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A mentor – 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

A mentor – 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 9, 2018

When I began as a pastor, I heard that Sunday School was a way to reach, teach, win, and develop believers. I chose to adopt these concepts. Developing Christians requires personal mentoring as well as teaching. As a church we are to be alert for Christians who are growing spiritually and who give indications they would make excellent workers in the Lord’s kingdom and then mentor them for that task. In spite of our busy schedule, lack of confidence, or belief that only God or staff members can mentor another believer we are all called to mentor others in Christ.

First Kings ends with the ascension of Ahaziah to the throne of Israel, and 2 Kings begins with Ahaziah already reigning as king. 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book. The approximate date for the starting point for 2 Kings is 853 BC. The first two chapters in 2 Kings record the last two acts of the prophet Elijah and the first three miracles of his successor Elisha. Elijah’s mentoring of Elisha provides an illustration of some helpful steps any Christian can take in mentoring another Christian. Mentor means a trusted guide, a tutor, or a coach. Let’s discover what that means for us today…

READ: 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

Whereas Elijah mentored Elisha to be his successor as God’s prophet, most Christians will mentor workers for other tasks like teaching, witnessing, serving, working in Extended Teaching, Trail Life or any number of ministries to which God leads them. What qualifications would you look for in another Christian to determine if that person is ready to be mentored? In these verses we discover how to…

I. Test others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:1-3 NIV)

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.”

1. Just before Elijah’s home going in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on the way from Gilgal. The Hebrew word translated whirlwind can also refer to a windstorm, a gale, or a violent wind. God took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. In the prophets’ relationship Elijah was able to demonstrate to Elisha what this ministry was all about. Elisha was able to watch Elijah closely and see how he served God as a prophet. When the time came for Elijah to go to heaven and for Elisha to assume Elijah’s work; Elijah tried to get Elisha to remain in Gilgal by telling him to stay there while he went on for the Lord. Elisha responded by saying, “I will not leave you.” So together, they went to Bethel. Three times Elijah tried to leave Elisha behind (vv. 2, 4, 6). Each time Elisha refused to leave. Elijah’s command to Elisha to stay behind was a test of Elisha’s determination to become a prophet. Elisha showed he would remain with Elijah. As the two approached Bethel, the sons of the prophets came out to speak to Elisha. These men were prophets and were being trained or mentored in their religious duties by leading prophets such as Elijah and Elisha. They asked Elisha if he knew the Lord was going to take his master from him that day. The expression from you, or literally “from your head,” alludes to the custom of students’ sitting at the feet of their teachers. Their being in that position made the teacher taller than their heads. Elijah was Elisha’s teacher who was mentoring him for future prophetic service. God had revealed to these students that Elijah’s time on earth was over and that God was going to take him that day to heaven. God had revealed the same sad truth to Elisha also, for he said, “Yes, I know.” However, he told the prophets, “Be quiet,” for that news was very painful. God was also testing Elisha to see if he was ready to assume the prophetic mantle of Elijah.

EXAMPLE: It is good for churches to test prospects for service within their ministries. Over the decades I have watched as some churches have not done this and suffered the consequences of their inaction. When churches were considering setting a person aside for a particular ministry they would have a time of training, then allowing the candidate to serve within the particular ministry, followed by an evaluation period. These verses teach us this morning that it is a good idea to test others while mentoring them!

Elijah was testing Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity and determination to follow him and become his successor just as God planned. Like Elijah, all mentors need to test those they mentor to see if they are spiritually committed and suited for their particular function in God’s service. Elisha, however, had no trouble passing the test. In these verses we learn to…

II. Mentor others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:7-10 NIV)

Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours–otherwise not.”

