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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 Incarnation! – John 1:14-18

The Incarnation! – John 1:14-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 14, 2014

Joan Rivers made no apologies for all the plastic surgeries she had over the years. Sometimes we can look in the mirror and not like what we see. When you look in the mirror what do you see? What do you think it would feel like to be a different person? Vernon Grounds writes that “You will never know. You may modify your body by exercise and diet. You may change your mind and your behavior. You may even resort to surgery. But you and I will forever be the unique individuals God created us to be. Regardless of how much we may try, we can’t actually experience what it is to be another person.” He continues by relating, “What was it like, then, for God to take on our human nature and live as a man who was despised and misunderstood on this fallen planet? He already knew exactly what sinful people go through. After all, He is all-knowing. Yet He voluntarily came… That’s what the incarnation is all about.”

Yet, how does a holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God actively enter into his creation that is now tainted by sin to become one of his own? It is hard for our mind to wrap itself around and this is exactly why God knew he was going to enter into our world the way he did, through his son Jesus. We have a habit of using words that some call “churchy.” Incarnation is such a word, but it means exactly what I just said. A holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God entered actively into his creation to cleanse it from its sin condition. John writes to us about the incarnation; let’s discover what John writes about it and what it means for our lives…

READ: John 1:14-18

How can human beings become the children of God? LDS falsely teach there was a pre-existence, or a pre-mortal life, in which human spirits were literal children of heavenly parents. Earth was created as a testing ground. The doctrine of eternal progression was succinctly summarized by LDS Church leader Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” This totally against biblical teaching; Scripture teaches us that there is one God, he created all things, and sin entered the world through mankind’s disobedience. However, God had a plan and John gives us that plan through…

I. The summation of the incarnation! (Vv. 14-15)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”
1. God’s plan was truly simple, magnificently beautiful, and wonderfully wise. John writes, “The Word became flesh.” This should cause any rational person to pause and ponder at the magnitude of what God did. The Messiah, the eternal Word became one of us! Flesh in the physical sense not in the sinful weak worldly ungodliness of human existence. He did not simply appear, nor did he come floating down on the wings of his angels; rather, he entered into existence by making his “dwelling among us.” He literally pitched his tent within our camp! John could testify to this fact because he had seen it for himself, “We have seen his glory!” John was an eyewitness to the Word becoming flesh. He walked with Jesus, he ate with him, and he slept near the same campfire as the Messiah! The messenger of God told Joseph, Jesus’ adopted papa to “not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins… ‘and they will call him Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us.’ (Matthew 1:20-21, 23 NIV)” John was witness to “the glory of the One and Only” and would later write, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1 NIV)” Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace (mercy) and truth (the gospel).” John the Baptist also testified concerning who Jesus was by crying out in the wilderness, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” John the Baptist knew his place in the plan of God. He would state, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. (Mark 1:7 NIV)” Jesus would ask the crowds, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind… I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he… For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. (Matthew 11:7, 11, 13 NIV)” John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the summation of the incarnation!
EXAMPLE: I watched an old western the other day and in it they had to send out scouts to see where the enemy was. A scout was sent, at the risk of his own life, into enemy territory so he could get an idea of what the enemy was up to. John the Baptist’s entire life was one of being a scout in enemy territory. John was aware of not only who the enemy was but who he was scouting for. “John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.”’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Luke 3:7-8 NIV)” He told the questioning crowds, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16 NIV)” John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the summation of the incarnation!

No one knew God before Jesus because he was unknowable. Paul would say, “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him–to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 NIV)” John teaches us about…

II. The revelation of the incarnation! (Vv. 16-18)
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
1. John knew from what Jesus has done for all mankind that “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” Jesus is the source of God’s mercy and love and we will learn that he loved the world so much that he willingly sent his son for our salvation! What many do not understand is that the entire creation has received the grace of God, “one blessing after another”, because of Jesus, but those who receive him as Savior and Lord receive the ultimate grace of God, Jesus and an abundant life in him! Literally “grace in place of grace.” The Christian life is one that is continually blessed with the grace of God because of Christ! Paul would write that God “chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV)” In fact it was God’s plan that “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)” God pours his grace on us because of Jesus! Like Paul, John knew that what the old law of Moses could never do, Jesus did! “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The Law of Moses could only continually condemn folks because once the sacrifice was made by the human priest for sin, sinful man turns around and sins! This is why Paul would write, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4 NIV)” Only God could do this because only God is holy and all powerful to do so! Jesus, being God did it! John reminds us, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” John reminds us of the revelation of the incarnation!
EXAMPLE: When a magician does a magic trick behind a curtain he often has someone throw back the curtain to reveal what has occurred. The curtain of God was torn away in the temple because of what Jesus did for all mankind. Because of Jesus we have free access behind the curtain! Viola, God has torn back the curtain through his Son Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins! We no longer live in the darkness because the light of God has revealed all the hidden spaces and shown us the way of salvation through the blood of Christ! John reminds us of the revelation of the incarnation!

