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The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12

The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 6, 2019

A lot of folks were on the road, in the air, or taking trains and buses to go and be with family or friends during the holidays. Wherever they went they became visitors. Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Poor Richard’s Almanac that “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Franklin was usually only enamored with his self and found the company of others, unless they were female, dreary.

However, here we discover several wise visitors, a mad king, and a small child. It is interesting how all of these folks came together several thousand years ago and how we are talking about them in our day and age. These visitors of Jesus made an impact on his family; Mary probably pondered their visitation like she did over the other events that occurred around the birth of her baby boy Jesus. Let’s take a look at what the visitors of Jesus meant and how they affect our lives today…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

Some visitors are more welcome than others. We like it when folks bring gifts when they visit but we hate the late night visitation of raccoons going through our trash or mice running across our kitchen! Here we discover that…

I. These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! (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. Not everyone agrees with the timing of the visit of the Wisemen from the east in visiting Jesus. However “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem”. There are a lot of misconceptions and legends about these “Magi”. They were not kings, but simply wise men which suggest they were astronomers. There were not only three, but more than likely a great company and some suggest there were several dozen men! They seem to have not come on the birth night but many days (or even months) later. Some have named them but in fact it was only in the sixth century that their names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar) started to be specified as some now accept them. Before that they had other and varied names. Why did the later names Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar stick? Because in the sixth century the Emperor Justinian created the famous mosaics in various churches and in the church of Saint Apollinaire the mosaics of the wise men have their names beneath them in the form we now accept. These men came with a specific task in mind and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Perhaps the signs, writings, and legends of the time had led these men to this town in Israel. All of the things they studied pointed to a king being born: “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” They followed a star. Some suggest that since it moved that perhaps God used angelic beings or even his own Shekinah glory to direct these men to Jesus. When we look at God closely he always leads us to himself! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them!

  EXAMPLE: When I first became a Christian I was told by my mentor to “read the Bible”. When I first became a seminary student I was told by my professors over and over to “read the Bible”. We often learn in Sunday school and Worship to “read the Bible”. There is a reason for this; while Christian books, commentaries, and study helps are good for some insight the best and most important thing a believer can do is to read the Bible! It is there when we follow the words and instructions of God we discover who he truly is! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! Are you willing to follow the Lord wherever he leads you?

Some visitors can be disturbing. When we are sitting down to eat, watching a favorite TV show, or just enjoying a good nap, a knock on the door can be disruptive. Here in the following verses of Matthew we discover that…

II. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! (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. Like I said before, not all visitors are welcome by those they are visiting. We learn that “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was not a Jew at all, but an Edomite and Rome recognized him as a vassal king over Judea. The Jews tempered their great hatred of him with admiration for his building projects, such as the magnificent improvements made to the second temple. He also built Masada and the Roman port of Caesarea. Motivated by his great paranoia and cruelty, he murdered the members of the Sanhedrin, his wife, his mother in-law, and his three sons. Herod was “disturbed and all Jerusalem” besides! Herod was known for his rages and so when these esteem men show up looking for a king, they are concerned as to what Herod would do. Herod therefore gets his own wise guys (chief priests and teachers of the law) together and “he asked them where the (Messiah) Christ was to be born”. Having studied the Scriptures themselves and having debated this topic often they knew full well what the answer was: “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.’” The prophecy was the answer of God to King David long ago. Herod was as crafty as he was insane and we read: “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.’”  Not wanting any of his detractors to learn of the real reason the Magi had come and not wanting to give anyone a platform to usurp his power Herod had a secret meeting with them. I believe Herod had already determined to murder any child who would be seen as Israel’s true and rightful king. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others!

  EXAMPLE: There are folks and groups today that do not like it when others begin to consider who Jesus is. Groups like Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Islam all fear the truth of who Jesus is and what he came to do. Socialism and communistic regimes try to suppress the truth of Jesus as well. Atheists try to dispel Jesus as just a myth or fantasy. It shakes these groups to the core because if Jesus is truly who he said he was and what history testifies to then they are false and lost. Herod misunderstood who Jesus was and he was disturbed by the coming Wisemen. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! Is your faith disturbing to others?

Sometimes we have visitors that are unexpected but their coming and going do not affect us that much at the time while the news they carry or the particular job they do could. The mailman, package delivery person, or the water meter readers are some of these kinds of visitors. Lastly we learn that…

