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The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13

The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 5, 2017

The books and televisions programs of Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and others are fantastic mystery series. I love a good mystery. Trying to figure out who done it, how they did it, and why is great fun for me. I also like a lot of Alfred Hitchcock movies and books as well because of the suspense. Yep, there is nothing like a good mystery; except where God is concerned.

There are many in our day and age and in the past who have tried to lie to mankind and declare only they know the secret or hidden mysteries of God. That all others except themselves need a special book, specific revelation, seer stones, a guide, or advanced teacher to tell us the hidden mysteries of God. Therefore isn’t great to know that the mystery of God has now been revealed through his Son, Jesus? There is nothing hidden, tucked away, or kept from those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus. And here in his letter to the Ephesians Paul tells us all about the mystery revealed!

READ: Ephesians 3:1-13

You can never truly know anyone; even one’s spouse can surprise you once in a while which can be a good thing. The great thing about the gospel message is that it reveals Jesus for who he truly is and Paul knew this to be true as well. He knew that…

I. The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! (Vv. 1-5)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.

1. Things can be confusing when you do not understand them whether it is some new fangled electronic gadget or something that is theological. In these situations it is often good to have someone who knows the ins and outs, kind of like a mentor, teacher, or guide. Paul understood this, not the electronic gadget part but the theological nuances that would have utterly confused both his Jewish converts but in particular the non-Hebrew gentiles. And so he begins to share with his readers from his own personal experience, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles”. He considered himself a prisoner, which he probably was in Rome, of Jesus not just in a criminal sense but also as one called out as a volunteer to be willingly held captive by Jesus. He was held captive not for himself but for their sake! Paul saw his life’s calling as the “administration” as a personal stewardship or trust “of God’s grace”. God had given him this “household task” and “surely” they had “heard about” it! Paul had been made an apostle, messenger, to the Gentiles by Jesus. This grace was the “the mystery made known to (Paul) by revelation, as (he had) already written (them) briefly.” The mystery was that God would come in human form, be born of a virgin, grow to be a man and willingly give his life as a sacrifice for our sins! Also do not forget that Paul at one time did not understand this mystery and in fact had held the cloaks of those who willingly stoned to death one of Jesus’ followers. Only later when he was given instructions by the chief priests to go to Damascus to persecute more of Jesus’ followers did God intervene and call Paul to be his disciple to the Gentiles. And so Paul now tells the Ephesians that “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

EXAMPLE: The mystery of the ages is not difficult to understand; the problem is we as believers often make it harder than it is. It is kind of like the old joke about the Rabbi and the Priest who were by the side of a country road holding a sign that read: “The End is Near! Turn around before it’s too late!” and showed it to each passing car. One driver that passed didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted, “Leave us alone you religious nuts!” All of a sudden they heard the screeching of brakes and a big splash. The Rabbi turned to the Priest and asked, “Do you think we should have written: ‘Bridge Out’ instead?” I am so glad that the mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

The good news, the Gospel message is the mystery revealed. But what exactly does this mystery do and how does it do it? Oh that is a spectacular and most wonderful thing! Paul writes that…

II. He was entrusted to preach this mystery! (Vv. 6-9)

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

1. Paul continued by getting right to the heart of the mystery. He relates that “This mystery is that through the gospel”. What is through the gospel? What is this good news? Namely that “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel” of all the promises of God! All believers no matter where they come from or their background become the chosen people of God! In fact we are “members together of one body” which is the church, the called out ones by Jesus that form his “body” in the world! Therefore we are all “sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus”! This promise is more than joint heirs of God’s promise to his people it also gives eternal life and the presence and power of God to all who believe! Part of Jesus’ final prayer was when he asked God the Father, “My prayer is not for them alone (meaning his disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21 NIV) Paul came to understand what this oneness meant as he explains that “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” God had imparted this mystery to him on the road to Damascus and thereby he became its servant! Now his readers could have wondered why in the world God would do such a thing to someone like Paul. Yet he knew his past and writes that “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Paul had been entrusted to preach this mystery! And like Paul we also are “to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things”. He had written his friend Timothy that he was to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV) From the Four Gospel narratives to the Book of Revelation we are entrusted to preach this mystery!

EXAMPLE: It is sad but there have always existed charlatans who would use the gospel for their own purposes; from Ananias and Sapphira to the likes of Peter Popoff there are those motivated to use the mystery of the gospel for their personal greed and power. Remember Paul told his friend Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” He knew a “time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NIV) We are entrusted to preach this mystery!

