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Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4

Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 26, 2017

A child rebelling is as old as well couples having children. Some think that it is worse today than years ago, but it probably isn’t it just may seem that way. However, there has become a shift in how children are disciplined. The issue is not in whether a parent spanks or not but rather in the teaching that there are consequences for one’s actions. Consistency in parenting has degraded in our society and it has infected the school system as well. There are actually folks who think it is harmful to tell a child “no” or to hold them accountable for their behavior. This is simply not true nor is it emotionally healthy for the child to not know their boundaries.

When we look into the pages of Scripture we can sometimes be hard pressed to find good examples of parenting yet we do discover some of the best advice for raising healthy, emotionally stable, and spiritually sound children. And here in Ephesians Paul gives great advice to both parents and children; let’s discover what he writes…

READ: Ephesians 6:1-4

No one likes to have to do what they are told all of the time. It is part of our sin nature to rebel when we are told what to do because we would rather do whatever we want when we want. However this simply isn’t possible nor is it mature. In his instructions to the family Paul writes that…

I. Children are to be obedient! (v. 1)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

1. You would think that this little bit of advice from Paul would be straight forward and easy to understand, but in our day and age people have earned doctorates from dissecting, ruminating, and discussing this ad nauseam to the point where may children are left confused, harmed, and unstructured in life. My dad would tell us that while we may not always like what he told us to do we had better always obey what he told us to do! Obedience is the foundation of any society; if you do not believe me then why do we have laws that people are supposed to obey? Paul succinctly states, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Now notice Paul is not speaking to the world in general but to believers. He writes that children are to obey their parents “in the Lord.” What does this mean? While obedience is kind of a foreign word in our nation today we would do well to remember just how important it is. Recently a young man, who was high on cocaine, was breaking into neighborhood homes, which was caught by police was shot and killed. He did not obey what the police told him to do because he was high, caught doing a criminal act, and was trying to get a very real looking toy gun from his waistband; the officers thought it was an actual pistol because it looked genuine and therefore shot him to death. Obedience would have saved this young man’s life. Paul writes that Christian children are to be obedient to their parents in the Lord. Paul meant in their spiritual instruction, in their personal following of God, and in how they respected him. Paul knew if children followed God they would be obedient to their parents. His reasoning was simple: “for this is right”. Paul would write the Colossian Christians, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20 NIV) Pleasing God is our first and foremost duty in life no matter how young or old we are and we learn that in order to do so children are to be obedient!

EXAMPLE: Often when people think of the word obedient they think it means mindless devotion and nothing is further from the truth. I find it interesting that there are those in our day and age who think children know how to respond sexually concerning their individual identity but they are too young to understand right from wrong when it involves religion, diet, smoking, or criminal activity. Children are to obey because children are immature physically, emotionally, and spiritually to understand all the consequences of their actions. Paul knew Children are to be obedient especially in the Lord!

My father would remind us as kids that respect is earned and not simply given. Few in our day understand this concept because many think that they should be respected simply because they breathe the same air as everyone else. This is simply a false notion and Paul teaches us that…

II. Children are to respect their parents! (Vv. 2-3)

“Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

1. Obedience some would say comes from respect however many have forgotten that respect is not simply given, it is earned. Paul writes that his readers were to “Honor your father and mother” a reality that is often misplaced in our day. A life that is not focused on the Lord and filled with the Spirit of God is one that can never understand what real reverence means. Honor in our day and age is hard for a lot of people to give others because we live in such a victim-oriented world. It seems as if there is special kind of sport or enjoyment in tearing down anything or anyone that might have earned our respect or be honored in our world. National heroes, historical figures, and others are torn and ripped apart with great glee. In fact in some arenas if you are not on the side of the worst degenerates, the most despicable of society, or the absolute immoral you are bigoted, racist, or a phobic of some sort and need to rethink your “preconceived colonial” notions. Proverbs teaches us that “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches (people) wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:32-33 NIV) No matter how old we are we are to give honor, deference to our parents. Certainly there are those whose parents may not have been the best sort but Paul is speaking to Christian households here, those who have given themselves to the love and discipline of the Lord Jesus. Paul wrote that this honor is required because it comes from “the first commandment with a promise”. It isn’t the only commandment with a promise from God nor is it the first or primary commandment one is to learn, rather it is the commandment with the promise of God “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” It is understood that obedience fosters self-discipline, which in turn brings stability and longevity in one’s life. In order for our lives to go well and for us to have a life that is long in the Lord we must learn the lesson of Paul that children are to respect their parents!

EXAMPLE: If you have not been in a public school classroom lately I challenge you to go and volunteer for a couple of weeks. Not for just a day or two. Let the class get used to your presence; follow them out to recess, gym, music, and lunch. I think you would come away shocked at the lack of respect, discipline, and focus there is. The one complaint I hear from educators is the lack of support they receive to be able to consistently discipline their students. When there is no consistency kids know it and use it for their own personal gain. Don’t believe me, which parent does a child learn to go to first in order to get what they want? Remember Cain and Able? Respect teaches children to value themselves, others, and their community because they value and abide by specific standards. Children are to respect their parents!

