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Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21

Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 5, 2018

I find it kind of interesting that we start life learning to crawl, jog or run through our younger years, and then end up walking or shuffling to the finish line. The Christian life is not to be this way at all. We are to begin by walking hand-in-hand with the Lord and then run the rest of life’s race to the finish line.

Paul understood what running life’s race was all about because he was doing it himself. His desire was that his brothers and sisters in Jesus would finish the same race well. In life we cannot help it if we become handicapped in some way as we age. Nor can we help how we entered into the world. Bad things happen to good people because sin exists. However how we live for the Lord is determined by us and how we run life’s race for him. Let’s discover what Paul wrote the Philippians concerning running life’s race…
READ: Philippians 3:12-21

There are some folks who have a Mary Poppin’s attitude,, they think they are “practically perfect in every way”. Others around them would disagree. Christians should never have this kind of an attitude. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

I. We are to focus on the goal! (Vv. 12-14)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

1. Paul not only knew who he followed and why but Paul was also a realist. He understood the world around him and why people often did what they did in life. But far more importantly Paul understood himself. Even though he knew he had been made holy in the sight of God by his faith in Jesus he understood he was not perfect. He still blew it from time to time and so he writes, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul knew there was more to life than ourselves. He now lived his life for the Lord Jesus Christ! His goal was not to try to reach perfection; his goal was to live for Jesus! It was like a race for Paul. You do not complete the race until you cross the finish line and Paul realized he had not yet crossed that line in life! So he reminds his readers, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” Paul was still in the race! Far too many believers think that their age, their sickness, or their emotional or physical state somehow disqualifies them from continuing to run the race God has laid out for each believer. This simply is not true. In the face of life’s obstacles we still are in the race but we are in the race with Jesus and we are never alone. However, like Paul we need to remember, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” We cannot get caught up in life’s past sin or anything life throws our way because if we do, we stay at the beginning of the race we have entered! We must strain for the prize we have been promised! In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

EXAMPLE: I liked the Disney Pixar movie “Up”. It is about Carl a crotchety old man who promised his late wife a trip to Paradise Falls; a place where a famous explorer found the giant skeleton of an exotic bird. Carl is found to be incapable of keeping his home and so he attaches thousands of helium filled balloons to it planning to float it to Paradise Falls as he promised his late wife. Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer” who visited Carl in his effort to earn his final merit badge, for assisting the elderly, becomes an accidental stowaway. In their journey they both meet up with a dog named “Dug”. He can’t seem to focus on anything and yet becomes a hero. All the characters, even the eventual villain, are focused on the wrong things in life. Friendship is more important than merit badges, life is not lived in the past, and squirrels should not keep you from focusing on what is important. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

I remember when I discovered that maturity does not come with age. Maturity comes when one uses their life’s experiences to become the person God desires them to be. The same is true for wisdom. Age doesn’t make someone wise. Wisdom comes from how one uses the knowledge they have obtained to glorify the Lord. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

II. We mature as we follow Jesus’ example! (Vv. 15-17)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

1. Paul knew that people can get sidetracked in running the race God has set out for each of us. Things tend to get in the way; family, friends, jobs, and personal interests just to name a few. In our day and age there are far too many distractions. This is why Paul writes the Philippians that he knows they can be distracted, however, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” In other words you may disagree about your goal in life but if you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus your life is to be lived differently than the rest of the world. Our view of things should be filtered through our lives lived for the Lord! How are we running the race today? Yet Paul understood that there would be those who would disagree just as there are today and so he told them that “if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” We cannot force the world to believe as we believe; nor can we force fellow Christians to do so either, however, we can give them over to the Lord to deal with. We can trust Jesus with people’s lives we cannot seem to get through to. Does this mean we simply give up? NO! But we pray, talk to the Lord, and trust the Lord to handle the situation and to enlighten us on how we should proceed. Far too many believers don’t talk with God they instead talk at God. Paul tells us what our goal should be in this situation: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” If we have trusted Jesus then we have all we need to proceed in life. We not only have Jesus walking with us but we have fellow Christians as well. We are not to isolate ourselves. Instead we are to “Join with others in following [Paul’s] example”. We are to remember we are “brothers” in Christ “and take note of those who live according to the pattern [Paul] gave you.” In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

