Tag Archives: peace

Armor all! – Ephesians 6:10-20

Armor all! – Ephesians 6:10-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 30, 2017

Armor All is a line of car care products manufactured by American company Armored AutoGroup of Danbury, Connecticut, United States. Its sprays, gels, liquids and wipes are specifically designed to clean, shine, and protect most interior and exterior automobile surfaces. It is now owned by Spectrum Brands which is a diversified company that makes weed killer, batteries, and pet products. On the Armor All logo is a Viking dressed in his armor to portray the protective properties of the product.

The believer has been given spiritual protection by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul listed what he believed the protection of God consisted of and his list is not to be either comprehensive or all there is to the protection one has under God’s grace. Paul’s desire was not to give Christians a check off list to follow or adhere to but rather to show them that we are in the midst of a battle and that we have been given a gracious gift to go into combat. As believers we have the Armor All of God; let’s see what Paul meant…

READ: Ephesians 6:10-20

Paul is coming to a close in his letter to the Ephesian Church and his desire was that they remain true to the gospel and faithful to Jesus and so he writes them about…

I. The spiritual battle everyone is challenged by! (Vv. 10-12)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

1. It is important to notice what Paul wrote here. He writes them to “Finally be strong”. Paul knew that the main battle people face is a spiritual one. Not everyone understands this or notices it because most just get up each day and do the same things over and over. Now certainly there are those who face psychological or physical handicaps but the point here is that we can become so focused on us that we forget about our spirituality. Many have and therefore do not give it a thought. It makes their lives a greater struggle than they realize. However, Paul reminds us that one can be strong “in the Lord and his mighty power”! God has given us what we need for our spiritual challenge! He reminds believers to “Put on the full armor of God”. Not just part of the armor but all of it. Again, Paul is not making a list so you can check it twice each day but rather he is reminding his readers that they face a foe far greater than they realize. We put on this armor “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”, literally his wiles or methods. His scheme is to get people from focusing on the spiritual aspect of their lives and to focus on themselves instead. Paul understood that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The world does not understand the war being waged and that it is dying and decaying right before our eyes and many are blinded by the blight. We forget that everything in the universe and everyone in the world whose focus is not Jesus as Lord are spiritually blinded and doing battle against him! Remember Paul began his letter by writing that “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”(Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV) Paul is reminding us of the spiritual battle everyone is challenged by!

EXAMPLE: When soldiers are sent into battle they are reminded to remember their training and to stay focused on the task ahead. Each Roman soldier of Paul’s day was trained to fend off ten enemies. They knew they could depend on their training and their armor to give them the advantage against their enemies. Christians are not to stand against the sin and evil of the world in their own strength but rather in the full armor of God! The reason is simple: we face a foe that is far stronger then we are and who will use every method he has to trick us into focusing on ourselves instead of God. We are to armor up and face the spiritual battle everyone is challenged by!

Paul understood that in a sin-driven world it would be hard for believers to go out and live lives that were diametrically opposed to the ungodliness of the society they lived in. So he writes them to remember that…

II. Believers have everything they need to do battle! (Vv. 13-15)

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

1. Remember the old Superman motto that he was for “truth, justice, and the American way”? Of course if you were to repeat this in a college classroom today you might be lynched for being way too xenophobic, racist, and misogynist. Yet here in Paul’s encouragement we discover him declaring “truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace”! Since our battle is a spiritual one Paul relates we are to “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Paul was not necessarily speaking of a particular day of evil but rather when evil on any given day challenges our lives in Christ. When this occurs we will be able to stand our ground in Jesus! Notice how many times he tells us to “stand”. He does not call us to attack but to stand firm because when all else fails in our lives we need to be able take our stand in Jesus alone! So how in the world does one stand in Jesus? Paul writes we are to “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Look at the progression Paul does here in his writing about this armor: Again it is “truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace.” He is referring to the truth of salvation in Jesus alone, the righteousness that comes because of it, and gospel of peace Jesus preached between man and God because of him. We are to gird ourselves therefore in the truth of Jesus, dress ourselves in the righteousness that comes from believing in him, and walk in the readiness daily that comes from the gospel of peace we know in Jesus! Paul is teaching his readers about the confidence they can have no matter what the ungodly sin-fallen world throws our way! We can stand confidently and calmly as we go into the world no matter what occurs in our life because we have the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and we are ready to stand with our feet fitted firmly in the gospel! Paul knew that believers have everything they need to do battle!

EXAMPLE: One of things I learned early in life was that if my parents told me to “stay right there and don’t move”, I was to stay right there and not move! I later learned that if I was lost in the wild I was to remain put so that anyone who was searching for me could easily find me. Most people die in the wilderness when they are not prepared, go alone, or do not remain where they said they would be. However, we sometimes can focus so much on the what the meaning of the equipment meant that Paul listed that we forget the core truth Paul was making here; namely that we are to remain firm in Jesus. We are to stay put because we know that believers have everything they need to do battle!
Paul continues in his list of grace gifts and concludes with those that are the basics of Christianity. And in doing so Paul reminds us that…

III. The battle all believers confront is a daily business! (Vv. 16-20)

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

1. Interestingly Paul ends his teaching with what occurs in the life of a Christian when they first believe. Here’s what I mean: Paul shares about faith, salvation, the word of God, and then prayer. So he writes that “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” A soldier’s shield was often made of wood overlaid with linen and leather. And it was often soaked in water before battle in order to smother any flaming arrows. The one thing that protects the Christian is their faith and Paul knew it was like a shield. When a person’s faith is strong in the Lord it can snuff out any smoldering ember the enemy tries to use in igniting sin in our lives. Paul then encourages his readers to place “the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” together. Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8 NIV) the Christian’s hope is certain and secure and we know that the Word of God is “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV) These things are not to be done necessarily in order or as a one-two-three kind of thing but rather Paul’s wording here suggests a constant and continual action. And the spiritual glue, so-to-speak, that we can hang our armor on is prayer. So Paul tells his readers: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Again this is a constant and so “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Prayer is the believer’s conversation, petition, and praise to God himself! Paul was acutely aware of this and so asks, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Paul probably imprisoned for his faith and so he knew quite well what it meant to be strong in the Lord. We are to armor all because Paul knew that the battle all believers confront is a daily business!