Jesus had ascended back to his heavenly realm and left his body the church to fulfill the preaching of the gospel mystery. For Paul it was important that his readers understand that…

III. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery! (Vv. 10-13)

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

1. Paul bluntly relates that Jesus’ “intent was that now, through the church (Jesus’ body made up of his called out members), the manifold wisdom of God should be made known”. It is our job to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything (Jesus had) commanded”! (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Paul writes that this was part and parcel of God’s plan all along, that this “wisdom… should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”. God made this mystery known to all of the heavenly realm when he came as Jesus and when he died on the cross for our sins “according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord”! If that isn’t a mystery I don’t know what is! The Greek adjective “manifold” (polypoikilos) referred to the beauty of an embroidered pattern or the variety of colors in flowers. God redeemed all the “colorful flowers” of the world; all the patterns of races, colors, and creeds to himself through faith in him! This mystery brought Hebrew and gentile together into one body the church! “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Through faith in Jesus we have the right of freedom, the “courage, boldness” to confidently approach God’s throne! Hebrews reminds us that “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV) This is why Paul writes the Ephesians, “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” He was asking the body of Christ to pray for him a fellow believer! He knew he could because Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

EXAMPLE: There are those in our day and age who think that the church is a show you come to once in a while in order to feel good about yourself and God. There are others who believe it is a repository where we are to dispense our good deeds to the unwashed world. Or there are those who think that the church is an organization one belongs to in order to gain entrance into certain segments of society or culture. None of these are correct. The church is the body of Christ in the world made up of many members where each does its part for God’s plan that he has for them in the world in order that his message, the gospel, is shared. In this process we come together for worship of him, encouragement of one another, and mentoring to be sent out into the world with his message. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

Conclusion:

The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! We are entrusted to preach this mystery! Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Time for the Christian Empire to Strike Back

Time for the Christian Empire to Strike Back
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 16, 2016

With the latest Star Wars release I thought this would be appropriate. Recently I was watching the TV show Supergirl and was assaulted by the amoral concept of lesbianism. Supergirl’s adopted sister has “discovered” herself and come out of the closet. The following few weeks I was again assaulted by the TV show NCIS New Orleans when an FBI agent discusses with her ex-partner, another female investigator, about their lesbian relationship.

Television has now seen fit to use its medium to assault us with their politically correct notion of what constitutes normal relationships. Not satisfied with their culpability in the utter break down of the morals of our society, their utter disregard for sexual relationships, marriage and family, they now want to bring their notion of what is “normal” into our living rooms. Now I know for decades they have infected their shows with homosexuality and forced us into “accepting” their perverted view of what constitutes love and marriage, but now we are to go a step further and be force-fed the notion that almost everyone we know could be either gay, lesbian, or a transsexual and this is normal.

So now I am obliged to turn off my TV, which I do, or watch hand-picked programming from Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon – which I also do. And the media moguls can’t figure out why more and more of us are heading to these choices instead of watching their sewage or buying cable which is full of graphic violence and porn.

The truth is that less than 1% of the population has any proclivity in this arena but we now have to bend over backwards in being required to watch this and accept it. No actual study supports the numbers being thrown at us through TV programming. Out of the literally thousands of folks I have known over the years few were gay, lesbian, or transsexual. And this includes members of my congregation, family members and close friends. What angers me is that I now have to turn off a TV show that is supposed to be family oriented, like Supergirl, and instruct my grandson that not everyone agrees with this assessment and that it is not an accepted Christian teaching. And worse, why there are those who would accuse him of being “hateful” for having Christian values.

Now it is a good thing to teach him that Christians are to love others, but why do the vast majority of us now have to be on constant guard and instruct our children that this is not an acceptable lifestyle in our faith community and that it can be destructive, lead to drug addiction, psychological and physical problems, and that not everyone is inclined this way? I was amused when fellow believers came and asked me “Why does TV hate Christians?” after viewing a segment of Family Guy where the baby Jesus was kicked.

Over the decades, television has done some great things in instructing us about racial and sexual equality; but it is also guilty of participating in and the endorsement of the breakdown of family, marriage, and an abnormal focus on sex. We now have to suffer through family programming that bleeps out gross vulgarities because television wants the viewer to think every family uses this kind of filthy language around their children. It’s called pushing the envelope.

