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God brings joy! – Psalm 30

God brings joy! – Psalm 30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 13, 2017

George Weiss and Robert Thiele wrote the lyrics: “I see trees of green, red roses too; I see them bloom for me and you, and I think to myself what a wonderful world.” It’s a song everyone knows because it has been used over and over again in different movies. And it was made famous by the Jazz singer and musician Louis Armstrong in 1967. It goes on to say, “I see skies of blue and clouds of white; the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself what a wonderful world. The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do, they’re really saying I love you. I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll never know. And I think to myself what a wonderful world. Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.” The song hits home because it speaks of the wonder of the world, God’s creation, and the joy that it all brings.

While happiness is a momentary thing in life — more than a room without a roof or simply being the truth — joy is an inner quality of life. Far too often folks confuse joy with momentary happiness and when the clapping stops they then struggle to maintain their happiness. The Psalmist David sings to us what joy is and where it is found; let’s discover what he wrote about the fact that God brings joy…

READ: Psalm 30

What could be more joyous than dedicating a new building for the Lord? I remember years ago we decided to rededicate this old wooden building to God and we walked around it, prayed, and praised God for it. We did this because of what God had done through us as a church in paying off our loan. We learn from David that…

I. God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from! (Vv. 1-3)

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.

1. David immediately sings “I will exalt you, O LORD” meaning that he will lift up God’s name to anyone who would listen. Lifting up the name of the Lord should be a common practice for the child of God. I know I remember my parents and how they raised me, then should we not therefore remember our Heavenly Father and how he too has raised us up as well? In fact notice that David sings “for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me”! We far too often get comfortable in our walk with the Lord and begin to forget just what we were pulled out of and saved from. For too many it is more of a stroll with God like being pushed in a baby stroller because we never learn to actually walk with him but rather like spiritual infants we just lay back and try to enjoy the ride! But David remembers what God pulled him out of: “the depths” and from his “enemies”! Now you may not think you have very many enemies because for your way of thinking the word “enemy” denotes someone who seeks to destroy you like North Korea or something. But remember Peter wrote that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) and Jesus referred to the Devil as our “enemy” who sows seeds of weeds among the wheat. (Matthew 13:39) The world is full of the Enemy’s wisdom, wiles, and wit. He seeks to destroy you and to take away your joy in the Lord. Yet David knew where he could immediately turn to: “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” It is God alone who heals us through Jesus! In fact it is God in Jesus that “brought me up from the grave” and “spared me from going down into the pit”! Never forget that it is Jesus who brings true joy because of what he brought you out of! God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget being out on the jetty at Ilwaco, Washington as a young boy fishing with my brother-in-law. He warned us not to go out to the end of the jetty and to always keep our eyes on the ocean for “sneaker waves”. And of course being a ten-year-old boy I knew what I was doing and did not listen to a single word he said. I climbed out to the end of the jetty and neglected to watch the ocean. A huge wave washed over me engulfing me. I grabbed a hold of a boulder as I was being swept out to sea. I was completely frightened and then these hands reached down and dragged me out of the swirling waters and pulled me to safety. It was my brother-in-law. I never forgot from that day on to watch the ocean no matter how calm it looks because I never forgot what I was saved from. God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from!

When I am saddened by what life throws my way I know I can go to my sweet little wife and she will gently kick me in the pants and say, “Straighten up! It only lasts a moment!” She has a deft way of helping me to remember that while my happiness may be fleeting, God’s joy is lasting no matter what the circumstance. David reminds us that…

II. God brings joy that lasts! (Vv. 4-7)

Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

1. Whether it is a good root beer drinking song or a rousing traveling song sung at the top of everyone’s lungs in the car while traveling to some vacation destination it is always good to have others join in and sing with you. This is why singing in church, whether you can sing or not, is so important. It creates intimate spiritual fellowship with one another and with the Lord who you are there to worship. Over and over we are reminded in Scripture to “sing to the Lord”! This is why David tells his listeners to “Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.” I am baffled when Christians do not sing to the Lord. Is life so horrible you do not have a song to sing to God? I sing to the Lord all the time. Ask my wife. It doesn’t have to be hymns or just Christian contemporary radio tunes because God is also pleased when you simply make music to him from the inner joy in your heart that overflows to him! Why would David want others to join him? Because he knew God’s “anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime”! And shouldn’t believers sing all the more loudly because we have the everlasting joy of Jesus? (You betcha by golly Mr. and Mrs. Saddiface.) In fact David gives us one of the most endearing stanzas in the entire Bible when he eloquently reminds us that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”! The sadness of sin’s darkness lasts only a short while but the enduring joy of the Lord comes at the break of a new day and lasts forever! WOW! David knew that in a world where anything could happen to anyone at anytime and living in a world of sifting sand that “When I felt secure, I said, ‘I will never be shaken.’” He understood that God was his secure foundation, his rock of ages, and his steadfast mountain: “O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm”! As life went well David knew God was there but he also knew that when things went pickle barrel in life; when God “hid” his “face” and he “was dismayed” God was there as well. David could trust in God and he knew where his joy came from! God brings joy that lasts!

EXAMPLE: People love those dollar stores where supposedly everything within them only costs a dollar. When I was a kid they were known as the 88 Cent Store or the 99 Cent Store or Woolworth’s! Anyway these places are filled with all kinds of junk that only lasts for a little while because that is how it is made so you will come back and by more junk, right? Yet I can remember being a little kid and being given a quarter, which was a lot of money way back during the dinosaurs, and going into the store to buy something. I would take my time to make sure that what I bought was exactly what I wanted and that I could play with it for a while. I remember buying a wind-up car for ten cents that lasted only a day and it broke. I cried. As I wailed away my dad patted my shoulder and in his great fatherly wisdom said, “What do you expect? It was only a dime!?” I am so glad that David reminds us that God brings joy that lasts!