EXAMPLE: I had to smile the other day as I was bagging groceries at WinCo. Another elderly couple was there in the next line and he was bagging groceries as well. Evidently he and his wife had been having a discussion that overflowed to the bagging area. Her remark made me laugh because she sounded like a preadolescent teen when she said, “Oh you think you’re so mature!” He muttered back, “More than you.” Some folks seem to never grow up I guess. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

Far too many Christians have forgotten that eternity exists. They become so caught up in the things of today they forget whom they are to follow. They can begin to live for the moment thinking that this is all there is in life forgetting the fact that this world is not our home. Paul reminds us that in running the race…

III. We are to remember who we are! (Vv. 18-21)

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1. Paul knew that in running life’s race there are those who would love to distract us in doing so. Misery loves company. Ever wonder why some folks are so bent on destroying your life in the Lord? Paul understood that there were rivals for Jesus’ affection. He writes the Philippians, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Sadly this has not changed because there are still those who desire believers fail in their faith. Yet take hope because Paul pegged them for what they truly are “enemies of the cross”! And he understood their outcome in life’s race: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.” They are headed for an eternity separated from God because they focus on the here and now and what they get out of life. They cannot help themselves because “Their mind is on earthly things.” Do not get enamored with the things of the world because they are passing away, “our citizenship is in heaven”! That is where every believer in Christ is headed! “And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Jesus will either return or we will head home. Our job is to continue in the race God has laid out for each of us! This world is not our home and we are citizens of heaven! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

EXAMPLE: I hate it when I go to a seminar or meeting and they hand out name tags to slap on your shirt or coat. I know they do it so the speaker or fellow guests can know your name but whatever happened to introducing yourself to another person or the speaker before you ask a question? I always think it is because they think I can’t remember who I am. In fact, being the tease I am I stood up one time during one session and deliberately looked confused until I looked at my name tag before I addressed the speaker. I exclaimed, “Whew! I almost forgot who I was until I remembered my name tag!” It got a chuckle from the crowd, which of course is what I was hoping for. I am so glad that Paul reminds us that in running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

Conclusion:

In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal! In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 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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Living for the Lord! – Philippians 1:18-30

Living for the Lord! – Philippians 1:18-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 22, 2018

We live in a day whereby some people actually think that “if you disagree with me then you must hate me” therefore you are a “hater”. Discourse or critical thinking is gone. It has boiled over into religion as well. There are those who say that if you disagree with another faith then you must dislike the people who are involved in it. And if you dislike them then you are not very compassionate or kind like Jesus. This is all so much tripe. (If you do not know what tripe is — it is “the first or second stomach of a cow or other ruminant used as food” and is often thrown away as trash.)

Paul did not care why some believers did what they did only that the outcome was glorifying to the Lord. Paul’s desire was that people of all ages “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13 NIV)” This is why he taught Christians should “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)” For Paul his faith in Jesus was his life; it was what life was all about. Let’s discover what Paul meant when he taught that the greatest thing in life is living for the Lord…

READ: Philippians 1:18-30

Some folks share Jesus for their own personal gratification in order to gain status or wealth. The same was sadly true for Paul’s day as well. However we learn from Paul that…

I. Living for the Lord means preaching Jesus! (Vv. 18-21)

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

1. Paul was not concerned with why folks were preaching Jesus so long as they were preaching Jesus and so he rhetorically asks, “What does it matter?” Because it did not, “The important thing” Paul related “is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” And it was “because of this” Paul rejoiced! Unlike many believers have done in our day Paul did not forget what his life was about. Whether Paul faced persecution or not he could “continue to rejoice, for” he knew “that through” the “prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ” that whatever happened to him would “turn out for [his complete] deliverance.” Paul had become focused in life because of what he had been saved from and what he knew he had been saved for. Whether Paul survived his imprisonment or not he knew he would be delivered because he knew he already had been delivered by his faith! This is why he would write the Roman church that he had been set free from sin and death because of Jesus. He would cry, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24 NIV)” And his straight forward answer was, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25 NIV)” For Paul Jesus was everything in life because Jesus had given him life! This is why he could declare with complete certainty: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” How many of us who declare our faith in the Son of God can boldly declare like he did: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”? This is absolutely why Paul knew that living for the Lord means preaching Jesus!

