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God brings joy! – Psalm 30

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

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

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

READ: Psalm 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:
God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from! God brings joy that lasts! God brings joy when we remember him!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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4th Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled – Luke 2:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 18, 2016

There are certain dates in life that stand out more than others do. I remember my parents and grandparents talking about when the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred and where they were and what they were doing. I remember the day the first American went into space and when we landed on the moon. I also remember when terrorists flew passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. However, on a brighter note, I also vividly remember the day I was married and the day we brought our daughter home and when my grandchildren were born. Is it any wonder then that as believers we should remember the day the love of God was fulfilled?

On this the fourth Sunday of Advent we pause as Christians remembering together the day Jesus was born. Before we pass out the presents, drink the hot cider, or eat the first candy canes of Christmas perhaps we would do well to stop and remember why there is Christmas. It’s the day the love of God was fulfilled! Let’s remind ourselves of that wonderful day.

READ: Luke 2:1-20

We discover that the love of God was fulfilled when…

I. God’s timing was just right! (Vv. 1-7)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

1. We often mark important events by what occurs in the world around us and Luke does this also, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The Savior’s birth is marked by what occurred in the world at that time, a government census. We know that Caesar Augustus was made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 BC and ruled to 14 AD and because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 BC, Jesus was probably born before that time. In fact, “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” However, the word translated “first” should be more correctly translated “before”. Therefore Quirinius was governor before the census which fits the timeline. During these kinds of tax censuses, “everyone went to his own town to register.” And, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Bethlehem was Joseph’s ancestral home because he was a descendent of King David. “He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Both Joseph and Mary knew the importance of her pregnancy. And so Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. The couple knew she would have her child during the time Joseph was gone and they most likely did not want to be separated during the event. And, since they knew that the baby was the Messiah, they would have known the prophecy of Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. While unsuspecting Caesars and government officials had no clue about how their edicts would affect the lives of the most important couple in the world, God used them for his perfect plan. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

EXAMPLE: Timing is everything, or so they say. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV) Joe Stowell, for the Radio Bible Class, writes, “A quick look at history reveals that the coming of Christ was at just the right time. Centuries earlier, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, bringing with him the Greek culture and language. On the heels of his demise, the Roman Empire picked up where Alexander left off and expanded the territory under the unifying influence of the culture and language of the Greeks. It was under Roman rule that the crucifixion took place, where the blood of Christ was shed for us. It was under the rule of Rome that conditions were made ready for the spread of the gospel across three continents: good roads, territorial boundaries free of “passport” restrictions, and a unifying language. The providence of God had put all the pieces in place for the perfect time to send his Son. God’s timing is perfect in everything.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

Luke shares that the love of God was fulfilled when…

II. God’s announcement was given! (Vv. 8-14)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

1. What kings, Caesars, and governors cared about most was of no concern for God. In fact, God often uses the small things and the insignificant people to declare his ways and purposes. And here we discover “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Those who were considered the outcasts from their own society, because they worked with animals by touching them, feeding them, and caring for them, the shepherds are the common folk God announces the birth of his son to. God goes to these “least in the kingdom” first to proclaim the birth of Jesus. Imagine being one of these lowly folks, tending your flock, and suddenly God’s messenger out of the blue comes to where you are in the fields. Luke writes that, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Isn’t it interesting that God chooses to go to these who raised the lambs to be sacrificed in the temple to disclose the birth of the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world? The first words of God’s messenger would be the words his Son would often use: “Do not be afraid.” God’s angel brings them “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news of great joy was not just for the Hebrew nation but also for all people everywhere! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” The Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God! The shepherds would know what the angel declared to be true because they are given specific instructions on what they will find and how they will find him, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” An animal’s feeding trough would be the bed of the Savior and the simple dressings of a newborn would be his regal robe! Before the shepherds could completely digest what they have been told, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

EXAMPLE: During Boy Scouts we used to sing the Announcements Song, it was to the tunes of Row Row Your Boat, What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor, Frères Jacques’, Have You Ever Seen a Lassie, and London Bridge. The ending was “Announcements, announcements, announcements! We’ve got a silly cheer, which you’ve just got to hear! It makes no sense we’re sure you know; the announcements have to GO!” However, not all announcements are bad or boring. Wedding announcements, birth announcements, and announcements of achievement are ones that tell us of joyous occasions that we should celebrate! The announcement given to shepherds long ago certainly wasn’t boring or bad; it was good news of great joy! The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

