Tag Archives: kingdom of God

Happiness is… – Matthew 5:1-12

Happiness is… – Matthew 5:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 17, 2019

Folks look for happiness in many ways in our day and age. Some use exercise, sports, food, money, recreation or other activities in order to find happiness while others may look to spirituality, religion, or philosophy to try to find personal happiness. The Bible teaches us that happiness in life is not truly found until one first finds God and develops a relationship with him.

People in Jesus’ day were not much different from us except they lived more of a day to day existence. Daily food and water, safety and personal health were of the foremost concerns of their lives. Most individuals did not live past their late 40s and just about any illness could be disastrous. Purchasing or growing food and getting clean water were also daily concerns; much of their happiness in life centered on these simple things. And all of it revolved around their relationship with God. So in the following teachings of Jesus we discover what happiness is; let’s find out what Jesus taught and what he meant.


READ: Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus begins his ministry by teaching people what it meant for God to be in their midst. Never forget that up until Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection no one could be saved by faith alone. God had always desired it to be that way but people proved to be a frustrating lot and God gave them laws and sacrifices to follow. Jesus begins by teaching…

I. We are kingdom material! (Vv. 1-4)

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

  1. Wanting those he had chosen to develop their full understanding of who he was and what he was about Jesus begins by teaching them some eternal truths. We discover that “when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.” When my father wanted us to pay attention to what he was trying to teach us he would call us to his side so we would focus on what he had to share. Jesus was like this as well. He gets away from the crowds, goes up on a mountainside (hill for us here in the Northwest) and sat down so his followers could hear him better. We discover that in fact “His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them”. This was a common means rabbis used for teaching their students or disciples. We understand that the crowd gathered around the edges of the disciples and listened in as well to what Jesus was teaching. Jesus began by telling them, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus begins here because I believe he was building a foundation. Folks wanted to know if God cared about them. “Am I good enough for God to love me?” (Hasn’t changed much has it?) The Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees taught them strict religious rules and regulations instead. Jesus was not teaching them a set of guidelines to follow but rather how God saw them and how he could change them. If they realized their impoverished spirituality, they would be good candidates for the kingdom of heaven! In fact Jesus continued by telling them “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Everyone has experienced some kind of personal loss but it was more evident in the lives of the poor; especially those who understood their circumstance. If one was willing to “mourn” for their spiritual loss or poverty, they would be “comforted” by God! If they understood how much God loved them they would be more willing to follow him. God loved them for who they were not their position in life. If we are willing to see our spiritual poverty and grieve over over our condition we are kingdom material!   

  EXAMPLE: I learned from my mother-in-law that you had to have patience and use only the best ingredients in order for whatever you were cooking to turn out consistently good. Too often people think that God could never forgive them or love them because of who they are or what they have done. God loves us and willingly came to walk with us and to show us the way back to him. In fact we learn from his words that we are kingdom material!

When my mother wanted us to truly understand what she was telling us she would ask, “What did I just tell you?” Our answers would reflect if we had been listening or not! Jesus continued with his disciples and the crowd by developing what he meant by their spiritual poverty. Jesus teaches that when we realize our spiritual condition…

II. We can become the children of God! (Vv. 5-8)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

  1. Jesus understood that those who realized their spiritual position in life would be more able to receive his gospel message! So he continued by telling them that “Blessed (or happy) are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”. Meekness here is not weakness as some would have you believe. Rather it is a positional. Like a powerful horse controlled by tiny reins we are to control ourselves. It is like when one entered the throne room of a king he would willingly bow down low to the ground to display his position of humility before his king. If we want to inherit the kingdom of heaven we have to be willing to be meek in our attitude and not think of ourselves as more than we are then we “will inherit the earth”! Earth here is a familiar term every farmer in the crowd would understand because they worked it daily. In Genesis because of Adam’s sin the earth would yield its fruit at a very high cost; but because of Jesus our inheritance in heaven would be an existence without hard labor! In fact, Jesus continued by relating, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Instead of spiritual hunger the sons of God would experience fullness! Little did Jesus’ listeners realize that this would be through the power and presence of the Spirit of God! He would become our living water and our daily bread! Jesus continued, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” And since God’s “mercy” is given to us as his children we should therefore show his mercy to others as well! Jesus goes on to relate that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” If we are pure we would know and see God! The heart here means who we totally are as a person. How could we be pure or holy in all we are; isn’t that impossible? And yes it is without Jesus yet he is the one who would make peace between us and God! Therefore happy or “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” As God’s sons and daughters we are to bring his peace to others. We can become the children of God!