EXAMPLE: When one fully understands the fact that “To live is Christ and to die is gain” then they can do all things Jesus has asked of them. No matter the time, the place, or the finances because they will fully realize that death is not all there is to life! Life is all there is to life! Eternal, wonderful, glorious life in him who gave it to those of us who has placed our faith and trust in him as Savior and Lord. After all is was Jesus the Messiah who related, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40 NIV)” Nothing else in life matters as much as that fact; therefore living for the Lord means preaching Jesus!

Dear child of the King did you forget the promise of God? Has earthly concerns gotten a hold of your heart and infected your life? Are you living for the moment instead of eternity? Perhaps it is time you to become like Paul and realized that…

II. Living for the Lord is living! (Vv. 22-26)

If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

1. Did you forget that the rest of the world is dead? They are truly the walking dead but they do not know it. They are not only dead in their sin but they are dead eternally until they come to the knowledge of Jesus. Paul knew this truth. He understood that his life was in God’s hands and that he had died with Christ so he writes, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” In other words he could continue to do what he was commanded to do by Jesus: witnessing to the lost and dying of the world! However Paul longed to be in the immediate and eternal presence of God as well. He was in a quandary, “Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Living he could go on sharing the gospel and dying he could be in the very presence of the Lord! Paul was neither a fatalist nor unrealistic. He fully understood the circumstance and consequences of his choice. He had disciples he needed to mentor still and others to witness to. Few of us fully know what we are supposed to be doing in life but Paul did. And in reality so should we. Either we need to lay aside our fear and distrust of Jesus’ plan for us or fully embrace it like Paul. “Convinced of this,” Paul would write, “I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” You see Paul had come to fully realize that his life was not his own. Have you? Perhaps it is time for you to become like Paul and realize that living for the Lord is living!

EXAMPLE: Some people think that by doing dangerous things with their lives that they are really living. Whether it is bungee jumping, hang gliding, or scaling sheer rock cliffs without a rope or tether, all they are doing is trying to cheat death and gain a momentary high. There are those who find comfort and security in being a part of something bigger than themselves and join protests, march or lose themselves in the cause of others. While none of these things are wrong or bad in of themselves; what is the final outcome? The thrill soon fades and the cause soon disappears with the next protest. Then it is on to the next thrill or exciting thing. Only losing oneself to the greatest adventure of all is worthwhile because of what it truly means for yourself and others. Paul understood the eternal truth that living for the Lord is living!

Paul knew that he may not have much time left but whatever time he had left in his life he was more than willing to give it to the Lord. And his greatest desire was that because of the life he had lived for Jesus that it would bear future fruit for the kingdom of God! Paul knew that…

III. Living for the Lord is not just about you! (Vv. 27-30)

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

1. Paul realized that there were those who were genuinely concerned for his life. After all he was a prisoner of Rome! And so Paul wants to comfort and encourage them with his letter. So he tells them that “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Isn’t that just like Paul? He is more concerned for them than himself! How do I know this? Because like all good teachers or parents Paul wanted his “kids” his disciples to grow and mature in their faith and therefore to be able to face any trial or hardship that might come their way! “Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” How many of us would willingly place our lives, our families, or our futures to something that would bring us in sharp opposition to the world around us? Man, have I got news for you! You already have if you have Jesus! Yet take courage! Paul tells us why: “This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God.” The world’s opposition, their anger, their oppression is a sign that they are losing but for those of us who believe it is a win-win situation! We often forget that if we are truly following Jesus with our lives we will suffer the consequences, both good and bad! So Paul reminds his readers “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Interestingly the Greek word echaristhē, translated “granted,” is derived from a word which means “grace” or “favor.” Our faith and our struggle are both a grace and favor of God! Paul wanted his readers to “hear that [he] still” had God’s favor because of his momentary struggle for his faith! Paul understood that living for the Lord is not just about you!

EXAMPLE: Jesus related that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10 NIV)” The “lost” means all of the lost not just little old you. Recently the actor Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) accepted MTV’s Generation Award; he thanked his family and then offered some words of Christian wisdom to the younger generation. He told the audience, “God is real. God loves you; God wants the best for you. Believe that, I do.” And he went on to say, “Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you are perfect just the way that you are, you are not! You are imperfect. You always will be, but there is a powerful force that designed you that way, and if you are willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift. Like the freedom that we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget that. Don’t take that for granted.” The gospel, the good news of Jesus is for all people and so Paul reminds us that living for the Lord is not just about you!