For the past three years I have worked at a public elementary school and have seen for myself what the breakdown of family, morals, alcohol and drug addiction has done to children. Now we are adding to the mixture the stupid notion those little children, who are easily molded psychologically, into thinking that they could be something biologically they are not. But because of our collective guilt and political correctness we will place on them the burden of our preconceived perverted sexuality. Television no longer entertains; it has become our collective politically correct thought police. It is time for Christians to push back by writing, emailing, and letting sponsors and the networks know they will not buy, watch nor use any product or show that endorses hatred towards Christians and their faith practices.
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This article is copyrighted © 2016 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 Answer for Your Nation’s Future

The Answer for Your Nation’s Future
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2016

I know that some of you have encouraged caution and understanding toward those who are mentally unraveled because of Trump’s win, but to be honest it is getting harder and harder to do as each day pass and when another liberal screed is shoved at us from the liberal elites.

I was reminded by a very thoughtful personal friend that the rioting of the Vietnam era actually solidified moderates, independents, and conservatives to vote for Nixon and later Reagan. The riots today are actually doing the very same thing. Already several folk I know who voted for Sanders or Hillary are now completely dismayed at what they are hearing and seeing. One commented that she was now glad Trump won and hoped only the best for him and the Nation. When I asked her why the change she remarked “Look at those who are now rioting or sending hateful messages; that’s not me nor does it represent who I am. I am appalled.”

While I understand someone’s depression when their candidate lost, I do not understand their vitriol, contempt, or hatred. You would not have seen the same actions from those of us who voted for Trump if he lost. You did not see it from us when Obama won twice. Yes we wrote about his inability to lead, but we never encouraged violence, hatred, or murdering him. Now I am not talking about the ultra-conservative lunatic fringe. And what we are seeing now from the left is too often tacitly condoned by the media and others.

Actress Lea DeLaria found herself in hot water after she wrote on Instagram that she wanted to “take out” Republicans and Independents with a baseball bat. Only she used vulgarities that I will not include in this post. Others have done the same thing and many going so far as to ask that someone shoot Trump with a sniper rifle.

Fashion designer Andrew Warren has had to come to the defense of his longtime friend Tiffany Trump following a barrage of hateful posts and death threats against her and her family. And he has had to suffer vulgar hate-filled messages from his friendship with her.

The CEO of Grubhub, an online food delivery service, sent a company-wide email strongly suggesting employees who agree with President-elect Donald Trump’s behaviors and his campaign rhetoric should resign. It was a worded threat to those who voted for Trump.

Perhaps one of the best responses was by Jennifer Lawrence and while I totally disagree with her political views I believe what she wrote should be embraced by those who are struggling. The actress responded to President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, in an essay posted Thursday morning that she wrote for Broadly, Vice’s women’s interest channel. She wrote that “I want to be positive; I want to support our democracy, but what can we take away from this? It’s a genuine question that we all need to ask ourselves,” writes the Oscar-winning actress. “We shouldn’t blame anyone, we shouldn’t riot in the streets. We should think strongly and clearly about what to do next because we cannot change the past.” And concluded her remarks by writing “Do not let this defeat you — let this enrage you! Let it motivate you!” Lawrence added. “Let this be the fire you didn’t have before. If you are an immigrant, if you are a person of color, if you are LGBTQ+, if you are a woman — don’t be afraid, be loud!”

What Ms Lawrence is encouraging is exactly what those who voted for Trump went door-to-door for him and what they did to get him elected. Many Americans, me included, are not totally overjoyed at Trump being President but we could not stand by and let the same old thing happen again and have a completely corrupt individual who disdains her own Nation’s security be President.

Just remember as there is zany and unrealistic rhetoric to succeed from the Union, violent riots, and vulgar Facebook posts and Tweets you can throw the bum out in four years! Do what you encouraged us in middle class America to do the past eight long and frustrating years: Pray for your Nation, your leaders, and yes the President, because whether you want to believe it or not we did.

