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False teachers exist! – 1 Timothy 1:1-11

False teachers exist! – 1 Timothy 1:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 1, 2017

We live in a day where any convoluted and faulty theology is readily accepted and protected by a non-critical thinking society. My Daddy used to say that it is “okay to be open-minded but not to the point where your brains fall out and you step on them.” Far too many think that acceptance of the individual means we can never disagree with or question what the individual thinks, says, or does. I say “hogwash!” There are false teachers who want you to believe or follow their latest form of theological perversion. Take for instance the recent proclamation that the world was supposed to end last week or is it next week or the week after? Who knows? And do not get me started with those who come up with the latest and greatest end-times scenario, bleah! False teachers exist!

The Apostle Paul wrote his friend and new pastor Timothy in order to mentor and help him in his new ministry as a young pastor. Evidently he was facing some problems that needed some attention. Paul had come to Derbe and Lystra with Barnabas and had become acquainted with Timothy who plainly was a talented young man that God had called to be one of the early church’s first pastors. One of the early arguments against Christianity and Paul was that Paul was teaching a different gospel than Jesus had taught. Theological purity was absolutely necessary and Paul’s detractors knew it. Unlike our day where any view is validated, one did not stray from their master’s teachings in Paul’s day and even in Paul’s day false teachers existed, let’s see what that means…

READ: 1 Timothy 1:1-11

Far from disagreeing to the color of the mat in the foyer or what kind of timbrel to use in worship music the discussion in Paul’s day often went to the core of who Jesus was, what he taught, and what this meant. Paul lets us know that…

I. False teachers exist to promote false teaching! (Vv. 1-4)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work–which is by faith.

1. Like most letters of his day Paul immediately introduces himself and his bona fides; his legitimacy and credentials for addressing the issue in which he wrote his letter to Timothy about. Namely that he was in fact “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope”. My Dad used the bona fides of “because I said so” and that was good enough for us! However, Paul was an apostle sent out by the Messiah Jesus by the strict command of God! His letter was to “Timothy my true son in the faith”. Paul is letting anyone who questions Timothy about his bona fides that he was Paul’s “true son in the faith” and not some false teacher! And he continues by telling them “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul was not in this for himself unlike his counterfeit contenders. So Paul tells Timothy, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.” Timothy’s job as a pastor was to make sure the gospel was taught truthfully and adhered to Jesus’ teachings. Some within Timothy’s church or in the area where he ministered wanted to drag them away from the “grace, mercy and peace” of Jesus and back into endless arguments about superstitions, fables, and family lineages! Paul knew if Timothy stood firm in the truth of the gospel, these heresies would fade because false teachers exist to promote false teaching!

EXAMPLE: Recently as I was taking a nap in my easy-chair when two finely dressed young ladies came to my front door. I was half-asleep with an unshaven beard and I could have sworn flies were lighting on me as I coughed and scratched my stomach while heading to the door. In the fog off my half-asleep mind I still immediately realized who they were and what they represented. One sweetly smiled at me and proceeded to hand me a tablet she used to pull up a video clip. “I have a short video to share with you…” but before she could get out another word I remarked, “Jesus is Jehovah to me.” The made a hasty retreat. False teachers exist to promote false teaching!

Interestingly much of what is taught today about the return of Jesus comes from the likes of

Jehovah’s Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventism rather than what is actually written within Scripture. Rather than teaching what the Bible actually says some authors are more interested in advancing themselves. Paul teaches us that…

II. False teachers exist to promote themselves! (Vv. 5-7)

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

1. Contrary to the fables, superstitions, and endless arguments about genealogies Paul tells Timothy that “The goal of this command [of Jesus] is love”! Wow what a difference between the good news of Jesus and the heavy load of superstition and Jewish fascination with minutiae and trivial arguments! These things are man-focused while the gospel “comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” No believer should ever promote themselves over the good news of Jesus and no Christian should ever do it out of selfish ambition or personal gain! The gospel of Jesus is about the truth of God and should always be given in sincerity and purity. Paul reminds Timothy that “Some have wandered away from [having a pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith] and turned to meaningless talk.” These false teachers of Paul’s day had ulterior motives, “They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” They were stuck in the past and clung to the notion that they could earn God’s mercy, grace, and peace by doing the same things over and over again but never changing themselves! They feared they would lose the audiences and accolades of the people they had enjoyed. Jesus’ taught that salvation could be found in faith in him and happiness in life was discovered by walking with him in fellowship! What were they supposed to do with their genealogical charts and their endless pontificating concerning what the law was all about? They would lose their standing in the synagogue and their financial support as itinerant teachers! Paul knew that false teachers exist to promote themselves!

EXAMPLE: I confess I do not watch Christian television because there are so many heresies promoted on these channels. However, the other day I was bored and so I turned one on in a moment of weakness and there on the stage was a chubby guy with dyed hair and huge charts and graphs on the wall behind him. He was droning on about Jesus’ return we could be prepared if we just followed his teachings. Of course for a mere $29.95, plus shipping and handling, I could have his latest DVD and book about the subject! I wondered out loud that if his teaching on the subject was so important for the world to know why he didn’t simply give it away free! Then I remembered what Paul told Timothy: False teachers exist to promote themselves!