No one likes to be teased to the point where it makes them sad or mad. Teasing someone until they are angry is just plain cruel and the same is true from demanding such high expectations from someone that they can never ever meet. Paul reminds us that…

III. Parents are not to frustrate their children! (v. 4)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

1. Paul wrote in Colossians, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21 NIV) He addresses fathers because they were seen as the head of the household in which the consistency of parental discipline rests. How the peace and structure is often regulated by the mother in the home, fathers are to make sure there is consistency in discipline. People often forget that children first and foremost need structure in their lives. Boundaries give children security and therefore being too harsh or too lenient in rearing children can lead to frustration. So fathers were cautioned by Paul to “not embitter” their “children” with unreasonable demands, petty rules, or useless favoritism. Such actions cause children to become discouraged or angered because they are in constant emotional flux. Consistency in raising children is extremely important and I am reminded of when Paul wrote his friend Timothy “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.  (2 Timothy 3:15 NIV) Timothy’s parents and grandparents were both instrumental in his spiritual maturation and Paul wrote, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV) Training our children in the beautiful things of God is extremely important. Far too many Christian parents live under the false notion that they should allow their children to “decide for themselves” when they get older as to what they believe about God. Where they get this completely ungodly idea is beyond me because by the time a child is an adult it is often too late. And it is a fact that most teens rebel when they go off to college! Paul relates that “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Paul had been trained from his youth that parents were to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) Consistency in discipline is the key and parents are not to frustrate their children!

EXAMPLE: We all laugh at the poor sap who tosses the instructions on how to put something together but anyone who has ever tried to put something together from IKEA knows the importance of following the instructions exactly. Clear and concise instructions are important and in fact this is one of the reasons IKEA has been so successful. They learned that if you had the buyer build their products using easily understood instructions they developed a personal sense of achievement at finishing the project and were very likely to come back and buy more products. The key was using those clear and concise instructions. Frustration occurs when a child does not know what to expect. Parents are not to frustrate their children!

Conclusion:

Children are to be obedient! Children are to respect their parents! Parents are not to frustrate their children!
—-
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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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…

By Pastor Lee Hemen

July 20, 2014

 

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)

 

I have always wondered how bad things have to get before we get it. Here’s what I mean: The Scriptures teach us over and over that we reap what we sow, so, if we are constantly being thwarted in what we are doing, whether it is for fun, sport, or a hobby; perhaps we are reaping what we’ve sown? If we face consistent struggles in what we plan, in what we invest our time, talent, and treasure in, instead of God’s kingdom, what does that say about our willingness to learn from God? I find it amusing and often kind of mystifying how when things go good we tend to think everything is okay dokey with God in what we are doing; even if we know it takes us away from being obedient to him. How can that be? Then, when things go haywire or contrary to our wonderful planning we fail to equate the lousy outcome with reaping what we have sown. God is not mocked no matter how hard we try to justify the outcome. A person reaps what they sow in life. If we continually think we are being blessed when nothing adverse happens, yet ignore the times when God is truly trying to get our attention, we may find that we may not like the final outcome. Perhaps when things are going kind of funky we need to ask the Lord what he is trying to teach us. Perhaps we are reaping what we’ve sown. Makes one wonder…

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Esther 1:1-22 – Obedience and responsibility!

Esther 1:1-22 – Obedience and responsibility!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 7, 2013 AM

The Book of Esther is entitled by the Jews, “the volume of Esther,” or simply “the volume.” In ancient times, it was always written on a separate roll, which was read entirely at the Feast of Purim. The Greek translators retained only “Esther,” which became the ordinary title with Christians. There is much controversy concerning the date of “Esther.” The extreme minuteness of the details and vividness of the portraits in “Esther” suggest it was written by the hand of a contemporary rather than someone who lived long after the events commemorated. The entire tone of the book is in accord with the history, which it narrates, and is not unlike that of Zechariah. Therefore, overall, there is no sufficient ground for placing the composition of Esther later than that of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Esther is the only book of the Bible in which the name of God is not mentioned. The New Testament does not quote from the Book of Esther, nor have copies of it been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Law is never mentioned in the book nor is sacrifices or offerings mentioned. Prayer while possibly inferred is never specifically mentioned in the book either, though fasting is. Both Esther and Mordecai seem to have lacked spiritual awareness except in their assurance that God would protect His people. Esther was written to encourage the returned Jewish exiles by reminding them of the faithfulness of God who would keep His promises to the nation. The author instructs us how the Feast of Purim began. It also teaches us about obedience and responsibility in trusting God no matter what the circumstance.