We finally learn that the love of God was fulfilled when…

III. God’s good news was shared! (Vv. 15-20)

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

1. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those simple shepherds? Surprise, yes, shock, certainly, and perhaps some incredulity or astonished skepticism! What’s a shepherd supposed to do with this kind of news? Luke relates, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Being the down-to-earth men they were known to be, they decide to go and see for themselves if what the angelic messengers spoke and sang about was true or not! “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Isn’t it interesting that neither the people’s chief priests, the teachers of the law, nor the great King Herod himself had enough faith to go themselves, but these men do! I can just imagine that when they came to where the child and his parents were, they were even more humbled. They find everything exactly as the angel said it would be. And so, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” And in the midst of this wonderful story of simple shepherds is a precious truth of a mother’s heart, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While potentates schemed, Wisemen wondered, and shepherds saw for themselves; a mother ponders what it all means for the future of her child. Of all the mothers of Israel, she was the one who gave birth to the Messiah and here he was in her arms! Meanwhile, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

EXAMPLE: Joe Stowell again for the Radio Bible Class writes, “I love the YouTube video of people in a food court of a mall, who in the midst of their ordinary lives were suddenly interrupted by someone who stood up and boldly began singing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’ To the surprise of everyone, another person got up and joined the chorus, and then another, and another. Soon the food court was resounding with the celebrative harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers.” He continues, “Every time I watch that video, it moves me to tears. It reminds me that bringing the glory of God into the ordinary situations of our world through the beautiful harmonies of Christlikeness is exactly what we are called to do. Think of intentionally interjecting God’s grace into a situation where some undeserving soul needs a second chance; of sharing the love of Christ with someone who is needy; of being the hands of Jesus that lift up a weary friend; or of bringing peace to a confusing and chaotic situation.” The same is true for those shepherds so long ago, for them the love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

Conclusion:

The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right, when God’s announcement was given, and when God’s good news was shared!
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This article is copyrighted © 2016 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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Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:1-7

Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 29, 2015

Sometimes we can be like the old song from the TV show Hee Haw that lamented, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me; deep, dark depression, excessive misery! If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all; gloom, despair, and agony on me!” Some us understand the lament of this song while others sing it simply because things are not going the way they expected. Life hardly ever does. Yet on the Sunday of Advent we light the candle of hope.

Hope is more than wishful thinking; it is the outcry of the human heart and the certainty of God’s promise. We as his children hope in him because we know who he is and what he has done. The Israelites of Isaiah’s day had no such experience. They should have been able to trust God and the promises he made from knowing their own history, but in the midst of war, famine, and the threat of enslavement it can be tough to see God or his promises. Perhaps this is where you are today. Take heart, there is hope. Let’s discover what Isaiah tells us during this day of Advent concerning hope…

READ: Isaiah 9:1-7

In a world where we find self-centerness at the forefront of the human condition it is often hard to find hope in the world. But today we can discover anew just what it means to have hope in what may seem a hopeless situation. Isaiah tells us that…

I. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! (Vv. 1-3)

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan–The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

1. There would come a time in Israel’s history when instead of asking God they would consult with “mediums and spiritists” to seek what the dead had to say concerning the living. Because of their fickle nature concerning the word of God and not following him alone they would go hungry both physically and spiritually. Things would get so bad they would become bitter and blame God for their own faithlessness!  The coming Messiah would be their hope of joy and “there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” The Israelites could now look forward to the Messiah’s coming which would bring renewed joy. In fact even the non-believing gentiles would find the joy of God and so Isaiah tells them that “In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan–The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The wonderful truth would be that something good would indeed come from Galilee of the Gentiles. He would be from there and out of what the Jews considered to be an area of spiritual darkness, there would be the light of life, Jesus Christ! Death was an ever present shadow in the life of those who could not or would not trust God; however, a new light would dawn. God would “enlarge the nation and increase their joy” because of those who would now trust in the one coming. Isaiah foretells that the nation of Israel would “rejoice” before God “as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” What a wonderful time Isaiah spoke about! The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

