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Trusting in God! — 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19

Trusting in God! — 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2018

Cancer has claimed the lives of many. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and even siblings have been struck with this disease. When diagnosed there is fear, frustration, and wondering why. Often family and friends are called, church family and fellow Christians are asked to pray. For those who know the Lord there is comfort in friends and fellow believers praying for you. One such person I knew who was told she had cancer told me later that she found comfort in the Psalm, “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalms 121:1-2 NIV)” In times like these trusting in God gives us comfort and strength.

The Assyrian King sent his supreme commander to the gates of Jerusalem. There he delivered a message to Jerusalem and her king. His words were designed to undermine their confidence and to encourage them to oppose Hezekiah’s decision to resist. He claimed Hezekiah and their God did not have the power or ability to deliver the city! Soon they would be besieged and the defenders would “eat their own filth and drink their own urine”! (v. 27) In the midst of a dire situation Hezekiah asked his people to trust God. Could they place themselves in God’s hands and trust him? Let’s find out…

READ: 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19

At Sennacherib’s threat, Hezekiah sent word to the prophet Isaiah to pray for those in Judah who had not been conquered. Isaiah told the king to trust in the Lord and not to be afraid because God would protect Jerusalem. No matter the circumstances we are asked to…

I. Trust in the Lord! (2 Kings 18:30)

Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD when he says, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

1. Hezekiah was one of the best kings Judah ever had. He destroyed pagan worship and defeated the pesky Philistines and unified the people to worship the Lord and him only. Assyria marched down from the north and utterly defeated Israel to the north and took captives back to Assyria. Soon, they turned their eyes toward Judah and King Hezekiah. Hezekiah had tried to unite the surrounding nations to stand up against Assyria but it did not work. They destroyed every city and army sent against them. In order to save his nation and his people he decided to pay tribute to Assyria. He stripped the gold and silver from the Temple and his own palace to appease the Assyrians. It did not work. Bullies always want more. So “The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.” The field commander mocks Hezekiah and the Lord God. He derisively tells them “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the LORD? The LORD himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.” (v. 25) He meant that his king was his god and his god told him to attack them and he would succeed. So this supreme commander mocks the people behind Jerusalem’s walls by telling them, “Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD when he says, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’” This commander’s threats were very real. The army he commands could utterly destroy Jerusalem and take all of its population as prisoners back to Assyria. What were they to do? This commander did not know Hezekiah or the Israelite people nor did he know God. Because their king was such a godly man and because he asked them to, they were willing to put their lives in the hands of God. They were willing to trust in the Lord!

EXAMPLE: We were on vacation and took a rail tram up a steep mountain grade to reach some caverns, my mother immediately wanted off. The park ranger noting her discomfort remarked, “Don’t worry Red (she had red hair) it’s only one scream to the bottom!” She began to chuckle and not be as afraid. When unexpected difficulties occur, the Bible reminds us that our best recourse is to place our trust in God. It was in a tumultuous time when invasion threatened his country that the prophet Isaiah, inspired by the Spirit, discerned this powerful promise from the Lord: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isa. 26:3). It was during this same time that Hezekiah learned to be willing to trust in the Lord!

One way to show we trust God in dangerously threatening times is to publicly announce our trust. Sennacherib’s field commander warned Hezekiah’s officials they had no chance. But Hezekiah believed in the Lord and declared his confidence that God would help them. A sincere public testimony of faith in the Lord and his power can encourage others and it often begins with…

II. Admitting our weakness! (2 Kings 19:1-3)

When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, ‘This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them.’”

1. Hezekiah might have been a king but he was also just a man. He loved his nation and he wanted to honor God but what could he do? The largest and most aggressive army known to man was at the gates of his capital city! They had marched across the landscape like locusts devouring every city and army they faced! Hezekiah does the one thing he should do, he turned to the Lord! Often when we have nowhere else to go we will go to the Lord. Why is that? Shouldn’t we always seek the Lord and speak to him daily? Yet far too many of us wait until things get really bad before we meet with God in prayer or seek his face. Hezekiah did try to honor God but now his nation was in the midst of horrible circumstances. So, “When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD.” Sackcloth was a garment of coarse material often made from goat or camel hair and worn as a sign of mourning or anguish. Hezekiah was showing God his mourning for his nation! Though the king was strong in faith, he also was aware of his weaknesses and the weaknesses of his nation. Therefore he dropped all he was doing, prepared himself to fast and to seek the Lord, and went to the temple to pray. Hezekiah also sought the Lord’s help by going to the Lord’s prophet for prayer support. At the king’s command, Eliakim, Shebna, and the elders of the priests all put on sackcloth and went to Isaiah the prophet. Have you ever had an overwhelming experience where you keenly felt your weakness? Did you admit your weakness or did you try to cover it up? Hezekiah immediately uses three words to describe his weakness: “This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them.” He was like a weakened mother giving birth to a baby and had absolutely no power to deliver it; he was unable to save his people only God could! In admitting his inability to save his nation or himself Hezekiah shows us what needs to take place in our lives when we desire God to act in our lives. It begins in admitting our weakness!

EXAMPLE: A few years ago our Men’s Group undertook a rigorous hike. It was tough, beautiful, and long but each of us had brought enough water to refresh ourselves and stay hydrated. There is a good reason the Bible refers to God as the spring of living water and refreshing restoring the soul. In John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian arrives at the foot of a steep ascent called the Hill Difficulty, “at the bottom of which was a spring… Christian now went to the spring and drank to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill.” Perhaps the difficult hike you face is a rebellious child or a serious medical diagnosis. The challenge seems more than you can endure. Before you face your difficulty, come to God with all your weakness, weariness, helplessness, fear, and doubt. Then drink deeply of his power and strength. God knows your circumstances and will supply strength, comfort, and relief. He will give you strength to go on but it begins in admitting our weakness!