III. These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! (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. These Wisemen were far smarter than king Herod could ever have imagined. The king they sought did not have an earthly kingdom or a throne built by human hands. After being wined and dined by Israel’s ruler and “After they had heard the king, they went on their way”. However their journey is not finished “and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” This is good evidence that the star was far more than just an astronomical phenomenon. It moved and “stopped over the place where the child was”. Some think the star could have been a comet, a planetary convergence, or super nova but whatever the “star’ was it is certain it was a means by God to lead these visitors on their journey! Better than Google Earth or Maps! “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” because it lead them right to the final place they needed to go and to the person they sought! We also learn that the individual they journeyed to find was someone special because “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” You do not humble yourself to worship just any ordinary kid, believe me, even though some parents do! This child was truly special. This child was important. This child was the Messiah, God in human flesh! Add to this the fact that after worshipping him “they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Over field and fountain, moor and mountain, they had carried their offerings. Treasures to place at the feet of the one they worshiped, the one they had sought for so long! Some think God gave these men the gifts ideas to being Jesus: gold to signify his kingship, incense to recognize him as the high priest, and myrrh to show his death for mankind’s sin. We find that God watches over those he sends because “having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever done something extremely nice for someone only to have them not say “thank you”? Perhaps you gave a gift to someone but got little in return? I have learned that it is our choice on whether or not we give a gift or do something nice for another and we should never expect anything in response. Little did these Wisemen know but their travel, their interaction with Herod, and their worship of a young boy would be remembered for thousands of years! Why? The reason is not just found in what they did but rather it is found in the focus of who they sought – the Messiah Jesus! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! What treasure do you seek in life?

Conclusion:

These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25

The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 30, 2018

Matthew is the first of what is commonly called the “Synoptic Gospels”. “Synoptic” comes from the Greek adjective synoptikos, which is from two words syn and opsesthai, “to see with or together.” While Matthew, Mark, and Luke have distinctive purposes, they nevertheless view the life of Jesus Christ in a common way. There have been multiple arguments concerning why they are similar and yet also different. Everything from there supposedly being some mysterious other source document known as “Q” no one has ever found a single scrap of to the notion that it was all made up. None of these are correct. The Gospels are similar and yet different simply because they were written by different individuals who either used firsthand accounts they remembered or the testimony of others.

When my brother, my sister and I get together we often share common stories of our youth. While we may share the same events we experienced each one differently and therefore remember them differently from one another. What seemed important to me was not so much so with my other siblings, and vice versa. This is why we have slightly differing accounts of the birth of Jesus and in some instances which are not even mentioned by the authors. However the birth of Jesus is important, so let’s see what Matthew recorded and why he did so…


READ: Matthew 1:18-25

Matthew is one of the earliest narratives written concerning Jesus. In fact there exists a portion of Matthew’s gospel in a small university library in England which strong evidence suggests that it may either be a part of the original gospel or one that was a first copy. Here we discover that…

I. Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh! (Vv. 18-20)

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

  1. Never has there been a birth that has been written about, commented on, and philosophized on more than the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. We must never forget the significance of this birth because it is the birth of the “Christ” the Messiah of the entire world. Now whether one believes in him or not does not change the fact that he is the Messiah; and so we are first introduced to his linage and then to the fact that “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about”. We discover that “His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” The virgin birth is central to the nature of who the Messiah truly is; he is God in human flesh. Contrary to political correctness or socialistic nonsense God did not rape Mary. She was a willing vessel for the God she worshipped, honored and loved. Marriages were arranged for individuals by parents, and contracts were negotiated. After this was accomplished, the individuals were considered married and were called husband and wife. They did not, however, begin to live together. Instead, the woman continued to live with her parents and the man with his for one year. Most men upon hearing their future spouse was pregnant and not by them would have immediately divorced them. Not Joseph “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” He chose not to create a public scandal by exposing her condition to the judges at the city gate. Such an act could have resulted in Mary’s death by stoning. “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh!

  EXAMPLE: These words from the messenger of God must have brought to Joseph’s mind the promises of God through Jeremiah to provide salvation through the New Covenant: “The time is coming… when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers… I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest… For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV).” Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh!

Names have meaning for the child who receives them and for the future of their lives. Sadly, many have forgotten this fact in our day and age and often name their children without any thought for the child or their future. We learn that…

II. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind! (Vv. 21-23)

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”

  1. The angel of God tells Joseph about the importance of Mary’s pregnancy in both matter of fact terms and in the terms of prophecy fulfilled: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The baby in Mary’s womb would be unique and special. He would be a child of God born through the presence and power of God. His name would be literally Yeshua or Jesus in the Greek meaning “God saves” and in this case the salvation he would bring would be salvation from our sins. The unnamed angel also told Joseph that this was in keeping with God’s eternal plan, for the Prophet Isaiah had declared 700 years before that “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” No greater truth or greater prophecy was ever told and fulfilled. This baby inside of his mother would become a man who would die on a cross and rise from the dead to show the world that he was indeed the salvation of all mankind. Mary’s miraculous conception fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, and her Son would truly be God with us. In light of this declaration Joseph was not to be afraid to take Mary into his home. Jesus would later teach his followers, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NIV)” and that “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” The very notion that God would do such a thing is contrary to all that people think about gods. There are those who desperately try to suggest that this is nothing new by relating the fables and myths of false deities but they read like science fiction or fantasy. Only here within the gospel of Matthew do we find the Creator becoming man and the narrative rings true because of who Jesus is and what he would finally accomplish. Any other story is but myth and fable. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind!

