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United! – Acts 2:42-47

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

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

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

READ: Acts 2:42-47

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! The early church was willing to share with one another! The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33

Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 19, 2017

Interestingly there have been some articles recently that show that marriage is coming back into vogue. In fact, research has shown that married couples live from 5 to 10 years longer than singles do. Married couples are more financially, emotionally, and spiritually secure. And contrary to what you may have been told about divorce, recent studies show that evangelical Christian couples’ divorce rate is around 10% and nowhere near the regurgitated story of 50% like you often hear.

Contrary to what we may know about the Bible we are more often shown what not to do in marriage than what to do as we look at the lives of some of the biblical characters. This is because God deliberately gave us his words concerning his interaction with mankind with warts and all. However there are some great verses that do teach Godly concepts of how wives and husbands are to interact. Here in Ephesians Paul teaches us about the church and in doing so also instructs us about wives and husbands; let’s see what he teaches us…

READ: Ephesians 5:22-33

A happy and secure marriage begins and ends with what its focus is; if it isn’t focused solely on God first at its core it is misdirected. And within this relationship…

I. Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! (Vv. 22-24)

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

1. This has become one of the most talked about, misunderstood, or disdained pieces of Scripture there is within the Bible. Millennials hate it because it suggests they must be submissive and in a “me first” society this is an anathema! However when Paul wrote “Wives, submit to your husbands” he did not end his thought there but he continued by writing what he meant exactly: “as to the Lord”! All believers are to be in total submission to the Lord, period. The original Greek word for “submit” (hupotassō) means to be subordinate to, to be under obedience, or willingly submit oneself to another. It is a personal willful choice as in when one willingly submits their selves by faith to Jesus! Was Paul a misogynist, a narrow-minded bigot, or just plain old fashioned in his thinking? No way! In fact he was very progressive because he continues by sharing his reasoning: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Like Jesus who established the church through is willing sacrifice, husbands are to be respected or submitted to by their wives because of their willingness to make sure their wives are successful in marriage by their own sacrifice! It is done just “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Paul never meant this as a form of slavery or second class citizenship but rather as a godly union of a couple where the man should do his manly duty and be the wise, kind, and compassionate example like Jesus he should be so his wife can submit to him! Wives are to yield to their spouse!

EXAMPLE: Does this mean a woman should be a willing doormat to her husband? No way! God never endorses one sin over another. Paul is teaching relationship. Just as Jesus sacrificed everything for his church, his bride, husbands should be willing to sacrifice everything in their relationship with their wives so she can willingly submit to his displayed wisdom, kindness, and compassion! Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse!

Paul continued in discussing what he meant a married couple’s relationship should be like. Wives were to willingly submit to their husbands however…

II. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! (Vv. 25-28)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

1. Far too often folks have a tendency to ignore the fact that in the New Testament that when the word “love” is used it is most often translated from the Greek word agapaō, meaning “sacrificial love” and not the emotional kind of love the world at large wants to give it. This is the love Paul uses and is the same we find in verses like John 3:16 where we learn that God so sacrificially loved the world that he sent Jesus. So Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church”. So often we hear liberal Christians putting the emphasis on the emotional aspects of Jesus’ love; that he was kind, compassionate, and “loved” people while ignoring the action part of the word. Jesus showed, displayed, and proved his love by his actions and especially by his willingness to die for our sins! So husbands are to sacrificially love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”! It is a husband’s duty to love their wives by making sure she is exposed to and mentored in God’s Word the gospel message! To make sure his family, beginning with his wife, is in Jesus’ body his church! Why would this be so important? Paul knew that any family is centered in how the home is run and that always begins with the mother and wife. Husbands are to make sure his wife’s needs are met; especially her spiritual needs “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”! So Paul writes that “In this same way”, just as Jesus sacrificed himself “husbands ought to (sacrificially) love their wives as their own bodies.” We want to make sure we are taken care of and so as husbands we are to make sure our wives are taken care of first because Paul understood that “He who (sacrificially) loves his wife loves himself.” Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

EXAMPLE: We live in such a “me first” society that we have often lost what marriage is to be all about. It is not making sure your needs are met, rather it is an investment in a deep personal relationship that is to last a lifetime. Marriage is based on personal sacrifice and not emotional needs. Yes, certainly emotional needs are to be met within marriage but they cannot be until we are willing to do whatever it takes to have a successful marriage. Husbands are to be like Christ in leading in personal sacrifice with their wives. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

