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2nd Sunday of Advent – Peace! – Isaiah 52:6-10

2nd Sunday of Advent – Peace! – Isaiah 52:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 10, 2017

Last week we spoke of how the Messiah would be called by the names of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. There were those who incorrectly thought that the Messiah would bring about the end of war or that everyone would find bliss. Interestingly, there are those in our day who still have misconceptions of who the Messiah is and the peace he brings.

Isaiah introduces us to a Messiah who would bring peace to all mankind. He begins these verses by calling the nation of Israel to “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised (ungodly) and defiled will not enter you again.” Jerusalem’s pagan conquerors — the uncircumcised and defiled — would never again invade and pollute the holy city after the Messiah came. This is part of the peace he would bring when he came. Let’s discover this morning of the Second Advent, the peace of God!

READ: Isaiah 52:6-10

The world today thinks that peace comes from the absence of conflict that it can be obtained through gain or government, but Isaiah teaches us that…

I. The peace of God comes from Him alone! (v. 6)

Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.

1. God’s people would be freed from their chains, never to be enslaved again! Isaiah prophesied, “For this is what the LORD says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.’” (v.3) No amount of money could pay the debt they owed! The Israelites did not fully understand that the enslavement God saw His people under was the rebellion of sin and that they could never buy themselves back without the blood of a sacrifice! No amount of ransom could buy them back from their enslavement to sin, only the blood of the Lamb would! This is why the writer of Hebrews would state, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and in offerings, you were not pleased… Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:3-7 NIV) God would ask them, “And now what do I have here?” He answers his question by relating, “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, and all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (v. 5) while we may be shortsighted, God’s view is much longer. The Israelites willingly sold themselves into slavery for a pittance and those who enslaved them mocked God as a result! They refused to listen and repent. Yet, God’s plan all along was to redeem all people and his desire was that they would know how it occurred and who was responsible when happened! Isaiah is told by God, “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore, in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” When the peace of God came, all people everywhere would know who brought it about. This is why the angels rejoiced singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) The peace of God comes from him alone!

EXAMPLE: Daily Bread’s Les Lamborn writes, “During the Christmas season, we wait. We wait in traffic. We wait in checkout lines to purchase gifts. We wait for family to arrive. We wait to gather around a table filled with our favorite foods. We wait to open presents lovingly chosen. All of this waiting can be a reminder to Christians that Christmas is a celebration of waiting for something much more important than holiday traditions. Like the ancient Israelites, many are waiting for Jesus” the peace of God. Isaiah teaches us that the peace of God comes from him alone!

God made the first move when he came as a baby. A star would appear marking the way, angels would proclaim him, and shepherds would witness to what they saw. Isaiah teaches us that…

II. The peace of God would be proclaimed! (Vv. 7-8)

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.

1. Here is a wonderful picture of rescue. The enemy has surrounded the city, they are encamped around the walls and there is no escape and it seems as if no one is coming to their rescue. Thousands upon thousands of the enemy’s troops are assembled and just when they are ready to step forward to fight, there comes a cry from one of the watchmen on the wall of the besieged, “Look! Look to the mountains there is where our help comes from!” And all eyes strain to see a lone runner from the foothills headed to the besieged and the enemy parts for him like the waters of the Red Sea for Moses. Isaiah declares, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Notice that the deliverance is not brought about by a larger army, more advanced weaponry, or a master general but by the beautiful “feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation”! And what is this message of salvation they proclaim to those waiting for rescue and to the camp of the surrounding enemy? “Your God reigns!” As wonderful as the return of Israel from their Babylonian captivity, what utter joy will there be when the Messiah finally comes to Zion and proclaims, “Your God reigns!” Now, dear child of the King, you are the messenger of the Messiah in our besieged city, our occupied territory, and surrounded nation. You are the one with beautiful feet to proclaim the peace of God, you are the one running from the mountains bringing good news that that he alone reigns! “Listen!” Isaiah commands. “Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.” Those entrapped can rejoice, because “When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” Israel would see their Messiah coming to them, but some would not care or would refuse to hear him when he came. But whether they wanted to believe it or not he would come. And, they would see it with their own eyes. The peace of God would be proclaimed!

