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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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God leads us! – Psalm 18:1-6, 16-21, 32-36

God leads us! – Psalm 18:1-6, 16-21, 32-36
May 21, 2017
By Pastor Lee Hemen

When life smacks you in the head what do you do, to whom do you go to for advice, or for comfort? For some of us it is family, others it is a good friend, and yet as believers we are to first and foremost go to the Lord who is our help in times of trouble. It is during these times that God leads us.

David was not favored by God because he served him but David served him because God had appointed David in his sovereign mercy. After David praises and tells of his confidence in God for the future, David gives a beautiful description of God’s deliverance, which he described as an illustration of God’s justice to the innocent. God’s own might and success are celebrated as the results of divine aid and the confidence it will continue. Let’s learn how through our lives God leads us!

READ: Psalm 18:1-6, 16-21, 32-36

David knew about trouble in life. He had been given the kingdom of Israel while the still sitting king Saul was alive and now sought to kill him. In his struggle as he ran from Saul there were times David had felt pathetic yet now he reminds us that…

I. God is where we go when we are weak! (Vv. 1-6)

I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.

1. David had an intimate relationship with God and was unafraid to declare it to anyone who would listen, “I love you, O LORD” he cries out! David then continues by making a list of names by which he had come to know God. He was “my strength” or help. David knew God as his “rock” which was a lofty place to hide. He knew God as his “fortress” or we would say castle, and his “deliverer” meaning a way to escape, and again David emphasizes God being his “rock” or boulder in this case. However also being a fighting man David also knew God as his “shield” and his “horn of… salvation”. Therefore David could “call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise”, and know that “I am saved from my enemies.” As grand as all of this sounds David had also experienced and faced his own death at the hands of his enemies and so he relates “The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that “Being in the cords of death means that he was in such difficult distress that without divine intervention he would have died. Destruction overwhelmed him like a flood (torrents). The trappings of death were before him, and he was without human resources to save him.” I do not know about you but there have been times in my life when I felt just like David! Rather than being stuck between a rock and a hard place, David goes directly to his rock and hard place – God! David rejoices, “From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” We must never despair at life’s trouble or when we feel like giving up; God is where we go when we are weak!

EXAMPLE: One of the concerns for senior adults is maintaining muscle mass as they get older. This is why diets that are high in protein and getting active are very important. Muscle mass degenerates as we get older and is why senior adults become weaker with age. In order to maintain good spiritual muscles we must maintain a good diet and exercise program as well. Daily prayer and reading the Bible are important in order to strengthen spiritually atrophied muscles. The great news in what David teaches us in the fact that God is where we go when we are weak!

With all the flooding go on back East it seems someone is getting rescued from rising water all the time! Life can begins to seem like it is a flood ready to engulf us however David teaches us that…

II. God is the one who rescues us!  (Vv. 16-21)

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not done evil by turning from my God.

1. For many people even in our day and age God is a spiritual construct we have made up, a mythos to live by, but certainly he isn’t personal. Their argument at first seems logical: “If God were real why hasn’t he done something about the evil that exists in the world?” Yet what this fails to understand is the fact he did do something; he gave us himself in Jesus! David knew God personally and this is why he could write “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.” God had personally “rescued” David from a “powerful enemy, from foes, who were to strong” for him to face alone. These ungodly folks, king Saul being the chief one, had “confronted” him in David’s “day of disaster” yet even then the “Lord was my support” David boldly declares. David had felt that he had been drowning in his troubles, but God reached down and pulled him out of the “deep waters” and placed him “out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” As a Hebrew David hated open water like the ocean, most could not swim, and as a military man he would want to be able to defend himself in the open and not in some enclosed space. For the ancient Jew their relationship with God was kind of a tit-for-tat kind of thing. If you stayed within God’s gracious will you were safe and yet if you did not you suffered from your choices. However, David could gladly sing that “The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not done evil by turning from my God.” Like David we should know that “God is the one who rescues us!”

EXAMPLE: Growing up during the Cold War era I find it kind of humorous that so many millennials are concerned about North Korea. Don’t get me wrong, nuclear weapons in the hands of a madman are a dangerous thing. But it seems as if only now with a real threat are people once again worried about what to do in case of a nuclear attack. It also proves the point that even if we got rid of our entire nuclear arsenal; the crazies of the world are not about to. Isn’t it therefore good to know that in times of crisis God is the one who rescues us!

