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Be bold not to be embittered!

Be bold not to be embittered!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 22, 2018
 
I have always marveled at how embittered people hang onto to their bitterness like a protective cloak or badge of self-righteousness. They reason that they deserve to be bitter is because of past hurts that are often ones they never experienced themselves. It reminds me of Gollum from Lord of the Rings whose whole world and life’s focus revolved around a shiny golden ring. He ended up getting burned by it.
 
Thankfulness is a trait that one has to actually conjure up from within one’s self. You have to actually think about what you are thankful for and forget the past that wants you to cling to it like an addict to their drug of choice. There is a reason that a thankful heart is a happy heart. It purposefully forgets about itself and takes a positive step into the future. It realizes that all things come from God whether it is the good, the bad, or the ugly in life. And one can either remain stuck focusing on the ugliness or work to decide to head to the good that God offers us.
 
Life is precious and can be wasted when we embitter ourselves and remain wrapped in our cloak of self-pity and righteousness. Instead look for the joy of life, which I believe begins with the Lord, and allow the fruit of thankfulness to grow and bubble up in your heart today.
 
Life is tough by its very nature but life can also be a joyous journey of thankfulness. You decide to allow God in and he will fill your life with the joy you need for each day. The joy of the Lord can be your strength and you can learn to be thankful in all situations that life throws your way.
 
Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
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Tripped up by pride! — 2 Kings 20:1-19

Tripped up by pride! — 2 Kings 20:1-19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 18. 2018

A religious leader was talking to a group of people who were about to enter a new phase in their lives. They had been poor and restricted in opportunities and were headed for lives of unparalleled prosperity. These people also had made recent commitments to the Lord. The leader warned they would face new temptations of pride when they became successful and began to accumulate material things. They would congratulate themselves on their abilities and forget the Lord. The speaker Moses proved to be correct. Most of the Hebrew people in their pride forgot God.

These verses show how King Hezekiah responded to God’s miracle of healing in his life. Instead of remaining humble and grateful to God, he became filled with pride and focused on his possessions and his prestige. What occurred with Hezekiah can happen to any of us when we forget that what we enjoy in life is graciously given to us by the Lord God. Let’s discover what happened and how to remain humble before the Lord instead of being tripped up by pride…

READ: 2 Kings 20:1-19

Isn’t it interesting that when folks who never give a hoot or a holler to their relationship with God in life all of a sudden desperately want a beneficial answer from him when life goes bad? Perhaps our pride gets in the way? We see this with…

I. Hezekiah’s prayer! (2 Kings 20:1-3)

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

1. Sennacherib had been stabbed to death by his own sons while he was worshipping. Israel was safe for the time being. The writer of 2 Kings tells us that “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death.” We later learn it was a disease that caused skin boils. (Eww…) What would Hezekiah do? Who could he turn to during this desperate time of need? Most illnesses during these times resulted in a person’s death; medical science not being what it is today. I often laugh at how some folks put so much trust in old time or natural cures when in fact most do not do anything at all. We discover however that “The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him”. I am sure that when Isaiah first showed up in the king’s court he was seen gladly. Perhaps he had a message from God that would cure Hezekiah? And yet any serious rejoicing was soon dowsed when Isaiah said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Wow, Isaiah does not have very good bedside manner, does he! Just what a sick person wants to hear from someone whom you hoped would bring you an answer. It is kind of pathetic and sad because this great king does what most folks would probably do in this situation: “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD”! Who else could he rely on if Israel’s prophet brought him such horrible news? Hezekiah does what he should have done all along, he prays, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” He reminds the Lord that he tried his best to walk with him even if he did stretch the truth of his relationship just a bit. But isn’t this how most of us view ourselves? And then the realization of what is going to happen and the words of the Prophet Isaiah sink into his prayer and “Hezekiah wept bitterly.” It is never the least thing we can do; it is the most important thing to do. We should never be so prideful that we cannot pray!

EXAMPLE: Why do you pray? Do you see prayer as a means to perhaps change God’s mind on an outcome in life you disagree with? Do you pray in order to discover more about the Lord and develop your relationship with him? Or do you pray because it is expected of you and you have a list to check off each day? Prayer is to be our constant conversation with the Lord when we seek his face and discuss with him his will and his ways. We should never be so prideful that we wait to pray only when we have a desperate need. Pride should never get in the way of our prayers.

We forget that God does indeed answer the prayers of his people. He can say “yes”, “no”, “wait”, or say nothing at all. He often does not give us an answer when we already know it. Hezekiah’s prayer results in an unexpected answer. When one is willing to humble their selves and seek God’s face God will answer them. We find the answer from the Lord in…

II. Hezekiah’s healing! (2 Kings 20:4-11)

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?” Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?” “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.” Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.