Paul understood what personal sacrifice meant because he had given up everything, including being able to have a family for the ministry of the gospel! So he understood what it meant to be totally committed and he understood that in marriage…

III. Both spouses must give their all! (Vv. 29-33)

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

1. Paul realized that both wives and husbands might have a problem with what he was trying to teach them. He also knew one of the first arguments would be that he was not married. How could he understand what it took? Yet Paul did and he wrote that “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body.” Jesus had come to seek and save the lost but he also left behind something so radical that it would change the world within a few hundred years; namely his body the church. And just as Jesus cared for and fed his church, as married couples we are to make sure each other is fed and cared for in every way: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The church is to care for one another. So Paul was not just making a point about marriage but about the church body. The body of Christ is to sacrifice for one another just as Christ did for his church. Each member is now part of the whole because of what Jesus did “for we are members of his body”. Marriage is the same, we are no longer our own we become part of something bigger than ourselves and it is “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” We spiritually, emotionally, and physically become something more than we are as ourselves as a church body and as a married couple! This is why Paul would continue by stating that “This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Jesus’ love for his church should be reflected in marriage by both husband and wife and so Paul finishes by writing, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Both spouses must give their all!

EXAMPLE: Just as there are many reasons for people joining a church there are many reasons why folks get married; some for personal fulfillment, some for personal gain, some for love, and some for utterly selfish reasons. And just as folks have forgotten how the church is sacred thing established by Jesus; marriage is sacred as well. It is not to be entered into lightly. It demands more than some individuals are willing to give but if they want to be successful in marriage they must learn and respond to the fact that both spouses must give their all!

Conclusion:

Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! Both spouses must give their all!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Time for the Christian Empire to Strike Back

Time for the Christian Empire to Strike Back
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 16, 2016

With the latest Star Wars release I thought this would be appropriate. Recently I was watching the TV show Supergirl and was assaulted by the amoral concept of lesbianism. Supergirl’s adopted sister has “discovered” herself and come out of the closet. The following few weeks I was again assaulted by the TV show NCIS New Orleans when an FBI agent discusses with her ex-partner, another female investigator, about their lesbian relationship.

Television has now seen fit to use its medium to assault us with their politically correct notion of what constitutes normal relationships. Not satisfied with their culpability in the utter break down of the morals of our society, their utter disregard for sexual relationships, marriage and family, they now want to bring their notion of what is “normal” into our living rooms. Now I know for decades they have infected their shows with homosexuality and forced us into “accepting” their perverted view of what constitutes love and marriage, but now we are to go a step further and be force-fed the notion that almost everyone we know could be either gay, lesbian, or a transsexual and this is normal.

So now I am obliged to turn off my TV, which I do, or watch hand-picked programming from Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon – which I also do. And the media moguls can’t figure out why more and more of us are heading to these choices instead of watching their sewage or buying cable which is full of graphic violence and porn.

The truth is that less than 1% of the population has any proclivity in this arena but we now have to bend over backwards in being required to watch this and accept it. No actual study supports the numbers being thrown at us through TV programming. Out of the literally thousands of folks I have known over the years few were gay, lesbian, or transsexual. And this includes members of my congregation, family members and close friends. What angers me is that I now have to turn off a TV show that is supposed to be family oriented, like Supergirl, and instruct my grandson that not everyone agrees with this assessment and that it is not an accepted Christian teaching. And worse, why there are those who would accuse him of being “hateful” for having Christian values.

Now it is a good thing to teach him that Christians are to love others, but why do the vast majority of us now have to be on constant guard and instruct our children that this is not an acceptable lifestyle in our faith community and that it can be destructive, lead to drug addiction, psychological and physical problems, and that not everyone is inclined this way? I was amused when fellow believers came and asked me “Why does TV hate Christians?” after viewing a segment of Family Guy where the baby Jesus was kicked.

Over the decades, television has done some great things in instructing us about racial and sexual equality; but it is also guilty of participating in and the endorsement of the breakdown of family, marriage, and an abnormal focus on sex. We now have to suffer through family programming that bleeps out gross vulgarities because television wants the viewer to think every family uses this kind of filthy language around their children. It’s called pushing the envelope.