Conclusion:

We have looked at the summation of the incarnation and the revelation of the incarnation, now what will you decide to do with this information?

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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The Judged Life! — James 2:11-13

The Judged Life! — James 2:11-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 1, 2014

We do not like to be judged by others, but we are no matter if we like it or not. We can declare, “Don’t you dare judge me!” but folks immediately do, especially if we say such a thing because they immediately think we have something in our life to hide that we should be judged for! As a pastor I have heard folks whine, “Judge not least ye be judged!” thinking that by doing so they have scored a self-righteous advantage, yet failing because Jesus went on to declare, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2 NIV), meaning that if one truly judges by God’s standards and not their own self-righteousness, they can indeed weigh in balance a fellow believer’s ungodly life. That’s why you are to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) In fact, Jesus and the rest of Scripture goes on to relate that believers will indeed be judged and held accountable to a higher standard than the world. We live a judged life and it is time for us to grow up and act like it.

Remember James just got through telling us, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” And now he continues his teaching by relating to us just what he means. James was well aware there would be some who would tend to dismiss their offense of prejudice as trivial. Kind of like some do when they think they can sin in other areas of life and God won’t care. They would hardly consider themselves as actual sinners and can justify their ungodly actions with some of the lamest excuses: I deserve this! Everyone else is doing it! It’s my life! God doesn’t care if I do this one thing! However, James went on to make it clear that any sin is no small thing that can be easily dismissed, and, whether we like it or not, as believers we live a judged life! Let’s find out what James teaches us this morning…

READ: James 2:11-13

Toddlers like to play the game Hide-and-Seek! They will put their hands in front of their eyes or place a favorite blanket over their heads, and declare, “You can’t see me!” Of course we can. Sadly, this is the very same thing some Christians do with God. They try to play a silly game of sinner’s hide-and-seek with the Lord and their lifestyle, thinking that if they just ignore their sin, God will to! James teaches us that in the judged life…

I. Any sin is sin and will be judged! (v. 11)

For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:11 NIV)

1. Not every sin is the same. Certainly the sin of unbelief will be judged harsher, especially when we know we should come to faith and yet reject it simply because we do not want to change our ungodly lifestyle! Jesus taught, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men (even believers), but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:30-31 NIV) Why? Because, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (Jesus) will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit (those who hear but refuse the Spirit’s voice) will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32 NIV) That is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, whose sacred work is to draw us to God and Christ! And we know that the sin of deliberately trying to get believers to sin carries a heavy judgment, Jesus related in fact that “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck!” (Mark 9:42 NIV) However, James understood that there are Christians who actually think they can get away with their sin and God will not judge it. They have forgotten that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 NIV) Paul admonished his readers, “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:34 NIV) John wrote, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” And, that “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:4, 6 NIV) This is why James related, “For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” (James 2:11 NIV) In other words, any sin is sin and will be judged by God!
EXAMPLE: When we had the Youth Car Wash a man drove in with an old battered pickup truck. It was a construction rig he used on his job and he saw we were doing a car wash, so he thought, “Why not?” The girls and I scrubbed as hard as we could and rinsed it real good trying to make sure we got as much of it as clean as we possibly could. However, no matter how hard we tried there were places on that pickup that just would not come clean. They were not dirty but rather they were where someone had spilled oil or gasoline on the paint and no matter how hard we scrubbed, the oil spot would still be evident. He chuckled when I remarked to him, “The past sins of your work have found you out.” That’s the way it is when we try to hide our sins or when we try to ignore them. We cannot wash them away ourselves or try to paint over them, only Jesus’ sacrifice cleanses us completely. If we sin, we must remember that any sin is sin and will be judged by God!

