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A new year begins with a new life! – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

A new year begins with a new life! – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 31, 2017

Someone once joked that “Every time I find the meaning of life, they change it!” What motivates you in life? This is a good question to ask oneself when facing a new year because it helps us to perhaps rethink what our lives are about, where we are headed, or what we think of as important. For some it is financial gain, for others it is greater education, and still there are those who think that finding themselves is the most important thing in life. But what if none of these were as important as knowing the truth; the truth concerning yourself, the world, history, and what the meaning of life is truly about. Perhaps in this New Year your life needs to begin again.

There’s the old joke about a man who wanted to know the meaning of life so he journeys to India, climbs a high mountain, and meets with a guru sitting outside of his hut. He asks him, “What is the meaning of life?” The guru responds, “Mushrooms.” The man spends the next 20 years eating mushrooms, growing mushrooms, and even talking to mushrooms but he finds nothing. He goes back to India, climbs the same mountain and tells the same guru, “The meaning of life is NOT mushrooms!” The guru intently looks at the man and responds, “Well, then it must be turnips!” Paul knew that if you want meaning in life you had to have a new life and he teaches about what that means here in these verses. Let’s discover how a New Year begins with a new life…

READ: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

This has been called the “me generation” but one writer states that it more accurately should be called the “Me, me, me generation”. The gospel message that Paul proclaimed is the antithesis of this selfishness and we learn that…

I. A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves! (Vv. 14-16)

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

1. Paul was a motivated man. He had lived his life motivated but he had not always lived his life for his Messiah. Something had happened to Paul that changed his life forever and made it brand new and now the life he led obligated him to tell others about the change that had occurred. There were those who thought that Paul was out of his mind, but if he was it was for a reason: He had lost everything for the sake of God (Philippians 5:14-15) and if he was in his right mind it was for them (v. 13) and so he tells his readers that “Christ’s love compels us”! Why does this truth compel Paul to share Jesus? It was God’s desire “who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”! (1 Timothy 2:4 NIV) Paul now knew that it was Jesus “who gave himself as a ransom for all men”. (1 Timothy 2:6 NIV) He therefore continues by telling them that it is “because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” We either die in our sin or we die to ourselves “And he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” We are not our own, we were bought at a price and so we are to honor God with all that we are! (1 Corinthians 6:18b-19) So Paul bluntly writes that “from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” Paul had been one of them who did not know what life was about and thought of Jesus as just another man but he no longer did and this truth compelled him to tell them the truth! A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves!

EXAMPLE: Christopher Hitchens, an avowed atheist, thinks “that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid”. However, on the contrary, when we look at the world at large we discover that it is things like socialism, communism, and liberalism that has made more people dependent, angry, and self-centered. And history proves Hitchens wrong. Care for the masses, the elderly, the disenfranchised, and the handicapped all began with Christianity. Why? Simply because of what Christianity is all about: We are called to love God completely and others as ourselves. Paul would write “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves!

This is the season of returns. We take back those things that do not fit, we do not need, or that we do not want. Often we do not get back what was originally paid for the present we are returning. For whatever reason it no longer has any redeeming value; therefore isn’t it great to know that…

II. A new life begins when we are reconciled! (Vv. 17-19)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

1. For Paul the truth of his life was self-evident: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” that which mankind has hoped for, longed for, and sometimes even wished for has come true in Jesus Christ! No one was more able to testify to this wondrous transformation than the one who had once persecuted Christians. Paul would dramatically write the Galatians churches, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) This is why Paul could write that “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”. It wasn’t Paul’s idea; it wasn’t the world’s intent or a governmental decree; and it did not come from a seminar. Christ, his Messiah, gave Paul this ministry. And the reason he did is because “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” This word “reconcile” is a wonderful word. It means that God exchanged himself for us! He willingly paid the penalty for our sins. This is why “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! (Romans 8:1 NIV) We know that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV) In fact “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”. (Colossians 1:21-22 NIV) Paul was “committed to… the message of reconciliation”! A new life begins when we are reconciled!