READ: Esther 1:1-22

Obedience and responsibility are twin pillars of a strong faith. This first chapter in Esther graphically exposes the contrast between King Xerxes who ruled by royal writ and Mordecai who was wise by faith and especially between Queen Vashti who was self-centered and the commoner Esther who we discover is self-sacrificing. Let’s look at the role of…

I. Obedience! (Vv. 1-12)

1. The author gives us a very personal account of what occurs within the confines of the royal court of the time of the Medes and Persians. “This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.” This special occasion was held by the mightiest king of the time. King Xerxes ruled the Persian Empire for 21 years from 485 to 465 BC. He held absolute sway in all things and his orders were to be carried out immediately. This banquet lasted “For a full 180 days” where “he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.” It was a political show for those who were part of his inner circle. However, we discover that “When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa.” No one was left out in order for the King to show off his prowess. The party took place in a beautifully decorated garden, with an abundance of the King’s best wine served in goblets of gold! This was a men’s only event, however, we find that “Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.” And, “On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him… to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at.” The King wanted to use his wife as a trophy, as one of his things to be shown off when he desired. He was not used to being ignored or refused. “But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.” It should not have mattered to Vashti why the King called her; she was to be obedient to the King. When the King calls, you obey!

EXAMPLE: My father expected to be obeyed immediately when he asked us to do something for him. There were no other options. However, we are such ornery people and so obedience comes hard for us. I remember thinking, after my father had asked us to weed the flowerbeds, “He can’t make me!” Of course, he not only could, he did. When King Xerxes gave a command, whether others felt it was justified or not, even if it was for his personal pleasure in order to show off his trophy wife, he expected obedience. Vashti was asked to show up “o’ natural”, so-to-speak, and she was miffed. She refused to obey, forgetting that when the King ordered, he expected obedience. The same is true for our lives in Christ. We may not want to do what He asks of us or we may not desire to do what He asks, but when the king of Kings asks, we are to be obedient.

What we can fail to realize is that respect flows from our willingness to be obedient. When we are obedient, we show that we respect the one who asked us. The contrast could not be more surprising between Vashti and Esther and I believe this is why the author wrote about it. We discover that we should not only be obedient but also…

II. Responsible! (Vv. 13-22)

1. The crime the queen had committed was that she disobeyed a command of the king. Obviously, the king and queen did not share an emotionally intimate relationship based on mutual respect. It did not matter, with position comes responsibility. Xerxes was not foolish; he seeks advice on how to handle the situation with his queen. He could have had her forcefully dragged from her chambers, but he did not. “Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times.” These men were “the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom.” Xerxes wants to know what is to be done and is told, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes.” Herein is our clue. If Vashti could get away with refusing her responsibilities, then maybe other women and then others would dare to do so as well! “For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.” Now whether we agree with it or not, there are roles within society that keep society functioning the way it should. Christianity has brought about the “liberation” of not only slaves but of women as well. And, rightly so, however, there was concern Vashti’s arrogance and disrespect would spread dissent. Others would emulate her, so it was decided, “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she.” It was hoped that, “when the king’s edict [was] proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women [would] respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” So the King “sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, proclaiming in each people’s tongue that every man should be ruler over his own household.” Vashti learns that position carries with it responsibility.

EXAMPLE: We live in a day and age whereby we arrogantly declare, “It’s my life, and I can do what I want.” And then we are shocked when others do that very thing to innocent people by murdering them in droves. We try to solve our societal problem of irresponsibility by making those who are responsible suffer by taking away their constitutional rights. Or we try to redefine irresponsibility to make it sound acceptable; such as in the redefinition of marriage or what constitutes a family. In our sin sick society, there are those who would see Vashti as a heroine. She is just as arrogant as King Xerxes was. You can rest assured that this was probably not the first time Vashti had been asked to present herself. Vashti is not someone to emulate. She blithely tosses aside her position by arrogantly rejecting her responsibility as queen.

Conclusion:

Today we learned about being obedient and being responsible.

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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Hebrews 11:7-16 – What Faith Means!

Hebrews 11:7-16 – What Faith Means!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 16, 2012 AM

In what has occurred in the past few days, people are trying to find meaning out of the violence. Sadly, bad people will do bad things to innocent people. Sin exists. And, this kind of violence has always been with us because we live in a sin-fallen world. Never forget that a madman king tried to wipe out a perceived rival for his throne by killing all the children, ages 2 years and younger, in Bethlehem following the birth of Jesus. When these kinds of horrendous things occur, we need to hide in the loving wings of the One who loves us and sacrificed His son for us. It is time to understand what faith means again.