With the cold wet winter we have had and the good days of sunshine ahead authorities are worried that too many people will go swimming in water that is not just ice-cold but way higher and faster than normal. The rivers may look easy to navigate but it is easy to be swept away. Is a spiritual climate where folks are easily swept away into things they should not be David teaches us anew that…

III. God enables us to stand in him! (Vv. 32-36)

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.

1. Unlike a lot of his compatriots of his day David knew that “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” Many do not recognize that it is God who has given them everything in life. God had removed every impediment and obstacle out of David’s way, and made it plain and easy; David’s success was because of God! If only the world would acknowledge him God would delight to show them just as he did David! In fact when it felt like he could not get a foothold in life David related “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.” The Prophet Habakkuk would write, “The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19 NIV) Now we see David singing that God gave him the higher ground in battle and David acknowledged “He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” A bronze bow depicts strength. We may be feeble but God is mighty and David acknowledges this fact. In fact he sings, “You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.” It was under the cover of God’s own shield that David found victory and it was God alone who sustained him. How wonderful to know that God still hold us in the palms of his hands and he lifts us up! And having been a shepherd who had to scramble over many a rocky crag to try to find the hoof prints of lost sheep David rejoiced in that it was God who “broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.” The main idea throughout this Psalm is that David recognized every ability and victory of his to the Lord. Everything he had done and everything he now enjoyed was due to God. God enables us to stand in him!

EXAMPLE: I enjoy hiking and going places. One of my favorite places to explore is the Ape Caves outside of Cougar, WA. It is the longest lava tube yet discovered in North America. Now admittedly with my age I can no longer scramble over some of the rack falls inside the cave. And in fact some of the track on the “easy” side is difficult to stand in because of the way the lava flowed and left behind sharp ridges like train tracks. When our lives become tough and it can get hard to stand alone in the trials that come our way, David teaches us that God enables us to stand in him!

Conclusion:

God is where we go when we are weak! God is the one who rescues us!  God enables us to stand in him!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Goodbye! – Ephesians 6:21-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 7, 2017

There was a very schmaltzy song from the 1980s called “Friends” sung by Michael W. Smith that everyone and their monkey were singing. The chorus went: “And friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never ‘cause the welcome will not end. Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.” I got sick and tired of hearing this over and over at every youth camp I did but it does express some spiritual truths concerning Christian friends and goodbyes.

Paul became close to the people in the churches he established. He knew that because of their small size and how few and far between these congregations were Paul feared for them as friends. And when he had to leave them for whatever reason it was tough for him to say “goodbye”. Let’s discover what Paul wrote about this…

READ: Ephesians 6:21-24

How would you say goodbye to someone you loved if you thought you may never see them again in this life? We discover in his closing words that…

I. Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”! (Vv. 21-22)

Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.

1. How would you describe your closest friend? What makes them close? The apostle Paul describes for us in this personal letter his friend Tychicus as a “dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord”. In Colossians he wrote that Tychicus was “a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:7 NIV) So this man was beloved by Paul, faithful to him and the gospel message, and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ! Interestingly in this writing we discover that Paul set an example for mature personal spiritual relationships. Besides remembering his friends and companions, he expressed genuine concern for them. Paul knew that the early church in its infancy would need extra care and compassion. His friend Tychicus would fit the bill, so-to-speak for Paul. Tychicus, which means fortunate, was an Asiatic Christian who, with Trophimus almost caused a riot in Jerusalem, accompanied the Apostle Paul on a part of his journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem. He is also thought to have been with Paul in Rome when he was imprisoned where the apostle sent him to Ephesus probably for the purpose of building up and encouraging the church there. This is why he had become so dear and faithful to Paul. Paul absolutely trusted Tychicus and knew if he sent him to do something he would do it. How many friends do we have that we know would do the same? Paul writes that this faithful servant in the Lord would be trusted to “tell you everything” and in doing so he would share exactly how Paul was and what was going on in the ministry. This was more important than you realize because there were those who sought to spread lies and distortion about Paul and the early church so Paul was sending him “for this very purpose” that these new believers would really “know how” Paul was doing and that he personally would “encourage” them by doing so. Paul knew that his faithful friend would be his voice to others he sent him to and that he would encourage them during perhaps difficult times. Paul was not someone who signed his letters with “Love ya!” or TTFN. His concern was real, deeply felt, and he wanted them to know it personally so Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”!