  EXAMPLE: I was watching a movie the other day and I can’t remember the name of it but the characters were trying to escape the bad guys and one of them fell off a ledge but was able to grab on by one hand. His rescuer reached down to pull him up and yelled, “Just take a hold of my hand!” I was reminded of a big old rock my brother and I used to play on near our house in Leavenworth, WA. We’d climb on top of it and play like we were going to fall off while the other one would hold out their hand to “rescue” the other from certain death. For that one moment we became to hero who saved someone. While our rescue was make-believe Jesus’ was not. His was physical, spiritual, and eternal. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind!

III. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her! (Vv. 24-25)

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

  1. First time fathers always have tough decisions to make. It is all new for them from the birth of their first child to the daily care and fostering of them fatherhood is both new and challenging. For Joseph it became even more so. Not only was he newly engaged he discovers that his young bride to be is pregnant. He was probably incredulous, hurt, and then perhaps even angered; but Joseph was also a godly and kind man. We know this because of his actions and that God had chosen him to be the adopted father of the Messiah. Joseph had gone to sleep troubled but being a righteous man and did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace he had in mind to divorce her quietly. However as God usually does he sends a loving message to those who are willing to do his will. As Joseph sleeps he is told the child Mary carries is conceived by him for his purposes. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Faith is often found in obedience even when one does not understand why at the time. Joseph had a decision to make and he makes the right one. Joseph follows through on what God desires of him but he goes a step further to make sure that no one would question his devotion and Mary’s condition; “he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.” Joseph violated all custom by immediately taking Mary into his home rather than waiting till the one-year time period of betrothal had passed. Joseph was probably thinking of what would be best for Mary in her condition. He brought her home and began to care and provide for her. But there was no sexual relationship between them until after the birth of Jesus and “he gave him the name Jesus.” Here in Matthew’s gospel we find no manger, no shepherds, no Wisemen but only a righteous man who follows through on his faith. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!

  EXAMPLE: “Here I come to save the day!” was part of an old time cartoon called Mighty Mouse. It was during a time when Superman was a big time hero. My brother loved the TV show and used to run around the house with a bath towel tied around his neck like a cape singing the song at the top of his lungs. Of course I was the victim of his physical prowess since I was skinny enough and light enough to throw around like a pillow. Unlike these super heroes Jesus isn’t made up or fictional as some would like you to believe. Joseph may not have has super powers but he was a righteous man who followed God and loved his wife to be. In his selfless act he saved both Mary and the future Messiah. That’s what real sure heroes do. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!

Conclusion:

Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh! Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind! Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Is there life after death?

Is there life after death?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 8, 2018

I recently watched a TV show called Destination Truth where the show’s host tries to uncover the truth if there is an afterlife or not. He interviewed dozens of folks who had near death experiences. One was a neurosurgeon who had meningitis so bad they gave him less than a 1% survival rate. He was in a near death comma for weeks during which he experienced being in the presence of God, seeing his step sister who had died earlier that he had never met, and other interesting things. Needless to say they also went into the realm of fantasy and spoke with a guy who claims he can speak with the dead and while some of his antics seemed valid most of it could have been just good insights into how people more often than not respond, facial expressions, how individuals carry themselves and some preprogram research on his part. One thing he related over and over again from the dead was that they were “proud of” the person he was speaking with concerning their dead loved one. Kind of a “pat” comment don’t you think because everyone wants to hear their dead loved one is “proud” of them. Needless to say it wasn’t impressive at all. All of this to simply say, “Well, DUH!”

Not only does the Old Testament teach us about an afterlife but Jesus spoke more about this subject than almost anything else. And the program never spoke with individuals who experienced horror, torment, or dread when they had a near death experience, and there are many who have.

One of my favorite verses is when Jesus related, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3 NIV)” The idea here is not one of property but of making room for those he loves. I believe it to be absolutely to be true because of what Jesus did: he died, was buried, and then was resurrected and returned to heaven publicly. While other faiths speak about reincarnation, heaven, hell, and other mystical or spiritual things concerning death only Jesus spoke of it matter-of-factly and absolutely being true. Those who would not believe in him as the messiah, God’s answer for mankind’s sin condition, there was another eternal abode not as nice. In fact those who trust him have nothing to fear in death but those who have not certainly do: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NIV)” Jesus spoke about a final judgment of all people: “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50 NIV)” and that “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 NIV)”

Contrary to what the world would have you believe “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NIV).” There are not many ways to heaven or the presence of God, only one. But doesn’t this fly in the face of Jesus’ universal love of everyone? Nope. He expressly taught: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies (John 11:25 NIV)” and that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” In other words my dear bucko there is only one way to the presence of the God of all creation and that is by believing in Jesus as the Messiah!

Jesus is not some “ya’all come” kind of guy who winks at our ungodly behavior and then lets us into his presence. He vehemently taught that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:21-24 NIV)” Being nice, religious or spiritual does not matter. Knowing Jesus does.