Jewish believers were trying to go back to a worldly faith where the emphasis was on their feelings and good works. The author of Hebrews would have none of it and begins the process of defining exactly what faith has meant all along. God rewards those who seek Him and we can only become righteous by our faith. A person’s faith has always defined their character and their quality. Let’s discover from Hebrews what faith means…

READ: Hebrews 11:7-16

I grew up understanding there were certain things that a young gentleman did not do and things that were expected of him. That leadership was not found in consensus, but in those who are willing to take charge and lead. That morality is found in biblical precepts and not in what makes one happy for the moment. Life did not simply revolve around me. My life was founded in devotion as demonstrated in family, community, and nation, practiced through my faith. Perhaps we have forgotten what Hebrews teaches us, that…

I. Faith means obedience! (V. 7)

1. It is not difficult to see why Noah must have been influenced “by faith.” Everything Noah did before the Flood was done in virtue of his simple belief and trust in what God told him. Noah had such a relationship with the Lord God that when He spoke to Noah, Noah obeyed immediately. Noah did not see the flood coming from a course of outside events that pointed to such a catastrophe happening in the future. He did not lick his finger and test the wind. He did not seek the advice of the world or public consensus. He was told by God and he obeyed. God’s warning was given a hundred and twenty years before the deluge, and such an event had never occurred before. In fact, it had never rained on earth until that time! Noah’s relationship with God was such that he trusted God’s words and advice. While God had become grieved at the rest of mankind, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8 NIV) It was simply because God had informed Noah and he put unwavering confidence in what God said. Hebrews tells us that, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen” acted on his trust in God. Noah did not need to see what God described to believe it; he just needed God’s assurance it was going to happen. God’s word was enough for Noah. Notice what Noah does next. He simply did not believe he acted on what he heard! The beautiful truth herein is that Noah “in holy fear” obeyed God and “built an ark to save his family!” The result of Noah’s faith is that “he condemned the world” by his actions of following what God told him to do and “became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Faith is not faith until it is obeyed. Faith means obedience!

EXAMPLE: I sometimes hated the words my father would say to us to make us obedient. He would say, “Because I said so.” While I sometimes hated those words, I learned to trust my father’s words. His promises were real. If he said it was “yes” it was yes, and on the converse his “no” was no! Because of his consistency, I learned to have confidence in my father. I knew he desired the very best for my life. I therefore learned obedience. You know what God is the same way! Faith does not just believe in something, it is placing your trust and confidence in its outcome. You do not simply believe, you walk with God. It is obedience. Hebrews teaches us that faith means obedience.

We live in a day and age whereby we demand everything be given to us without personal sacrifice. The government promises us free handouts, but nothing in life is free. There are hidden costs in welfare, social programs, government grants and giveaways. The path to any worthwhile goal begins with the first step. It means personal sacrifice. Hebrews teaches us that…

II. Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives! (Vv. 8-12)

1. There is no difficulty in determining that Abraham was also influenced by faith in God. The case is even stronger than that of Noah, Genesis 15:6 relates, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abraham acted in obedience as well. Paul wrote concerning Abraham’s faith by stating “the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5 NIV) “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Not knowing the outcome involves faith. We cannot know the outcome of where God will take us, but we can trust Him to takes us where He desires. Abraham had been comfortable in Ur but “By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country” where “he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” We can become comfortable in doing things our way. We become comfortable in our ritual. Faith always demands we leave the comfort of our lives; however, there is always a wonderful outcome in doing so! Abraham “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” God promises us blessing if we follow Him by faith! We all desire our name will live on to future generations. That we be remembered. Abraham desired his family name to live on and be prosperous! So, even though Abraham, by the world’s standard was too old and considered “as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore!” Because Abraham was willing to trust God and leave his comfortable life, we today are the result of Abraham’s faith! Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives!

EXAMPLE: What one leaves for future generations is a very important question that demands an answer. There are those who could care less what they leave behind, whether it is debt, a path of destruction, or emotional and psychological devastation. One does not have to be an addict, alcoholic, or mass murder to adversely affect the future lives of others. We can neglect our faith. We can turn a deaf ear to the words and warnings of the Lord when He has asked us to go, serve, and tell others about His Son. We can become comfortably complacent. Yet, if we desire to see the great things of God, we must attempt great things for God. It is a matter of faith. Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives.