Conclusion:

Living for the Lord means preaching Jesus! Living for the Lord is living! Living for the Lord is not just about you!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!

Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 8, 2018

Being a parent is tough, but I cannot imagine being a single parent. When we were kids my mother, after a particularly hard day, would tell us, “You kids are going to wear your old mother out!” Looking back on this I find it kind of humorous since at the time she was only about 35 years old and she had the backup of my father! Perhaps it was the constant care she had to give to two young active little boys who were always on the go? Being a good parent can, at times, make one feel a little worn out.

I wonder how God feels when his constant care of his children wears on him. Not that God can be worn out, he is God after all. However, when his children continually distrust, disobey, and disrespect him, God tells us he becomes “weary.” Malachi tells the Israelites that God has grown weary of their endless spiritual platitudes. Who were they trying to fool? They did not trust God. We discover that Malachi’s message is just as valid today as it was when he first presented it! As God’s children we are to fully hope in God and not weary him! It’s a matter of being hopeful, let’s discover how…

READ: Malachi 2:17-3:6

God’s people can begin to think and act without faith. We can begin to blame God for the outcome of our own sinful choices. Israel did just that. God’s people need to remember that faith begins and ends in hope. In fact Malachi reminds us that…

I. Our actions show our hope in the Lord! (V. 2:17)

You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”

1. How we live says more about what we believe than all our empty words of praise! First, the Israelites had no hope because they were spiritual beggars! They begged God for blessing without investing anything themselves. They are accused of wearing the Lord and ask, “How have we wearied him?” The implication was, “It’s not our fault it’s God’s fault!” They were blinded to their sinful manipulation! The Psalmist related they “soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for (Psalm 106:13-14 NIV)!” They were acting and talking as if they had no God to hope in! This world is a spiritual desert, a wasteland and Christians can give into their cravings when they beg God and then blame God for their choices! Secondly, the Israelites had no hope because they trusted in themselves, in their judgment, and in their own decisions of what was right or wrong. They had the gall to sarcastically declare, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them.” Can you imagine a nation where God had blessed it and manifested himself daily, saying this? Christians can do this very thing when they question why God allows the ungodly to prosper and then question why God doesn’t make them prosper too! This is defining for God what sin should be according to our standards! And finally the Israelites had no hope because they wanted to know, “Where is the God of justice?” In other words they demanded, “If God is real, where is he when we need him?” And this was coming from God’s own people! WOW! Talk about audacity! They questioned God’s justice by saying that he delighted in evil people more than those he chose to love! Yet they were the guilty ones, they were the ones who were unfaithful! God was only God to them when they could see the benefits! Our actions show our hope in the Lord!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever known people who are always demanding attention, wanting more for themselves but never giving anything in return? No not your preschooler. What do we call children who act this way? Spoiled! This is what God’s people had become, Spiritually-spoiled brats! They had begun to think that they deserved being blessed because they were God’s chosen people and not because they were faithful. Their hope was not in the God of Jacob, Abraham and Isaac. Their hope was only in what they could get from God now! They had become like the pagan world around them, seeing God as a good luck charm, something to be manipulated for personal gain. We can weary God when we do the same thing. A God who is infinitely patient and loving was pushed to the point of judgment by those who should have been placing their hope in him. Our actions show our hope in the Lord!

It would be about 500 years before John the Baptist would be a voice crying out in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Messiah. The Israelites would be defeated again, taken into national captivity, and enter into a time of spiritual desperation. Through it all the Israelites had a reason to not despair and we discover that…