Many supposedly spiritual books, movies, and seminars are completely ungodly. Far too many in our day and age encourage a quasi Christian hedonism rather than spiritual purity. Paul knew that…

III. False teachers are contrary to sound doctrine! (Vv. 8-11)

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

1. Paul did not have a problem with some of what these men were trying to teach but rather how they applied what they were teaching. Paul knew in fact that “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.” Paul was not an enemy of the Law of Moses, however, these men were not using it to teach about Jesus, but instead they were using it to promote themselves. The law of God was a guidepost and a standard to show our sinful nature. Paul writes that “We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious”. Those who followed God had no worries, but the law revealed the ungodly for what they actually were. The Law pulled aside the curtain. Therefore if one used it properly, for the purpose for which it was intended, the law would point them to Jesus! Paul then defines for Timothy what these lawbreakers, rebels, ungodly, sinful, unholy, and irreligious people were! There are those “who kill their fathers or mothers” in order to gain financially. There are “murderers” who kill others without reason; “adulterers” who have sexual relationships outside of their marriages; and “perverts” – this word describes being profane. In other words Paul is describing those who enjoyed and encouraged others to be socially and spiritually deviant. Sound familiar? Paul also included “slave traders and liars and perjurers”. Slavery would end because of Christianity and believers are not to lie or bear false witness ever. Point in fact Paul bluntly remarks that “whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to” him as his apostle was evil as well! Paul knew that false teachers are contrary to sound doctrine!

EXAMPLE: Contrary to what some teach today God is not a black woman found in a shack and Jesus is not a hippie. God is more concerned with your spiritual eternity than he is about your emotional state for the moment. It saddens me that far too much of what is taught in churches, books, and Christian materials has more to do with making excuses for our “Christian” hedonism rather than living a holy life for the Lord. We want to mold Jesus into our modern day world and make him into someone he is not. I learned a long time ago from a very godly man than anyone or anything that makes the qualifier of “Jesus and” or “Jesus plus” is the beginning of heresy. In fact we learn from Paul that false teachers are contrary to sound doctrine!

Conclusion:

False teachers exist to promote false teaching! False teachers exist to promote themselves! False teachers are contrary to sound doctrine!

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 is our helper! – Psalm 70

God is our helper! – Psalm 70
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 17, 2017

A young man found himself in serious financial trouble. His business had gone bust. He was so desperate that he decided to ask God for help. He began to pray. “God, please help me. I’ve lost my business and if I don’t get some money, I’m going to lose my house as well! Please let me win the lottery!” After doing this several nights in a row and he still did not win he decided to pray one last time, “My God, why have you forsaken me? I’ve lost my business, my house and my car. My children are starving! I don’t often ask you for help and I have always been a good person! Please just let me win the lotto this one time so I can get my life back in order!” Suddenly there was a blinding flash of light as the heavens opened, the young man fell backwards, and he was confronted by the voice of God himself: “Young man, you are going to have to do just one thing first — buy a ticket!”

Now I am not advocating wasting your hard-earned money on a lottery ticket; what I am getting at is the fact that sadly this is exactly how many folks view God. They see him as some kind of genie whereby they do not have to personally contribute anything! This short Psalm records a prayer by David for a quick rescue from his present predicament. It also anticipates the rejoicing that will follow. Through the words of David we learn that God is our helper, let’s discover how…

READ: Psalm 70

We live in a fast food, microwave, immediate texting society where we want answers now, if not sooner. David’s day was no different. Here we discover that…

I. David desired God’s help quickly! (v. 1)

Hasten, O God, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.

1. This corresponds almost word-for-word to Psalm 40:13-17 with a very few exceptions so it must have been an important request for David or he simply repeated himself. I prefer the latter. He cries out, “Hasten, O God, to save me”! David is literally requesting that God “snatch” him up and fly him to safety, almost like a hawk snatching up prey but in this case for safety’s sake and not to make David into a tasty meal! David wanted God to rescue him now! This is not new for David as I mentioned before because David had learned where he could go for help. He would sing in another Psalm, “Answer me quickly, O LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.” (Psalms 143:7 NIV) It is kind of like the Apostle Peter who jumped over the side of the boat so he walk on the water with Jesus; he looks at the waves, feels the wind, and he begins to sink because of his fear! He took his eyes off the Lord! He cries out, “Lord, save me!” We are told that “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31 NIV) David did not want to show any doubt concerning his trust in the Lord and so like a lot of us he asks, “O LORD, come quickly to help me.” Who wants a God to take his time? Not me and neither did David. We learn that David desired God’s help quickly!