EXAMPLE: When I had to say goodbye to my best friend as we moved from my hometown to go live with my sister it was tough. My friend Greg and I had done everything together. We had built go carts, wind-powered cardboard wagons for our stuffed animals, humongous stilts that we could get on and off of by stepping onto our roof, and of course the hikes, Boy Scouts, adventures, bikes, slingshots, marbles, cars and trucks, swimming, and other things of childhood. How wonderful to discover later that my best friend now an adult was a believer as well! For us “goodbye” became a thing of the past. Here we discover that Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”!

I learned I guess that “friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them” and here in this final passage in Paul’s letter we discover that…

II. Goodbye is not forever for the believer! (Vv. 23-24)

Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

1. Goodbye can be hard to say and it becomes even worse when you may not have a chance to say a proper goodbye. However if one knows that they will be reunited with the person they are saying goodbye to it isn’t as harsh as it could be. Paul wanted his readers to know that his letter was not all they would have form him and in fact we know just how much Paul cared about the Ephesian church. We know from Scripture that “Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.” (Acts 20:16-17 NIV) He then spoke to them, encouraging them, and Luke writes, “When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.” (Acts 20:36-38 NIV) To say Paul had a special relationship with the Ephesian church is putting it mildly. Paul deeply cared for these new believers and desired that they grow in their relationship with Jesus and is why we find him ending his letter with several concerns for them: “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul desired they as fellow “brothers” in Jesus would know intimately God the Father’s and thereby Jesus’ “peace” (prosperity), his “love” (sacrificial love) “with faith” (deep conviction)! I believe Paul could not leave his emotions for them just there though and he continues to share with them in his closing just how much he did care for them by telling them “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying love.” Paul knew he would see them all again whether it was later in life or in the future in heaven with Jesus. God’s unmerited mercy is always extended to those who truly “love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying love”! Paul knew that goodbye is not forever for the believer!

EXAMPLE: When the young couple knew their first child was on its way they began to pray he would be a missionary to China. Later when that young man gave his life to Christ he knew he would go to China. Hudson Taylor’s mother and one or two friends boarded the sailing ship that would carry him far away and in his cabin they prayed and sang and read a Psalm. “Dear Mother,” he said, “do not weep. It is but for a little while and we shall meet again.” When his mother had gone ashore, he wrote on a piece of paper, “The love of God which passeth knowledge. J.H.T.” This note was tossed across to his mother as she stood on the pier weeping. As the ship sailed away, he climbed a mast that he might have a longer view of the friends on the shore. There he waved his hat, while they waved their handkerchiefs until the boat was out of sight. Hudson Taylor did not see his mother again in this life. Goodbye is not forever for the believer!

Conclusion:

Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”! Goodbye is not forever for the believer!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The selflessness of Christ – Philippians 2:14-18

The selflessness of Christ – Philippians 2:14-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 6, 2016

With every weed pulled I grumbled, “Why did I have to do this today? It’s Saturday, I want to go play with my friends. This stinks! I hate weeding!” My father overheard me and reminded me that I should willingly give up a part of my Saturday to do the work because my mother needed it done. By weeding I was helping her use her time better and it displayed a selfless act. Of course being eight-years-old I didn’t care about being selfless; selfishness is an eight-year-old’s creed! Sadly, it seems the eight-year-old credo has infected many adult Christians as well.

If we are to truly understand what Jesus did on the cross, we have to understand Jesus himself. Last week we discussed Jesus’ humility and his being God. We also talked about how our attitude is to be the same as that of Jesus. Here in the next few verses we discover just how unselfish Jesus was and we come to realize what following him means for our lives as well. Let’s discover how this morning…

READ: Philippians 2:14-18

I cannot figure out why we still do daylight saving time. We do not have to get up with the sun and go to sleep with it anymore and wouldn’t it be far better to just permanently switch to one hour later and leave it there permanently so we could enjoy more daylight while driving to and from work? In fact this might work for the Christian! Here’s what I mean: Perhaps we need to adjust the Christian’s daylight savings time as well? Paul teaches us that…