So, what’s the answer? If any sin is sin and will be judged by God, how do we escape being judged? Do we keep on sinning; hoping God will look the other way? Do we every day and every way try to get better and better? Do we use the same excuse the foolish fisherman did who was in a leaking boat, ignore the holes and water gushing in, but kept madly rowing for shore, yelling, “I’m paddling as hard as I can!”? James writes that the judged life realizes that…

II. If we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord! (Vv. 12-13)

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:12-13 NIV)

1. We do not like it when we are asked to do something we do not want to do, but this should not be the case for the Christian who loves the Lord and is asked to follow him! It should be a delight and joy because we know that God only has the best planned for our lives if we simply follow his lead! God told the prophet Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) We try so hard to outguess God when it comes to what he has in store for our lives, thinking that we know so much better than the one who created us in the first place! What utter arrogance! He has told us over and over, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways!” (Isaiah 55:8) and we forget that God continued by promising that if his people obeyed him and followed him that “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands!” (Isaiah 55:12 NIV) Wow! Now I do not know about you, but if God describes the promise of following him in this way, don’t you think it is worthwhile to do so? Perhaps you have forgotten that “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved!” (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV) James had not forgotten. This is why he reminds us to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom”! However, we should not, as Paul reminds us, use our “freedom to indulge the sinful nature”! (Galatians 5:13) We should love God so much that our lives reflect whom we follow. We are to abide in Christ; follow him so much that we might escape the corruption of this world! (2 Peter 1:4) Peter would encourage that it is “For this very reason” we as Christians should “make every effort to add to (our) faith goodness… knowledge… self-control… perseverance… godliness… brotherly kindness; and… love.” Peter knew “if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV) Consistent obedience is required if spiritual maturity is to be attained! We are judged by God and “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” Yet, the wonderful truth is that God’s “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” If we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord!
EXAMPLE: Books on leadership often appear on best-seller lists. Most of them tell how to become a powerful and effective leader. But Henri Nouwen’s book “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership” is written from a different perspective. The former university professor who spent many years serving in a community of developmentally disabled adults says: “The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?” There’s the real question that often goes unanswered. If we do not want others around us judging our faith; if we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord!

Conclusion:

James teaches us very succinctly that any sin is sin and it will be judged! If we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord!

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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Fourth Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled! – Luke 2:1-20

Fourth Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled! – Luke 2:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 22, 2013 AM

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

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

READ: Luke 2:1-20

We discover that the love of God was fulfilled when…

I. God’s timing was just right! (Vv. 1-7)
1. We often mark important events by what occurs in the world around us and Luke does this as well. He remarks that, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The Savior of the world’s birth is marked by what occurred in the world at that time, a government census. We know that Caesar Augustus was made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 BC and ruled to 14 AD and because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 BC, Jesus was probably born before that time. In fact, “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” However, the word translated “first” probably should be more correctly translated “before”, which it often is, Quirinius was governor which fits the timeline. During these kinds of tax censuses, “everyone went to his own town to register.” And, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Bethlehem was David’s ancestral home because he was a descendent of King David. “He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Both Joseph and Mary knew the importance of her pregnancy. She was carrying the Messiah, and so Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. The couple knew she would have her child during the time Joseph was gone, and they most likely did not want to be separated during the event. And, since they knew that the baby was the Messiah, they would have known the prophecy of Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. While unsuspecting Caesars and government officials had no clue about how their edicts would affect the lives of the most important couple in the world, God used them for His perfect plan. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!
EXAMPLE: Timing is everything, or so they say. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV) Joe Stowell, for the Radio Bible Class, writes, “A quick look at history reveals that the coming of Christ was at just the right time. Centuries earlier, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, bringing with him the Greek culture and language. On the heels of his demise, the Roman Empire picked up where Alexander left off and expanded the territory under the unifying influence of the culture and language of the Greeks. It was under Roman rule that the crucifixion took place, where the blood of Christ was shed for us. It was under the rule of Rome that conditions were made ready for the spread of the gospel across three continents: good roads, territorial boundaries free of “passport” restrictions, and a unifying language. The providence of God had put all the pieces in place for the perfect time to send His Son. God’s timing is perfect in everything.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

