Tag Archives: sacrifice

Remember – Psalm 27

Remember – Psalm 27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 28, 2017
A lot of folks misunderstand the differences between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Veteran’s Day is when we honor all those who have served in the Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Air Force, or Marines; while Memorial Day is the day to remember those who died in the service of their country. It is good to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives so we could enjoy the freedoms we do.
David was willing to sing about how he remembered how God had protected him and kept him. David first expresses confidence in the Lord in spite of his enemies who threatened him. Yet, in the midst of remembering suddenly David’s mood changes and he anxiously prays that God would not forsake him. Because the Lord was his basis of comfort and hope, he remembered to wait for the Lord. The psalm is one of remembering whom we can trust to rescue us. Let’s discover what David wrote…
Over and over military men and women who faced imminent death during a battle have shared that their thoughts often go to their families and their faith. David shares with us that…
I. We need to remember who saves us! (Vv. 1-4)
Of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
  1. This is a Psalm “of David” and he begins by sharing that “The LORD is my light and my salvation”. He continues by stating that because the Lord is his light and salvation “whom should I fear?” When God has your back David knew no one has anything to fear. In fact he could sing that “The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” David knew he had nothing to fear even “When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.” God was his stronghold in life. David realized what few do in our day that he could completely trust and have confidence in God alone. Any fear he had was worthless because of his relationship with God his enemies would stumble and fall. In fact he continued by writing, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” God was his fortress and David understood the security during times of war were extremely important, especially to one who was on the run from a stronger foe as David was with king Saul. What joy to have David’s confidence! Yet even in times of war, battle, and in the midst of his own fear David longed for something more. “One thing I ask of the LORD,” David continues, “this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” David knew what was important in life as many a soldier has discovered. We need to remember who saves us!
  EXAMPLE: Aragorn, the leader of men in the movie “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”, encourages his troop with these words: “I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!” He was trying to instill courage in them in the face of a great enemy. David sang the same kind of words to himself as he remembered the Lord. Like David we need to remember who saves us!
Nowadays the military goes to great lengths to keeps its soldiers safe with bullet-proof vests, armored vehicles, and unmanned drone aircraft. David reminds us that…
II. We should remember who protects us! (Vv. 5-10)
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
  1. David knew exactly who kept him safe and describes that protection in three ways: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” God kept him in his “dwelling”, hid him in the “shelter of his tabernacle”, and set him “high upon a rock”! When God keeps one safe David knew that only “Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me” and while safe in God’s “tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.” The tabernacle of God was a safe haven where one on the run could go and be protected. David certainly knew the true Source of his security and the power of prayer, he cries out “Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.” As a soldier he knew deception would not work with a God who sees, hears, and knows everything. Yet if he sinned, God would not answer and David again confesses, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek.” Perhaps he needed God’s assistance quickly and felt that God wasn’t listening and so he confesses, “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.” David understood the honesty of prayer, of conversing with God under no false pretenses. David knew that God’s protection only came when he honestly and openly was truthful with the Lord. And he understood it was in God alone he could trust and find refuge in times of trouble. Therefore he laments, “Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” How wonderful to know we live under grace whereby our prayers are always heard and we always have God’s protection! We should remember who protects us!
  EXAMPLE: On Memorial Day it is good to remember those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. While many of us did not go to war, they did and gave their all for us. Do you know of someone who gave everything as a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine? We should never forget their sacrifice for us. While David was a shepherd who became a great military leader and king, he never forgot where his protection came from. We should remember who protects us!
Training is an important part of becoming a good sailor, soldier, crewman, or aviator. Just as being able to do one’s job in the midst of a physical battle is important, David reminds us that…
III. We should remember it is God who teaches us! (Vv. 11-14)
Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
  1. While David remembered who saved and protected him, he also understood that God was the one who taught him how to be the man of God he became. In this song of remembrance David sang, “Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.” As a shepherd he often went after lost and wandering sheep among the rocky crags and trails. He understood the necessity of being sure footed. And he also knew that if he allowed himself to forget who he needed to follow, he would be lost. His enemies would triumph over him and sin would have its way. Again he asks God, “Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.” These words sound similar to what Jesus may have prayed when faced with his enemy’s false accusations during his illegal trial at the hands of the Jewish leadership. There were those who falsely accused David of wanting to murder King Saul and take his throne by force, and nothing could have been further from the truth. David tried his best to honor God in a difficult situation and therefore sings, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” He had faith that if he remained true to God, God would see him through his difficulties. And so he ends his Psalm with his own encouragement to “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Far too often when life gets difficult we want to run ahead of God make our own way or decide for ourselves what we think is best without ever asking God! Shame on us! This would be a great verse for some of us to memorize; to wait for the Lord’s guidance, to be strong in him, and take heart that God is with us! Like David we should remember it is God who leads us!
  EXAMPLE: Those who went off to war for us came from various backgrounds; farmers, high school graduates, students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, postal workers, fathers, husbands, wives, mothers, and friends. All went through training in order that they would or could survive the battles they would face. In their training they learned to follow orders, work as a group, and face insurmountable odds. They learned to follow their leaders while facing death. David’s life was in jeopardy everyday and he feared for his life and the lives of those who followed him. David learned that God was the one to follow and he never forgot this. We should remember it is God who leads us!
Conclusion:
We need to remember who saves us! We should remember who protects us! We should remember it is God who leads us!
—-
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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Giving! — Luke 6:27-38

Giving! — Luke 6:27-38
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 14, 2017

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote in his book The Hobbit, “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” This is why mothers are so important and in fact they are the ones who teach us those everyday deeds of kindness and love but they also teach us a quality that has often been lost in this day and age; they teach us about giving.