EXAMPLE: Recently I have been trying to get new life insurance. Believe me when I tell you it is like going through Dante’s levels of hell. People who say they will return your call do not and then there are the people who blandly remind you that it may take several weeks (months) to get a refund when it only took the company nanoseconds to charge your credit card — like I said “Dante’s levels of hell.” Then if you are over the age of 60 you’re toast as far as the insurance industry is concerned. I have therefore decided that I am going to focus on what God has done and will do instead. I have the best life insurer already. Isn’t it great to know that a new life begins when we are reconciled!

Has there ever been a time in your life that you wished you could have a “do over”? Replay a game, re-say some words, or redo a job you messed up. Perhaps there is a relationship you would want to reestablish? Making things right is what Jesus is all about. And Paul reminds us that…

III. A new life begins when we are made right with God! (Vv. 20-21)

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1. Paul’s life had changed. He had a new title and a new job description: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” Paul had experienced a redo in his life! God had given him a new life and a new task. He was now God’s own representative to the message of Jesus! In his life Paul would literally become “an ambassador in chains” for God. He would suffer persecution for his faith and for his tenacity to proclaim the truth of the gospel message. His new life compelled him to do so. And so with a heartfelt plea Paul writes to the Corinthians “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” Just as he had been reconciled and given a new life the Corinthians could experience it for their own selves as well. Nothing they had ever done in life could stand in the way of the cleansing power of Jesus to change them forever! Nothing could because Paul understood and was certain that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Stop for a moment and let these words sink into your very soul. When we place our faith and trust in Jesus we become the righteousness of God! How is this possible? Hebrews reminds us that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” and it is only Jesus “who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:25-26 NIV) WOW! Paul understood well that a new life begins when we are made right with God!

EXAMPLE: The youngster felt horrible. He had allowed a simple popup fly ball to go over his head and land behind him. It cost his team the game. He sat in the outfield with his head in his hands. Unbeknown to him his entire team quietly came out and sat around him. They placed their hands on him, lightly swatted his head with their hats, and begin to remind him of what a great friend and player he truly was. After all it was only a game and there would be others. In that moment those players showed the rest of us the very nature of God. They made their fellow teammate realize his worth to them. It did not matter that he had blown the play or the game because he was worth so much more than that. Just when we think we have blown it in life Jesus shows us just how much we are worth to him. Isn’t it good to know that a new life begins when we are made right with God!

Conclusion:

A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves! A new life begins when we are reconciled! A new life begins when we are made right with God!

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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Giving! — Luke 6:27-38

Giving! — Luke 6:27-38
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 14, 2017

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote in his book The Hobbit, “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” This is why mothers are so important and in fact they are the ones who teach us those everyday deeds of kindness and love but they also teach us a quality that has often been lost in this day and age; they teach us about giving.

Here in Luke’s gospel Jesus teaches us about giving, what it means, how it is done, and the blessings of giving. What we fail to realize is that for the believer giving comes in various forms. In this passage from Luke we discover Jesus teaching his disciple about giving for the Christian. Let’s discover what Jesus taught about giving…

READ: Luke 6:27-38

We have all heard that believers should give but why should we give? I learned about giving from a nonbeliever. He gave consistently and without any animosity because he felt it honored his Christian wife who believed Christians should give in order to honor God. So, he would give for her so she could honor God. He later gave his life to Christ. Jesus shares with us that…