1. God answers Hezekiah’s prayer almost immediately. We discover that “Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, “This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.’” Notice God qualifies his answer to this king: “tell the leader of my people”. This was the God of his “father David” answering his prayer and not some false god or idol. “I will heal you.” No sweeter words were ever spoken to this mighty king. When God answers he gives us specifics. He never makes us guess. God is not some game show host making us try to discover what he wants. God bluntly tells Hezekiah through Isaiah, “On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.” God wasn’t just healing Hezekiah because he liked him; he was healing him and rescuing his people “for my sake and for the sake of my servant David”! God had made a promise to David that out of his linage the Messiah would come, and God was going to fulfill that promise in spite of Hezekiah. Isaiah commands that a “poultice of figs” be prepared and applied to Hezekiah’s boils and he recovers. Hezekiah’s curiosity gets the better of him and he asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?” There is no better place to be than in the center of the will of God. Hezekiah’s pride was getting in the way again, but God is patient. Isaiah answered him, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?” Not seeing how God is working fully Hezekiah remarks, “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps, rather, have it go back ten steps.”   The Lord had heard Hezekiah’s prayer and had seen his tears. God saw the king’s outward appearance and also his heart and knew the words expressed his heart’s deep desires. God said, “I am healing you.” Yet Hezekiah wants proof. When God answers our prayers our pride should not get in the way of our healing!

EXAMPLE: There are those who think they can make a deal with God. Hezekiah was truly humbled by his ailment. We forget that everything is for the glory of God. Our life, all of creation and everything that happens is part of the work and will of the Lord. We have a tough time when it involves violence, an act that we cannot fathom, or an act of nature that destroys everything we own. We wonder how a good God can allow bad things happen to good people. We forget that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NIV)” Our pride should not get in the way like it did with Hezekiah’s healing!

How do you respond when God answers your prayers but it isn’t the way you wanted? Hezekiah received a deathbed healing from God! The king should have remembered this healing and past blessings and deliverances from God with humility and gratitude so as to avoid becoming puffed up with pride. Past blessings are God’s accomplishments, not a person’s achievements. We see it in…

III. Hezekiah’s pride! (2 Kings 20:12-19)

At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. Hezekiah received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses–the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil–his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?” “From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.” The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?” “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

1. Often when we become ill folks will respond. Especially if the one who is sick is a leader of a nation like a king or President! Interestingly we learn that “At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness.” Remember Assyria had been a threat and now we discover visitors from Babylon bringing “letters and a gift” to a sick king of a tiny but strategic nation. Is Hezekiah cautious? Nope. “Hezekiah received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses–the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil–his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.” Is his guy dense or so full of himself that he simply cannot help it? God’s Prophet is not so stupid and he goes to Hezekiah and asks, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?” Hezekiah responds, “They came from Babylon!” The king of Babylon heard of Hezekiah’s illness and sent letters and a gift. The Babylonian king also wanted to learn more about the miraculous sign of the shadow moving backward (2 Chron. 32:31). In addition he probably was trying to enlist Hezekiah’s help in resisting Assyria or how well defended Israel was. They now knew how rich this little nation was; a prize for the picking. The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?” “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.” Hezekiah was focused not on how God had blessed him but on what he thought he had accomplished; including his healing. Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood that will be born to you will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” We learn that “Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 32:25 NIV) Hezekiah referred to his blessings as “my treasures”. Hezekiah’s heart was prone to sinful pride. God had made Hezekiah successful in everything he did because of his devotion to the Lord. Yet Hezekiah failed to attribute all of this to the Lord. Thus the Lord’s wrath was on him because of his sinful pride.

EXAMPLE: Did Hezekiah weep again? Did he seek God’s face? Nope. He pragmatically responds, “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” for he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” Hezekiah’s response can be understood in three possible ways. Perhaps he was being smug and self-serving. Or, he was praying the disaster would be delayed as long as possible. Or, he accepted the inevitability of judgment but was grateful it would not come until after his death. The last response seems to fit the king’s character. Though Hezekiah’s motives may not have been totally pure, he did humbly accept the Lord’s correction of his pride. Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the LORD’s wrath did not come upon them during the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:26 NIV)”

Conclusion:

Instead of remaining humble and grateful to God, Hezekiah became filled with pride and focused on his possessions and his prestige. What occurred with Hezekiah can happen to any of us when we forget that what we enjoy in life is graciously given to us by the Lord God. We learned this in Hezekiah’s healing, Hezekiah’s prayer, and Hezekiah’s pride.
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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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Is there life after death?