Here in Luke’s gospel Jesus teaches us about giving, what it means, how it is done, and the blessings of giving. What we fail to realize is that for the believer giving comes in various forms. In this passage from Luke we discover Jesus teaching his disciple about giving for the Christian. Let’s discover what Jesus taught about giving…

READ: Luke 6:27-38

We have all heard that believers should give but why should we give? I learned about giving from a nonbeliever. He gave consistently and without any animosity because he felt it honored his Christian wife who believed Christians should give in order to honor God. So, he would give for her so she could honor God. He later gave his life to Christ. Jesus shares with us that…

I. We are to give undeserved love! (Vv. 27-31)

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

1. Jesus had just got done teaching who was blessed in the kingdom of God and who would be, well, cursed; that is what all those “woes” are about. Jesus knew what he was teaching was impossible for the ordinary person to do, especially people who were so wrapped up in following rules and regulations like the Jews were. Only someone who was changed from the inside out, someone born again, and someone who intimately knew the Messiah could understand what it meant to sacrificially give! So Jesus begins by relating to them “But I tell you who hear me”. Only those who actually listened and followed through knew what he meant. One must be spiritually born again. Only such a changed individual could “Love your enemies” or “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you” and “pray for those who mistreat you”! Say what? Now if you thought that this was hard enough, Jesus continued by relating that “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.” This gets more and more difficult the more Luke relates to us Jesus’ words. We are not to retaliate. This is utterly impossible yet Jesus is not done there and continues that “If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” So you mean thieves could steal from us and we should not demand our stuff back? We can’t live this way, what is possible with God is utterly impossible for us to do. However with God all things are possible. Certainly those Jesus describes here do not deserve our love. But did we deserve the love of God displayed in his sacrifice of himself on a cross for our sins? The key to these utterly unrealistic demands of Jesus is that we are to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” For the Jewish listener who had heard all of their lives that it was an “eye for an eye” what Jesus proposed was impossible. And that was his point. Because we would know undeserved love we are to give undeserved love!

EXAMPLE: Look at the list Jesus just gave you to do. Now honestly can you do each and every one of these things on your own? My mother was not a perfect mom. She could be harsh in her discipline, selfish in her actions, and just plain ornery. And I hated it when she would remind us that we would always be her babies. When we grew to be big hulking adults this little petite woman would remind us over and over “You are always a part of me”. I did not fully understand this until I had a child and then grandkids. It is a bond that can never go away. When we trust Jesus to save us, to change us spiritually, we become his always and it is through this relationship we can do the impossible. We are to give undeserved love!

We live in such a selfish generation, so much so that it has infected our Christianity. There are those who think the church march or protest. There are those who only look for the church to meet their needs as if it were some kind of a spiritual fitness center. And finally there are those who treat the church like a grocery store and only go when they are out of something they need. Yet here in Luke Jesus teaches us that…

II. When we give we are to expect nothing in return! (Vv. 32-35)

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

1. Either Jesus has changed you or he has not there is no shades of grey here. And if we are changed we will reflect it in how we live our lives. In the first section we just went through it was tough and no one could actually do what Jesus asked; could they? Yet Jesus asks his listeners, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” We often feel justified in loving only those whom we deem deserving of our love however Jesus retorts, “Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.” I have learned that some of the most loving people can be some of the most ungodly folks. But being loving is not the same as being godly. Godly folk are changed folk. So, “if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?” Not much because “Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.” We are to be different than the sinful world around us; we are to reflect the sacrificial love of God! Instead we should “love (our) enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” We are not to lend but rather give. I find it odd when Christians gripe about giving money to someone and then they do not get back what they thought they should. We are not to sit back and grouse when we give someone money and we do not get repaid because believers are not to be in the money lending business. We are to be giving people because of what God gave us. His gift was no loan! It is an attitude. “Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” When we reflect Jesus we will be giving people and when we give we are to expect nothing in return!

EXAMPLE: My Mom used to say when she got really tired, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” I must confess in our little wicked orneriness we would tease her with this when she would ask us to do something. My brother would be washing the dishes, I would be drying, and we both would softly repeat, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” My mom would laugh and tell us that she would give us something to be “thankful” about. Sadly far too many believers have lost sight of the fact we are to be giving people simply because of who we follow and so when we give we are to expect nothing in return!

Giving has fallen out of vogue in many churches today. And in some they never mention it, teach it, or require it thinking that they will win the favor of their audience by doing so. Jesus teaches us something we have forgotten about giving, namely that…

III. God will bless our giving! (Vv. 36-38)

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

1. Because we have been saved by grace we are to be gracious people. We are to live lives of grace and so Jesus teaches us to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” In God’s mercy, his grace, he came as Jesus to die for us but more than that to rise from the dead to show us that he could give us eternal life through our faith in him. It is not based on anything we have done; it is solely because of his mercy, his grace. In this truth Jesus tells us, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” To “judge” here does not exactly mean to pronounce critical judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or unfavorable. The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is our willingness to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, or unkind judgments. We would say, “To look down our noses”. Therefore Jesus continued, “Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” As believers we are required to weigh the lives of fellow believers, but here Jesus is concerned with our judging or condemning those who are still in sin. We are told to “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” The whole idea here is one of what the believer’s life is now to be about. When we freely accept what God gave us we are to freely forgive others. Our salvation is not based on this but it shows what we believe. Christians should be the most gracious giving people on the planet. We should never ever have a problem in supporting our church, ministries, or missions. Forgiven folks are giving folks because we know that if we “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” Now this is not some name-it-and-claim-it or blab-it-and-grab-it garbage but a spiritual reality. We are blessed when we give. We should never give in order to be blessed; we are to give because that is who we are. It is a way of life “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” We cannot out give God. God will bless our giving!

