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Exhortation, encouragement, and prayer! – Philippians 4:1-9

Exhortation, encouragement, and prayer! – Philippians 4:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 26, 2018

How do others see your faith? How do those who witnessed to you or mentored you find your faith walk? Often time we can get so caught up in how the world sees us that we forget or begin to think it unimportant how fellow believers view us. In fact some try do hard to blend in with the world that their church, Christian fellowship, and their daily devotion to the Lord suffer.

Here in this last chapter of his letter to the Philippian church Paul desired that they know exactly how he saw their faith. And so he end this letter with not just advice on how to be stronger and more devoted believers, he writes to exhort, encourage, and pray for them. In his words we can find spiritual truths that will help us this morning as well. Let’s take a fresh look at what Paul wrote…

READ: Philippians 4:1-9

Lately I have been watching the Little League World Series. I enjoy the sheer joy, sometimes sadness, and frustration that these youngsters openly display as they play a game they love. What is truly inspiring is to listen and watch as their coaches go out to calm them down or sooth their shaken spirits. Like Paul with the Philippian church they urge them to remember the joy they have and to enjoy the moment. Here we find Paul…

I. Exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus! (Vv. 1-3)

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

1. There are those who think that simply because they know someone who is nice, kind, and or accepting then they are “good people”. I knew a man who was nice, kind and accepted just about anyone but he was a drunkard and spent every penny he made on booze. Just because someone is “nice” doesn’t make them saved. Nor does it mean that God smiles at their little indiscretions. Paul wrote the Philippians that he desired they be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. So, he writes “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” In a world that hates holiness this is extremely important! Evidently some at Philippi had forgotten whom they followed. “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” These two women had become so caught up in their problems with each other it had boiled over into the church itself! These two women, Euodia and Syntyche, did not live up to the meanings of their names. “Euodia” means a “prosperous journey.” “Syntyche” means a “pleasant acquaintance.” Instead they were causing dissention and nothing was prosperous or pleasant about their behavior! Evidently Paul had to ask for help in this matter from fellow church members. “Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” These women who had once worked side-by-side with one another and Paul were pulling in opposite directions! “Yokefellow” her could be a proper name which is “Syzygus” and Paul needed his, Clemet’s, and the rest of the church’s help! We find Paul therefore exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Interestingly when we went to Wyoming we went on a wagon train ride. The two horses were huge Percherons named Mike and Pay. Each horse knew exactly how to pull the wagon and worked together to do so. They started, stopped, and turned together in perfect unison. I found it also interesting that the teams were almost exclusively made up of all female teams or all male teams. They discovered that these horses worked best, pulled together, and minded well when they were of the same sex and not trying to “impress” or flirt with one another! Christians can lose their focus in life.  We find Paul exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus!

Sometimes every one of us can use a good kick in the pants in order for us to remember who we are. But more than that we sometimes need to be reminded of what our attitude should be like if we truly follow Jesus. We can get so down on ourselves or others. Here we discover Paul…

II. Encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord! (Vv. 4-7)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1. Life can throw trials and troubles our way but when the Lord is in our lives these things are put into perspective. Paul with a few short sentences reminds us what our attitude should be in life when he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Paul wasn’t telling Christians to be happy all the time nor was he saying we should force ourselves to be exuberant. Rejoicing for the believer should be a way of life because it is a state of being in Jesus! When we have the Creator of all things living inside of us through the power of the Holy Spirit we have everything we need. Certainly there are circumstances in which Christians cannot be happy. But they can always rejoice in the Lord and delight in him. Paul continues by telling believers that we should let our “gentleness be evident to all.” Jesus the gentle Lamb of God is the great pacifier first between God and man and also with one another and can take the angriest heart and make it gentle. And for Paul the reason was obvious because “The Lord is near.” Not just that he would return soon but the plain fact he is always near those who love him. He lives in us! Joy and gentleness and the reminder that Jesus is always near had to be a great encouragement for Christians throughout the ages. When we as believers do feel anxious, and we will sooner or later, Paul reminds us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Paul uses four words to describe our communication with the Lord: Prayer meaning speaking with God, petition meaning our requests, thanksgiving meaning our grateful attitude, and requests which is different than petitions because one is supplications and this is asking for what we truly need. If we can do this then “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul reminds us of our delight in the Lord by encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord!

EXAMPLE: In Jackson Hole I was reminded how my grandparents endured great hardships to build a life there in the Teton and Jackson area. They lost children to disease, lost a home due to a natural flood, and they could have given up. I learned that they were supposed to be one of the few families chosen by the early Latter Day Saints to open the area up for the heresies of Mormonism. However, my grandmother returned to her Christian roots and she and my mother would clean and set up what is now known as the Church of the Transfiguration in the Teton National Park, an Episcopal church. They were very faithful and returned to what they knew to be true in Jesus. I find it wonderful to discover Paul encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord!