When we decide to step out in faith like Noah or Abraham, we have to decide to keep on heading in the direction God sends us. It can be scary at first, but when we depend on God, there is freedom that comes from walking with Him. The Jews Hebrews addresses, wanted to go back to their old way not just because it was comfortable, but it was also easy. However, like Noah, Abraham, or later Paul, Silas, or Peter one has to learn that…

III. Faith means not going back! (Vv. 13-16)

1. Hebrews reminds his listeners that, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” Faith isn’t faith if you can see the outcome. Seeing does not always believe. Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV) It was no more difficult or dangerous for them to return to their old ways than it was to make the journey in the first place. This shows that their remaining as strangers and sojourners in the land of Canaan was voluntary. In fact, the Israelites preferred it, with all its inconveniences and hardships, rather than return to their native land. The same thing is true of all people of God. If you choose to return to the world, and to engage again in all its ungodly pursuits, there is nothing to hinder you. There are lots of opportunities and abundant enticements. There are frequent frivolous friends who would regard it as a matter of joy and triumph to welcome you back into their sinful circle. Misery loves company. However, “people who say” or admit they are “aliens and strangers on earth… show that they are looking for a country of their own!” One of the mottos of those who left their homes in the east to head west was, “Don’t look back!” If one keeps looking back or remorsefully thinking their old way of life was better, the road backward is easy! The Jews who had trusted Jesus could easily return to their old ways. They needed to learn the lesson of the patriarchs of faith that “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return”, but they did not! Looking at Abraham and others like him, we realize that “Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Faith means not going back!

EXAMPLE: What was wrong with the Jews during the days of Hebrews? Why did they have such trouble trusting God? In Hebrews 3, we’re reminded that the Israelites heard God’s promise yet refused to believe. I think I know why—we have the same problem today. Instead of looking back and recalling that God could be trusted, they looked ahead and saw nothing but the possibility of a tough future. Their trust was blocked by a fear of the future when it could’ve been solidified with a simple look back at God’s deliverance; instead, they looked back for the wrong reasons. They looked back to Egypt and they wanted to return to slavery! Likewise, when our obstacles appear huge, we should not go back to slavery. We need to reassure ourselves by recalling what God has already done on our behalf. Not going back can give us forward confidence. Faith means not going back!

Conclusion:
Faith means obedience, faith means leaving the comfort of our lives, and faith means not going back!

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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Luke 19:28-44 – Honoring Christ!

Luke 19:28-44 – Honoring Christ!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 25, 2012 AM

The 82nd Airborne Division returned from Desert Storm. Their transport planes landed at Pope Air Force Base in front of a gathered crowd. Upon disembarking their aircraft, the troops marched before their commanding general. It was an impressive scene. The general spoke briefly. In essence he praised the troops for courageously facing the enemy and bringing a victory. Through bravery in battle, they had honored both their country and their commander. Theirs was a job well done.

In the Bible verses before us, Christ was on His way to Jerusalem to face the difficult circumstances that awaited Him there. He was following the Father’s direction in coming to the place of His rejection and crucifixion. Jesus lived a life of dedication that He was inviting His followers to live. We honor Him by following in His footsteps. As faithful Christian soldiers, we obey Jesus as Lord, praise Him as King, and share His concern regardless of life’s circumstances. Ours is a life of honoring Christ! Let’s discover how…

READ: Luke 19:28-44

The text begins with Jesus at the very gates of Jerusalem. Several times He had made reference to what awaited Him there—rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection. Jesus knew it was God’s will for Him to head toward the cross. His approach to the city was deliberate because His mission was essential. In spite of Jesus’ repeated teachings, however, the disciples remained clueless, yet we find two disciples ready and willing to do what their Master asked of them. Through their actions we discover that in honoring Christ, we are to…

I. Obey Jesus as our Lord! (Luke 19:28-32)
1. Defiance takes the easy path, obedience walks the rough road! — Leeferism
1) At this point, approximately two miles from Jerusalem, Jesus sends a committee of two unknown disciples to find a young donkey in the village ahead. The unique detail about the donkey was that it was one “which no one has ever ridden.” The donkey’s uniqueness shows that the animal was reserved for special use. Upon finding the animal, the disciples were to untie it and bring it to Jesus. Jesus added that if someone asks “Why are you untying it?” the two disciples were to respond saying “The Lord needs it.” This statement was an authoritative claim. Jesus had a right to ride the animal because of whom He was. An unusual command was to be obeyed. It’s also important to know that the Mastermind of the universe knows the hairs on our heads, the sparrows that fall, and the location of a tied-up donkey. He pays attention to the little details and is never caught off guard. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is overlooked. Those who were sent followed Jesus’ instructions and accomplished their assignment. “Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them.” The disciples went to the town, found the young donkey tied where it was supposed to be, and proceeded to untie it. When questioned about their actions, they gave the answer Jesus had given them. They then brought the young donkey to Jesus. Mission accomplished! In honoring Christ, we are to obey Jesus as our Lord!
EXAMPLE: Five-year-old Jenna was not having a good start to her day. Every attempt to arrange the world according to her liking was having the opposite result. Arguing didn’t work. Pouting didn’t work. Crying didn’t work. Finally her mother reminded her of the Bible verse she had been learning: “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11) Apparently Jenna had been thinking about this verse, because she was quick to answer: “But Mom, it doesn’t say that I won’t sin; it says that I might not sin.” Often our willingness to obey God is like that, we look for the loophole whenever there is a command we do not want to obey. Have you done that lately? In honoring Christ, we are to obey Jesus as our Lord!