EXAMPLE: My mom was one of those mothers who understood giving back more than what she received. This petite fiery redhead would tell us miscreants, “I will beat you until you can’t stand up and then I will beat you for falling.” Of course she only made good on this threat a few times; being the wild and woolly kids we were we knew she had to catch us first. As believers we should live our lives without any fear of retribution and in the grace of God. Therefore we should live lives of givers knowing that God will bless our giving!

Conclusion:

We are to give undeserved love! When we give we are to expect nothing in return! God will bless our giving!
—-
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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New life! – Ephesians 4:17-32

New life! – Ephesians 4:17-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 5, 2017

There are times in everyone’s life that they wish they had a do over. You know a new start in life. There are those who wait for others to make their life better and there are those who decide to make their lives better and they do. However, as much as one tries to make things better in reality you are the same person except with window dressing.

There is a way to make your life new both inside and out and it is guaranteed to do so. Twelve men were going about their daily lives when they were approached by a man who said he could change their lives forever if they were willing to follow him. While they all said they would only eleven were willing to completely give their lives to him and in doing so they found a new life. Paul now makes the same argument to the church at Ephesus; let’s discover what he teaches us about this new life.

READ: Ephesians 4:17-32

At one time Paul was one of the most up and coming young men in his nation’s ruling class both spiritually and intellectually known as the Sanhedrin. Paul would write his experience by writing the church at Galatia, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” Galatians 1:14 NIV) But then God set him apart and called him by his grace. Paul writes the Ephesians that they were to…

I. Remember their new lives! (Vv. 17-20)

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.

1. This new life for Paul was not some esoteric concept. There are those today who think that by simply being good they are totally good inside and out. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is why Paul wrote, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” Paul was not being racist in his remarks rather he was referencing how all of us are “gentiles” or futile in our thinking until we come to Christ by faith! Paul understood that everyone is “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” We are all sinners by nature and by choice! Just as non-Jews, Gentiles, did not understand God and lived in spiritually sin-dark lives, all of us are until we also come to Christ! In fact we are separated from the life of God because of our spiritual ignorance and the ungodly world’s hardening of our hearts! We are to remember our new lives! Lest we forget good people do not know God and good people do not inherit all that God has for them; goodness does not get one into heaven! Even acts of “goodness” come from a sinful heart that exists in a sin-fallen world. We may think we are good enough for God to love us but in fact we have “lost all sensitivity” we might have toward God and have “given (ourselves) over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more!” When we fail to realize the ungodliness of even the “good” things of the world we fail to understand why God humbled himself and came as Jesus to die on a cross for us. We must truly understand what Paul teaches, namely that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 NIV) He reminds his readers therefore “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” We are to remember our new lives!

EXAMPLE: Even though my father has been dead for almost 50 years, there are times I can still hear him and sometimes when I walk into a room if there are certain smells it is as if he was right there. Of course I know he isn’t but our minds help us to remember these kinds of things in this way. Today at the end of worship we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It does not impart any special dispensation, extra forgiveness, or grace. In it we discover anew the sacrifice of Jesus for us so that we might live for him. In observing the Lord’s Supper it helps us to remember our new lives!

Living a new life in Jesus begins with our trusting him by faith and then we are to daily decide to live for him. In doing so we are to…

II. Put off the old life and put on the new life! (Vv. 21-25)

Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

1. Paul continued by reminding his readers that “Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” Their hearts were no longer darkened, their lives were now made new in Jesus! They had heard, they had been taught, and now they fully realized the truth that is in Jesus! Only those who intimately know Christ can understand what Paul is writing here. We come to faith in Jesus and are spiritually changed. We were taught this and understand this but now “with regard to your former way of life” we are “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires”. Anything or anyone that keeps us from living the lives we are to in Jesus we are to get rid of in our lives! Paul was not being uncaring here; he knew that this could be awfully hard for new believers to do. But he was trying to encourage them in any way he could as individuals and as a church to live for Jesus! Jude would write, “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.” (Jude 1:22-23 NIV) Therefore we are “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” It is a conscious decision on our part! To put it into terms we can understand: If we live for Jesus we become more like Jesus! If we try to stay comfortable in the ungodly world we will never attain to what God truly desires for our lives in Jesus so Paul writes, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Again Paul is speaking to the church, to believers. If we want a church, a life, a second chance that truly works we have to make the decision to put off the old life and put on the new life!

EXAMPLE: This past Wednesday is known as “Ash Wednesday” by millions of believers all over the world. However, many fail in their spiritual thinking concerning what this means and if it is worthwhile for them to do. Living for Jesus is more than doing an act of contrition one day a year. An ashen cross pasted on one’s forehead can remind us of Jesus’ humility and how we are to live, but it is meaningless unless one has given their life to Christ in the first place. Then we are to put off the old life and put on the new life!

Getting rid of old habits can be hard unless we propagate new ones that are beneficial to our new way of life. It is more than repeating the mantra of “Everyday in every way I am getting better and better.” It is a conscious decision on our part to live this new life. Paul related that…

III. We are not to sin in our new life! (Vv. 26-32)

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

1. Paul gets real here in his letter to the Ephesians in sharing with them exactly how they were to live for Jesus. He bluntly writes, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Anger is one of the most destructive forces in a person’s life. It is easy to respond in anger, just look at all the protests, riots, and anger being expressed by those who think they deserve something or are being deprived in some way. When we respond in anger we give ungodly thoughts and actions a foothold in our lives. We allow satanic influences to gain territory. We thwart such ungodliness when we respond in God’s love right away. Paul continued that “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” A crook, whether it is the government or the individual is one who steals from others what they did not earn with their own hands. Instead we are to share as believers with those within the church who are in need. We are to show that the love of God lives in us even to the things we participate including what we say; “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In fact we are not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” We can “grieve” God who dwells within each believer when we do not walk in Christ. We walk in Jesus when we “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” And when we are “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”, we are living as Jesus did. This is what we are called to and how we are to live; we are not to sin in our new life!