Interestingly when the TV host interviewed a scientist who is conducting experiments into whether or not our consciousness exists after our death has come up with some startling results. Namely that there is good evidence now that what we know of as a person’s soul, our mind, will, and emotions, certainly do continue after our death! What Jesus taught and what most Christians know to be true has been finally recognized by science. Well, again, DUH!

Now what do these little nuggets of truth have to do with life after death? Well the fact that it is absolutely true but much more than being true one had better be prepared for what happens next after their death. Are you dear reader?
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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God provides! – Philippians 4:10-20

God provides! – Philippians 4:10-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 2, 2018

I have heard fellow Christians extol the fact that God provides all their needs, but I have yet to see very many actually live accordingly. I was drawing coloring books, tracts, and a monthly carton strip for a local puppet ministry known as Friends Puppets. John was the lead puppeteer, writer, and leader. They were in need of a new van and were not bringing in enough funds to cover all their needs. Some on their board wanted to do special mailings begging for funds but John to our surprise spoke against doing it. He related, “God has supplied our needs through our prayers and dependence on him, I don’t think we need to change now.” In that moment he taught all of us that God provides.

Paul understood this as well. He did not have special bulk mailings, emails, texting, Facebook, social media, or GoFundMe for support. Paul was totally at the whim and will of those who cared about the Gospel and reaching the lost. Whether in prison, in sickness, alone, or with the company of others Paul understood his ministry was totally dependent on the mercy and grace of God. Through it all Paul learned that God provides; let’s discover what Paul taught concerning this spiritual truth…
READ: Philippians 4:10-20

What had excited Paul and brought him joy during times of great personal persecution was this little church at Philippi that continued to pray and support him. He did not want them to suffer physically or financially do to his predicament. We discover that…

I. Paul wanted believers to know that God provides contentment! (Vv. 10-13)

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

1. Evidently the Philippians had wanted to show Paul that they were concerned for him but had not been able to, so Paul relates, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.” Paul wrote this letter as both a thank-you note and as a word of greeting and praise. Paul was thankful that they had “renewed” their effort on his behalf. Notice that he “rejoiced greatly” for their concern. When Paul had been at a low point their gift had come at just the right time and renewed him. We discover that Paul did not beg God’s people to help him in his work, “I am not saying this because I am in need”, instead he placed the need before them and trusted God to meet it! Paul had also learned the lesson of contentment, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”. Changing conditions did not affect the inner contentment Paul enjoyed in Jesus. The word content in the Greek means “self-sufficient.” In fact we find that Paul knew “what it [was] to be in need and [he knew] what it [was] to have plenty.” Paul had “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Through his faith walk with the Lord Paul had learned the secret to the believer’s happy life! God in Jesus provided for his every need. Paul remembered that Jesus taught, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25-26 NIV)” Paul tells them, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” It is a spiritual fact and Paul wanted believers to know that God provides contentment!

EXAMPLE: Hannah Whitall Smith wrote, “Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along the road, bending under a heavy burden, when a wagon overtook him, and the driver kindly offered to help him on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer but when seated in the wagon, continued to bend beneath his burden, which he still kept on his shoulders. ‘Why do you not lay down your burden?’ asked the kind-hearted driver. ‘Oh!’ replied the man, ‘I feel that it is almost too much to ask you to carry me, and I could not think of letting you carry my burden too.’ And so Christians, who have given themselves into the care and keeping of the Lord Jesus still continue to bend beneath the weight of their burdens, and often go weary and heavy-laden throughout the whole length of their journey.” Paul wanted believers to know that God provides contentment!

In our day it is often difficult to understand how early believers suffered and were persecuted for their faith. Even the homeless in our community have places they can go for a meal, medical attention, and such. In Paul’s day nothing like that existed. We discover that…

II. Paul wanted believers to know that God provides through us! (Vv. 14-20)

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

1. Paul was also grateful for them as well and writes, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” He knew the value of fellowship and a local church that truly practiced what they believed! He tells them, “Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only”. Wow, that’s kind of sad. Paul goes on to explain that “for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.” What a great little church. One has to realize that this church was quite small in size but big in heart. Over and over they tried to do their best to help Paul. Paul however wanted them to realize he was not in the ministry for personal gain in any way and quickly reminds them “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” His desire was that they were blessed by what they were willing to do; sacrificially and personally. Paul was truly blessed by their gifts and graciously reminds them that “I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.” For Paul these things were like “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Believers can forget that when they willingly serve others in the name of Christ it is a wonderful offering and sacrifice to the Lord. It should never be something we do to garner God’s grace but rather something we do because we love the Lord! Paul knew when Christians act out of their love for him, “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”! Paul was so thoroughly and genuinely blessed by what these beautiful believers did that he had to just say: “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Paul wanted believers to know that God provides through us!