I. A disciplined life shines in a sin-darkened world! (Vv. 14-16a)

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–

1. Discipline is a lost word in our society; whether it is disciplining our children or ourselves, it seems as if we do not care. Parents want schools to raise their kids but woe be it to any school that dares to discipline little Johnny for being the selfish, rebellious, and disrespectful little cretin they have raised. Jesus bluntly told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV) In fact later Jesus would reiterate, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27 NIV) and Paul would remind us that if indeed we are saved then we would understand that “It 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) Few in our day understand this and even fewer live it. Jesus was not teaching self-deprivation or one’s withdrawal from the world; rather he was trying to show us that following him costs; even sometimes our own personal desires of the moment. That is why Paul writes that like Jesus we should “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation”. It is a “depraved generation” that only looks out for number one first. Literally he meant grumbling and fighting for the believer is not just unseemly; it is downright disgusting. We as believers are to be faultless innocents in a perverse world “in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life”! Wow! For Paul a true star was someone willing to live for Jesus, not some grandiose nitwit that decries global warming while holding a gold-plated tin statue, and then leaves in his personal limo and flies away in his private jet to one of his several mansions. Paul teaches us that a disciplined life shines in a sin-darkened world!

EXAMPLE: It is amazing to me that the Creator of the universe made such wonderful things as lightening bugs. These tiny little critters carry within their itty bitty bodies the ability to light up the night with their rear ends as they try to attract a mate. Like tiny little stars they shine in the darkness doing what God created them to do. Why is it so difficult for believers to do the task God has given them? I believe it is because we have forgotten what our part in God’s plan is all about. And while Jesus did come to save us individually, he also left so that the world would come to know him through us. Like those lightening bugs we have a God-given purpose. We are to live such good lives in a sin-darkened world that we shine like stars! A disciplined life shines in a sin-darkened world!

It used to be that when a child messed up the parents were embarrassed, especially if it was done in public or at school. Not today; in fact many want to find another scapegoat to blame other than themselves or their child for the problem. Yet, whether you like it or not your children, to some degree, are a reflection of you. Sure they can make their own choices, but they did learned how from the likes of you. This is why Paul taught…

II. A disciplined life brings joy! (Vv. 16b-18)

–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

1. There was an old rock song that went, “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want!” It has become the personal anthem for most in our nation. We live in a day and age where we actually think that a bellicose billionaire with a bad hairdo is a rebel or a self-aggrandized wife of a womanizer socialist elitist can sympathize with the common man! The reason is because people are frustrated with those who make promises but never deliver. Paul desired that believers shine like stars in a depraved sin-darkened world because folks needed to see the difference between a life lived for Jesus and one lived for the moment. He wanted to be encouraged by them when he wrote, “in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” Paul did not want his work in their lives to be in vain nor did he want the world to see that a life in Jesus meant nothing! Paul understood that the only gift he left behind in his life was one of mentorship. This is why he told the Thessalonian Christians, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NIV) Like Isaiah he did not want to confess to God when he saw him face-to-face, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.” And like Isaiah, Paul knew that his “reward is with my God.” (Isaiah 49:4 NIV) His joy was first and foremost found in his faith in Christ and then those he had discipled! The wording here means either to “hold out” or “hold firmly.” The former fits better here. It was used in secular Greek of offering wine to a guest at a banquet. As the Philippian believers held out the word of life to others, Paul would then be able to boast that he had not labored in vain. In fact, Paul knew that even if he was “being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from [their] faith”, he could be “glad and rejoice with all of” them! A disciplined life brings joy!

EXAMPLE: When I was struggling with a certain piece of music during orchestra practice our conductor would rap his wand on my music stand and declare, “Discipline Mr. Hemen, disciple!” Later when I was attending boot camp our chief drill instructor would yell at us, “Discipline, gentlemen, is the first step to order in life!” The idea of discipline in the life of a musician or sailor is so that every member of the orchestra or unit will function as they should; each doing their part so that the whole piece can come together or so that the entire ship can function smoothly. Too many believers in our day and age have forgotten that we are not just individuals in Jesus; we are to function as the body of Christ — His church. This is why Paul would write the Corinthians, who were a selfish lot, that “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27 NIV) A disciplined life brings joy!