For the past three years I have worked at a public elementary school and have seen for myself what the breakdown of family, morals, alcohol and drug addiction has done to children. Now we are adding to the mixture the stupid notion those little children, who are easily molded psychologically, into thinking that they could be something biologically they are not. But because of our collective guilt and political correctness we will place on them the burden of our preconceived perverted sexuality. Television no longer entertains; it has become our collective politically correct thought police. It is time for Christians to push back by writing, emailing, and letting sponsors and the networks know they will not buy, watch nor use any product or show that endorses hatred towards Christians and their faith practices.
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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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Family, what are you going to do? — John 7:1-10

Family, what are you going to do? — John 7:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 22, 2015

A comedian once quipped, “The problem with relatives is that they tend to be family.” I am not sure exactly what he meant by that, but I am sure there are some folks in our families we would rather not relate to. Families can be close or they can be dysfunctional, sadly, far too many in our day and age are the latter. We know that Jesus had younger brothers; James, Joseph, Jude and Simon to name four (Mark 6:3), and some sisters as well. We also know that Mary was his mother was still alive and yet Joseph, his adoptive father, was probably dead by the time he began his ministry. And, we also discover that his family did not fully understand Jesus’ calling nor who he was (Mark 3:21, 31) and tried to dissuade him from following the path God had set for him.

I remember well when I decided to follow God’s calling in my life, how my own family reacted. It wasn’t all rose blossoms and birds singing. In fact, they kind of thought I was weird in doing so because at the time, none of them understood what it meant. Here in John’s gospel we discover Jesus’ family, namely some of his brothers, attempting to get Jesus to do what they desired instead of following what God desired. Isn’t that the way sometimes families can be? Family, what are you going to do? let’s discover what this meant for Jesus and what we can learn from it this morning…

READ: John 7:1-10

A builder in California has come up with an innovative idea to sell his houses. He thinks that a good way to make a house more appealing is to have a family there when showing the house. So he hires actors to play happy families in his company’s model homes. Would-be buyers can ask them questions about the house. Each fake family cooks, watches television, and plays games while house-hunters wander through. Have you ever wanted to hire a fake family? Here in John’s gospel we discover that in the case of Jesus’ family…

I. Faith is not necessarily found in the nearness to one’s family! (Vv. 1-5)

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

1. This short section is kind of a pause between another confrontation with Jesus and the religious authorities of his day. And in the midst of the mix we find his own family getting into the act of trying to discourage him from doing what God desired him to do. After Jesus faced off with those who followed him around the Sea of Galilee for food, he now confronts his own brothers. We learn that ” Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.” Jesus was not stupid and his time had not yet come for him to begin the confrontation that would ultimately lead to his sacrificial death and resurrection. And, in fact, “when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.'” The Bible Knowledge Commentary relates that “The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the three great Jewish feasts… This feast, also called the Feast of Ingathering, was a time of thanksgiving for harvest. It was a happy time; devout Jews lived outdoors in booths made of tree branches for seven days as a reminder of God’s provision in the desert during their forefather’s wanderings. The feast also signified that God dwells with His people.” So, it would not be unusual for Jesus’ family to encourage him to go, what greater place than Jerusalem and this feast to show himself to the world! Perhaps they had seen many of his disciples leave after his difficult teachings concerning himself. Perhaps they were trying to push Jesus into publically proclaiming who he was. Whatever the case, it was not Jesus’ desire at this time. And, we learn that “even his own brothers did not believe in him.” There is the truth of the matter. We discover that faith is not necessarily found in the nearness to one’s family!

EXAMPLE: Over the decades I have had many folks try to assume they are closer to God because of a family member who was a missionary, pastor, or deacon. Nothing could be further from the truth. Faith is not inherited. It is not a birthright. Being the son of a pastor, the grandson of a preacher or the nephew of a deacon does not guarantee one’s salvation. What your granddaddy, great granddaddy or auntie did has no bearing on the outcome of one’s life in Christ. Certainly their Godly influence could have had an effect, but spirituality and salvation are one’s individual decision to make and live. Faith is not necessarily found in the nearness to one’s family!