Our walk with the Lord should produce certain spiritual and outward characteristics in our life. Why, because our focus in life is to be different than the world’s. The world wants us to have good feelings about one another, to always be kind, and to accept anyone, anytime, for anything they want to do as long as it fits their personal paradigm of what they think the world should be like at that moment. Paul reminds his readers that because of their salvation they have been changed and their focus in life has changed as well. Paul finishes by…

III. Praying that believers should practice what they preach! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

1. Paul ends his teaching by relating, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Aren’t these the very things all believers should focus on in life? These are the attributes Christians are to display in life! For Paul thinking about such things is the same as doing them. In fact you had to actually do them in order to think about them! Being true because Jesus is the truth, being noble because Jesus was noble in life, being right and pure because we are called to holy living, and going after what is lovely, admirable, and whatever is excellent or praiseworthy in life. There are those who think that acceptance of perversion or being kind is the answer to the world’s problems of racism, hatred, or strife but Jesus wanted his followers to be like him; and these characteristics that Paul lists exemplifies Jesus! Never forget that Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24 NIV)” Paul fully understood what this meant because he first and foremost followed Jesus and therefore could write the Philippians that “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice.” Wow! Could we all say the same thing with our Christian example? Could we dare other believers to exemplify or put into practice what they see in our lives In Jesus? I wonder. However if we were to follow what Paul writes here we can rest assured we are following and practicing what Jesus would do. Finally, Paul ends this section by praying that “the peace of God will be with you”! The peace of God is not just the absence of strife or violence; it is the inner change displayed outwardly in our lives in Jesus! What a wonderful thing to read Paul praying that believers should practice what they preach!

EXAMPLE: Today we will observe the Lord’s Supper. There is nothing mystical or magical about doing so. It in no way imparts any grace or special dispensation to the adherent. If it did we would do it every week and we would not have to place our complete faith and trust in Jesus. Sinful man cannot atone for their sins, we are not holy nor are we seen as the sacrifice God required. If you do not believe me read Galatians and Hebrews. What it does is to remind us of who we follow and what he did for us. We observe it to honor him who sacrificed himself for our sin condition. Now we are to live like we believe it. We are to live everyday in remembrance of him. I find it encouraging that Paul prayed that believers should practice what they preach!

Conclusion:

Exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus! Encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord! Praying that believers should practice what they preach!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 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 Answer for Your Nation’s Future

The Answer for Your Nation’s Future
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2016

I know that some of you have encouraged caution and understanding toward those who are mentally unraveled because of Trump’s win, but to be honest it is getting harder and harder to do as each day pass and when another liberal screed is shoved at us from the liberal elites.

I was reminded by a very thoughtful personal friend that the rioting of the Vietnam era actually solidified moderates, independents, and conservatives to vote for Nixon and later Reagan. The riots today are actually doing the very same thing. Already several folk I know who voted for Sanders or Hillary are now completely dismayed at what they are hearing and seeing. One commented that she was now glad Trump won and hoped only the best for him and the Nation. When I asked her why the change she remarked “Look at those who are now rioting or sending hateful messages; that’s not me nor does it represent who I am. I am appalled.”

While I understand someone’s depression when their candidate lost, I do not understand their vitriol, contempt, or hatred. You would not have seen the same actions from those of us who voted for Trump if he lost. You did not see it from us when Obama won twice. Yes we wrote about his inability to lead, but we never encouraged violence, hatred, or murdering him. Now I am not talking about the ultra-conservative lunatic fringe. And what we are seeing now from the left is too often tacitly condoned by the media and others.

Actress Lea DeLaria found herself in hot water after she wrote on Instagram that she wanted to “take out” Republicans and Independents with a baseball bat. Only she used vulgarities that I will not include in this post. Others have done the same thing and many going so far as to ask that someone shoot Trump with a sniper rifle.

Fashion designer Andrew Warren has had to come to the defense of his longtime friend Tiffany Trump following a barrage of hateful posts and death threats against her and her family. And he has had to suffer vulgar hate-filled messages from his friendship with her.

The CEO of Grubhub, an online food delivery service, sent a company-wide email strongly suggesting employees who agree with President-elect Donald Trump’s behaviors and his campaign rhetoric should resign. It was a worded threat to those who voted for Trump.