I have often reminded you that all the material things you now hold dear now will be sold at garage sales, given to the Salvation Army, tossed in the trash, or placed in someone else’s storage shed until they have to get rid of it. And here in this Psalm of David we are reminded that it isn’t things that bring us true joy but rather…

III. God brings joy when we remember him! (Vv. 8-12)

To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

1. All through this Psalm David’s focus is on the Lord and again he sings to remind us that “To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy”. It is only God who can give us mercy when we sin. It is because of his wonderful love that he came as Jesus that we could have eternal life in him. The Apostle Paul would later remind us that “we were by nature objects of wrath… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:3-5 NIV) David in his honest singing to the Lord asks God, “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?” David is asking honest questions that many have asked of God; basically “Why would you do this to me? How can I worship you through this hardship?” Like the rest of us while David knew God loved and cared for him, he sometimes struggled that God would punish him or would allow bad things happen to him. You know, “why do bad things happen to good people?” Eliphaz the Temanite in the Book of Job asked Job, “Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit him?” (Job 22:2 NIV) Of course he was making the case that God did not need anyone even Job and wanted Job to repent of any sin he might have forgotten. Yet we all ask this of God at some point in our lives. We forget that life is tainted by sin. All creation is. Bad things will happen to good people until we see Jesus face-to-face! Paul would ask, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” and then he would remind his readers that nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus! (Romans 8:31, 35 NIV) David knew this as well and this is why he also continued to sing, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.” David remembered that while we may waver in our faith God never wavers in his love for us and so he finishes his song by singing, “O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” God brings joy when we remember him!

EXAMPLE: Happiness is fleeting but real joy is learned in life. Joy can be hard work. Too many think that once they are married then everything will be sweet singing birdies and rose petal strewn paths. Anyone who has been married for more than a couple of years will tell you it is a lot of hard work, consistency, love and forgiveness. It is a lifetime commitment and not a momentary made for TV moment. I knew this startling fact for the first time when the sweet darling girl I married put her hands on her hips and demanded I begin to “use the clothes hamper instead of the floor” for my dirty clothes and that I should actually “rinse” my “dishes and put them in the sink” instead of “leaving them for” her “to pick up”. Then I learned that I could not “fix” her moods by simply doing something, I had to actually listen and let her work it out as I supported her. Was it tough for a bachelor to learn? Yep. And there were times when I wondered what I had gotten myself into just as she did as well. But the true joy of marriage took hold when I realized we were both in it for the long haul as partners, lovers, and friends. David teaches us this about God in this Psalm as well. Happiness is fleeting but God brings joy when we remember him!

Conclusion:
God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from! God brings joy that lasts! God brings joy when we remember him!
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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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Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15

Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 4, 2017
I have learned a lot by being a people watcher and listener. When I was younger it was hard for me to keep my mouth shut; I know it seems hard to believe but it is true! So, over the years I have made it a goal to really focus on how people pray and what they pray and in doing so I have noticed several things. First, a lot of folks misunderstand what prayer is and secondly, interestingly, they copy others in how they pray. Now that I have made you conscious and uncomfortable of how you should pray in front of me, I believe we need to learn what prayer is all about.
Prayer for the Hebrew during Jesus’ day was much by rote. They were kind of “Catholic” in a sense in that they all got together and recited similar prayers all together at the same time. They were not as dreadful as some religions and their overly mind-numbing chanted prayers that begin to sound like so much background white noise than actual prayer. Jesus’ disciples noticed how Jesus intimately prayed and they wanted to learn more. In the midst of Jesus’ landmark sermon on the mount he introduces a lesson in how to pray; let’s discover what he has to say about prayer…
READ: Matthew 6:5-15
Luke tells us that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1 NIV) Here in Matthew is the fuller rendition of what Jesus taught them. We learn that…
I. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! (Vv. 5-8)
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
  1. For Jesus there was never any doubt that his followers would not pray regularly and so he tells them, “And when you pray”. Prayer should be just like our taking a breath, something we do not even thinking about it but we do it anyway. Not like some robot reciting the same catch phrases, wording, or mantra but rather it should be something we naturally do! Notice he warned that when we pray we are not to “be like the hypocrites” who loved fine sounding words. Jesus said that “they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” They loved the sound of their own voices but more than that they loved the attention they got from others! Have you ever known someone who loved the sound of his or her own voice? Jesus bluntly told them, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” However, when the believer speaks to God it is to be one-on-one and personal. It is your conversation with the Creator of the universe and so Jesus quietly tells them, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Now did he mean we should never pray publically? Nope. What Jesus is telling us is that our prayer is not for the ears of others but a conversation between two individuals: us and God! We are not to think about what others think; we are to focus on the one to whom we are conversing. The Pharisees had turned prayer into an act to be seen by men to demonstrate their supposed righteousness. Their prayers were directed not to God but to other men, and consisted of long, repetitive monologues. Jesus taught, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Like the wind rattling through the trees or the sound of rushing water their prayers were meaningless. So Jesus warns us, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
  EXAMPLE: In the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast there is a crude, rude bully named Gaston. He likes himself and the sound of his own voice. Can you imagine telling the person you love just how much you love them in meaningless phrases at the top of your lungs in a crowded public place? While we may think it kind of romantic the first time it would soon get old, embarrassing, and meaningless if you did it all the time. Prayer is not all about you; it is your conversation with the Lord. It is individual and to be special. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
As Baptists we often forget to whom we are praying and while it is a conversation with God we must never forget to whom we are speaking to. We learn that…
II. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! (Vv. 9-11)
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.”
  1. Notice how Jesus taught that our prayer should focus on the one we are praying to. He begins by teaching, “This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven”. He understood that prayer is directed to “Our Father in heaven” and not to some manmade idol, statue, or effigy. God is our father not in that we are biologically related as some heresies teach but rather he is the one who made us, loves us, and sent himself to save us! Like children with loving parents, we depend on him for everything in life! Jesus continued by teaching our conversation with our Father in heaven should also remember his distinctiveness: “hallowed be your name”. God is to be revered and honored because he is God! He is holy, just, loving, all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere. God should be honored in our prayer to remind us to whom we are praying. Our prayer is not to be all about us and in fact we are to pray that God’s purpose and plan for creation should be fulfilled: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom will be established whether we think it will or not. Jesus fulfilled the coming of God’s purpose and no matter what the rest of the world believes, God’s purpose and plan “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Our prayers should fit within the framework, purpose and plan of God which is to “seek and save what was lost”! (Luke 19:10 NIV) Far too often we think our purpose and plans are more important than God’s and that the only reason Jesus came was to give us a better life. I hate to burst your bubble but he did not. He came to give us life in him! We are to be dependent on God alone therefore we are to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” Food was a daily focus for folks of Jesus’ day; not like today where we have refrigeration, grocery stores every four blocks, and availability to all kinds of food within hands reach. We can even get it pre prepared and sent to our homes over our cell phones! Earning enough money and being able to go to the market or being able to grow your own food for the day was a concern. Jesus was teaching that we are to be more dependent on God than we realize. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
  EXAMPLE: Don’t you just hate it when you have to go to some business or family function and you are greeted by folks who have a pasted on smile, nod and mouth they are glad to see you but are really looking for someone more important to greet than you? You know what I mean; before they are done with you they have already dismissed you and moved along. Now suppose you treated your significant other, your spouse, or the person you were dating this way? How long would your relationship last? And yet this is how we often pray. We go through the motions wanting to get through it in order to do the next chore we have to do. Prayer is not to be a check off list of regurgitated phrases. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
Our conversation with God is to be more than about ourselves; it is a reflection of our attitude and our relationship with the Lord. We learn that…
III. Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition! (Vv. 12-15)
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
  1. To truly have a conversation with someone there has to be give and take with both of you listening and sharing. And in this sharing you must be sincere and focused just like when you pray. Our prayer is a reflection of who we are. If we cannot honestly converse with our Creator, Savior, and friend how do we expect our prayers to be answered? Prayer, our conversation with our Father God, should be open and honest. It should begin with us reflecting on our relationship with others and with him! Jesus taught we are to ask him to “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” These are not debts we can repay or owe to God but rather are so called, because on account of them we owe satisfaction to the justice of God. Jesus paid our debt of sin fully, but we must acknowledge the payment daily for the sins we commit. If we cannot forgive others their sin against us how in the world can we expect God to forgive us? Our prayer should acknowledge our inability to make satisfaction for the debt we owe due to our sin and that only God can forgive and fully pay the debt! We are to humbly ask for forgiveness as we have forgiven others who have sinned against us. If we are willing and wanting that the Creator should forgive us we should be as mere humans more than able and ready to forgive fellow sinners. God is to be our guide in life. He is the one we are to follow and so it is quite correct to ask him to “lead us not into temptation”. The idea is not that God would deliberately tempt us or take us where we might be tempted but rather it is asking him to always clearly show us the right path to follow and “deliver us from the evil one”. The idea is we are to ask that we not be led astray by the world or Satan but that we instead would be drawn to God’s wonderful presence! Jesus explains that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Jesus knew the Jews were a people very subject to revenge; an eye for an eye. Believers are not to be this way. Jesus is teaching about personal fellowship. One cannot walk with God and be unwilling to forgive others. Paul said it best, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
  EXAMPLE: Jesus knew he was about to do something so marvelous that it would boggle the minds of those around him. Because of what he would do their relationship with God would change forever. He would pay the price for their sins and the sins of the entire human race past, present, and future! When Jesus did this prayer no longer was a means by which one would come begging before God but it would reflect the relationship the believer now enjoys with his Father in heaven. Paul wrote that we have “received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” And that “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16 NIV)  Again Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8, 10 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
Conclusion:
Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
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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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A new hope! – Ephesians 1:1-14

A new hope! – Ephesians 1:1-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 1, 2016

It’s a new year, a fresh start, and a time to get rid of the old and in with the new, right? For some it is easier said than done. I have never even in my entire life seen and heard such a crowd of whining sore losers. I used to think that this nation would and could move forward no matter who was elected, and this was after Presidents that I thoroughly disagreed with and who abused and misused their offices to further their personal, sexual, and societal agendas. We have a nation that exhibits an immaturity that needs to be kicked in the rear and told to get over itself. A new President does not mean the end of all things; it only means you get to vote a different scoundrel into office in another four years! There is always a new hope!

We live in a day and age where there is way too much emphasis on self. People would rather have others tell them what to think and do rather than actually figure out for their own selves what the truth is! Paul was one of those folks who used both practical wisdom and theoretical knowledge. He did not allow his emotions to dictate what he believed. Instead he used what he knew to be true to influence how he responded. Paul wanted his readers in Ephesus to understand the new hope they had in Jesus and why it was important for their lives. Let’s discover what Paul wrote and how we today can use his advice concerning a new hope…

READ: Ephesians 1:1-14

Humans have always wondered why God does what he does. When life is going well we do not give a thought to why things happen but when life turns sour we cry out, “Why?” Here in these verses…

I. Paul tells us why we have a new hope! (Vv. 1-6)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

1. Paul began his letter by reinforcing his own calling as “an apostle of Christ Jesus” and let his readers know that it was “by the will of God”. He did not make himself an apostle, one sent out to do the work and will of the Messiah. Rather it was God who had given him the task and mantle. He then addresses those he is writing by reminding them they are “saints” and “the faithful in Christ Jesus”. Sainthood is not reserved for those elected to it by any human organization but rather to all who have believed in Jesus as the Messiah are given the mantle of “saint”. Therefore Paul’s authority came from “the will of God” just as his reader’s holiness did. His desire was “grace and peace” to them both “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace expressed God’s unmerited love directed to those who believed in Jesus and peace is the result of that grace! Paul knew exactly where this grace and peace came from and joyously writes “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Paul then comes to the crux of the matter by relating why God did this wonderful thing: “For he chose us in him”! This grace and peace was all a part of God’s wonderful plan all along, before “the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight”! Wow! God did this “In love” and in fact he “predestined us to be adopted as his sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ”! We become God’s “holy and blameless” children because of Jesus and this was “in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” This is why we have a new hope!