II. God offers us hope in a hopeless world! (Vv. 3:1-6)

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

1. The gospel writer Matthew quoted Isaiah concerning Jesus by stating that “In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21 NIV) First, Malachi writes about the coming of God’s wonderful messenger! (V.3:1a) This title “the messenger of the covenant” occurs only here. Many believe it points to John the Baptist, others believe it references Jesus. Malachi relates that “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” Yet, what if the people aren’t prepared and are still sinning? Jesus has “entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12 NIV) God’s messenger has come and the Messiah has entered his temple! Secondly, Malachi mentions God’s judgment! Malachi asks two questions: “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?” The answer is “No one.” The day of the Lord will be a day of judgment on the whole world for those who do not know the Messiah, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” No one will escape Jesus’ judgment! In fact “he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” God tells them, “I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me.” God will judge what we believe and how we live! Yet, in all of this there is the basis for hope! Will God’s people be destroyed or put to shame? God says, “No.” “I the Lord do not change!” We can trust in God to do what he promised, “So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” God has left a remnant in those who believe in Jesus. Peter reminds us that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)” — those who trust in Christ are never put to shame. God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

EXAMPLE: Hope is a gift of God. It does not come wrapped in fancy packaging. In fact real hope came in the form of a very ordinary looking man. He wasn’t anyone you would notice or think of as a hero or a celebrity. Yet at just the perfect time he came to give us all hope, the greatest gift of all. This hope is a free gift as well. It isn’t a come on or a con. Although the hope offered by this one man, changes the con or the priest or the seeker of truth. He is God’s Messiah. He is the hope of the world. He is Jesus Christ. What the Israelites had a tough time understanding in Malachi’s day, we can have in hindsight this morning. Jesus has already come, proven his love for us in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

Conclusion:

Dave Franco talks about his young married life as a writer. He had lost his job, his apartment building evicted his family and was becoming a co-op. His wife was pregnant with their second child. In New York City, out of a job, in a place with high rent, and a new family–Dave was frantic. One day they were walking home and he could not stand the pressure of a silent God. “What is God doing?” he angrily demanded of his wife Nicole. Just then his three-year-old son Julian threw a fit because they had passed an ice cream truck and did not stop. “Not now,” they told him. That didn’t work. Finally, after all else failed, Dave told him, “Julian, you’re just going to have to wait!” Dave’s wife remarked, “You know, Julian’s doing exactly the same thing to us that we’re doing to God. God is saying, ‘Wait,’ and we’re telling him we want our ice cream and we want it now.” Israel had become spoiled and negligent spiritually. They failed to place their hope in the One who gives us hope. Dear child of God, have you? Remember, our actions show our hope in the Lord and God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 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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How to treat others! – 1 Timothy 5:1-16

How to treat others! – 1 Timothy 5:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 14, 2018

One hurdle a nonbeliever has to jump over is when “Christians” do not live like it. Paul had just gotten through writing Timothy to “Watch your life and doctrine closely” because he knew that a true faith results in a changed life. Believers are to act like Jesus. Remember believers are to be “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe”. (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV) How we treat others speaks volumes about our faith.

Although Timothy was not to dwell on his youthfulness, he was to be mindful that he was still a young man; especially in dealing with folks who are older than himself, and also in his bearing towards young women. Paul begins with the treatment of older men and returns to it again later on. Between these two passages about men he gives directions for Timothy’s guidance respecting the women in his church, especially respecting widows. In this Paul teaches us how to treat others, let’s see how…

READ: 1 Timothy 5:1-16

Remember the lyrics to the Ghostbusters song? “If there’s something strange in you neighborhood, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!” Well if there is something strange in your local church, who you gonna call? Paul writes Timothy that…

I. The family of God is to take care of the family of God! (Vv. 1-6)

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.

1. One would think that with age comes wisdom but this is not necessarily true. We all have met older folks who have squandered their lives and made really ridiculous decisions and are suffering the consequences. Foolishness knows no age limit and this is why Timothy needed to act as to exemplify Jesus. Both those inside and outside of the church would be watching his life very closely. Paul tells him to “not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father” and he was to “treat younger men as brothers”. Timothy was part of the family of God and he was to treat other believers as family. So gentleness, kindness, and morality were to be his motives so that “younger women” were to be treated “as sisters, with absolute purity”. In a world that chewed up people and especially the weak, the orphaned, and the widowed Timothy as a believer was to “Give proper recognition to those widows who [were] really in need. But if a widow [had] children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” Family was to take care of family. Paul told Timothy, “The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” Paul is writing about a person’s focus in life. In that day widows had very few options; either they had family who could care for them, they begged, or if they were young enough they became prostitutes. Note Paul’s emphasis is on their spirituality. Someone who focuses on her spiritual growth is to be commended while the one who focuses on only her own pleasure is spiritually “dead” without even knowing it already. The family of God is to take care of the family of God!