Perhaps one of the best responses was by Jennifer Lawrence and while I totally disagree with her political views I believe what she wrote should be embraced by those who are struggling. The actress responded to President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, in an essay posted Thursday morning that she wrote for Broadly, Vice’s women’s interest channel. She wrote that “I want to be positive; I want to support our democracy, but what can we take away from this? It’s a genuine question that we all need to ask ourselves,” writes the Oscar-winning actress. “We shouldn’t blame anyone, we shouldn’t riot in the streets. We should think strongly and clearly about what to do next because we cannot change the past.” And concluded her remarks by writing “Do not let this defeat you — let this enrage you! Let it motivate you!” Lawrence added. “Let this be the fire you didn’t have before. If you are an immigrant, if you are a person of color, if you are LGBTQ+, if you are a woman — don’t be afraid, be loud!”

What Ms Lawrence is encouraging is exactly what those who voted for Trump went door-to-door for him and what they did to get him elected. Many Americans, me included, are not totally overjoyed at Trump being President but we could not stand by and let the same old thing happen again and have a completely corrupt individual who disdains her own Nation’s security be President.

Just remember as there is zany and unrealistic rhetoric to succeed from the Union, violent riots, and vulgar Facebook posts and Tweets you can throw the bum out in four years! Do what you encouraged us in middle class America to do the past eight long and frustrating years: Pray for your Nation, your leaders, and yes the President, because whether you want to believe it or not we did.

As believers we are to show compassion and encouragement to those around us, and we are to pray for the lost and our Nation.
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This article is copyrighted © 2016 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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Take Comfort In God’s Strength! – Isaiah 40:1-8, 10-11, 27-31

Take Comfort In God’s Strength! – Isaiah 40:1-8, 10-11, 27-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 9, 2014 AM

We live in a world that worships the immediate. When the Polaroid SX-70 camera was introduced in 1972, it revolutionized photography. An article by Owen Edward in Smithsonian magazine described the camera as “a miracle of physics, optics and electronics.” When a photo was snapped, “a blank square would emerge from the front of the camera and develop before our eyes.” People were sold on speedy, immediate results. In today’s world, digital cameras offer instant gratification that makes Polaroid cameras obsolete. Sadly, far too many want God to immediately gratify their emotional spirituality in much the same way. When times get tough, they want Jesus to fix it immediately.

People respond differently under stress. Some lose hope, some get depressed, while other seek God’s strength and comfort. The nation of Judah was facing consequences for their ungodly actions, but the Lord held out hope for them as a nation and as a people. Things might have seemed rough now, but they could take comfort in God’s strength! Let’s discover how…


READ: Isaiah 40:1-8, 10-11, 27-31

What do you do when you feel stressed about life? We discover that God cares about and offers His strength to people when they feel overwhelmed by life. We can take comfort in God’s strength by…

I. Encouraging One Another! (Isaiah 40:1-5)

1. Isaiah 40 initiates a new tone in Isaiah’s message. The word comfort implies more than patting a hand and speaking clichéd encouragement. Comfort describes compassion toward one who grieves over the loss of a loved one. God does not suggest but commands comfort. The word’s repetition emphasizes its importance. God’s use of my people and His identification of Himself as your God, recalls the language of His covenant with Israel. Speak tenderly means speak to the heart. The phrase refers to words that do more than temporarily soothe. These words offer real hope and belief in a new future so those paralyzed by life’s difficulties can live confidently, knowing God’s love sustains them. Isaiah used the past tense of future events, so certain were their fulfillment. God gave three announcements for His people. First, their hard service has been completed. Their period of great difficulty, caused by their ungodliness or the difficulties of the world, served to call them back to the right path. Second, God stated Judah’s sin has been paid for or pardoned. God’s people remained sinners, but here God promised forgiveness by His grace alone. Third, Judah had received double for all her sins. God’s law stated a thief needed to repay double the value of any stolen property. Judah had stolen worship and obedience from God, and Judah’s punishment met that criterion. Double meant Judah had suffered God’s complete punishment, yet comfort had begun. God promised, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.’” John the Baptist would ultimately fulfill this promise. All obstacles to safe and quick travel would be removed. “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” Uneven ground would be smoothed out. For a people discouraged by national and personal difficulties, the return of God seemed impossible. God invited them to believe He would return even though they could not see it. God wanted His people to have faith in Him. “And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” God’s glory would appear again among His people, and not only Judah but also all mankind would see. God’s return to Jerusalem would have significance for all people. We can take comfort in God’s strength by encouraging one another!
EXAMPLE: God’s nature guaranteed His promise would come true. Just as God sent punishment to call His people back to Him, so He would come as promised to give His people comfort, hope, and renewal. When life’s difficulties come our way, we need encouragement to endure the tough times and move beyond them. We also need to encourage others when they experience difficult circumstances in life. Often our witness to the comfort, strength, and encouragement God and others have provided us, helps others as they weather their storms. We can be bearers of God’s comfort to others. How do you encourage people in difficult circumstances? We can take comfort in God’s strength by encouraging one another!

