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Malachi 4:1-6 – Being prepared!

Malachi 4:1-6 – Being prepared!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 22, 2018

Most of us on that Tuesday morning had not given much thought to what the day held. After all it was a pretty normal day. I was on my way to Morning Prayer and my thoughts were on the day. I was not thinking about eternal things. This was true for most of those who boarded planes in Boston, went to work in New York City, or began their day behind a desk at the Pentagon. Few that day had any idea of what the next few hours would bring, yet with devastating swiftness we were all reminded just how quick death comes. Since 9-11, it has made me wonder how many folks are prepared for eternity.

We find that the Prophet Malachi was very concerned about the subject of preparedness. It was in his thoughts as he wrote to the Israelites. He wanted them to consider the eternal consequences of their lives. He knew that if they did not think about their actions and faith now, there would come a time of reckoning for his nation and for each individual. This morning, as we read the final few verses of Malachi, we will be forced to consider the matter of being prepared as well. Let’s discover how…
READ: Malachi 4:1-6

When we are younger we think we have plenty of time to do what we want and then we discover that the years go by faster than we first thought. Living a life of no regrets doesn’t mean doing whatever we want when we want, rather it means living our lives in such a way as to not regret some of the decisions we have made. Malachi teaches us that being prepared means realizing that…

I. There will be a day of reckoning! (V. 1)

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”

1. It had been hundreds of year since Israel had heard from the Lord. It seemed as if he no longer cared for his people. He did but they had turned away from him instead of drawing close during a time that they should have been one of reflection and spiritual growth. Instead the Israelites had wasted their time and neglected the tings of God. Malachi startles them by reminding them that “Surely the day is coming” and it would not be just an ordinary day because “it will burn like a furnace.” This is a dire warning and one that needed to be heeded. God’s words to the Israelites meant there would be harsh judgment coming. No one and nothing would be able to stand its fiery heat that would melt away all pretense and burn away any falseness. In fact, “All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire”. This is more than the purification of Israel and has to do with the judgment of all people everywhere. Israel may have felt alone, lost, and that God did not care but he did. He had not forsaken them and he would hold all of sinful mankind responsible; so “says the Lord Almighty”! God had said it and so it was true! Judgment was coming. God promised it would and “Not a root or a branch will be left to them” who had been the enemy of Israel. We far too often forget in our day and age that we are going to be held accountable for our attitudes and actions and that there will be a day of reckoning!

EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “The light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train!” There are those who live their lives for the moment. “It feels good to me, let’s do it!” is their motto. But whether you believe in it or not there will be a day of reckoning. Israel had thought that just because a lot of time had transpired, God was no longer involved. We can adopt the same false notion when we think we can do whatever we want whenever we want. However, God’s warning should wake us up! “Surely a day is coming” and there will be a day of reckoning!

The world was going to be judged. It still is. Nothing has changed yet the world has not learned the lesson Malachi wanted to teach them. Malachi reminds us that in being prepared we need to…

II. Remember who we follow! (Vv. 2-3)

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty.

1. Those that followed the Lord would not face the harsh judgment of God. Malachi gives the Israelites hope by reminding them “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” If we revere the Lord, lift him up and follow him we have nothing to fear. Those who revere God follow him no matter what others do or say. Reverence for God means you honor him with your life and not just give him lip service. The Day of the Lord would be horrendous for the wicked but for God’s people it would be one not of darkness but of sunshine and healing! The promises of God would come completely true for those he loves. No longer enslaved, no longer held captive, no longer seen as nothing God’s people would now “go out and leap like calves released from their stall.” Like a new day when the farmer lets his livestock out to forage and where the little calves leap for joy at being let go for the day the Israelites would leap for joy at being freed! These words are attributed to the Messiah who would come. The righteous would be victorious. God’s promise was that they would “trample down the wicked”. In fact they would “be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things” the LORD Almighty promised. Malachi knew the Israelites had stopped following God but he had not given up them. Malachi reminds us that we need to remember who we follow!

EXAMPLE: Why do you think that so many politicians end their remarks with, “God bless America”? Some would say it is an attempt at misguided patriotism. I honestly believe it is because they are trying to connect themselves with God whom they have forgotten, hoping their listeners will think they are both patriotic and religious. Perhaps, they want to re-identify themselves with their country and the inherent ideals that were foundational in her formation, although I rather doubt it. Why am I so skeptical? God has always been at the center of our nation no matter how many try to say otherwise. God is to be the foundation of any nation. His law is where we get our notion of freedom and liberty, the idea that everyone has worth. Malachi knew that God’s people are to remember their relationship with God. Malachi reminds us that we need to remember who we follow!