I. We are to give undeserved love! (Vv. 27-31)

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

1. Jesus had just got done teaching who was blessed in the kingdom of God and who would be, well, cursed; that is what all those “woes” are about. Jesus knew what he was teaching was impossible for the ordinary person to do, especially people who were so wrapped up in following rules and regulations like the Jews were. Only someone who was changed from the inside out, someone born again, and someone who intimately knew the Messiah could understand what it meant to sacrificially give! So Jesus begins by relating to them “But I tell you who hear me”. Only those who actually listened and followed through knew what he meant. One must be spiritually born again. Only such a changed individual could “Love your enemies” or “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you” and “pray for those who mistreat you”! Say what? Now if you thought that this was hard enough, Jesus continued by relating that “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.” This gets more and more difficult the more Luke relates to us Jesus’ words. We are not to retaliate. This is utterly impossible yet Jesus is not done there and continues that “If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” So you mean thieves could steal from us and we should not demand our stuff back? We can’t live this way, what is possible with God is utterly impossible for us to do. However with God all things are possible. Certainly those Jesus describes here do not deserve our love. But did we deserve the love of God displayed in his sacrifice of himself on a cross for our sins? The key to these utterly unrealistic demands of Jesus is that we are to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” For the Jewish listener who had heard all of their lives that it was an “eye for an eye” what Jesus proposed was impossible. And that was his point. Because we would know undeserved love we are to give undeserved love!

EXAMPLE: Look at the list Jesus just gave you to do. Now honestly can you do each and every one of these things on your own? My mother was not a perfect mom. She could be harsh in her discipline, selfish in her actions, and just plain ornery. And I hated it when she would remind us that we would always be her babies. When we grew to be big hulking adults this little petite woman would remind us over and over “You are always a part of me”. I did not fully understand this until I had a child and then grandkids. It is a bond that can never go away. When we trust Jesus to save us, to change us spiritually, we become his always and it is through this relationship we can do the impossible. We are to give undeserved love!

We live in such a selfish generation, so much so that it has infected our Christianity. There are those who think the church march or protest. There are those who only look for the church to meet their needs as if it were some kind of a spiritual fitness center. And finally there are those who treat the church like a grocery store and only go when they are out of something they need. Yet here in Luke Jesus teaches us that…

II. When we give we are to expect nothing in return! (Vv. 32-35)

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

1. Either Jesus has changed you or he has not there is no shades of grey here. And if we are changed we will reflect it in how we live our lives. In the first section we just went through it was tough and no one could actually do what Jesus asked; could they? Yet Jesus asks his listeners, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” We often feel justified in loving only those whom we deem deserving of our love however Jesus retorts, “Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.” I have learned that some of the most loving people can be some of the most ungodly folks. But being loving is not the same as being godly. Godly folk are changed folk. So, “if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?” Not much because “Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.” We are to be different than the sinful world around us; we are to reflect the sacrificial love of God! Instead we should “love (our) enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” We are not to lend but rather give. I find it odd when Christians gripe about giving money to someone and then they do not get back what they thought they should. We are not to sit back and grouse when we give someone money and we do not get repaid because believers are not to be in the money lending business. We are to be giving people because of what God gave us. His gift was no loan! It is an attitude. “Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” When we reflect Jesus we will be giving people and when we give we are to expect nothing in return!

EXAMPLE: My Mom used to say when she got really tired, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” I must confess in our little wicked orneriness we would tease her with this when she would ask us to do something. My brother would be washing the dishes, I would be drying, and we both would softly repeat, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” My mom would laugh and tell us that she would give us something to be “thankful” about. Sadly far too many believers have lost sight of the fact we are to be giving people simply because of who we follow and so when we give we are to expect nothing in return!

Giving has fallen out of vogue in many churches today. And in some they never mention it, teach it, or require it thinking that they will win the favor of their audience by doing so. Jesus teaches us something we have forgotten about giving, namely that…