We can take comfort in God’s strength by…

II. Acknowledging Our Weakness! (Isaiah 40:6-8)

1. Here, we hear a chorus of angels. One commands, “Cry out!” Another responds, “What shall I cry?” or pronounce. The people of Judah in the Old Testament era must have seen the great empires like Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia as incredibly powerful. The size of their cities, the number and grandeur of their temples and palaces, the vastness of their empires, and the wealth and majesty of their royal courts must have overwhelmed God’s people. Despite outward appearances, human glory fades quickly and never approaches the glory of God. In fact, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.” Human glory compares to grass and seasonal flowers, dependent on the sun and rain for sustenance. Even humanity’s longest-lived people live a brief time compared to God’s eternal existence. Even humanity’s wealthiest, most powerful individuals and their goodness proves temporary. God’s love never fails but our response to His love often does. God remains reliable while humans remain unreliable. Because of hot arid winds, green grass can turn brown and flowers wither. In the same way, God overpowers those who oppose Him.” The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass.” Armies cannot prevent God from delivering His people. If we cannot stop God, we also need to remember we cannot save ourselves. Only God can do that. If God’s promise depended on our strength, we would have no hope. Fortunately, God’s promise rests on His eternal, powerful, and loving character! Humans and nations come and go, but God’s Word remains forever. In a world where people fail to be dependable and consistent, God remains completely reliable and unfailingly merciful. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Before we can experience God’s comfort and strength, we need to acknowledge our weakness.
EXAMPLE: Our strength fails. We become discouraged. We cannot save ourselves. When we confess our weakness and dependence, we discover God’s strength and encouragement. What events in your life have helped you acknowledge your weakness and God’s strength? We can take comfort in God’s strength by acknowledging our weakness!

We can take comfort in God’s strength by…

III. Relying on God’s Protection! (Isaiah 40:10-11)

1. The voice speaking for God spoke directly to Jerusalem, instructing the city to proclaim the coming of God “You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’”(v. 40:9). God returned to Jerusalem in power as a triumphant king whose rule has been established by his victories. “See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him.” When kings returned from successful campaigns, they brought with them spoils of victory. God also brought his reward back to His city. The King who had punished His people for their sin returned with power to restore them. In fact, “his recompense accompanies him”! Powerful rulers often rule by fear, imposing their will with no concern for their people’s welfare. Such rulers selfishly focus on their comfort and pleasure. God, however, returned to Jerusalem to serve as caring shepherd, not as military dictator. What a beautiful picture Isaiah gives us of God! He describes God as caring shepherd in three ways. First, he tends his flock from enemies and starvation. He meets the needs of His people. Second, He “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart”. The weak he compassionately helps. The fold in a shepherd’s robe provided a natural pocket in which a lamb could be carried warmly and safely. God notices the special needs that each of His people has and seeks to meet each one’s needs. Third, God gently leads those who need special care and assistance. A nursing ewe had increased responsibility in having to care for herself and her lamb. God helps those who experience increased responsibilities, providing His strength and guidance. We can take comfort in God’s strength by relying on God’s protection!
EXAMPLE: As we recall the Christian church’s history, we can name individuals whose stand for Christ brought them into conflict with authorities and led to their execution. To some people, such examples prove God’s failure to care for His people; but that perspective misinterprets God’s care. Life brings difficulties and sufferings to all people, even Christians. Yet in times of difficulty, Christians can draw from God’s strength and encouragement, both directly from Him and through fellow Christians. As Christians we also can rest assured our salvation remains securely in God’s hands. God always provides us with what we need most: His presence and salvation! How have you relied on God’s protection during specific times in your life? We can take comfort in God’s strength by relying on God’s protection!

We can take comfort in God’s strength by…

IV. Depending on God’s Strength! (Isaiah 40:27-31)
1. God had acted in the past by bringing Israel into Canaan. Yet His people believed God often did not pay attention to them. Many in our day ask the same question, wondering why God does not intervene to stop evil in the world and rescue His people who suffer. In the next few verses, God provided the answer through Isaiah. He bluntly asks them, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’?” God reminded His people of His differences from them. He is everlasting while humans are trapped in time. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” He is the Creator while we are His creations. His strength knows no limits while our strength gives out. He possesses infinite understanding while our knowledge, despite our scientific breakthroughs, remains severely limited. “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” God is not like His creation. He does not become exhausted and have to abandon or postpone His purposes. God works on a greater scale than we can imagine. We live in the present and think about the future, but God thinks and works for a future far beyond our perception. At most, we can see where He has been and get a glimpse of where He is going. Since God never suffers exhaustion, He can provide strength and encouragement to us. God also wants to supply what we need. God freely gives His strength to those who call on Him. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall…” God makes a way available for us to receive His strength. Whiel we may grow weary, “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Those who trust in God find renewal. An eagle soars, allowing the powerful wind currents to bear it up, so we too allow God’s Spirit to lift us up. We can take comfort in God’s strength by depending on God’s strength!
EXAMPLE: When we think of athletic competition, we think of young men and women in top physical condition. As we age, we simply do not have the strength and agility we possessed at one time. Yet even young people in great physical condition become weary. They fall to their knees unable to complete the race. They fall behind in the final lap, unable to swim at the speed they hoped. If outstanding athletes who have trained for years become weary, then so will the rest of us. When life calls for us to run to accomplish what needs to be done, God provides the physical, mental, and spiritual strength we need. To receive strength from God we need to trust in Him. We can take comfort in God’s strength by depending on God’s strength!