EXAMPLE: There have been several movies called “Death Takes a Holiday.” While the Bible describes a messenger of death sent from God in several places, the Bible does not teach there is a specific being in charge of death. And while it is pure fantasy to think that death might take a vacation at some point, evil never does. The Bible does teach that all of creation is in a fallen state. It is all tainted by sin and therefore in a state of death, dying, and decay. My Mom would say that “Evil never sleeps.” I am not sure if she was referring to us boys or what but I do know she was correct. More than ever Christians need to armor all because the battle all believers confront is a daily business!

Conclusion:

The spiritual battle everyone is challenged by! Believers have everything they need to do battle! The battle all believers confront is a daily business!
—-
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 Wise Life! — James 3:13-18

The Wise Life! — James 3:13-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 22, 2014

Where does wisdom come from? Does it come about because of age? Does it come from the amount of knowledge one knows or has acquired? Mark Twain retorted, “The person who has had a bull by the tail once has learned 60 or 70 times as much as a person who hasn’t.” Another quote that is often falsely attributed to Twain is the one that states, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years!” My father used to remind us that “Just because you think you know something, does not make it true.” We find this pithy bit of wisdom to be quite true in our day and age whereby so many think they know God when in fact they know nothing about him at all. Both the psalmist and the writer of Proverbs agree that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…. (Psalms 111:10 & Proverbs 1:7 NIV)” What then is the wise life? James gives us a glimpse in what he defines as a person who is wise.

He writes, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13 NIV)”

We have to remind ourselves that James is writing to believers and not the world at large. So, his premise is that Christians would already understand that what he is so concerned about comes from a life that is already given over to Jesus Christ. If not, you will not understand or have the wisdom to discern what James is trying to teach. We all would like to be known for being “wise and understanding”, but for James it is predicated on that fact that Jesus is the focus of your life, then you would show your understanding and wisdom by your “good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from” the “wisdom” he has been writing about!  Remember James had just told us that he would show us his faith by what he did and not simply by the words he used (James 2:18). The fact remains if one has placed their faith In Christ, then Christ will affect their lives and in the humility of Jesus we will do the deeds we need to do that displays our wisdom is from following him!

However, James knew that “if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth (James 3:14 NIV).”

These kinds of characteristics in the life of someone who claims Christ cannot be! If we harbor, hold on to and tenuously keep, bitter envy and selfish ambition in our hearts, how could we possibly be a follower of Jesus! Bitter envy is like deliberately sucking on a lemon and expecting something sweet! We have those around us who would have you disdain others who have worked hard for what they have. Then, there are those who would walk over anyone to gain a nickel! We should not boast about bitterness or hidden envy that we have kept like pampered pets, nor should we try to deny the sin of it because when we do, such action denies the truth of the gospel that should have affected our lives!

In fact, for James, “Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. (James 3:15 NIV)”

Literally James is saying it is not from God at all but from world, earthly, unspiritual, and demonic! Much of what we hear today on the TV, read online, or are inundated with in the classroom and workplace is the ungodly sensuality of the world’s wisdom. It is thoroughly demonic! The demonic wisdom of the world tries to rewrite the definition of what love, marriage, family or faith is. It belches out the satanic propaganda that loves is what you feel at the moment, marriage is defined as to whatever you desire, family is anyone or anything in relationship and faith is any spirituality. This ungodly and demonic “wisdom” has given us unprecedented violence, dysfunctional families, perverted tolerance, and small-minded selfish mysticism! Recently Fox Channel 12 News gushed how wonderful it was that Portland, Oregon has become a Mecca for gay men to come and have women give birth to their children!

While some of the things we do in our society today are in of themselves harmless, they are perhaps symptomatic of the deeper spiritual sickness that has crept into our society. Instead of believers being the salt and light of the world, the gospel change agents they are commanded to be, we have become societal chameleons. Take for instance the rampant sexualization of our society. I believe it represents the self-absorb outcome of the culture we live in. We readily use our bodies without a care as to the ultimate psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual result. The legalization of marijuana when we have not come to terms with the horrendous fallout of alcohol as a society, speaks volumes as to where our wisdom is coming from.

For James, the proof was in the outcome of what he saw in the lives of believers, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:16 NIV)”

My Dad used to say, “If you have to think up an excuse for what you’re doing, do you really need to do it?” James understood that when you’ve seen lives filled with the envy of what others have or where one was willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, even lie, cheat, or steal – he knew there was a problem! The problem was a sin problem because when you see this kind of ungodliness of character, “there you find disorder and every evil practice.” In fact, as Paul retorted to the Roman church that, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another… Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:22, 24, 32 NIV).” Paul would also later lament, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:20-21 NIV).” The world today disdains godly wisdom because it understands that what itself teaches as clever is nothing but stupidity. This is why Paul would continue by writing, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV).”

James, however, would write, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17 NIV).”