EXAMPLE: Isaiah was a watchman; Nahum was a watchman, and various men in various ways prophesized announcing the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world. John the Baptist was the last “who was sent from God… He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:6-11 NIV) And, now the last command the Messiah has given his watchmen on the wall who look to the mountains is, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”! The peace of God is to be proclaimed!

What joyous news, what a wonderful truth to proclaim, those enslaved and those surrounded by the enemy can be freed forever! Isaiah teaches us that…

III. The peace of God brings salvation! (Vv. 9-10)

Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

1. Over and over we find Isaiah telling the people to “burst into song” to “rejoice” because God would hear their cries for help. Isaiah tells them, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” In the midst of standing in the ruin of their lives and the rubble of their city, the embattled and surrounded Israelites were to “Burst into songs of joy together”! How could they do such a thing? God has already “comforted his people.” In fact, the important message is that God has already “redeemed” bought back Jerusalem, meaning all of Israel. This is why John the Baptist’s papa, Zachariah, would break his silence by singing, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people!” (Luke 1:68 NIV) Isaiah wrote, “All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing.” (Isaiah 14:7 NIV) Matthew would understand and reiterate Isaiah’s words by reminding us, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:16-17 NIV) The promise Isaiah proclaimed is the fact that God Himself would “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” God would show the entire world his power and ability to bring salvation through his Messiah. It is summed up in the majestic wonderful words of John, “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.” Jesus would say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) The peace of God brings salvation!

EXAMPLE: There are folks who read the last chapter first when they start a new thriller. They may think that it takes the anxiety out of reading. So it is with Christians because we know the end of the story, we can be messengers of peace in the midst of utter chaos, calm in the face of disaster. We are to experience peace under pressure. Kingdoms may fall, friends may falter, churches may fold, oceans may rise, and mountains may crumble, but we can be at peace. How do we maintain such composure? By remembering that the “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). In fact, just as Isaiah wanted the Israelites to be comforted that the Messiah would come, Jesus reminds us, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelations 22:20 NIV) Today could be the day! The peace of God brings salvation!

Conclusion:

The peace of God comes from Him alone!
The peace of God would be proclaimed!
The peace of God brings salvation!

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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1st Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7

1st Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 3, 2017

In seminary we used to tease one another with a little ditty that went “My hope is built on nothing less than Scofield’s notes and Moody Press”. Of course this is a takeoff from the old hymn however it makes one think about what their hope is built upon. Christmas is based on hope and the celebration of the first Advent, the coming of the Savior, the Messiah, of the world! As believers, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But we also wait eagerly for the Second Advent when Jesus returns!

A large part of our lives center around anticipation. The enjoyment in many of life’s events is built on the fact that we have time to anticipate them. Whether it is Christmas, vacations, trips, or sporting events, all grow in value because of the hours we spend looking forward to them. Now imagine the anticipation of the salvation the hope of mankind coming to earth. That is what the first Sunday of Advent is all about, our expectation and hope! Let’s discover why…

READ: Isaiah 9:2-7

Salvation would not break forth until it had become utterly dark along the horizon of Israel, according to Isaiah, “In that day… if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds.” (Isaiah 5:29-30 NIV) It is always darkest before the dawn and we discover that…

I. The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world! (Vv. 2-3)

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

1. We are often introduced to a myriad of end of the world scenarios, from fiery asteroids crashing into the earth to killer zombie viruses. Yet few in our day notice the spiritual darkness that has engulfed the world. It is the same spiritual darkness that was overwhelming Israel. Like the spread of darkness by the Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings written by Tolkien. We find in the pages of Scripture that whenever mankind neglected their God, spiritual darkness spread. But now, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The veil is torn in two! The darkness is pierced by the rising sun! Gandalf, in The Lord of the Rings tells the embattled at Helms Deep, “Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East!” Noticed again that Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light”! John wrote, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world!” (John 1:9 NIV) Jesus related, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21 NIV) Isaiah saw that the light of God would return to spiritually dark Israel, and in fact, “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” While those who loved God had been reduced to a remnant, they would be “enlarged” and their “joy” increased. They would rejoice again! The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!