1. Elijah and Elisha arrived at the Jordan after their trip from Gilgal and Jericho. Fifty prophets came out and from a distance. The Jordan River here is where it flows into the northern end of the Dead Sea. When they reached the Jordan, Elijah took his mantle, struck the waters and the water parted, allowing them to cross on dry ground to the east side. Just as God parted the waters for Moses when he held his staff over the sea God parted the Jordan for them. Now “Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.” Elijah’s question to Elisha was very important. Before he died, Elijah asked Elisha, “What can I do for you?” This question was another test for Elisha. Would he ask for riches, fame, safety, or something like that? Instead, Elisha’s reply was a request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elisha was not asking for twice the amount of Elijah’s spirit or some form of mystical power. The double portion terminology goes back to passages like Deuteronomy 21:17. A father’s oldest son received a double share of the inheritance. That implied the oldest son would succeed his father and have his father’s authority and blessing. Elisha wanted to follow Elijah in his prophetic ministry. He asked for Elijah’s spirit his zeal because he knew Elijah’s power and ability came from God working in Elijah. Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity made him aware that he would need that same God-given spiritual ability to be Elijah’s successor. Elijah called Elisha’s request something difficult. He knew only God could answer such a request. But he promised Elisha that he would inherit his prophetic office and his spiritual gifts if he remained with him and witnessed his death. If not, then Elisha would not receive what he requested. Elisha must reveal his willingness to stay with Elijah all the way. The older prophet could not produce his spiritual power in Elisha but he could mentor him and prepare him for God to use him. Elijah mentored through example and through teaching. He made sure Elisha saw that God was the source of his power and preaching.

EXAMPLE: Mentoring another is not an easy task yet every believer is called to do so at different times. It could be someone they lead to the Lord; it could be their children, a spouse, a friend or someone within the church! I had several mentors over the years from friends, pastors, deacons, teachers, and others. God used these men and women to polish the edges, give me greater wisdom, and the ability to learn how to be the best possible pastor I could be. Through the years I have tried to mentor others as well. As believers we are called to mentor others.

In evangelism we often challenge Christians by saying, “Each one should win one.” In discipling others for Christian service, we need to challenge each other by saying, “Each one mentor one.” However there comes a time when the ones we are mentoring must be left on their own to develop and mature in Jesus in their own time. In the following verses we discover that we must…

III. Leave the work to others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:11-14 NIV)

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart. He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

1. The time came for Elijah to go home with the Lord. As Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking together, God revealed a chariot of fire with horses of fire. God took Elijah up into heaven in the whirlwind. The picture of Elijah and Elisha walking along the road together and talking with each other is a good picture of the mentoring process. The mentor must spend time with the one being mentored. The learner needs to ask questions and the mentor needs to demonstrate what is to be done and to explain how and why the one mentored needs to do these tasks. God often revealed himself through fire, as he did to Moses at the burning bush and to Elijah on Mount Carmel before the prophets of Baal. The appearance of the chariots and horsemen was used elsewhere to describe an appearance of God (see 2 Kings 13:14). God separated them; Elijah to go home with him and Elisha to stay and minister to his people. Elisha addressed Elijah as “My father, my father,” meaning his spiritual father. After watching Elijah go out of sight, Elisha tore his clothes apart in anguish. This action and his intimate address of Elijah as “My father, my father” revealed the grief of Elisha’s heart at the departure of Elijah. Evidently in Elijah’s miraculous translation to heaven in the whirlwind, he either discarded or dropped his mantle. This garment was part of the uniform of Elijah the prophet and served as a symbol of his ministry. Elisha picked up the mantle and went back to the banks of the Jordan where Elijah had parted the waters. Taking Elijah’s prophetic cloak was meaningful symbolism. Elisha was assuming responsibility as Elijah’s successor and began his journey back to Israel to serve the Lord. Using the mantle in the same manner as he had seen Elijah use it, Elisha struck the waters. He asked, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” Elijah was gone. Only his cloak remained. Was God gone also? Facing the obstacle of the river was Elisha’s first test as to whether God really had called him and empowered him to succeed Elijah. When Elisha used the cloak on the river, it divided and he crossed over. God answered Elisha’s question: God was with Elisha as He had been with Elijah! Elijah had left the work to others, namely Elisha!