Is there life after death?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 8, 2018

I recently watched a TV show called Destination Truth where the show’s host tries to uncover the truth if there is an afterlife or not. He interviewed dozens of folks who had near death experiences. One was a neurosurgeon who had meningitis so bad they gave him less than a 1% survival rate. He was in a near death comma for weeks during which he experienced being in the presence of God, seeing his step sister who had died earlier that he had never met, and other interesting things. Needless to say they also went into the realm of fantasy and spoke with a guy who claims he can speak with the dead and while some of his antics seemed valid most of it could have been just good insights into how people more often than not respond, facial expressions, how individuals carry themselves and some preprogram research on his part. One thing he related over and over again from the dead was that they were “proud of” the person he was speaking with concerning their dead loved one. Kind of a “pat” comment don’t you think because everyone wants to hear their dead loved one is “proud” of them. Needless to say it wasn’t impressive at all. All of this to simply say, “Well, DUH!”

Not only does the Old Testament teach us about an afterlife but Jesus spoke more about this subject than almost anything else. And the program never spoke with individuals who experienced horror, torment, or dread when they had a near death experience, and there are many who have.

One of my favorite verses is when Jesus related, “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)” The idea here is not one of property but of making room for those he loves. I believe it to be absolutely to be true because of what Jesus did: he died, was buried, and then was resurrected and returned to heaven publicly. While other faiths speak about reincarnation, heaven, hell, and other mystical or spiritual things concerning death only Jesus spoke of it matter-of-factly and absolutely being true. Those who would not believe in him as the messiah, God’s answer for mankind’s sin condition, there was another eternal abode not as nice. In fact those who trust him have nothing to fear in death but those who have not certainly do: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NIV)” Jesus spoke about a final judgment of all people: “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50 NIV)” and that “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 NIV)”

Contrary to what the world would have you believe “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NIV).” There are not many ways to heaven or the presence of God, only one. But doesn’t this fly in the face of Jesus’ universal love of everyone? Nope. He expressly taught: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies (John 11:25 NIV)” and that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” In other words my dear bucko there is only one way to the presence of the God of all creation and that is by believing in Jesus as the Messiah!

Jesus is not some “ya’all come” kind of guy who winks at our ungodly behavior and then lets us into his presence. He vehemently taught that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:21-24 NIV)” Being nice, religious or spiritual does not matter. Knowing Jesus does.

Interestingly when the TV host interviewed a scientist who is conducting experiments into whether or not our consciousness exists after our death has come up with some startling results. Namely that there is good evidence now that what we know of as a person’s soul, our mind, will, and emotions, certainly do continue after our death! What Jesus taught and what most Christians know to be true has been finally recognized by science. Well, again, DUH!

Now what do these little nuggets of truth have to do with life after death? Well the fact that it is absolutely true but much more than being true one had better be prepared for what happens next after their death. Are you dear reader?
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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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Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22

Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 30, 2018

There are those men and women who look beyond their circumstances in life and see God working right in the midst of every situation. I would like to think that I am such a person but I confess this is not always the case. However in those times when it is difficult for me to see the hand of God working in my life I am reminded of this incident in the life of Elisha and kind of find comfort in how he deals with his servant. The reason I do is because more often than not I am like Elisha’s servant and I need to learn to look with faith.

When the king of Aram sent a large military contingent against Elisha, the prophet did not fear because he saw by faith that God had sent him protection and help. God had provided a large spiritual contingent that was more powerful than even the Aramean army. God protected Elisha when the Aramean king sent his forces to surround Dothan and capture Elisha and in the process taught those around him to look with faith, let’s discover how this morning…

READ: 2 Kings 6:8-22

We need to view every situation in life with faith. God desires us to see him and his resources are always available for every experience in life. This incident recorded in the life of Elisha teaches us that…

I. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! (Vv. 8-12)

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

1. Arameans were sometimes at war and sometimes at peace with Israel during the years of Elisha’s ministry. At the time of this particular incident the Arameans were making profitable surprise raids into Israel. So we are told that “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The dates for these events are not clear. Therefore the names of the kings of Aram and Israel are uncertain. History tells us that Hazael or Ben-Hadad were two possibilities for the king of Aram. Jehoram, who was also called Joram, might have been Israel’s king at the time. Whenever the Arameans set up for such an attack, God would reveal the Aramean’s plans to Elisha. Thus God’s prophet always knew where the Aramean forces were waiting to ambush Israel’s forces, or where they were planning to attack Israel. Then the man of God would tell the king of Israel about the Arameans’ movements and what they planned. Elisha was Israel’s early warning system! “Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.” This failure and frustration “enraged the king of Aram”. He did not recognize God was at work through Elisha’s supernatural knowledge of the Arameans’ troop movements. The Hebrew word translated enraged means “to storm.” The Aramean king’s first reaction was to suspect a traitor among his officers. So he “summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’” One of Aramean officers told his king that no one of the officers was a traitor. The person responsible for leaking information about the king’s raiding plans was Elisha, the prophet in Israel. Elisha could tell the king of Israel even the words the Aramean king spoke in his bedroom! Elisha knew even the innermost secrets of the king! These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