EXAMPLE: While growing up when my father suffered from his heart problems we went through some pretty tough times because he could not work at regular jobs like he had done in the past. My mother did not always make enough to make ends meet. Often we did not have enough food in the house and new clothes for school and supplies were scarce. Yet many times we would find a full box of groceries place outside of our backdoor. We knew it was from the church my father attended. He never asked them but they understood what we were going through and supplied what we needed at just the right time. Later, after coming to Christ I understood why these folks did what they did. They were blessed just as much if not more than we were by their wonderful act of kindness. Isn’t it good to know Paul wanted believers to know that God provides through us!

Conclusion:

Paul wanted believers to know that God provides contentment! Paul wanted believers to know that God provides through us!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21

Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 5, 2018

I find it kind of interesting that we start life learning to crawl, jog or run through our younger years, and then end up walking or shuffling to the finish line. The Christian life is not to be this way at all. We are to begin by walking hand-in-hand with the Lord and then run the rest of life’s race to the finish line.

Paul understood what running life’s race was all about because he was doing it himself. His desire was that his brothers and sisters in Jesus would finish the same race well. In life we cannot help it if we become handicapped in some way as we age. Nor can we help how we entered into the world. Bad things happen to good people because sin exists. However how we live for the Lord is determined by us and how we run life’s race for him. Let’s discover what Paul wrote the Philippians concerning running life’s race…
READ: Philippians 3:12-21

There are some folks who have a Mary Poppin’s attitude,, they think they are “practically perfect in every way”. Others around them would disagree. Christians should never have this kind of an attitude. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

I. We are to focus on the goal! (Vv. 12-14)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

1. Paul not only knew who he followed and why but Paul was also a realist. He understood the world around him and why people often did what they did in life. But far more importantly Paul understood himself. Even though he knew he had been made holy in the sight of God by his faith in Jesus he understood he was not perfect. He still blew it from time to time and so he writes, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul knew there was more to life than ourselves. He now lived his life for the Lord Jesus Christ! His goal was not to try to reach perfection; his goal was to live for Jesus! It was like a race for Paul. You do not complete the race until you cross the finish line and Paul realized he had not yet crossed that line in life! So he reminds his readers, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” Paul was still in the race! Far too many believers think that their age, their sickness, or their emotional or physical state somehow disqualifies them from continuing to run the race God has laid out for each believer. This simply is not true. In the face of life’s obstacles we still are in the race but we are in the race with Jesus and we are never alone. However, like Paul we need to remember, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” We cannot get caught up in life’s past sin or anything life throws our way because if we do, we stay at the beginning of the race we have entered! We must strain for the prize we have been promised! In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

EXAMPLE: I liked the Disney Pixar movie “Up”. It is about Carl a crotchety old man who promised his late wife a trip to Paradise Falls; a place where a famous explorer found the giant skeleton of an exotic bird. Carl is found to be incapable of keeping his home and so he attaches thousands of helium filled balloons to it planning to float it to Paradise Falls as he promised his late wife. Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer” who visited Carl in his effort to earn his final merit badge, for assisting the elderly, becomes an accidental stowaway. In their journey they both meet up with a dog named “Dug”. He can’t seem to focus on anything and yet becomes a hero. All the characters, even the eventual villain, are focused on the wrong things in life. Friendship is more important than merit badges, life is not lived in the past, and squirrels should not keep you from focusing on what is important. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

I remember when I discovered that maturity does not come with age. Maturity comes when one uses their life’s experiences to become the person God desires them to be. The same is true for wisdom. Age doesn’t make someone wise. Wisdom comes from how one uses the knowledge they have obtained to glorify the Lord. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

II. We mature as we follow Jesus’ example! (Vv. 15-17)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

1. Paul knew that people can get sidetracked in running the race God has set out for each of us. Things tend to get in the way; family, friends, jobs, and personal interests just to name a few. In our day and age there are far too many distractions. This is why Paul writes the Philippians that he knows they can be distracted, however, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” In other words you may disagree about your goal in life but if you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus your life is to be lived differently than the rest of the world. Our view of things should be filtered through our lives lived for the Lord! How are we running the race today? Yet Paul understood that there would be those who would disagree just as there are today and so he told them that “if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” We cannot force the world to believe as we believe; nor can we force fellow Christians to do so either, however, we can give them over to the Lord to deal with. We can trust Jesus with people’s lives we cannot seem to get through to. Does this mean we simply give up? NO! But we pray, talk to the Lord, and trust the Lord to handle the situation and to enlighten us on how we should proceed. Far too many believers don’t talk with God they instead talk at God. Paul tells us what our goal should be in this situation: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” If we have trusted Jesus then we have all we need to proceed in life. We not only have Jesus walking with us but we have fellow Christians as well. We are not to isolate ourselves. Instead we are to “Join with others in following [Paul’s] example”. We are to remember we are “brothers” in Christ “and take note of those who live according to the pattern [Paul] gave you.” In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

EXAMPLE: I had to smile the other day as I was bagging groceries at WinCo. Another elderly couple was there in the next line and he was bagging groceries as well. Evidently he and his wife had been having a discussion that overflowed to the bagging area. Her remark made me laugh because she sounded like a preadolescent teen when she said, “Oh you think you’re so mature!” He muttered back, “More than you.” Some folks seem to never grow up I guess. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