EXAMPLE: Far too many seem to think that by doing more thrilling things or by purchasing more exotic experiences that they will find true happiness. Then there are those who feel that new relationships will bring new and exciting results in their lives. What these do is bring us a false sense of hope. However the Bible teaches us that the world was in a hopeless situation until Jesus came. Paul tells us why we have a new hope!

We are a curious group of beings and have always wondered how things work. When faced with a situation to be solved we look for answers. Here in these verses…

II. Paul teaches us the how of our new hope! (Vv. 7-10)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

1. In agreement with God’s perfect pleasure and will he freely gave us hope when we had none! But how is this possible? Paul immediately addresses this question by writing that it is “In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood”. We are bought back with a price! And this gracious Godly coupon is redeemed for our “forgiveness of sins”! We did not earn it, win it, or deserve it! It was because it was “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”. It was because of this wondrous work of love that God “lavished” poured out fully “on us with all wisdom and understanding” of his gracious act in Jesus! In other words God has enabled believers to understand his will! In fact Paul relates that God “made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”! Paul would tell the Colossians “My purpose is that (Christians) may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3 NIV) The plan of God was “put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment”. That fulfillment was reached in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection! This is why Jesus pronounced while dying on the cross, “It is finished!” Complete. God’s plan was to bring about his will for all of his creation. The words “bring all things… together under one Head” translate one Greek word which literally means the summing up of how God did what he did through Jesus! Jesus is the entire summation of God’s perfect plan! Paul teaches us the how of our new hope!

EXAMPLE: I have been truly amazed at the sheer number of people who could not handle the recent election. It’s as if the end of the world has occurred to them; it concerns me to think what would happen if something truly awful occurred in their lives. It also makes me wonder where in the world they get their hope from. God has given us free of charge hope when we had none. Paul teaches us the how of our new hope!

Wanting to know what is about to happen has fascinated folks for centuries. Some have followed charlatans and phonies with the hope to know what will happen. In these verses…

III. Paul shares with us the what of our new hope! (Vv. 11-14)

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.

1. Paul has shared with his readers the why and how of our new hope and now he continues in what has occurred because of Jesus. He writes that it is “In him we were also chosen”. This is more than being God’s chosen to receive the Law it is God’s choosing all of us personally. We all were chosen by God and in fact he cast his lot for us! Paul writes that it is “having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” Jews and gentiles alike are chosen for God’s praise and glory! The Israelites had gotten so spiritually myopic that they had begun to think they were the only ones God cared about but now Paul declares that even gentiles, non-Jews, “also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Hearing means believing and applying what one hears to their lives. And what the Jews could only long for we all now enjoy completely when we believe, namely we are “marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption”! Paul has introduced to his readers the active will of One God in three personalities: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and God the Holy Spirit! It is God’s plan from the beginning to send Jesus his Son that we may believe in him and be sealed by God the Holy Spirit! Believers are marked in God by his guaranteeing presence of the Holy Spirit! And this seal, this deposit of God of himself in us stays with us “until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.” Jesus, God’s only Son brought this all about! This is what our new hope is all about!

EXAMPLE: There is a child’s book called “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb!” And like the beat of a drum it goes over and over the rhyme so that toddlers can learn. Paul’s message for us this morning is kind of like the drum beat rhyme found in this book in that he continually beats the drum of God’s predestination in his perfect plan of redemption. In it he shares with us the what of our new hope is – Jesus!

Conclusion:

Paul tells us why we have a new hope! Paul teaches us the how of our new hope! Paul shares with us the what of our new hope!
—-
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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Live or die! — John 5:25-29

Live or die! — John 5:25-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 28, 2014

One of the most fascinating things ever written was by the Apostle Paul when he wrote his friends in Philippi, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV)” How could Paul be so confident in making such a bold statement in a world that was so evil and full of death? Paul had come to the conclusion that whether he lived or died, he lived or died in the Lord. Live or die it did not matter for Paul as long as he was living for God when he died he knew he would live for God!

Such confidence in Jesus is not born out of wishful thinking on the part of Christians, it is based on fact. We know to live or die rests solely with the Lord. When I was about 9 years old my best friend and I were playing in his backyard. We had climbed to the utmost top of a couple of fir trees that grew in his yard. They were huge and we climbed as high as we could. Just as I was reaching the top of one tree, the branch I was on snapped and I plummeted to the ground below, hitting dozens of branches on the way down. I hit the ground on my back, knocking the wind out of me, and blacking out. I remember thinking that I was going to die and end up in heaven. Imagine how surprised I was when I woke up only to find my friend standing over me. Live or die, it is up to the Lord. Let’s find out why and what John writes about it in his gospel…

READ: John 5:25-29

New years are full of hope because we think we can start new and fresh. Out with the old and in with the new, yet within a few days, even though we might make a resolution to do better, we find ourselves in the same predicament we were in before the new year. However, here in John’s gospel we discover that a truly fresh beginning begins when…

I. We live because of Jesus! (Vv. 25-26)

I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.