EXAMPLE: We need to be reminded that unlike now because of Jesus’ resurrection we enjoy the power and presence of God always. During Elijah’s and Elisha’s day this was not the case. The presence of God through the Holy Spirit had not been given permanently as it is today. Elisha was unsure and he needed to be reassured by the Lord. God show him that he indeed was Elijah’s true successor by parting the waters of the Jordan just as he had done for Elijah. That hairy old garment was not magical or special, it was the people God worked through who were. Elijah had left Elisha to continue the work of being God’s prophet.

Conclusion:

1. Mentors need to test those they are mentoring to see if they are suited for the task.
2. Those who demonstrate spiritual sensitivity to serving God should be mentored.
3. Those mentored must be released do the work for which they have been mentored.
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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2 Peter 1:3-8 — Game On!

2 Peter 1:3-8 — Game On!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 15, 2018

Sad to say but most Christians do not have a good grasp of theology. In fact for some churches they have taken arrogant pride in not being associated with any particular theology. This self-inflicted spiritual ignorance has become a disease that hinders the spiritual growth of believers. Churches and individual believers have lost their focus. When sports teams lose focus there is a cry that often is heard in the dugouts and sidelines: “Game on!” It means they are ready, willing, and able to do whatever it takes to win the game before them. I believe it is time for Christians to get their game on!

Gregory Camp wrote a song a few years back where the chorus went: “Hey now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play. Hey now, you’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid. And all that glitters is gold; only shooting stars break the mold!” Of course he was writing about living for the moment but it kind of applies for the believer who wants to shine in a sin-darken world. I believe it is time for Christians to get their game on! Let’s discover how…

READ: 2 Peter 1:3-8

When I go fishing I try to use bait or lures that will attract fish. I have learned that fish do not respond to a lure or bait because they like it, they respond because whatever is used triggers in them an instinctual response of aggression. And I have just about everything I need in my tackle box to attract fish. The Christian’s problem is they have swallowed the lie that they do not have what they need to attract the lost to Jesus. It is time to get our game on and realize…

I. Christians have everything they need to get their game on! (Vv. 3-4)

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

1. In our weakness we can think we are all alone in our faith walk. Sure we hear that Jesus is with us and his Spirit lives within us but then we get frightened, self-conscious, and forget who made the universe, who knows us intimately, and who gives us all we need. Peter reminds us that it is “His divine power [which] has given us everything we need for life and godliness”! Note that it isn’t our “divine” power; it is Jesus God who gives us everything we “need for life and godliness”! How is this done? It occurs “through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”! Our knowledge comes when we realize our sin and his ability to cure it by “his own glory and goodness”! By Jesus’ power and holiness! Paul wrote “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:19-21 NIV)” WOW! In fact Jesus did not just display it to us in his death, burial, and resurrection but he freely gave that same power to us who believe! I know this to be true because God said it was and God never ever goes back on his word! Peter reminds us that “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Now dear gamer of God do you fully understand what Peter wrote here? Jesus God gave us freely everything we need to be in the game! In fact way much more than you have come to fully understand! We participate, are part of, in God’s divine nature and we have completely escaped our eternal death by his power and grace and the corruption of our own evil desires! WOW again! Christians have everything they need to get their game on!

EXAMPLE: Do you know who Erik Kennedy or Ryan Stiles are? They are the Equipment Managers for the Seahawks and the Mariners. Equipment managers are extremely important for a sports team, especially ones like the Mariners or Seahawks. Making sure each player has their specific guards, pads, gloves, bats, helmets and such makes sure the player can safely do the job there are hired to do with a minimum of injury. Where millions of dollars of investment in players is on the field these managers are important. Isn’t it therefore great to know that Jesus has given Christians everything they need to get their game on!