Genuine praise comes from the heart. Such praise filled the scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Excited feelings flowed freely. His was not the typical warhorse approach of earthly kings but the humble donkey approach of the Heavenly King. There would be a future time of the King of kings’ arrival as the conquering ruler, but for this time Jesus was the suffering Messiah. In previous situations, Jesus had silenced His disciples. However, Jesus went along with their enthusiasm and allowed the demonstration. In these actions we learn that in honoring Christ, we are to…

II. Praise Jesus as our King! (Luke 19:35-40)
1. The more time spent praising God is less time centered on self! — Leeferism
1) Matthew recorded the Zechariah 9:9 prophecy that declared Israel’s King arriving on a donkey (Matthew 21:5). The disciples went into action. They threw their robes on the donkey and lifted the Lord up on its back. Just a few days later Jesus’ executioners would lift Him up on the cross. Luke tells us, “As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.” And in fact that, “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen!” To the crowds, Jesus was “the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” The kind of King Jesus was would bring “Peace in heaven and (our praise) glory in the highest!” It is the glory of God in Jesus’ death and resurrection that brings peace that surpasses all our understanding! Matthew and Mark record the throwing of branches cut from the trees and fields (Matthew 21:8; Mark 11:8), and the Gospel of John records the palm branches (John 12:13). The red carpet greeting had all the trappings of Israel’s historical kings as they had made their way into Jerusalem. The coronation event was spontaneously coming together, and Jesus was not issuing any restraint. The people proclaimed that Jesus was the promised King, in the line of David, who had God’s authority and approval. But not all were pleased, the Pharisees were indignant and tell Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” Jesus replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Jesus was publically presenting Himself to the nation, and God was determined this fact would be acknowledged. If the people didn’t acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the stones would! In honoring Christ, we are to praise Jesus as our King!
EXAMPLE: Les Lamborn, for Our Daily Bread, wrote, “I used to view the worship service in church as a time for entertainment. Speaking of folks like me, Sören Kierkegaard said that we tend to think of church as a kind of theater: We sit in the audience, attentively watching the actors onstage. If we are sufficiently entertained, we show our gratitude with applause. Church, though, should be the opposite of the theater. God is the audience for our worship. What matters most takes place within the hearts of the congregation—not onstage. We should leave a worship service asking ourselves not ‘What did I get out of it?’ but rather ‘Was God pleased with what happened?’” Our praise, I think, should reflect the same kind of attitude. In honoring Christ, we are to praise Jesus as our King!

This coronation doesn’t end as it should. Jesus was not enthroned but crucified. The rejection, the suffering, the crucifixion and the resurrection came as predicted. One day He will return, and it will be a day of glory and honor. Yet, at this moment, we see Jesus approaching the city of Jerusalem and His emotions get the better of Him. Why? Jesus was never apathetic. He never said, “I don’t care.” His heart always reached out to people with love. His eyes saw what was there as well as what was going to be. In this poignant moment we realize that in honoring Christ, we are to…

III. Share Jesus’ concern! (Luke 19:41-44)
1. The ultimate fate of folks around you should give you pause! — Leeferism
1) An overwhelming sadness stirred Christ’s emotions. Jesus saw a city so blinded by sin that it refused to receive the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus wept, is an action meaning “He burst into tears.” Surrounded by the praise of the disciples, Jesus cried. The fate of those who rejected Him broke His heart. Jesus’ words were given between sobs! “If you, even you, had only known” is a conditional statement left hanging. Jerusalem wrote Jesus off as its King and therefore forfeited its opportunity of peace with God, or salvation. In its unbelief, the city dismissed the Messiah, and its moment of salvation had come and gone. Now it was hidden from their eyes. When Jerusalem wrote Jesus off, it sealed its doom. Without the peace of God the judgment of sin does its work. In prophetic language—“the days will come upon you”—Jesus painted images of military conquest. His foresight was a product of His divine insight. The first future picture involved enemies building an embankment against Jerusalem. In a siege, embankments served as both a protection and a base of operation. The reference is to the palisade the Romans later would build around the city. The word surround denoted the wall the Romans would build around the city that would completely cut off all escape routes. That the attackers would hem the city in on every side refers to the relentless pressure of attacks. “They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” What started as a battlefield would degenerate into a crime scene. The devastation would be so complete that Jerusalem would be leveled. Those who rejected Jesus would suffer the consequences of their actions! All of this occurred in A.D. 70 when Titus and his Roman legions laid Jerusalem to waste. This is why Jesus wept! In honoring Christ we are to share Jesus’ concern for those who reject Him!
EXAMPLE: I confess I like my self-made comfort zones. There is a certain security in the familiar; however, this can be dangerous in the life of the Christian. Longfellow wrote, “The vine still clings to the moldering wall, but at every gust the dead leaves fall.” Like that vine, many churches today cling to the crumbling wall of traditional programs, losing members like dead leaves carried away by the biting winds of our times. To put it another way: We refuse to leave our comfort zones. We like to stick to the familiar, the predictable, and the usual. It is time we honored Jesus more than our own personal comfort! In honoring Christ we are to share Jesus’ concern for those who reject Him!