1. Jesus knew what he said was true, we discussed this before, and because of this he related that “a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Jesus knew that he would usher in a new way of life and that time was coming and had been established simply because he was in the world. Just as Jesus would command Jairus’ daughter upon his saying “Talitha koum!” (little girl get up) to rise from her ill-fated death, or the widow of Nain whose dead son lived after Jesus said, “young man, get up” and his friend Lazarus upon Jesus calling him to “come forth!” ultimately Jesus would also be able to call those who trusted in him from the death to life as well! Those dead in sin would live eternally after placing their faith in God’s Son, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” Jesus can do it because of who he is! Just as God was the giver and taker of human life, Jesus was as well! Later Jesus would bluntly state, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. (John 10:17-18 NIV)” Jesus has the power of life! We know it is true because God said so! John would later write, “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-12 NIV)” We live because of Jesus!
EXAMPLE: We have all heard the phrase, “Life is short.” However, few of us think about that fact until life becomes, well, short. When we are younger we give no thought to the consequences of many of our actions. We take greater risks thinking we will live forever or at least longer. I will never forget a close Christian friend who was making deliveries for his work near Battle Ground when his truck was hit head on by a logging truck. He was killed instantly. Some would have focused on how sad it was for such a kind and godly man so young to be killed so tragically, yet his life was celebrated by all who knew him as the vibrant Christian he was. We all knew as he had that we live because of Jesus!

Live or let Die was the name of an old James Bond film. James Bond is ordered by his boss, M, to investigate the deaths and their connections to Kananga, the dictator of a small Caribbean island called San Monique. Bond meets Solitaire, a beautiful virgin tarot expert who has the uncanny ability to see both the future and remote events in the present. There are those actually think fortune tellers can foresee the future for our life or our death. None can. Here in John’s gospel we discover that if we do not confess our faith in Jesus…

II. We will die because of our sin! (V. 27-29)

And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

1. Jesus told his detractors that God “has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” Paul would teach that God’s power was “exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything. (Ephesians 1:20-22 NIV)” Jesus has the power and the authority because “he is the Son of Man!” He is God’s chosen one, his anointed, the Messiah! Jesus related that his listeners should “not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out” of their graves. In fact, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him… And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 6:9 & 8:11 NIV)” Wow! We live because he lives! Yet, Jesus also related that “those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” In other words those who have sinned and are not cleansed of their sins will die in their sins! Paul would remind us that “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23 NIV)” Later, when those Jesus was talking to could not believe in who he was, he bluntly tells them, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins. (John 8:24 NIV)” We will die because of our sin!

EXAMPLE: Many people in Jesus’ day thought that when you died, you were dead. Dead is dead. In fact, when they remembered that Jesus had promised to resurrect himself, they determined to have his tomb sealed and guarded! They knew that if he did indeed rise from the grave then it would prove who he said he was! What they forgot was the fact of why they were dying in the first place. Paul would write that “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned… (Yet) at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, 12 NIV)” The fact is, we die because of our sin!

Conclusion:
We live because of Jesus and we will die because of our sin!

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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The Man Who Went to the Mat! — John 5:1-15

The Man Who Went to the Mat! — John 5:1-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 14, 2014

To “go to the mat” may come from the Old English matte, from Late Latin matta “mat made of rushes”, probably from Punic or Phoenician matta (Hebrew mittah “bed, couch”). Meaning “tangled mass”. That of “piece of padded flooring used in gymnastics or wrestling” is attested from 1892; hence figurative phrase go to the mat “do battle”. The Latin word also is the source of German Matte, matze ; Dutch mat, Italian matta. French natte “mat, matting” is from Late Latin. Interestingly, it was also a phrase from chess in the Arabic that meant to checkmate someone.

When we go to the mat for someone it means we are willing to stand up and support that person. Paul writes about this wonderful truth by telling us, “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will…. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:27, 33-34 NIV)” We have Jesus who is willing to “go to the mat” for us! We see this wonderful truth displayed here in John’s gospel…

READ: John 5:1-16

We discover that…

I.  God goes to the mat for us where we are! (Vv. 1-5)

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed [–and they waited for the moving of the waters.] [From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.] One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

1. We are not told nor are we sure but “Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.” It could have been the feast of Pentecost, as some think; or as others, the feast of tabernacles; or rather, the feast of the Passover. We do not know. However John describes that “there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda (house of mercy) and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.” Superstition is nothing new. It occurred before Jesus’ time and occurs right now as well. There are those who think that by breaking a mirror you give yourself seven years of bad luck. Some actually think that dead folks become angels, who are, according to the Bible, the created servants, heralds, and messengers of God who do not have any freewill at all! And, do not get me started on the veneration of dead folks, relics, or spiritual sites that people make homage or pilgrimages to. John explains, “Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed [–and they waited for the moving of the waters.] [From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.]” John does not tell us that he believed an actual angel did this but there were those who thought so! And sadly things have not changed much in our day and age. What I see John trying to teach us is not so much about the superstition but rather that Jesus was willing to go where folks were who needed him! Jesus went to this pool of mercy not for healing hmself, but rather to display the power of God! We discover he had a divine meeting scheduled there because “One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.” For thirty-eight years he had suffered and could not walk, for thirty-eight years he had come to this pool to receive mercy and soon he would meet the one who was willing to go to the mat for him! God goes to the mat where we are!

EXAMPLE: I am so glad I did not have to journey to some far distant land in search of some esoteric truism in order to find my god within. It is truly sad when people actually think that we can make God into their own image. How delightful and wonderful to realize that the Bible contains all we need to know concerning God and it is not some veiled or hidden message that only certain chosen ones can decipher! What is even more fantastic is the realization that God is everywhere we are! Daniel related, “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:22 NIV)” Paul writes that it is “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. (Colossians 1:26 NIV)” And, God has told us to “be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)” God goes to the mat where we are!