Far too many Christians have forgotten that eternity exists. They become so caught up in the things of today they forget whom they are to follow. They can begin to live for the moment thinking that this is all there is in life forgetting the fact that this world is not our home. Paul reminds us that in running the race…

III. We are to remember who we are! (Vv. 18-21)

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1. Paul knew that in running life’s race there are those who would love to distract us in doing so. Misery loves company. Ever wonder why some folks are so bent on destroying your life in the Lord? Paul understood that there were rivals for Jesus’ affection. He writes the Philippians, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Sadly this has not changed because there are still those who desire believers fail in their faith. Yet take hope because Paul pegged them for what they truly are “enemies of the cross”! And he understood their outcome in life’s race: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.” They are headed for an eternity separated from God because they focus on the here and now and what they get out of life. They cannot help themselves because “Their mind is on earthly things.” Do not get enamored with the things of the world because they are passing away, “our citizenship is in heaven”! That is where every believer in Christ is headed! “And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Jesus will either return or we will head home. Our job is to continue in the race God has laid out for each of us! This world is not our home and we are citizens of heaven! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

EXAMPLE: I hate it when I go to a seminar or meeting and they hand out name tags to slap on your shirt or coat. I know they do it so the speaker or fellow guests can know your name but whatever happened to introducing yourself to another person or the speaker before you ask a question? I always think it is because they think I can’t remember who I am. In fact, being the tease I am I stood up one time during one session and deliberately looked confused until I looked at my name tag before I addressed the speaker. I exclaimed, “Whew! I almost forgot who I was until I remembered my name tag!” It got a chuckle from the crowd, which of course is what I was hoping for. I am so glad that Paul reminds us that in running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

Conclusion:

In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal! In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Stars! – Philippians 2:12-18

Stars! – Philippians 2:12-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 8, 2018

There was a kid’s cartoon TV show called Jimmy Neutron and one of the many characters was a guy who was the quintessential movie agent. He would tell other characters that he could make them “a super star!” Of course the whole idea was that he was trying to get people to think he could make anyone a “super star!” which wasn’t true. It seems however with the advent of reality TV and social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and such that many think they can get their fifteen minutes of fame. But does that make you a “super star”?

The definition of what constitutes stardom has been redefined. Spiritual stardom is quite different. We learned last week that humility plays a huge role in achieving this status. Paul wanted his fellow disciples to become all they were meant to be in God’s kingdom. There was and is however no easy way to the goal of spiritual stardom. Yet for those who strive for it the race and its finish is spectacular! Let’s discover what Paul teaches us concerning being a star…
READ: Philippians 2:12-18

Even as Christians it is our choice whether we live for ourselves or for the glory of the Lord. In order to live a life worthy of being united with God Paul knew we are as…

I. Spiritual stars live in the awe and knowledge of God! (Vv. 12-13)

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

1. How many of us have either heard from our own parents or have said as a parent, “you kids be good while we are gone and do not get into trouble, I only want to hear good things about you when I get home”? Of course most of us have. Then there was the following caveat that if we did not behave as we should as siblings then we would suffer the consequences of our actions. Paul says much the same thing when he writes the Philippians “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”! Paul desired that they fully understood the serious nature of their walk in this world with the Lord. They were living examples of the One they followed just as we are today! We can hear about Jesus, we can read about Jesus, and we can see some convoluted movies and TV specials about Jesus but the real way folks see and know Jesus is when they see him being displayed in the lives of his followers – meaning us! Far too many believers think their faith walk is only a Sunday morning experience or a once in a while “safe zone” where they can go and be spiritual for a while until they have to get back into the real world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christians live in the real world; the ungodly, sinful, filthy, dirty world. And we are to be the influence on that world that Jesus wanted us to be! Jesus related that “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)” Paul reminds his readers that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose”! We do not live for ourselves; we live to influence others and to honor the Lord! Spiritual stars live in the awe and knowledge of God!

EXAMPLE: The other night we had a blackout caused by a local transformer going out. It showed us just how dependent we are on electricity. It also displayed the wonder of God’s universe. In the darkness the stars showed a whole lot brighter without the lights of the nearby city to diffuse their brightness. It reminded me that Spiritual stars live in the awe and knowledge of God!