What a difference there is between what society prizes as sensible and what God sees as wisdom! Godly wisdom does not have to make excuses for its behavior because it is first and foremost pure. After all it comes from God himself! James is making reference to the fact of the gospel message. The message of the cross is always foolish to the spiritually or morally ignorant and corrupt. Yet we see that the life affected by gospel is “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” He did not mean it accepted sin but that it was impacted by the Spirit!

The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported concerning how “Parents of children at a primary school in the suburbs of London, England are complaining after they were treated to a pole-dancing exhibition at a school fair. A four-year-old girl participated in the pole-dancing festivities at Crockenhill Primary School, the Daily Mail reports. Other performers ranged in age up to 12.”

“‘A lot of people were upset about it,’ a father who endured the pole-dancing routine told the Mail. ‘They were performing a routine to music in inappropriate clothing and they had children doing it and I just thought, “This is so wrong.”’ Of course, School official Sarah Warshow defended the pole-dancing performance.”

“‘There was one performance by the teacher and some by the children,’ she added. ‘It’s great for the children to keep fit and it’s fun as well.’”

We have an economy still cannot provide jobs for millions of Americans, there are rumors of $6 gasoline, the Middle East is aflame but we have time to support the gay agenda? This is despite the CDC’s warning that one in five homosexual males in the U.S. is infected with HIV/AIDS and new studies proving children raised by same-sex parents are far more likely to commit homosexual acts and abuse than other kids.

James ends this section by reminding us that “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18 NIV).”

Calvin wrote that “Those truly wise towards God, while peaceable and tolerant towards their neighbors, yet make it their chief concern to sow righteousness, not cloaking men’s sins, but reproving them with such peaceable moderation as to be the physicians, rather than the executioners, of sinners.” Far too many believers have instead become enablers of sin in our world today so that they can be seen as “tolerant” instead of righteous. Peter reminds us, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:15-17 NIV).”

Isaiah warned his nation, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight (Isaiah 5:20-21 NIV).”

What is wisdom? The wise life “fights the good fight of faith” that Paul encouraged Timothy to do. Wisdom comes from God himself as we walk with him daily, as we fight the good fight. As James would say, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom (James 3:13 NIV).”

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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Do You Take Your Burdens to the Lord? – Isaiah 37:10-12, 14-20, 33-37

Do You Take Your Burdens to the Lord? – Isaiah 37:10-12, 14-20, 33-37
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 2, 2014 AM

What do you do when you are faced with difficult situations? Do you run and hide, do you get angry, or do you depend upon the Lord and His guidance? You can tell a lot about an individual’s faith not just during the mundane ordinary times, but how they conduct themselves during bleak situations. She was young and not prepared to be a single mom but her life choices had brought her to this point. With a baby on the way, no support from the baby’s father, she had some tough decisions to make. She first began to work on her relationship with God, worked herself through college, got a better job after graduating, and raised her child. At a church gathering, she met a godly man who loves her and her child. Whom do you take your burdens to when faced with tough decisions?

Sennacherib had left Lachish and was at Libnah, about five miles north of Lachish. Word had come that Tirhakah was coming to assist Judah in her fight against Assyria. Tirhakah was called the Cushite king of Egypt. He was from Cush, south of Egypt, and ruled Egypt at that time. In 701 Tirhakah was an army commander; he actually did not become king of Cush until 690; but since he was king when Isaiah wrote this account, Isaiah called him the king. Hezekiah had a tough decision to make. He could depend on Egypt or God. Whom he took his burdens to would show his true character, let’s discover what happens…

READ: Isaiah 37:10-12, 14-20, 33-37

Let me ask you, do you take your burdens to the Lord when…

I. Facing Bleak Circumstances (Isaiah 37:10-12)
1. Sennacherib became king after his father Sargon II died in battle in 704 B.C. Typically, when a strong king died, nations subservient to him rebelled hoping to gain their independence. Early in his reign, Sennacherib dealt with rebellions in the eastern part of his empire; finally defeating the Babylonians in 703 B.C., he then turned his attention to the west. Hezekiah, king of Judah, lead a rebellion of small nations. He hoped Sennacherib would prove weaker than Sargon and he trusted Egypt to provide military assistance. Sennacherib met the Egyptian force about 20 miles west of Jerusalem, and soundly defeated them. He then moved against Lachish, a crucial, fortified city of Judah. Hezekiah surrendered to Sennacherib and paid a heavy tribute. Sennacherib first sent a high-ranking Assyrian official, to convince Hezekiah to surrender. Egypt could not aid Judah and Hezekiah’s leadership could not be trusted. Hezekiah consulted Isaiah, who encouraged him to rely on God. Sennacherib sent another message to Hezekiah that emphasized God did not possess the power to save His people, “Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, “Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.” Surely, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my forefathers deliver them–the gods of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar?’” He claimed the people were being deceived by God. Saying God did not deserve His people’s trust constituted horrible blasphemy. Sennacherib appealed to cold hard facts. Since becoming king, he had moved decisively to quell all rebellions. No nation had stood before him. He had conquered greater, stronger nations than Judah; so Judah had no basis to believe it would be an exception. Nations conquered by the Assyrians had served and depended on their gods. In every case, these “gods” could not defend their nations, which fell to the Assyrian power. Sennacherib listed nations Assyria had conquered; some are unknown to us. Sennacherib stated these nations’ gods could not protect them and Judah’s God would not either. The situation seemed bleak. Isaiah and Hezekiah knew God had acted in history before to deliver His people and believed He would act again. Through Isaiah, God would encourage Hezekiah and His people to trust Him even in bleak circumstances.
EXAMPLE: It seemed hopeless; he was recently married and now was facing cancer. How could someone so young be caught by such a dreaded disease? Looking back now, he realizes just how he came to totally depend on his faith. In fact, it has renewed his current situation in understanding that God is there always. How has God helped you in difficult circumstances you have faced? We all face bleak circumstances in life. Loved ones or we contract deadly diseases or suffer tragic accidents. We face seemingly hopeless financial reversals. Such experiences try our faith as we wonder how or if God can help. During such times, we need to remember our God can help us face and survive bleak circumstances.