As believers we are to show compassion and encouragement to those around us, and we are to pray for the lost and our Nation.
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This article is copyrighted © 2016 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 Holy Life! — James 1:22-27

The Holy Life! — James 1:22-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 18, 2014

Some believe that global warming is the biggest threat to the world today. In fact, many of the major news organizations came out on Monday saying that the Antarctic is losing its ice sheet and “there is nothing we can do about it!” Yet, according to the National Snow and Ice Data, Antarctic ice is growing at a rapid pace never seen before. Some thought, in the 1970’s, that the greatest risk we faced was global cooling! Some thought we would all starve to death by the 1990’s and yet there are more crops being grown than ever in the history of mankind. Every year brings dire warnings of MERS, SARS, AIDS, the Nile Virus or some other disease that is going to wipe us off the face of the earth. Yet, as I look at mankind and especially the life of Christians today, I believe that the greatest global threat we face is ungodliness seen as a normal part of the Christian faith.

The holy life is no longer seen as hip or something one should embrace in their faith walk. Some actually think that because they have once placed their faith and trust in Jesus, they are now as holy as they need to be. They have their lifeguard Jesus and do not need to worry about how they are drowning in their sin. Nothing could be further from the truth! Hebrews reminds us to “Make every effort to… be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV) And, Peter would admonish, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV) What then is the holy life? James relates some simple concepts that can help us to understand the holy life better, let’s discover what he teaches…
READ: James 1:22-27

He did not care what he had done, he did not care he had hurt others, and he did not care that he had to serve hard time for it as well. Thinking he could get better treatment, he began to serve in the chapel and it was there he discovered his imprisonment was not just physical, it was spiritual. While incarcerated, he found freedom in Christ. James teaches us that…

I. The Holy life responds to God’s Word! (Vv.22-24)
1. Herein is a primary problem of Christianity today; people do not do what the word of God says. It was present in James’ day as well. What is truly astonishing about this is that this is one of the first New Testament letters written concerning the Christian faith. Yet, we find James very bluntly telling his readers, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” The wording here means to delude oneself or to deliberately fool oneself into thinking something that was simply not true! His fellow believers were not doing what they had just heard they were supposed to do in order to live holy lives! Like delusional dolts, they listened to the fine sounding words of the gospel, left their wonderful worship and their study of God’s Word and immediately forgot what they were just taught! Can you imagine such a thing? Many of the moral and ethical problems we face in our day are not the fault of politicians, the world or satanic influence; rather, they distill down to individual believers not doing what the Word of God says! We have thousands of churches full of folks listening to fine sounding sermons doing nothing with what they hear! We suffer from spiritual dementia! We can still walk, talk, and feed ourselves but we no longer recognize what holiness is supposed to look like. We have become blinded by the selfish faith we put on everyday rather than living a sacrificial life God desires! James declared, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” We are very religious, but spiritually worthless. Jesus disgustingly told the self-centered religious folks of his day, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24 NIV) Following Jesus is more than a simple confession. Isaiah said that a person like James describes “feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’” (Isaiah 44:20 NIV) Too many Christians excuse their ungodly lifestyles and hold onto its filth rather than holiness. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV) Far too many live in spiritual dementia! James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word!
EXAMPLE: Jesus rebuked those in his day who thought of themselves as holy but did not respond to the Word of God before their very eyes by telling them, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart (meaning the person’s totality) the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NIV) Well, guess what? Out of the overflow of one’s life, the totality of what a person is in Christ flows one’s holiness or not. James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word!

She wanted more in life. She had thought of herself as a “good person” and thought she loved the Lord, but there was something missing and she knew it. A harmful relationship soon ended and she had to confront the fact that she was not living her life as God desired her to. She had compromised her faith and what she believed in a hope that this would bring her happiness by excusing her ex-boyfriend’s ungodly life. She opened the Bible and as she studied it and began to apply what she read to her daily walk and she knew she had to live her faith out loud. James teaches us that…

