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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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Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49

Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 2, 2017

Wikipedia relates that “‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the ‘inalienable rights’ which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.” The writers, the signers, and those who fought for our freedoms believed passionately in these inalienable rights for all people. At the core of this belief was their reasoning that God created mankind for more than servitude and it came from the notion that even nations ruled by kings should fear God.

Today’s America has taken the notion of personal freedom to the extreme that it is a free ticket to do any ungodly or immoral act and excuse it as a personal right. They would do well to remember the spiritual law involved that you reap what you sow in life. The Psalmist here teaches us that those who fear God live; let’s discover what he says about this…

READ: Psalm 49

Many in our day think they can rewrite the laws of God to fit their particular perversion in order to excuse it as sin. The Psalmist reminds us that…

I. Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! (Vv. 1-6)

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike: My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding. I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

1. Sometimes it is hard to gain the attention of those you are speaking to and so sometimes you have to do something to shake people up so they will listen. The Psalmist does that here by including everyone in his pronouncement: “Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike”. He tells them by a command of sorts to “hear” and to “listen”. The first refers to actually intelligently understanding what is being spoken to those who are willing to be taught by the words he is speaking! The second refers to giving an ear or to someone who harkens to the sound of his voice like one would to a herald or a town crier who goes about saying “hear ye, hear ye!” or like a child who listens to the voice of their mother calling them home. Notice that the Psalmist’s announcement is for “all you peoples…who live in the world…both low and high, rich and poor alike”. Why should anyone listen to him? “My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.” There are few things or folks worth listening to in this world of fake news and made up headlines or exaggeration. Yet he would “turn [his] ear to a proverb; with the harp [he would] expound my riddle”. It is like Jesus who told and taught his disciples “many things in parables”. (Matthew 13:3 NIV) Like Benjamin Franklin with Poor Richard’s Almanac or Thomas Paine’s Common Sense who both used humor and pity sayings to teach deeper truths, the Psalmist does this as well. He begins, like any good orator, with a question: “Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?” He expected an answer probably in the form of question itself; more than likely: “How in the world could you not fear evil days, wicked deceivers, or the ultra rich?” For the Jews of his day only those who were well off could scoff at these things, certainly not a common person! The Psalmist wanted his listeners to know that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

EXAMPLE: Benjamin Franklin wrote that “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” But he also had a deep faith in a Creator who gave all things. He was not a believer per se but a Deist, someone who believed in a higher power. Later in life he held stronger views on God and especially Jesus and confessed his faith, contrary to what many theists and atheists would have you believe about Franklin. He would write, “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” The Psalmist knew this several thousands of years before Franklin. He understood that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

One of the attractions that drew people from all over the world to America was that you could become whatever you could in America through shear hard work and tenacity. However, far too many have forgotten where their lives come from. The Psalmist teaches us that…

II. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! (Vv. 7-13)

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him–the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. Selah

1. With his very next words, the Psalmist writes such an important lesson that the world today would do well to heed it. “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him”. Is this true? For the Hebrew of this era it was and it is why Jesus’ teaching was so astonishing because everyone knew “the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay”. These words were never forgotten by the Jews and so when Jesus came and taught one could live forever through faith in him, it was astounding! Perhaps we have forgotten life is costly. This is why the framers of the Declaration of Independence included the phrase “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. It establishes three inalienable rights which the Declaration states that have been given or endowed to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created by the same God to protect. Life is costly and yet things are not as costly, “For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others.” What you so dearly hold on to right now and think so precious probably will be sold in a garage sale, trucked away to the Salvation Army, or dumped in the trash! In fact, even those who are wealthy, famous, or powerful in this life will soon learn that “Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves.” What good news then is that while “the ransom for a life is costly” Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”! (Matthew 20:28 NIV) You see the Psalmist knew what a lot of folks forget, namely dead is dead and once you are dead you are the same as all other dead folks! That “man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.” He is not teaching about how you or your pets end up eternally but rather more like the morose teachings of Ecclesiastes who lamented, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19 NIV) “This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.” However, the tacit implication is that those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