Let me ask you, do you ease your burdens by…

II. Praying to Almighty God (Isaiah 37:14-20)
1. After reading the message, Hezekiah immediately took it to the temple and unrolled the scroll before God. Hezekiah knew God comprised Judah’s only hope. First, Hezekiah referred to God as “O Lord Almighty”. This phrase is associated with the Ark of the Covenant and with God as ruler of a great heavenly court. Assyria possessed a huge army, but Hezekiah knew God wielded far greater power. Second, Hezekiah called God “the God of Israel” linking God to His chosen people. Hezekiah was confident God knew and loved His people. Third, Hezekiah spoke of God as “enthroned between the cherubim”, a description also associated with the Ark of the Covenant and with God’s status as ruler over all nations. Fourth, Hezekiah emphasized God’s uniqueness by declaring, “You alone are God.” Fifth, Hezekiah described God as “over all the kingdoms of the earth.” Sennacherib might believe in his ability and that his mighty army rendered him invincible, but he ruled at God’s pleasure. Hezekiah knew God maintained complete authority over all governments. God had allowed Sennacherib to rise to power and could easily destroy him. Finally, Hezekiah praised God as the one who “made the heavens and the earth.” God works in His world to sustain it and to direct events to His ultimate purpose, not our desires. Sennacherib likened God to the false gods of other nations he had conquered. He criticized Hezekiah for trusting in God for deliverance, believing Hezekiah was making a great mistake. Hezekiah knew that not trusting in God would be the greater mistake. Hezekiah asked God “Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.”  Sennacherib had mocked the true God, and Hezekiah asked God to punish Sennacherib’s blasphemy. Hezekiah acknowledged the truth of much of Sennacherib’s message, “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.” However Hezekiah wanted God to show the whole world His true power and might, “Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” Knowing God means we experience God as Lord and we live on the basis of His lordship. Hezekiah based his prayer on God’s character. Hezekiah knew neither he nor his people could claim to be righteous. They had sinned. His main concern focused on God receiving glory. All too often, we pray asking God to accomplish what we desire. Instead, we need to pray to God to act to bring glory to Him even if our desires are unmet.
EXAMPLE: Often times we speak at God instead of speaking to God when we pray. Intimacy with the Lord is not obtained in a onetime experiment when we need His guidance and strength for our momentary blip. Hezekiah got down right honest with God because he realized he had nothing to lose. The scourge of the known world was at the gates of his city! He had tried using his own resources and failed and he had tried gaining a worldly answer by relying on Egypt, which failed miserably as well. He knew only his honesty could save his kingdom and himself. All too often, we pray asking God to accomplish what we desire. Instead, we need to pray to God Almighty to act to bring glory to Him even if our desires are unmet.

Let me ask you, when you take your burdens to the Lord do you…

III. Experience Divine Reassurance (Isaiah 37:33-37)
1. God spoke to Hezekiah through Isaiah, stating He knew of Sennacherib’s blasphemy and would preserve Judah by sending the Assyrian home (Vv. 37:21-29). “Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.” God also promised a remnant would survive and flourish in Judah. God then encouraged Hezekiah, stating, “He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.” An enemy’s army would surround a city to ensure no food or supplies entered and no people escaped. Then they would construct an assault ramp, where they would employ battering rams. God declared Sennacherib and his army would not engage in any siege tactics. Not a shot would be fired. Jerusalem would survive unscathed! Jerusalem and Judah would survive because Sennacherib would return to Assyria “by the way that he came he will return”. He would return home in shame, beaten by the God he had blasphemed. God would save His city and people not due to their great righteousness and trust but because of His character, “I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!” Sennacherib had blasphemed God, accusing Him of being just another powerless deity whom he easily would defeat. God would prove him wrong by destroying the Assyrian army so they would know the power of God. God also would save His people to maintain His promise to David. God’s sparing of Jerusalem and Judah emphasized His faithfulness and grace. God accomplished Judah’s salvation in a miraculous manner, “Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning–there were all the dead bodies!” God’s angel killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers! When morning dawned, the survivors broke camp and left! After returning to Assyria, Sennacherib never invaded Israel again. His sons assassinated him in 681 B.C. as he worshiped in a temple (Vv. 37:38). Sennacherib had defeated nations and destroyed gods, but in the end, the true God whom he had blasphemed defeated and destroyed him. God answered Hezekiah’s prayer in a powerful, miraculous way. We can experience God’s reassurance just as Hezekiah did by trusting in Him alone.
EXAMPLE: Sometimes God acts to spare His people, but at other times, people do not experience miraculous intervention and sometimes even die for their faith. Yet in every crisis situation God provides His strengthening and comforting presence and His guidance so we may face what comes with courage and trust. We never plan to go through some of the tragedies of life we encounter. However, we can experience God’s reassurance just as Hezekiah did by trusting in Him alone.