I learned in Seminary to use mnemonic devices to help me remember answers for the tests I had to take every week. Peter gives his readers a list of what God can supply to the believer that wants to get their game on to win the lost. Peter teaches us that in getting our game on…

II. Christians have the character strengths to finish the game! (Vv. 5-8)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Peter gives us a litany which the Bible Knowledge Commentary states that “In this beautiful paragraph Peter orchestrates a symphony of grace. To the melody line of faith he leads believers to add harmony in a blend of seven Christian virtues which he lists without explanation or description.” However I view it as a kind of progression for us to participate in the game by the gift of his divine nature. It is “For this very reason” we are to “make every effort to add to [our] faith”. He begins with “goodness” in the NIV but it really is “valor” in the Greek which has often been lost in our day and age because it carries with it manliness or inner strength. From this we progress to “knowledge” which is the intrinsic knowledge of God, and then towards “self-control”. Being able to control one’s passions comes from knowledge of persevering towards godliness. From a godly nature comes “brotherly kindness” or more literally brotherly love. When a Christian can love another with the affection of Jesus then they can love one another sacrificially. Why would Peter list them this way? Many have speculated for thousands of years but I honestly believe Peter’s desire was that believers become like Jesus. Interestingly when Peter used the word “add” as in “add to your faith”, he was using a word where we get our words for chorus or choreograph. In ancient Greece the state established the chorus but the director, the choreographer, paid or supported the participants. A believer is to “furnish, supply, or support” his life with these virtues Peter lists and he writes why: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In this Peter reminds us to get our game on by remembering that Christians have the character strengths to finish the game!

EXAMPLE: Few people like it when sports figures who get paid millions of dollars to play a child’s game act like children on or off the field. Sometimes these overpaid players can begin to think they are the most important thing rather than the team they play for. And sadly there are those who were great at the game but are now remembered for their horrendous behavior instead. Many nowadays are not prepared for the public spotlight that is squarely paced on their every action and behavior. Isn’t it wonderful to know that Christians have the character strengths to finish the game!

Conclusion:

Christians have everything they need to get their game on! Christians have the character strengths to finish the game!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Facing fear! Trusting God! – 2 Timothy 1:7

Facing fear! Trusting God! – 2 Timothy 1:7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 7, 2013 AM

When John Kennedy’s speechwriters wrote his famous words, “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country”, they were borrowing from the thoughts of our Nation’s forefathers. George Washington wrote, “Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude.” We live in a day and age whereby folks seem to be more interested in what they get out their relationship with Jesus than what their responsibility should be in their relationship with Jesus.

Paul wrote his young friend Timothy two letters of instruction and encouragement. Paul cared deeply for Timothy, but for some reason, he kept not quite living up to the expectations Paul had for him. Like many believers today, Timothy was often embarrassed of not only Paul and his bold and outgoing witness, but he was often ashamed of his own relationship with the Lord! Christians, both young and old face fears and uncertainties in life concerning their faith. What does Paul tell his friend to do when he doubts himself and others as he tried to face his fears and trust God? Let’s find out…

READ: 2 Timothy 1:1

In life, we can be afraid of a lot of things. As children, we may fear a dark room or a bully down the street and as adults; we may fear a boss or what the future holds for us, however, Paul shares that…

I. God did not give us a spirit of timidity!

1. The wording here means one of fear, where the person is not just afraid but acting cowardly. Often times, young people can fear their friends rejection. They are sensitive to how they are viewed by their peers, and thereby act cowardly in sharing their faith. However, this isn’t just confined to the young. Believers of all ages have become fearful of what others think about them and are not sharing their faith. Perhaps, this is what Timothy feared as well. Paul had faced a similar situation with John Mark, who would later write the gospel of Mark. Mark had been on fire for his faith at first, but soon tired of the road, longed for home, and also displayed an attitude of cowardice in sharing his faith! Timothy needed this reminder of his ordination, and the confidence in his own gifts he developed as a result of it. While even Moses, on the occasion, acted in fear and trembling, the Gospel was given to us in a much milder manner. Everything was placed on our human level of understanding and within the reach of every human being. Nothing was terrifying, forbidding but all was compassionate and inviting. Paul would write the Roman Christians, who faced far greater hardships than most of us do today, wrote, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15 NIV) Paul and the other disciples understood that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NIV) In fact, Jesus taught, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5 NIV) We should not be afraid of sharing our faith. We need to remind ourselves that God did not give us a spirit of timidity!