EXAMPLE: If you look at many of our coins you will see the inscription, “In God We Trust”. The phrase appears to have originated in “The Star-Spangled Banner”, written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. The fourth stanza states, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.’” The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing “Almighty God in some form in our coins” in order to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism”. It wasn’t until the Civil War that one and two cent coins were inscribed. In 1865 Congress passed legislation to place the motto on all gold and silver coins. However on the 50th anniversary of the motto in 2006 Congressed affirmed “In God We Trust” as the United States of America’s national motto. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

In America we have problem with death. Unlike past generations who realized life was short, often took care of the elderly themselves, and where people often did not live past their sixties because of illness, war, and poor health conditions. The Psalmist reminds us that…

III. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die! (Vv. 14-20)

Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Selah Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life. A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

1. We all face death and just “Like sheep [we] are destined for the grave, and death will feed on [us]”!  There is tremendous good news in the Psalmist’s message however, “The upright will rule over [the rich, powerful, or famous] in the morning”! In other words when God comes to finally judge the living and the dead while “their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions”, ours won’t and it will be like a fresh new dawn! The Psalmist was well aware that indeed “God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” He had full confidence in God who loved him. Here dear little child of God is where we are to never forget those wondrous and amazing words of Jesus when he promised, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3 NIV) So, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.” As one old preacher stated, “We are all lay on the same level in the grave, unless we stand with Jesus!” And sadly, “Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life.” But not those who trust in God instead. Remember Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV) and do not forget the words he told the weeping Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV) Dead is dead unless you know God in Jesus but “A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”  Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

EXAMPLE: Unlike past generations where people celebrated death and those who had died by annually setting aside a time to remember them; today we have such a problem with the idea of dying we make roadside pagan shrines to the dead hoping they somehow realize that we now care. But dead is dead. It may be a means to assuage our own guilt and fear of dying. However, the godly person has absolutely no fear of death because we know our destination because of the one we have trusted in. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

Conclusion:
Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!
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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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The Servant Life! – James 1:1-8

The Servant Life! – James 1:1-8
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 27, 2014 AM

I have discovered that those who often have personal problems with fellow believers or with their churches are usually the ones who all of sudden have been confronted with their insincerity of faith. What many American’s think is biblical and scriptural concerning how to deal with fellow believers or a church that suddenly does not meet their needs has absolutely no basis in correct theology. Far too many do not read and study their Bibles but rather use them to justify their sin, their immaturity of faith, or to excuse their disobedience. Sound harsh? Then you will fit right in with those who have had problems with the “right strawy epistle” of the Book of James. As the Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “Few books of the Bible have been more maligned than the little Book of James. Controversy has waged over its authorship, its date, its recipients, its canonicity, and its unity.” Yet, there is no denying that James teaches us how to live the servant life that his brother Jesus desired us to.

How do we live the servant life Jesus commanded, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”? (Mark 9:35 NIV) This teaching follows on the heels of Jesus stating, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 NIV) Few followers come anywhere near what Jesus commanded us to do. A life in Christ that is healthy, happy, and whole is one founded on being a servant! James gets right to the point in teaching us the servant life; let’s discover what he teaches…

READ: James 1:1-8

Notice that James immediately writes, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. He has already qualified himself not only as a “servant of God” but also “of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He wanted his readers to understand that he did not place himself above God or his Master, Jesus! And James is addressing the entire church and therefore all believers when he writes, “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” For James his life in Christ began and ended with Jesus! Therefore, for James…