Luke shares that the love of God was fulfilled when…

II. God’s announcement was given! (Vv. 8-14)
1. What kings, Caesars, and governors cared about most was of no concern for God. In fact, God often uses the small things and the insignificant people to declare His ways and purposes. And here we discover “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Those who were considered the outcasts from their own society, because they worked with animals by touching them, feeding them, and caring for them, the shepherds are the common folk God announces the birth of His son. God goes to these “least in the kingdom” first to proclaim the birth of His Son. Imagine being one of these lowly folks, tending your flock, and suddenly God’s messenger suddenly comes to where you are in the fields. Luke writes that, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Isn’t it interesting that God chose to go to these who raised the lambs to be sacrificed in the temple to disclose the birth of the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed? The first words of God’s messenger would be the words His Son would often use: “Do not be afraid.” God’s angel brings them “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news of great joy was not just for the Hebrew nation but also for all people everywhere! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” The Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God! The shepherds would know what the angel declared to be true because they are given specific instructions on what they will find and how they will find him, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” A feeding trough would be the bed of the Savior and the simple dressings of a newborn would be his regal robe! Before the shepherds could completely digest what they have been told, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!
EXAMPLE: During Boy Scouts we used to sing the Announcements Song, it was to the tunes of Row Row Your Boat, What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor, Frères Jacques’, Have You Ever Seen a Lassie, and London Bridge. The ending was “Announcements, announcements, announcements! We’ve got a silly cheer, which you’ve just got to hear! It makes no sense we’re sure you know; the announcements have to GO!” However, not all announcements are bad or boring. Wedding announcements, birth announcements, and announcements of achievement are ones that tell us of joyous occasions that we should celebrate! The announcement given to shepherds long ago certainly wasn’t boring or bad; it was good news of great joy! The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

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

III. God’s good news was shared! (Vv. 15-20)
1. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those simple shepherds? Surprise, yes, shock, certainly, and perhaps some incredulity or astonished skepticism! What’s a shepherd supposed to do with this kind of news? Luke relates, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Being the down-to-earth men they were known to be, they decide to go and see for themselves if what the angelic messengers spoke and sang about was true or not! “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Isn’t it interesting that neither the people’s chief priests, the teachers of the law, nor the great Herod himself had enough faith to go themselves, but these men do! I can just imagine that when they came to where the child and his parents were, they were even more humbled. They find everything exactly as the angel said it would be. And so, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” In the midst of this wonderful story is a simple truth of a mother’s heart, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While potentates schemed, Wisemen wondered, and shepherds saw for themselves; a mother ponders what it all means for the future of her child. Of all the mothers of Israel, she was the one who gave birth to the Messiah! Meanwhile, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!
EXAMPLE: Joe Stowell again for the Radio Bible Class writes, “I love the YouTube video of people in a food court of a mall, who in the midst of their ordinary lives were suddenly interrupted by someone who stood up and boldly began singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” To the surprise of everyone, another person got up and joined the chorus, and then another, and another. Soon the food court was resounding with the celebrative harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers.” He continues, “Every time I watch that video, it moves me to tears. It reminds me that bringing the glory of God into the ordinary situations of our world through the beautiful harmonies of Christlikeness is exactly what we are called to do. Think of intentionally interjecting God’s grace into a situation where some undeserving soul needs a second chance; of sharing the love of Christ with someone who is needy; of being the hands of Jesus that lift up a weary friend; or of bringing peace to a confusing and chaotic situation.” The same is true for those shepherds so long ago, for them the love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

Conclusion:

The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right, when God’s announcement was given, and when God’s good news was shared!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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2 John – Walking in the truth of God’s love!

2 John – Walking in the truth of God’s love!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 9, 2013 AM

In some cultures, the elderly are venerated and are respected for their wisdom and long life. When I was younger, I thought all older adults were wise, moral, and never made mistakes. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not all senior adults were wise, very moral, and in fact had wasted their lives in ungodly living! I discovered this to be true from a great uncle who drank like a fish, swore like a merchant marine, and no one liked him because of his constant anger. Yet, there are wonderful truths we can learn from godly senior adults in our church. We should listen to those among us who are older that exhibit a holy lifestyle. They can teach us a lot about walking in the truth of God’s love!