  EXAMPLE: I know my folks did not always want to claim us as their kids all the time, especially when we got into trouble. I remember having to walk home after school realizing that my father already knew about how I had been sent to the principal’s office. There are times in the lives of parents when they wished their kids belonged to someone else. It’s normal. How good to know then that God has provided a way for us to be called his children. It should humble us, give us strength, help us to display kindness toward others, because we know God and bring his message of peace to the world! How good to know we can become the children of God!

We all like to be thanked once in a while when we do something for someone else. It’s a nice surprise when someone thanks you for opening a door or giving up your place in line for them; you know what I mean. However not everything we do justifies a thank you and not everything we do as believers will beings us a prize, however, we discover that…

III. We will inherit a great reward! (Vv. 9-12)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  1. When we become part of God’s family it changes us. And when we are changed we become different than the rest of the world around us. Because of Jesus we will be persecuted for what we believe. Jesus taught his disciples not to be surprised by this fact. He tells them, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” If we are mistreated or disdained because of what we believe it means we have been made righteous because of our faith! We are different from the world around us and our kingdom is not of this world! There are only two kinds of folks: Those who know God and those who don’t. In fact Jesus goes on to tell them, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” It has become popular to ridicule Christians in movies, on TV, and in the media. They depict us as ignorant and kind of antisocial. Evil does this when confronted with whatever it dislikes. It cannot use reason because their worldly atheistic philosophy makes no sense. And evil hates anyone that desires to live a holy life. Jesus knew his disciples would face severe persecution for their faith in him. Their world put their faith in manmade idols fashioned from wood, stone, or metal. Jesus came as a man to show the world God does indeed exist and to prove his love for mankind. After Jesus’ death on the cross, his resurrection and ascension, they would be the ones to share his gospel message with the world. All that was ungodly would be against them. It is just as true today as it was then. Yet he encouraged them and us by reminding us to “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The ungodly have always disdained and persecuted those who live for God and bring his message; but when that occurs we can smile and realize that the end justifies the means. We suffer now for a greater reward that awaits us. We will inherit a great reward!

  EXAMPLE: If we know the outcome and we know why it will happen, why in the world are we so worried when folks treat us with contempt for what we believe? In fact I’ve often wondered why folks get all concerned about things getting worse when they believe that things will get worse before the Lord comes back! Shouldn’t we do like John and say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”? (Revelation 22:20 NIV)” Why are we surprised to see the world getting worse or folks treating believers harsher when we know Jesus could come back at any time? Shouldn’t we therefore be about sharing the good news instead of worrying so much, like Jesus shared with his disciples? After all, we will inherit a great reward!

Conclusion:

We are kingdom material! We can become the children of God! We will inherit a great reward!


This article is copyrighted © 2019 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 kingdom strikes back! – Ephesians 1:15-23

The kingdom strikes back! – Ephesians 1:15-23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 8, 2017

Kingdoms come and kingdoms go and the idea of colonialism is nothing new. We find it in the kingdoms of the Vikings, Celts, Saxons, Incas, Aztecs, Sioux, Shoshone, Egyptians, Zulus, Ethiopians, Romans, Greeks, Assyrians, Babylonians, Muslims, Russians, Mongols, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Great Britain, and the United States. Any group of people, tribe, city state, or nation has always wanted to exert their influence on others whether they like it or not. It is part and parcel of our fallen human nature and Israel was no different.

However, what all of these “kingdoms” forget is that the only kingdom that truly matters is the Kingdom of God. It has no boarders, boundaries, or political persuasion. It is founded in the very nature of God and those who are willing to enter into his kingdom become his children. And Paul’s message is one of where God’s kingdom has been established and citizenship brings about beautiful wondrous things. Paul teaches us that the kingdom strikes back; let’s discover what this means for mankind today.