III. God will bless our giving! (Vv. 36-38)

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

1. Because we have been saved by grace we are to be gracious people. We are to live lives of grace and so Jesus teaches us to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” In God’s mercy, his grace, he came as Jesus to die for us but more than that to rise from the dead to show us that he could give us eternal life through our faith in him. It is not based on anything we have done; it is solely because of his mercy, his grace. In this truth Jesus tells us, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” To “judge” here does not exactly mean to pronounce critical judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or unfavorable. The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is our willingness to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, or unkind judgments. We would say, “To look down our noses”. Therefore Jesus continued, “Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” As believers we are required to weigh the lives of fellow believers, but here Jesus is concerned with our judging or condemning those who are still in sin. We are told to “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” The whole idea here is one of what the believer’s life is now to be about. When we freely accept what God gave us we are to freely forgive others. Our salvation is not based on this but it shows what we believe. Christians should be the most gracious giving people on the planet. We should never ever have a problem in supporting our church, ministries, or missions. Forgiven folks are giving folks because we know that if we “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” Now this is not some name-it-and-claim-it or blab-it-and-grab-it garbage but a spiritual reality. We are blessed when we give. We should never give in order to be blessed; we are to give because that is who we are. It is a way of life “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” We cannot out give God. God will bless our giving!

EXAMPLE: My mom was one of those mothers who understood giving back more than what she received. This petite fiery redhead would tell us miscreants, “I will beat you until you can’t stand up and then I will beat you for falling.” Of course she only made good on this threat a few times; being the wild and woolly kids we were we knew she had to catch us first. As believers we should live our lives without any fear of retribution and in the grace of God. Therefore we should live lives of givers knowing that God will bless our giving!

Conclusion:

We are to give undeserved love! When we give we are to expect nothing in return! God will bless our giving!
—-
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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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering what you thought about me, not me personally but rather you personally. You know what I mean, how do you view yourself? Are you more concerned for me, myself, and I rather than others, neighbors, or coworkers? The One who died for you taught that if you do not show your concern and care for others, you cannot say you love Him. So does your life reflect His attitude of not me but you or does your life revolve around you? When was the last time you thought about what you could give into it instead of what you could get out of it? Perhaps if you focused more on them and those you would have less time for me, myself, and I – you know what I mean – being self-centered. Makes one wonder…

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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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Hebrews 13:1-6 – How to live your lives in Christ!

Hebrews 13:1-6 – How to live your lives in Christ!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 27, 2013 AM

If you only had a few days to live or if you knew, you may not see certain people you cared about ever again, what advice would you leave them? In Douglas Adams’ book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” all the dolphins and whales leave earth right before it is destroyed to make room for an intergalactic interchange and off ramp. Their final message is, “So long and thanks for all the fish!” Not to worry, earth is later rebuilt by the dolphins in their Save the Humans campaign. As silly as this is, what message would you leave? Perhaps you might share how those you leave behind should live their lives in Christ.

The author of Hebrews is closing his sermon to his fellow Jewish believers. He is concerned for their future and rightly so. He had spoken to them in general terms before but now he gets down to the nitty-gritty and very specific moral obligations they are to be mindful of doing. It seems as if he feels his time is limited and he has to get in as much advice as he possibly can in a short while. He desperately wants to warn them in how to live their lives in Christ. Let’s discover what he says…

READ: Hebrews 213:1-6

We can forget that we have obligations in our relationship with the Lord. We discover that there is a reason the Lord reminds us that “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15 NIV) The author of Hebrews understood this and this is why he writes a set of…

I. Moral obligations in living for the Lord! (Vv. 1-4)

1. When Jesus told his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV) he was referring to the godly union all Christians are to share with one another and not the world in general. I know this to be true because Jesus continued by stating, “By this all men will know that YOU are MY disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV) The author of Hebrews echoes the same message and tells them to, “Keep on loving each other as brothers.” No matter what occurred this moral obligation was to continue between believers. How sad in our day when fellow Christians do not treat each other as instructed. Christians are commanded to “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” and to therefore “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13 NIV) However, few do! And, just as Abraham did, we are not to “forget to entertain strangers.” He knew that “by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it!” I believe this means fellow believers as well as heavenly heralds. We are God’s messengers and we often forget to encourage and help one another! We are also encouraged to “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” The idea here concerns those who have been bound up and imprisoned by war, drugs, alcohol, addictions, slavery, crimes, or religious persecutions. The word used includes spiritual or physical bonds, shackles, and chains. So it includes those caught in sin’s bondage. Jesus proclaimed, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” However, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36 NIV) Jesus came “to preach good news to the poor.” He was sent “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV) Lastly, Hebrews turns to the core of a godly society. He relates, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” The wording for “sexually immoral” is pornos, where we get pornography. Christians are not to be sucked into the ungodliness of the world’s standard of what constitutes love. Paul warned, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.” (1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV) Emotional love is not the basis for marriage, God’s standard is and it is therefore between one man and one woman. This is why Paul warned, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:26-27 NIV) These are our moral obligations in living for the Lord!