The Assyrians had Judah between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.” Sennacherib’s commander had presented a convincing argument based on the facts and background that he knew. His error was underestimating God’s power. He did not know God and could not understand his power. However Hezekiah did and therefore in trusting God he…

III. Willingly asks for God’s help! (2 Kings 19: 19:5-7, 14-16, 19)

When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard–those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’”… Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God…. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

1. Hezekiah immediately sends his officials Eliakim, Shebna, and leading priests from the temple (v. 2) to Isaiah the prophet to ask him to pray for Judah in the face of Sennacherib’s threat. When they get to Isaiah we learn that God is already in control of the situation. And this is just as true today. “When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, ‘Tell your master, “This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard–those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.”’” God encouraged the king not to fear the blasphemous words of Sennacherib’s “underlings.” He may have been a supreme commander in Assyria but he was nothing to the Lord. God had a personal message to the king of Assyria, “Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.” God would send a thought into Sennacherib’s mind that would cause him to call off his threat against Hezekiah. That thought was a rumor that the king of Ethiopia, was marching out to fight him. When Sennacherib heard that report, he decided not to invade Jerusalem. When “Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.” Hezekiah could not believe it! God was not only God over Judah but also Assyria! As Creator and Sovereign God, he had the authority and power to deal with Assyria. Hezekiah asked for the Lord’s help, asserting he knew God had the power to deliver Jerusalem. Hezekiah cries out to God “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God…. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” Hezekiah made the petition for himself – he wanted the whole world would know the living God because of his answer! At the beginning of his prayer, the king referred to the Lord as the answer to his need. Hezekiah willingly asks for God’s help!

EXAMPLE: God does not answer all prayers of faith in the manner that he answered Hezekiah’s. But he does hear every prayer and respond according to his will. That night, the angel of the Lord went among the troops in the Assyrian camp and put to death 185,000 men. When Sennacherib saw all the dead bodies the next morning, he broke camp and went home to Nineveh and stayed there (vv. 35-36). God delivered Hezekiah in that threatening situation because he put his trust in the Lord and willingly asked for God’s help!

Conclusion:

Trust in the Lord! Admitting our weakness! Willingly asks for God’s help!
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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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Is there life after death?

Is there life after death?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 8, 2018

I recently watched a TV show called Destination Truth where the show’s host tries to uncover the truth if there is an afterlife or not. He interviewed dozens of folks who had near death experiences. One was a neurosurgeon who had meningitis so bad they gave him less than a 1% survival rate. He was in a near death comma for weeks during which he experienced being in the presence of God, seeing his step sister who had died earlier that he had never met, and other interesting things. Needless to say they also went into the realm of fantasy and spoke with a guy who claims he can speak with the dead and while some of his antics seemed valid most of it could have been just good insights into how people more often than not respond, facial expressions, how individuals carry themselves and some preprogram research on his part. One thing he related over and over again from the dead was that they were “proud of” the person he was speaking with concerning their dead loved one. Kind of a “pat” comment don’t you think because everyone wants to hear their dead loved one is “proud” of them. Needless to say it wasn’t impressive at all. All of this to simply say, “Well, DUH!”

Not only does the Old Testament teach us about an afterlife but Jesus spoke more about this subject than almost anything else. And the program never spoke with individuals who experienced horror, torment, or dread when they had a near death experience, and there are many who have.

One of my favorite verses is when Jesus related, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3 NIV)” The idea here is not one of property but of making room for those he loves. I believe it to be absolutely to be true because of what Jesus did: he died, was buried, and then was resurrected and returned to heaven publicly. While other faiths speak about reincarnation, heaven, hell, and other mystical or spiritual things concerning death only Jesus spoke of it matter-of-factly and absolutely being true. Those who would not believe in him as the messiah, God’s answer for mankind’s sin condition, there was another eternal abode not as nice. In fact those who trust him have nothing to fear in death but those who have not certainly do: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NIV)” Jesus spoke about a final judgment of all people: “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50 NIV)” and that “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 NIV)”

Contrary to what the world would have you believe “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NIV).” There are not many ways to heaven or the presence of God, only one. But doesn’t this fly in the face of Jesus’ universal love of everyone? Nope. He expressly taught: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies (John 11:25 NIV)” and that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” In other words my dear bucko there is only one way to the presence of the God of all creation and that is by believing in Jesus as the Messiah!

Jesus is not some “ya’all come” kind of guy who winks at our ungodly behavior and then lets us into his presence. He vehemently taught that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:21-24 NIV)” Being nice, religious or spiritual does not matter. Knowing Jesus does.

Interestingly when the TV host interviewed a scientist who is conducting experiments into whether or not our consciousness exists after our death has come up with some startling results. Namely that there is good evidence now that what we know of as a person’s soul, our mind, will, and emotions, certainly do continue after our death! What Jesus taught and what most Christians know to be true has been finally recognized by science. Well, again, DUH!

Now what do these little nuggets of truth have to do with life after death? Well the fact that it is absolutely true but much more than being true one had better be prepared for what happens next after their death. Are you dear reader?
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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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Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22

Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 30, 2018

There are those men and women who look beyond their circumstances in life and see God working right in the midst of every situation. I would like to think that I am such a person but I confess this is not always the case. However in those times when it is difficult for me to see the hand of God working in my life I am reminded of this incident in the life of Elisha and kind of find comfort in how he deals with his servant. The reason I do is because more often than not I am like Elisha’s servant and I need to learn to look with faith.