Have you ever had one of those spontaneous moments where one of you cries out, “Family hug!” then you all gather around each other and give one great big bear hug? Of course there is always one killjoy who does not want to be part of this embarrassing scene. That is when you have to insist they join in or else suffer the consequences. You might have to do it in public when they least expect it! Here in John’s gospel Jesus teaches us that…

II. Faith demands we act in spite of our family! (Vv 6-10)

Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.

1. Like many of us, Jesus’ own family misunderstands him. And “Therefore Jesus told them, ‘The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right.'” His timing was different from his own family’s desire. They in fact could come and go as they pleased, his life was dictated by different motives than theirs. Jesus always pleased his heavenly father, so his life and what he did with it was directed by his father’s will. It was not time for him to be sacrificed for the whole world. He tells them bluntly, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.” Being part of a sinned stained world, his brothers and their actions would not be disdained or hated by it, but his actions that were directed by the father and therefore were holy, would be hated! The world has its religions, its programs, its plans, its values, but Christ witnessed that it is all evil. This is why much of what believers do in life is disdained by the world or in fact seen as stupid. It is contrary to how the rest of the world reacts and works. He then tells them, “You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” Here is a difficult thing for some because they wonder, “Was Jesus lying, since he eventually did go to the Feast?” The answer is “no”. Jesus simply refused to be pushed into a hasty decision by his brothers to do that which might not be what God desired! In fact, the rendering here strongly suggests that after a time of reflection, of staying in Galilee, and “after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also.” However, notice Jesus went privately, in secret and not publically as his brothers tried to push him to do. Remember, there were those who were now plotting to kill Jesus. However, Jesus never allowed himself to be pressured or pushed into doing someone else’s will, he only did what his father in heaven told him to do. Faith demands we act in spite of our family!

EXAMPLE: Working on the playground I have come into contact with a lot of children who come from dysfunctional homes. Many spend their free time watching TV or playing video games. I am concerned that far too many families use these things as babysitting tools instead of including their children in family life. We want to be aware that some of the things we do to make our lives easier can actually deprive our kids. Children need to mix with older generations so they can hear the stories of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents. They need a regular meal time where they sit down and eat with one another. This helps them learn from those who have gone before them. Even single parents need to have a suppertime where they learn about their children’s day. Can this be difficult and will our kids always want to share? The answer again is “no” but we can insist and begin to also introduce them to how to use their faith during these times. Faith demands we act in spite of our family!

Conclusion:

Faith is not necessarily found in the nearness to one’s family! Faith demands we act in spite of our family!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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 God Requires! – Micah 6:6-8

What God Requires! – Micah 6:6-8
by Pastor Lee Hemen
04-13-14 AM

Jesus was preparing to go to the cross and He only had a few days left to impart some last instructions to His disciples. Already He had planned how He would celebrate His last Passover meal with them. He already knew the significance of the bread and the wine He would share. He also knew what He had to do to provoke the Jewish leadership by going to the temple and driving out their wretched money changers. But before all that He would have to make His entrance into the City of David. He knew that some in the crowds that cheered Him today would cry for His crucifixion in a few days. Neither the leadership nor the common crowd understood just how far they had wandered from God and how He would provide a way back to Him. They did not understand what God required.

The same could be said of what Micah teaches concerning Israel’s wandering from the Lord and how they needed to return to Him. Israel misunderstood what God required of them. They were depending upon their own way instead of God’s. Sound familiar? Like his contemporary Isaiah, Micah prophesied about the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the later defeat of the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians. Micah prophesied in the eighth century BC during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. His one statement on what God required of His people stands the test of time as a pillar of what God requires of His people. Let’s discover what Micah teaches…

READ: Micah 6:6-8

Ashes placed on our foreheads cannot bring about the change God requires. Micah’s first question helps us to put a personal perspective on what many of us think concerning our own relationship with God. Micah wondered…

