to pray! We are out of spiritual sync until we focus on the Lord!

EXAMPLE: Way back in Acts 4, Peter and John are released with threats of what would happen to them if they spoke in the name of Jesus again. They go back and report this to their friends who immediately “raised their voices together in prayer to God!” (Acts 4:24) Interestingly, we discover that they spend five verses recounting how God works even through ungodly rulers and they finish by praying, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30 NIV) As a result, the place where they were praying was shaken as a physical sign of the power of God falling on them! Sadly, I believe that 90 percent of our prayers focus on us rather than winning the lost! When most of our praying is about our needs, we are focusing on us rather than God’s purposes. We need to focus on God with our prayers if we want our community and world won to Jesus!

While I believe that God is interested in our daily needs, we can become so caught up in them we forget about the plan of God. Jesus did not come to give us an easier life here and now, he came to seek and save the lost. His last commands to his followers consisted of telling them to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) The early church took this very seriously and it was not until the 1980’s that the American church lost this focus. We discover that the early church…

II. Followed God’s lead!

1. Far too often Christians sing, “Where he leads I will follow,” when in their heart they mean, “Where I lead, God should follow!”
1) Consider this: How is it that Elijah could believe that God would respond to his prayer by sending fire from heaven and consuming the water-soaked sacrifice? How could Moses think God would split the Red Sea when the Egyptian army was chasing the people of Israel? How could Joshua ask the sun to stand still? What made Jesus think a four-day-old stinking corpse could live again? They asked for the impossible because they were so God-oriented that they knew what he was doing and where he was working. Notice that in each case that discernment and knowledge flowed from their relationship with God through prayer! They had paid the price in prayer and therefore understood God’s perspective and joined him there! It is important to note that this is exactly what Jesus taught about his own life: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19 NIV) Jesus always discerned the heart of God and then acted. He calls us to that same kind of walk. In Acts, we find the disciples together in prayer. In fact, “the church was earnestly praying to God for” Peter! What occurs? “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.” (Acts 12:7 NIV) We learn that “Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.’” (Acts 12:11 NIV) Both Peter and the church followed God’s lead!

EXAMPLE: Let’s look at an incident from Daniel Nash’s life. In one city, a group of young men confronted Finney and announced they were going to break up the meetings. Finney and Nash decided to combat them with prayer, so they found a grove of trees and gave themselves to prayer until, in Finney’s words, “we felt confident that no power which earth or hell… would be allowed permanently to stop the revival.” That night, the group of young men arrived to find a packed house to hear Finney preach. Nash, who was ordinarily a quiet man, stood and faced them with these words, “Now mark me, young men! God will break your ranks in less than one week, either by converting some of you or by sending some of you to hell. He will do this as certainly as the Lord is my God!” Having said that, Nash dropped to his seat, bowed his head and groaned in prayer. Finney thought his friend had gone too far. Yet by the next Tuesday, the leader of the group suddenly showed up in tears and confession. He trusted Christ. Before the week was out, almost all of the young men were converted. That kind of discernment comes only to those who have a lifestyle of prayer focused on God and are willing to follow his lead!

Conclusion:
The principles of a powerful prayer meeting begin in focusing on God and then following his lead! Paul would write his friend Philemon, “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 1:4-6 NIV) Paul focused on God and followed his lead do you?
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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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