The Israelites needed to remember their past in order to prepare themselves for the present situation. If they could not they would not be prepared to step into the future God had for them. The same is true for us and our nation as well. Malachi understood this and reminds us that in being prepared…

III. We should reconsider our future formation! (Vv. 4-6)

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

1. For them to remember the important moments of faith and Moses’ teachings would reestablish their spiritual foundation. Malachi tells them “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Too often we forget the past, and when we do we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Malachi attempted to correct the problem of forgetting the teachings of God by calling the Israelites back to those basic tenets of faith. God’s people are to remember their relationship with God! To prepare ourselves for eternity, we need to reorient our hearts to him. His words refer to the act of actually remembering the Law combined with appropriate actions. The Israelites thought that Elijah would come before the Messiah came because of what Malachi shared: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” He would “turn the hearts” of those who were willing to listen. The work of this Elijah-like messenger was found in John the Baptist. Malachi relates, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” There is no greater need in America today than fathers to be actively involved in the spiritual lives of their children. We face a paternal spiritual crisis where fathers are not involved in the spiritual preparation of their children and because of this we face a vacuum that is being filled by all other kinds of ungodly behavior. This future formation must be heeded because unless God intervenes, the nation would be “cursed”. Malachi reminds us that we should reconsider our future formation!

EXAMPLE: Stamped on our money are the words, “In God We Trust,” yet is this true? The stones that Joshua put in the Jordan have been washed away, the fire pit of Elijah is overgrown with weeds and forgotten, and the temple in Jerusalem is no more. No one knows for absolute certainty where the empty tomb of Christ is. The only monument that stands the test of time is the one made in the human heart by God’s handiwork through the blood of Jesus. Will we remember the prayers we prayed and our conscious decision to follow God again? Will the dust of our dried out faith become the soil of renewal where “In God We Trust,” really means what it says? The choice is ours to make this morning. Joel said that, “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful.” Then he asked, “Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11 NIV) Malachi reminds us that we should reconsider our future formation!

Conclusion:

Paul said that, “the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 NIV) Malachi warned Israel that here will be a day of reckoning, Malachi reminds us that we need to remember who we follow, and Malachi prompts us to reconsider our future formation!

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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Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!

Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 15, 2018

At the turn of the century a young salesman approached a farmer and excitedly told him about a great new book he was selling. It had all the information needed to run a profitable farm: when to plant and harvest, how to predict the weather and care for livestock—everything that would make the farmer a success. The farmer patiently listened and then replied, “Young man, I know everything that’s in your book. My problem is doing it.” We may read our Bible, know how we are to live as Christians, yet find the hard part is to do what it tells us, why is that? It is a matter of obedience.

Why is it so hard for folks to do what they know they should do? Paul wrote that he would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God.” (Romans 15:18 NIV) Malachi begins with a blanket condemnation of Israel’s disobedience to God’s decrees throughout her history. Let’s discover this morning why Malachi saw obedience to God as so important for God’s people as we discover what being obedient means…

READ: Malachi 3:7-12

Why will one child graciously share while another display an Ebenezer Scrooge-like attitude? The other day at Play Group one young mother vainly tried to get her youngster to share. Instead he decided to defiantly declare that the toy was, “Mine!” His self-centered attitude was kind of like the Israelites of Malachi’s day, what had been graciously given by God they saw as “Mine!” It was a…

I. Disobedient attitude of not trusting God! (Vv. 7-8)

“Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ ‘Will a man rob God?’ Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.”

1. Physical things can get in the way of our spiritual trust! God reminds the Israelites of their stubborn attitude: “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.” From the sandy shores of the Red Sea to the wild wadis of the wilderness the Israelites had whined, griped, and complained. If Israel would just return to him in faithful obedience, then he would respond: “Return to me, and I will return to you”. This promise was based on the covenant God made with Israel. When God promises to watch over our lives he follows through because he does “not change”. The Israelites smirk, “How are we to return?” They knew their problem was they were not trusting God! Only a person who willingly confesses their sin can repent, but Israel pretended to be unaware of her disobedience. They falsely believed “If God truly loved me he would do this for me.” Just as God will not work in the life of someone who deliberately sins, he will not work in the life of someone who deliberately distrusts him. We are told to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).” The people’s distrust developed into stealing from God! Stealing from someone was bad enough, but only a fool would try to rob God. Israel robbed God in their “In tithes and offerings.” The quality of their sacrifices was poor and they deliberately brought “blind animals for sacrifice”! The tithe was to be a tenth of all their crops, livestock, or goods. Offerings however were to be above and beyond the required tithe. This was the real sacrifice, not the tithe! The tithe was expected and displayed obedient trust, while the offering displayed sacrifice! Jesus related, “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.” (Luke 6:38 NIV) The Israelites displayed the disobedient attitude of not trusting God!