EXAMPLE: Perhaps we do not share because we feel guilt that we do not live the consistent holy lives in Christ we should, and if we do share then those we are trying to win would point out all of our faults. We would be exposed for the religious hypocrites we actually are. Perhaps we need to reexamine our commitment, but more likely, we need to remember that we are not made perfect in our life in Jesus; we are just made holy in him. This is what Paul was trying to teach Timothy. This is why he told him, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1:8-9 NIV) God did not give us a spirit of timidity but one of power because of his grace!

The world has a survival of the fittest mentality. If we appear compassionate, kind, or gracious the world may see it as weakness. However, we need not be fearful, Paul shares that instead…

II. God has given us a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline!

1. The wording Paul uses in the next part of the verse is one of immense energy, a violent force that completely changes the individual; kind of like a spiritual explosion. You were once this way and God came in and completely and totally changed you! As Paul would write about his own experience, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) He continues his encouragement to Timothy by reminding him that God also gave him a spirit of love. The word is one used for a continuation of love in that God keeps on heaping on his love for us and we should then live like it. It is a sacrificial love, a feast for the soul. We can come to worship, join a church, and even turn our car radios to the local Christian music station but then we are like the Pharisees Jesus warned, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11:42 NIV) We think that by doing the right religious things, we are living for God, but Jesus demands we display his love, his grace by giving it away into the lives of others! John would ponder, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:16-17 NIV) And this brings us to the final encouragement Paul gave his young protégé, namely to remember God had given him a spirit of self-discipline as well, literally, a “sound mind” in Jesus. We are not to be sophomoric, which is a derivative of this word, but rather live in such a way as to display the mind of Christ in our lives. Paul would write the Roman Christians, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:6-9 NIV) They call a person who has two conflicting minds a schizophrenic. Some believers are walking spiritual schizophrenics! We are to have the mind of Christ and not the world! Like Timothy, perhaps this morning we need to be reminded that God has given us a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline!

EXAMPLE: Maybe we should take another look at what Paul wrote Timothy, not just this one verse, but the context of it. Paul wrote, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:7-12 NIV) Let me ask, “Can you honestly say the same thing this morning, or do you live your life in Christ in fear and shame?” Makes one wonder… God has given us a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline!

Conclusion:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

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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The power that unleashes God’s will! – Revelation 8:1-5

The power that unleashes God’s will! – Revelation 8:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 2, 2011 AM

John Franklin, in his book “And the Place Was Shaken”, recounts a time in 1990 when he joined about 250 people in a two-week evangelistic crusade in Mombasa, Kenya. They were divided into teams of three, each team going hut-to-hut and house-to-house, presenting the Gospel. Franklin said he was in awe. “A few times in my life I have been in a service or prayer meeting where the manifest presence of God could be felt but never before in a whole city. Wherever we walked, the presence of the Lord tangibly permeated the land, so much so that often people were saved by the dozens.”

His team was walking down a dirt road that led to the next village. Three Kenyan men were seated on stools by the roadside. One inquired, “Excuse me are you from America?” Franklin replied, “Yes.” “Are you one of the ones who has come here to tell us the word of God?” “Yes,” he answered. The man responded, “We’ve heard that you’ve come, and we’ve heard of Jesus and His great power. Tell me, how does one become His follower? My friends and I want to know.” John explained the plan of salvation and the man immediately replied, “Let’s pray.” This happened again and again, and in all, 30,000 people responded to the Gospel in 14 days! However, it took preparation. Three months earlier, several churches in Mombasa began fervently praying. During the crusade, a different church prayed all night each night. Franklin joined one of the all night prayer meetings. He felt the presence of God in his hotel room so strongly when awoke that he did not rise; he simply slid out of the sheets to his knees in prayer. Following the prayer meetings, every single adult they witnessed to trusted Christ! Franklin and the others discovered that the revival that came to this city happened because of the corporate prayers of God’s people.

Last week I introduced this neglected subject of praying together. I made several statements that God has sovereignly ordained the corporate praying of His people, such that His mighty workings increase exponentially and His purposes are accelerated when we pray together. One writer, after studying the New Testament pattern of corporate prayer wrote, “The Early Church didn’t have a prayer meeting. The Early Church was the prayer meeting. In fact, in the Early Church, every Christian was a prayer-meeting Christian.” (Fred Hartley’s “Everything by Prayer”, page 12.) We need a renewal of prayer in our church, because it is the power that unleashes God’s will!