Conclusion:
Let me ask you, do you take your burdens to the Lord when facing bleak circumstances; do you ease your burdens by praying to Almighty God; and when you take your burdens to the Lord do you experience divine reassurance? You can just as Hezekiah did…

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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Second Sunday of Advent – The peace of God! – Isaiah 52:6-10

Second Sunday of Advent – The peace of God! – Isaiah 52:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 8, 2013 AM

Last week we spoke of how the Messiah would be called by the names of, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, (and) Prince of Peace.” There were those who incorrectly thought that the Messiah would bring about a cessation of conflicts or that everyone would all of a sudden become happy in His presence. Interestingly, there are those in our day and age who still have misconceptions of who the Messiah is and the peace He is to bring to the world. On this second Sunday of Advent, we will learn that the coming of the Messiah would bring peace. And, what that would mean for the entire human race.

Isaiah introduces us to a Messiah who would bring about His peace to all mankind. He begins this portion by calling the nation of Israel to wake up, “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised (ungodly) and defiled will not enter you again.” Jerusalem’s pagan conquerors — the uncircumcised and defiled — would never again invade and pollute the holy city after the Messiah came. This is part of the peace He would bring. Let’s discover this morning the peace of God!
READ: Isaiah 52:6-10

The world today thinks that peace comes from the absence of conflict that it can be obtained through gain or government, but Isaiah teaches us that…

I. The peace of God comes from Him alone! (v. 6)
1. God’s people would be freed from their chains, never to be enslaved again! Isaiah prophesied, “For this is what the LORD says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.’” No amount of money could pay the debt they owed! The Israelites did not fully understand that the enslavement God saw His people under was the rebellion of sin and that they could never buy themselves back without the blood of a sacrifice! No amount of ransom could buy them back from their enslavement to sin, only the blood of the Lamb would! This is why the writer of Hebrews would state, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and in offerings, you were not pleased… Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:3-7 NIV) Jesus began His ministry by relating, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV) God would ask them, “And now what do I have here?” He answers His question by relating, “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, and all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (v. 5) while we may be shortsighted, God’s view is much longer. The Israelites willingly sold themselves into slavery for a pittance and those who enslaved them mocked God as a result! (Things haven’t changed much have they?) They refused to listen and repent, as they should. Yet, God’s plan all along was to redeem all people and His desire was that they would know how it occurred and who was responsible when happened! Israel would be restored and they would know peace but not in the manner, they thought. “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” When the peace of God came, all people everywhere would know who brought it about. This is why the angels rejoiced singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) The peace of God comes from Him alone!
EXAMPLE: Daily Bread’s Les Lamborn writes, “During the Christmas season, we wait. We wait in traffic. We wait in checkout lines to purchase gifts. We wait for family to arrive. We wait to gather around a table filled with our favorite foods. We wait to open presents lovingly chosen. All of this waiting can be a reminder to Christians that Christmas is a celebration of waiting for something much more important than holiday traditions. Like the ancient Israelites, many are waiting for Jesus.” the peace of God. Isaiah teaches us that the peace of God comes from Him alone!

God made the first move when He came as baby Jesus and the sacrificial Lamb. A star would appear marking the way, angels would proclaim Him, and shepherds would witness to what they saw. Isaiah teaches us that…

II. The peace of God would be proclaimed! (Vv. 7-8)

 

1. Here is a wonderful picture of rescue. The enemy has surrounded the city, they are encamped around the walls and there is no escape. Thousands upon thousands of the enemy’s troops are assembled and just when they are ready to step forward to fight, there comes a cry from one of the watchmen on the wall of the besieged, “Look! Look to the mountains there is where our help comes from!” And all eyes strain to see a lone runner from the foothills headed to the besieged and the enemy parts for him like the waters of the Red Sea for Moses. Isaiah declares, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Notice that the deliverance is not brought about by a larger army, more advanced weaponry, or a master general but by the beautiful “feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation”! And what is this message of salvation they proclaim to the those waiting for rescue and to the camp of the enemy? “Your God reigns!” As wonderful as was the return of Israel from their Babylonian captivity, what utter joy will be when the Messiah finally comes to Zion and proclaims, “Your God reigns!” Now, dear child of the King, you are the messenger of the Messiah in our besieged city. You are the one with beautiful feet to proclaim the peace of God, you are the one running from the mountains bring good new that that He alone reigns! “Listen!” Isaiah commands. “Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.” Those entrapped can rejoice, because “When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” Israel would see their Messiah coming to them, but some would not care or would refuse to hear Him when he came. But all the same, He came. And, they would see it with their own eyes. The peace of God would be proclaimed!
EXAMPLE: Isaiah was a watchman, Nahum was a watchman, and various men in various ways prophesized announced the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world. John the Baptist was the last of these. “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:6-11 NIV) And, now the last command the Messiah has given His watchmen on the wall who look to the mountains is, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”! The peace of God is to be proclaimed!

What joyous news, what a wonderful truth to proclaim, those enslaved and those surrounded by the enemy can be freed forever! Isaiah teaches us that…

III. The peace of God brings salvation! (Vv. 9-10)
1. Over and over we find Isaiah telling the people to “burst into song” to “rejoice” because God would hear their cries for help. Isaiah tells them, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” In the midst of standing in the ruin of their lives and the rubble of their city, they are to “Burst into songs of joy together”! How could they do such a thing? God has already “comforted His people.” In fact, the important message is that God has already “redeemed” bought back Jerusalem, meaning all of Israel. This is why John the Baptist’s papa, Zachariah, would break his silence by singing, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people!” (Luke 1:68 NIV) Isaiah wrote, “All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing.” (Isaiah 14:7 NIV) Matthew would understand and reiterate Isaiah’s words by reminding us, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:16-17 NIV) The promise Isaiah proclaimed is the fact that God Himself would “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” God would show the entire world His power and ability to bring salvation through His Messiah. It is summed up in the majestic wonderful words of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus would say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) The peace of God brings salvation!
EXAMPLE: There are folks who read the last chapter first when they start a new thriller. They may think that it takes the anxiety out of reading. So it is with Christians because we know the end of the story, we can be messengers of peace in the midst of utter chaos, calm in the face of disaster. We are to experience peace under pressure. Kingdoms may fall, friends may falter, churches may fold, oceans may rise, and mountains may crumble, but we can be at peace. How do we maintain such composure? By remembering that the “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). In fact, just as Isaiah wanted the Israelites to be comforted that the Messiah would come, Jesus reminds us, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelations 22:20 NIV) Today could be the day! The peace of God brings salvation!