EXAMPLE: Over the years I have counseled folks who had to leave their church for varying reasons and in each case they experienced loss. Some would confess that it was worse than leaving family behind! What they forgot is the fact that this is exactly what it was! This is why Paul writes that “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV) A close knit family loves and cares for one another and so does a close knit church family. Paul let Timothy know that the family of God is to take care of the family of God!

We can forget that our faith is not just about ourselves. Others are watching our actions, our lives, and the way we treat one another. This is why Paul would teach Timothy that…

II. The family of God is to have an impact on their family and community! (Vv. 7-10)

Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

1. Paul’s whole focus was on how Timothy could be a positive influence on his church and community. He didn’t need to worry about his age but instead about how he would be an example to his flock! Therefore he was to “Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame.” The world of Paul’s day was not family oriented in that it did not see the need to take care of widows and orphans. So when Paul wrote that “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”, he was espousing a whole new concept. If one was changed by the power and presence of God then it had better affect their family life as well! The same is true for all believers. We are to take care of family. Paul continued by giving some practical advice in that “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.” Evidently the early church began to keep a list of widows in order to help them out during difficult times. Paul knew younger widows had a greater chance to find employment or the ability to get help and he wanted the entire church to realize the benefit of being “faithful” in marriage and in one’s life. His emphasis then was encouraging older widowed women to not be involved with the things of the world like gossip, idleness, or being meddlesome or nosy. Instead they were to focus on their families, their church, and their neighborhood! For Paul being a believer was more than what happened after death, it was about how one lived their life here and now. Paul was encouraging Timothy to lead his church to understand that the family of God is to have an impact on their family and community!

EXAMPLE: We had a mean old grumpy neighbor who would yell at us if we cut the corner of his yard. One day we all deliberately ran across his yard and laughed at him when he came out to yell at us. We thought it was funny; little did we know my Dad had seen us. He came outside later on and called me and my friends over. “Boys”, he said, “in life you will either be seen as good men or bad, which do you want to be seen as?” We all agreed that we wanted to be known as “good men”. “Then go and apologize to Mr. Anderson for cutting across his yard and laughing at him.” Then without another word, my Dad turned and went back in the house. We knew what we had to do. Paul told Timothy that the family of God is to have an impact on their family and community!

We live in a day and age where most focus on themselves. As believers in a church we are more than a “village” we are the family of God. It can be difficult at times but we must take responsibility for one another and Paul taught Timothy that…

III. The family of God is to focus on one another! (Vv. 11-16)

As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

1. For Paul again it was a matter of focus. A believer should focus on the Lord and allow him to be displayed in every area of life. So Paul gives Timothy some practical advice: “As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list.” They probably could find a way to provide for themselves or they had children who could help. Paul sympathized and understood that younger women “when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry”. This was natural but these women needed to be aware of what they did after being widowed or they could “bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge”. I do not think Paul was referring to the widow’s list but rather to her pledge to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 NIV) “Besides,” Paul explains they might “get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house” and if they did “not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busy-bodies, saying things they ought not to”! Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. Paul was aware that there had arisen some kind of problem in Timothy’s church where he needed help and evidently it was with younger women not conducting themselves properly. “So I counsel younger widows to marry”, Paul related, “to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” Paul not only wanted Timothy to spiritually succeed but he desired the entire church be successful as well but sadly “Some [had] in fact already turned away to follow Satan.” A lot of folks have misunderstood Paul’s words to Timothy thinking he was stating this was the only role for women but nothing could be further from the truth. Paul believed that both women and men who possessed the means were to take care of their families! This is why he finishes this section to Timothy by writing, “If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.” The family of God is to focus on one another!

EXAMPLE: I received a phone call one afternoon from a lady who was experiencing both verbal and psychological abuse from her husband. Her children were as well. She related her pastor and church had told her to stay with her husband. Needless to say she was beside herself. I told her to pack a few of her and her children’s things and get out of the house immediately. I told her that her husband had broken his vow to love, honor, and protect her. She needed to do whatever it took to protect not only herself but her children. A huge emotional and spiritual burden was lifted from her. Later she discovered her husband had begun to physically abuse her daughter. They came here for a time to be spiritually and emotionally healed. Now, years later, she is happily remarried, a grandmother, and her son is in Special Forces. Paul taught Timothy that the family of God is to focus on one another!