EXAMPLE: God knew we could never be perfect and never sin. This is why he gave us himself in Jesus and empowered us through his presence of the Holy Spirit. However, like a good parent that reminds their kids when they are leaving the house to be as good as they can be until they get home, God reminds us to live good lives in him until he returns again. We are not to sin in our new life!

Conclusion:

We are to remember our new lives! Put off the old life and put on the new life! We are not to sin in our new life!
—-
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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One in Christ! – Ephesians 2:11-22

One in Christ! – Ephesians 2:11-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 29, 2017

There are those who think sin-centered humans can become colorblind by either making it illegal to be racist or by simply changing one’s mind; nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the only way one can become totally colorblind is through Jesus Christ. Paul wrote the church in Galatia that after one accepts Jesus they are changed and one becomes “clothed… with Christ” and because of this “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27, 28 NIV)

Since all believers became one with each other, human distinctions lose their significance. Paul cut across these national, racial, and geographical distinctions and stated that they do not exist in the body of Christ so far as spiritual privilege and position are concerned. And because of this we as his followers are not to be like the rest of the world, we are to be racially blind as well. We are now one in Christ; let’s discover what this means for our lives…

READ: Ephesians 2:11-22

History tells us that some Jewish men prayed, “I thank God that you have not made me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” Jesus did away with such spiritual blindness. Paul teaches us…

I. We are one in Christ through his blood! (Vv. 11-13)

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)–remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

1. Sometimes we have to remember what we were before we came to Jesus in order to understand where we stand now. Paul bluntly writes the Ephesians: “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’.” Paul was reminding his readers what they were once, non-Jews, and what they were now – grafted into Judaism; kind of like when people forget that no matter whom you are and what part of the country one comes from if you were born here in the USA or have pledged your allegiance to this great nation we are all Americans first and foremost. Perhaps this is something far too many citizens have forgotten. In Jesus we are not white, black, yellow, brown, male or female first – we are first and foremost believers bonded together in him! We are one in the Spirit! Paul also wanted them to “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Paul presents exactly how the Jews spiritually and often physically saw everyone and anyone else that were not them. However, Paul relates “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” While Jesus’ blood is “precious” in that he died for our sins, Jesus’ actual physical blood is not the key but rather what it represents in that Jesus who is God died for us! Blood, whether it is from a lamb sacrificed for sins or the Messiah who died for our sins the blood that was shed for our sins represents life. Life to God is precious and sacred no matter if it is the unborn or an elderly adult. Yet, Paul wrote that “God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Romans 3:25 NIV) Jesus gave his life; shed his blood, for us while we were sinners! This is the key to our kinship. We are one in Christ through his blood!

EXAMPLE: A little boy got extremely agitated when he got a small cut on his knee. He came running into the house crying at the top of his lungs, “Momma! Momma! Momma, look at my knee!” When his mother finally calmed the little guy down she asked him why he was so upset over a small cut. He sniffed, “My blood was leaking out of me!” Just as blood was important to this little boy it is important for us all. We are one in Christ through his blood!

There are those who incorrectly think that everyone everywhere enjoys being a child of God, this is simply wrong. However, Paul teaches us that…

II. We are one in Christ through the peace he made! (Vv. 14-18)

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

1. Paul begins to teach his readers what Jesus’ sacrifice meant for the separation all sinners have from God himself because of our ungodly nature and tells us that “For he himself is our peace”. The fact is Jesus brought us peace with God! How did he do this? Jesus took the old covenant and made it new; he took both Jews and non-Jews and “made the two one”. Jesus did this as he “made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” that existed between God and man; between Jew and non-Jew or Covenant people and non-covenant people! Some have thought Paul is referring to the wall in the Jerusalem temple that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the Court of the Jews. Or that it was the curtain that separated the people from the Holy Place in the temple. Others have suggested it meant the “fence” around the Law taught by some Rabbis. But all of these views are invalid because Paul is speaking of the spiritual separation that existed and not a physical barrier! Jesus did this “by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations”! And point in fact Paul explains that Jesus’ “purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Therefore, there no longer exists an “us” and “them” in God’s kingdom. No one people have a spiritual superiority over the other! Yes, there exists the believer and the non-believer but after faith in God’s Messiah we are all made new and we all enjoy the same standing in him as believers! We know that the next verse (v.17) begins with “and” in the Greek. It is a continuation of Paul’s thought that Jesus is our peace because “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” So those who did not have the Jewish covenant are now grafted into it and made citizens of God’s kingdom with full rights and privileges of his chosen people because “through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” We are one in Christ through the peace he made!

EXAMPLE: On the playground there wasn’t a day that did not go by that one of us had to separate two combatants. Usually we separated them first and then made them explain to us what was going on, each in their own words. If there were witnesses we would get their input as well. It was not always easy getting to the truth. However our goal was always to try and calm the situation down and then in the end to have the offending parties shake hands and make some sort of peace. We all were at one time at war with a holy God but now we are one in Christ through the peace he made!

What often frustrates me about trying to have a logical conversation in our day and age is almost impossible. You cannot disagree with anyone. Far too many emote instead of using rational thought; they have no base. Paul teaches us that…

III. We are one in Christ because he is our foundation! (Vv. 19-22)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

1. Paul begins this last section by relating, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household”. This is extremely important and teaches us that we are now God’s people when we place our faith and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord! This is why Peter would also teach that Christians “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV) Paul explained that this new relationship is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief Cornerstone.” Peter knew believers “come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him” and that we “also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4, 5 NIV) The cornerstone of Jesus’ church is built on himself and it is “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” We are “God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV) This “holy temple” is all who have believed In Jesus and Paul continues that “in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Paul would ask his fellow Christians, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV) We are one in Christ because he is our foundation!