READ: Revelation 8:1-5

In Revelation, the Apostle John tells us of the things that he experienced and in the midst of earth-shattering events, there is this astounding pause in heaven, and a lesson about prayer that is amazing. The prayers of God’s people are portrayed here as the instrument God uses to bring this world to its appointed end. Like a tremendous symphony, there are three major movements in this apocalyptic orchestral drama of the last days and they all come from the power that unleashes God’s will! Let’s discover what they are…

Movement #1: The seven-sealed scroll is opened!
1. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17 NIV)
1) These verses refer to the opening of the seventh seal of a scroll. This is the final seal of the seven seals described by John in chapter 5 that he cried over because they could not be opened. The enormous significance of the contents of this scroll is such that no one in heaven, not the cherubim that continually declare God’s glory; not the resplendent Gabriel, God’s special messenger; not even the mighty archangel Michael, God’s heavenly warrior could open the scroll! John declares that when, “He opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” What were the contents of the scroll? It contains the unfolding of human history. Its opening would enact the final chapter for this world and those who live in it. However, remember that when the call went out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” John wept because, “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it!” The delay was intentional. The elders near the throne tell john, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5) Only Jesus the Lamb of God could open it! When the call goes out, no one stepped forward but Jesus! Jesus alone has the royal right to open the seals of history and oversee its final unfolding, because Jesus died, and in dying, he ransomed a great multitude of saints from all the nations, and he alone has made them priests and established them as rulers of the earth! The cross is the key to human history! What happened there, nearly 2000 years ago will unlock the future revelation of God’s plan. The seven-sealed scroll is now opened by the Lamb of God!

Chapter 6 records what happens as Jesus cracks open the seals of the scroll like a mighty timpani of a heavenly orchestra, one-by-one. The actions of Christ in heaven bring thunderous blows against the earth the likes of which have never been seen. Each opened seal creates global cataclysm. And with each successive seal that is broken by Christ in heaven, humanity is brought one frightening beat closer to the end of time and the brink of eternity. Let’s take a look at…

Movement #2: The silence in heaven!
1. “Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.” (Zephaniah 1:7 NIV)
1) In 8:1, the Lamb, Jesus, breaks the last remaining seal to the scroll. Once this scroll is opened, the wheels of God’s judgment will speed up, preparing the way for the Second Coming of Christ to earth and the end of all things. But before that occurs, something unusual takes place. Notice again, that when the Lamb “opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” The hosts of heaven stand in awe with what is about to transpire with the opening of the scroll! The very next sound heard is in v. 5 when “the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake!” Wow! The raw sovereign power of God is about to be released in ways that will cause the cosmos to convulse and everything to change forever! So the inhabitants of heaven share a stunned silence. However, do not miss what we are being shown here in this moment. Jesus deliberately pauses to show John and us the gathered power our prayers have and the effect they create in history! In the previous verse we are told, “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Do our prayers really matter? Does praying together truly accelerate the fulfillment of God’s purposes? The answer is, “YES!” Leon Morris wrote about this passage that the prayers of “saints appear insignificant to men at large. But in the sight of God they matter. Even great cosmic cataclysms are held back on their account. And the praises of the angels give way to silence so that the saints may be heard!” (Leon Morris, “The Revelation of John”, page 119.) In other words, after the opening of the seventh seal we have a dramatic presentation of the importance of the prayers of the saints and the silence in heaven ensues!