Conclusion:

The family of God is to take care of the family of God! The family of God is to have an impact on their family and community! The family of God is to focus on one another!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 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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A good servant of Jesus! — 1 Timothy 4:8-16

A good servant of Jesus! — 1 Timothy 4:8-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 7, 2018

People will spend money for gym memberships, take time to run every day, or make sure that they eat only certain things in specific amounts. What is interesting though is that these same folks who spend so much time and effort on some of these things do not spend the same amount of effort, time, or personal investment in their relationship with the Lord. Just as regular exercise for the body is good so is regular spiritual daily exercise with Jesus.

Paul knew that his mentorship with Timothy included his investment daily in spending time with the Lord. Paul had studied the Psalms and he knew the question David asked: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?” and how David answered it: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.” (Psalms 24:3-5 NIV) What David could only know momentarily Paul had come to realize believers enjoyed permanently. However, in order to mature and grow in the Lord as a good servant one must also spend time with Jesus; so let’s discover what Paul writes Timothy concerning being a good servant of Jesus…

READ: 1 Timothy 4:8-16

When Jesus enters into someone’s life they are spiritually changed forever: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) Do they still carry some of the old world’s habits? Yes, but that is why we are to walk daily with him who loved us, died for us, and rose again to prove he was able to change us! In fact total spirituality is not a momentary thing but takes a lifetime and this is why Paul told Timothy that…

I. A good servant of Jesus trains his entire life! (Vv. 8-10)

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

1. Paul understood that while “physical training is of some value… godliness has value for all things”. We live in an age whereby some people think that if they feel something then it makes it true for their lives and therefore valuable or worthy. This simply is not true. Worth does not come from how one feels but from the actual substantive effect it has. You cannot think about working out and experience the actual benefits of doing so. You have to actually do it! Saying you feel someone’s pain does not mean you actually are experiencing it. Training in godliness then has extreme value, “holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”! This is not a wishful thought or a hoping that it might come true, it is the actual result of living a godly life both here and now and in one’s eternal life to come! Above all Paul wanted Timothy to live well but even more to live his life for the Lord. Paul knew if Timothy did he would have an effective life and one worthy of God. Later on in this letter Paul would remind Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain”. (V. 6:6) In his life, Paul had come to realize that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. (Romans 8:28 NIV) So he writes Timothy that “This (then) is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance” in all believer’s lives. It was what Paul labored for and strove for his entire life! And it was the complete reason why Paul had “put [his] hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men… and especially of those who believe”! Paul understood that a good servant of Jesus trains his entire life!

EXAMPLE: Interestingly some of the most closed minded individuals can either be believers or atheists. In both hubris can interfere with one’s willingness to share the love of Christ and hubris can also interfere with one’s willingness to hear biblical truth. The world sees humility as another’s acceptance of their ideals and never ever disagreeing with them. If a Christian does then they are being conceited and disagreeable. Whereas a believer can plug their ears to the sinner’s plight and not have a broken heart. This is why Timothy needed to learn that a good servant of Jesus trains his entire life!

I decided a long time ago not to take a backseat in explaining what I believe about Jesus, the world, or my own personal philosophy of life. I looked at the life of Paul and realized he never did and then I realized neither did Jesus. However, if you decide to be bold in what you believe be forewarned you will be branded as being conceited. However, we discover Paul bluntly teaching Timothy that…