We learn that…

II. We must be willing to pick up our mat! (Vv. 6-9a)

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

1. Since Jesus has entered into the history of the world as our redeemer, the grace of God has been applied to us and within his preordained plan he has given us the freewill to choose. While he knows, in his omniscience, who will or who will not choose to follow him, he gives us the choice! In that choosing, we must be willing to pick up our mat! This is why “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” It was the man’s choice. But more than this it was his choice to continue in his spiritual condition as well! Jesus desired to know if he was there simply to beg, garner sympathy, or to be truly healed. There are those who would rather use their condition in life to gain some convoluted advantage in order to benefit them in some manner. However, did this man truly “want to get well”? And here we discover that the man addresses Jesus in the same way as did the royal official whose son lay dying. He replies, “Sir,” meaning Lord or master, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” He simply and succinctly states his predicament to Jesus. When he is willing to see Jesus as Lord, as the Master of his life then and only then can he be cured. We know Jesus never healed all those who came to him nor did he cure all those he came into contact with. His main purpose was not to do away with human suffering but rather to elevate folks to a higher calling, the kingdom of God! As the old spiritual states, “This world is not our home; we’re just a passin’ through!” We should not get comfortable here in this life. And so here we see that the invalid had a choice to make; he could stay where he was and complain about not being able to get in the pool or he could trust Jesus and do what he asked, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” Notice what occurs instantly when he decides to trust the Lord, “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” At some point we must be willing to pick up our mat!

EXAMPLE: The theme of a lot of game shows has not changed much; the contestant must decide what is the correct answer, the correct door, or the best prize to take. And if he chooses incorrectly, well, he loses! (Wah, wah, wah!) Trusting Jesus is not some game we play in life trying to guess which door to choose. God is not some game show host trying to get us to choose the correct door or to trick us into choosing the wrong one. Yet, sadly, there are those who actually think this way. Trusting God is absolutely knowing that he is with us and we can walk with him no matter where or which “door” we choose in life. When we trust God through faith in his Son, Jesus, we then must trust him as we walk with him. Therefore, we must be willing to pick up our mat!

We should not be surprised that…

III. Going to the mat may mean going to battle for the Lord! (Vv. 9b-16)

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, “Pick up your mat and walk.” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.

1. Whenever we find God at work, we often find Satan involved in trying gain a foothold as well. He often simply uses the resources already available to him. Things like our pride, arrogance, vanity, or selfishness. And here in John’s gospel we find Satan using God’s own day of rest because on “The day on which this took place was a Sabbath.” Can you hear the spooky music in the background? (Dun, dun, dun!) God intended there be a day of rest for his people to enjoy, worship, and give God glory for all that he had done in their lives during the previous week. However, the Jews had taken this noble and wonderful command of God and turned it into a duty, a requirement, and a means of trying to garner more favor from God. When God stated that his people were to keep the Sabbath Day holy and consider it a day of rest he never meant it to be a means whereby the Hebrews would sit around and concoct a myriad of methods in not breaking the rules! God just desired his people remember him on one day of the week and to rest from their usual labor! “And so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’” No it did not. It never did, what had occurred is that the Jews had convoluted God’s command into their own myopic rendition and requirement. So instead of focusing on what God had just miraculously done through his Messiah, they strained for the gnat, or in this case, the mat! The invalid is not concerned with their arguments; he is only excited that he was cured from 38 years of being an invalid! He replies, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ So they asked him, ‘Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?’” John relates, “The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.” In fact Jesus was concerned for him and “Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.’” Jesus knew the man and his family would become the focus of the Jews. And either the man was unconcerned or he did not want to get on their bad side, so he “went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.” Jesus’ words begin to come true for himself and later the man as well, “So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.” Going to the mat may mean going to battle for the Lord!

EXAMPLE: We live in a society where we think bad things should never happen to us. We tacitly believe that we should be destined for only a good and wonderful life free of any care, concern, or worry. This rather odd notion has crept into Christianity as well. God never promised us a life without harshness, evil, or ugly things happening. What he promised was to bless us through the trials and tribulations of life. No matter what occurs we can rest assured that God is with us. The Jews had so focused on their predicament they had lost touch with the reality of who God is and how he works. Instead of praising God for the man’s miraculous cure, they are angry and look to harm either the man or the one who cured him! John teaches us that going to the mat may mean going to battle for the Lord!

Conclusion:

God goes to the mat for us where we are! At some point we must be willing to pick up our mat! Going to the mat may mean going to battle for the Lord!

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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The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! — John 4:1-26

The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! — John 4:1-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 16, 2014

Recently one of the local news outlets did a series on prostitution in Portland, Oregon. The people involved are younger and more dangerous than ever before. They enslave their victims, often abusing them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Police are trying to get a handle on the human trafficking in order to gain control of illegal guns on the street as well. Interestingly, no one ever mentioned the fact that the criminals involved did not register their weapons or submitted to background checks. I digress. Some call it the oldest profession, but it is a dirty, nasty, crime-ridden, and immoral blight on society that needs to be eradicated.

In Jesus’ day we discover that many women were placed in this horrendous position simply because they had no other means of support. Pimps, drugs, and illegal weapons were not necessarily a part of the trade back then, however it did carry a societal disdain and a seedier reputation, unless of course you were one of the respected pagan temple prostitutes. These were highly sought after positions that families often willingly gave their daughters over to. However in Jewish society it was seen as it should be, as ungodly and immoral behavior; not fitting for anyone to participate in. Here in John’s gospel we find Jesus with the tainted lady at a local watering hole, let’s discover what occurs…

READ: John 4:1-26

Here we find…

I. Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting! (Vv. 1-6)

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (John 4:1-6 NIV)

1. Interestingly we discover the reason for John the Baptist’s disciples getting frustrated that Jesus was baptizing: “The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John.” Now why this would excite them so much? Perhaps it was because of that temple incident where Jesus had forced them to confront their immoral and ill-conceived money changing scheme. Or perhaps it was because Jesus was gaining in popularity and John was waning, but whatever the reason we find out that “although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.” However, “When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.” Evidently Jesus decided it was not worth causing a stir, it was not time to reveal himself, and decided to head back north to Galilee. Most Jews would have gone a more of a roundabout route going completely around Samaria. They would not have wanted to be tainted with even breathing the same air that Samaritans breathed or walking on the same roads they did because all pious Jews thought of their brethren in the north as half-breeds. Not real Hebrews at all; to be avoided at all cost. Yet Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Jesus deliberately decided to head almost straight through Samaria to get to Galilee! Jesus had a divine appointment to make and “So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.” Samaritans “were racially mixed and their religion resulted from syncretism and schism from Judaism.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.” It was here Jesus stops to rest. John writes, “It was about the sixth hour”, which was about noon. We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