EXAMPLE: Christmas is that time of year when children began making wishes and wants made known. They long for something wonderful to unwrap on Christmas Day. With excitement and anticipation their longings turn into hope and when the day arrives, it turns into joy! When Jesus came as a baby in a feeding trough the world did not know that the hope it had long awaited for had arrived. Yet all of creation paused on that one moment as a child was born and the hope of the ages came true. Matthew fittingly applied this passage to Jesus, who began His preaching and healing ministry in that region. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

As Islam raises its ugly snakelike head in the world we may wonder what is in store for future generations. Islam has always brought enslavement wherever it is introduced, most often by force. The word means “submit”. Throughout the history of the world sinful mankind has used whatever means, including religion to force others into slavery. However, Isaiah tells us that…

II. The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! (Vv. 4-5)

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

1. We truly do not understand what it means to be enslaved; even those who would like to riot or feel justified in their marching against racism, do not know the injustice of enslavement. Yet, we are all enslaved until we are set free from the bonds of sin. And sadly, even fewer folks understand their enslavement. However, the Israelites did and they longed for their freedom from not just physical oppression but from their bondage to sin. Here, Isaiah proclaims to them they have hope because just “as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.” The Messiah would bring an end to their bondage! Midian had been a thorn in the side of the Israelite’s flesh for years. Because of the Israelite’s own sin God allowed the Midianites to so oppress them that they had to prepare “shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds” and “Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.” (Judges 6:1-6 NIV) God rose up Gideon who would resoundingly defeat thousands of them with only 300 men, but now they would have a new Deliverer. He would completely shatter their yoke of slavery that burden them and the rod of their oppressor would be gone! In fact, the hope the Messiah would bring about would do away with the reminders of war! “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” These things would now only be good for the flames of a funeral pyre; the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

EXAMPLE: Some think that it was Christians who began the Crusades; this is an outright boldface lie. The Crusades began as a response by believers for the decades of war and enslavement the forces of Islam brought to the Christian world. Wherever the armies of Islam marched, you either submitted or died. When they finally came to the shores of Italy and had forcefully taken over most of Europe, the Mediterranean and Middle East, the Pope responded by raising armies to fight the threat. Many of the areas Paul and the other disciples had won to Christ fell under the boot of Islam and never returned to the truth of Christ. Isaiah’s nation now faced similar circumstances and longed for real freedom. He tells them that the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

True freedom is found in trusting Jesus, but freedom without peace is little freedom. However, the freedom Jesus brings is spiritual first, which influences the physical nature of the world around it when it is applied to the lives of those he influences. But Isaiah now turns to a new truth concerning the coming Messiah. He would be more than just a king or leader; Isaiah tells us that…

III. The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! (Vv. 6-7)

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

1. Now Isaiah proclaims to them such a wonderful thing that many found it hard to believe. They were now living much as their ancestors did; under the oppression from their own rulers like Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh and the threat of coming annihilation from Assyria and finally Babylon. They were not to trust in others like Egypt to save them, but instead rely on God alone. However, here Isaiah goes beyond their current circumstances and looks to the future of his people. He foretells that “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” The one to come would be their ultimate ruler; but more than being simply a king or monarch, the one to come would “be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, [and] Prince of Peace.” These are not the common titles or monikers for cruel kings but the wonderful names for one who would be concerned and care for his people! The Messiah would be the “Wonderful Counselor” of God (Holy Spirit), he would be “Mighty God” (God himself), the “Everlasting Father”, and the “Prince of Peace” (the Son of God)! All three personalities of the trinity are named and actively involved! However, the peace the Messiah would bring would not be like the world gives, Jesus would declare, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27 NIV) In fact, Isaiah declares that the ministry of the Messiah would be different from any earthly ruler: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” His rule and reign would not last just a lifetime, it would be forever! His rule and reign would bring a lasting peace no one had ever experienced before! The coming Messiah would be God in human flesh and “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

EXAMPLE: It amazes me that whenever someone is faced with the truth of a situation they often get angry. I was speaking with someone the other day about how the healthcare system has been destroyed; how it has affected me and my brother as well. His retort was not just confusing, it grew louder as he spoke. I have learned the volume of your response does not mean you are right. The frustration of one’s soul is calmed by the presence and power of the Spirit. As the saying goes, “No God no peace, know God know peace!” The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

Conclusion:

The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! That is what this day of Advent is all about; hope.