EXAMPLE: Every four years we enter into a period of accusation, condemnation, and self-acclamation known as election process. Pundits and politicians proclaim the political piety of their primary politician. Attack ads that focus on the other guy’s shortcomings are common place. No matter what we say concerning negative campaigning, showing your opponent lacks character garners votes. We are saddened when the people we trust prove untrustworthy. It is sadder still when they try to justify their wrongful actions just like Israel did. How about you, dear child of the Lord? Do you trust God with what you have or have you robbed God?

It is curious that many of those who do not believe in God want the government to become the god-like entity that controls every area of their lives instead. It is because of the average American’s sinful aversion to live for the Lord that our nation has reaped what it has sown. A nation that gives God its leftovers should not expect great things from the Lord. In fact, Malachi goes on to relate for us…

II. The result of what disobedience brings! (v. 9)

You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me.

1. The sowing of obedience is the only way of reaping God’s blessing! When Gods’ people do not do the will of God, then the nation they live in suffers the consequences! The Israelites are bluntly told, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” Since the temple was God’s house, failure to support its ministry was considered equal to personally robbing God! Sadly, many Christians today wrongly believe that our nation’s problems are due to non-believers. This is not the case. It is because Christians do not trust God as they should and it is displayed by their willingness to rob God of their tithes and offerings. Jesus speaks to this issue of a believer’s disobedience. Jesus reminded his listeners that God will eventually come and judge. He asked, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” And of course the answer is, “Yes.” Jesus continues to ask, “Will [God] keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7 NIV) This teaching of Jesus follows his discourse on a persistent widow who continually bugged a judge asking him over and over for justice. If we continually come to God asking for justice, yet are disobedient, will he not judge us? When Jesus comes again dear child of God, will he find faith and trust in his children? Here we discover the result of what disobedience brings!

EXAMPLE: What would you do if your child lies to you? I remember when I lied to my father about where I had gone for the afternoon. I went to play in a field where I was not allowed to go. When he found out, he grounded me. We did not have TVs, computers, smart phones, tablets, or mp3 players in our rooms. Instead, my father made me take all of my toys and books and place them in a box on the back porch. Grounded meant grounded. I could not go play with the other kids, nor could I enjoy my room. I spent my time cleaning, dusting, and polishing the floor. After a few days, I had the cleanest room in Wenatchee! I learned a powerful lesson: disobedience always brings its own curse. The same is true for God’s people. Dear child of the Lord, what is your disobedience bringing you? Malachi teaches us the result of what disobedience brings!

For the Israelites it brought about God’s curse. When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks. God requires the obedience of his followers. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). And he challenged, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).This is why Malachi reminds us that…

III. God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! (Vv. 10-12)

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

1. Obedience to God is an expression of our love for God! The promise made here is a reaffirmation of God’s word to the Israelites. God states in Deuteronomy 28:1 that if they “fully obey the Lord… and carefully follow all his commands… God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” He challenges the Israelites to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” What the people of Israel were experiencing was a disobedience-curse relationship specified by God. Since the Word of God is sure, his promise would be carried out. In fact, Israel could attest to the truth that she was experiencing certain aspects of the curse because of her unwillingness to tithe! What about your life in God? Are you in disobedience to Him concerning your tithes and offerings? Notice also that this is the only place where His people are specifically asked to “test” God. He is challenging Israel to bring their whole faith into action and to trust his promises, by brining the “whole tithe into the storehouse.” By doing this, God would “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Far too often we live by sight and not by faith. Here God tells us to test our faith and live by it. Faith is never found in what we see. It is found in how we trust God and sometimes that requires uncertainty. Malachi teaches us that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget the answer that Ward Lawrence gave folks who asked him about his certain death. Dying from a very painful form of cancer, it was certain that he would not live much longer. They wondered what it was like or if he had any fear. He replied, “I only know the words of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemerlives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.’” (Job 19:25-27 NIV) If you are trying to live your faith by sight, you will live a shallow weak faith. It will always be a mere shadow of what it could be. Dear child of God, he desires so much more for your life. As Paul would transliterate from Isaiah 64:4, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV) God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him!

Conclusion:

We learned about a disobedient attitude of not trusting God, the result of what disobedience brings, and that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! Bring all your trust to his storehouse and test him in this and see if he will not pour out so much blessing you will not have room for it. In fact, it will most likely overflow into the lives of others around you. That’s the way God works.

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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Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!

Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 8, 2018

Being a parent is tough, but I cannot imagine being a single parent. When we were kids my mother, after a particularly hard day, would tell us, “You kids are going to wear your old mother out!” Looking back on this I find it kind of humorous since at the time she was only about 35 years old and she had the backup of my father! Perhaps it was the constant care she had to give to two young active little boys who were always on the go? Being a good parent can, at times, make one feel a little worn out.

I wonder how God feels when his constant care of his children wears on him. Not that God can be worn out, he is God after all. However, when his children continually distrust, disobey, and disrespect him, God tells us he becomes “weary.” Malachi tells the Israelites that God has grown weary of their endless spiritual platitudes. Who were they trying to fool? They did not trust God. We discover that Malachi’s message is just as valid today as it was when he first presented it! As God’s children we are to fully hope in God and not weary him! It’s a matter of being hopeful, let’s discover how…

READ: Malachi 2:17-3:6

God’s people can begin to think and act without faith. We can begin to blame God for the outcome of our own sinful choices. Israel did just that. God’s people need to remember that faith begins and ends in hope. In fact Malachi reminds us that…

I. Our actions show our hope in the Lord! (V. 2:17)

You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”

1. How we live says more about what we believe than all our empty words of praise! First, the Israelites had no hope because they were spiritual beggars! They begged God for blessing without investing anything themselves. They are accused of wearing the Lord and ask, “How have we wearied him?” The implication was, “It’s not our fault it’s God’s fault!” They were blinded to their sinful manipulation! The Psalmist related they “soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for (Psalm 106:13-14 NIV)!” They were acting and talking as if they had no God to hope in! This world is a spiritual desert, a wasteland and Christians can give into their cravings when they beg God and then blame God for their choices! Secondly, the Israelites had no hope because they trusted in themselves, in their judgment, and in their own decisions of what was right or wrong. They had the gall to sarcastically declare, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them.” Can you imagine a nation where God had blessed it and manifested himself daily, saying this? Christians can do this very thing when they question why God allows the ungodly to prosper and then question why God doesn’t make them prosper too! This is defining for God what sin should be according to our standards! And finally the Israelites had no hope because they wanted to know, “Where is the God of justice?” In other words they demanded, “If God is real, where is he when we need him?” And this was coming from God’s own people! WOW! Talk about audacity! They questioned God’s justice by saying that he delighted in evil people more than those he chose to love! Yet they were the guilty ones, they were the ones who were unfaithful! God was only God to them when they could see the benefits! Our actions show our hope in the Lord!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever known people who are always demanding attention, wanting more for themselves but never giving anything in return? No not your preschooler. What do we call children who act this way? Spoiled! This is what God’s people had become, Spiritually-spoiled brats! They had begun to think that they deserved being blessed because they were God’s chosen people and not because they were faithful. Their hope was not in the God of Jacob, Abraham and Isaac. Their hope was only in what they could get from God now! They had become like the pagan world around them, seeing God as a good luck charm, something to be manipulated for personal gain. We can weary God when we do the same thing. A God who is infinitely patient and loving was pushed to the point of judgment by those who should have been placing their hope in him. Our actions show our hope in the Lord!

It would be about 500 years before John the Baptist would be a voice crying out in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Messiah. The Israelites would be defeated again, taken into national captivity, and enter into a time of spiritual desperation. Through it all the Israelites had a reason to not despair and we discover that…

II. God offers us hope in a hopeless world! (Vv. 3:1-6)

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

1. The gospel writer Matthew quoted Isaiah concerning Jesus by stating that “In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21 NIV) First, Malachi writes about the coming of God’s wonderful messenger! (V.3:1a) This title “the messenger of the covenant” occurs only here. Many believe it points to John the Baptist, others believe it references Jesus. Malachi relates that “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” Yet, what if the people aren’t prepared and are still sinning? Jesus has “entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12 NIV) God’s messenger has come and the Messiah has entered his temple! Secondly, Malachi mentions God’s judgment! Malachi asks two questions: “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?” The answer is “No one.” The day of the Lord will be a day of judgment on the whole world for those who do not know the Messiah, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” No one will escape Jesus’ judgment! In fact “he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” God tells them, “I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me.” God will judge what we believe and how we live! Yet, in all of this there is the basis for hope! Will God’s people be destroyed or put to shame? God says, “No.” “I the Lord do not change!” We can trust in God to do what he promised, “So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” God has left a remnant in those who believe in Jesus. Peter reminds us that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)” — those who trust in Christ are never put to shame. God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