I. Being a servant means personal perseverance! (Vv. 1-4)

1. One of the most played songs is the one by Pharrell Williams called “Happy.” One of the stanzas goes, “Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah, Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back, yeah, Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah, No offense to you, don’t waste your time… Here’s why… Because I’m happy!” Yet, we often find it tough to persevere in a world full of sin, disease, and sadness. Singing a little song ain’t gonna help when the rent is due! Yet, James remarkably writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”! (Say what?) Interestingly, Pherrell’s little ditty follows on the heels of a songster named Bobby McFerrin, who wrote, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. McFerrin wistfully sang, “Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note; don’t worry be happy. In every life we have some trouble. When you worry you make it double; don’t worry, be happy!” Wow! Who would have thought that all we have to do in life is not worry and be happy! Sadly, while this may sound hip, it is far from reality. James places one’s happiness squarely where it should be, in Jesus Christ. Why? James reminded his readers that “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Far too often we gripe and complain about what we are going through, and we even blame our circumstances on God. But we forget one universal truth: sin exists. This is why bad things happen to good people, or at least to the people we think are good. Believers all too often forget that God does not test us like some malicious ultimate being, but he does allow us to go through the mess we have created, including the affects of original sin. Now we can either curse and complain or discover what James is teaching us, namely, that “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” More than our escaping hard times, God desires to mature us in our faith. James was not some masochist who liked beating up on himself or others. He knew believers needed to be discipled in their faith walk with Jesus. He did. It is important to note that James did not say that a believer should be joyous for the trials but in the trials. The verb translated “face” might more literally be expressed as “fall into,” peripesēte, like falling off a precipice or cliff! We mature in our faith when we realize that the trials we face are part of life and how we handle them says a lot about our walk with God. James taught that being a servant means personal perseverance!

EXAMPLE: CNN wrote, “It’s hard not to get swept up in the emotion of singer/rapper/producer Pharrell Williams as he breaks down while discussing his hit song ‘Happy’ with Oprah Winfrey.” Pharrell tearfully related during an Oprah Winfrey interview, “It’s overwhelming because it’s like I love what I do,” he continued, “I just appreciate the fact that people have believed in me for so long, that I could make it to this point to feel that.” Winfrey responded, “I so now get why it’s so infectious, because it came from such a clear space that the energy was absolutely uninterrupted by anything other than allowing it to flow from heart to heart.” Okay? Whatever. Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” caught the attention of the entire country in 1988. He believes in the healing power of music. And some studies have shown the positive or negative effects music can have of folks, however, when “the music fades, all is stripped away.” Christian song writer Matt Redman, wrote in his chorus, “Heart of Worship”, “I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required. You search much deeper within. Through the way things appear, you’re looking into my heart.” James taught that being a servant means personal perseverance!

Where do you go when you are looking for advice? Often we go to feckless friends, reclusive relatives, or pathetic peers and or the exalted “experts” such as teachers or counselors, but we should look first into the Word of God. There are many who claim to seek God’s wisdom through his words, but few who actually do; especially when it may counter what we had already decided was God’s wisdom for our life! However, James teaches us that…

II. Being a servant means following your Master! (Vv. 5-8)

1. Much of the world is confused by what constitutes good wisdom, it isn’t knowledge. Knowledge comes from facts, events, or studying while wisdom comes from using those facts, events, or studies in the real world. Wisdom often comes from our experiences coupled with our knowledge. This is why having more education does not necessarily make one wiser, just perhaps more knowledgeable! Facts are useless unless you know how to use them. James knew this to be true and why he wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Anyone, anywhere, can ask God at anytime for greater wisdom and this is the key, the wisdom James refers to is the wisdom that comes from God. It isn’t the wisdom of the world which often leads believers astray concerning spiritual matters. However, James says there is a caveat, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” Now James is not saying you can never have doubts concerning your faith what he is referring to is an individual doubting that God can give them the wisdom they need when they ask! The problem arises when we are uncertain we can trust God! When we doubt we are like “a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Often we do not recognize the answer given from God because we have doubted we would receive one in the first place or we only look for the answer we desire and ignore everything else! Too many believers have fallen into the false doctrine of thinking God is involved in every minute detail of their lives, when in fact he is not. Now do not misunderstand what I am saying, God does know what you are about after all he is omniscient – all knowing. He does know the hairs on our heads and when a sparrow falls to the ground, but he does not necessarily get personally involved in every detail of our daily lives where it truly does not matter what choice we make or when we know the choice we should make! In our hurried lives we often want answers in our timing and not in God’s. We therefore willingly forget that God can answer yes, no, wait, or not at all! Contrary to what Copernicus taught and many Christians think; the universe and creation does indeed revolve around the Son! His plan does not revolve around you personally. Jesus related to his disciples what James is teaching here when he taught, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV) The problem is that too many sheep do not recognize the voice of their Master because they are so busy listening to their own wisdom or that of the world instead. They are trying to get God to agree with the answer they desire so that it will justify their ungodly wisdom. James teaches us that being a servant means following your Master!