EXAMPLE: People can move fairly fast if they are properly motivated. Guys, you haven’t seen anyone move faster than a woman who sees her husband come through the living room with a basket full of assorted wash headed toward the dishwasher. Of course there was the time a friend of mine I knew when I worked at Continental Can who barely stopped his wife from putting water from the garden hose in her brand new car via the gas fill! If we desire God to move fast in our lives we need to realize that he is not our personal genie. Someone responded to one of my sermon posts that God had never answered him the way he wanted. He failed to know what David did; God answers those who know and trust him. We learned David desired God’s help quickly!

It can seem sometimes that the whole world has it in for us. Yet did you know that those who know the Lord can seek his protection? We discover that…

II. David asks for God’s safety! (Vv. 2-3)

May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame.

1. We all have heard about the discourse of Jesus on the mountainside where he tells his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you ‘Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’” (Matthew 5:38-39 NIV) So it seems kind of odd or wrong or just plain vindictive that David is asking God for safety in his life against his enemies. However we have to understand first of all that when Jesus spoke the words he did on that mountainside he knew it was impossible for his listeners to do what he was asking them to do! That was the whole point. Their response would’ve been: “Are you crazy! How in the world can we do anything you are asking us to do?” Only those who loved God and knew he loved them could even come close to what Jesus was asking them to do! So notice what David asks God to do: “May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion”! The idea here is that his enemies would be so embarrassed by their false accusations they would be disappointed and publicly ashamed! But David does not stop there he continues: “may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace”! Wow! He wanted them to feel what he felt! In fact, he bluntly asks that “May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ turn back because of their shame.” It may look like it but David is not gloating over his enemies but rather they were gloating over David’s predicament. Proverbs reminds us that “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.” (Proverbs 24:17-18 NIV) Therefore David was kind of reminding God of this spiritual truth and in so doing he was reminding himself as well. The truth we discover here is the fact that David asks for God’s safety!

EXAMPLE: Did you hear that some politicians are asking for the pencil industry to change pencils? For the past thirty years America’s public schools have been producing students who are increasingly less educated. Liberal politicians across the country feel that pencil manufacturers are responsible for creating this education crisis and are filing lawsuits against them. They feel “pencils are faulty because they allow students to spell words incorrectly, as well as commit grammatical and mathematical errors”. Some believe that the pencil makers currently have technology available to put Student Safety Devices (SSDs) on their products. But they refuse to do it. These SSDs would prevent students from committing academic errors and help them to be better pupils. Pencil manufacturers, however, claim that their products are inanimate objects that do not cause students to commit academic errors. Of course I jest. It is as silly as forgetting that we are responsible as well for our relationship with God! Here we see that David asks for God’s safety!

There are those who think that all God does it wait around inactive until we ask him for something, nothing is further from the truth. As we listen to the words of this Psalm we learn that…

III. David seeks God’s salvation! (Vv. 4-5)

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “Let God be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.

1. Here is the key to what David has been asking God for the whole time. He related “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you”. The key here is for those who actively “seek” God. We are not to pull God out of a magic hat or rub an old oil lamp hoping that God will suddenly appear and answer all of our desires immediately. Jesus reminded his disciples, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV) This is not a promise of unlimited wealth or a cosmic sugar daddy but rather for those who seek God will find him and discover for their own selves his salvation. God reminds us that “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” (Proverbs 8:17 NIV) In fact David continued by stating “may those who love your salvation always say, ‘Let God be exalted!’” Only those who know God can honestly lift him up in praise because they know his mighty work in their lives! We know that if we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, all that we actually need in life will therefore be given to us! David therefore returns to his original request by asking God, “Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.” David remembered his spiritual condition: “poor and needy” and who could “come quickly” to “help” and “deliver” him without “delay”! Perhaps David remembered the words of Jeremiah, “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:25-26 NIV) Here we learn that David seeks God’s salvation!

EXAMPLE: While taking a routine vandalism report at an elementary school, a local policeman was interrupted by a little girl about six years old. Looking up and down at his uniform, she asked, “Are you a cop?” “Yes,” he answered and continued writing the report. “My mother said if I ever needed help I should ask the police. Is that right?” He looked up and answered her, “Yes, that’s right,” thinking now she needed his help in something that was important. “Well, then,” she said as she extended her foot toward him, “would you please tie my shoe?” What we may think is unimportant might be very important for someone else. How good is it therefore to know a God who listens and acts to those who love him? Here we discover that David seeks God’s salvation!

Conclusion:

David desired God’s help quickly! David asks for God’s safety! David seeks God’s 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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God is our teacher! – Psalm 25

God is our teacher! – Psalm 25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 10, 2017

I walked over to her and knelt down to ask her why she was crying. All the other kindergartners were having a great time running and playing with one another, only she was sitting all alone and tearful. She looked up at me with tear-stained cheeks and lamented, “Oh, Mr. Lee no one wants to play with me!” I asked, “Did you ask anyone if they would play with you?” “No”, was her reply, “I just knew they wouldn’t want to!” I went to the nearest group of girls and asked them, “Would you do me a favor?” And they all responded they would, so I asked them if they could use another person in their group to play with and of course they could and soon she was playing with her newfound friends.

