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Spiritual strength! – Ephesians 3:14-21

Spiritual strength! – Ephesians 3:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 12, 2017

The spiritual strength that God provides gives the believer the tenacity to stay the course. Wanting to mature in her spiritual life one woman started what she called a Thanks-Living jar. Each evening she wrote on a small slip of paper one thing she thanked God for and dropped it in the jar. Some days she had many praises; other days she struggled to find one. At the end of the year she emptied her jar and read the slips. She discovered how God had given her simple things like a sunset or an evening stroll; or how he had provided momentary grace to handle a difficult situation.

What is it that gives the believer the strength to go into hardships, frustrations, and at great personal sacrifice to foreign fields to share the good news? How can they spend years serving far away from their home country, neighborhoods, and families to serve the calling of Christ? How can the average believer stand fast in their faith where they work or within the hostile environment of family and friends? Here in Ephesians Paul gives us the answer: Spiritual strength.

READ: Ephesians 3:14-21
We can forget as believers that God provides for us in ways we often do not realize. Here Paul related that we do not have just one source of spiritual strength but rather…

I. We have several sources of spiritual strength! (Vv. 14-17a)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

1. It was for the mystery of the gospel message that Paul did what he did. His ministry to the gentiles compelled him to preach the good news. And so he writes the Ephesians that it is “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Paul’s kneeling in prayer is one of several postures for praying (standing, kneeling, and lying prostrate) found in the Bible. However, notice his first comment is directed toward God the Father the first personality of the Trinity. The connotation here is not that God is our Father as some cults view him but rather God is the creator of all things. The Hebrews understood this and often referred to God as their “Father” the beginning of everything! But then Paul continued with the second personage of the Trinity and related that he prayed “that out of (God’s) glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”. Remember Paul had equated that this spiritual power was “like the working of his mighty strength” as when Jesus was resurrected and ascended! (Vv. 1:19-20) And all believers “were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance”! (Vv. 1:13-14) Finally Paul tells us why the Spirit does this by directing us to the third person of the Trinity, Jesus “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”! He prays to the Father who is the Creator that he would strengthen with the Holy Spirit’s power in them so that they would have a stronger faith! Wow! Paul shares with his readers and us that we have three sources of spiritual strength!

EXAMPLE: It is aggravating to hear about athletes who think they are so awesome that they are all a team needs to win. They do not listen to their coaches or teammates and fail to understand that it takes a team to win a team sport. Each coach and player is part of the whole plan to win. In the spiritual realm we can never forget that we have several sources of spiritual strength!

I am not totally sold on 3D movies. I find that often when they make a movie 3D it is because it is a lousy movie otherwise. I do not always need a multidimensional experience, except where my faith is concerned. Paul teaches us that…

II. Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional! (Vv. 17b-19)

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

1. Paul continued his thought by writing what some of his chief concerns for them as new believers was: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love”. This is kind of a reference to the Psalmist who declared that the person whose delight is in the Lord “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3 NIV) Or like the “wise man” Jesus referred to who “built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24, 25 NIV) The believer’s faith is to be established, firmly plant in the love of God as expressed in Jesus! We are to be rooted and to continually be planted in him! Why? Paul says that it is so we “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”! Someone once wrote that “The more a Christian knows about Christ, the more amazed he is at Christ’s love for him.” In our day far too many think that this is a feeling or an emotional response and they desperately try to gain access to it over and over like spiritual drug addicts by doing good deeds, spiritual hype, showmanship worship, or continual self-abasement. However Paul makes it plain that it is a relational thing that we are “to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that (we) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Jesus taught that “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23 NIV) Faith is more than an emotional experience; it is the deep rooted relationship one has as they walk with God in Jesus! It is wider, longer, higher and deeper than we can imagine and surpasses all the knowledge of the world! Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional!

EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes about our spiritual strength by asking, “What are the five best toys of all time?” He continues by writing that “Jonathan H. Liu suggested the following: A stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt” from a GeekDad column at wired.com. All are readily available, adaptable, and suitable for all ages. They are cheap and are powered by our imagination and no batteries are required. Imagination gives us the ability to use common things and make them something else. We are multidimensional in our play. After asking God to strengthen them with his power through the Spirit Paul prayed that they would be able to grasp and experience the full dimension of the love of Christ. Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional!