EXAMPLE: Whether it is the family or a building a good foundation is extremely important. In the past few decades a lot of cities have had to update buildings in order for them to be able to withstand an earthquake. It is interesting to note that there are now studies that show that intact families with a mother and father have children that are more stable in life. Paul understood that God did the exact same thing for his kingdom, his church family. God knew we would be spiritually stronger because of Jesus. We are one in Christ because he is our foundation!

Conclusion:

We are one in Christ through his blood! We are one in Christ through the peace he made! We are one in Christ because he is our foundation!
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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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3rd Sunday of Advent – The Joy of our worship – Matthew 2:1-12

3rd Sunday of Advent – The Joy of our worship – Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 11, 2016

Though not everyone agrees on the timing of the arrival of the Magi from the East, they apparently came sometime after the birth of Jesus. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, though still in Bethlehem, were now in a house (oikia) which can also mean place or residence, and could have been used generically by Matthew to describe where Mary and Joseph were simply staying. Jesus was also called a little child (paidion) rather than a newborn infant. This however is not the focus of our verses, but rather the Magi’s joyous worship.

When my wife and I first began to date, I would drive hundreds of miles, often times during very bad weather just to see her. I wrote her letters where I had painstakingly taken hours to draw cartoon characters just to make her smile. I was and am willing to sacrifice anything for her happiness and contentment. Why would I do such things? Because I love her. She is the joy of my life. And isn’t that the way believers should respond to the joy of their worship as well? Let’s discover just how and what the joy of our worship should be…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

In the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, there is a famous song called, “Climb Every Mountain.” The first two stanzas relate, “Climb every mountain, search high and low; Follow every byway, every path you know. Climb every mountain, Ford every stream; Follow every rainbow, till you find your dream.” Here in these verses of Matthew’s gospel we discover that the Magi were willing to do just that. In fact, what they did in order to reach the joy of their worship was amazing. It teaches us that the Joy of our worship…

I. Inspires us to overcome any obstacle! (Vv. 1-2)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

1. The exact identity of the Magi is impossible to establish, though several ideas have been floated over the years. Everything from a secret society, magicians, wizards, or truth seekers. They have been given traditional names of Gaspar, Melchior and; Balthazar; and identified as representatives of the three groups of peoples that descended from Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This notion is from about the 7th century. More likely they were Gentiles of high position from a country, perhaps Persia, northeast of Babylon. Maybe they were given a special revelation by God of the birth of the King of the Jews. This may simply have been revealed in the sky, as indicated by their title “Magi” (specialists in astronomy) and by the fact they referred to a star which they saw. Or this revelation could have come through some contact with Jewish scholars who had migrated to the East. Those who wanted to learn more about the world around them often read the manuscripts of religions, histories, or literature of other nations. Some think the Magi’s comments reflect a knowledge of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the “star” that would “come out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). Whatever the source, they came” After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod.” And we discover the main reason is stated in their question, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” These men had to travel a long distance (between 550 to 600 miles), mostly walking or perhaps riding, and endure the hardships of thieves and robbers, weather and dirt, and weeks if not months of travel. They left the safety of hearth and home in search of a child and for the mere chance “to worship him”! The Joy of our worship inspires us to overcome any obstacle!

EXAMPLE: There are many who search for truth, but few recognize it when they see. Some give their lives away serving others, like Mother Teresa who constantly agonized over whether she truly had done enough “good things’ for Jesus to love her! There are those who live lifelong journey of bellybutton introspection by focusing on self and emptying themselves of all worldly desires to find a sense of wholeness. There are those who think happiness is only found in the moment. Yet, in the midst of all of this we find Wisemen journeying from the East, following a heavenly star, hoping to kneel before a young boy on the chance that he might be the King of the Jews, the Messiah. That’s what the Joy of worship does, it inspires us to overcome any obstacle in order to worship Jesus!

There are those who say they have found the object of their worship, but when one takes a closer look all you see is them! We can mouth Christian platitudes, wave our hands in the air, sing all the choruses we know, and even quote Scripture verbatim, but not know why we are to worship because we truly do not know Jesus whom we are to worship! The Joy of our worship…

II. Is more than counterfeit comprehension! (Vv. 3-8)

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’“ Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

1. King Herod knew what he worshiped and this is why, “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was shaken to his core. It was said that it was better to be a pig in Herod’s household than to be one of his children! Herod in his paranoia had two of his sons and a wife murdered. Herod was not the rightful king from the line of David. In fact, he was not even a descendant of Jacob, but was descended from Esau and was an Edomite. This is why the Jews hated their king! Herod however was crafty and in fact did a lot to build up his nation militarily, financially, and physically. “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.” Herod in his paranoia wanted to know who this threat to his throne was. They give him the answer gleaned from Micah, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” Both Herod and his advisors had a counterfeit response and reason for their belief. The people’s chief priests and teachers of the law wanted to show off their knowledge to their King and Herod wanted to thwart any opposition to his reign! What he learned was soon related to the Magi, “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.” He was already planning his infanticidal response whereby “he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” (Matthew 2:16 NIV) So, Herod sends them to Bethlehem and tells them, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” He only wanted to “worship” him at the end of a sword. The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