Conclusion:

A disciplined life shines in a sin-darkened world! A disciplined life brings joy!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Jesus saves when God selects! — John 6:60-71

Jesus saves when God selects! — John 6:60-71
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 15, 2015

We often hear that hindsight is better than foresight, meaning that we know the past but not what the future brings in life. There are those who spend large sums of money in order to discover what the future holds. Houdini, the great escape artist and magician spent years debunking mediums and spiritist frauds that scammed innocent people of their hard-earned money. Houdini’s training in magic allowed him to expose frauds who had successfully fooled many scientists and academics. He was a member of a Scientific American committee that offered a cash prize to any medium who could successfully demonstrate supernatural abilities. None was able to do so, and the prize was never collected. Christians would do well to remember what God told the Israelites concerning such things, “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:31 NIV)”

One thing we can rest assured in is the fact that once we are chosen of God, he never leaves us nor forsakes us. It is interesting to note that even Jesus’ disciples had a hard time accepting his teaching on the fact that we must “eat of his flesh and drink of his blood”, meaning we need to place our faith and trust in him completely. And, like some today, they had a hard time accepting that God chooses us and knows who will come to him or not. It is a matter of Jesus saves when God selects. Let’s find out what John writes concerning the subject…

READ: John 6:60-71

When we focus on the wrong thing, we can be easily confused. This is why magicians are so successful, they are able to make us focus our attention in the wrong direction in order for them to pull of their trickery. Jesus was not trying to fool anyone and in fact addresses his disciples’ concern head on. In understanding the truth…

I. Jesus saves when God selects, we should not focus on the wrong thing! (Vv. 60-64)

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.

1. People have not changed at all. They acted just the same in Jesus’ day as they do in our day and age. The crowd grumbled at Jesus’ tough teaching on who he was and now we discover that those who were his disciples grumbled as well, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?'” Yet we know they were focused on the wrong thing. They could not get past the notion of Jesus saying, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. (John 6:56 NIV)” And that Jesus had just reminded them that the manna they demanded would only lead to death while the bread of life he offered brought eternal life! Jesus was not talking about flesh and blood issues, but rather sacrifice and eternal life concerns! How humorous to note that Jesus was “Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this” and so he bluntly asks them, “Does this offend you?” Does this scandalize your sensitivities? Are you in shock over what I just told you? So he then turns the tables on them and relates, ” What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” And in fact, they would do so! They would see him ascend into heaven and they would be told by God’s messenger, his angel, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11 NIV)” Jesus then gives them an important piece of advice, one that we would do well to remember, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” Nothing else matters in this life than the words of Jesus! And in fact, he reiterated that “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” They were spiritual truth, they are spiritual truth, and only his words mean anything for eternity! Yet, while he was saying this, he knew who would betray him, but it did not matter. What mattered was the truth. Jesus saves when God selects, we should not focus on the wrong thing!

EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “He can’t see the forest for the trees.” It means the person might be focusing in the wrong thing in life. Money, family, sickness, jobs, or school are just some of things that take our focus off the correct thing in life and give us narrowed vision. One time, a disciple of Jesus, requested that he be permitted to return home and bury his father. This man’s father was not dead or even at the point of death. This disciple was simply saying he wanted to return home and wait until his father died. Then he would return and follow Jesus. His request demonstrated he felt discipleship was something he could pick up or lay down at will. He put material concerns ahead of Jesus, for he apparently wanted to receive the estate when his father died. Jesus’ response, Let the dead bury their own dead, showed that following Him carried with it the highest priority. Jesus said that in the grand scheme of things the physically dead could be cared for by those who are already spiritually dead. He needed to focus on what truly mattered in life. Jesus saves when God selects, we should not focus on the wrong thing!

It can be hard for our finite minds to grasp the infinite truth that God knows our beginning and our ending. Job would remind us, “How great is God–beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out. (Job 36:26 NIV)” and David would sing, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:15-16 NIV)” It should not surprise us then that…

II. Jesus saves when God selects, and he has selected you! (Vv. 65-71)

He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

1. While the disciples were trying to wrap their heads around what Jesus was trying to teach them, he gives them something else to ponder. “He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.'” Jesus not only knew who would betray him, he already knew who would come to him! And, it was God who enabled them to come to him in the first place! Now because of their traditions and their spiritual blindness to what God was doing in their midst, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” His rejecting their desire to make Him their political king; His demand for personal faith; His teaching on atonement; His stress on total human inability and on salvation as a work of God — all these proved to be unpalatable for many people. They gave up being His disciples. — (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) Jesus had many who had followed him until now and so he asks his closest disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” The truth was that his own disciples, the apostles, would struggle with who he was even after his resurrection! But now Jesus is trying to refine their faith and to help them understand that their faith was far more important than they understood. They in fact would be the heralds of a new covenant with God. Peter who is often quick to respond and slow to think through his actions correctly responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter was not confessing Jesus as a good teacher, another great master, but as the Messiah! No one else has the gift of eternal life. “We have believed and have known” is a better translation of the Greek. Where else indeed could they go for the words of life? Certainly not the old and tired works-oriented misguided temple worship of Jesus’ day. Just as they chose to follow Jesus, he had first chosen them to be his inner circle, his disciples, the apostles. He tells Peter, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” John in his hindsight writes, “He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.” Jesus knew one of them would or could betray him, and in fact any one of them could, yet he had chosen each of them to follow him just as God elects us now. Jesus saves when God selects, and he has selected you!