READ: Ephesians 1:15-23

The Ephesians, like many believers, were suffering from not fully understanding what their citizenship in God’s kingdom meant for their lives and future. Paul related that…

I. Kingdom kids enjoy the power of prayer! (Vv. 15-17)

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

1. Because God predestined us for salvation since the creation of all things, lavished us with all wonderful things in him, and has sealed us with his presence Paul continues by writing the Ephesians that “For this reason” he continued to remember them in his prayers, his conversations with God! For Paul it was a natural thing to do and he relates that “ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Paul kept talking to God about them in order that they would become all that God desired! Paul now prayed that his readers might know God personally and intimately. He writes that he kept “asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give (them) the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that (they) may know him (God in Jesus) better.” Wisdom? Revelation? Yes! So that we know God better! Jesus taught by his example the importance of prayer, of conversing with God regularly. Luke related that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV) We are to pray for our enemies, those who persecute us, curse us, mistreat us, and for one another because “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV) From the time that Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray to the encouragement of Paul and others for believers to pray we discover that kingdom kids enjoy the power of prayer!

EXAMPLE: Prayers had been reserved for those who could enter into the presence of God, priests, or those who were chosen to do so. Prayers were often by route; mindless repetitions and the recitations of formulas. But now because of what God had done through Jesus and by his permanent presence in his children, they now enjoy a moment by moment intimate conversation with him! Paul teaches us that Kingdom kids enjoy the power of prayer!

Far too many Christians walk around as spiritual weaklings constantly wondering if God truly loves them, cares for them, or if in fact if he is involved in their lives at all! Paul teaches us that…

II. Kingdom kids have a grand inheritance! (Vv. 18-21)

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

1. Paul continued by telling his readers that “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened”. This is an interesting phrase by Paul because when he writes “the eyes of your heart” he means their entire being might know and be “enlightened” and it is a continuation of his preceding statement! Paul was continually asking God for them to have Spiritual wisdom, revelation, and that they would be completely enlightened! Why? Because Paul understood that new believers need to fully understand the presence and power of God in their lives. He continued by writing that they “may know the hope to which he has called you”! This is not some I wish I may I wish I might kind of hope against hope concept or feeling but rather a certainty and total assurance of the presence of Jesus! In fact it understands “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” And Paul knew exactly where this force came from and writes “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”! What has not set into the minds of some believers is the fact that we have all the power of the resurrection and on that final day Jesus will turn to us as his own and declare, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34 NIV) The reason this is so powerful and so incredibly awesome of an inheritance is because Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Kingdom kids have a grand inheritance!

EXAMPLE: Why do people think they deserve some things? And why do people fight over things they did not earn or even care about until they think someone else may end up with it? Some of the stupidest things have caused some of the worst actions in people. There’s an old joke about two friends who meet at lunch and one is all sad. His friend asks why he is so sad. He relates that his uncle died and left him $40,000! Then the following week his aunt dies and leaves him $250,000! And then last week his grandmother dies and leaves him $500,000! Incredulous his friend wonders why he is so sad and he remarks, “This week… I got nothing!” Paul related that our hope is not in earthly things; instead, Kingdom kids have a grand inheritance!

Paul finishes this section with two powerful verses.

III. Kingdom kids have a powerful king! (Vv. 22-23)

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

1. God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe” is displayed for us in Jesus’ resurrection and when he ascended to heaven to sit in authority. This spiritually dynamic force is given to those who believe and sealed in us by the same power in the Holy Spirit! God is the creator of all things, predestined all things, and knows all things. And this is why Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given” by men! And so Paul declares that “God placed all things under his feet”. Jesus therefore has total authority because of who he is and what he did for us! He gave it to himself and “appointed (himself) to be head over everything for the church”! The word for church means those who are specifically called for a purpose united in him! Jesus is the church’s king. He earned the right to rule over it by his selfless act. His church “which is his body” is to be doing his work and will in the world he died for. It is built upon the truth that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) and it is upon this truth Jesus built his body the church! Paul would tell the Corinthians that this church his “body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12) Believers are part of God’s kingdom, his church, his body and as Kingdom kids we have a powerful king!