Sometimes we can feel all alone in whatever self-imposed predicament we have placed ourselves. It is good to know therefore that God has provided for us during these times when we need someone to come along side of us and teach us to step outside of ourselves. Here in the Psalm of David we learn that God is our teacher, let’s discover what that means for our lives today…

READ: Psalm 25

It is often hard for the young to ask for advice or help. It is part of our prideful nature to want to do it ourselves without relying on anyone else. David understood that…

I. God teaches us as he guides us! (Vv. 1-7)

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

1. Who should believers spend time with? Of course our immediate answer is, “God!” However, what does that mean? Is it a quick solution, wishful thinking, or a way of life? Rather than just being a regurgitated formula or mantra David sings, “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.” It is to God that David gives his most intimate secrets to because he knows he can trust God with them. And in his insecurity he cries to the Lord, “Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” In doing so he reminds himself that “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame”. God was David’s vindicator. He defended David and so he sang “but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.” David would have his prayers answered and his needs met; but the key David knew was in how he actually walked with God and is why he would sing, “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” David knew that in order for him to enjoy God’s company he had to remain in his presence. So, David asks God to “show” him his ways, “teach” him his “paths” and to “guide” him in his “truth”. This is both a dangerous and intimate thing for David to do. David is seeking to know God more personally. And so in this David prays three times for God to remember: “Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.” We all want God to remember his love and compassion for us and to forget all about our sins and wrongdoings. David understood that God teaches us as he guides us!

EXAMPLE: In the comedy movie “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) writes for a women’s magazine. She agrees to write an article about everything a woman does wrong in a relationship so she can write more serious things. She meets Ben (Matthew McConaughey). Andie works hard to drive Ben insane and make him break up with her, but Ben continues to stick around in hopes of making her fall in love with him. Andie gets Ben knocked out in a movie theater by talking aloud while watching a chick flick, rapidly moves her things into his apartment, acts overly possessive and sensitive and clingy. No one wants someone who is clingy; you know what I mean. Someone who always needs your attention always needs to be reassured that you “love” them and someone who is always suspicious of any other friendships you might have. God is not the clinging type nor should we be in our relationship with him. Rather we should follow the Lord because we trust him and honor him with our trust. It is called faith. God teaches us as he guides us!

Honesty with God is important because he already knows what we’re up to anyhow. Why anyone would try to fool God is beyond me and here in his psalm David sings that…

II. God teaches us through our confession! (Vv. 8-14)

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

1. As David walked with God he began to understand certain characteristics about God. It is kind of like when newlyweds learn one another’s habits and they learn to love the other person because of them. David learned that “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.” David had ample opportunity to learn about God’s grace and in so doing he learned that God “guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” Like many of us David had to learn humility. Jesus taught that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:3-6 NIV) Those who want to walk with God must learn what he desires and what he desires is all of us; those who can honestly sing with David, “All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.” Therefore we learn along with David that humility is the key to intimacy with the Lord and it begins with open and honest confession, “For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.”  So, like David, we need to ask, “Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD?” It is the one willing to confess their pride and sinful condition. Then God “will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land.” It is never easy to confess our own sinful condition but it is a must if we desire to walk intimately with God yet if we do the outcome is wonderful because “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” God teaches us through our confession!

EXAMPLE: Confession is the place where God meets us at our most vulnerable. If we are not open and honest with him he cannot work in our lives. I find it hilarious when I work on the playground that after watching as one child picks on another child or does something they know they are not supposed to do, when confronted they try to deny it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter even if I tell them that I was watching them the whole time as they did the deed they still try to deny that it wasn’t them. I wonder what God thinks of us when we try to deny or lie to him instead of openly confessing our sins? David related here that God teaches us through our confession!

Have you ever known someone who depends solely on what they learn in books but have no real common sense? Head knowledge is good but heart understanding will truly fill in the cracks for spiritual wisdom. It only comes, David sings, when we understand that…

III. God teaches us to depend on him alone! (Vv. 15-22)

My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you. Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!

1. Do you blame others when things go south in your life? How do you respond when you are faced with a tough situation? Do you blame God? David poetically shares with us how he responded: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” David knew that only God could “Turn to [him] and be gracious to [him]” when David was “lonely and afflicted.” We can be like David when things go terribly wrong; he laments “The troubles of my heart have multiplied” and asks God to “free me from my anguish.” What was troubling David? He asks God to “Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me!” The psalm of David strongly links the prayer for deliverance and guidance to confession of sin. God’s teaches us that this is what he requires. Though God seems not to regard David’s prayer, faith does not fail, but renews his prayer, confident that God will still hear and save him. David continues by asking God, “Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” The reference is to all the dangers which encompassed him, whether arising from his foes or his own sins. David’s prayer is therefore asking that the divine protection he needs might be balanced with the danger he faced; that he might not be destroyed, either by his enemies or by the sins which he had committed! David had learned that his “integrity and uprightness” were the only things that would “protect” him “because” his “hope is in” God who is both. However David was not just thinking of himself, he knew his actions carried consequences for the nation he ruled because he was supposed to lead it with “integrity and righteousness”. So, his final stanza is a prayer to God to “Redeem Israel… from all their troubles!” David learned that God teaches us to depend on him alone!