II. Spiritual stars shine in the midst of a sin-darkened world! (Vv. 14-16)

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

1. There are those who constantly see the glass either half empty or half full. Christians can be of the same ilk in that they either see their walk with Jesus as a joy or a job. Our walk with the Lord is not to be seen as a job but as a personal process. We are to be striving to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called” us! Paul writes that as believers we are to “Do everything without complaining or arguing”. Notice that he writes that we are to do “everything”. That means everything in life: job, school, appointments, shopping, driving, walking, running, exercising, sports, food, fun, and fellowship – EVERYTHING! While we are children of the king we are not to act like earthly children but rather King’s kids! Certainly siblings can disagree and fight with one another but the believer is to be above the pettiness of nitpicking and complaining of the world around them. Why was this so important for Paul? His desire was that his readers would “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation”. Blameless? Pure? Yep that is what we are to do, so why don’t we do that? We can forget that from the tiniest baby to the grandest sunset it is all sin-tainted. Like goldfish in a bowl we learn to live in the filth of our condition and it can begin to look great to us. But when we strive to be the true children of the King that we are meant to be we begin to see the world as it really is! This is why when we live like Paul shares we will “shine like stars in the universe as [we] hold out the word of life”! There should be a huge difference between the purity of Christ and the sin-filth of the world. We are stars who shine when we share the gospel! There should be a difference between the believer and the non-believer. Paul was proud of his progeny in Jesus and he wanted to be able to “boast on the day of Christ that [he] did not run or labor for nothing”. Isn’t this what every parent desires to do when their children do something wonderful? Paul knew that spiritual stars shine in the midst of a sin-darkened world!

EXAMPLE: When the power went out the other night it reminded me of why I like to head way out when I camp. You can see so much of the Milky Way! One of the best places to go is to the Goldendale Observatory outside of Goldendale, Washington. You can look through a large telescope and smaller ones during the day. I never realized until I went there that you can view some stars during the day if you have a powerful enough telescope! It reminds me of what Paul teaches us here that spiritual stars shine in the midst of a sin-darkened world!

III. Spiritual stars shine as an offering to the One they follow! (Vv. 17-18)

But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

1. We know and have learned that Paul was perhaps facing certain death for his witnessing about Jesus. He was after all in Rome chained to a Roman soldier under constant guard for his faith. He knew his life could end at any time because he was at the mercy and whim of the Roman Emperor. However Paul never forgot who his actual king was: Jesus. He no longer lived for himself but for the Lord whom he followed. He saw his life as a sacrifice to the God he lived for and this is why he wrote the Roman church, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1 NIV)” Paul understood he could not ask others to do what he was unwilling to do himself and so he never did. This is why he now wrote the Philippians, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” Paul knew if he asked others to live as sacrifices for the Lord he would have to lead the way. The “drink offering” he referred to was the offering the Jews made in the temple and were also included with burnt and grain offerings in God-ordained sacrifices, including the morning and evening sacrifices. Yet Paul is using the idea here as a spiritual metaphor to describe his own service and to encourage other Christians to live the same way; as an offering being poured out to the Lord. This is why he writes them, “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Spiritual stars shine as an offering to the One they follow!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget one camping trip I went on with my family. My father took us down to the creek nearby and showed my brother and me how to pan for gold. I was surprised when after a while and a lot of patience there were bright little flakes of gold shining in the bottom of our gold pans. It was fun and kind of exciting to be able to discover a tiny amount of shiny wealth in the midst of all that grey sand of the creek. We saved as much as we could, which wasn’t much. My dad gave my brother and I all that he found as well. It reminds me that spiritual stars shine as an offering to the One they follow!

Conclusion:

Spiritual stars live in the awe and knowledge of God! Spiritual stars shine in the midst of a sin-darkened world! Spiritual stars shine as an offering to the One they follow!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Living for the Lord! – Philippians 1:18-30

Living for the Lord! – Philippians 1:18-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 22, 2018

We live in a day whereby some people actually think that “if you disagree with me then you must hate me” therefore you are a “hater”. Discourse or critical thinking is gone. It has boiled over into religion as well. There are those who say that if you disagree with another faith then you must dislike the people who are involved in it. And if you dislike them then you are not very compassionate or kind like Jesus. This is all so much tripe. (If you do not know what tripe is — it is “the first or second stomach of a cow or other ruminant used as food” and is often thrown away as trash.)

Paul did not care why some believers did what they did only that the outcome was glorifying to the Lord. Paul’s desire was that people of all ages “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13 NIV)” This is why he taught Christians should “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)” For Paul his faith in Jesus was his life; it was what life was all about. Let’s discover what Paul meant when he taught that the greatest thing in life is living for the Lord…

READ: Philippians 1:18-30

Some folks share Jesus for their own personal gratification in order to gain status or wealth. The same was sadly true for Paul’s day as well. However we learn from Paul that…

I. Living for the Lord means preaching Jesus! (Vv. 18-21)

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

1. Paul was not concerned with why folks were preaching Jesus so long as they were preaching Jesus and so he rhetorically asks, “What does it matter?” Because it did not, “The important thing” Paul related “is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” And it was “because of this” Paul rejoiced! Unlike many believers have done in our day Paul did not forget what his life was about. Whether Paul faced persecution or not he could “continue to rejoice, for” he knew “that through” the “prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ” that whatever happened to him would “turn out for [his complete] deliverance.” Paul had become focused in life because of what he had been saved from and what he knew he had been saved for. Whether Paul survived his imprisonment or not he knew he would be delivered because he knew he already had been delivered by his faith! This is why he would write the Roman church that he had been set free from sin and death because of Jesus. He would cry, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24 NIV)” And his straight forward answer was, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25 NIV)” For Paul Jesus was everything in life because Jesus had given him life! This is why he could declare with complete certainty: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” How many of us who declare our faith in the Son of God can boldly declare like he did: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”? This is absolutely why Paul knew that living for the Lord means preaching Jesus!