Just when a person thinks they have God nailed or trapped in a box, they discover that he is far more than one could ever conceive. We can become so jaded in our walk with God that we fail to see it as it truly is and therefore fail to understand its potential in our lives. Paul reminds us that…

III. Our spiritual strength is inconceivable! (Vv. 20-21)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

1. Paul closes his personal prayer for the Ephesians with a final teaching concerning Jesus. He tells them that his desire is that God would “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”. Now we can imagine a lot of things but Paul is following up the idea that our relationship with Jesus is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than we can imagine! And so we can ask for more than we realize when we walk with him because we will understand more about our relationship with him! Notice Paul qualifies this prayer with the words “according to his power that is at work within us”! This mighty power is the same as that which resurrected Jesus! It is the same power that gives the believer eternal life! It is the same power that bought us back from the pit of eternal damnation! It is the power of God at work within us! So Paul expresses his praise by stating “to him (God) be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” Only God through Jesus could get all races, tribes, countries, and nationalities to work together in his body the church. Paul would also write the Roman church, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36 NIV) The Apostle John would write that the saints in heaven would sing about Jesus, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” How wonderful to know that our spiritual strength is inconceivable!

EXAMPLE: God is not commonplace. Far too many have relegated God into a position of being just like any other deity that mankind could dream up. Nothing could be further from the truth. God did not “evolve” from a plethora or pantheon of gods until mankind was far along enough in their mythos to finally make him into their image and monotheistic. Nor do we discover the same god in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. While there can exist comparable concepts and even similar stories, it does not mean they all come from the same source. That would be like saying Mien Kampf and Tom Sawyer are from the same author since they both deal with personal struggle and racism! Paul relates that we should never forget that like God our spiritual strength is inconceivable!

Conclusion:

We have several sources of spiritual strength! Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional! Our spiritual strength is inconceivable!
—-
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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Who’s Your Daddy? – John 8:37-47

Who’s Your Daddy? – John 8:37-47
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 24, 2015

One of the greatest detriments to our society’s stability is the dysfunctional makeup of families; namely the amount of absentee father’s in the home. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, “There is a crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological dad in the home. Consequently, there is a “father factor” in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today.” Children of absentee fathers are more likely to live in poverty, have emotional and behavioral problems, more likely to commit crime, use drugs, get pregnant, and more likely to face abuse and neglect. I see the affects of absent fathers daily where I work as a playground monitor.

While the absence of natural fathers in families is a terrible thing, the absence of having our Heavenly Father in a family can be far worse. Strong Christian fatherless homes fair far better than those without Christ. In fact, the effect is dramatic because there is a spiritual foundation that fosters respect, commitment, and personal integrity. Physically the Jews were the descendants of Abraham, yet they failed in their adoption as children of God. Here in John’s gospel Jesus bluntly confronts them about this by asking them, “Who’s your Daddy?” Let’s discover what occurred and what the result was…

READ: John 8:37-47

Most children are curious about where they come from, but sadly in our day and age it seems fewer folks are concerned about their spiritual roots. We discover here that…

I. Abraham was not their father! (Vv. 37-41)

I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

1. While Jesus’ detractors wanted to discuss his heritage in order to detract from who Jesus said he was, he would have none of it and in fact tells them, “I know you are Abraham’s descendants.” Jesus knew because he was one as well! He could claim the same heritage they did and even more so because of whose son he was! He not only was God’s one and only son, born of a woman and the Holy Spirit, but he was also naturally born into the Hebrew nation! The Jews Jesus was speaking to may have been physically Abraham’s descendants, but they were not his spiritual children! Paul would write, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 NIV)” In reality they had nothing to be proud of in dismissing Jesus, God’s true son! Paul knew that God’s promise of our adoption as God’s heritage and children was fulfilled in Jesus, “In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. (Romans 9:8 NIV)” Jesus absolutely knew what he spoke of was true because he had experienced the truth of it in the presence of God himself, “I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They knew only their true father’s lies and he was not Abraham! Like many in our day, they listen to one who deceives them! Like petulant children they respond, “Abraham is our father!” However, if they were truly spiritual children of Abraham, they “would do the things Abraham did.” They should have responded to Jesus just as Abraham responded to the godly messengers sent to him! But they rejected Jesus and he bluntly tells them, “As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.” How could they claim Abraham as their spiritual father when they did not do as he had done? Jesus tells them, “You are doing the things your own father does.” Jesus knew Abraham was not their father!