EXAMPLE: The old playground threat of “My Dad is bigger than your Dad!” can carry with it nowadays the intent of violence and the child who says it can be expelled from school. While bullying should not be tolerated sometimes parents need to allow their children to work things out. Not every childish taunt is bullying it is just being childish. Sometimes we want to protect our children so much it can be detrimental to their maturity and how they handle life’s difficulties. However in a world where there is so much hatred, violence, and uncertainty it is good to know and understand that Kingdom kids have a powerful king!

Conclusion:

Kingdom kids enjoy the power of prayer! Kingdom kids have a grand inheritance! Kingdom kids have a powerful king!
—-
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 Interview! – John 3:1-21

The Interview! – John 3:1-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 2, 2014

I hate interviews because I often do not know what I should say. And surprise interviews are the worst. When someone all of a sudden springs questions on you that you’re not prepared for it can be a bit disconcerting to say the least. That’s why in school I never did well on pop quizzes. For me it was like having a big old bear jump out of the bushes when all I was doing was minding my own business. I can honestly say that I never liked interviews.

Jesus has a surprise interview by someone his disciples would never have suspected, one of the leaders from the Jewish High Council. What surprised everyone is that he came at night to interview Jesus. What occurs and how Jesus responds to his inquiry is very interesting as it is also instructional. Let’s discover what occurred during the interview…
READ: John 3:1-21

We discover that…

I. The interview began with an introduction to a new birth! (Vv. 1-4)

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:1-4 NIV)

1. I have explained to you about the Pharisees before. They believed in an afterlife, angels, miracles and keeping themselves holy for the Lord. And evidently they were curious about Jesus because of who he claimed to be and the miracles he did. One of them was curious enough to come by himself to find out more concerning Jesus. His name was “Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. This was the Sanhedrin. All of the Jewish religious and political life was determined by them. For one of their own to come secretly at night to see Jesus himself reveals a lot about this man’s interest. “He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’” Later, the Jews would pick up stones to kill Jesus after they demand that he name himself the Messiah, and he responds, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. (John 10:25-26 NIV)” Was Nicodemus someone who was seeking the truth concerning Jesus? I believe this is probably true because it is Nicodemus with Joseph of Arimathea who would ask for Jesus’ body, “He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. (John 19:39 NIV)” Jesus wants Nicodemus to verbalize his interest and thereby declare for himself his intentions. “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’” Jesus desires Nicodemus truly understand who he is. I believe he did because he saw in Nicodemus someone who truly wanted to find out if Jesus was the Messiah or not. Nicodemus’ contemporaries were not so curious. Jesus sets up the gospel message for Nicodemus, he must be “born again.” We can almost sense the intellectual and spiritual frustration as Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?” and then he follows with, “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Like many, he did not understand the spiritual reality of Jesus’ statement. Nicodemus’ interview began with an introduction to a new birth!

EXAMPLE: In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes they often discussed, dissected and dissed the art world, which, Watterson once wrote, “attracts its share of pretentious blowhards.” These discourses usually happened in the snowman strips. In one such episode, Calvin is building a snowman, despite Hobbes’s reminder that the one he made the day before had already melted. Calvin retorts, “I’m taking advantage of my medium’s impermanence,” And then Calvin boasts. “This sculpture is about transience (humanity and our death). As this figure melts, it invites the viewer to contemplate the evanescence (meaning the disappearing shortness) of life. This piece speaks to the horror of our own mortality.” No one expects a child to speak this way. However, mankind has always wanted immortality but there is only one way to enjoy it; we discover it in this interview concerning the new birth.

We also discover that…

II. The interview turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God! (Vv. 5-13)

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. (John 3:5-13 NIV)