EXAMPLE: When one fully understands the fact that “To live is Christ and to die is gain” then they can do all things Jesus has asked of them. No matter the time, the place, or the finances because they will fully realize that death is not all there is to life! Life is all there is to life! Eternal, wonderful, glorious life in him who gave it to those of us who has placed our faith and trust in him as Savior and Lord. After all is was Jesus the Messiah who related, “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. (John 6:40 NIV)” Nothing else in life matters as much as that fact; therefore living for the Lord means preaching Jesus!

Dear child of the King did you forget the promise of God? Has earthly concerns gotten a hold of your heart and infected your life? Are you living for the moment instead of eternity? Perhaps it is time you to become like Paul and realized that…

II. Living for the Lord is living! (Vv. 22-26)

If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

1. Did you forget that the rest of the world is dead? They are truly the walking dead but they do not know it. They are not only dead in their sin but they are dead eternally until they come to the knowledge of Jesus. Paul knew this truth. He understood that his life was in God’s hands and that he had died with Christ so he writes, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” In other words he could continue to do what he was commanded to do by Jesus: witnessing to the lost and dying of the world! However Paul longed to be in the immediate and eternal presence of God as well. He was in a quandary, “Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Living he could go on sharing the gospel and dying he could be in the very presence of the Lord! Paul was neither a fatalist nor unrealistic. He fully understood the circumstance and consequences of his choice. He had disciples he needed to mentor still and others to witness to. Few of us fully know what we are supposed to be doing in life but Paul did. And in reality so should we. Either we need to lay aside our fear and distrust of Jesus’ plan for us or fully embrace it like Paul. “Convinced of this,” Paul would write, “I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” You see Paul had come to fully realize that his life was not his own. Have you? Perhaps it is time for you to become like Paul and realize that living for the Lord is living!

EXAMPLE: Some people think that by doing dangerous things with their lives that they are really living. Whether it is bungee jumping, hang gliding, or scaling sheer rock cliffs without a rope or tether, all they are doing is trying to cheat death and gain a momentary high. There are those who find comfort and security in being a part of something bigger than themselves and join protests, march or lose themselves in the cause of others. While none of these things are wrong or bad in of themselves; what is the final outcome? The thrill soon fades and the cause soon disappears with the next protest. Then it is on to the next thrill or exciting thing. Only losing oneself to the greatest adventure of all is worthwhile because of what it truly means for yourself and others. Paul understood the eternal truth that living for the Lord is living!

Paul knew that he may not have much time left but whatever time he had left in his life he was more than willing to give it to the Lord. And his greatest desire was that because of the life he had lived for Jesus that it would bear future fruit for the kingdom of God! Paul knew that…

III. Living for the Lord is not just about you! (Vv. 27-30)

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

1. Paul realized that there were those who were genuinely concerned for his life. After all he was a prisoner of Rome! And so Paul wants to comfort and encourage them with his letter. So he tells them that “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Isn’t that just like Paul? He is more concerned for them than himself! How do I know this? Because like all good teachers or parents Paul wanted his “kids” his disciples to grow and mature in their faith and therefore to be able to face any trial or hardship that might come their way! “Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” How many of us would willingly place our lives, our families, or our futures to something that would bring us in sharp opposition to the world around us? Man, have I got news for you! You already have if you have Jesus! Yet take courage! Paul tells us why: “This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God.” The world’s opposition, their anger, their oppression is a sign that they are losing but for those of us who believe it is a win-win situation! We often forget that if we are truly following Jesus with our lives we will suffer the consequences, both good and bad! So Paul reminds his readers “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Interestingly the Greek word echaristhē, translated “granted,” is derived from a word which means “grace” or “favor.” Our faith and our struggle are both a grace and favor of God! Paul wanted his readers to “hear that [he] still” had God’s favor because of his momentary struggle for his faith! Paul understood that living for the Lord is not just about you!

EXAMPLE: Jesus related that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10 NIV)” The “lost” means all of the lost not just little old you. Recently the actor Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) accepted MTV’s Generation Award; he thanked his family and then offered some words of Christian wisdom to the younger generation. He told the audience, “God is real. God loves you; God wants the best for you. Believe that, I do.” And he went on to say, “Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you are perfect just the way that you are, you are not! You are imperfect. You always will be, but there is a powerful force that designed you that way, and if you are willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift. Like the freedom that we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget that. Don’t take that for granted.” The gospel, the good news of Jesus is for all people and so Paul reminds us that living for the Lord is not just about you!

Conclusion:

Living for the Lord means preaching Jesus! Living for the Lord is living! Living for the Lord is not just about you!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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