Before the scroll is opened God wants to make clear to John and to us that the unfolding of the end of the world will happen by the prayers of the saints. The words that we often could barely utter, have reached their destination, and been interpreted into one final stanza! Which, by the way, brings us now to the final movement…

Movement #3: The supplication of the saints of God!
1. “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:15 NIV)
1) Again, look at verse 3, “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.” Notice that John relates it is the prayers of “all the saints” that have been placed on the altar. If you wonder where your prayers go and what God does with them, here is one of the answers. They go onto the golden altar before God’s throne! How wonderful is that? In fact, we discover that incense throughout the Bible refers to people’s prayers and praise offered up to God! The Psalmist would pray, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalms 141:2 NIV) The author of Hebrews would conclude, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15 NIV) If mere human beings can invent a memory chip that holds countless millions of bytes of information, it is not difficult to imagine that the Creator of all things providing a way to preserve every prayer that has ever been prayed in the name of Jesus! We can only imagine the fragrance they offer in God’s throne room. Nevertheless, there will come a day when God will do something else with our prayers. Remember, verse 5 tells us that, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake!” These cataclysmic reactions of thunder, loud rumblings, flashes of lightening, and the earthquake simply represent the action of God from heaven on the world as the scroll of the end of the age begins to open and the seven trumpets and the seven bowls are poured out! However, in the midst of all the mighty power of God do not miss the instrument that brings this all about, namely, “the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne!” Your prayers, dear child of God, preserved, protected, and deposited before the throne of God on a golden altar! It is the beautiful supplication of the saints of God and the power that unleashes God’s will!

Conclusion:
What these verses in Revelation teach us is that the prayers of the saints are the instrument God uses to usher in the end of the world. Our prayers change the tempo of history in more ways than we realized before. Not one God-exalting prayer has ever been offered in vain. None of them is lost. None is a wasted measure or pointless. Not one heartfelt crescendo is forgotten. All are accumulated and heard at the very throne of God and placed on his golden altar until the final drumbeat!

The time will come when God will orchestrate his holy angel to take his mighty censer and fill it with fire from the altar where the prayers burn before the Lord, and pour it out on the world to bring all God’s plan to one final completion. And it will be because of your prayers dear saint in the Lord. Never forget that our prayers are the power that unleashes God’s will!
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This sermon was drawn from John Franklin’s, “And the Place Was Shaken” and from notes by Lloyd Stilly, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gulf Shores. 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 © 2011 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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Today’s Thoughts, John 16:32-33

March 21, 2008
By Pastor Lee Hemen

“But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33)

I find it really amazing that Jesus took the time to relate to His disciples that they would not only disown Him, but they would run for their lives as well. In fact, they would get so distressed and depressed over the situation that they would head home instead of relying on His words that He had related to them over and over again. Looking back we can think, “Man, were these guys dense or what?” However the same is perfectly true for many Christians in our day and age. Here’s what I mean: We come to Christ because we need Him to sooth us, comfort us, or pat us on the head and say to our weary souls, “There, there, everything is going to be all right.” And it is for a few days, but then life comes crashing back into our lives and we quickly go our separate ways. We head back to the comfort of our “home,” where justified sin and self-reliance dwell.

When the first missiles of hardship, doubt, or spiritual warfare shoot their fiery darts across our bow, we head for the hills forgetting that Jesus also promised, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may know peace.” It is only in Jesus Christ we find and discover what real peace is all about. It is not the peace that does away with hardship, pain, or spiritual suffering. “In this world you will have trouble. But [we are to] take heart! [Jesus has] overcome the world!” We quickly forget that Jesus taught, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Apart from Jesus we will run sacred, we will head home when troubles come our way, we will scatter when faced with tough times.

Just as Jesus did not depend on His fair-weather-friends, because He knew His Father was with Him no matter what happened, we can depend on Him. The world would soon beat, berate, and batter Him physically, emotionally, and spiritually but He took heart. Why? He had overcome the world and anything it could throw at Him. He did not rely on others, but on what He knew about God to be true! Herein is the truth that Jesus wants all of us to understand today, on this “Good Friday,” that we may face all kinds of temptations, sorrow, and suffering but we can take heart because He has overcome the world! And, because Jesus has overcome we can as well.

Therefore take heart little tired sin-sorrowful soul, you do not need to run away, Jesus your Redeemer has overcome the world so that you can too!

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety. This devotional will follow Morning by Morning by C H Spurgeon. You may use it however you desire.

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