1. Jesus had just gotten through telling Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” And now, Jesus reiterates, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” One must be born into the material world and then born again into the spiritual kingdom of God! And so that Nicodemus would not misunderstand, Jesus continues, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” People give birth to people but only God can spiritually give new birth to someone spiritually dead. One needs to be spiritually reborn to enter the kingdom of God! Nicodemus, a respected rabbi, should “not be surprised” at Jesus saying, “You must be born again.” Why are the spiritually degenerate always shocked to hear that the only way we can live eternally is through spiritual rebirth! Salvation is not found in being nice, being religious or meditating – it is only found in being born again through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit! Jesus tells him, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” While spiritual rebirth is inconceivable to us, it is not impossible with God! “How can this be?” Nicodemus asks. Being a rabbi and a Pharisee, Nicodemus should have had an understanding of these things. Again, Jesus bluntly reiterates to him, “I tell you the truth,” as in “I am telling you plainly” that “we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” Interestingly Jesus is referring to the witness and testimony of God the Father and the Holy Spirit as well when he uses the term “we”! It is not the royal we that we often refer to but rather a deliberate reference to his own testimony. But still they did not accept his, the Spirit’s nor God’s testimony! In fact, Jesus spoke plainly “of earthly tings” and he still had a hard time believing it, “How then” could he believe Jesus if he spoke of “heavenly things?” It would be impossible! The kingdom of God is populated by those who know God! And the Messiah would come from his kingdom in heaven! Therefore, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.” Nicodemus did not realize it but the interview turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God!

EXAMPLE: We often forget that we are sinners by nature and by choice. We are born into a sin-fallen universe and we decide if we sin or not. Often folks are so insecure that they incorrectly think God could never love them. Then there are those who so arrogantly depend on themselves they think only they can provide their own salvation. Both are false. We forget there is a spiritual counterpart to the material world. We are held accountable to a holy God. They also realize that if it is true then they are accountable! This is why Paul would write, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:19-20 NIV)” Like many in our day who try to disdain spiritual things, Nicodemus did not realize it but his interview had turned to the kingdom of God!

Nicodemus needed to realize…

III. The interview would finished with his need of salvation! (Vv. 14-21)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:14-21 NIV)

1. From rebirth to the kingdom of God, Jesus takes Nicodemus on an intellectual and spiritual journey. Now, Jesus brings it on home so-to-speak when he tells Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus takes him back to the wilderness when the Israelites had rebelled, and were suffering and dying because of their sin. They cry out for relief. Moses was instructed to fashion a brass snake on a pole and anyone who would simply look at that pole would be healed. Just as the brass snake saved those back then, those who now believe “in him may have eternal life.” Jesus would be lifted up on a cross for our salvation. I am sure Nicodemus was wondering why God would do such thing. Jesus relates, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Simply because God loves us that he would do such a thing! Why? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jesus’ task was to present the message of salvation, he was not sent to condemn the world – he was sent to be lifted up to save it! Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” I am sure that Jesus understood people’s indifference and their unbelief but I am also sure it was sometimes frustrating for him to be who he was, work the miracles he did, and teach the way he taught and still folks would not believe! God gives sinful man every opportunity to come to him through faith in Jesus and it is their own unbelief and refusal that will condemn them! “This is the verdict” Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” Sinful man loves to hide their sin but their sin will be exposed, however, those who live by the truth come to Jesus, the light. The interview would finish with Nicodemus’ need of salvation!

EXAMPLE: The story is told that Queen Victoria was deeply moved during a church service. Afterward, she asked her chaplain, “Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?” He did not have an answer. But an evangelist named John Townsend heard about the Queen’s question, and after much prayer he sent her a note: “With trembling hands, but heartfelt love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now of our eternal life in the Home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10?” Two weeks later, the evangelist received this letter: “. . . I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to. I believe in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God’s grace to meet you in that Home of which He said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ — Victoria Guelph” We find that here the interview concerned Nicodemus’ need of salvation! (Radio Bible Class, May 20, 2013)

Conclusion:
Nicodemus’ interview began with an introduction to a new birth, turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God, and finished with Nicodemus’ need of salvation!

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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Hope: A path to fulfillment! – Micah 4:1-4; 5:1-4

Hope: A path to fulfillment! – Micah 4:1-4; 5:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 30, 2013 AM

Many years ago when I worked in a nursing home, there were folks who talked about the joys of years that slipped away too quickly. Some of them were Christians who raised their families, worked faithfully in their churches, and retired from their occupations. In some cases it was difficult for these folks to realize that they must depend on others to do for them what they once did for themselves. Some were discouraged, knowing the effects of aging and illness while others realized that God has given us a hope and a future that will be greater than all the joys of this life combined. Our greatest days await our arrival in heaven or the return of our Savior Jesus Christ!