II. The Holy life lives their religion! (Vv. 25-27)

1. The simple unvarnished truth is that Christians need to begin to live a godly lifestyle! James knew that “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward!” (Psalms 19:7-11 NIV) The answer to the ills of the world is the Word of God! The answer for weak-willed believers is to follow their Lord and be holy! James wrote, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom (the Word of God found in the gospel), and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” Again, Paul would remind us, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIV) Love here is sacrificial action, holy living! John wrote, “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.” (1 John 3:16 NIV) Holy living demands sacrifice and we do not like to sacrifice anything! We want the sacrifice of Christ; we want others to sacrifice for us; but we balk at giving anything of ourselves away at all! However, holy living also recognizes the delusion! It confesses the sin of selfishness! John would teach succinctly, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:6, 8-10 NIV) James continues, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” Whether it is your mouth, your habits, or the way you live, James is telling us we need to live lives of holiness, not just fool ourselves and say we are holy. In fact he goes on to teach, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Holiness has an outcome. It is more than concerned for others, it acts! Holy living is more than feeling good about oneself; it keeps itself from being polluted by the world! James knew that the holy life lives their religion!
EXAMPLE: Paul was harsh and much of today’s politically correct world does not like what he wrote concerning holy living, but what he taught is true. He wrote, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ‘Everything is permissible for me’–but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’–but I will not be mastered by anything… Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-12, 19-20 NIV) James knew that the holy life lives their religion!

Conclusion:
James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word and James knew that the holy life lives their religion!

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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Jude – Be On Guard!

Jude – Be On Guard!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 17, 2013 AM

What motivates you in life? When I was in a JNROTC program, we were stationed for several weeks at Quadra, a Canadian military base. We had to learn basic commands in French because of the cadets that were from Quebec that were there training with us. All I remember is “stand easy” was “repos,” “dismissed” was “écartée!” and “attention” was “garde à vous!” We were motivated to be alert because if we did not follow the commands quickly enough, we were punished for our lack of knowledge. Our drill instructors did not care that some of us did not know French. We had to learn them correctly and quickly. We were highly motivated.

For the Christian, our motivation needs to be Jesus Christ. When Jude wrote his letter there were those who had begun to get discouraged because they thought Jesus was going to return any day. The signs were all there but He still hadn’t come back. Then, in the midst of mounting persecution, there were those who began to teach other doctrines concerning Christ than those taught by the apostles. They claimed they were “secret” teachings that only the truly spiritual could understand. Jude had to put a stop to such nonsense even if it wasn’t popular to do so. Just like today, believers then needed to be on guard against false teachers and their ungodly teachings. Let’s discover how…

READ: Jude

I remember the first time I stood watch aboard the destroyer I was stationed on during the summer. I was a skinny 18-year-old with a 45-caliber pistol strapped to my hip! I was supposed to challenge anyone trying to come aboard not authorized or who could not be recognized as part of the ship’s crew. I could barely squeak out a good “Halt, who goes there?” Yet, there I was standing guard. For me it was an awesome responsibility. That is, until I had to do it several more times in the wee hours of the morning. Then, it became boring, hard, and a burden. The same can be true for those who do not recognize the importance of their Christian doctrine. They can spiritually let down their guard. This is why Jude wrote that believers were to be on guard by…

I. Maintaining their faith! (Vv. 3-4)

1. Jude begins in earnest by telling his readers, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” He wanted to “urge” them about what they shared in common; instead, he had to warn them about the struggle they were headed for. Jude relates there were ungodly people trying to slip into the church’s fellowship. There were these certain individuals who were not content to trust the truth of the gospel and instead had to make up their own doctrines concerning Christ. Something had to be done. Jude was telling them to “contend” or struggle “for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” In other words, they may have to do battle for it if they had to! For Jude it meant both a physical and spiritual battle! Notice that their faith was threatened by “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago.” Folks had joined, slipped in unnoticed like camouflaged snakes into the assembly of believers, pretending to belong with them when actually they were enemies of the gospel. Jude was being like a guard on duty, challenging the church about these false teachers. He gives three areas of concern: They were 1) “godless men,” 2) who changed “the grace of our God into a license for immorality,” and 3) they denied “Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” Sound familiar, it should. We know that anything-worthwhile needs constant maintenance, including our faith and sometimes it is a struggle. Jude wanted the early church to be on guard by maintaining their faith!

EXAMPLE: Our little brown dog used to try and sneak into the kitchen to pilfer the cat’s food. She would wait to see if anyone was watching her and then slyly sneak into the kitchen as if she was going there to get a drink. I would wait until she bent over to nibble the cat’s food, then I’d holler, “Hey! What do you think you are doing?” She would jump at least a foot and slink back to her rug. Isn’t it amazing how people will try the same trick, thinking no one is watching them? Not necessarily pilfering cat food, but stealing other things. This can also occur spiritually within a church as well. People sneak in trying to appear spiritual and godly, when all the while they have ulterior motives. Jude called them “blemishes… clouds without rain… autumn trees without fruit… uprooted and twice dead.” Believers have to be on guard and wrestle and contend against such ungodly people.