I. How in the world do I come before a holy God?
1. Micah takes on the roll of someone who is coming to worship the Lord and he asks, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” He immediately begins to question his ability to be seen in the presence of God. Why? You see, he views himself differently than many believers view themselves. Micah saw himself as unworthy of coming before the Lord. There was a reason for this. Like Paul, Micah would agree, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)! Micah understood who he was and the nature of God. God was holy! This truth is often lost on some of us today where we think we are the most important thing in the world! In truth, the world does not revolve around you, nor does the plan of God. It revolves around His Son, Jesus. God related early on to Abraham, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1 NIV) The connotation was that God is holy and Abraham needed to be as well in order to walk in relationship with Him! In fact, we find God telling His people, “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44 NIV) So, the worshipper asks, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?” It is a question we should ask. How do we dare come before a Holy Lord this morning? How can we bow down before Him? Remember, we know that God’s ways are neither our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. A Holy God is so far removed, exalted, from us, how dare we come before Him at all? So, the next thought of the worshipper is, “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” The notion here is perhaps that which has been purified in the fire on the altar of God or that which is completely innocent would please God. We forget that a burnt offering was completely burned away and all that was left was ashes. And perhaps we discover that this is how we approach a holy God. Perhaps when we are totally burned away and all that is left is noting of us we can come before His throne?
EXAMPLE: In order to approach a holy God we have to have our sin burned away and become innocent. Sadly, there are those of us who arrogantly think we have the right to approach God. We forget the innocent sacrifice that was required for us to do so. Now we may think if we just feel burnt up enough, dried out in our emotions, we are a burnt offering before God. Or if we are simply saddened by our sin it is enough. Yet we discover that God requires us to be completely His. After all a sacrifice cannot crawl off the altar, it is burned up. Let me ask you, “How in the world do you come before a holy God?” Have you forgotten the innocent sacrifice required for your sin?

The crowds would cheer; strip off their cloaks and the branches of nearby trees to place before Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem. They thought they had a rescuer, perhaps a warrior king, who would change their disgraceful enslavement. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Surely God was pleased with them! About 800 years before, Micah knew better and he would consider…

II. How in the world can I please the Lord?
1. Micah continues as the worshipper and asks, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Perhaps if he just brought more sacrifices, God would be pleased with him? He then could approach a Holy God. We often think by our multitude of doing things, we are honoring God. We think to ourselves, “If I just do more!” Yet we are reminded of the words of God, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 NIV) David knew in his own sinful condition that, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) There are not enough dead animals or vast rivers of oil that could please God to excuse our ungodliness! God is not pleased with the amount of our sacrifice, but with the brokenness of our heart. However, in his insecurity, the worshipper goes on to ask, “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” What he is doing is what a lot of folks begin to do with God when they know they are in sin; he begins to bargain with God! He ups the ante so to speak! “I promise I will do this, I promise to do better; I promise to bring an even greater sacrifice! I know I will sacrifice my firstborn!” And, sadly, many of us do that very thing when we go our own way instead of living for a Holy God. We arrogantly sacrifice those around us, “the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul”! This was sinful and wicked; but such offerings had been made by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, and this very custom was copied by the corrupt Israelites, which many of us have copied with our lives in our day! However, we should never forget that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people”! (Hebrews 9:28) In fact, “with burnt offerings and sin offerings [God was] not pleased” (Hebrews 10:6) and that “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”! (Hebrews 10:10) How in the world can I please the Lord, only through sacrifice, and Jesus already did that for us!
EXAMPLE: I like a good bargain, but we should know better than try to bargain with God, yet many of us try to anyway. Children are infamous for knowing or trying to bargain their way out of trouble. My Dad used to tell us over and over when we tried the tactic of pleading we were “sorry” and that we would “never do it again”, “I appreciate your being sorry, but you still will suffer the consequences of your actions.” Like little children caught doing what we know is wrong, some believers will try to bargain with God. We make foolish statements that we will not to do it again or that we will change, if only He will forgive us this time. When we do we often know we will not change, we are just trying to bargain with God. How in the world can we please God, only through sacrifice and Jesus has already done it for us!

Slowly the donkey colt plodded into the city along the dusty path. With great frenzy the crowds greeted Jesus. Periodically, Jesus would look at the faces, smile, and acknowledge someone in the throng. Today was a day of joy; soon it would be one of great sorrow. Jesus knew what would be required of Him. And here, we discover in the lines of the prophet Micah…