Conclusion:
1. We can encourage one another because God is working redemptively in His people’s lives.
2. By acknowledging our weakness and holding to God’s eternal truth, we can find comfort in God’s strength.
3. As we take comfort in God’s strength, we can rely on the Lord’s protection and provision.
4. By depending on God’s strength, we can find comfort in Him.

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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Jude – Be On Guard!

Jude – Be On Guard!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 17, 2013 AM

What motivates you in life? When I was in a JNROTC program, we were stationed for several weeks at Quadra, a Canadian military base. We had to learn basic commands in French because of the cadets that were from Quebec that were there training with us. All I remember is “stand easy” was “repos,” “dismissed” was “écartée!” and “attention” was “garde à vous!” We were motivated to be alert because if we did not follow the commands quickly enough, we were punished for our lack of knowledge. Our drill instructors did not care that some of us did not know French. We had to learn them correctly and quickly. We were highly motivated.

For the Christian, our motivation needs to be Jesus Christ. When Jude wrote his letter there were those who had begun to get discouraged because they thought Jesus was going to return any day. The signs were all there but He still hadn’t come back. Then, in the midst of mounting persecution, there were those who began to teach other doctrines concerning Christ than those taught by the apostles. They claimed they were “secret” teachings that only the truly spiritual could understand. Jude had to put a stop to such nonsense even if it wasn’t popular to do so. Just like today, believers then needed to be on guard against false teachers and their ungodly teachings. Let’s discover how…

READ: Jude

I remember the first time I stood watch aboard the destroyer I was stationed on during the summer. I was a skinny 18-year-old with a 45-caliber pistol strapped to my hip! I was supposed to challenge anyone trying to come aboard not authorized or who could not be recognized as part of the ship’s crew. I could barely squeak out a good “Halt, who goes there?” Yet, there I was standing guard. For me it was an awesome responsibility. That is, until I had to do it several more times in the wee hours of the morning. Then, it became boring, hard, and a burden. The same can be true for those who do not recognize the importance of their Christian doctrine. They can spiritually let down their guard. This is why Jude wrote that believers were to be on guard by…

I. Maintaining their faith! (Vv. 3-4)

1. Jude begins in earnest by telling his readers, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” He wanted to “urge” them about what they shared in common; instead, he had to warn them about the struggle they were headed for. Jude relates there were ungodly people trying to slip into the church’s fellowship. There were these certain individuals who were not content to trust the truth of the gospel and instead had to make up their own doctrines concerning Christ. Something had to be done. Jude was telling them to “contend” or struggle “for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” In other words, they may have to do battle for it if they had to! For Jude it meant both a physical and spiritual battle! Notice that their faith was threatened by “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago.” Folks had joined, slipped in unnoticed like camouflaged snakes into the assembly of believers, pretending to belong with them when actually they were enemies of the gospel. Jude was being like a guard on duty, challenging the church about these false teachers. He gives three areas of concern: They were 1) “godless men,” 2) who changed “the grace of our God into a license for immorality,” and 3) they denied “Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” Sound familiar, it should. We know that anything-worthwhile needs constant maintenance, including our faith and sometimes it is a struggle. Jude wanted the early church to be on guard by maintaining their faith!

EXAMPLE: Our little brown dog used to try and sneak into the kitchen to pilfer the cat’s food. She would wait to see if anyone was watching her and then slyly sneak into the kitchen as if she was going there to get a drink. I would wait until she bent over to nibble the cat’s food, then I’d holler, “Hey! What do you think you are doing?” She would jump at least a foot and slink back to her rug. Isn’t it amazing how people will try the same trick, thinking no one is watching them? Not necessarily pilfering cat food, but stealing other things. This can also occur spiritually within a church as well. People sneak in trying to appear spiritual and godly, when all the while they have ulterior motives. Jude called them “blemishes… clouds without rain… autumn trees without fruit… uprooted and twice dead.” Believers have to be on guard and wrestle and contend against such ungodly people.