EXAMPLE: My father used to play a game with us where we had to select which hand we wanted. We learned to be careful which one we chose because he never relented and gave us the other choice when we picked wrong. When God selects us we think that his predestination is unfair because we equate it with getting the short end of the stick, so-to-speak. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s desire is that all mankind come to know him personally, but in his omniscience, God already knows who will  and who will not to choose to come to him for salvation. Not everyone chooses eternal life. If you are being prompted today to give your life to Christ, do so because we have learned that Jesus saves when God selects, and he has selected you!

Conclusion:

Jesus saves when God selects, we should not focus on the wrong thing! Jesus saves when God selects, and he has selected you!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The short cut! — John 6:14-21

The short cut! — John 6:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 25, 2015

Why is it there is always a certain segment within society that is willing to take short cuts in life. Whether it is deliberately tearing through the underbrush instead of staying on the marked trail or trying to get by with the least amount of effort in order to get their job done, there are those who think the short cut is the best way. There are even those who think that by simply applying simple scriptural steps to their lives will insure them a short cut to God’s blessing. Nothing could further from the truth.

We discover here in John’s Gospel that there were those who thought they could take the spiritual short cut of making Jesus their king. And even some of Jesus’ own disciples were open to this proposition. Interestingly within the next few verses we discover Jesus taking a short cut of his own, but rather than trying to make life easier, he does so in order to teach his disciples whom they were to depend on in the storms of life. From what occurs we can find hope for our own lives and the danger of not depending on Jesus when the winds of life blow foul. Let’s discover what happened when Jesus took the short cut…

READ: John 6:14-21

Here in Johns Gospel we find that…

I. There is no short cut to the king of Kings! (Vv. 14-15)

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

1. There are God’s prophets and there are false prophets. God had told Moses, “If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” (Deuteronomy 18:19-20 NIV) Why are folks so quick then to follow charlatans who claim they come from God and not judge them by their results? We find no shortage of prophetic phonies who claimed spiritual insight but have been proven incorrect in their prophecies; Joseph Smith (LDS), Charles Taze Russell (JW), Mary Baker Eddy (CS), or Ellen G. White (SDA) to name just a few. And here we discover the crowds who had just experienced Jesus’ miracle of feeding them wanting to make him their political and spiritual leader! “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.'” Of course they were referring to the prophet God tells Moses about several thousands of year before when he promised him, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18 NIV) God promised to give Israel another prophet even better than Moses who would have power over men and intimacy with God! However, “none would be like Moses until the Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ, came. Moses set the standard for every future prophet. Each prophet was to do his best to live up to the example of Moses until the One came who would introduce the New Covenant.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) This prophet of God would be much more than a mere prophet, he would be the Messiah, the Savior of the world! John writes, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” Jesus knew they did not truly want a prophet of God, they wanted a king who would rescue them from their present Roman predicament. In this we discover that there is no short cut to the king of Kings!

EXAMPLE: James McConkey was a well-known Bible teacher in the early 20th century. While traveling through Europe, he went on a hike with a group of tourists in the awe-inspiring Swiss Alps. Their experienced guide led them cautiously through dangerous gorges and across treacherous ice fields. At one point he was leading the hikers on a wide detour to ensure their safety. One weary tourist, though, decided he would take a short-cut. He left the pathway and started out on his own. The guide raced after him, tackled him, and dragged him back to the path. Then he explained that the snow over which that tourist intended to walk was a thin crust of ice covering a giant crevasse. That short-cut would have meant a long and deadly plunge deep into the glacier. (Radio bible Class) There are no spiritual shortcuts in life, no easy believism, no easy way to God without faith in Jesus. There is no shortcut to the king of Kings!

We also soon discover that…

II. There is no shortcut through the storms of life! (Vv. 16-19)

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified.