EXAMPLE: Do you have a standard in life? A godly flag you have raised or a moral compass line that you will not cross no matter how you feel, what occurs, or how others feel about you? Or do the words “I deserve this,” “I want this,” “I need this,” or “I feel this” creep into your vocabulary more often than not. Do you value what the world thinks about you more than what the One who suffered and died for you does? How can we be the salt and light or the leaven in an ungodly world when we cannot be distinguished from the world and its momentary feel good philosophies? The author of Hebrews wanted to leave some lasting advice for his listeners. Are you listening to what he taught concerning our moral obligations in living for the Lord?

We can easily forget that there are specific actions that are required on our part in order to maintain our relationship with Christ. There is a reason why Jesus told his disciples, “No servant 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.” (Luke 16:13 NIV) Therefore, Hebrews teaches it is important in…

II. Knowing one’s priority in living for the Lord! (Vv. 5-6)

1. One would think that this should be included in the above list of moral obligations, and possibly, it could. However, we discover that God saw personal stewardship as an important priority in one’s life. In fact, God sees it as a matter of one’s continued worship of Him! This is why the Psalmist reminded us, “For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.” (Psalm 37:28 NIV) Faithfulness for God is a matter of personal stewardship of one’s time, talent, and treasure. How we spend our money, how we spend our time, and how we use our talents, says a lot about what we truly believe about God or not. This is why the author of Hebrews tells his listeners, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” There is a reason. In Malachi the Israelites were told by God, “Return to me, and I will return to you, but you ask, ‘How are we to return?’” And he gives them the answer, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” (Malachi 3:10 NIV) God equated their faulty stewardship with “robbing” Him personally! Proverbs 3:9 reminds us to “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all” that we have! God deserts those who have left him, not that he actually spiritually does but that he cannot and will not work in the life of someone who is not totally committed to Him in all things, including their giving! I am not talking about personal perfection; it is a matter of personal priority! In our needs driven world we have forgotten that “godliness with contentment is great gain,” why, because “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” In fact, “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8 NIV) Paul “learned to be content whatever the circumstances”! (Philippians 4:11 NIV) When we have our priorities right, we can “say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” When one’s priorities in life are correct, they have nothing to fear. We can declare with the Psalmist, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalms 124:8 NIV) It is a matter of knowing one’s priorities in living for the Lord!

EXAMPLE: What we often fail to realize is that when we do not give to the Lord the best of our time, talents, and treasure He views it as idolatry. We are tacitly telling the Lord, “I do not have time for you, but I have time for me.” We are telling Him that, “My talents are my own and I am not obligated to you for anything you have given me.” In fact, we are being greedy with what God has provided when we do not tithe, as we should. We are bluntly spitting on Him and declaring to the world, “I owe nothing to God!” when in fact, we owe Him everything! When we give God our leftovers, He is angered by it. Remember Malachi, God told him, “And you say, ‘what a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously, when you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?’” Of course the answer was “NO.” in fact, we learn that “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.” (Malachi 1:13-14 NIV) We are cursed cheats when our stewardship in life is skewed. This is why Hebrews reminds us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” It’s a matter of knowing one’s priority in living for the Lord!