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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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Do you share the Good News? – Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20

Do you share the Good News? – Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 20, 2014 AM

“What a wonderful Easter service we had this morning,” gushed a mother as she and her family drove home. “So, what do we do about Christ’s resurrection,” asked her older daughter. “What do you mean, honey?” “I mean Christ’s resurrection supposedly changed everything. We say it changed our life. It seems to me we should be doing more to indicate Christ has made a difference in us and He wants to make a difference in others.” It made the mother realize that she needed to share the good news with others joyfully and more consistently. Let me ask you, “How does your celebration of Easter influence your daily service for Christ?”

As Sunday morning dawned, two women went to visit the tomb of Jesus. Suddenly an earthquake occurred, and an angel of God rolled back and sat on the stone at the entrance of the tomb. He told the women not to fear because Jesus had been raised from the dead. The angel then instructed the women to tell Jesus’ disciples He was alive and would meet them in Galilee. Later, the disciples met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. Jesus told them all authority had been given to Him and instructed them to share the good news with the world. Their resurrection experience changed their lives. It caused them to desire to share the Good News, let’s see why…

READ: Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20

Our resurrection experience should cause us to…

I. Share the Good News Eagerly! (Matthew 28:1-7)

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Sunday, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:1-7 NIV)

1. After Jesus died, He was buried in a new tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57-60). Visiting the tomb on Saturday was forbidden by Jewish regulations; but as soon as Sunday began to dawn, two women went to the tomb. All of the Gospels mention Mary Magdalene as being among the women who visited Jesus’ tomb and saw the resurrected Jesus. The other Mary may refer to the mother of James and Joseph. Luke relates that the women came to anoint Jesus’ body (Luke 24:1) and perhaps to mourn and pray at the site of Jesus’ burial. When Jesus died, an earthquake had shaken Jerusalem (Matt. 27:51). As the women arrived at the tomb, another earthquake shook the area. In the Old Testament, earthquakes sometimes indicated God’s presence. Through this earthquake and the descending angel, God announced His presence to the women at the tomb. The angel rolled back the stone that sealed the tomb, not to let Jesus out but so the women could enter and confirm the tomb lay empty. Jesus had already risen from the dead. The angel simply assured the women of Jesus’ victory over death. The angel then triumphantly sat on the stone. Humans had rolled the stone before the tomb’s entrance to seal the crucified Jesus inside forever, but neither stone nor death could contain Him. God raised His Son Jesus from the dead. Victory and joy replaced death and loss. The angel’s appearance reflected God’s glory. In fact, “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” How ironic the soldiers assigned to guard a dead body became like dead men themselves while the corpse they guarded was raised to life! The angel tells the women, however, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.” The angel brought news of great joy, not of condemnation. The angel told the women they would not find Jesus in the tomb because He had been resurrected from the dead. The angel encourages them with, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay!” The invitation indicated the women had the correct location. Then they are instructed to go tell the disciples Jesus had been raised from the dead and would meet them in Galilee as He had said. They were instructed to share the Good News eagerly!
EXAMPLE: We all have experienced events in life so wonderful and joyous we could not wait to share them with everyone we saw. We eagerly knocked on doors, made telephone calls, and sent e-mails. We need to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection in the same way with others, knowing their lives can be changed by Jesus even as ours have. Why is the good news of Christ’s resurrection exciting to you? We discover that the women were instructed to share the Good News eagerly!

Our resurrection experience should cause us to…

II. Share the Good News Joyfully! (Matthew 28:8-10)

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:8-10 NIV)