Conclusion:
The peace of God comes from Him alone!
The peace of God would be proclaimed!
The peace of God brings salvation!

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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Be Responsible! – Galatians 6:1-18

Be Responsible! – Galatians 6:1-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 1, 2013 AM

As a young boy, I went to work for my Uncle as he took care of my grandmother’s house and garden. I had to weed, water, and take care of a huge garden. It was a daunting task, but he expected a lot out of me and my age did not matter. I found that as I had more responsibilities, my earnings went up as well. I was rewarded for my consistency and willingness to be responsible to do the tasks at hand.

Many Christians give little or no thought to biblical admonitions to live in a responsible manner. In fact, not all believers are responsible Christians. They may not realize all the ramifications of following the Spirit’s guidance in how they live. Perhaps they shield one or more areas of their lives from divine guidance. Perhaps they have never thought about other ways they need to exhibit they are responsible Christians. Other possibilities are they do not know how to meet some expectations; they do not like some expectations; or they are too afraid to try to meet some expectations. Yet God does not exempt any believer from His expectations. Let’s see what Paul teaches us on being responsible.

READ: Galatians 6:1-18

Paul ended his Spirit-inspired presentation of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit within believers with an exhortation. He called for the Galatian believers to follow the Spirit’s leadership and avoid destructive attitudes and behavior. We discover him reminding us to be responsible and to…

I. Bear one another’s burdens! (Vv. 6:1-5)
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.”
1. Rather than exhibit destructive actions, Christians are to help one another. Paul calls them “brothers,” emphasizing their spiritual kinship and his warm feeling for them. He gave the example of someone who was “caught in sin.” Those who are “spiritual” are to “restore him gently.” Whatever the nature of one’s sin, spiritual believers are to restore the individual. The Greek term rendered “restore” means to do whatever it takes to bring back the one entrapped by sin. Mature Christians are to help a sinning believer regain spiritual fitness. It is to be done in a gentle spirit rather than a judgmental attitude. However, we are to “watch” ourselves, or we could “be tempted” as well. One way, Paul encouraged, was to “carry each others burdens” because “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV) Believers are not to consider themselves to be superior to others. Such pride is deceptive: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Jesus asked, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 NIV) According to Paul, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else!” Believers are to be able to “carry” their own load first! This does not contradict verse 2 because the reference there refers to heavy, crushing, loads (barē) — more than a man could carry without help. In this verse, the Greek “phortion” is used to designate the pack carried by a soldier. It is the “burden” Jesus assigns to His followers, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 NIV) Christians are to be responsible and bear one another’s burdens!
EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians includes assisting others with oppressing loads. We can help erring people face what they have done, assure them of our love, and find them meaningful tasks of ministry. We help bear others’ burdens by running errands for caregivers, spending time with lonely people, and giving toward financial needs. We must bear some loads ourselves, such as church ministry roles, family responsibilities, and ultimate accountability to God. We are to bear one another’s burdens!

The Galatian Christians’ lifestyles were to be marked by doing good acts because of their faith in Christ. They were to do good things to others, especially to other believers, and particularly to individuals who taught them about Christianity! In being responsible, Christians are to…

II. Do good! (Vv. 6:6-10)
“Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. 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. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
1. Paul seems to abruptly change the direction, but in reality, he does not. He is continuing by sharing that in bearing one another’s burdens believers will support those who teach them. They “must share all good things” with those who instruct them. Paul warned believers not to be deceived (literally, to “stop being led astray”), for “God cannot be mocked” without experiencing devastating results. Whatever seeds a person sows will yield a harvest in kind. If you sow sparingly in your time, talent, and treasure with your church or those who instruct you, you’ll reap what you’ve sown. In fact, “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.” Believers can choose to sow to their flesh. They can devote themselves and their goods to self-indulgence. If they do, their harvest will be corrupted. Today, people thumb their noses at God when they view salvation as personal liberty to sin freely, presuming on God’s forgiveness. Such an approach calls into serious question the genuineness of their commitment to Christ. Paul’s advice is, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” If believers sow to the Spirit and invest themselves and their goods in the Lord—the Spirit will produce the harvest of eternal life in them and the lives of those they touch!  And Paul meant not just strangers but “especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” In being responsible, Christians are to do good!
EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians includes doing “good” to others, especially to other believers. We are to provide financial and other support to all church staff and to express appreciation to Sunday School and other Bible study leaders and teachers. We are to live in the Spirit and to resist becoming slack in doing good. Instead, we are to create and follow through on opportunities to help others. Being responsible means we live good godly lives in the Lord!