EXAMPLE: Feelings are not the same thing as faith. Paul would write, “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3 NIV) I have often been baffled by women who can instantly tell when another woman is hurting, come along side of them for understanding and help but not have a clue as to how to solve their own messed up lives! Peter would write about faith this way: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV) David would sing, “Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you”; David learned that God teaches us to depend on him alone!

Conclusion:

God teaches us as he guides us! God teaches us through our confession! God teaches us to depend on him alone!

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 is our guide! – Psalm 23

God is our guide! – Psalm 23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 3, 2017

In our day and age few of us truly understand what it means to be a shepherd or even what sheep are all about. Of course if you have been around sheep you probably are still wondering what in the world sheep are all about. While a cow will walk into muck clear up to their hind tail and wonder how in the world they got there, sheep will freak out and happily run off a cliff together. I also realize that few of us would sit day in and day out through the cold, heat, rain, wind or snow watching a herd of grass-chewing wooly uncaring critters so understanding shepherding isn’t part of our modern day lives or personal experience.

Now perhaps in our day we could understand what it means to be a guide instead of a shepherd. A guide helps someone to go from one place to the next, meet a specific goal, or to acquire a certain skill. In David’s day shepherds were common and since he had been one himself he understood what it meant to be called a shepherd. Today let’s discover what it means for God to be our guide…

READ: Psalm 23

Watching or babysitting a toddler is in a sense a lot like being a shepherd. You have to continually be on your guard, keep them safe, and help them to get enough rest, nutrition, and play to keep them occupied, healthy, and growing; in a sense you have to herd them! Here we find David singing that…

I. God is our guide to a better way of life! (Vv. 1-3)

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

1. Through all of life’s struggles and his own selfish sin David had learned that “The Lord is my shepherd”. God guided David and often in spite of himself, but being his shepherd meant that God had deliberately steered David. And this was true. God had chosen David to be Israel’s king following Saul’s disastrous reign. God had every right to do so. Being Israel’s Shepherd God wanted to make sure the right man was in the right place to do the job he needed done for the time. Shepherds make sure their flocks are well fed and in his spiritual walk David realized that if God guided him, he would want for nothing. He would have what he needed from the Lord. In fact, David had experienced God’s care for him in that “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” It is when we follow the Lord that we experience his love, compassion, and care. We sleep better, we are more patient, and we find our spiritual strength in him alone. In a world that has floods, famines, and all kinds of natural and manmade disasters it is good to know that God can be our shepherd. And it is here that David gained the spiritual strength he needed. David would declare, “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” God willingly guides us because he desires to! David had been a shepherd who became a king. He understood what it took to care for a flock of sheep and he saw in his relationship with the Lord the same kind of care and concern. God is our Shepherd because he wants to be! David realized that God is our guide to a better way of life!

EXAMPLE: Watching a toddler can drive one to the brink of sitting on the kitchen floor and begin babbling like a maniac. A few years ago a friend of ours had triplets. I cannot imagine how one would go about watching three little ones who are always ready, willing, and able to be anywhere, go anyplace, and get into anything. This is why God gave mothers the ability to multitask! I am always amazed at how mothers can be making dinner, answer the inquisitive questions of a two-year-old, and talk coherently on the phone! When you add several others to the mix like other siblings or a clueless husband then you realize just how truly special mothers are! They are truly God’s shepherds. Here in this Psalm David reminds us that God is our guide to a better way of life!

If you have never experienced real fear you have never lost your little child in a store full of strangers. You have been constantly reminding them to “stay close”, to “leave that alone”, to “quit picking up stuff off the floor”, and you look away for one moment and they are gone! Panic immediately sets in. Guess what? David understood this and reminds us that…

II. God is our guide during times of fear! (Vv. 4-5)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

1. Life is full of frightening things and experiences. From our birth until we die we are faced each day with something new that seems to tug at us, to make us fearful, or to try and sway us from keeping our eyes focused on the moment at hand. If you do not believe me, then perhaps you did not drive to worship today! In David’s day people faced all kinds of fears we will never know — Thank you Jesus! Plagues, famine, wars, slavery, and instant death were a constant part of everyday living. We get upset when a child is killed because we live in a day and age and country where most children are not threatened by their daily existence. But David understood fear and so when he writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” we had better take notice. For David God was a constant. Unlike many of us whereby we only think about God when we want a happy thought for the day or when something truly goes haywire, David understood what it meant to have God walking with him. We forget that every day we are “walking through the valley of the shadow of death”. Each day brings us closer to the day of our demise. Yet in this world we do not have to fear “evil” for God is with us! He comforts us, like a shepherd did his sheep, with his rod and staff; both a means of discipline and steering for a wayward lamb. In fact, when we depend on God’s presence we realize like David that he “prepares a table before [us] in the presence of [our] enemies”, those who would want to harm us or see evil in our lives. In fact, David came to understand that not only did he have nothing to feat with God right beside him but it was God who gave him the blessings of life! “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” We can focus so much on what makes us afraid or depressed that we forget where the blessings of life come from! David reminds us that God is our guide during times of fear!