II. A good servant of Jesus controls their life! (Vv. 11-13)

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

1. In Paul’s day the individuals were considered “young” until you reached the age of wisdom which was around 30. This notion held true until about the 1960s. Interestingly research has shown that young adults often do not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions nor can they make logical decisions until they reach the age of 25! Insurance companies realize that this is why younger folks are more likely to be involved in more risky decisions than older adults. However, Paul wanted Timothy to not allow “anyone [to] look down on [him] because [he] was young”! Now least you think Timothy was an adolescent, he was not by today’s standard. He was probably in his late 20s to mid 30s. Yet his age was no excuse, as a Christian, he was to “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity”! Can you imagine asking, let alone demanding as Paul is actually doing here, today’s believer’s of any age to do the same thing? Notice Timothy was to “command and teach these things”! Timothy was not to feel good about his self; he was to live a life worthy of being called a believer! A life where he watched the words he used, the way he lived his life, his love life, his faith practice, and his ability to be above reproach! Paul would tell another young man, Titus, that a believer’s life “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:12 NIV) Yet there are those who claim they love the Lord but would rather make excuses as to why they should do the things the world does instead! Is it possible to live the life Paul wrote about? Certainly it is. Paul told Timothy that until he arrived he was to “devote” himself “to public reading of Scripture” and “to preaching and to teaching” the word of God. The idea is gathering with those of like mind and spending time together learning and speaking the words of Jesus! A good servant of Jesus controls their life!

EXAMPLE: Easy believism is easy to believe when one places more importance on a sinner’s prayer than on a changed heart. Saying a mystical phrase does not necessarily make a person a believer and nor does trying to earn God’s love through doing good works. There will be an inner change that is caused by the presence and power the Holy Spirit that will influence one’s outward actions. Christians are not to try to be “good for goodness sake” and in fact a belief in God is not necessary to be a good person. And good people do not necessarily know God! I’ve known lots of good people who did not know God at all and were sometimes even proud of the fact! However, true Godliness (holiness) in life boils up from the inner change that has occurred from knowing and walking with Jesus. This is why Paul taught Timothy that a good servant of Jesus controls their life!

There is no easy way to have a vibrant life in the Lord without devotion. Devotion to speaking daily with the Lord, devotion to reading and understanding the Bible, and devotion in living one’s life for Jesus as his disciple. Paul just made this plain to Timothy and continues by telling him that…

III. A good servant of Jesus must be willing to mature spiritually! (Vv. 14-16)

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1. The problem with why folks do not mature in Jesus has nothing to do with time management but rather it is more to do with the will-management. What I mean is one’s willingness to take the needed time involved! We are an instantaneous society that seeks gratification immediately. Why do you think Twitter, Snap-Chat, texting, and other things that take less than a nanosecond of thought are so popular in our culture? Yet there is no such thing as an “instant” faith walk with Jesus! Paul retorts, “Do not neglect your gift”. Now contrary to those who want to in some way to mysticize this — this is not what Paul meant. Those around Timothy had seen his ability to handle the word of God and the gift of his service; this is why they set him aside to be a pastor. His ability was “given [him] through a prophetic (inspired) message when the body of elders (from his local church by the way) laid their hands on” Timothy. It wasn’t the laying on of hands that gave Timothy his “gift”; rather the laying on of hands was the recognition of his ability to be a pastor. Timothy did not all of sudden “receive” the Holy Jolt as some would have you believe. Paul is reminding a self-conscious young man of why he was a pastor in the first place. Others saw God in Jesus at work in him and they willingly set him aside for that reason and he should not neglect it! Timothy was to stop worrying about what others thought about his youth and instead “Be diligent in these matters”. In fact Timothy is encouraged and commanded to “give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress”! He was to “watch [his] life and doctrine closely.” You mean doctrine is actually IMPORTANT? YES! Timothy was to “persevere in them, because” Paul knew if he did he would “save both [himself] and [his] hearers”! Save them from eternal separation from God, save them from hell, save them from a sin-filled life! A good servant of Jesus must be willing to mature spiritually!

EXAMPLE: Some of the most critical people towards those in the ministry are usually either nominal believers or nonbelievers. I believe it is because they do not fully understand the holy things of God or they are embarrassed by their own actions and spiritual immaturity. Jesus warned his followers to “not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” Why would Jesus say such a thing? He goes on to relate that “If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6 NIV) This is why I very rarely take any criticism seriously from a nominal or nonbeliever. Yet believers are to let their “light shine before all men” and we are to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe”! (Matthew 5:6 & Philippians 2:15 NIV) Paul knew that a good servant of Jesus must be willing to mature spiritually!

Conclusion:

A good servant of Jesus trains his entire life! A good servant of Jesus controls their life! A good servant of Jesus must be willing to mature spiritually!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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God is our guide! – Psalm 23

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

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

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

READ: Psalm 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

God is our guide to a better way of life! God is our guide during times of fear! God is our guide everyday!
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49

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

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

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

READ: Psalm 49

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:
Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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