Conclusion:
In honoring Christ, we are to obey Jesus as our Lord! In honoring Christ, we are to praise Jesus as our King! In honoring Christ we are to share Jesus’ concern for those who reject Him! How are you honoring Christ?

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 25 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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Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!

Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 15, 2012 AM

At the turn of the century a young salesman approached a farmer and excitedly told him about a great new book he was selling. It had all the information needed to run a profitable farm: when to plant and harvest, how to predict the weather and care for livestock—everything that would make the farmer a success. The farmer patiently listened and then replied, “Young man, I know everything that’s in your book. My problem is doing it.” We may read our Bible, know how we are to live as Christians, yet find the hard part is to do what it tells us, why is that? It is a matter of obedience.

Why is it so hard for folks to do what they know they should do? Paul wrote that he would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God.” (Romans 15:18 NIV) Malachi begins with a blanket condemnation of Israel’s disobedience to God’s decrees throughout her history. Let’s discover this morning why Malachi saw obedience to God as so important for God’s people as we discover what being obedient means…

READ: Malachi 3:7-12

I have often wondered why one child will graciously share while another will display an Ebenezer Scrooge-like attitude. The other day at Play Group one young mother vainly tried to get her youngster to share. Instead he decided to defiantly declare that the toy he was using was, “Mine!” His self-centered attitude was kind of like the Israelites of Malachi’s day, what had been graciously given by God they saw as “Mine!” It was a…

I. Disobedient attitude of not trusting God! (Vv. 7-8)
1. Physical things can get in the way of our spiritual trust!
1) God reminds the Israelites of their stubborn attitude by reminding them, “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.” From the sandy shores of the Red Sea to the wild wadis of the wilderness the Israelites had whined, griped, and complained. If Israel would just return to him in faithful obedience, then he would respond and would return to her. “Return to me, and I will return to you,” God tells them. This promise was based on the covenant God made with Israel. When God promises to watch over our lives he follows through with his promise because he does “not change” (v.6).
2) The Israelites respond with a smirking adolescent attitude, “How are we to return?” They knew what their problem was—they were not trusting God! Only a person who willingly confesses their sin can repent, but Israel pretended to be unaware of her disobedience. They had the false premise that “If God truly loved me he would do this for me.” Just as God will not work in the life of someone who deliberately sins, he will not work in the life of someone who deliberately distrusts him. We are told to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).”
3) The people’s distrust developed into stealing from God! Stealing from someone was bad enough, but only a fool would try to rob God. Israel robbed God in their “In tithes and offerings.” Not only was the quality of their sacrifices in question, they had deliberately brought “blind animals for sacrifice” (1:8), but the quantity was also the issue! The tithe was to be a tenth of all their crops, livestock, or goods. Meanwhile, offerings were that which was given above and beyond the required tithe. This was the real sacrifice, not the tithe! The tithe was expected and displayed obedient trust, while the offering displayed sacrifice! Jesus related, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)
EXAMPLE: Every four years we enter into a period of accusation, condemnation, and self-acclamation known as election process. Pundits and politicians proclaim the political piety of their primary politician. Attack ads that focus on the other guy’s shortcomings are common place. No matter what we say concerning negative campaigning, showing your opponent lacks character garners votes. We are saddened when the people we trust prove untrustworthy. It is sadder still when they try to justify their wrongful actions just like Israel did. How about you, dear child of the Lord? Do you trust God with what you have or have you robbed God?

It is curious that many of those who do not believe in God want the government to become the god-like entity that controls every area of their lives instead. It is because of the average American’s sinful aversion to live for the Lord that our nation has reaped what it has sown. A nation that gives God its leftovers should not expect great things from the Lord. In fact, Malachi goes on to relate for us…