Conclusion:
We have learned about our 1) Moral obligations in living for the Lord! And 2) Knowing one’s priority in living for the Lord!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering, what does Christmas mean to you? Is it a time of showing human love or a time of showing humans the love of him who sent his son? Perhaps you have lost something in the lights, decorating, gifts, giving and getting, or the good cheer this year. If you are not too cheerful, you are tired of all the giving and getting, and a fog of commercialism has settled in your soul, maybe you need a different kind of gift this year. Maybe the gift shepherds wondered at, a young mother pondered, and magi sought are what you need to discover? Perhaps you have lost sight of what Christmas is truly about and you need to open the greatest gift of all this year. Makes one wonder…

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering, what does integrity mean to you? Do you like it when people say one thing to you, but do something else? Do you like it when folks do not keep their promises to you or that they lie to your face? How much integrity is there in that? What about when you say you love him who saved you, but you are not consistent in your worship, prayer, church attendance, service, or giving? How is that lack of integrity working out for your spiritual life? Do you still think you have integrity? Makes one wonder…

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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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Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!

Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 15, 2012 AM

At the turn of the century a young salesman approached a farmer and excitedly told him about a great new book he was selling. It had all the information needed to run a profitable farm: when to plant and harvest, how to predict the weather and care for livestock—everything that would make the farmer a success. The farmer patiently listened and then replied, “Young man, I know everything that’s in your book. My problem is doing it.” We may read our Bible, know how we are to live as Christians, yet find the hard part is to do what it tells us, why is that? It is a matter of obedience.

Why is it so hard for folks to do what they know they should do? Paul wrote that he would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God.” (Romans 15:18 NIV) Malachi begins with a blanket condemnation of Israel’s disobedience to God’s decrees throughout her history. Let’s discover this morning why Malachi saw obedience to God as so important for God’s people as we discover what being obedient means…

READ: Malachi 3:7-12

I have often wondered why one child will graciously share while another will display an Ebenezer Scrooge-like attitude. The other day at Play Group one young mother vainly tried to get her youngster to share. Instead he decided to defiantly declare that the toy he was using was, “Mine!” His self-centered attitude was kind of like the Israelites of Malachi’s day, what had been graciously given by God they saw as “Mine!” It was a…

I. Disobedient attitude of not trusting God! (Vv. 7-8)
1. Physical things can get in the way of our spiritual trust!
1) God reminds the Israelites of their stubborn attitude by reminding them, “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.” From the sandy shores of the Red Sea to the wild wadis of the wilderness the Israelites had whined, griped, and complained. If Israel would just return to him in faithful obedience, then he would respond and would return to her. “Return to me, and I will return to you,” God tells them. This promise was based on the covenant God made with Israel. When God promises to watch over our lives he follows through with his promise because he does “not change” (v.6).
2) The Israelites respond with a smirking adolescent attitude, “How are we to return?” They knew what their problem was—they were not trusting God! Only a person who willingly confesses their sin can repent, but Israel pretended to be unaware of her disobedience. They had the false premise that “If God truly loved me he would do this for me.” Just as God will not work in the life of someone who deliberately sins, he will not work in the life of someone who deliberately distrusts him. We are told to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).”
3) The people’s distrust developed into stealing from God! Stealing from someone was bad enough, but only a fool would try to rob God. Israel robbed God in their “In tithes and offerings.” Not only was the quality of their sacrifices in question, they had deliberately brought “blind animals for sacrifice” (1:8), but the quantity was also the issue! The tithe was to be a tenth of all their crops, livestock, or goods. Meanwhile, offerings were that which was given above and beyond the required tithe. This was the real sacrifice, not the tithe! The tithe was expected and displayed obedient trust, while the offering displayed sacrifice! Jesus related, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)
EXAMPLE: Every four years we enter into a period of accusation, condemnation, and self-acclamation known as election process. Pundits and politicians proclaim the political piety of their primary politician. Attack ads that focus on the other guy’s shortcomings are common place. No matter what we say concerning negative campaigning, showing your opponent lacks character garners votes. We are saddened when the people we trust prove untrustworthy. It is sadder still when they try to justify their wrongful actions just like Israel did. How about you, dear child of the Lord? Do you trust God with what you have or have you robbed God?