We all must decide how we will deal with painful and difficult circumstances in this life. Some stoically try to tough out the difficult experiences, while others attempt to push the experiences deep into their subconscious minds. Some blame others and in moments of weakness may even blame God for their losses. Some develop negative attitudes and become bitter and pessimistic towards life. Wise Christians, however, know God has a wonderful future for us beyond this life. Questions we struggle with today either will be answered or they will concern us no longer because we are in His presence. We will leave behind the troubles of this life. We will be renewed with health, strength, and joy greater than anything we have experienced. We too can live in hope of God’s promised future blessings. Micah gives us a message of hope for the future, let’s discover how…

READ: Micah 4:1-4; 5:1-4

Micah encouraged the people of his day with positive truths. They were going to endure great hardships and discipline from the Lord. Eventually there would be a limited earthly restoration, but Micah promised a complete and wonderful restoration in the future for God’s people. In our journey in this life, we must…

I. Continue to seek God’s truth! (4:1-2)

1. Micah had described the future destruction of Jerusalem in the last verse of chapter 3. Here he followed that terrible prediction with a hopeful vision of a better future for God’s people and Jerusalem. The phrase “the last days” points to future events described by Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel. The renewal of Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile would have partial fulfillment in these predictions, but the complete fulfillment will occur at Jesus’ second coming. “The mountain of the LORD” refers to Mount Zion in Jerusalem. It will be “raised above the hills”, is a promise not only to Israelites but also to those living in all the nations of the world. Jerusalem will be the focal point in the future events Micah described. “Many nations” are the Gentiles, non-Jews, who will travel to Jerusalem in search of the “God of Jacob.” The house is the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and later rebuilt following the Israelite’s return from exile. That structure existed until Herod rebuilt it and the Romans destroyed it in A.D. 70 following Jesus’ prediction, because of the Jews rejection of Him. While no temple has yet been rebuilt, some anticipate it will, but others suggest that it has already been rebuilt through Jesus because of prophecies such as this one. The purpose of the visits also points to a future event rather than one in the past. People will come to learn of God’s ways so they can walk in His paths. While people from around the world have gone on spiritual quests to Jerusalem, the scope of this future event is far greater than any pilgrimage in history. Ironically, the Israelites were not seeking to know and obey God’s law in Micah’s day; but in the future Gentiles would. Micah described a turning to the Lord. At this time, many in the world will put aside atheism, agnosticism, and false religions. They will acknowledge the God of the Bible as the one true God. Believers need to continue to seek God’s truth!

EXAMPLE: Other than studying the Bible each week during worship or Sunday school, how diligent are you in seeking its message for your daily life? The truths of the Bible are acknowledged and followed today only by faithful followers of Jesus. Either the majority of people living now continue to reject or they are ignorant of the absolute truth of Scripture and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only hope of salvation. When Jesus returns, the whole world will have to acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Christians who suffered and died to spread the gospel will be vindicated and rewarded for their faithfulness. Christians today should be diligent in their study of God’s Word and obedience to His will in anticipation of Jesus’ return. We should continue to seek God’s truth!

Micah offered hope for the faithful remnant of Israel who would return to the land following the Babylonian exile. The prophecy was partially fulfilled when Cyrus of Persia allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem. The complete fulfillment of the prophecy awaits the second coming of Jesus Christ and the full establishment of God’s kingdom. Meanwhile Micah teaches us that…

II. We will enjoy God’s security! (4:3-4)

1. The peoples of the nations will come to the Lord to settle disputes and seek arbitration. “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.” What Micah said about these Gentiles’ actions condemned the attitudes and deeds of the Israelites in Micah’s day. The Israelites perverted justice and did not seek to judge according to the Lord’s will. In the glorious future of God’s kingdom, judgment will be righteous; and no one will be treated unfairly. The Lord will be completely impartial. The world will be submissive and obedient to the Lord’s rule and decisions. Micah also promised a universal peace in God’s future kingdom. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” This is a promise that was only a dream in Micah’s day and still is up to the present. The peace of the future will be permanent; on that day God’s people will never again train for war. The instruments of warfare, swords and spears, will be transformed into instruments of agriculture, plows and pruning hooks. Instruments of destruction will be redirected toward tools of production. The future kingdom of God promises absolute security, “no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken”! The picture of each man sitting under his grapevine is a portrait of provision and safety (1 Kings 4:25; Zechariah 3:10). There will be no one to frighten him because evil people will not take part in that perfect environment. The false prophets in Micah’s day, for a bribe, promised peace; but only submission to the Lord can provide true peace and security. The future kingdom of God in heaven promises that we will enjoy God’s security!