EXAMPLE: Lisa knew she shouldn’t date a boy who did not share her faith. She did everything she could to justify her decision to date him. She lamented to her friend, “My parents just don’t understand me! He promised to go to church with me! He said he believes in God! He says he loves me! I prayed about it and God did not say not do date him! What should I do?” So her friend replied, “Your parents have raised you for 16 years, don’t you think they know you by now? Don’t most boys promise anything in order to get what they want when in fact they often do not follow through? Since when is just believing there is a God the same thing as placing your faith in Jesus? And don’t you know God’s answer is probably ‘no’ because he is an unbeliever and not good for your life.” Lisa dried her eyes, blew her nose, looked at her friend and responded, “Well who asked you!?” We discover that James teaches us that being a servant means following your Master!

Conclusion:
Being a servant means personal perseverance! Being a servant means following your Master!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 24, 2014

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)

I was just wondering about one of the most played songs nowadays is the one by Pharrell Williams called “Happy.” One of the stanzas goes, “Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah, Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back, yeah, Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah, No offense to you, don’t waste your time… Here’s why… Because I’m happy!” Yet, we often find it tough to persevere in a world full of sin, disease, and sadness. Singing a little song ain’t gonna help when the rent is due! Yet, James remarkably writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”! (Say what?) Interestingly, Pherrell’s little ditty follows on the heels of a songster named Bobby McFerrin, who wrote, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. McFerrin wistfully sang, “Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note; don’t worry be happy. In every life we have some trouble. When you worry you make it double; don’t worry, be happy!” Wow! Who would have thought that all we have to do in life is not worry and be happy! Sadly, while this may sound hip, it is far from reality. James places one’s happiness squarely where it should be, in Jesus Christ. Why? James reminded his readers that “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Far too often we gripe and complain about what we are going through, and we even blame our circumstances on God. But we forget one universal truth: sin exists. This is why bad things happen to good people, or at least to the people we think are good. Believers all too often forget that God does not test us like some malicious ultimate being, but he does allow us to go through the mess we have created, including the affects of original sin. Now we can either curse and complain or discover what James is teaching us, namely, that “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” More than our escaping hard times, God desires to mature us in our faith. James was not some masochist who liked beating up on himself or others. He knew believers needed to be discipled in their faith walk with Jesus. He did. It is important to note that James did not say that a believer should be joyous for the trials but in the trials. The verb translated “face” might more literally be expressed as “fall into,” peripesēte, like falling off a precipice or cliff! We mature in our faith when we realize that the trials we face are part of life and how we handle them says a lot about our walk with God. Makes one wonder…

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Accept God’s Free Offer! – Isaiah 55:1-13

Accept God’s Free Offer! – Isaiah 55:1-13
By pastor Lee Hemen
March 30, 2014 AM

How many churches offer Sunday School as a means of baby-sitting to over-worked parents so they can be safely separated without guilt from their children for an hour or so? How many adults think that the thirty-minute sermon on Sunday is all they need in studying the Bible, depending on the emotional high they get from the worship service? They fail to understand they are missing an important part of the Christian life–relating to other believers, building unity and fellowship of the local church! Too many settle for a cheap grace experience rather than mature growth. Why would anyone invest so little in their spiritual life when God wants to give them so much more?”