EXAMPLE: There is an atheist group who have paid for giant billboards with the message, “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody.” Interestingly, American Atheists President David Silverman, whose heritage is Jewish, says they are trying to focus only on the “fun” parts of Christmas. And sadly, this is what many folks, including Christians, do as well with their worship. They focus only on the “fun” parts forgetting that worship of Christ is more than head knowledge or showing up once a year. Some view worship as a country club where they pay their dues for the benefits or grand show; it is more about receiving than giving, rights instead of responsibilities, entitlements instead of sacrifice, and being served instead of serving. They might as well be atheists asking, “Who needs Christ during worship? Nobody!” The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

Author Greig Beck in his thriller novel “Dark Rising” writes, “Without sacrifice, there is no freedom. Without freedom, there is no life. God bless them who give their all for us.” He wasn’t writing about missionaries, instead he was writing about those in the military who sacrifice themselves for the cause of freedom. Should this not be said of the believer? In the story of the Magi and this third Sunday of Advent, we discover that the Joy of our worship…

III. Makes us enthusiastically sacrifice! (Vv. 9-12)

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

1. Simple trust is an amazing thing. We discover it in children and are often silenced by it. We discover it here with the Magi and it should cause us to pause, because, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way.” At this time, they did not know Herod’s intent they only wanted to continue their journey. They followed the star they have seen earlier and wonders of wonders, “the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was!” Stars, like planets, usually go from east to west because of the earth’s rotation, not north to south! Could it be therefore that “the star” which the Magi saw and which led them to a specific house was the Shekinah glory of God or one of his angelic messengers? Possibly. But “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” They knew what it meant! It was showing them the way to the One they sought! The same God who had lead the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, now lead these Wisemen. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” They did not pause to worship or recognize Mary nor Joseph. The mother and father are of little importance to those who follow the Messiah. They immediately went to the object of their search! “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Some believe the gifts signified the character of Jesus’ life. Gold might represent his deity or purity, incense the fragrance of his life, and myrrh his sacrifice and death. Scripture does not say and therefore it is speculation. However, it speaks volumes on how these men were willing to enthusiastically sacrifice their time, talents, and treasures in order to worship Jesus! “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” The joy of our worship makes us enthusiastically sacrifice all that we have for Him!

EXAMPLE: How about you? What do you sacrifice for Jesus? Maybe you are more like the four blind men in the Asian myth who come across an elephant for the first time. One grasps the trunk and thinks it’s a snake. Another touches the elephant’s leg and says it’s a tree. A third finds the elephant’s tail and concludes it’s a rope. The fourth blind man, finds the elephant’s side, assumes it’s a wall. It is not differing religions describing the same thing in radically differing ways. The truth is that spiritually blind folks cannot make sense from that which they are blind to! Jesus correctly asked, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39 NIV) Stop being blind, the Joy of your worship should make you enthusiastically sacrifice all that you have for Jesus!

Conclusion:

The Joy of our worship inspires us to overcome any obstacle! Is more than counterfeit comprehension! Makes us enthusiastically sacrifice!
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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 bread of life! — John 6:34-59

The bread of life! — John 6:34-59
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 8, 2015

They say that a person’s sense of smell is one of the most powerful memory trigger inducers. You can smell a certain scent and it will immediately remind you of a person, place, or time of your life. I know this is true because when I smell Aqua Velva, an aftershave lotion, it immediately reminds me of my father. the same is true for fresh baked bread. The smell instantly reminds me of my mother’s kitchen when I was growing up and the smell of her wonderful bread. She made the best bread in the world. We could hardly wait to get a thick warm slice with melted butter or peanut butter.

As I expressed before, bread was an important part of everyday life during Jesus’ day. It was how people survived and was the meal for even the poorest of folks. However, it was not like the bread we enjoy today. It was flat, ,chewy, small, round, thick, and kind of tasteless, but it sustained people for the day. It was often dipped in olive oil or wine. And here in John’s gospel we discover Jesus referring to himself as the bread of life. Its meaning carried with it several important connotations. Let’s find what Jesus meant and John wrote about the bread of life…

READ: John 6:34-59

First, we discover that…

I. Jesus is the bread of life! (Vv. 34-40)

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

1. The crowd still wants free food, but not just free, they want it for as long as they can get it. This is why they responded by telling Jesus, “from now on give us this bread.” From now on sustain us! When Jesus had earlier told them that the bread he gave gives “life to the world” they understood it to mean it would sustain everyone! And in fact it does but not in the way they thought. The sustenance Jesus gives is that of eternal significance. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” It is a personal relationship Jesus calls us to and it satisfies forever! We must be willing to partake of the spiritual food, gospel, Jesus offers in order to gain any sustenance from it, then we will not spiritually thirst or go hungry. Yet, like some today, even though they hear Jesus’ words and see the truth for themselves, they still do not believe. Jesus told them that in fact, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” When we beg for this bread of life, God willingly gives it! And he has chosen to gi e it to us and will not play games with us by giving it and taking it away. For Jesus the reason was obvious, he tells his listeners, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” This is the promise of God that his Son will not lose anyone who comes to him for salvation. It is dependent up his promise and not our guilty conscious. When we come to Jesus by faith we can rest assured when he returns that none of us will be lost  and we will be raised up on the last day! The truth is, Jesus reminds us, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jesus is the bread of life!

EXAMPLE: M.F.K. Fisher, in “The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition” wrote that “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…[and bread-making is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” Mahatma Gandhi said that “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” In John’s gospel we learn that Jesus is the bread of life!