When the king of Aram sent a large military contingent against Elisha, the prophet did not fear because he saw by faith that God had sent him protection and help. God had provided a large spiritual contingent that was more powerful than even the Aramean army. God protected Elisha when the Aramean king sent his forces to surround Dothan and capture Elisha and in the process taught those around him to look with faith, let’s discover how this morning…

READ: 2 Kings 6:8-22

We need to view every situation in life with faith. God desires us to see him and his resources are always available for every experience in life. This incident recorded in the life of Elisha teaches us that…

I. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! (Vv. 8-12)

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

1. Arameans were sometimes at war and sometimes at peace with Israel during the years of Elisha’s ministry. At the time of this particular incident the Arameans were making profitable surprise raids into Israel. So we are told that “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The dates for these events are not clear. Therefore the names of the kings of Aram and Israel are uncertain. History tells us that Hazael or Ben-Hadad were two possibilities for the king of Aram. Jehoram, who was also called Joram, might have been Israel’s king at the time. Whenever the Arameans set up for such an attack, God would reveal the Aramean’s plans to Elisha. Thus God’s prophet always knew where the Aramean forces were waiting to ambush Israel’s forces, or where they were planning to attack Israel. Then the man of God would tell the king of Israel about the Arameans’ movements and what they planned. Elisha was Israel’s early warning system! “Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.” This failure and frustration “enraged the king of Aram”. He did not recognize God was at work through Elisha’s supernatural knowledge of the Arameans’ troop movements. The Hebrew word translated enraged means “to storm.” The Aramean king’s first reaction was to suspect a traitor among his officers. So he “summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’” One of Aramean officers told his king that no one of the officers was a traitor. The person responsible for leaking information about the king’s raiding plans was Elisha, the prophet in Israel. Elisha could tell the king of Israel even the words the Aramean king spoke in his bedroom! Elisha knew even the innermost secrets of the king! These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

EXAMPLE: These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. Such a conclusion was understandable for surely the king knew about or even had experienced the work of traitors. His conclusion was reasonable and humanly possible. He chose to look at the problem from a human viewpoint and through human reasoning. The king did not know God was working. However, the Aramean servant saw the situation differently. The passages do not explain how or why the servant saw their problem was the result of Elisha’s work. Whether the Aramean was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. His actions teach us that when we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

Whether the Aramean soldier was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. This officer’s actions illustrate the biblical truth of this lesson that seeing life through the eyes of faith is both a choice and God’s gift. In fact we learn that…

II. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! (Vv. 13-17)

“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

1. To his credit the Aramean king believed his officer and ordered all of his officers to go into Israel and see where Elisha was. The king began making plans to capture the prophet. This Aramean king was another of many kings who tried to silence prophecy that was not in their favor. After a period of time a report came to the king that Elisha was in Dothan, a city about 12 miles south of Israel’s capital city of Samaria. “Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.” The “strong army” translates a Hebrew word meaning “strength” like the strength of an army. The king sent a powerful military force to capture one scruffy man of God. “They went by night and surrounded the city.” By sending them at night, the king thought they could slip up on Elisha. The forces moved to encircle Dothan to keep Elisha from escaping. The king was still looking at the situation only through physical sight and reasoning through human reason. He did not factor God into the situation at all. Elisha’s servant was the first to report their situation. In a panic he rushed to Elisha and said, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The Aramean king wasn’t the only one looking at the situation through human eyes, so was Elisha’s servant. The servant’s exclamation “Oh” can mean “Oh, no!” Seeing the enemy forces all around them, the servant could only react in hopelessness and fear. He was looking through eyes of human sight and not of spiritual faith. He saw only the overwhelming enemy, not the more than adequate resources of help available from God. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” “Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Where the servant only saw the enemy’s mighty forces, Elisha saw God’s mightier forces. Both forces were there but God’s were stronger. God answered His prophet’s prayer, and the servant was able to see the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. The servant needed his eyes of faith opened so he could see God’s protecting presence. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

EXAMPLE: Enemy troops really did surround Dothan, which frightened the servant. But Elisha was right. God’s protecting forces really did surround Elisha and Dothan as well. Both were acting realistically. The servant either didn’t know or had forgotten that God is always present with his people; just like we can when we are in the midst of life’s circumstances. The servant needed to stop looking at situations with human sight alone. The psalmist said, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalms 34:7 NIV). When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

Looking through the lenses God provides requires that we walk with him by faith. We cannot always we see the outcome but we can always rest assured God has our back and desires the best for our lives. In fact we discover that…

III. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working! (Vv. 18-22)

As the enemy came down toward him, “Elisha prayed to the LORD, Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria. After they entered the city, Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.”

1. We discover this must have been a firsthand account because of the detailed personal information given. We learn that “As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’” Elisha and Israel did not have a great army nor did they have the resources to wage an ongoing campaign, all they had was their dependence on the Lord. That was enough and in fact more than they needed because God held the victory. “So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.” Think of a situation in which you had difficulty seeing any evidence God was at work. Did you eventually believe He was at work? How can that experience help you begin to view each situation today with faith? After God answered Elijah’s prayer to strike the Arameans blind, Elisha led these sightless soldiers the 12 miles from Dothan into the heart of Samaria. “Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ On entering Samaria, Elisha prayed again. This time he asked God to open the eyes of the men of Aram so they could see. When their sight returned, they saw “they were inside Samaria”! This city was encircled with a defensive wall. The Aramean military force was surrounded by Israel’s forces and enclosed within Samaria’s walls. And he led them to Samaria.” Seeing his enemy helpless before him the Israelite King asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” Calling him this showed his respect for Elisha and he could have had the soldiers released, enslaved or killed. Yet this was not the King’s victory, it was the Lord’s! Elisha’s answer revealed the prophet (and God) had other plans for the Aramean forces. Elisha wanted to show mercy to them, not vengeance. Also, he wanted to make the point both to the king of Aram and the king of Israel that God’s horses and chariots of fire had captured and defeated the enemy. Elisha wanted the Israelites and the Arameans to see the hand of God in the situation. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