The little letter of John that we will look at today is one of the shortest letters in the Bible, containing only 245 words in the Greek text. History, tradition, and the wording itself give testimony that it was probably written by John, the apostle. Unlike his first larger letter, this “postcard” is more of a short notice to the church in order to encourage them, however, it follows the same theme of John where he writes, “I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.” (1 John 2:7 NIV) It is the theme of walking in the truth of God’s love! Let’s discover what he writes…

READ: 2 John

There are many philosophies in the world today but there is only one that is true. There cannot be many “truths” just as there cannot be many ways to figure one plus one equaling anything but two! While there are those who want to have a smorgasbord for their theology, there can only be one that is correct. John teaches us that…

I. Christians are to walk in the truth of God’s love! (Vv. 1-4)

  1. John, the elder – the old man, was writing to “the chosen lady and her children,” whom he “loved.” They were dear to him because he had invested so much of his life and effort to bring them the truth of the gospel. He desired that they know that it was not just him alone, “but also all who know the truth” who cared for them. And this is the way it should be in the church of Christ. The reason was obvious to John, “because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever!” The key words here are “truth” and “love.” Daniel Akin writes, “If love would appeal to the hearts, then truth would appeal to their minds.” (New American Commentary) And this is the heart of this lovely letter, God’s truth and His love. In our day and age, we place far too much emphasis on the emotionalism of God’s love than the reality of His eternal truth. Both mattered to John. The gospel truth lives in us as a community of believers and stays with us eternally as well! The gospel truth is the foundation that gives meaning to God’s expression of love! This is why John immediately tells them, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” John, I believe, deliberately bracketed his theme with these two words of “truth and love”. Notice too, what gave John pleasure, he writes, “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” Nothing gives a pastor or spiritual mentor greater joy than to know those they have labored in love over are walking with the Lord. The Bible Knowledge Commentary relates, “Christian love is by no means mere sentimentalism or humanistic compassion, but is motivated by knowledge of the truth which has been revealed in Christ.” It is this “gospel” truth that is the basis of Christian love. It is precisely this truth that the “Body of Christ” must be careful to guard. To maintain a healthy fellowship, the local church and its individual members must remain faithful to the truth of the gospel without compromise; Christians are to walk in the truth of God’s love!

  EXAMPLE: Pontius Pilate stood before Jesus the entire embodiment and culmination of God’s truth and asked, “What is truth?” Jesus had already bluntly told those who would follow Him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) We live in a day and age where folks say they want the truth, but do everything in their power not to come to the truth. Will Smith has always denied being a member of the Church of Scientology. He has, however, publicly praised some of the philosophies, and that’s led to speculation he might be a secret Scientologist. Marc Headley, who left the church in 2005, went to see Smith’s recent movie After Earth and wrote a review linking many of the film’s ideas to Scientology’s teachings. He connects the film’s central philosophy, “danger is real, fear is a choice” to Scientology. Headley wrote, “Through Scientology, one is supposed to ‘rid oneself of your fears.” Just because famous folks like Will Smith, Christie Alley, Tom Cruise or John Travolta maybe Scientologists does not make it true or something to base one’s life. Christians are to walk in the truth of God’s love!

It is easy to say you believe something, but a lot more difficult to put your life on the line and trust it completely. We all might believe jets can fly but it is a whole different matter to get on one and fly somewhere! The same is true for our faith. If we say we “love the gospel” then John writes…

II. Christians are to be obedient to the command of God’s love! (Vv. 5-6)

  1. John continues by addressing the church concerning why he is writing them, “And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning.” We know it is the early church he is writing because earlier he had said that they were the “chosen lady and her children.” Many think that perhaps John was writing in coded words because of the persecution of believers that had begun. What exactly is this “command” he wanted to remind them of, specifically he writes, “I ask that we love one another.” John knew this truth, because he had experienced it firsthand when he had walked daily with Jesus that love was more than an emotional response for the believer. If they were walking in the truth of the gospel, they needed to be certain they were also walking in the love of the gospel! The truth of the gospel is Jesus and the love of the gospel is its message! But what does it mean to “love one another”? The test of our love to God is our universal obedience to His command, and we need to absolutely maintain this love, for there are many lies and untruths concerning God’s love in the world. It is not realized simply by doing good things, it is not found in shallow emotional outbursts, nor is it spiritually realized through a sense of our own holiness in contemplating our bellybuttons. He told His followers that the world will know we are the disciples of Jesus when we show the world the love of Jesus through our lives. His love is outwardly active and sacrificial, not inner and introspective. Obedience to it demands a high price from the individual and this is why John was so excited to hear they were in fact, walking in the love of God. The first disciples gave their very lives for its message, but willingly lived every moment of their lives doing it! I believe that the world today needs to not only reaffirm Jesus’ message but also adhere to His command of love. Christians are to be obedient to the command of God’s love!