It is curious that many of those who do not believe in God want the government to become the god-like entity that controls every area of their lives instead. It is because of the average American’s sinful aversion to live for the Lord that our nation has reaped what it has sown. A nation that gives God its leftovers should not expect great things from the Lord. In fact, Malachi goes on to relate for us…

II. The result of what disobedience brings! (v. 9)
1. The sowing of obedience is the only way of reaping God’s blessing!
1) When Gods’ people do not do the will of God, then the nation they live in suffers the consequences! The Israelites are bluntly told, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” Since the temple was God’s house, failure to support its ministry was considered equal to personally robbing God! Sadly, many Christians today wrongly believe that our nation’s problems are due to non-believers. This is not the case. It is because Christians do not trust God as they should and it is displayed by their willingness to rob God of their tithes and offerings.
2) Jesus speaks to this issue of a believer’s disobedience. Jesus reminded his listeners that God will eventually come and judge. He asked, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” And of course the answer is, “Yes.” Jesus continues to ask, “Will [God] keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7 NIV) This teaching of Jesus follows his discourse on a persistent widow who continually bugged a judge asking him over and over for justice. If we continually come to God asking for justice, yet are disobedient, will he not judge us? When Jesus comes again dear child of God, will he find faith and trust in his children?
EXAMPLE: What would you do if your child lies to you? I remember when I lied to my father about where I had gone for the afternoon. I went to play in a field where I was not allowed to go. When he found out, he grounded me. We did not have TVs, computers, smart phones, tablets, or mp3 players in our rooms. Instead, my father made me take all of my toys and books and place them in a box on the back porch. Grounded meant grounded. I could not go play with the other kids, nor could I enjoy my room. I spent my time cleaning, dusting, and polishing the floor. After a few days, I had the cleanest room in Wenatchee! I learned a powerful lesson: disobedience always brings its own curse. The same is true for God’s people. Dear child of the Lord, what is your disobedience bringing you?

For the Israelites it brought about God’s curse. When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks. God requires the obedience of his followers. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 NIV) And he challenged, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 NIV) This is why Malachi reminds us that…

III. God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! (Vv. 10-12)
1. Obedience to God is an expression of our love for God!
1) The promise made here is a reaffirmation of God’s word to the Israelites. God states in Deuteronomy 28:1 that if they “fully obey the Lord… and carefully follow all his commands… God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” He challenges the Israelites to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” What the people of Israel were experiencing was a disobedience-curse relationship specified by God. Since the Word of God is sure, his promise would be carried out. In fact, Israel could attest to the truth that she was experiencing certain aspects of the curse because of her unwillingness to tithe! What about your life in God? Are you in disobedience to Him concerning your tithes and offerings?
2) Notice also that this is the only place where His people are specifically asked to “test” God. He is challenging Israel to bring their whole faith into action and to trust his promises, by bringing the “whole tithe into the storehouse.” By doing this, God would “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Far too often we live by sight and not by faith. Here God tells us to test our faith and live by it. Faith is never found in what we see. It is found in how we trust God and sometimes that requires uncertainty. God always blesses those who are willing to trust Him.
EXAMPLE: I will never forget the answer that Ward Lawrence gave folks who asked him about his certain death. Dying from a very painful form of cancer, it was certain that he would not live much longer. They wondered what it was like or if he had any fear. He replied, “I only know the words of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.’” (Job 19:25-27 NIV) If you are trying to live your faith by sight, you will live a shallow weak faith. It will always be a mere shadow of what it could be. Dear child of God, he desires so much more for your life. As Paul would transliterate from Isaiah 64:4, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV) It comes only by trust.

Conclusion:
We learned about a disobedient attitude of not trusting God, the result of what disobedience brings, and that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! Bring all your trust to his storehouse and test him in this and see if he will not pour out so much blessing you will not have room for it. In fact, it will most likely overflow into the lives of others around you. That’s the way God works.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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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