EXAMPLE: Can you imagine being a toddler again and having to learn all the things they have to learn? No you can’t eat that, put that down, give that to me, spit that out, come back here, don’t take your clothes off in the store, stop throwing your food, you can’t have my glasses, it is nap time, no, I said “NO!”, I mean “NO!” You know what I mean? Even when you are little loud noises can scare you, being in a dark room, or unfamiliar people. Yet the one constant is that as a toddler you can be safe and secure in the arms of a loving parent, grandparent, or sibling. There in the loving arms of those who love you, you are safe and secure. And this is exactly what it is like when God is our Shepherd. David reminds us that God is our guide during times of fear!

There isn’t anyone who does not long of love and understanding; especially when you are little and have fallen or are frightened. In fact, the first person we learn to cry for is, “MOM!” As a believer we should learn that the first person we need to cry for when we need comfort and understanding is: Jesus! David reminds us that…

III. God is our guide everyday! (v. 6)

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

1. David was certain that he could depend on the Lord always. His trust was not based on what he did himself because David blew it more times than I can count; but David loved God. And in that love there developed a relationship between him and his Lord. We find it in the life of men like Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel. Peter had to be thumped along side of the head a few times before he understood the relationship and the Apostle John was one of the first disciples to grab a hold of the love of God and learn its truth for his self. Only someone who has walked with God through the thick and the thin of life can understand deeply the words David uses here: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” David would lose friends, children, wives, and a kingdom. He would wonder if God still loved him after he had been such an ungodly human being by having someone killed for lust. We forget that evil, hurt, pain, sin, and love can and does exist in all of us even when we are God’s children. Yet God has provided for us like a Good Shepherd. Matthew reminds us that “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV) Jesus told his followers, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:11, 14 NIV) David knew who his Shepherd was; he had heard his voice time and time again. God was David’s Shepherd daily in life but he came to understand that God would lead him forever. What about you, do you know who your Shepherd is? David teaches us that God is our guide everyday!

EXAMPLE: It is both amazing and a bit disconcerting that little children look to the adults in their lives for guidance. I was looking through photos that we took at the beach when my grandson was just a little guy. One is of me carrying him on my shoulders and you can just see the outline of us walking in the surf because of the mist. I remember the day well and when we were heading back to the car he followed me by stepping in the tracks I left in the sand. He exclaimed, “Look grandpa, I’m walking just like you!” Here we read David singing that God is our guide everyday!

Conclusion:

God is our guide to a better way of life! God is our guide during times of fear! God is our guide everyday!
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!
—-
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 listens! — Psalm 40

God listens! — Psalm 40
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 6, 2017

“Are you listening to me?” was one of my mother’s favorite questions to ask me when I was younger. She wanted to make sure I understood what she had just told me to do; however there were times when as a young person I wished my parents would have listened to me as well. All young people go through this kind of stage in their life. In fact senior adults often express how younger folks do not always listen to them because they think they are too old, senile, or something. Isn’t it good to know then that the believer has someone who always listens to them no matter what age they are?

The Psalmist David knew and experienced God intimately. In our day and age there are a myriad of books, articles, and seminars that try to help Christians to experience God intimately. David gives us some good advice and examples as to just how God listens to those he loves. Let’s discover what he writes this morning…

READ: Psalm 40

Patience was not my strong suit as a young person, it was something that I had to learn and in fact I am still working on in my life! Yet we discover that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength and soar like eagles; running and walking without growing tired. David related that…

I. God listens to those who wait! (Vv. 1-5)

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

1. If patience is a virtue, few of us have it. Yet David writes that he “waited patiently for the Lord”. The idea is one of being silent, listening, and waiting for God to respond no matter how long it takes. When David did this he discovered that “he turned to me and heard my cry”. Far too often we do not have the tenacity to wait patiently for anything in life and then we wonder why we do not experience God as we think we should. For David this was very real occurrence because when he waited on the Lord he sang that “he lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire” and then God “set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand”! Have you ever felt in life you were bogged down by the filth of the world or the desperation of life? David did. But God listened to David and gave him a rock to stand on. God has given us Jesus the solid Rock that no earthly wind or rain can wash away! In fact God went further and “he put a new song in [David’s] mouth, a hymn of praise to our God”! When we are willing to wait on the Lord he gives us firm footing in life, a place to stand in a slimy mud-filled pit of a world. He gives us a new song to sing that influences those around us and “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” because of our patience in waiting for God to speak! David would sing, “Blessed” happy “is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn to aside to false gods” like worldly wisdom, philosophies, or manmade concepts but instead to a listening God who loves and cares for him! David understands who has his life in the palm of his hand, who listens to his prayers, and who responds and so he sings, “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” David learned as we need to as well that God listens to those who wait!