EXAMPLE: Instead of having the enemy soldiers killed, the prophet instructed the king of Israel to prepare a great feast for the conquered forces (v. 23). After the feast was over, Elisha instructed Israel’s king to release the captives and allow them to return to their master; his instructions to refrain from killing them and to feed them and let them go free was a demonstration of God’s mercy. Showing mercy and offering forgiveness are expressions of God’s nature and reveal what He prefers to extend to all people. Elisha wanted God to receive the glory for what had happened and his actions teach us that when we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

Conclusion:

When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!
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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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Seek the cure! – 2 Kings 5:1-3, 9-15a

Seek the cure! – 2 Kings 5:1-3, 9-15a
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 23, 2018

Our background can and does influence our lives today. How we were raised, educated, and how we were taught about morality, religion, patriotism, and such makes a huge impact on our lives. However as we can later decide for ourselves how we will relate to our world and others, that’s how we grow and mature or degenerate and digress. The choice is ours to make.

Chapter 5 of 2 Kings reveals Elisha was a man of God. We are now introduced to Naaman a commander in his king’s army. He was a man of prominence, power, and influence. He was not used to taking order from those he thought inferior to his status in life. He commanded others but this man of power was also sick with a disease that would have precluded him from being everything in his life he could have been. He could be cured but he would need to do just one thing: seek the cure! Let’s find out what happens…

READ: 2 Kings 5:1-3, 9-15a

God can and does use different people in our lives in order to bring us closer to him. We discover that Naaman was no different. We discover that…

I. When God brings others into our lives we need to be willing to listen! (Vv. 1-3)

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

1. In these verses we discover Naaman who was the commander of the army of Aram under the unidentified Aramean king. Aram was another name for the nation of Syria. Naaman was a great man, second in power under the king. He was highly regarded by the king because the Lord had given military victories to him. We learn that “He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” The word for “leprosy” can mean any form of skin disease. Whatever it was it would have been a problem for Naaman because any form of skin disease was seen as a curse or at best something or someone who had it was to be avoided. Yet little did Naaman suspect that within his life there were others he never would have thought would be able to help him. It began when “bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife”. This young Israelite captive slave girl would change a prominent warrior’s life forever. Evidently Naaman and his wife were kind to this slave girl because she sought Naaman’s welfare. Naaman could obtain physical and spiritual healing from God through Elisha if he listened to and obeyed good advice. She possibly had heard of Elisha since she was an Israelite captive. Apparently she assumed he could cleanse leprosy in view of his supernatural power. No leper in Israel, though, was healed in Elisha’s day, but Naaman would be if he was willing to listen. The young slave girl tells her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” To experience God’s salvation from sin, a person must hear the message of salvation and respond to God’s call to come to Jesus for salvation. When God brings others into our lives we need to be willing to listen!

EXAMPLE: My mother used to ask us, “Did you hear what I said to you?” when she wanted to know if we were actually listening or not. My dad would remind us that we had better listen to our mother for our own sake. Often when we know we should listen and respond we don’t do so. Naaman learned that when God brings others into our lives we need to be willing to listen!
Interestingly the slave girl’s faith in the Lord may have been an indirect rebuke to Israel’s King Joram who had no faith in God. Naaman had a choice to make and in this we learn that…

II. When God confronts us to make changes we must make a decision! (Vv. 9-12)

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

1. We find out that Naaman was a man willing to listen and “So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.” The journey Naaman had to make was longer than the Bible shares. It would have taken him days to go to Israel and then to find Elisha, but he does just that. The King of Israel thought he was being set up and tears his robes in anguish and fear. However Elisha tells him to buck up and have Naaman come to him and then he would know “there is a prophet in Israel” (v. 8). So here is Naaman the great commander of Aram outside of the door of Elisha the scruffy prophet and what does Elisha do? “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’” Would Naaman do as he was asked? Would he humble himself? “But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.’” When he was asked to do something easy like find a prophet, Naaman was willing. Most people are more than willing to seek easy answers to their problems. Have them light a candle, walk on bended knees, make absolution, or do something good for another then they will do that; but ask them to trust in something they cannot see and their pride gets in the way. Naaman’s did and he pridefully declares, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” The answer is “no” he could not he had to do what God asked him to do through his prophet. “So” like so many prideful people “he turned and went off in a rage.” When God confronts us to make changes we must make a decision!

EXAMPLE: Change can be hard in our lives if we try to do it on our own but with the help of God we can do all things. Naaman made known his disgust that he had to dip himself in the river Jordan. He was offended, he was angered, and he knew he had a decision to make. Scripture teaches that when a person obeys God’s call and comes to him through Christ in repentance and faith, that person needs to confess Christ publicly. New believers need to tell others of their commitments, make their public professions of faith in church services, follow the Lord in believers’ baptism, and begin living lives of faith and service. When God confronts us to make changes we must make a decision!

Knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. With the help of others Naaman begins to realize that…

III. When we are shown the cure we must seek it! (Vv. 13-15)

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.”
1. Sometimes the people God places around us are wiser than we are. “Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, “Wash and be cleansed”!’” Now isn’t this little fact interesting. When others know what we need to do and come to us are we willing to make the right choice and accept their advice and do what we need to do? Sadly this often isn’t the case. Either we humble ourselves or allow our pride to dictate to us what we should do. Humility can go a long way in helping us become the person God desires. Calling Naaman “father” was a term of respect and endearment his servants reasoned with him that he would have done some great thing if Elisha had so instructed. Therefore, why not do as the prophet said and wash himself in the Jordan? Naaman had good advice from a Hebrew slave girl, Elisha’s servant, and then from his own servants.  We learn that finally Naaman “went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” Naaman was not made clean the first time he submerged himself, nor the second time, or the third time and on to the sixth time he still was not cleansed. Did he feel foolish, was he getting angrier at his humiliation as a warrior dipping himself in a river in a conquered country in front of his servants and fellow soldiers? Naaman overcame his initial rejection of Elisha’s command and followed through with faith, trusting Elisha’s instructions. He is then completely cleansed. He then had to do one more thing: “Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him humbled and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.’” Repentance requires faith in action. When we are shown the cure we must seek it!

EXAMPLE: Every country had gods. Phoenicia had Baal, Moab had Chemosh, Ammon had Moloch, Babylon had Bel, and Egypt had Ra. But these gods were only idols—none of them were real, living gods. Rimmon was the Syrian version of Baal, a god of fertility, storms, and rain. Rimmon was also known as Hadad. Only Israel worshiped the true and living God. Because of what the Lord God had done for Naaman, he renounced loyalty to the Syrian god Rimmon and trusted in the true God alone. Naaman confessed, “I know Israel’s God is the only God.” Naaman knew this—not because he had heard the confession of someone else but through his personal experience with God. Through faith in God, Naaman was made whole physically and spiritually. Like Naaman when we are shown the cure we must seek it!

Conclusion:

When God brings others into our lives we need to be willing to listen! When God confronts us to make changes we must make a decision! When we are shown the cure we must seek it!
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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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A mentor – 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

A mentor – 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 9, 2018

When I began as a pastor, I heard that Sunday School was a way to reach, teach, win, and develop believers. I chose to adopt these concepts. Developing Christians requires personal mentoring as well as teaching. As a church we are to be alert for Christians who are growing spiritually and who give indications they would make excellent workers in the Lord’s kingdom and then mentor them for that task. In spite of our busy schedule, lack of confidence, or belief that only God or staff members can mentor another believer we are all called to mentor others in Christ.

First Kings ends with the ascension of Ahaziah to the throne of Israel, and 2 Kings begins with Ahaziah already reigning as king. 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book. The approximate date for the starting point for 2 Kings is 853 BC. The first two chapters in 2 Kings record the last two acts of the prophet Elijah and the first three miracles of his successor Elisha. Elijah’s mentoring of Elisha provides an illustration of some helpful steps any Christian can take in mentoring another Christian. Mentor means a trusted guide, a tutor, or a coach. Let’s discover what that means for us today…

READ: 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

Whereas Elijah mentored Elisha to be his successor as God’s prophet, most Christians will mentor workers for other tasks like teaching, witnessing, serving, working in Extended Teaching, Trail Life or any number of ministries to which God leads them. What qualifications would you look for in another Christian to determine if that person is ready to be mentored? In these verses we discover how to…

I. Test others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:1-3 NIV)

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.”

1. Just before Elijah’s home going in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on the way from Gilgal. The Hebrew word translated whirlwind can also refer to a windstorm, a gale, or a violent wind. God took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. In the prophets’ relationship Elijah was able to demonstrate to Elisha what this ministry was all about. Elisha was able to watch Elijah closely and see how he served God as a prophet. When the time came for Elijah to go to heaven and for Elisha to assume Elijah’s work; Elijah tried to get Elisha to remain in Gilgal by telling him to stay there while he went on for the Lord. Elisha responded by saying, “I will not leave you.” So together, they went to Bethel. Three times Elijah tried to leave Elisha behind (vv. 2, 4, 6). Each time Elisha refused to leave. Elijah’s command to Elisha to stay behind was a test of Elisha’s determination to become a prophet. Elisha showed he would remain with Elijah. As the two approached Bethel, the sons of the prophets came out to speak to Elisha. These men were prophets and were being trained or mentored in their religious duties by leading prophets such as Elijah and Elisha. They asked Elisha if he knew the Lord was going to take his master from him that day. The expression from you, or literally “from your head,” alludes to the custom of students’ sitting at the feet of their teachers. Their being in that position made the teacher taller than their heads. Elijah was Elisha’s teacher who was mentoring him for future prophetic service. God had revealed to these students that Elijah’s time on earth was over and that God was going to take him that day to heaven. God had revealed the same sad truth to Elisha also, for he said, “Yes, I know.” However, he told the prophets, “Be quiet,” for that news was very painful. God was also testing Elisha to see if he was ready to assume the prophetic mantle of Elijah.

EXAMPLE: It is good for churches to test prospects for service within their ministries. Over the decades I have watched as some churches have not done this and suffered the consequences of their inaction. When churches were considering setting a person aside for a particular ministry they would have a time of training, then allowing the candidate to serve within the particular ministry, followed by an evaluation period. These verses teach us this morning that it is a good idea to test others while mentoring them!

Elijah was testing Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity and determination to follow him and become his successor just as God planned. Like Elijah, all mentors need to test those they mentor to see if they are spiritually committed and suited for their particular function in God’s service. Elisha, however, had no trouble passing the test. In these verses we learn to…

II. Mentor others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:7-10 NIV)

Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours–otherwise not.”