In summarizing his letter’s message, Paul condemned the false teachers’ pride. He stressed that believers should boast only about what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Paul reminds us that if we are to live responsibly as believers, we should…

III. Avoid selfish motives! (Vv. 6:11-15)
“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”
1. Paul hated spiritual hypocrisy, as every believer should. He writes, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” Paul wanted to emphasize to them the two-faced double standard his detractors were trying to force them in doing. “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.” He shares what their selfish motives were. First, they wanted to make a good showing in the flesh—to make a good appearance. If they could claim numerous circumcised believers, they could look good and be popular. Second, Paul asserted the real reason these Judaizers’ insisted on circumcision was their desire to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ—that His death alone was sufficient for salvation. This message contradicted the Jews’ system of works-righteousness and thus provoked their wrath, so the Judaizers chose an easier approach. The false teachers’ third selfish motive: They wanted to be able to “boast about” the number of those they could convince to be circumcised. They insisted Gentile converts keep the law, yet the Judaizers did not keep it themselves. Paul willingly told them, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Paul wanted them to understand that “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation!” Only their salvation mattered! We should never seek to win the lost to fill the pews or to add another notch to our salvation belt. Responsible believers avoid selfish motives!
EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians involves avoiding selfish motives in what we do. At best, our motives are mostly mixed. We really want to be “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8); we want to have unmixed motives in what we say and do. Praying daily for God’s help and obeying the Spirit will move us toward that goal. Being responsible means avoiding selfish motives!

Paul concluded his letter with a benediction of peace. He also called for others to let him have peace. In being responsible Christians, we are to…

IV. Seek peace! (Vv. 6:16-18)
“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”
1. Paul pronounced a benediction of peace on the Galatian believers. He wanted an absence of conflict among them, and he wanted them to be free from the Judaizers’ pressure. Even more, however, he prayed for their spiritual wholeness. Paul also prayed for God’s mercy on them as well and he included “even to the Israel of God.” Was this a backhanded blessing? I do not think so. I believe Paul wanted all of them, those who were following Christ and those who wanted to turn them back to works of the law, to truly have the peace and mercy of God! In fact, Paul goes out of his way to assert that no one was to cause him trouble. He probably had in mind having to defend his apostleship and the gospel. The phrase “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” probably refers to actual wounds, such as those he received from being stoned in Lystra during his first missionary journey (Acts 14:19). Depending on the letter’s date, he also could have referred to being beaten (2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:23-25). His battle scars were part of his street “creds” as an apostle and were marks that gave evidence he was Christ’s servant. Paul again called the Galatian believers brothers. In the Greek text the term comes immediately before the word amen as a final declaration of his affection for them. In spite of the extreme difficulty they had caused him, he cared for them as family members in Christ. Then Paul invoked Christ’s grace on their spirit. He closed the letter in much the same manner as he had begun it. Grace is Christ’s generous goodness in giving what people do not deserve. Paul wanted the believers to go on receiving grace. Responsible Christians seek peace.
EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians includes seeking the peace of Christ for our church, others, and ourselves. This involves avoiding conflict where possible and resolving conflicts that arise. Instead of having a contentious spirit, we are to allow Christ to make us peacemakers. Furthermore, we are to seek spiritual wholeness and well-being for our churches, others, and ourselves by following the Spirit’s leadership. Responsible Christians seek peace.

Conclusion:
As responsible believers we are to bear one another’s burdens, do good, avoid selfish motives, and seek peace!

This article is the copyrighted property of Lee Hemen and may not be edited or redistributed without his written permission.

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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering what you thought about peace. You know what I mean, not the peace the world tries to aspire to because that is impossible. I am referring to the peace that passes all understanding that only comes from intimately knowing the ruler of peace. Only he can give the human soul the peace it needs between the one who created us and ourselves. Perhaps you have realized peace does not come from people, places or things. Education, money, or power cannot give you the peace you need or seek. Only the one who died for you can give you peace when all else in life falters, fails, or falls apart. The absence of war, strife, or personal hurt is not the peace he gives. His peace comes by the sword of his truth that pierces the human soul right down to the spiritual bone marrow. Do you know this peace? 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 6:13-20 – The steadfast anchor!

Hebrews 6:13-20 – The steadfast anchor!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 9, 2012 AM

Recently, during the Democratic National Convention, leaders were angrily booed by the delegates when they decided to insert the word “God” back into their party’s platform. In another startling note, President Barack Obama enjoys a massive lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters who say they have no religion whatsoever, according to the Gallup tracking poll of the presidential race. Why are these two things important? They remind us that when people do not have a spiritual core or an anchor in life they will drift away from God. The warning we need to heed is that as individuals go, so goes the nation they live in as well.

The writer of Hebrews wrote his sermon because he saw early Christians drifting away from their relationship with Jesus Christ. He warned them about their spiritual drift and he began to share with them the basics of their faith but now wanted to go into deeper theological water. As he did he knew that they would need to be reminded of the steadfast anchor in which they were to base their faith. Let’s discover what he teaches his listeners…

READ: Hebrews 6:13-20

In the 1951 Walt Disney cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland, a caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” He wants to know from her why he should answer her questions. It is not an unfair question to ask. In fact, more people should be willing to ask why they should trust what a person says, especially during election season. Here in Hebrews we discover that we can trust God’s promise because…

I. God’s anchor is based on who he is! (Vv. 13-15)

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

1. The writer immediately states that “When God made his promise to Abraham” the promise that he would be the source of “many descendants,” there “was no one greater for him to swear by” so “he swore by himself!” This is important because God has the authority to make a promise secured by the fact that he made it! He is God! But why would the writer of Hebrews choose Abraham as an example? He used Abraham as a pattern, because he was the father of the Hebrews, and thereby of all believers. Also, Jewish believers were interested in the promise made to Abraham, and had a right to the same blessing as his descendants. The inference is that all Christians do as well! As Peter proclaimed on Pentecost, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39 NIV) And we also know that Abraham was remarkable for his faith and patience! Remember, he was married to Sarah! “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” Of course the “patience” Abraham displayed was waiting so long for a son, from whom the Messiah would eventually come! When God promises he will do something in our lives he does it but how long are we willing to endure until he completes his promise? Abraham’s promise was not fulfilled until Jesus was born, several thousands of years later. In fact, the promise of a son was not fulfilled until Abraham was quite old! Abraham never saw the final outcome in his lifetime but he remained confident, if not sometimes humanly dubious, that God would do exactly what he said he would do because God’s anchor is based on who he is!