1. Jesus had withdrawn to the mountainside to be by himself, away from the crowds of demanding people, and his disciples were left to their own devices. Perhaps he told them to go ahead, or maybe they decided on their own to head across the lake. I do not believe as some suggest that they did not know where Jesus was, John tells us otherwise, he was up on the mountain, alone. In fact, Mark relates in his Gospel that “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.” (Mark 6:45-46 NIV) And, we find here from John that “When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum.” They do as their Master, their Rabbi, instructed them. Mark tells us that “When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.” (Mark 6:47 NIV) John states that “By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.” Again, Mark tells us that Jesus “saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake.” (Mark 6:48 NIV) John relates that the disciples “had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified.” Mark tells us that “when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost.” (Mark 6:49 NIV) There is no one who can walk on the surface of a stormy lake and they certainly did not expect Jesus to do so! And isn’t this the way we are as well? When the storms of life toss our little boat about we begin to fear for our lives and then when God sends us the way to calm the storm, we become afraid! Picture the scene, from out of the gloom, the rain, and the rough sea comes one lone figure walking on the water! Perfectly calm, secure in who he is, and headed straight for them! For those of us who are fearful of the storm, the wind, and the rains of life sinking our precious vessel, Jesus is near. The storm is but a breeze and the watery deep but concrete for the creator of the wind and the waves! In this moment of time we discover for ourselves that there is no short cut through the storms of life!

EXAMPLE: When our youth group years ago took a mission trip to Nebraska, we experienced the wonder of a huge thunder and lightning storm. We had parked out near a huge corn field as the thunder rolled and the lightning streaked across the sky. The youth were thrilled until one huge bolt boomed right overhead. I turned around and all of them were now huddled inside of our van! The storm had been exciting and fun until it affected them personally, then they feared for their lives! Sometimes we can view our lives the same way. We are just fine until it affects us personally. Far too often we try to gain a shortcut through life’s storms, but here in John’s Gospel we learn that there is no short cut through the storms of life!

And finally, we discover that…

III. The short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm! (Vv. 20-21)

But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

1. Here in this final passage is a wonderful and delightful ending. It is more than the cavalry riding to the rescue at the last moment before the attack. It is more than the wizard showing up in the east when the hoards of the Dark Lord’s orcs are at Helm’s Deep’s door. This is the Messiah walking on the water to the rescue of his little flock! This is the one who would not be made king being the King of kings and Lord of lords and displaying all of his ability to rescue the perishing! So many want to row their own course in life. They want to do it their way and take no thought to their creator. And then when life throws wind, rain, the dark of night, and the wild waves rushing over the gunnels of their little leaking boat of life, they cry out, “Save me!” It is here in the wind, it is here in the rain, it is here in the shadows of being overwhelmed God has given us a lifeline, and his name is Jesus. He is the one who calmly says to the silly sailors who try to sail life’s seas without him, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Literally, “I am.” “I am” the one you can cling to, “I am” the one you can depend upon, “I am” the one to rescue you. John succinctly states that Jesus “said to them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.'” It was “Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” It is only when we are willing to get over our distrust or fear of Jesus that we can willingly take him into our lives. It is then we discover that he takes us safely to the far shore! Jesus later teaches his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me… I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1, 6 NIV) We find here in John that the short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm!

EXAMPLE: Bill Crowder writes, “Eric Liddell, memorialized in the film Chariots of Fire, won a gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics before going to China as a missionary. Some years later, with the outbreak of World War II, Liddell sent his family to safety in Canada, but he remained in China. Soon Liddell and other foreign missionaries were interned in a Japanese detainment camp. After months of captivity, he developed what doctors feared was a brain tumor. Every Sunday afternoon a band would play near the hospital, so one day Liddell requested they play the hymn “Be Still, My Soul.” As he listened, I wonder if Eric pondered these words from the song: Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on / When we shall be forever with the Lord. / When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, / Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. / Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past / All safe and blessed we shall meet at last. That beautiful hymn, so comforting to Eric as he faced an illness that led to his death 3 days later, expresses a great reality of Scripture. In Psalm 46:10, David wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In our darkest moments, we can rest, for our Lord conquered death on our behalf. Be still, and allow Him to calm your greatest fears.” The short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm! (Our Daily Bread, November 3, 2013)

Conclusion:
There is no short cut to the king of Kings! There is no short cut through the storms of life! The short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Father and the Son! — John 5:16-24

The Father and the Son! — John 5:16-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 21 2014

Bill Crowder writes for the Radio Bible Class that “The Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, are known for their beautiful sweaters. Patterns are woven into the fabric using sheep’s wool to craft the garments. Many of them relate to the culture and folklore of these small islands, but some are more personal. Each family on the islands has its own trademark pattern, which is so distinctive that if a fisherman were to drown it is said that he could be identified simply by examining his sweater for the family trademark.” We all have the distinctive marks of our own father imprinted in us and not just in our DNA but often in our mannerism and even sometimes in our spirituality.