EXAMPLE: I learned a lot from my father about fishing. One of the first things he taught me was patience. If I sat quietly by the stream or by the lake and watched intently my bobber or the lure I was using I would be rewarded for my steadfastness. He would tell me about how to fish the swirls, behind the large rocks, and riffles in a stream. How to look for the concentric rings of fish as they surfaced for food and how to lay a lure or fly just right in the water so as not to scare the fish but to attract them to my hook. He taught me to keep my shadow from falling onto where I wanted to fish and to be silent. He taught me to listen to the flow of the water, the songs of the birds, and the quietness of the woods. He taught me patience. David teaches us that God listens to those who wait!

What we focus on in life says a lot about who we are. For the believer their focus must be on the Lord; we are to “seek fist” his “kingdom” and his “righteousness” and then we will know him better; Jesus’ words not mine. In fact we learn from David that…

II. God listens to those who desire him! (Vv. 6-10)

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

1. We live in a world of hustle and bustle. We think therefore that God wants us to “do something” for him instead of waiting on him. It is a matter of what we desire in life. Are we focusing on ourselves or on him? Too many in David’s day had begun to focus on what they could do for God instead of what God truly desired from them. David correctly understood this and sang, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire… burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” God did not need these offerings especially from those who were really focused on something else instead of him! And so curiously David sings, “But my ears you have pierced”. The meaning is twofold: First, slaves had their ears pierced with an awl by their owners to signify their slavery; David was referring to his willingness to be bound to God. Secondly, David felt that he only heard God when he was in a right relationship with him; when his ears were “pierced” so he could truly hear what God was saying to him! This is why David tells God, “Here I am, I have come”. He was ready, willing, and able to listen to God. Because David listened to God he knew God had a plan for his life. David came to hear what God had in store for his life and so he sings, “I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” One cannot hear God’s voice until they are ready to give themselves completely over to the Lord; to sacrifice themselves and become totally God’s. Then it becomes easy to “proclaim righteousness in the great assembly” because for those who know God understand he listens to them! David could not “seal” his “lips” nor could he “hide” God’s “righteousness in [his] heart” in who he was. God was fully a part of David’s life and not some secondary occurrence he was exposed to once in a while. David was not a nice guy who tried to love God, he was a guy who loved God and became the man God desired and so he spoke of God’s “faithfulness and salvation”. In fact, David never concealed God’s “love” and “truth from the great assembly”. David learned that God listens to those who desire him!

EXAMPLE: In an old country and western song by Tom T. Hall he relates the ungodly philosophy of a scrawny old cowboy who tells him that life is about “faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money”. Sadly this is what many in the world truly think life is all about. They live life full throttle earning more money, living for the moment, and for the thrill instead of for the One who created them in the first place. God is either a far off concept or a curse word for them. They have never heard his voice because they have drowned it out with the desires of the world. Yet if they were willing to have their ears pierced so they could truly listen they would hear his voice calling them. David discovered that God listens to those who desire him!

Honesty is the best policy but many while they desire it from others do not practice it themselves. We live in a world of deceit and therefore we cynically expect politicians to lie to us, the media to distort the truth, and even family and friends to conceal hidden motives. David teaches us that…

III. God listens to those who are honest with him! (Vv. 11-17)

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me. May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The LORD be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.

1. We all want God when we want him. This is something I have learned in my 40-plus years of ministry and 32 years of pastoring: When things get bad, which they always do in life, we cry out to God whom we have not thought about before. As one old pastor said, “We get real about God when life gets real with us.” We find David being totally honest with God. He understood that God cannot hear those who come to him with false motives or pretenses. He desires all of us. So David sings, “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me.” More than anything David desired God but David knew he had sinned and so he confesses to the Lord, “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” David is being straightforward in his prayer to God. He was suffering the consequences of his sinful life and so he cries to the One who can truly rescue him, “Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.” David did not experience the grace of God we as believers now enjoy because of Jesus. God, the Holy Spirit, comes to seal us and stay with us forever but David did not have this intimacy of grace we now enjoy. So he asks for God’s protection: “May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ be appalled at their own shame.” In this we discover that we can be very real with the Lord in our conversation our prayer just as David was. David needed to be rescued from his predicament. From his sin and those who sought to do him evil and so he willingly turns to the One who listens. Yet David also desired that those who were willing to seek the Lord would “rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, ‘The LORD be exalted!’” David wanted to be rescued but he also desired that those who sought to do him ill would know the Lord as he did. And finally David the King and commander sings, “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” God listens to those who are honest with him!

EXAMPLE: Recently I took a camping trip to Montana with my son-in-law and grandson. It was a blast. Not only did we see all kinds of wildlife but we swam in an ice-cold river, experienced nature, and cooked our food out-of-doors. Yet one of the things that I will always remember is going down to the river after dark and looking up at the night sky. Without the light pollution of the cities we could see the Milky Way in all of its glory. As I stood there looking up I experienced a moment of unsettlement. I realized just how miniscule I was compared to the universe God had made. Yet I wanted to shout for joy when I realized that this awesome God who created all of the stars and galaxies speaks to me intimately! I was humbled and confessed to him that I was unworthy of such love. We learn from David that God listens to those who are honest with him!