1. Elijah and Elisha arrived at the Jordan after their trip from Gilgal and Jericho. Fifty prophets came out and from a distance. The Jordan River here is where it flows into the northern end of the Dead Sea. When they reached the Jordan, Elijah took his mantle, struck the waters and the water parted, allowing them to cross on dry ground to the east side. Just as God parted the waters for Moses when he held his staff over the sea God parted the Jordan for them. Now “Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.” Elijah’s question to Elisha was very important. Before he died, Elijah asked Elisha, “What can I do for you?” This question was another test for Elisha. Would he ask for riches, fame, safety, or something like that? Instead, Elisha’s reply was a request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elisha was not asking for twice the amount of Elijah’s spirit or some form of mystical power. The double portion terminology goes back to passages like Deuteronomy 21:17. A father’s oldest son received a double share of the inheritance. That implied the oldest son would succeed his father and have his father’s authority and blessing. Elisha wanted to follow Elijah in his prophetic ministry. He asked for Elijah’s spirit his zeal because he knew Elijah’s power and ability came from God working in Elijah. Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity made him aware that he would need that same God-given spiritual ability to be Elijah’s successor. Elijah called Elisha’s request something difficult. He knew only God could answer such a request. But he promised Elisha that he would inherit his prophetic office and his spiritual gifts if he remained with him and witnessed his death. If not, then Elisha would not receive what he requested. Elisha must reveal his willingness to stay with Elijah all the way. The older prophet could not produce his spiritual power in Elisha but he could mentor him and prepare him for God to use him. Elijah mentored through example and through teaching. He made sure Elisha saw that God was the source of his power and preaching.

EXAMPLE: Mentoring another is not an easy task yet every believer is called to do so at different times. It could be someone they lead to the Lord; it could be their children, a spouse, a friend or someone within the church! I had several mentors over the years from friends, pastors, deacons, teachers, and others. God used these men and women to polish the edges, give me greater wisdom, and the ability to learn how to be the best possible pastor I could be. Through the years I have tried to mentor others as well. As believers we are called to mentor others.

In evangelism we often challenge Christians by saying, “Each one should win one.” In discipling others for Christian service, we need to challenge each other by saying, “Each one mentor one.” However there comes a time when the ones we are mentoring must be left on their own to develop and mature in Jesus in their own time. In the following verses we discover that we must…

III. Leave the work to others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:11-14 NIV)

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart. He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

1. The time came for Elijah to go home with the Lord. As Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking together, God revealed a chariot of fire with horses of fire. God took Elijah up into heaven in the whirlwind. The picture of Elijah and Elisha walking along the road together and talking with each other is a good picture of the mentoring process. The mentor must spend time with the one being mentored. The learner needs to ask questions and the mentor needs to demonstrate what is to be done and to explain how and why the one mentored needs to do these tasks. God often revealed himself through fire, as he did to Moses at the burning bush and to Elijah on Mount Carmel before the prophets of Baal. The appearance of the chariots and horsemen was used elsewhere to describe an appearance of God (see 2 Kings 13:14). God separated them; Elijah to go home with him and Elisha to stay and minister to his people. Elisha addressed Elijah as “My father, my father,” meaning his spiritual father. After watching Elijah go out of sight, Elisha tore his clothes apart in anguish. This action and his intimate address of Elijah as “My father, my father” revealed the grief of Elisha’s heart at the departure of Elijah. Evidently in Elijah’s miraculous translation to heaven in the whirlwind, he either discarded or dropped his mantle. This garment was part of the uniform of Elijah the prophet and served as a symbol of his ministry. Elisha picked up the mantle and went back to the banks of the Jordan where Elijah had parted the waters. Taking Elijah’s prophetic cloak was meaningful symbolism. Elisha was assuming responsibility as Elijah’s successor and began his journey back to Israel to serve the Lord. Using the mantle in the same manner as he had seen Elijah use it, Elisha struck the waters. He asked, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” Elijah was gone. Only his cloak remained. Was God gone also? Facing the obstacle of the river was Elisha’s first test as to whether God really had called him and empowered him to succeed Elijah. When Elisha used the cloak on the river, it divided and he crossed over. God answered Elisha’s question: God was with Elisha as He had been with Elijah! Elijah had left the work to others, namely Elisha!

EXAMPLE: We need to be reminded that unlike now because of Jesus’ resurrection we enjoy the power and presence of God always. During Elijah’s and Elisha’s day this was not the case. The presence of God through the Holy Spirit had not been given permanently as it is today. Elisha was unsure and he needed to be reassured by the Lord. God show him that he indeed was Elijah’s true successor by parting the waters of the Jordan just as he had done for Elijah. That hairy old garment was not magical or special, it was the people God worked through who were. Elijah had left Elisha to continue the work of being God’s prophet.

Conclusion:

1. Mentors need to test those they are mentoring to see if they are suited for the task.
2. Those who demonstrate spiritual sensitivity to serving God should be mentored.
3. Those mentored must be released do the work for which they have been mentored.
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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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Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21

Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 5, 2018

I find it kind of interesting that we start life learning to crawl, jog or run through our younger years, and then end up walking or shuffling to the finish line. The Christian life is not to be this way at all. We are to begin by walking hand-in-hand with the Lord and then run the rest of life’s race to the finish line.