EXAMPLE: Hope is a gift of God. It does not come wrapped in fancy packaging. In fact real hope came in the form of a very ordinary looking man. He wasn’t anyone you would notice or think of as a hero or a celebrity. Yet at just the perfect time he came to give us all hope, the greatest gift of all. This hope is a free gift as well. It isn’t a come on or a con. Although the hope offered by this one man, changes the con or the priest or the seeker of truth. He is God’s Messiah. He is the hope of the world. He is Jesus Christ. What the Israelites had a tough time understanding in Malachi’s day, we can have in hindsight this morning. Jesus has already come, proven his love for us in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

Conclusion:

Dave Franco talks about his young married life as a writer. He had lost his job, his apartment building evicted his family and was becoming a co-op. His wife was pregnant with their second child. In New York City, out of a job, in a place with high rent, and a new family–Dave was frantic. One day they were walking home and he could not stand the pressure of a silent God. “What is God doing?” he angrily demanded of his wife Nicole. Just then his three-year-old son Julian threw a fit because they had passed an ice cream truck and did not stop. “Not now,” they told him. That didn’t work. Finally, after all else failed, Dave told him, “Julian, you’re just going to have to wait!” Dave’s wife remarked, “You know, Julian’s doing exactly the same thing to us that we’re doing to God. God is saying, ‘Wait,’ and we’re telling him we want our ice cream and we want it now.” Israel had become spoiled and negligent spiritually. They failed to place their hope in the One who gives us hope. Dear child of God, have you? Remember, our actions show our hope in the Lord and God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

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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Luke 24:1-8; 36-48 — We have a risen Lord!

Luke 24:1-8; 36-48 — We have a risen Lord!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 1, 2018 AM

The message of Easter is the resurrection of Jesus as an event that means much more than a historical fact. His victory over death brings peace and comfort to all who have trusted in him as Lord and Savior. Further, Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for the believers’ resurrection and living with him forever. Therefore, this is the beautiful truth of Easter: We have a risen Lord!

After Jesus’ death, Joseph buried His body hastily in a nearby tomb. A large stone rolled in front of the entrance was meant to keep out marauders and wild animals as well as Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 27:62-66). All day Saturday Jesus’ followers grieved, but they could do nothing. The Fourth Commandment prohibited work, including preparations for burial, on the Sabbath. Finally, Sunday morning dawned, the first day of the week and some of the women who had followed Jesus went to visit his grave. They could not have imagined what they were about to experience. Their initial response was fright, but soon they realized that Jesus had risen! Let’s rediscover this truth again…

READ: Luke 24:1-8; 36-48

The inspired writers of the New Testament who declared the resurrection of Jesus never actually described the sequence of events inside the tomb. Nobody saw Jesus’ dead body when God miraculously transformed him. No human eye observed Jesus coming out of the tomb. What the Gospels and the Epistles record, instead, are two amazing facts: Jesus’ tomb was empty and he appeared alive to his followers. The only possible conclusion was that he had been resurrected and because of this we know for certain…

I. Jesus is alive! (Luke 24:1-8)

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

1. We find that “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” Afterwards, “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” Jesus’ body was gone. And “While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.” Next, however, they heard unexpected words. The news they received began the process of taking them from despair to hope and faith. And the words they heard were from a very unlikely source. They were asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” They did not find the body they were looking for. Instead they saw two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning, an obvious reference to angelic beings. These men reminded them of the words Jesus had spoken about His crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 9:31; Luke 18:31-34). If they could not find what they were looking for, why were they looking for it there? The fact was, “He is not here; he has risen!” They had forgotten what Jesus had told them while still in Galilee, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” It was only after they realized what had occurred they “remembered his words”! We have a risen Lord! Jesus is alive!

EXAMPLE: When a teenager named Poh Fang learned about Jesus’ love for her and received him as her Savior, her parents weren’t sure about the merits of Christianity. So they sent her older sister with her to church to keep an eye on her. But something happened that they didn’t expect. The powerful Word of God penetrated the heart of the older sister, and she accepted Jesus as her Savior as well. Think back to the time you first realized Jesus is truly alive. Consider today that proclaiming the good news to lost people must include the truth that Jesus arose from the dead, for there is no good news without Jesus’ resurrection. How can you help others know that Jesus is alive?