  EXAMPLE: My mother used to get truly frustrated with my brother Ed when he would promise over and over to clean his side of the room, but always found some excuse not to do his chore. One afternoon he came home to find all of his things piled in a heap on the floor. He was incredulous and angered. When you say you will do something but you do not follow through, what does that say about you? As we have all heard many times, “Actions speak louder than words.” Many folks claim to be “Christian” but it requires more than mere acknowledgement. Living in the love of God is more than fuzzy feelings, believing in angels, or goodness for goodness sake. It requires one’s obedience to the commands of Christ to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 NIV) John did not write “you a new command but one we have had from the beginning… that we love one another!” Knowing about Jesus is one thing, but Christians are to be obedient to the command of God’s love!

There are those who think that Christianity is a religion of compromise. They get this false premise from Jesus teaching us to “turn the other cheek.” He never meant forsaking what you believe to get along. This is why John would write in concerning the love of God…

III. Christians are to protect the gospel of God’s love! (Vv. 7-13)

  1. We are to walk in the truth of the gospel and live the command of love in our lives. The reason for John was obvious because there are those who subvert the faith, denying the person or the work of Jesus Christ. John said, “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world.” In fact, “Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” John had told the church through an earlier letter, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 NIV) The church today not only does not “test the spirits” they do not know how to do so nor do they understand why we should do so! We have swallowed the politically correct lie that above all else, we must get along, even to the detriment of the gospel! It is disgusting what ungodliness Christians try to excuse by a selfish misuse of God’s love. Some fail to understand that they have become “antichrist” in their adherence to humanistic false doctrines. John warns, “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.” And to the horror of our modern day thinking John bluntly retorts, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God!” However, “whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” Jude would warn that while we were to “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear”, we were to hate “even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh!” (Jude 1:22-23 NIV) John also sternly warned them that, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.” In our anything goes society, we wonder why this was so important for John. The spiritual truth is this: “Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work!” When a Christian allows ungodliness into their lives, they are tacitly acquiescing the teaching of Jesus! John equates that supposed “Christian” as an “antichrist”! Christians are to protect the gospel of God’s love!

  EXAMPLE: Recently we have heard about how the military, particularly the Air Force, is systematically erasing all mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible from its murals, statues, paintings, and mottos. It is an ungodly revision of our national history. The Air Force is doing this because one atheistic group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. They had an inspirational painting that referenced a Bible verse removed from a dining hall at Mountain Home Air Force Base, calling the painting “repugnant” and an “overt display of Christian nationalism.” What is truly repugnant is the fact that while many have voiced their concerns, few have called or written the Air Force to tell them how repugnant it is to not only our national heritage but to those brave men and women who fought for religious freedom of expression to have their faith wiped from the public arena. I believe it is time for Christians to protect the gospel of God’s love!

Conclusion:

Christians are to walk in the truth of God’s love; Christians are to be obedient to the command of God’s love; and Christians are to protect the gospel of God’s love!

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

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering, the love of God, what does it mean to you? Not that God loved you, but that you love God. You know what I mean, like my friend, who is diagnosed with cancer and may only have a few months, yet there he is at church and Sunday school, loving God. Then there is the young single mother I know who makes sure she gets up early on Sundays, gets her boys ready and there she is in church, loving God. Or the elderly woman who lost her husband, but she gladly tithes every Sunday and always sings at the top of her lungs, loving God. How do you love God? Makes one wonder…

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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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Hebrews 11:1-6 – What Is Faith?

Hebrews 11:1-6 – What Is Faith?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December  9, 2012 AM

What is faith? Is it a feeling, an emotional response, or the intellectual exercise of one’s will to decide to believe in something based on the evidence no matter what others say? Webster’s Dictionary states that it is defined as, “allegiance to duty or a person, loyalty, fidelity to one’s promises, sincerity of intentions, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, something that is believed especially with strong conviction, or belief and trust in and loyalty to God.”

The author of Hebrews gives us a definition of what faith is and then he spends the rest of this chapter in giving us examples of what faith meant for specific people. As we look at what he wrote and why, it should make us think about what our faith means to us.