EXAMPLE: When I first went to have my wrist looked at for surgery, they hadn’t put up their signage yet. It was a new building. I parked the car went around the building, could not find a door with any markings on it. I then backtracked and went to where I started, looked for someone who could help me. No luck. I then called the office on my cell phone and they told me to go through the door nearest the parking lot and take the elevator. I did that and ended going up several floors, walking clear around inside of the building and finally coming to what I thought was the office. I asked the receptionist why they were so difficult to find, she replied, “Didn’t you take the elevator from the ground floor, turn left and come through the door over there?” She pointed to the way I had come in! I had simply been going the long way instead of the shortest distance. Folks can do the same thing when they try to take their own way to God instead of simply trusting him. Here we find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

We listen as…

II. Jesus shares living water with a dead lady! (Vv. 7-18)

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:7-18 NIV)

1. First a direct path and now a candid conversation. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?'” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)” So, we find Jesus alone at Jacob’s well with a strange lady. We never know her name. Jesus asks her for some water, which in of itself is unusual. Jewish men did not talk to women they did not know and especially in Samaria and this is why she retorted, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” John reminds us, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” For Jesus to drink from a jar a Samaritan woman had touched would have made him unclean. Having piqued her curiosity, “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” She was arguing about well water and Jesus answers with living water! God had told the prophet Jeremiah, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)” Now, God was offering all people the living water found in Jesus, even this Samaritan woman! The water represented the Holy Spirit, the “spring of water welling up to eternal life!” You would have thought she would have been curious as to who Jesus was, what was the gift of God, and why was he talking about living water? Instead, like so many do, she could only think of what immediately benefited her, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jacob’s well is one of the deepest in the region. She challenges Jesus by asking, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus puts her straight, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Her sin blinds her understanding, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus however challenges her sin, “Go, call your husband and come back.” She is surprised and confesses, “I have no husband.” The truth comes to light!  “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” Her sin is exposed and we find Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

EXAMPLE: All who are without Christ are spiritually dead. Like dead pools of stagnant water their lives are as still cloudy pools, while those who are born again are alive and active like rushing water that flows over rocky rapids in a clear cold stream. Living water is that which revives the deepest thirst of a weary parched soul. Nothing is more enjoyable in a desert wilderness than a cold drink of crystal clear water. Nothing is more refreshing to the sin weary soul than the refreshing rush of the cleansing spirit in one’s life. And here we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

And we see…

III. It is not about where you worship as to who you worship! (Vv. 19-26)

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:19-26 NIV)

1. We forget, like so many do, that our relationship with God revolves around our worship of him. Worship defines who we are and what we truly believe. This is why Jesus would teach, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24 NIV)” Again, the lady misunderstands Jesus’ words and tries to steer the conversation away from her sin and life predicament, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Women, who are caught in her line of work often, try to flatter the ones they are earning their living from and perhaps this is what she was trying to do with Jesus by calling him a prophet. Yet notice now that she no longer uses the term “our fathers” but rather, “you Jews” to argue with Jesus. She could have repented and confessed her sin but instead turns the argument into the age old discussion about where the true worship of God should take place. It is not the place where one goes through the motions of manmade worship, it is who one worships! “Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.'” Worship begins when one is born again! Jesus bluntly responds, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” The Samaritans were deluded and thought they could worship God in any way they desired. However, the Messiah would not come from Samaria or anyone else but Israel. God promised it would be so and Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise! Yet the Jews were just as confused as the Samaritans! Here is the truth of the matter, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Only those born of the Spirit of God can truly worship God! This is the truth! The woman begins to finally understand and we see a glimmer of spiritual hope when she tells Jesus, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus, I believe smiled and his face lit up as he responds, “I who speak to you am he.” Now she knew the truth of the living water and that it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

EXAMPLE: I was listening to the radio and the speaker was saying that he liked to go to worship because it healed him. It was like going to the hospital for him and he needed to be there in order to face the following week. His whole point was that he viewed worship as for him to benefit from and that is what he felt it was for. Sadly, his view of worship is convoluted and here’s why: He, like so many do, was confusing worship with the church. The act of worship is meant for God and his people are to come to the body of Christ, the church, when hurt to be refreshed and healed. Too many think that when they come away from worship feeling good, their worship was successful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus told the woman that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” It is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

Conclusion:
We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting, we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady, and it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

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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The Temple! – John 2:13-25

The Temple! – John 2:13-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 26, 2014

I have heard sermons where the speaker equates today’s church as the new temple of God, however, we no longer continually offer sacrifices of live animals, we do not burn incense to represent the prayers of the people to God, and we do not wash our hands and feet before coming into worship nor do we bow down before the altar of God. And of course nothing separates us from the presence of God: Neither curtain, priest, nor mercy seat can keep us from his presence! While some of the things we do remind us of the temple or tabernacle of God, the church is radically different from the temple.

The Temple was an important part of the Jewish worship of God. It represented the presence of God with his people and a place where folks could come to pray, praise, and sacrifice to God. Now it was Passover which was kept on the fourteenth day of Nisan, in commemoration of the Lord’s passing over any home that had its doorposts painted with the blood of a lamb, when he killed the firstborn of every household in Egypt. Jesus more than likely had gone to Jerusalem before and we know he was there when he was eleven teaching in the Temple courts. But now the Temple is being misused and desecrated by his own people. How would Jesus respond as he walked through the Temple?