Luke writes that the women told their experiences to the disciples, who thought they were spouting nonsense. Later that day, two of Jesus’ followers were walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem. Jesus appears beside them with his identity concealed and engages them in conversation. When at last they realized he was Jesus, they rush back to Jerusalem. They discover that rumors about the resurrection were spreading like wildfire. In the turmoil that follows we find that…

II. Jesus provides peace! (Luke 24:36-48)

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

1. We now find the disciples still discussing what occurred when without warning Jesus himself stands among them! That they were “startled and frightened” was because they still hadn’t grasped the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. That night, Jesus helps them understand this new reality. Jesus immediately tells them, “Peace to you!” The first gift of the Lord Jesus was peace. The Jewish greeting now had a much fuller significance. Christ’s followers had been in terrible turmoil, seeing their Lord tortured and crucified. But now even in the midst of this they could have “peace”. He asks, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” And then reassures them, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” He provides proof by showing “them his hands and feet” and asking for something to eat and then eating with them. Jesus showed his followers all the facts written… in the Old Testament about the Messiah in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. In doing this, he “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Namely, that “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” They could find peace in this because they were “witnesses of these things!” They experienced every bit of the prophecies being fulfilled! In His presence, in his fulfillment, and in his resurrection Jesus provides peace!

EXAMPLE: Today around the world millions of Christians will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. They will meet in cathedrals, storefronts, and homes. Some will meet openly with thousands of other believers. Others will meet secretly with a handful of fellow Christians for fear of persecution. All will be there affirming the good news that Jesus offers his followers peace in troubling circumstances, just as on that first Easter. We have a risen Lord and because of this Jesus provides us peace!

Conclusion:

We have a risen Lord! Jesus’ resurrection is established by the empty tomb and by His appearances. The risen Christ provides peace in the midst of troubling circumstances. Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of the Scriptures.

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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Being Faithful – Malachi 2:10-16

Being Faithful – Malachi 2:10-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 25, 2018 AM

After learning to say, “No!” we quickly learn to ask the question, “Why?” It is an innate thing with us and it goes back to the Garden of Eden when Eve rebelled and then asked the very same question. It exists in every preschooler and manifests itself in adolescence through our demand to be told the reason for everything that happens to us. We especially hate it when someone dares to tell us, “Because I said so, that’s why!” We want and expect an answer to our inquiry. But guess what? The simple truth is, we do not deserve an answer for every “Why?” we ask, nor should we expect one.

In God’s economy trust is manifested when we obey without asking “Why?” When we pridefully think God should justify himself to us God reminds us that his ways are not our ways, nor are his thoughts our thoughts. He desires his children to live by faith and trust. Israel had failed to do just that. Instead they came up with their own way of worship, their own manmade guidelines, and fashioned gods into the images that made them feel comfortable about themselves. God, through Malachi, called them back to a fresh beginning in himself. Would they listen? Let’s find out as we discuss being faithful…

READ: Malachi 2:10-16

When Israel was faced with the scathing retort from Malachi, they demanded to know “Why?” God literally says, “Okay, if you want an answer here it is!” For a fresh start they needed to realize…

I. They were faithless! (V. 2:10)

Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?

1. Spiritual questions stab the soul and our answers reveal our faith — Malachi asks three!
1) The first question is: “Have we not all one Father?” The issue here goes to the idea of what a person truly believes. Malachi is addressing the teaching that God is the spiritual father of us all. Malachi is making the case of one God, who is our father and it goes back to verse 6 where God asks, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me?” So the correct answer would be, “Yes. We have one father and he is God.” If we recognize God is our spiritual father, then he is to be obeyed!
2) The second question is: “Did not God create us?” This idea goes to who is in charge—just who is the Creator and who is the creation?! In our day we like to think we are in charge. “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want!” We want to decide what is best for ourselves. We do what we like. We worship God how, when, and where it suits us. It is the profane notion that says, “I can worship God anywhere.” Yet God says, “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, and I will accept no offering from your hands (v. 1:10).” If the One who created us wants us to worship him are we not obligated to worship him the way he desires, when he desires, and where he desires? The answer of course is, “Yes.”
3) The final question Malachi asks is: “Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” God had created and worked with Israel as a nation and as a people. Now Israel was divided. This was totally against God’s will. Amos related that God had “chosen” them from “all the families of the earth (Amos 3:2).” Yet they acted like bickering children and rival siblings. They had profaned God’s sacred covenant by splitting the nation! They were faithless!

EXAMPLE: Being the siblings we were, Ed and I used to pick on one another. It is a brotherly love/hate thing. Anthropologists believe it goes back to establishing dominance within the gorilla group, establishing a pecking order. Not that I believe this is true for human beings who are created in the image of God. Anyway, I do know that when my Mom would have her fill of our rivalry she would tell my Dad, “You handle it. They’re your boys!” All he had to say was, “Boys, behave because I said so.” And we did. We behaved because Dad had set the law down. He was our Dad and we respected him and the punishment that followed if we didn’t “behave” because he said so. The same was true for Israel and it is true for us as well. Christians are to honor and follow God for no other reason except he said so and it is a matter of being faithful not faithless!