A few years ago, a fossil was found that was supposed to be a missing link between humans and apes. The front page of Time magazine read, “How Apes Became Human.” A few fragmentary bones were found in Ethiopia by a graduate student named Yohannes Haile-Selassie. A photo of one small bone was captioned, “THIS TOE BONE PROVES THE CREATURE WALKED ON TWO LEGS.” There was just one problem, they did not tell you until the very end of the article. The toe bone was actually found some ten miles from the other small bone fragments! The whole premise was made from shoddy science! Christians can do the same thing when we adhere to the latest spiritual fad without finding out if it is valid. Jude faced the same problem and tells his readers to be on guard by…

II. Recognizing false teachers for what they are! (Vv. 8, 10-13, 16-19)

1. False teachers are like Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 8). Jude wrote, “These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit (v. 19).” They were natural men loving the things of the world more than they loved God. So much so, that they had begun to be perverted in their thinking and actions! They were “grumblers and faultfinders; they follow[ed] their own evil desires; they boast[ed] about themselves and flatter[ed] others for their own advantage (v. 16).” And, “like unreasoning animals,” they spoke “abusively against whatever they [did] not understand; and what things they [did] understand [they did them] by instinct!” This is a picture of people who are more in step with their own selfish selves, feelings, and desires than with their Creator! It is the same raw animal instincts people follow today! Jude is telling us that false teachers have understanding that is debased and ungodly! Notice the three areas Jude condemns them for: 1) “They have taken the way of Cain.” This could mean they disobediently devised their own ways of worship, were envious of others, or hated others with a murderous spirit! 2) “They have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error.” Peter declared, “They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness!” (2 Peter 2:15 NIV) These false leaders were greedy for money and led others into sin without fear, and, 3) they were “destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” Korah led a revolt against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16). Their rebellion was actually against God Himself! Cain jealously murdered his brother, Balaam was only out for himself, and Korah spread the lie that they could worship God anyway they desired! Likewise, these false teachers had rebelled against God’s authority; and as a result would be destroyed suddenly. Their destruction was so certain Jude stated it in the past tense, “they have been destroyed.” Their fate was sealed by their actions! Believers are to be on guard by recognizing false teachers for what they are!

EXAMPLE: I used to spend hours and hours pestering red anthills around our house. I would watch the ants carrying bits and pieces of insects, wood, twigs, and seeds they had found. When I asked my father why they did what they did, he said, “It’s their natural instinct.” I used to track deer, raccoons, and beaver. I would watch them from a distance to see what they ate, how they acted, and where they slept. When I asked my father why they did what they did, he replied, “It’s their animal instinct.” Today, when people do all kinds of ungodly things to satisfy themselves I often wonder why they do what they do. The false teachers of the world would have you believe we do these things because it is our natural animal instinct, but Jude reminds us that we are not animals! We are created in the image of God and are to be His children! Paul would say, “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) Believers are to be on guard by recognizing false teachers for what they are!

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by life’s circumstances that you have forgotten just how much God loves you? When we do, we can often turn to other things. Some people use drugs, alcohol, money, or relationships to hide the hurt or pain they suffer. Yet even during those times in life, when we think all is lost and are in utter despair, there is the wonderful light of God’s love. Jeremiah even in his greatest lament said, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV) Jude faced a similar problem and reminds his readers to be on guard by…

III. Keeping oneself in God’s love! (Vv. 17-25)

1. Christians keep themselves in God’s love by remembering, “What the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.” Paul warned about “savage wolves” that would try to come in to destroy the flock of Christ (Acts 20:29-30). Peter warned, “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord.” (2 Peter 2:1 NIV) Jesus warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15-16 NIV) Christians keep themselves in God’s love by building up their “most holy faith”! Literally, Jude meant that we are to work at it or to build upon what we have already learned! Not through works of faith, but rather working at being the holy people God desires us to be! Personal edification (“build yourselves up”) comes from progressing in the knowledge of “your most holy faith.” Notice Jude states that Christians keep themselves in God’s love through “prayer”. Prayer is the personal spiritual mortar that builds your relationship with God and keeps it close at hand. We “pray in the Holy Spirit” as we walk with Jesus! And, Christians keep themselves in God’s love as they expectantly “wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life!” Jesus can come back at anytime. This is no End Times scenario. This is why Jude writes, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Rather when things get mundane or tough in our spiritual walk, the believer is to remember that Christ will return and we are to be ready! Jesus warned, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come!” (Mark 13:33 NIV) He said we “must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him!” (Matthew 24:44 NIV) Being on guard is a matter of keeping oneself in God’s love!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever gotten an unforeseen phone call late at night? Have you ever received news that someone you just spoke to the other day, had died? Why do these things bother us so much? Because, as we go through our mundane life when something like this happens, it is totally unexpected. We do not expect those who claim spirituality to be liars or to have ulterior motives, we do not expect the unexpected. We do not often think about the coming of the Lord either. We often live under the false impression that things will keep on as they always have. This simply is not true. While we cannot be prepared for every life contingency, we should be on guard for the coming of the Lord. This is why Paul wrote Jesus’ coming would occur “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.” (1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV) Jesus reminded His followers, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33 NIV) Being on guard is a matter of keeping oneself in God’s love!