God declared He would restore Israel creating a righteous nation that would grow in number, territory, and faith. God would protect His people rather than punish them. God freely invited Israel to seek and know Him. He alone could provide the forgiveness, love, and restoration Israel needed. God’s salvation would extend even to all outcasts, such as eunuchs and foreigners, if they also obeyed God and followed Him. Those who returned to God would find peace and forgiveness. Despite God’s offer, some in Israel continued in their sinful ways, disobeying God in every way imaginable. Isaiah explains why we need to accept God’s free offer…

READ: Isaiah 55:1-13

The words of God are not like WinCo or Wal-Mart; you cannot gain your understanding of them on the cheap. Isaiah teaches us that accepting God’s free offer is the…

I. Best Value! (Isaiah 55:1-5)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” (Isaiah 55:1-5 NIV)

1. To call Israel to turn to God and find life, Isaiah employed the image of a street vendor selling wares in the open market. Street vendors, including vendors who sold water, were a typical part of daily life. They would be the Home Shopping Network or telemarketers of today. In every case, the individual attempts to make their product something you can’t live without. In contrast, God offers an essential necessity of life. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” Just as humans can survive only a few days without water, so humans cannot live a true life without God! Isaiah emphasized the urgency by using the imperative verbs “come, buy, and eat.” Israel badly needed what God could supply, and Israel would never find a better value! God offered it “without cost”. Israel could not buy what it needed because God offered it as a gift. Christians recognize who paid the purchase price; Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin; and as a result gave us forgiveness and new life! Unfortunately when offered the best as a gift from God, many willingly settled for less. They chose what failed to satisfy and nourish them rather than what would bring them abundant life. God pleaded with the Israelites to pay attention and come to Him. “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” Just as Israel could only experience true life by repenting and living in a right relationship with God, we can find life only through faith in Jesus Christ. “See”, Isaiah relates, God had made a “covenant” with David, promising to establish his throne forever. If the people would turn to God and follow Him, Israel would glorify God in a greater way than David. David was “a witness to the peoples” by creating a strong, united Israel. God’s empowered David to defeat Israel’s enemies and establish a kingdom. Investing in the best, Israel would find itself witnessing to those it did “not know”. The nations would listen to Israel’s witness, see its splendor, and come seeking God’s truth. Accepting God’s free offer found in His word was the best value for Israel just as it is for our lives!
EXAMPLE: By His power, God would save and restore His people. Israel’s restoration would be a witness to the nations of God’s reality as one true God. God first offered His spiritual nourishment to Israel, but He extended His offer to all the people of the world. God continues to offer what we most need, abundant life through His Son Jesus Christ. God offers us salvation. All we need do is accept His free gift. What can be a better value or investment for our lives? How has God’s gift of abundant life been the best value in your life? Accepting God’s free offer is the best value for our lives!

Rather than used things, we all like new things. We learn that accepting God’s free offer leads to a…

II. Brand-New Life! (Isaiah 55:6-7)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV)

1. Isaiah urged the Israelites to seek God. Seek sometimes refers to going to a place to worship God, but Isaiah knew his people needed to do more than simply participate in the temple worship. The Israelites needed to seek God continually as Lord of their life. They needed to repent of their sin, learn about God’s character, and follow God’s guidance for living. They needed to “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” Isaiah’s call to seek God while He may be found emphasized Israel’s necessity to act quickly. Was the prophet implying that at times God does not want to be found? Even more serious, was he implying that at times God cannot be found? The answer of course is no to both questions; as long as one is alive, God may be found. Interestingly, Scripture reminds us that it is God who does the finding! However, Isaiah was announcing a time of grace, the perfect time to hear God’s call and respond. He was emphasizing the importance of taking action immediately. Then, God does something interesting; He called all to Him, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Wicked individuals disobey God, which leads to rebellious actions against God and others. Such people resist God and His invitation to develop a relationship with Him. As long as the wicked rejected God, they cut themselves off from an abundant life; yet, even the wicked could be “freely” pardoned! Isaiah reminded the Israelites that repentance led to God’s incredible compassion and forgiveness, not to God’s righteous anger and judgment. Accepting God’s free offer leads to a brand-new life!
EXAMPLE: New and abundant life can be found only in God. It is not found in momentary things, relationships, or in cheap grace. God calls us to develop a relationship with Him not so He can increase our guilt and punishment but so He can provide us with brand new life! Remember, Jesus reminds us that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV) What have been the most wonderful aspects of the new life you have received through Christ? Accepting God’s free offer leads to a brand-new life!