EXAMPLE: I was surprised the other day when I received a phone call by a telemarketer, who in a very thick accent tried to sell me something. I hung up on her. I was surprised because she immediately called me back and exclaimed, “Hey! You hung up on me!” I answered her, “Hey! I don’t know you!” she then said something that made me laugh out loud. She retorted, “You can trust me.” I reminded her that I had not just fallen off a turnip truck. That remark puzzled her and so I explained that I never buy anything over the phone, ever, from anyone at any time period. I then hung up. I do not know about you but I barely trust sales-folks I speak to face-to-face with let alone over the phone! How wonderful to learn we can trust in God’s promises because God’s anchor is based on who he is!

Knowing that we can trust God is the first step in trusting his promises. I learned at a very early age that if my dad promised something, he would do whatever it took to make sure his promises came true. Now, of course, there were times when he could not keep his promises, but he was always willing to share with us why. In a world of uncertainty and distrust, Hebrews reminds us that…

II. God’s oath is our assured anchor! (Vv. 16-18)

Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.

1. We often incorrectly think that when we say we will “do” something, that should put an end to any argument concerning whether we will do it or not, but for some of us it does not. The reason is simple: Far too often we have the misconception that if we feel it or think it, then that is as good as doing it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actions and character speak louder than mere words! There was a time when two people made an agreement and shook on it, it was a done deal. Nowadays, we often want contracts, lawyers, and witnesses to be involved! However, the writer notes that when “Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.” They would swear an oath according to God as their witness. They would swear by God! This is why it is so important to understand that God “confirmed” his promise with his own “oath.” By this it made “the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear” to Abraham’s “heirs of what was promised.” No one would dare argue against this because of who actually made the promise and the oath that was made! It “is impossible for God to lie!” God’s promise and his truthfulness are “two unchangeable things” we can rely on! Therefore, “we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged!” We know for certain we can trust Jesus is the Messiah because God promised Abraham, and God does not lie! God’s oath is our assured anchor!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget going into buy a used van and my wife had the salesman scurrying around looking for answers. When they gave us the figures on the van we were about to purchase, the figures did not add up. It was an supposed to be an interest-free loan but they kept tacking all kinds of “extras” onto the purchase price. My wife whipped out a pencil and flipped over the piece of paper the hand-written agreement was written on and began doing long division. She immediately pointed out their faulty math. Incredulous that she could figure it out so quickly using long division the salesman went to get the manager, who then tried to convince my skeptical spouse. I just sat back and enjoyed the show. They wanted us to shake hands immediately on a deal based on faulty math and my wife would have none of it. We both refused until they agreed to my wife’s terms. It was only after all the legal documents reflected my wife’s math, that we signed them and purchased the van. How much more wonderful therefore is it to learn that God’s oath is our assured anchor!

One of my favorite hymns is “It Is Well with My Soul,” by H G Spafford: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul… Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.” The writer of Hebrews reminds us that…

III. Jesus is our anchor! (Vv. 19-20)

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

1. Two of the most sought after things we run to, when the storms and threats of life besiege us, is a refuge from the turmoil and a fortress from the invader. This is the graphic language used by the writer of Hebrews! We can take hold of the hand of hope held out to us by the promise of God to Abraham. Why? Because, “We have this hope as an anchor for our soul,” a quiet haven that is “firm and secure,” like the mighty stone seawalls of a fortified city harbor! We can put down our anchor and rest from the buffeting waves of doubt because God has given us a haven of rest! His Messiah promised to Abraham and it was culminated in Jesus! So much so that this assurance “enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf!” Our anchor has been dropped in the most secure and safest harbor of all, God’s inner sanctuary! The terminology here “recalls the role of sailors who leave their ship in a smaller craft in order to carry the anchor forward to a place where it can be firmly lodged!” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Jesus has “entered on our behalf” the heavenly sanctuary where He functions as a High Priest forever, has given all believers a secure hope an anchorage from which the storms of life cannot shake it loose! Matthew Henry, a 17th Century commentator, wrote that our hope “is an anchor that is cast upon the rock, the Rock of ages. It does not seek to fasten in the sands, but enters within the veil, and fixes there upon Christ; he is the object, he is the anchor – hold of the believer’s hope.” Jesus is our anchor!

EXAMPLE: In our area there is a local church that has handed out literally thousands of little black and white bumper stickers that state “Only God.” While I know for certain that not everyone who has placed one of those stickers on their vehicle actually believes what it says, the placement of the statement is a testimony to God. We could argue that it has reduced God to a pithy two-word catch phrase, that those who place them on their bumpers may not be able to tell you why the statement is true, or that the witness is ruined when the driver speeds or runs a red light. However, I would like to think that those tiny stickers reflect the view that only God has the answers one seeks or that only God can save. But perhaps, in the light of today’s verses, we can now safely state with confidence that it is truly, “Only Jesus.” Only Jesus is our anchor!

Conclusion:
Hebrews has taught us that God’s anchor is based on who he is, God’s oath is our assured anchor, and Jesus is our anchor!

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 © 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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