EXAMPLE: The fight on the playground began with the age-old argument about one another’s parentage. I asked the two boys who were involved in the fisticuffs if their parents would be truly proud of them fighting over what they called one another’s parents. They both looked at their feet and mumbled, “Probably not.” The Jews wanted to involve Jesus in a playground argument concerning their parentage. Instead of asking their Heavenly Father about Jesus they instead engage him in a verbal battle they could not win. Like many today who think they know God, they did not have the spiritual parentage they needed. Jesus knew Abraham was not their father!

The Jews tried to claim a false spirituality they did not have, “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” However, we discover that…

II. God was not their father! (Vv. 42-47)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

1. You can tell a real family by how it acts and what the glue is that holds it together, it is filled with love and because God is love, his family would be filed with his love. Nothing could be further from this reality than this fact concerning the Jews; they were filled with bitterness and narrow-mindedness. Jesus tells them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.” If they had truly known God they would have known who Jesus was and that God had sent him! Jesus then asks them a rhetorical question, “Why is my language not clear to you?” Of course they would not like the answer he gives them, “Because you are unable to hear what I say.” Many in our world today have the same problem with their hearing as well, they are spiritually deaf! They cannot hear God because they are listening to the wrong spiritual father! Jesus gives them the reason for their deafness, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” All other spirituality that does not come from God comes from another father, Satan! Satan is the enemy of the truth and the father of lies! He has been since the very beginning of all things! It is his intrinsic nature to lie! Sadly, far too many swallow his lies as spiritual food. Jesus retorts, “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” Since those who do not know God love to hide in the darkness of their sin and love deception rather than the truth, they do not believe it when they hear it! Jesus asks them, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?” Of course Jesus had never sinned and yet they would not believe him because they would rather listen to a liar than God! God was not their father! When we are willing by faith to listen to what God actually says, then we will hear what he is telling us. This is why Jesus says, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” Do you hear God; do you belong to God’s family? The Jews could not hear Jesus because their ears were spiritually plugged. God was not their father!

EXAMPLE: When she was asked to stop, she refused to do so and suffered the consequences of her actions and attitude. She had to go to the Vice Principal and explain her defiance and disrespectful attitude. Of course at first she denied any culpability in her actions. There are those who will try to deny their ungodly refusal to trust Jesus. Jesus would teach that God would know his family by the spiritual fruit they produce and in fact he would relate that just saying you belong to Jesus will not cut it in his coming kingdom, “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. (Matthew 7:21 NIV)” Sadly, like far too many in our day, we discover that God was not their father!

Conclusion:

Jesus knew Abraham was not their father and God was not their father either!

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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The Father and the Son! — John 5:16-24

The Father and the Son! — John 5:16-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 21 2014

Bill Crowder writes for the Radio Bible Class that “The Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, are known for their beautiful sweaters. Patterns are woven into the fabric using sheep’s wool to craft the garments. Many of them relate to the culture and folklore of these small islands, but some are more personal. Each family on the islands has its own trademark pattern, which is so distinctive that if a fisherman were to drown it is said that he could be identified simply by examining his sweater for the family trademark.” We all have the distinctive marks of our own father imprinted in us and not just in our DNA but often in our mannerism and even sometimes in our spirituality.