II. Jesus is the sacrificial bread! (Vv. 41-51)

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven’?” “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

1. You can give people free bread, but often they will want butter to go with it as well! Some people are never satisfied. The “Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.'” They gripped because they thought they knew Jesus, he was one of their own. Like many small towns, everyone knew everyone else’s business, or so they thought. Yet this tells me some important things concerning Jesus that are often missed. They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven’?” Jesus was like most boys growing up! No one noticed anything out of the ordinary about him as a lad. He was very Jewish in his countenance and upbringing. This fulfills what Isaiah wrote concerning the Messiah to come, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2 NIV)” They did not think Jesus could do what he said nor did they believe he was who he claimed to be because he was Jesus, Joseph’s son. Yet, Jesus rebuts them by relating, “Stop grumbling among yourselves, no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” He can and will do exactly what he said he could do! “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” If they listened to Jesus’ words and believed they would have known the truth of God, because it would be God drawing them to himself! Jesus had seen the Father because he was with him from the beginning and all things were created through him! He then bluntly lays out the spiritual truth for them so they will fully understand it, “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Jesus is the sacrificial bread!

EXAMPLE: Part of the setup of the Jewish temple was the table of showbread. It was an important focal point of worship for the Hebrew people. The showbread of the temple consisted of twelve loaves made of the finest flour. They were baked flat and thin, and were placed in two rows of six each on a table in the holy place before the Lord. They were renewed every Sabbath and the old ones were to be eaten by the priests only in the holy place. The number of the loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and also the entire spiritual Israel, the true Israel; and the placing of them on the table symbolized the entire consecration of the Hebrew people to the Lord, and their acceptance of God as their God. Jesus is the sacrificial bread!

III. The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses! (Vv. 52-59)

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

1. Far too many can only see as far as their noses. They only want what the world offers and do not care for the eternal things God has given us. The crowd first focused on the free food Jesus provided, then they focused on him giving them more of it, and finally they are focusing their attention on the wrong truth! The ” Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'” Jesus was not condoning cannibalism nor sacramentalism whereby the bread and wine would mystically turn into his flesh and blood! Rather, Jesus was teaching the eternal truth that unless you come to him, “eat of his flesh… and drink his blood”, in other words trust in his death and sacrifice, “you have no life in you”! The truth for Jesus is the fact that, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” The Jews were appalled at such a prospect because they could not see past their own prejudices of him being a small town boy and their preconceived notion of who God was. Jesus was teaching metaphorically. The person who could get past their spiritual ignorance and accept the truth of Jesus’ atonement, his sacrificial death and resurrection for them, they will be saved! In fact Jesus responds, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” Moses’ providing manna in the wilderness did not save anyone, in fact they all eventually died, but now we all can live when we receive Jesus by faith. The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses!

EXAMPLE: When the Hebrew people sinned against God by not trusting him, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. While there, God provided food for them in the form of manna and quail. The name manna is said to derive from the question man hu, seemingly meaning “What is it?” from the question the Israelites asked Moses. Only those who were deemed holy could eat the bread and it had to be eaten in a holy place, but now we hear Jesus saying that we are to partake of him to become holy. Jesus is the sacrificial bread! The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses!

Conclusion:

Jesus is the bread of life! Jesus is the sacrificial bread! The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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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Over 5,000 Served! — John 6:1-13

Over 5,000 Served! — John 6:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 18, 2015

When the Super Bowl happens or there is a big college football game radio stations often have contests for their listeners in order for them to compete to get tickets for the game. I find it interesting that folks who never cared a thing in the world about football all of a sudden will do some of the most outlandish things for something that is free. But, I suppose, that is the way of the world. As someone once quipped, “Free is a very good price!”

It is also interesting how some people will follow others for their fame, others for their fortune, and then there are those who follow someone for the free food! Food? Yes, food. We find Jesus ministering to a group of folks who were only interested in being fed for free. Kind of like many modern day believers who attend church simply to be “freely fed”. Like a McDonald’s of our day, we find Jesus feeding a whole lotta folks with very little food. You could say there were over 5,000 served! Let’s discover what occurred and how Jesus and his disciples served over 5,000…

READ: John 6:1-13

Here in the preserved words of John the Apostle we find that…

I. Jesus attracts people! (Vv. 1-4)

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near.

1. “Some time after” Jesus had healed the man at the pool and then had the lengthy discussion with his detractors, he “crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.” This means he went north from Jerusalem and then across the huge lake known as the Sea of Galilee. And “a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.” The people were eager to see more miracles, they followed Him round the head of the lake, and, as they went, their number was increased by those who were headed to Jerusalem for the Passover. We now have been following Jesus for over a year. The only reason folks were there was for the show they thought they would see from Jesus or perhaps they wanted him to heal someone or themselves. Whatever the reason, Jesus needed a place away from the pressure of the crowd and so we discover that “Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples.” This is not like the mountains we have in the Northwest that are thousands of feet tall and have snow year round, this probably was more like what we would consider a hillside. Jesus would often go up on a “mountainside” to pray, choose his disciples, or simply to be alone in his own thoughts. He usually did so when something important was about to happen in his ministry. We learn that there were a lot of people perhaps because “The Jewish Passover Feast was near.” Big important events draw large crowds and the Passover is the biggest event on the Jewish calendar. However, they were not here for the Passover, they were out there on a mountainside because of Jesus. We find large crowds often following Jesus, but isn’t this the way of Jesus? We discover that Jesus attracts people!

EXAMPLE: Like a moth drawn to a bright flame, people are attracted to Jesus. The real Jesus, not some phony televangelist huckster weeping and groaning to a crowd of unsuspecting dupes. The simple truth of Jesus is attractive to those who are in need of salvation. It is heard in the urgent plea of a desperate father of a convulsing boy who cries out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV) It is found in the drug addict, the homeless man, the rich Wall Street analyst who all share in the one need we all have — the need of forgiveness! Whether it was the miracles, the food, the show or curiosity the crowds were attracted to Jesus. In our daily witness of the one who saved us we must never forget this beautiful truth, Jesus attracts people!