We often forget that God has a plan for each of our lives, we often fail to realize His potential in it. We discover that in accepting God’s free offer, He has a…

III. Blessed Purpose! (Isaiah 55:8-11)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:8-11 NIV)

1. This perhaps is one of the most important verses in the Bible for people to understand and learn. Isaiah emphasized the vast difference between God and humans. God thinks on a scale completely different from humans, planning and accomplishing what is beyond our wildest imagination. We have learned much about our world, science, and medicine; but we cannot ever comprehend all of God’s infinite wisdom and knowledge. Just as He reminded the Israelites, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways!” we need to understand this fact as well. God’s ways or behaviors differ drastically from ours. We might look at human sin and declare forgiveness an utter impossibility, but God created and enacted a plan to provide forgiveness to all who come to Him in faith. We likely would have declared God’s covenant with Israel null and void due to Israel’s continual disobedience, but God kept His promises to Abraham and his descendants. God’s ways show us how far we are from God and His standards for life. Rather than simply marveling at or ignoring God’s ways, we need to seek to know God on a deeper and more mature level and to live by His standards. In fact, God reminds us that, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” As high as the farthest reaches of the universe are, God’s ways are beyond our complete understanding. We cannot begin to imagine the greatness of God! Isaiah’s words provide us a helpful perspective. We cannot cross the chasm separating us from God and command Him to do our bidding. Instead, God has crossed the chasm in Christ and invited us to live for Him! Rain comprised a crucial natural resource in ancient Israel. If the rains fell and watered the crops, the people would have food that year and seed to plant for the next year’s crop. If the rains failed to come, the crops would wither and die, creating famine. Just as rain sustains physical life on earth, so God’s Word sustains spiritual life. God’s Word calls people to repent so they might experience forgiveness, abundant life, and a right relationship with their Creator. God’s Word then sustains this life by providing guidance, comfort, and help. He reminds us that “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it!” In accepting God’s free offer, we discover a blessed purpose!
EXAMPLE: God’s Word always has proven reliable. What God declares, He will accomplish. The invitation to Israel to seek God and find life rested on His unchanging nature and love for His people. God’s invitation to us to enjoy an abundant life in Him rests on the same basis. When we seek God, His Word accomplishes its blessed purpose of providing us new life. What has God’s Word accomplished in your life? In accepting God’s free offer, we discover a blessed purpose!

And, finally, we discover perhaps the best part of accepting the free offer of God: It brings…

VI. Bountiful Joy! (Isaiah 55:12-13)

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers, the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” (Isaiah 55:12-13 NIV)