Paul understood what running life’s race was all about because he was doing it himself. His desire was that his brothers and sisters in Jesus would finish the same race well. In life we cannot help it if we become handicapped in some way as we age. Nor can we help how we entered into the world. Bad things happen to good people because sin exists. However how we live for the Lord is determined by us and how we run life’s race for him. Let’s discover what Paul wrote the Philippians concerning running life’s race…
READ: Philippians 3:12-21

There are some folks who have a Mary Poppin’s attitude,, they think they are “practically perfect in every way”. Others around them would disagree. Christians should never have this kind of an attitude. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

I. We are to focus on the goal! (Vv. 12-14)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

1. Paul not only knew who he followed and why but Paul was also a realist. He understood the world around him and why people often did what they did in life. But far more importantly Paul understood himself. Even though he knew he had been made holy in the sight of God by his faith in Jesus he understood he was not perfect. He still blew it from time to time and so he writes, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul knew there was more to life than ourselves. He now lived his life for the Lord Jesus Christ! His goal was not to try to reach perfection; his goal was to live for Jesus! It was like a race for Paul. You do not complete the race until you cross the finish line and Paul realized he had not yet crossed that line in life! So he reminds his readers, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” Paul was still in the race! Far too many believers think that their age, their sickness, or their emotional or physical state somehow disqualifies them from continuing to run the race God has laid out for each believer. This simply is not true. In the face of life’s obstacles we still are in the race but we are in the race with Jesus and we are never alone. However, like Paul we need to remember, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” We cannot get caught up in life’s past sin or anything life throws our way because if we do, we stay at the beginning of the race we have entered! We must strain for the prize we have been promised! In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

EXAMPLE: I liked the Disney Pixar movie “Up”. It is about Carl a crotchety old man who promised his late wife a trip to Paradise Falls; a place where a famous explorer found the giant skeleton of an exotic bird. Carl is found to be incapable of keeping his home and so he attaches thousands of helium filled balloons to it planning to float it to Paradise Falls as he promised his late wife. Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer” who visited Carl in his effort to earn his final merit badge, for assisting the elderly, becomes an accidental stowaway. In their journey they both meet up with a dog named “Dug”. He can’t seem to focus on anything and yet becomes a hero. All the characters, even the eventual villain, are focused on the wrong things in life. Friendship is more important than merit badges, life is not lived in the past, and squirrels should not keep you from focusing on what is important. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

I remember when I discovered that maturity does not come with age. Maturity comes when one uses their life’s experiences to become the person God desires them to be. The same is true for wisdom. Age doesn’t make someone wise. Wisdom comes from how one uses the knowledge they have obtained to glorify the Lord. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

II. We mature as we follow Jesus’ example! (Vv. 15-17)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

1. Paul knew that people can get sidetracked in running the race God has set out for each of us. Things tend to get in the way; family, friends, jobs, and personal interests just to name a few. In our day and age there are far too many distractions. This is why Paul writes the Philippians that he knows they can be distracted, however, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” In other words you may disagree about your goal in life but if you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus your life is to be lived differently than the rest of the world. Our view of things should be filtered through our lives lived for the Lord! How are we running the race today? Yet Paul understood that there would be those who would disagree just as there are today and so he told them that “if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” We cannot force the world to believe as we believe; nor can we force fellow Christians to do so either, however, we can give them over to the Lord to deal with. We can trust Jesus with people’s lives we cannot seem to get through to. Does this mean we simply give up? NO! But we pray, talk to the Lord, and trust the Lord to handle the situation and to enlighten us on how we should proceed. Far too many believers don’t talk with God they instead talk at God. Paul tells us what our goal should be in this situation: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” If we have trusted Jesus then we have all we need to proceed in life. We not only have Jesus walking with us but we have fellow Christians as well. We are not to isolate ourselves. Instead we are to “Join with others in following [Paul’s] example”. We are to remember we are “brothers” in Christ “and take note of those who live according to the pattern [Paul] gave you.” In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

EXAMPLE: I had to smile the other day as I was bagging groceries at WinCo. Another elderly couple was there in the next line and he was bagging groceries as well. Evidently he and his wife had been having a discussion that overflowed to the bagging area. Her remark made me laugh because she sounded like a preadolescent teen when she said, “Oh you think you’re so mature!” He muttered back, “More than you.” Some folks seem to never grow up I guess. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

Far too many Christians have forgotten that eternity exists. They become so caught up in the things of today they forget whom they are to follow. They can begin to live for the moment thinking that this is all there is in life forgetting the fact that this world is not our home. Paul reminds us that in running the race…

III. We are to remember who we are! (Vv. 18-21)

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1. Paul knew that in running life’s race there are those who would love to distract us in doing so. Misery loves company. Ever wonder why some folks are so bent on destroying your life in the Lord? Paul understood that there were rivals for Jesus’ affection. He writes the Philippians, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Sadly this has not changed because there are still those who desire believers fail in their faith. Yet take hope because Paul pegged them for what they truly are “enemies of the cross”! And he understood their outcome in life’s race: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.” They are headed for an eternity separated from God because they focus on the here and now and what they get out of life. They cannot help themselves because “Their mind is on earthly things.” Do not get enamored with the things of the world because they are passing away, “our citizenship is in heaven”! That is where every believer in Christ is headed! “And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Jesus will either return or we will head home. Our job is to continue in the race God has laid out for each of us! This world is not our home and we are citizens of heaven! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

EXAMPLE: I hate it when I go to a seminar or meeting and they hand out name tags to slap on your shirt or coat. I know they do it so the speaker or fellow guests can know your name but whatever happened to introducing yourself to another person or the speaker before you ask a question? I always think it is because they think I can’t remember who I am. In fact, being the tease I am I stood up one time during one session and deliberately looked confused until I looked at my name tag before I addressed the speaker. I exclaimed, “Whew! I almost forgot who I was until I remembered my name tag!” It got a chuckle from the crowd, which of course is what I was hoping for. I am so glad that Paul reminds us that in running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

Conclusion:

In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal! In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!
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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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What’s important? – Philippians 3:1-11

What’s important? – Philippians 3:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 29, 2018

When you’re single what is important changes dramatically after you get married and have kids. And it should. Sadly there are a few men and women who seem not to mature into the role of spouse and parent. They seem to think that life still should revolve around their needs, desires, and wants. This simply is not true. One who lives selfishly this way never seems to ask “What’s important?”