EXAMPLE: Many philosophers, writers, and so-called religious persons have offered the hope of utopia here on earth. Each has a theory of how peace and security can be obtained by all. They want to return to the paradise of Eden, but they have forgotten how Eden was lost. Adam and Eve lost the perfect world through disobedience to God. Paul said it correctly when he pronounced, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24 NIV) Paradise can be regained only through faith in Jesus Christ. All who put their faith and trust in Him will share in the perfection of the future kingdom of God. This promise enables Christians to live with confidence and assurance in today’s uncertain world. Believers know for certain we will enjoy God’s security!

How important are truths about security in God’s kingdom to you? Micah then turns to the results of the sins of the Israelites. They continually refused to listen to the true prophets of God and instead placed their trust in fine sounding words instead of the truth. They would reap what they had sown. Our nation today could well face the same results. We need to repent, turn back to the Lord, and…

III. Accept sin’s consequences! (5:1)

1. The context of this verse began in 4:9, in which Micah predicted the fall of Jerusalem and the coming of Babylonian captivity. Micah also may have had in mind the siege of Jerusalem by Assyria in Hezekiah’s reign. He tells his listeners, “Marshal your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us!” However, it was too late! In some translations, they use the term, “daughter of a troop” in referring to Jerusalem. The NIV uses “city of troops.” Micah is addressing the people of Judah who would come under attack. The suffering would be so severe that they would slash themselves in grief. Zedekiah, here called the judge of Israel, was king at the time of the Babylonian attack (2 Kings 25:1-7). The phrase striking on the cheek with a rod referred to humiliating punishments in the Old Testament, Lamentations related the willingness of those who were willing to humiliate themselves before the Lord, “Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.” (Lamentations 3:30 NIV) Some commentators believe the reference of Micah is about Jesus since He was struck on the cheek by His tormenters and is mentioned in the following verse. Jesus was not struck by an invading enemy, however; and the reference better fits the circumstances of Judah’s humiliation at the hands of the Babylonians. Just as believers need to do today, the Israelites needed to accept sin’s consequences and realize God was in the process.

EXAMPLE: People do not readily acknowledge that much of their suffering could be the result of their sinful choices. Those in Judah had no one to blame but themselves for their punishment at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Christians today often suffer as a consequence of their foolish or sinful choices. Disobedience has predictable results. These consequences may include physical illnesses and injuries. They also can include psychological and emotional distress. They always include spiritual consequences as a loving Heavenly Father intervenes to discipline rebellious children. Suffering also can be the result of the actions of others around us. A believing remnant was in Judah when it fell to Babylon, including godly individuals such as Jeremiah and Daniel. They did not suffer exile for their sins but for the sins of others. Christians living in today’s culture that rejects God can suffer when God’s judgment falls on their disobedient nation. We must be faithful in the midst of suffering, responding in a way that testifies of our confidence in God’s providential plan. Believers need to accept sin’s consequences and realize God is in the process!

Micah prophesied the birth of a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem in the land of Judah. The prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born some 700 years later. Micah declared one day Jesus will purify the land of idolatry and punish those who opposed the faithful remnant of Israel, and His greatness will be recognized “to the ends of the earth.” The fulfillment of this prophecy will occur at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Micah, meanwhile, teaches us…