Fathers and their sons do not always have the greatest of relationships and in fact it has only gotten worse because so many fathers are absent in the lives of their children. Yet we discover in John’s Gospel that Jesus had an excellent relationship with his father. Let’s discover what this relationship was between the Father and the Son…

READ: John 5:16-24

In John’s gospel we discover that Jesus’ DNA runs deep and that…

I. Like Father like Son! (Vv. 16-18)

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

1. Last time we discussed how the Jews persecuted Jesus because he dared do things on the Sabbath that benefited his fellow human beings. And isn’t interesting that while God became man in in human flesh as Jesus, the Jews lost their humanity in trying to please God and themselves. Their answer was to get angry and persecute the Messiah God sent them! What they did not realize is that Jesus was busy doing the will of God. “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’” God was not asleep nor had he forgotten his people, even though they often felt he had. Sometimes we often think that God does not care or is not concerned about what occurs here on earth, yet he does. Just as he entered onto human existence as a baby, he still is involved moment by moment with those he loves today. David wrote that God “will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalms 121:3-4 NIV)” Israel had forgotten this promise. Have you? And it was for this very reason that “the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” You see they understood what Jesus was telling them, but they did not want to believe it because it did not fit into their paradigm of what they wanted the Messiah to be. How could God have a son and how could this carpenter’s son really be the offspring of God? It was blaspheme to them! However, Jesus would later tell them, “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9 NIV)” In other words, like Father like Son!

EXAMPLE: We often forget what Christmas is all about. It is more than presents, decorated trees, or carols. It is not a Hallmark moment written in a card. It is about the incarnation of God into human existence! God become flesh! When Mary held Jesus she was holding God. No longer would God be unknowable, no longer would he be untouchable, and no longer would he be something out there somewhere because he was here and now! And when we read about Jesus and how he interacted with the folks of his day and age we can understand how he acts with us today! We can trust him because Jesus is the complete embodiment of the Father and now we know what God is like! In other words, like Father like Son!

However, Jesus continues with his discussion to his persecutors and we discover that…

II. The Son bestows life to those who believe his Father! (Vv. 19-24)

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

1. Jesus would later let his detractors know “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” Jesus is the Truth and there is no other truth but him. This is why he would often begin his statements by relating, “Amen, amen” or “Truly, truly,” meaning that what he was about to relate was the absolute truth! So when he turns to his accusers here in John’s Gospel, “I tell you the truth” he means that what he is about to relate to them they should listen to and understand completely. Jesus tells them that “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Jesus could only do what he saw his Father doing because they were and are the same! We must ask ourselves, “Why this is so important for them to trash and why it is the one thing that Jesus’ detractors always try to dismiss?” The answer is simple: Because if Jesus is God then what he said and what he did does matter! In fact, Jesus goes further and states, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” Wow! God and Jesus are in complete sync because their relationship is built on who they are and their attributes! The greatest of these is the grace or love of God! And, if they had a problem with him healing a lame man then they were going to have a real problem with what he was going to do next! “Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” God can create or bestow life to those he desires and Jesus would do this very thing because he was the Messiah! In fact, those who now stood in judgment of Jesus would one day face his judgment because God would entrust all judgment concerning life and death to Jesus his Son! Why would God do this? Because “that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” A holy God was willing to send himself as a man to die for us; we had better recognize this truth or suffer the consequences of our dismissal! Jesus bluntly relates, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” The Son bestows life to those who believe his Father!

EXAMPLE: In the face of certain death or danger the hero turns to the victim, holds out his hand, and says, “If you want to live, come with me.” Whatever the end-of-the-world apocalyptic scenario is for the movie script we find folks are often saved at the last minute by some tough guy or gal who steps up and fights off the bad guys. Here in John’s Gospel we discover a hero who is unassuming, not some tough guy, but rather a spiritual intellect who offers his listeners salvation in the face of certain death. How do we know this to be true? We know it is true because God the Father said it was. He sent his Son to save mankind. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)” The Son bestows life to those who believe his Father!

Conclusion:
We have discovered that like Father like Son and that the Son bestows life to those who believe his Father!

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…

I was just wondering what does a loving father mean to you today? Not the one who gave you birth, but the one who created you, knows you intimately, walks with you daily and yet still puts up with your rebellion and disrespect. He has promised to be a father to the fatherless, a comfort in times of need, and a shelter through any storm of life, yet do you still neglect him? When was the last time you showed up at his house, sent him a father’s day message, or spent time with him? You can you know because he is always there for you no matter what you do or how disrespectful you are. Makes one wonder…

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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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