A few years ago, a fossil was found that was supposed to be a missing link between humans and apes. The front page of Time magazine read, “How Apes Became Human.” A few fragmentary bones were found in Ethiopia by a graduate student named Yohannes Haile-Selassie. A photo of one small bone was captioned, “THIS TOE BONE PROVES THE CREATURE WALKED ON TWO LEGS.” There was just one problem, they did not tell you until the very end of the article. The toe bone was actually found some ten miles from the other small bone fragments! The whole premise was made from shoddy science! Christians can do the same thing when we adhere to the latest spiritual fad without finding out if it is valid. Jude faced the same problem and tells his readers to be on guard by…

II. Recognizing false teachers for what they are! (Vv. 8, 10-13, 16-19)

1. False teachers are like Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 8). Jude wrote, “These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit (v. 19).” They were natural men loving the things of the world more than they loved God. So much so, that they had begun to be perverted in their thinking and actions! They were “grumblers and faultfinders; they follow[ed] their own evil desires; they boast[ed] about themselves and flatter[ed] others for their own advantage (v. 16).” And, “like unreasoning animals,” they spoke “abusively against whatever they [did] not understand; and what things they [did] understand [they did them] by instinct!” This is a picture of people who are more in step with their own selfish selves, feelings, and desires than with their Creator! It is the same raw animal instincts people follow today! Jude is telling us that false teachers have understanding that is debased and ungodly! Notice the three areas Jude condemns them for: 1) “They have taken the way of Cain.” This could mean they disobediently devised their own ways of worship, were envious of others, or hated others with a murderous spirit! 2) “They have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error.” Peter declared, “They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness!” (2 Peter 2:15 NIV) These false leaders were greedy for money and led others into sin without fear, and, 3) they were “destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” Korah led a revolt against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16). Their rebellion was actually against God Himself! Cain jealously murdered his brother, Balaam was only out for himself, and Korah spread the lie that they could worship God anyway they desired! Likewise, these false teachers had rebelled against God’s authority; and as a result would be destroyed suddenly. Their destruction was so certain Jude stated it in the past tense, “they have been destroyed.” Their fate was sealed by their actions! Believers are to be on guard by recognizing false teachers for what they are!

EXAMPLE: I used to spend hours and hours pestering red anthills around our house. I would watch the ants carrying bits and pieces of insects, wood, twigs, and seeds they had found. When I asked my father why they did what they did, he said, “It’s their natural instinct.” I used to track deer, raccoons, and beaver. I would watch them from a distance to see what they ate, how they acted, and where they slept. When I asked my father why they did what they did, he replied, “It’s their animal instinct.” Today, when people do all kinds of ungodly things to satisfy themselves I often wonder why they do what they do. The false teachers of the world would have you believe we do these things because it is our natural animal instinct, but Jude reminds us that we are not animals! We are created in the image of God and are to be His children! Paul would say, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV) Believers are to be on guard by recognizing false teachers for what they are!

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by life’s circumstances that you have forgotten just how much God loves you? When we do, we can often turn to other things. Some people use drugs, alcohol, money, or relationships to hide the hurt or pain they suffer. Yet even during those times in life, when we think all is lost and are in utter despair, there is the wonderful light of God’s love. Jeremiah even in his greatest lament said, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV) Jude faced a similar problem and reminds his readers to be on guard by…

III. Keeping oneself in God’s love! (Vv. 17-25)

1. Christians keep themselves in God’s love by remembering, “What the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.” Paul warned about “savage wolves” that would try to come in to destroy the flock of Christ (Acts 20:29-30). Peter warned, “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord.” (2 Peter 2:1 NIV) Jesus warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15-16 NIV) Christians keep themselves in God’s love by building up their “most holy faith”! Literally, Jude meant that we are to work at it or to build upon what we have already learned! Not through works of faith, but rather working at being the holy people God desires us to be! Personal edification (“build yourselves up”) comes from progressing in the knowledge of “your most holy faith.” Notice Jude states that Christians keep themselves in God’s love through “prayer”. Prayer is the personal spiritual mortar that builds your relationship with God and keeps it close at hand. We “pray in the Holy Spirit” as we walk with Jesus! And, Christians keep themselves in God’s love as they expectantly “wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life!” Jesus can come back at anytime. This is no End Times scenario. This is why Jude writes, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Rather when things get mundane or tough in our spiritual walk, the believer is to remember that Christ will return and we are to be ready! Jesus warned, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come!” (Mark 13:33 NIV) He said we “must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him!” (Matthew 24:44 NIV) Being on guard is a matter of keeping oneself in God’s love!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever gotten an unforeseen phone call late at night? Have you ever received news that someone you just spoke to the other day, had died? Why do these things bother us so much? Because, as we go through our mundane life when something like this happens, it is totally unexpected. We do not expect those who claim spirituality to be liars or to have ulterior motives, we do not expect the unexpected. We do not often think about the coming of the Lord either. We often live under the false impression that things will keep on as they always have. This simply is not true. While we cannot be prepared for every life contingency, we should be on guard for the coming of the Lord. This is why Paul wrote Jesus’ coming would occur “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.” (1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV) Jesus reminded His followers, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33 NIV) Being on guard is a matter of keeping oneself in God’s love!