II. The result of what disobedience brings! (v. 9)
1. The sowing of obedience is the only way of reaping God’s blessing!
1) When Gods’ people do not do the will of God, then the nation they live in suffers the consequences! The Israelites are bluntly told, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” Since the temple was God’s house, failure to support its ministry was considered equal to personally robbing God! Sadly, many Christians today wrongly believe that our nation’s problems are due to non-believers. This is not the case. It is because Christians do not trust God as they should and it is displayed by their willingness to rob God of their tithes and offerings.
2) Jesus speaks to this issue of a believer’s disobedience. Jesus reminded his listeners that God will eventually come and judge. He asked, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” And of course the answer is, “Yes.” Jesus continues to ask, “Will [God] keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7 NIV) This teaching of Jesus follows his discourse on a persistent widow who continually bugged a judge asking him over and over for justice. If we continually come to God asking for justice, yet are disobedient, will he not judge us? When Jesus comes again dear child of God, will he find faith and trust in his children?
EXAMPLE: What would you do if your child lies to you? I remember when I lied to my father about where I had gone for the afternoon. I went to play in a field where I was not allowed to go. When he found out, he grounded me. We did not have TVs, computers, smart phones, tablets, or mp3 players in our rooms. Instead, my father made me take all of my toys and books and place them in a box on the back porch. Grounded meant grounded. I could not go play with the other kids, nor could I enjoy my room. I spent my time cleaning, dusting, and polishing the floor. After a few days, I had the cleanest room in Wenatchee! I learned a powerful lesson: disobedience always brings its own curse. The same is true for God’s people. Dear child of the Lord, what is your disobedience bringing you?

For the Israelites it brought about God’s curse. When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks. God requires the obedience of his followers. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 NIV) And he challenged, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 NIV) This is why Malachi reminds us that…

III. God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! (Vv. 10-12)
1. Obedience to God is an expression of our love for God!
1) The promise made here is a reaffirmation of God’s word to the Israelites. God states in Deuteronomy 28:1 that if they “fully obey the Lord… and carefully follow all his commands… God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” He challenges the Israelites to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” What the people of Israel were experiencing was a disobedience-curse relationship specified by God. Since the Word of God is sure, his promise would be carried out. In fact, Israel could attest to the truth that she was experiencing certain aspects of the curse because of her unwillingness to tithe! What about your life in God? Are you in disobedience to Him concerning your tithes and offerings?
2) Notice also that this is the only place where His people are specifically asked to “test” God. He is challenging Israel to bring their whole faith into action and to trust his promises, by bringing the “whole tithe into the storehouse.” By doing this, God would “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Far too often we live by sight and not by faith. Here God tells us to test our faith and live by it. Faith is never found in what we see. It is found in how we trust God and sometimes that requires uncertainty. God always blesses those who are willing to trust Him.
EXAMPLE: I will never forget the answer that Ward Lawrence gave folks who asked him about his certain death. Dying from a very painful form of cancer, it was certain that he would not live much longer. They wondered what it was like or if he had any fear. He replied, “I only know the words of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.’” (Job 19:25-27 NIV) If you are trying to live your faith by sight, you will live a shallow weak faith. It will always be a mere shadow of what it could be. Dear child of God, he desires so much more for your life. As Paul would transliterate from Isaiah 64:4, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV) It comes only by trust.

Conclusion:
We learned about a disobedient attitude of not trusting God, the result of what disobedience brings, and that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! Bring all your trust to his storehouse and test him in this and see if he will not pour out so much blessing you will not have room for it. In fact, it will most likely overflow into the lives of others around you. That’s the way God works.

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 25 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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A Martyr for the Lord – Today’s Thoughts…

A Martyr for the Lord – Today’s Thoughts…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 12, 2008

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. (Titus 3:1-2)

During an administration that one does not truly believe in, it is sometimes difficult as Christians to be what God would have us be. But we are called to be his people no matter who is President. Paul was telling Titus that it was his job as their spiritual leader to “remind” them “to be subject to the rulers and authorities” over them. The idea here is to suggest that the followers of Christ were to be examples even to those who were their local leaders. So, does that let the rest of us off the hook as far as President is concerned? No. We are first and foremost to be obedient to Christ who is our Chief Shepherd no matter who is our Commander and Chief here in America. The idea here of “obedience” is being subject to, and we are all subject to the laws of the land whether we like them or not. However, we are never to acquiesce our faith to obedience to the government. In fact, this is where we get our word “martyr” from. It literally means “witness,” and many early Christians were “martus,” witnesses unto death and therefore word became synonymous with Christians dying for their faith.

While few of us may be unwilling to die for our faith, we are called “to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” This does not mean we can never disagree, stand up for our own faith, or be the witnesses we are supposed to be for the Lord. However, our public disenchantment with the government is to also reflect the Lord. We are to exemplify him in all we do, “And 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)

This means we can criticize and disagree with the ungodliness that we see reflected within the government, especially by those in leadership who claim to be followers of Christ but prove otherwise by their leadership and actions. Yet we are to do it as a Christian, reflecting our true leader, the Lord and not a mere human being that we have elected. In fact, to give anyone in earthly leadership the same adulation that is supposed to be reserved for God alone is blaspheme and ungodly in the extreme.

So, dear child of the Lord, today if you are unhappy or even if you are excited about what occurred this past election cycle, you are called to Christ first and foremost. Never forget that. So as this Administration begins to lead the people of this land, we as believers are to still reflect the Lord in all we do showing everyone whom we truly follow.
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This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

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