1. The Old Testament uses the verb “go out” to refer to Israel’s exiles’ returning to Judah from Babylon. It conjures a powerful picture, but Isaiah had in mind more than freedom from an enemy and a return home! Isaiah envisioned his people moving into a new, deeper, more faithful relationship with God. As slaves and captives joyfully left the places where they had suffered, so Israel would move joyfully into the future with God. They would, “go out in joy and be led forth in peace”! God would peacefully guide His people into a wonderful new life. Even the “the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands!” Wow! What a beautiful picture! Israel’s turning to God would make all of creation rejoice! Sin affects not only our relationships with God and others but also all creation (Rom. 8:19-21). God’s work with His people creates a rippling effect through all nations and all creation, multiplying joy. The people of Israel knew all too well how thorn bush and brier could overtake an abandoned field. Their conquest resulted in the neglect of fields as these enemy armies took Israelites into exile. Thorns and briers choked fields that once had produced good crops. Replacing the thorn bush and briers with pine and myrtle indicated the land had become productive once more, just as He does in the life of the repentant sinner. Although Isaiah believed God would bring the exiles home from Babylon, the prophet referred to a new spiritual fruitfulness among his people. Seeking and obeying God would result in Israel’s being a witness to all the world. God’s work through Israel would make a name for God by revealing His nature to all people. This would be entirely for “the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” Transforming Israel and creation completed the promise trilogy of God in Isaiah 54-55. First, God pledged His everlasting love to Israel (Isa. 54:8). Second, God promised to establish an everlasting covenant with all Israel like that with David (55:3). Finally, God declared He would transform His creation, acting in love and faithfulness to create an everlasting sign of His nature. What a wonderful thing to know that in accepting God’s free offer results in bountiful joy!
EXAMPLE: Isaiah perfectly described the joy filling those who accept God’s free offer of abundant life. A continuing, maturing relationship with God creates a deep, abiding joy that can celebrate even in times of difficulty. God invites all to seek Him, to be transformed by His love, and to experience the joy only He can provide. How has God brought deep abiding joy to your life, not the temporary happiness we often try to replace it with? Scripture reminds us that God sings and whistles for those He loves from the ends of the earth! What a wonderful thing to know that in accepting God’s free offer results in bountiful joy!

Conclusion:
1. Accepting God’s free offer found in His word was the best value for Israel just as it is for our lives!
2. Accepting God’s free offer leads to a brand-new life!
3. In accepting God’s free offer, we discover a blessed purpose!
4. What a wonderful thing to know that in accepting God’s free offer results in bountiful joy!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering, what makes you happy? Is your happiness lasting or is it based on what others say, do, or not say or do for you? Is your happiness found in one of God’s creatures rather than the Creator who made them in the first place? Is your happiness found in spiritual platitudes or real life living for the Lord? Perhaps your happiness is found in family or friends? If so let me ask you, who is your “Abba” and eternal friend? He is the one that brings true happiness. 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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Today’s Thoughts, Psalm 30:5-6

by Pastor Lee Hemen
March 10, 2008

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.” (Psalms 30:5-6)

When do you feel secure? When I was younger I felt the most secure when I was able to crawl up into my father’s lap and have him read to me. His voice and his strength was both a comfort and security to me as a young child. Here, in this Psalm of David, he is singing about the dedication of the future temple of God. David himself could not build it, but he could sing about the event that would take place.

We find that David turns to some very personal events in his life. When he was frightened by those who sought to kill him, when he felt thrown into the very pit of life’s struggles, and when he was so ill that he thought he would die, he found comfort in the Lord God. When David crawled into the lap of God he found that his enemies were put to shame, he was healed, his life was spared, and that his weeping only remained until the joy of God rested on him in the early morning. Each new day in God brought relief, comfort, and release. When he felt secure, he could with confidence say, “I will never be shaken.” And isn’t that true for all of us? Is this not what we all desire and long for in life? Certainly it is. We all want to find the comfort and security whereby our wailing is turned into dancing, we are clothed with joy, and where our hearts sing to God and cannot be silent because of what He has done for us!

Dear child, this morning when you feel as if you cannot face another day, remember there is One whom you can run to, crawl up into His lap, share with Him the sorrows, hurts, and discomfort of life and I guarantee you will go away dancing, singing, and giving thanks forever. He never sends away those He has chosen as His children. Are you one of them? Have you asked Him? Today why not go and find out for yourself about the lap of your Heavenly Father who loves you so much that He sent His One and only Son to set you free. (John 3:16)

This song of David is for you to sing as you dedicate your life, your temple, to the Lord this day and forever. Sing and dance and be not silent!

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety. This devotional will follow Morning by Morning by C H Spurgeon. You may use it however you desire.

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