READ: John 2:13-25

The event we are about to study in the life of Jesus had such a tremendous impact on the disciples that it is one of the few circumstances of Jesus’ ministry that is mentioned in all four Gospels. I believe it is because of how Jesus responds and how others viewed what he did there. We discover…

I. Jesus shows us his passion for the temple! (Vv. 13-17)

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

1. We learn that “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Direction in the New Testament has to do with elevation and not direction such as north or south. So when “Jesus went up to Jerusalem” it means he traveled in elevation up toward Jerusalem which was where the Temple was built on Mt. Zion. John records what comes next early in Jesus’ ministry while the other Gospels record it happening toward the end of his ministry. Some think there could be two occasions where Jesus cleansed the Temple; however, it could also simply be the process of writing that folks in Jesus’ day used. They did not care so much when something actually occurred and were more concerned about sharing that it did indeed occurred. Either way, we find Jesus in Jerusalem at the Temple during Passover and it was there “In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.” Jesus found this distressing. The place that was to be considered the most holy place on earth was being used to store and sell animals and for the exchange of differing currencies into Temple coins! All sacrifices had to be bought with Temple currency and the powers that be had a real racket going. Temple sacrifices had to be bought with the acceptable Tyrian coinage, and a high percentage was charged for changing coins. “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” They had desecrated that which was to be a holy place and turned it into a money-making scam! Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!

EXAMPLE: We would do well to ask ourselves if we desecrate the holy place of God on Sundays in order to make it more acceptable for ourselves rather than a place of worship. My grandmother would say that there should be a certain amount of decorum maintained. We would call it manners or respectability. Perhaps we have bought into the lie that since God lives in us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we can do anything we desire during worship. God did not live in a place made by human hands, nor does he live within the walls of a church building, yet when his people who are called by his name gather themselves together to worship, he is there. And what we do while we are there says a lot to the Lord about whether we honor him above all other things; things like lattes, the Internet, Facebook, texting, or other distractions we deem more important than focusing on him. Perhaps we need to overturn some of the tables in our lives so we can focus on what is truly important when we worship. Here, Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!

We no longer have holy passion and so we often expect our worship leaders, music ministers, or pastors to invoke in us the passion we lack. The sad truth is, no matter how emotional one gets, emotion never makes up for a true passion for the Lord. This is why we discover that…

II. Folks can misunderstand the true temple! (Vv. 18-22)

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

1. When we get caught in our sin we can either respond one of two ways, either by repenting and turning to the Lord or by getting defensive and demanding God prove we were in sin. Sadly, far too often those caught in sin do the latter. This is exactly what the Jews do after Jesus upsets their ill-conceived con game. The Jews vehemently demand of Jesus, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Basically they are saying, “We know we are wrong in doing what we are doing, but what gives you the right to do what you did!?” They are trying to shift the blame for their sin to Jesus! Jesus would later remind these same hypocrites, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! (Matthew 12:39 NIV)” In fact he tells them that the only “sign” they are going to get is the one of Jonah, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 NIV)” And here Jesus bluntly answers them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Jesus wanted them to think about his answer, but they were thickheaded and confused because of their sinfulness. When we are in sin we never want to admit it is our problem, that we should change, or that we do not understand the significance of our ungodly behavior. They respond, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” We may wonder at how dense these folks were, but how dense can we be in our response to our sinful condition? We know that “the temple he had spoken of was his body.” But that should not excuse our behavior. Notice that it was only “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” What is the reason we are so confused? Folks can misunderstand the true Temple!

EXAMPLE: Paul would later remind his readers that “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)” Jesus didn’t cleanse the Temple because he thought God lived there, he cleansed it because it represented the place where God met with his people. Our lives in Christ are to be kept clean as well because we are now his temple, bought with a price, the blood of Jesus our personal sacrifice. When we hypocritically treat our lives in Christ with disdain, as the Jews did the Temple courts, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple!

Jesus cleanses the Temple area of animals and the money changers tables, but his time in Jerusalem was not done. He had other things to do. Jesus knew that the Hebrew nation was focused inward instead of on what mattered. They were to not only reach those who did not believe but they were honor God with their lives. The problem was and is that…

III. People often think they are the Temple! (Vv. 23-25)

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

1. Wow, the Jews just demanded of Jesus that he show them some miracle in order to justify his actions concerning their sins and now we read that “while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” Interestingly, John chose not to describe any of them. John’s interest is in introducing us to Jesus and showing us how others viewed him. Folks are often more interested in making themselves the center of the universe rather than God. And isn’t it fascinating while those who questioned him about overturning the money changers tables and demanded he give them some miracle to show he could do such a thing, could now see for themselves by the miracles he performed! I believe John deliberately gives us this piece of irony to show their hypocrisy. No matter how many miracles Jesus did, they probably would not have believed he was the Messiah! This is why “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.” Jesus knew that people’s first inclination would be to make him into some kind of rallying point, to make him their political puppet king who would rescue them from their oppressors the Romans. Later, they try to do this on several other occasions, however, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15 NIV)” Those who opposed Jesus would falsely declare that Jesus wanted to make himself king! When Jesus was asked by the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate, “Are you the king of the Jews?” meaning was he declaring himself a king, Jesus responded, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. (John 18:36 NIV)” Temporary fame or excitement over his miracles would soon fade because people would just demand more and more, kind of like those who hike clear around the Sea of Galilee in order to get more food from him! Therefore, “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” People often think of themselves as the Temple!

EXAMPLE: We may say we worship Jesus or that we believe in God, but what we do next can say a whole lot about what we truly believe. When we show up for worship expecting God to “bless” us because we happened to be there; when we are haphazard with our prayers and demand God listen when we have a need; or when we know more about episodes of The Walking Dead than we know about books of the Bible perhaps we think God should revolve around us. Maintaining a way of life had become more important to the spiritual leadership of Jesus’ day than knowing the Messiah! And this was the problem just as it is today, people often think of themselves as the Temple! It is time we stop focusing on ourselves and begin to focus on what God desires; people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!

Conclusion:

Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple, and sometimes people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!

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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