Conclusion:
Jude wanted the church to be prepared for spiritual attacks from outside of the church as well as inside of the church. He warned them to be on guard and to be prepared for when Jesus does return. I do not know if the story is true or not, but it is said that the Great Wall of China, built to keep out the Mongol hoards, was breached when one guard was bribed. What area is breached in your Christian walk, in your church, in your nation or world? Jude would say, “Be on guard! Contend for the faith, watch out for false teachers, and keep yourself in God’s love.”

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 13:18-25 – Vaya con dios! Pray!

Hebrews 13:18-25 – Vaya con dios! Pray!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 10, 2013 AM

Saying “good-bye” is always tough with those you love and care about in life. Roger Ebert, the film critic, who has had multiple surgeries for cancer and was once declared dead agrees. He wrote in an e-mail interview that death scenes in movies put unrealistic pressure on the rest of us to be profound. “After all,” he wrote, “those scenes are well-written, directed, and performed by professionals.” Last words have an almost mystical significance in both Eastern and Western cultures, in part because they hold out the possibility of revealing a deep insight or lifting a veil on the meaning of life. Japanese poets wrote haiku at the moment of their death; Jesus related his forgiveness for those who murdered Him. What would you say if you knew the words you uttered could be the last thing the folks you are saying “good-bye” to were your last.

We know the Bible tells us that, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV) And we are told repeatedly to pray for one another. But what if you could only pray for one thing, what would you pray? Now bear in mind this is not a wish, like the wishes from a magic lamp. This is conversing with God and having Him answer your prayer. I am so glad that we can pray anytime and anywhere. In fact, we should “not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present (our) requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV) The author of Hebrews understood this as well. Let’s discover what he asks for in prayer and the prayer he asks for!

READ: Hebrews 13:18-25

In these last few verses, we read some very heartfelt concerns by the author of Hebrews. In saying his final good-bye, the author of Hebrews gets very personal. We discover…

I. He asks for prayer! (v. 18)

1. It is interesting to note that many of the writers of the New Testament asked for prayer for themselves. Paul would request, “Brothers, pray for us.” (1 Thessalonians 5:25 NIV) In fact, Paul would get very specific in what he wanted his brothers and sisters in the Lord to pray for him about, he would tell them to, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” (Colossians 4:2-4 NIV) Requesting prayer from others was a part of Jesus’ life as well. Not only did His disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1), but later they were asked by Jesus to pray that they would not fall into temptation (Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; and Luke 22:46)! Jesus taught them, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:5-7 NIV) So, we know prayer is not aimless babbling or begging. We also know Jesus, “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV) and He related, “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) Prayer is conversing with God. The author of Hebrews knew, from Jesus’ own example and from those who had walked with Him that prayer was to be an intrinsic part of the believer’s life. He asks, “Pray for us.” Notice what he remarks, “We are sure that we have a clear conscience.” I believe he is tacitly asking them to examine him and yet to pray that he would indeed have pure motives and a “desire to live honorably.” For him as a pastor, providing the word of truth, without any regard to how people viewed him was extremely important! He desired to be a good steward of the mysteries of God “in every way!” What a wonderful prayer to ask for. In his final remarks, he asks for prayer!

EXAMPLE: I have discovered that a lot of Christians have a distorted view of what prayer truly is meant to be. While I am always humbled when folks ask me to pray for them, sometimes I get the feeling it is because they think my prayers will be heard when theirs have not been! This is a faulty notion, God always hears the prayers of His people and He always acts on them. What we may forget is that the example that Jesus gave of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) was not that we should “beg” or plead with God until He relents, but rather God is not like the earthly judge who needs to be bugged. Instead, God “will see that they get justice, and quickly!” (Luke 18:8) Nor do certain Christian individuals have God’s ear more than any other believer does. Instead, it is “The prayer of a righteous man” that is both “powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV) We often forget we are to pray within the will of God, plus, we forget God answers prayers in several ways: Yes, no, wait, or not at all. Not at all, because we already know the answer and possibly hope that by our praying we might change God’s mind. However, we are to ask for prayer and this is exactly what the author of Hebrews does.