A faithful follower of Jesus has to constantly ask themselves what is important in order to maintain spiritual focus for their lives. Christianity is not a momentary thing. It does not just happen once a week on Sundays. If we do not take seriously our walk with the Lord we will fall prey to the whims of the ungodly world around us. Paul knew this to be true and teaches the Philippians what’s important. Let’s find out what he writes…

READ: Philippians 3:1-11

There were those who were called “Judaizers” Judaizers is a term for Christians who insisted that their fellow Christians should follow the Old Covenant laws. This term is most widely known from its single use in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 2:14) where Paul publicly challenges Peter for compelling gentile converts to early Christianity to “judaize” their faith instead of relying on faith alone in Christ alone. We discover that what is important for Paul is that…

I. Christians should never live a life of works! (Vv. 1-4)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh–though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:

1. Some call it “sacraments” as if there is something sacred in making people earn their salvation by doing certain manmade requirements instead of placing their faith and trust in Jesus. Evangelicals can be guilty of the same thing when we begin to swallow the lie of the world that if we are good enough, nice enough, or do simple acts of kindness then God will wink at our putrid sin and let us into heaven. Paul feared that the Philippians were allowing themselves to swallow the same lie and so begins this section by telling them “my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” That was to be their focus, not rituals. If Paul had to repeat himself he would because he cared about their faith, so he writes, “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” He bluntly tells them to “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.” There were those who were whispering in the unsuspecting ears of the Philippians that they needed to go back to following Old Testament rules of circumcision. Jesus totally did away with such a view. Paul knew what he was speaking about here and tells them, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh–though I myself have reasons for such confidence.” He had been one! A “mutilator of the flesh”! But now Paul had trust Jesus and “put no confidence in the flesh”. In fact “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, [Paul had] more”! Christians should never live a life of works!

EXAMPLE: Trail Life for boys is a group that was founded upon certain principles and one of them is that it isn’t awards focused. Some boys’ programs are very focused on helping a boy achieve as many awards as he can in the shortest period of time. In contrast, Trail Life is more concerned with building character than with earning badges and ranks. Trail Life has a robust and prominent ranking and awards structure; however, this is not the focus of the program. The focus is on building character over merely earning awards. I like this because it supports that our lives in Jesus should never be focused on doing things in order to be saved. Paul teaches us what is important in that Christians should never live a life of works!

Far too many people try to placate God instead of living their lives for him. We tend to forget that if God did not love us he would not have come to die for us! In fact this notion was a completely new concept during Paul’s day that a deity would not require pacification in some way. Paul reminds us here in these verses what’s important in that…

II. Christians should never try to appease God! (Vv. 5-7)

circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

1. Paul absolutely understood what he was talking about because his whole life up until he laid aside his pride and came to Christ had also been “circumcised on the eighth day”. He had been changed by his faith in Jesus and because of that change Paul realized that coming to God no longer took a plethora of requirements and crossing off the deeds you did. Paul was “of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin” and quite literally “a Hebrew of Hebrews”. No one could outdo Paul in his strict adherence to following a set of commands, regulations, and manmade requirements. By Paul’s day there were over 600 volumes written by the Jews in order to try as hard as they might to follow the legalistic manmade requirements they self-imposed on one another. Paul would call them “fools” because these people were foolish for spiritually enslaving people. To the church at Corinth he wrote, “You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. (2 Corinthians 11:19-22 NIV)” Paul understood and was angered this kind of enslavement because he had followed it himself and “in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” Paul had blindly believed the fallacy of trying to do one more “good thing” in order to be loved by God and he knew it was ungodly thinking! Paul’s way of thinking changed because he had changed and so he writes, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss (literally damaged goods or a detriment) for the sake of Christ.” Paul knew what’s important for faith and the fact was that Christians should never try to appease God!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget going to the bedside of a beautiful Christian woman who was dying of cancer and her only thought was: “Have I done enough good things for God to love me?” She was part of a Christian denomination that places part of the burden of grace on the believer. So those who belong to it think they have to do a certain amount of good works in their livers in order to offset any unpaid for sin. This is faulty theology. Jesus paid it all on the cross. Paul teaches us what is important in that Christians should never try to appease God!

If something or someone is important in your life you do not treat them as second class, you do not take them for granted, and you never place yourself first. Your relationship would end quickly if you did! In fact, Jesus taught that if you wanted to be great in his kingdom we had to learn to be servants. We discover what’s important when Paul teaches us that…

III. Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first! (Vv. 8-11)

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

1. Paul had come to the right attitude that every believer should. He tells the Philippians, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” I firmly believe that if even just 10% of believers truly believed and practiced Paul’s attitude here in these verses the world would be changed! Paul in fact “consider(ed) them rubbish (quite literally human waste), that [he might] gain Christ and be found in him”. But notice Paul never wanted the focus on himself. Paul truly wanted to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from following” dead laws that did not matter anymore “but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Why was this so important to Paul and why should it be important for us as Christians in our day and age? Faith is the most important thing for the believer. Paul would tell the Romans “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ (Romans 1:17 NIV)” For Paul Jesus was everything and he writes, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” In every phrase of this we discover what Paul thought it was important, namely that Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first!

EXAMPLE: The other night on America’s Got Talent a “man” came out and sang and danced and was a complete freak show. The only reason the audience liked him was because he was sadly so outlandish and perverted. It is evident he has given himself to the lowest form of hedonism. Much of the world is like this. It demands that it be allowed to do anything or live anyway it wants to without any repercussion. It has perverted such organizations as the Boy Scouts and even some churches. I believe the world needs to see Christians living like Christ in order to turn the spiritual tide. What’s important? I believe that Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first!

Conclusion:

Christians should never live a life of works! Christians should never try to appease God! Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first!
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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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