READ: Hebrews 11:1-6

What in life are you certain of, that you know without a doubt you can depend upon? We can absolutely depend in life upon very few people let alone things. Human nature predisposes that at some point we will let one another down in some way. And material things in life are not made to last. In fact, many things are made with built in obsolescence. The Book of Hebrews gives us a wonderful promise then when he writes that…

I. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see! (Vv. 1-3)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

1. The author had just concluded the previous section by reminding us that God states, “But my righteous one will live by faith.” So, this section is a call for those “righteous ones” to live by faith and he defines this faith. If we are to live by faith, what is this faith he desires we live by? He shares three fundamental ideals concerning faith: It is “being sure of what we hope for,” it is being “certain of what we do not see,” and it is “what the ancients were commended for”! Faith is not some societal definition of moral virtue, it is not something you can necessarily see, nor can it always be grasped intellectually or physically. It is not defined by a person’s acts of will, but a person will definitely act on their faith! We cannot see God’s grace but we can experience it for ourselves. The sacrificial act of trusting our lives to God’s promise through his Son, Jesus Christ, assures us peace with him and eternal life. (John 1:12-13, 3:16) When we trust God, whom we cannot see, he promises us eternity! Jesus gave us his life as atonement for our sin, and we give back to him our lives by faith in his sacrifice! The ancients could not see the outcome of their faith, just as often we cannot either, but we like them can live by our trust in what God has promised! In fact, we see the outcome of God’s plan in the creation all around us, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” This is why the apostle Paul would dramatically write, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV) We may not be sure of nor perhaps understand how all things were made, but we can certainly be certain that they were indeed made by the hand of God, if we do not we are without excuse! Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see!

EXAMPLE: We cannot actually see the love someone has for us, but we can experience it. We experience their love for us as they demonstrate it to us through their lives. This is why Paul would write, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV) I will never forget how one Christmas I wanted a Lionel train set. It was way more than my father could afford and I did not really expect one. Imagine my surprise when I went out to the tree that year on Christmas Day and there set up around the tree was the Lionel train chugging around the tree! However, more than the train set, I will always remember the look on my father’s face when he saw how excited and incredulous I was that the train was really mine. All I can say is, he radiated his love for me that day, I knew without a doubt he loved me. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see!

I grew up in a faith where we were taught that we never knew if were good enough to please God with our lives. It was a constant striving for personal perfection and attempting to do just one more thing in order for God to be pleased with our lives. Can you imagine what it meant then when I discovered that God already loved me so much he sent his own son to die for me and that all I needed to do is respond by faith? Hebrews reinforces the fact that…

II. Without faith, it is impossible to please God! (Vv. 4-6)

“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

1. How do we know when a person has faith? Can we look them in the eye? Can we see it in the color of their skin, the set of their jib, or in the new way they walk? Sometimes, bringing up the past helps us to see the present better. Now I am not suggesting that we nag one another about things we did in the past, but rather here, the author does so for a purpose. The author proceeds with examples of faith, and begins with Abel. The superiority of Abel’s sacrifice to Cain’s lay both in the substance and in the style of it; one was offered willingly and the other only for show; one was offered in faith and the other in pride. This is why, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” Cain plotted, schemed, and planned his “sacrifice” and the ultimate murder of his brother Abel! Planning to do “good things” for God in order to be given kudos or be recognized for it is the outcome of personal pride and not an example of faith. Hebrews then moves on to Enoch, who offers us even a better example of faith: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.” One verse, Genesis 5:24, relates the story of a godly man named Enoch. It is said that, “Enoch walked with God” and then because God loved Enoch’s faith, “he was no more, because God took him away.” It was because of his trust and confidence in God that Enoch walked with God, even before there was the Mosaic Law! “For, before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” God cannot be pleased in someone who has no confidence in him! “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” You see, without faith, it is impossible to please God!

EXAMPLE: The believer’s motto should be the same as Paul’s when he wrote, “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV) Paul knew without a doubt that God loved him and was pleased with his life. In a day and age where so many walk around with insecurity problems and have to focus their entire existence on themselves in order to feel good enough about themselves, it is wonderful to realize that God focuses on our faith and not on ourselves! Hebrews related that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them!” (Hebrews 7:25 NIV) Today, remember the true meaning of Jesus’ birth, that God so loved us that he sent us his son, that if we simply believed in him we would be saved. God is pleased with our faith and without faith, it is impossible to please God!

Conclusion:
We discovered for ourselves two important truths concerning faith: Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, and without faith, it is impossible to please God!

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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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