Like all people who have been caught doing what they should not have been doing, the Israelites demanded proof of their untrustworthiness of not being faithful. God responds by telling them that if they wanted a fresh beginning they needed to realize…

II. They were Spiritual adulterers! (Vv. 2:11-12)

Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob–even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.

1. Spiritual adultery occurs when we fool around on God!
1) Malachi describes their sin, “Judah has broken faith!” The KJV gives us a better idea of what had occurred and just how God looked at their sin by describing it this way: “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god!” The unfaithfulness Malachi had in mind (v. 10) is called “a detestable thing” (lit., “an abomination”), something abhorrent to God. The abominable unfaithfulness that profaned Israel’s holiness was spiritual intermarriage with pagan idols. They had married themselves to foreign gods instead of being faithful to the one who loved them! They fooled around on God!
2) Malachi declares the result of sin, “As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord cut him off from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.” The prophet invoked a curse on any Jew who had committed or would commit the sin of idol adultery. It meant that the man would die or that he would have no descendants in Israel. This was a horrible notion to the Israelite. Notice also that “even though he brings offerings to the Lord Almighty” God would see through his hypocrisy. Christians do this very thing when they say they love God, believe in Jesus, yet live with one foot in the world. Christians can commit adultery with their faith and deaden their walk when we fool around on God!

EXAMPLE: Spiritual adultery doesn’t mean a person has to totally leave God. It occurs when our spiritual affections are lukewarm because we have diluted them. Jesus told the church at Laodicea “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:15-17 NIV).” We leave our first love when we allow the world to attract us more than our love of Jesus does. When the things of God become second place to our success, our education, or our relationships we have done a “detestable thing” and married the “daughter of a foreign god.” We have fooled around on God!

Not wanting the Israelites to think that they were getting off easy God, again through Malachi, continues in his chastisement of his children. God illustrates for them exactly why their sin had affected their relationship to one another as well. They wanted a fresh start, yet they were not being faithful…

III. They had committed spiritual divorce! (Vv. 2:13-16)

Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

1. Breaking faith with God is like divorcing a devoted spouse – we are to remain faithful!
1) Malachi teaches us about the outcome of our actions (v.13)! Malachi said the people had “flooded the Lord’s altar with tears.” People are always sorry when they get caught in sin or when they need God’s help. The idea here is one of begging, pleading, or false and phony repentance but God did not care any longer. He knew their true inner nature. John wrote to his friend Gaius, “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:3-4 NIV) It does not matter how “sorry” we are what matters is if we put into practice and renew our marriage vows to the Lord. God is filled with joy over our walk with him!
2) This is why Malachi shows them the exact sin they were guilty of (2:14-15a)! God doesn’t heed their tears or hear their crying. They asked, “Why?” and he replies, “Because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant (v. 14).” God had made them “one flesh” with himself. God wanted a holy people totally devoted to him! This is why Peter warns us that “you 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 (1 Peter 2:9).” God hates divorce and especially our spiritual abandonment from a personal relationship with Him!
3) Malachi then mentions the cure (2:15b-16)! God’s people are to “guard” themselves in their “spirit” and “not break faith with the wife of your youth (v. 15b).” They were to return to the one they loved in the first place! It would show true repentance. By guarding their spirits they would be acting in accord with God’s purpose and would help preserve the unity of the nation as well as their individual relationship to him! We forget that God sees divorce as an act of spiritual “violence.” This is why he “hates divorce”! This is why he asks, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his.” He continues by asking, “And why one?” God then gives us the answer, “Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Christians are God’s spiritual children, “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:13 NIV) We are to remain faithful!

EXAMPLE: The other night I watched an old John Wayne movie called “The Cowboys”. During the movie some boys that were supposed to be moving a herd of cattle through dangerous country found a bottle of whiskey and got drunk. John Wayne and his cook knew they had done it and the next day when the boys were suffering from the effects of too much alcohol, the cook gave each one a dose of castor oil. As he ladled a large spoonful into each boys unwilling mouth, he remarked sarcastically, “I wonder why you ‘boys’ all of sudden are so sick?” That’s the way the cure for sin is. The cure for our sin may seem distasteful to us but God is gracious and desires that we return to Him. And, yes, it can be hard to swallow! We need to remain faithful!

Conclusion:

We all at some time want to ask the question “Why?” Yet for some of us the answer may be more than we want to hear. These people revealed their true faith; they were spiritual adulterers, who had divorced God from their lives. The writer of Hebrews teaches, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) It is a matter of being faithful!

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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Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 11, 2018

My Mom used to play mind games with us kids when we did something bad. A lot of mothers do this. Here’s what I mean: Right in the middle of scolding us over our bad behavior, she would innocently ask, “Don’t you love your dear old mother?” Or she would declare, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” It was a form of psychological warfare to get a response from us and to have us think about the consequences of our actions. It’s called guilt.