1. Although the angel invited the women to enter the tomb and see for themselves Jesus was not there and Matthew does not indicate whether they did. Instead, he specified they obeyed the angel’s command to go quickly and tell Jesus’ disciples. The angel’s words had not completely removed their fear, but his announcement of Jesus’ resurrection had given them a joy they had not possessed and enabled them to obey his instructions. As the women ran to tell the disciples the good news, Jesus suddenly met and greeted them. The word Greetings translates a Greek word that served as a typical greeting in Jesus’ day, much like our greeting hello. Yet the Greek word can also mean rejoice. Both meanings fit the account beautifully. Jesus greeted the women as devoted friends but also encouraged them to rejoice at His resurrection. The women immediately recognized Jesus and rushed to Him. The statement they clasped His feet emphasizes Jesus’ physical body. As the women grasped Jesus’ feet, their hands did not pass through a ghostly apparition. Their hands touched flesh supported by underlying muscle tissue and bone. Jesus rose from the dead not as a disembodied ghost but as a person with a physical body people could touch and hold. Seeing Jesus led the women to worship Him. Through Elijah and Elisha God had raised individuals to life. In each case they were an instrument for God. Jesus also had raised the dead during His ministry. Yet no human stood before Jesus’ tomb and called Him forth. God raised His Son to life, indicating Jesus’ Deity and authority. Earlier the women would have reserved worship only for God; but here they worshiped Jesus, whose resurrection clearly indicated His oneness with God. Jesus repeated the angel’s instructions but chose the significant word brothers to describe His disciples. In His greatest hour of crisis just a few days earlier, the disciples had abandoned Jesus. One had denied Him. Rather than condemn them for their lack of faith, Jesus forgave them, referring to them as part of His family. Jesus invited them and invites us to join Him in the work of sharing the Good News joyfully!
EXAMPLE: How can you help others to experience the joy you have as a Christian? The disciples had failed and would fail again just as we fail to be the people God calls us to be. Yet Jesus stated, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50 NIV), inviting us to work with Him in helping individuals find faith and life in Him. Despite the women’s fear, joy overwhelmed them when they saw the risen Jesus. We share our faith out of joy, not out of guilt. Through our confession of faith Jesus has saved us and has made us part of His family! God’s great gifts to us through Christ lead us to share the good news of Christ’s resurrection so others might experience the joy we know. We should share the Good News joyfully!

Our resurrection experience should cause us to…

III. Share the Good News Everywhere! (Matt. 28:16-20)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 NIV)

1. By mentioning the eleven disciples Matthew reminds us of Judas’s betrayal and suicide. Despite Judas’s tragic rejection of Jesus, the remaining disciples had a task to do (just as we do). Matthew did not record the specific mountain, they knew where to go. Just as mountains like Sinai served as sacred meeting places between God and humans in the Old Testament, so Jesus used mountains as places where people could encounter Him. It provided a fitting place for Jesus’ final instructions. When the disciples saw Jesus, they worshiped Him just as the women had done earlier; but some doubted. It refers not to unbelief but to hesitation or uncertainty. Why would some of the disciples have been hesitant or uncertain at seeing Jesus? Perhaps Jesus looked somewhat different (as He had at His transfiguration), and the disciples at first could not positively identify Him. Perhaps they feared Jesus’ response to their failure to stand with Him. Perhaps the reports of Jesus’ resurrection and then His appearance overwhelmed them since they did not expect to see Him again. We may suppose if we had been there, we would have been among the believers rather than the doubters. Yet we need to admit we too sometimes hesitate and doubt Jesus. Events sometimes overwhelm us, and the challenge of following Christ can prove daunting. Jesus did not berate them but invited them to join the work of spreading the kingdom of God. Jesus tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus’ resurrection validated His teachings and miracles, Jesus is the Messiah! “Therefore,” Jesus tells them, “go and make disciples of all nations”! The Greek term make disciples serves as the main verb of verses 19-20. Go and baptizing, as well as teaching are participles and subordinate to make disciples. Jesus commands followers through the ages to make disciples, which involves going, baptizing, and teaching! We need to go as Jesus commanded us to help others become maturing, committed disciples. We do not do it on our own, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus’ authority and presence empowered His disciples then and still empowers us today! Jesus’ first disciples did not evangelize and disciple based on their strength. Following Christ requires us to share the Good News everywhere!
EXAMPLE: Matthew began his Gospel declaring Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, the prophecy for a virgin to bear a son named Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Matthew ended his Gospel assuring us Jesus will be with us until His return at the end of history. The resurrection of Jesus continues to fill us with joy and hope today. Jesus’ resurrection also requires a response from us. We need to let others know salvation and new life are possible through Him. Let me ask you, “How can you participate in making disciples in your community and around the world?” Easter is a wonderful time for Christians to recommit themselves to share the Good News everywhere!

Conclusion:
We need to eagerly share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
We need to joyfully share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
We can share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with all peoples.

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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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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