Conclusion:

God listens to those who wait! God listens to those who desire him! God listens to those who are honest with 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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God our helper! – Psalm 121

God our helper! – Psalm 121
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 23, 2017

From the movies and into the language fabric of American culture has been the question: “Who’re you gonna call?” and the answer, “Ghost Busters!” But who do you call when you need help in life? Some call their therapist, psychiatrist, minister, friend, or family member. Calling 911 isn’t going to help you answer the deep spiritual questions one has or some of the day to day problems one faces. So, who do you call to when you need help?

The Bible teaches us over and over that the believer is to be dependent upon the Lord and to go to him when they need answers in life. Sadly, few do unless only as a last resort. I have had thousands of conversations about relationships, finances, family problems, addictions, and fatal attractions and few have heeded the advice I have offered only to later respond that they wished they had. Once I was asked where I went for help and I remarked, “To God our helper.” Let’s discover what the Psalmist sings about this…

READ: Psalm 121

The Israelites were told over and over and over again to depend upon the Lord and not themselves, the pagan gods of the land, nor the worldly wisdom of the age. Yet they often failed to do so and suffered the consequences of their decision. Here we discover that…

I. God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! (Vv. 1-4)

A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

1. The title “song of ascents” identifies Psalms 120-134 as a song to be sung when the Israelites “ascended” or “went up” to Jerusalem for their annual feasts. Four of these 15 psalms are ascribed to David but this one is anonymous. Jerusalem sat on a hill and the temple rose up on the highest point, so when the pilgrim went to worship God in his temple he would sing, “I lift up my eyes to the hills”. Like a scene from a movie of a besieged city looking to the hills for reinforcements against her enemies, we lift our eyes to the Lord! The believer is to look to the heights of the Lord for their help; not just in times of distress but in every situation! So, today, like the pilgrim of God ask yourself, “Where does my help come from?” Your answer should be immediate and direct, “My help comes from the Lord!” But notice why the Psalmist was willing to sing this? He knew that God, like we learned last week from Colossians, is “the Maker of heaven and earth”! The Christian knows and understands that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” and that “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-16 NIV) Therefore he is sure and certain and he keeps us from slipping up in life, as the Psalmist sang, “He will not let your foot slip”! We forget Jesus told us succinctly, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7 NIV) This is not some “name it and claim it” heresy but rather the promise of the Lord God that if we walk daily with him he will walk daily with us! There is so much false advice and ungodly wisdom in the world today that it is good to know God will keep us from slipping up when we remain in him. The Psalmist realized this and reiterated that “he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep!” God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

EXAMPLE: You can by hiking boots or walking shoes with treads designed to give you better footing in rough places; you can purchase cork or felt-soled waders to help you navigate the moss and algae-covered rocks while fishing; and you can buy simple flip-flops to protect your feet while using public showers in gyms or at the swimming pool. But what can we depend upon to keep us upright in a sin-filled world that offers so much trash for advice? The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

A good parent doesn’t hover over their child but they remain watchful throughout the child’s life. When they are younger they help them to stay safe, look both ways, and to say “please”, “thank-you”, and “you’re welcome”. We discover that like a watchful loving parent…

II. God helps us by watching over our lives! (Vv. 5-8)

The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

1. God is not a nag. He does not scold you, berate you, or remind you of your mess-ups. He is not some angry old grump or judge watching and waiting for you to mess up just so he can discipline you back into line. It was truly liberating for me to learn that rather than an angry God that the God of the Bible was a loving God who loved me even before I was born and knew every step I would take in life! He loved me so much that he provided for my salvation from sin’s judgment! Rather than a judgmental narrow-minded bigoted deity, he is my helper, redeemer, and friend. The Psalmist reminded his readers that “The Lord watches over you”; not as a nag but to be your “shade at your right hand”! He is the one we can depend upon to shield us and lead us in a corrupt world and to keep us safe and secure. Shade was an important part of life during the Psalmist’s time. The Israelites looked for it as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship; shepherds sought it out to rest in during the heat of the day; and all wanted the protection of the snug roof over them at night — so he sings to those who are seeking shade and shelter, “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night”. It does not matter the time of day, the season of the year, or what phase of life you are in, God is with you; right beside you, shading you and protecting you, “The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” I truly like that. It is refreshing to know that a loving God cares enough for me to remind me that he is with me always, through every stage or up and down of life. The Apostle Paul asked and age-old question when he queried, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Like the Psalmist even Paul was “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NIV)  God helps us by watching over our lives!

EXAMPLE: One of my favorite hymns is “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”. It speaks of how God loves us and watches over us just as he does each tiny sparrow like Jesus reminded his disciples, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV) The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us by watching over our lives!

Conclusion:
God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! God helps us by watching over our lives!
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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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