EXAMPLE: These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. Such a conclusion was understandable for surely the king knew about or even had experienced the work of traitors. His conclusion was reasonable and humanly possible. He chose to look at the problem from a human viewpoint and through human reasoning. The king did not know God was working. However, the Aramean servant saw the situation differently. The passages do not explain how or why the servant saw their problem was the result of Elisha’s work. Whether the Aramean was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. His actions teach us that when we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

Whether the Aramean soldier was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. This officer’s actions illustrate the biblical truth of this lesson that seeing life through the eyes of faith is both a choice and God’s gift. In fact we learn that…

II. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! (Vv. 13-17)

“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

1. To his credit the Aramean king believed his officer and ordered all of his officers to go into Israel and see where Elisha was. The king began making plans to capture the prophet. This Aramean king was another of many kings who tried to silence prophecy that was not in their favor. After a period of time a report came to the king that Elisha was in Dothan, a city about 12 miles south of Israel’s capital city of Samaria. “Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.” The “strong army” translates a Hebrew word meaning “strength” like the strength of an army. The king sent a powerful military force to capture one scruffy man of God. “They went by night and surrounded the city.” By sending them at night, the king thought they could slip up on Elisha. The forces moved to encircle Dothan to keep Elisha from escaping. The king was still looking at the situation only through physical sight and reasoning through human reason. He did not factor God into the situation at all. Elisha’s servant was the first to report their situation. In a panic he rushed to Elisha and said, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The Aramean king wasn’t the only one looking at the situation through human eyes, so was Elisha’s servant. The servant’s exclamation “Oh” can mean “Oh, no!” Seeing the enemy forces all around them, the servant could only react in hopelessness and fear. He was looking through eyes of human sight and not of spiritual faith. He saw only the overwhelming enemy, not the more than adequate resources of help available from God. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” “Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Where the servant only saw the enemy’s mighty forces, Elisha saw God’s mightier forces. Both forces were there but God’s were stronger. God answered His prophet’s prayer, and the servant was able to see the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. The servant needed his eyes of faith opened so he could see God’s protecting presence. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

EXAMPLE: Enemy troops really did surround Dothan, which frightened the servant. But Elisha was right. God’s protecting forces really did surround Elisha and Dothan as well. Both were acting realistically. The servant either didn’t know or had forgotten that God is always present with his people; just like we can when we are in the midst of life’s circumstances. The servant needed to stop looking at situations with human sight alone. The psalmist said, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalms 34:7 NIV). When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

Looking through the lenses God provides requires that we walk with him by faith. We cannot always we see the outcome but we can always rest assured God has our back and desires the best for our lives. In fact we discover that…

III. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working! (Vv. 18-22)

As the enemy came down toward him, “Elisha prayed to the LORD, Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria. After they entered the city, Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.”

1. We discover this must have been a firsthand account because of the detailed personal information given. We learn that “As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’” Elisha and Israel did not have a great army nor did they have the resources to wage an ongoing campaign, all they had was their dependence on the Lord. That was enough and in fact more than they needed because God held the victory. “So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.” Think of a situation in which you had difficulty seeing any evidence God was at work. Did you eventually believe He was at work? How can that experience help you begin to view each situation today with faith? After God answered Elijah’s prayer to strike the Arameans blind, Elisha led these sightless soldiers the 12 miles from Dothan into the heart of Samaria. “Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ On entering Samaria, Elisha prayed again. This time he asked God to open the eyes of the men of Aram so they could see. When their sight returned, they saw “they were inside Samaria”! This city was encircled with a defensive wall. The Aramean military force was surrounded by Israel’s forces and enclosed within Samaria’s walls. And he led them to Samaria.” Seeing his enemy helpless before him the Israelite King asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” Calling him this showed his respect for Elisha and he could have had the soldiers released, enslaved or killed. Yet this was not the King’s victory, it was the Lord’s! Elisha’s answer revealed the prophet (and God) had other plans for the Aramean forces. Elisha wanted to show mercy to them, not vengeance. Also, he wanted to make the point both to the king of Aram and the king of Israel that God’s horses and chariots of fire had captured and defeated the enemy. Elisha wanted the Israelites and the Arameans to see the hand of God in the situation. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

EXAMPLE: Instead of having the enemy soldiers killed, the prophet instructed the king of Israel to prepare a great feast for the conquered forces (v. 23). After the feast was over, Elisha instructed Israel’s king to release the captives and allow them to return to their master; his instructions to refrain from killing them and to feed them and let them go free was a demonstration of God’s mercy. Showing mercy and offering forgiveness are expressions of God’s nature and reveal what He prefers to extend to all people. Elisha wanted God to receive the glory for what had happened and his actions teach us that when we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

Conclusion:

When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!
—-
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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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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