EXAMPLE: As a child, I began to fear the darkness. Part of the problem was my brother Ed who loved to whisper frightening scenarios to me after we had crawled into bed. But it was also because I could not see what laid in wait in the darkness. Now isn’t it interesting that Scripture tells us that the ungodly love darkness “instead of light because their deeds” are evil. And, in fact, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” I loved to have a flashlight as a kid that I could turn on to make sure there was nothing out there that could harm me. Light does that. It exposes anything that tries to hide in either the darkness of sin or a darkened room! With great anticipation Isaiah longed for the first Advent when the hope of the Messiah would bring light into a darkened world!

David would cry, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalms 51:3 NIV) Mankind has always struggled with sin. Jesus reminded us, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 NIV) But, now Isaiah tells us…

II. The hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin! (Vv. 4-5)

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

1. No one could have believed for even one second that the weak, ineffective, and subservient Israelites would pose any kind of threat to the more powerful Midianites. Yet, God did just that and in fact did it through someone totally unexpected! The future deliverance, which the prophet here celebrates, would be the counterpart of the Egyptian enslavement. Then, the whole of the great nation of Israel was redeemed, whereas now only a small remnant would participate in the final redemption! Isaiah compares it to the day when Gideon broke seven years domination of Midian over Israel. And, it would occur not with a great army, but with a handful of resolute warriors, strong in the Lord (Judges 7)! It was God “as in the day of Midian’s defeat” who “shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, (and) the rod of their oppressor.” He did it through the One whom he will send. This would be a supernatural work of God! So complete will be the act of God sending his Messiah to ease our burden of sin that, “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” We see that all the trappings of the oppressor are heaped into a pile and set on fire; and, as they blaze up, the freed slaves exult in their liberty. Even the blood-drenched cloaks have been stripped from the corpses; they are tossed on the heap, and, saturated as they are, they burn! So complete is the victory that even the weapons of the conquered are destroyed. Our conquering King has been manifested, that he might annihilate the powers by which evil holds us bound. His victory is utterly complete; by his power and might the hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

EXAMPLE: Today the Federal debt has become an enormous financial burden that many simply ignore. Each citizen’s share of this debt is horrendous. And it increases every day by $3 billion! It is a huge burden on us and future generations because it is an added tax to everything we buy and will affect how we live. Fewer college graduates will get jobs because there are fewer people retiring in order to survive, fewer companies hire because they have to pay off their share of taxes, and therefore goods and services increase for the same reasons. Incomes and retirement are reduced as taxes increase. It is a debt we can never pay that we had no say in what we owed! The sin debt of Israel and the entire world was enormous and could never be paid by all the sacrifices that could ever be made! Rejoice! By His power and might the hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

The promise of God would take an unexpected turn as his promises often do. This is why I often chuckle over those who think they have the return of Jesus all figured out, especially when Jesus remarked, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36 NIV) This is why it was so amazing when Isaiah prophesized thousands of years beforehand that…

III. The hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man! (Vv. 6-7)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

1. Here is a wonderful amazing truth: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” The Savior of the world, the Messiah, would be born a babe and all of God’s government would be placed squarely on his tiny shoulders! Do you understand the significance of these words? Can you grasp their meaning for all mankind? God’s messengers would share with scruffy shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12 NIV) There it is, amazing isn’t it? But more than that, “he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, (and) Prince of Peace.” Four beautiful names describe him for us; He will be an exceptional teacher, the embodiment of our powerful God, reflecting His eternal nature, which brings the peace that surpasses all understanding! Now, Isaiah did not fully realize that Jesus would be the One who would fulfill all of this during his first advent, but it will come about that “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” God’s promise to David would come true! God would rule and reign through his Messiah! How and why would God do this wonderful thing? Isaiah says, “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” It would be done because God joyously chose to do it! How totally marvelous that the fulfillment of God’s promises is found in a tiny babe, wrapped in swaddling, lying in a manger! Isaiah’s promise that the hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man is complete in Jesus Christ!

EXAMPLE: Jesus related, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48 NIV) “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12 NIV) “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV) “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11 NIV) “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25 NIV) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) The first Advent is the celebration of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that the hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man, Jesus Christ!

Conclusion:

The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!
The hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!
The hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man!

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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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!
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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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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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