III. What is required of us!
1. Micah addresses Israel with the words of God, reminding them exactly what they are to do, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This advice carries over to believers today. Over and over God has shown His people what they were to do as His people. Over and over God showed them how they were to live before Him. We know several eternal truths that never change: God’s ways are not our ways, He does things differently than we do and in His timing rather than in the hurried-up mode of sinful evil mankind; that we reap what we plant in life and therefore we will, or future generations will, suffer the consequences of our ungodliness; and we are to love God completely and others as our selves. Here, God through Micah reminds His people what is required of them by Him as their Creator, Father, and God. Those who say they follow God are to ” act justly” no matter if the rest of the world acts unfairly; we are to “love mercy” even when the rest of the world desires revenge; and we are to “walk humbly before our God”, even when the rest of the world is drenched in self-indulgence and self-gratification! Walking humbly before God means we live for Him first and foremost in our lives and we willingly place ourselves last. Jesus taught, ” If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 NIV) Christians are to place God and others before themselves. This is “walking humbly” as opposed to “walking in pride”. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the words of Paul who said, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) When we ask, “What does God want me to do?” In truth, we know the answer just as the Israelites did. We know if we are walking in our own self-indulgent sin or not, we know if we place ourselves first rather than the Lord and we know that we are living for the moment rather than eternity. Paul would also say, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30 NIV) Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!
EXAMPLE: We often go through life wondering what we should do or not do. Believers have no reason to live this way because we know what we should do. We often go through making New Year resolutions that we hardly ever keep. We begin with good intentions but before long old habits take over. It may start out just once in a while not following through with our promise to change, then it gets worse and we soon have forgotten what we promised to do. Instead of making goals we never truly intend to keep or that we cannot keep, perhaps we need to follow the advice of Micah and walk humbly before our God! Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!

Conclusion:
1. In order to approach a holy God we have to be burned away and innocent.
2. How in the world can I please the Lord, only through the sacrifice of Jesus!
3. Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance


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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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 12, 2014

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:7 NIV)

Have you ever wondered dear child of God, ”Is the Lord pleased with me?” Micah continues as the worshipper and asks, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Perhaps if he just brought more sacrifices, God would be pleased with him? He then could approach a Holy God. We often think by our multitude of doing things, we are honoring God. We think to ourselves, “If I just do more!” Yet we are reminded of the words of God, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 NIV) David knew in his own sinful condition that, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) There are not enough dead animals or vast rivers of oil that could please God to excuse our ungodliness! God is not pleased with the amount of our sacrifice, but with the brokenness of our heart. However, in his insecurity, the worshipper goes on to ask, “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” What he doing is what a lot of folks begin to do with God when they know they are in sin; he begins to bargain with God! He ups the ante so to speak! “I promise I will do this, I promise to do better; I promise to bring an even greater sacrifice! I know I will sacrifice my firstborn!” And, sadly, many of us do that very thing when we go our own way instead of living for a Holy God. We arrogantly sacrifice those around us, “the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul”! This was sinful and wicked; but such offerings had been made by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, and this very custom was copied by the corrupt Israelites! Who are you willing to sacrifice for your silly sin? We should never forget that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people”! (Hebrews 9:28) In fact, “with burnt offerings and sin offerings [God was] not pleased” (Hebrews 10:6) and that “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”! (Hebrews 10:10) How in the world can I please the Lord, only through sacrifice, and Jesus already did that for us! Makes one wonder…

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 11, 2014

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life.” (Job 2:3-4 NIV)

Hey there dear brother or sister in the Lord, what excuses do you come up with when you know you should not be doing what you are doing with your life? Did you know that way back when God allowed Satan to consider Job, we discover Satan telling God that sinful people will give up anything and anyone to make excuses for their sin or for their troubles in life. In fact, “Skin for skin” was a proverbial saying, possibly about bartering or trading animal skins! Whose “skin” are you willing to trade? You see, Satan was insinuating that Job would willingly trade the skins (lives) of his own children because in return God had given him his own skin (life). He was implying that Job was selfish. Now you may think, “I would never do that!” But we can do this very thing when we trade the lives of our children, parents, family, or friends for our selfish choices. We often skin others when we say, “I need this relationship” or “I deserve this thing” or “I don’t do this very often”. And, when we do, we skin our children, family, and friends alive for our sin because our sin has consequences not only for our life, but it always spills over into the lives of others around us. Now, I know God knew Job and his integrity before Him, but remember He also knows you and your integrity or lack thereof. Does Satan smile when you make your excuses for your sin knowing you will give up anyone or anything, including God, for your sin? Makes one wonder…

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