We soon also discover that…

II. Jesus uses personal sacrifice! (Vv. 5-9)

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

1. Herein these few verses is hidden a most delightful story concerning Jesus and his willingness to use that which we are ready to sacrifice. We will learn that if we want to be considered first in his kingdom, we must be willing to be the very last or servant of everyone else. (Mark 9:35) This is truly a hard concept for many in our day and age. There are those who are willing to sacrifice if it doesn’t cost them anything, there are those who willingly sacrifice for family or friends, but few would do so for strangers unless there is some emotional reward in return. Why else would we readily help a child with cancer but not a senior adult? Why does the loss of a home in a fire elicit compassion, but not a small business? Whether we want to admit it or not we are often more willing to sacrifice if we think the need is greater in one instance over another. Here we find a great crowd who selfishly followed Jesus now in need of food. Jesus’ response is to ask his disciples, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Jesus was not concerned for why the people came, he was only concerned for people. His question was to help his disciples to discover within themselves whether they were willing to find the answer. If they were willing to sacrifice what they had to help. Jesus had in mind what he was already going to do. Incredulous, Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples answers him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Philip was a realist, pragmatic in his response. However, Jesus is the Messiah and was never practical in his approach to meeting people’s needs. And here we discover the wonderful golden nugget of personal sacrifice, one little boy’s lunch. “Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?'” The food did not belong to Peter or any of the other disciples of Jesus, it belonged to one willing boy whose name we never learn, and isn’t this the way of true sacrifice? Sacrifice never asks for attention, it only gives and goes. And here we find that Jesus uses personal sacrifice!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget Ron. He was one of those wonderful people of God. He came to Christ during the time when those who were in the counter drug culture of the 60s and 70s were finding their way out through the Jesus movement. Jesus Freaks we used to call them. Long hair and a quiet soft-spoken pot induced haze was Ron’s demeanor. Yet he found Jesus. I should say, he fell in love with the Lord. Deeply and utterly. God changed him through the power of the Holy Spirit now living in him. Ron was so poor he could not afford a car so he often rode the bus. One day, while sitting waiting for his ride to come lumbering up, he needed something to eat. He remembered his morning devotion that had focused on the Lord’s Prayer. Specifically the “give us this day our daily bread” part. he kept repeating the words over and over and decided he would depend on God to provide something for him to eat. He opened his eyes and noticed there beside him on the bench was a newly made sack lunch. He looked around, no one was in sight. He opened up the neatly folded bag and there he found some potato chips, a baloney sandwich, and an orange. For Ron there was no doubt in his mind that someone else’s sacrifice became his meal. Jesus uses personal sacrifice!

III. Sacrifice often results in great outcomes! (Vv. 10-13)

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

1. A little boy’s lunch was about to become food for thousands! Can you imagine it? How delightful would it have been to be there and to see the little boy standing nearby now quietly hand Jesus his basket of food. All that he had. To see his eyes grow big as Jesus performs one of the most dramatic miracles in the Gospel narratives. Jesus simply asks his disciples to “Have the people sit down.” Soon every eye would see what was about to occur. “There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them.” I am not going to discuss the ratio of men to women and children, because John and the other gospels only record the number of male men over a certain age. This does not matter because whether it was only 5,000 men or 8,0000 men, women, and children, for me it does not matter. Would it have not been just as wonderful or any less of a miracle if it had been only for a family of five? Yet we see that Jesus willingly uses the sacrifice of one who tenderly and innocently gave it. As the little boy and Jesus’ disciples watched and as the crowd looked on, “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.” Mark writes that Jesus had the crowd divided up into groups of hundreds and fifties, and that he looked up to heaven and gave thanks. John’s account is simple in its accounting and beautiful in its uncomplicated nature. “He did the same with the fish.” And in that moment of trust, expectation, and personal sacrifice, everyone had all they wanted to eat and more! That’s how Jesus works, he gives us more than we deserve. Jesus leaves nothing to waste and I believe he knew the crowd would have to head back to where they came from or they would have to continue on to Jerusalem and they would not have food then either, so “When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.'” In my own way of thinking, I honestly believe a little boy returned home with way more than he had before! What a delightful outcome for when “they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” Sacrifice often results in great outcomes!

EXAMPLE: At 7-years-old, Tyrel Wolfe’s mom suggested that he participate in Operation Christmas Child. The recipient of Tyrel’s shoebox was a girl named Joana in the Philippines. Tyrel had included a photo of himself, as well as his name and address in the box, and so Joana was able to write him a thank-you letter expressing her gratitude. For most, that would be the end of the story but ten years later, with the use of Facebook, Joana decided to hunt down the boy who had sent her a package. She took a chance on a profile in a rural section of Idaho. The photo she’d received showed a young boy in a cowboy outfit. Back in the U.S., Tyrel logged into Facebook to see a curious friend request from, “a random girl in the Philippines.” The two spent a year exchanging not only Facebook messages, but letters and photos, catching up on all the years they’d spent apart. The more they talked, the more they realized they had in common. They were both big fans of music, and liked to sing and play instruments. They were also both devout Christians. Tyrel decided to visit her. “Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me,” Joana said. “I was so happy I cried.” Joana and Tyrel began dating. Tyrel mustered up the strength to pop the question. Finally, after many years of no communication and several more of reconnecting, the seemingly star-crossed couple were married on Tyrel’s parents’ 400-acre ranch in Midvale, Idaho. “I remember as a little boy, I was so excited to know the toys and other items I put in the box would bring joy to another child somewhere else in the world,” Tyrel said. “I just didn’t know the joy it would bring back to me one day.” Sacrifice often results in great outcomes! (www.viralnova.com)

Conclusion:
Jesus attracts people! Jesus uses personal sacrifice! Sacrifice often results in great outcomes!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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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