Prayer is to be our continual life’s conversation with the Living Lord, not some mantra or method whereby we gain God’s ear. It is our personal time with our God. Continuing in his theme of prayer, we discover that the author of Hebrews not only asks for prayer, we also find out about…

II. The prayer he asks for! (Vv. 19-21)

1. The author of Hebrews continues by asking his listeners to pray specifically for him as well. He states that, “I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.” He was doing the ministry God had called him to and was absent from them. He desired again to be a part of their lives and he is worried for them. He therefore cannot end his letter before he restates just who they are to depend on whether he is there or not and so he asks for “the God of peace” to assist them. Jesus brings us peace, not as the world gives so it is not a peaceful kind of thing but rather peace between God and us. Paul would write that it is “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10 NIV) As Paul would again state, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9 NIV)  This is God’s “eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep!”  Hebrews tells them that he prays to our Lord Jesus to “equip” them “with everything good for doing his will.” The wording means to “make you perfect” or to literally, “put you completely in joint.” He did not want their lives to be disjointed with what God desired, which is holiness. Paul would tell those he wrote, “…our prayer is for your perfection.” (2 Corinthians 13:9 NIV) He wanted them to be fit or to readjust their dislocated limb to its proper place! The author’s meaning was perhaps they were dislocated and out of joint as church members, and they should be joined together in Christ. He wanted to be restored to them and he wanted them to be restored to one another as well! He also humbly prays, “…may he work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” He knew that without Christ, they could do nothing, but through Him giving them strength, they could do all things! Lest we forget, man cannot do any good work well by himself, unless he already has the good work of grace fashioned in him first! Grace is an internal work of God not an eternal good deed of man! He continues by telling them, “Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.” Perhaps we discover his sense of humor in this ending, or he really thought it was a short letter! Whatever the reason, his earnest desire was that his words were meant as encouragement to them to live godly lives in an ungodly world. This, then, is the prayer he asks for, “Grace be with you all!” He desires the grace of God through Jesus be evident in their lives, in all that they did. This is the prayer he asks for!

EXAMPLE: It is a unifying and beautiful thing for a church to pray for one another. The first thing we learn about the early church is the fact that, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42 NIV) and that we are to be “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV) Paul also later states, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2 NIV) and Peter would remind us, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12 NIV) In fact, the wonderful truth is that “if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him.” (1 John 3:21-22 NIV) The author of Hebrews knew if he asked for prayer from his fellow believers, he would be strengthened and encouraged. He wanted them to be joined together in the cause of Christ and so he ends his sermon by praying for them, “Grace be with you all!” This was his “good-bye,” his final Vaya con dios! This is the prayer he asks for!

Conclusion:

In his final remarks, the author of Hebrews asks for prayer and ends with the prayer he asks for!

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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Are you an armadillo?

Are you an armadillo?
Today’s Thoughts
by Pastor Lee Hemen
February 28, 2011

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” (Mark 14:32 NIV)

Here we find the few remaining moments of Jesus’ life and he has a simple request for his disciples: “Sit here while I pray.” All Jesus desires is that they would be steadfast, remain where they were, and stay awake while he prayed. He needed the assurance of his fellows in faith. This brings me to several thoughts: How often do we ask others to sit with us during our worst trials? How often do we sit with others when they ask us to? And finally, why would we want our brothers and sisters in Christ to do such a thing?

I have learned that if Jesus said it, wanted it, or taught it we should listen closely to what he asks, wants, and teaches.

Christians can be like armadillos. When faced with danger these little animals curl up into a tight ball. They have poor eyesight but great hearing and wait for danger to pass before uncurling themselves. We often want to curl up into a tight little ball and shut out the rest of the world when we are going through stress or the trials of the moment. It is a natural armadillo/human response. We think it protects us from getting hurt physically or emotionally, but this is not what the believer is to do. We are to seek out our fellows in Christ and ask them to “sit” with us while we pray. And if we are the one being asked to do such a thing, we are to sit quietly and pray for the one who requested us to sit with them through their trial. We listen, when we are curled up into our “protective shell”, that where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there in the body of his church. It is there we find our strength for the day. In him, with his body of believers, as we sit together and pray.

If Jesus asked his own close disciples sit with him shouldn’t we do the same when we are stressed or facing trials? The answer is, “Yes.” It reassures us that we are not alone. It strengthens us in knowing others care. And it shows the importance of the body of Christ encouraging one another as long as it is called today. You may be the one who needs to “uncurl” or you may be asked to sit a while.

Dear child of God, if you are going through a difficult time, ask, as Jesus did, your fellows in faith to “sit” a while and pray with you. To sit and join you in your moment of trial because if Jesus knew there is strength in numbers how foolish are we when we do not depend on those we are supposed to. Don’t be an armadillo, ask another believer, “Sit here while I pray.”
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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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