IV. To keep holding on to God’s bright promise! (5:2-4)

1. Bethlehem Ephrathah was located about four miles from Jerusalem. Jewish scholars later quoted Micah 5:2 to the magi and identified Bethlehem as the birth place of the Messiah (Matthew 2:1-6). Bethlehem was a humble village described by Micah as “small among the clans of Judah.” The fame of this little town, however, would change dramatically. God promised that, “out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” The Messiah would be ruler over Israel for God. The total fulfillment of this prophecy awaits the second coming of Jesus when He will establish Himself as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16)! Jesus came first to provide salvation through His death and resurrection and promised to return to establish His kingdom. That His origin is from antiquity, from eternity points to the Deity of the Messiah. Jesus Christ is eternal, without beginning and without end (John 1:1). He was David’s Son (descendant), but He was also David’s Lord (Mark 12:35, 37). “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” The Lord would abandon His people to their impending judgment in Babylonian exile. The “labor” relates the painful experience they would suffer. However, like childbirth it will be followed by a time of great joy. Micah said the Messiah “will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” The corrupt political and religious leaders in Micah’s day told the people they were secure. In reality, they were headed for war and destruction. Only the Messiah would bring lasting peace and security for citizens of God’s kingdom. God’s people need to keep holding on to God’s bright promise!

EXAMPLE: The angels first brought the message of the birth of Jesus Christ to shepherds keeping their flocks in the fields (Luke 2:8-12). “Peace on earth” was a promise associated with the birth of the Son of God (Luke 2:14). Jesus offers peace today for every believer (John 14:27). What He offers is peace with God through His death on the cross, and peace of mind, as we trust God to care for us in this world. The ultimate fulfillment of the promise of peace, however, will be realized only in the heavenly kingdom of God. We will finally live in the safe environment that all desire but that can never be achieved by human governments or armies. In the kingdom of God we will be in our Savior’s presence, we will be ruled by Him, and we will never experience danger or fear again. The return of Jesus Christ is the great hope that sustains us and encourages us as we face the uncertainties and struggles of our daily lives. We need to keep holding on to God’s bright promise!

Conclusion:
Believers need to continue to seek God’s truth! Believers know for certain we will enjoy God’s security! Believers need to accept sin’s consequences and realize God was in the process! God’s people need to keep holding on to God’s bright promise!

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

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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 Thought – When is the kingdom of God?

Today’s Thought – When is the kingdom of God?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 1, 2010

And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mark 9:1)

When is the kingdom of God? This is an interesting statement by Jesus to his disciples. We must remember several important things: 1) this statement was said to all of his followers, not just the twelve. There were many others that “followed” Jesus, including women. 2) It is kind of an contrast of his previous comment, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) Jesus is presenting a positive reinforcement here. 3) Jesus emphatically states that, “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come in power.” So, is he referring to his resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, or the destruction of Jerusalem, the transfiguration that will happen shortly, the coming of the church age, or his second coming?

The mere thought that Jesus was simply referring to his transfiguration does not make sense. It was a rather startling event, filled with wonder and awe, but it is extremely odd Jesus would say that “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of god come with power,” and then wham, he does the transfiguration. Did Jesus therefore mean they were all going to die shortly afterwards? I don’t think so. While the resurrection was full of the power of God or the coming of the Holy Spirit was also dramatic, however, both are far more important than the transfiguration. The church age was full of some awesome things, but does not compare to the resurrection or the Holy Spirit’s coming. While the destruction of Jerusalem was extremely a dramatic incident, and eyewitnesses saw some incredible things occurring, it does not compare to Jesus second coming. But the Second Coming cannot be what Jesus is referring to unless somewhere right now several of the followers of Jesus are still alive! So, what was Jesus referring to here? I am glad you asked!

I believe Jesus is referring to all of these things. The kingdom of God was already here with the coming of Jesus, but its full potential and power had not been demonstrated. It was as Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and later rose from the grave. But we continue to see its power as the Holy Spirit is given, the early church is established, and with the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus’ Second Coming is not the establishment of his kingdom, because it is already established. Jesus rules and reigns now. Sure, we get a new heaven and earth (universe) because all things will be made new, but that is the fulfillment and culmination of his promise, not the God’s kingdom coming in power (Revelation 12:10). Besides, again, none of his disciples would be alive in the world when that occurs.

Some could twist semantics by saying, “Pastor Lee, won’t all believers be alive when Jesus returns?” But Jesus is talking about the establishment of God’s kingdom “with power” right then. And, his meaning is clear, he meant for them right then at that time; literally, that it was occurring, would occur shortly, and would be fulfilled in the disciple’s lifetime.

So, what does this mean for us today? We should ask ourselves, “When is the kingdom of God?” The answer is right now and I pray you are part of it.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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. You now have my permission…

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