Conclusion:
Jude wanted the church to be prepared for spiritual attacks from outside of the church as well as inside of the church. He warned them to be on guard and to be prepared for when Jesus does return. I do not know if the story is true or not, but it is said that the Great Wall of China, built to keep out the Mongol hoards, was breached when one guard was bribed. What area is breached in your Christian walk, in your church, in your nation or world? Jude would say, “Be on guard! Contend for the faith, watch out for false teachers, and keep yourself in God’s love.”

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

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 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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Do You Agree With Robert Knight, that Obama has A Low View of Christianity?

Obama Nation’s Low View of Christianity
by Robert Knight

President Obama’s comment to French television on June 1 that the United States is “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world,” plus his Islam-praising speech in Cairo, Egypt on June 4, raise anew questions about his own faith and how he views America.

Questions can also be asked about his math. The CIA Factbook estimates America’s Muslim population at 0.6 percent, or about 1.8 million, which puts it in 58th place among nations’ total Muslim populations. Even if you take the Islamic Information Center’s high estimate of 8 million, that still puts the U.S. at 29th out of 60 nations.

In Cairo, Obama quoted from the Koran, used his middle name of Hussein, and indicated that the United States and Muslim nations have the same commitment to tolerance and freedom. To fathom the absurdity, think about the possibility of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution springing from the pens of Islamic scholars Thomas al-Jefferson and James al-Madison.

Over the past three years, Obama has made it his business to insist that “we are no longer a Christian nation.”  He has said it in many places, here and abroad. In 2006, in Washington, D.C., he said, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation. At least, not just.” He posted the same sentiment on his campaign website.

At the Compassion Forum at Messiah College in Pennsylvania on April 13, 2008, he said, “We are not just a Christian nation. We are a Jewish nation; we are a Buddhist nation; we are a Muslim nation; Hindu nation; and we are a nation of atheists and nonbelievers.”

In Turkey, at a press conference on April 10, he said:  “Although we have a large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values. I think modern Turkey was founded with a similar set of values.”

During the presidential campaign, the media pounced on anyone who inquired into Obama’s Muslim upbringing in Indonesia, his two Muslim fathers or his later 20-year attendance at radical pastor Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Now, his Muslim roots are touted as an asset.

No one can say for sure what Obama actually believes, since only God can know the human heart. So we are left examining his words and actions. 

The media-enforced line for the past three years has been that he is a self-described mainstream Christian, end of story. Even when Obama badly distorted Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount into a clarion call to accept homosexuality, the press yawned. They yawned (or cheered) when he mocked the Bible’s relevance for politics in that 2006 Washington, D.C. speech:

“Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith, or should we just stick with the Sermon on the Mount, a passage which is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application. Folks haven’t been reading the Bible.”

More cheers came when he spoke the language of unity while taking a shot at his political opponents during a speech at the United Church of Christ convention in 2007:

“Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it’s because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us.

“We can recognize the truth that’s at the heart of the UCC: that the conversation is not over [God needs an editor]; that our roles are not defined [men in dresses, unite]; that through ancient texts and modern voices, God is still speaking [yes, we’re ripping out pages of the Bible daily to suit our appetites], challenging us to change not just our own lives, but the world around us …hate has no place in the hearts of believers.”

Is it not hateful to suggest that people who disagree with you are full of “hate?” Is it unifying to accuse opponents of inventing fights that they didn’t start? 

More odd things have been happening since Obama’s election that should give pause to even the most cynical observers.