Fathers and their sons do not always have the greatest of relationships and in fact it has only gotten worse because so many fathers are absent in the lives of their children. Yet we discover in John’s Gospel that Jesus had an excellent relationship with his father. Let’s discover what this relationship was between the Father and the Son…

READ: John 5:16-24

In John’s gospel we discover that Jesus’ DNA runs deep and that…

I. Like Father like Son! (Vv. 16-18)

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

1. Last time we discussed how the Jews persecuted Jesus because he dared do things on the Sabbath that benefited his fellow human beings. And isn’t interesting that while God became man in in human flesh as Jesus, the Jews lost their humanity in trying to please God and themselves. Their answer was to get angry and persecute the Messiah God sent them! What they did not realize is that Jesus was busy doing the will of God. “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’” God was not asleep nor had he forgotten his people, even though they often felt he had. Sometimes we often think that God does not care or is not concerned about what occurs here on earth, yet he does. Just as he entered onto human existence as a baby, he still is involved moment by moment with those he loves today. David wrote that God “will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalms 121:3-4 NIV)” Israel had forgotten this promise. Have you? And it was for this very reason that “the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” You see they understood what Jesus was telling them, but they did not want to believe it because it did not fit into their paradigm of what they wanted the Messiah to be. How could God have a son and how could this carpenter’s son really be the offspring of God? It was blaspheme to them! However, Jesus would later tell them, “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9 NIV)” In other words, like Father like Son!

EXAMPLE: We often forget what Christmas is all about. It is more than presents, decorated trees, or carols. It is not a Hallmark moment written in a card. It is about the incarnation of God into human existence! God become flesh! When Mary held Jesus she was holding God. No longer would God be unknowable, no longer would he be untouchable, and no longer would he be something out there somewhere because he was here and now! And when we read about Jesus and how he interacted with the folks of his day and age we can understand how he acts with us today! We can trust him because Jesus is the complete embodiment of the Father and now we know what God is like! In other words, like Father like Son!

However, Jesus continues with his discussion to his persecutors and we discover that…

II. The Son bestows life to those who believe his Father! (Vv. 19-24)

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

1. Jesus would later let his detractors know “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” Jesus is the Truth and there is no other truth but him. This is why he would often begin his statements by relating, “Amen, amen” or “Truly, truly,” meaning that what he was about to relate was the absolute truth! So when he turns to his accusers here in John’s Gospel, “I tell you the truth” he means that what he is about to relate to them they should listen to and understand completely. Jesus tells them that “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Jesus could only do what he saw his Father doing because they were and are the same! We must ask ourselves, “Why this is so important for them to trash and why it is the one thing that Jesus’ detractors always try to dismiss?” The answer is simple: Because if Jesus is God then what he said and what he did does matter! In fact, Jesus goes further and states, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” Wow! God and Jesus are in complete sync because their relationship is built on who they are and their attributes! The greatest of these is the grace or love of God! And, if they had a problem with him healing a lame man then they were going to have a real problem with what he was going to do next! “Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” God can create or bestow life to those he desires and Jesus would do this very thing because he was the Messiah! In fact, those who now stood in judgment of Jesus would one day face his judgment because God would entrust all judgment concerning life and death to Jesus his Son! Why would God do this? Because “that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” A holy God was willing to send himself as a man to die for us; we had better recognize this truth or suffer the consequences of our dismissal! Jesus bluntly relates, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” The Son bestows life to those who believe his Father!

EXAMPLE: In the face of certain death or danger the hero turns to the victim, holds out his hand, and says, “If you want to live, come with me.” Whatever the end-of-the-world apocalyptic scenario is for the movie script we find folks are often saved at the last minute by some tough guy or gal who steps up and fights off the bad guys. Here in John’s Gospel we discover a hero who is unassuming, not some tough guy, but rather a spiritual intellect who offers his listeners salvation in the face of certain death. How do we know this to be true? We know it is true because God the Father said it was. He sent his Son to save mankind. “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. (John 3:16 NIV)” The Son bestows life to those who believe his Father!

Conclusion:
We have discovered that like Father like Son and that the Son bestows life to those who believe his Father!

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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