On the Saturday before Obama’s swearing-in, V. Gene Robinson, the openly homosexual Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, gave an invocation at a pre-inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial. The New York Times interviewed him beforehand:

“Bishop Robinson said he had been rereading inaugural prayers through history and was ‘horrified’ at how ‘specifically and aggressively Christian they were.’ Bishop Robinson said, ‘I am very clear that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that. The texts that I hold as sacred are not sacred texts for all Americans, and I want all people to feel that this is their prayer.’”

As one of his first judicial appointments, Obama named Indiana federal judge David Hamilton to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Hamilton, who had ruled that a pastor could not invoke the name of Jesus in an opening prayer for the Indiana legislature, said that, on the other hand, invoking Allah at a public event is fine.

In April, it was reported that Obama appointed Harry Knox, a Catholic-bashing homosexual activist, to the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Knox, who directs the religion program at the largest gay pressure group, the Human Rights Campaign, described Pope Benedict and other Catholic clergy as “discredited leaders” because of their stand for traditional marriage, and called the Knights of Columbus “foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression” because of their  support of California’s Proposition 8 marriage amendment.

On April 14, 2009, the Obama team had Georgetown University cover up the Greek letters IHS, which stand for Jesus, so they would not show up when he spoke in front of them.

On May 7, Obama declined to hold any White House event to mark the National Day of Prayer, a decision hailed by Barry Lynn’s hard left Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

In his eloquent commencement speech at Notre Dame on May 17, Obama sounded a conciliatory note, lamented, sort of, the abortions that he wants taxpayers to fund, and gave more clues that Christianity will move over and shrink before a universalist moral relativism:

“The size and scope of the challenges before us require that we remake [not “reform” or “restore,” but “remake”] our world to renew its promise; that we align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age.

“Your generation must decide how to save God’s creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it…..  And we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity — diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief.”

If diversity in and of itself is god, where does that leave Jesus Christ – the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the Alpha and the Omega, the Way, the Truth and the Life, through Whom all things were created?

Well, the Obama Nation might just ask Him to change his name to  … Allah.

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Today’s Thoughts, Job 10:2

by Pastor Lee Hemen
February 18, 2008

Job, like many of us, did not understand fully why the Lord would bring trials his way. He demands a straight forward answer to his dilemma: “Don’t just condemn me! Point out my sin.” (Job 10:2, CEV)

I just got back from a Missions Conference in Mill Valley, CA at GGBTS (Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary). A lot of it was about contextualizing the gospel to the community around us wherever that may be, whether here in the USA or around the world. It is nothing new even though many in the emergent church think so. The danger is, however, how far do I go in contextualization? How far do I make the gospel message something it is not?
If you tried to contextualize Job’s sin or the answer for his sin or the condition of his pain, you would be in danger of either dismissing it as his friends did, condemning him as his friends did, or being sarcastic with him as his wife was! They all “contextualized” Job’s suffering and made it their own. They had the answer: Stop sinning, stop gripping, stop living, give up and die!

Americans are famous for making the Biblical message or the gospel their own. Christianity has become a Westernized religion with a Western context. Even those in the emergent church are guilty of this. They bash you with images, music, or “spirituality” that has nothing to do with the biblical message, that are more involved with their own feelings, and brand it as “spiritual.” They would have told Job, “I feel your pain, let me sit with you in it so I can experience it with you.” There is no help found there.

There might have been some who would have wanted to put salve on Job’s wounds, but Job did not need salve. He did not need a “friend” to help him through his troubles. Job did not need to contextualize his suffering for your spirituality. He needed God to not condemn him and to point out his sin so that he would confess it, return to where God wanted him to be, and be whole again in the grace of the Lord! And that is what the world needs: An answer from God! It has been what it has needed since the time of Adam. It is what Jesus brought about through His death, burial, and resurrection. It is redemption.

Job needs an answer not contextualization to his statement: “I will say to God, Do not condemn me; make me know why You contend with me.” (MKJV) Point out my sin so I can return to You, the Living God.

Perhaps today you suffer in some area as well and like Job you simply need an answer from God. God has one for you just as He did for Job. When Job was finally ready to listen, God gave him the answer he needed. Today, spend time asking God for that answer. He will give it. He will because He desires to. WARNING! Job said, “Make me know why.” God will answer be prepared for it.

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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