Malachi is kind of like my mother. His message is for God’s wayward children. Didn’t they love God? Didn’t God love them? If that were true, then why were they acting the way they did? Had they gotten spiritually soft? God’s chosen people had gotten so lackadaisical about their faith that they forget what their relationship to God meant! Malachi’s message from the Lord is to illicit a response from his people. Malachi’s message applies to us as much as it did for the spiritually lax Israelites. They needed to be open to God and what did for them. The same is true for us today, let’s discover how…
READ: Malachi 1:1-5

Malachi ministered in the fifth century BC, about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. Life was not easy under the political rule of Persia. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Much like today, their hope in God’s promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their intermarrying with nonbelievers, divorces and general moral apathy. They needed to respond to God’s love. Malachi teaches us that…

I. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message! (V. 1)

An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.

1. One man’s message is another man’s burden! Malachi had a spiritually heavy message he had to share with his people. The word Hebrew mas-saw’ (burden), which this book begins, sets kind of a somber mood. The NIV translates this word as “an oracle”. The word comes from the Old English language of the middle ages. We now think of an oracle meaning a person like a priest or priestess who gives out kind of obscure advice that kind of sounds meaningless unless you are “wise” enough to interpret it. This is not the idea here from Malachi. In the prophetic books the Hebrew word mas-saw’ introduces messages of a threatening nature and this gives the prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding. Something he had to say but did not necessarily want to. It became a burden. Contrary to many modern religious pundits God’s messages are not always welcome and can often be sinister in nature! Especially if we know how we have been acting and we know how we should be responding! Notice that this spiritually heavy message was from God Himself: “The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi”! Traditionally Malachi, “My messenger”, has been viewed as the last prophet of the Old Testament period before John the Baptist, whose ministry Malachi predicted (Malachi 3:1). Nothing is known of his family and he is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the Bible. However, his message is so personal and intimate that the contents clearly indicate it was written by an actual person. Malachi was God’s voice speaking a heavy message to God’s spiritually lax people. Using a series of questions and answers, Malachi engages his listeners in a debate many would have rather ignored, but God’s people from all ages need to respond to Malachi’s message!

EXAMPLE: My Dad always knew when I wasn’t listening to him when he was getting after me. I would let my eyes kind of glaze over and roll back in my head. Perhaps the blank expression on my face also gave me away. My father knew I wasn’t listening to him and he would confront me about it by declaring, “Young man, you haven’t listened to a single word I said to you!” I would try to play innocent, but we both knew better and the clincher would be when he would say, “All right, tell me what I just said to you.” He wanted me to respond appropriately and I knew I was in real trouble when he would finish by telling me, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This is kind of the way God deals with Israel through Malachi. Our sin and its consequences often hurt us more than it does God. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message!

We can forget that while God is love, his love demands a response from us. Not that we can earn his love because God indeed always does love, but that we need to realize that when we fail to respond the way we should to his love we are rejecting what he has done for us! Malachi reminds us of…

II. Our failure to respond to God’s love! (Vv. 2-5)

“I have loved you”, says the LORD. But you ask, “How have you loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD–even beyond the borders of Israel!”

1. An appropriate response to love is devotion! Malachi brings the claim of God’s love for Israel (1:2a)! God had always loved Israel. In fact, he could have chosen anyone else but he chose Israel. The Lord’s claim over Israel was vindicated by two considerations. His love expressed in his free choice of Jacob and his rejection of Esau. Yet, like a spoiled child, Israel questions God! “How have you loved us?” What a question to ask! God had deliberately decided not to follow the law of choosing the eldest son Esau over the younger brother. Instead God chose, out of love, Jacob! While Jacob had his deceptive faults, we soon learn Esau was willing to give up and cave in to his own natural sin rather than follow God. The Hebrew words here for love and hatred do not refer to emotions but rather actions. How can a child question a parent’s love when it is shown so dramatically? Yet, spoiled Israel did. Can we be like that as well? Yes! God has loved us and shown his love through Jesus. The vindication of God’s love claim is given: “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” He is expressing his past relationship with Israel and Edom and also his historical and present dealings with these people. This then provides the second consideration which vindicated God’s claim of love. Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been like if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. God restored Israel and not Edom. In fact, God would turn Edom’s “mountains into a wasteland and leave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may try to rebuild, but God would not allow it. They would be called A Wicked Land, as opposed to God’s Holy Nation. God tells spoiled Israel that if she doesn’t believe it, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel was guilty, just like Edom, and perhaps just like we often are of failing to respond to God’s love! What about you this morning, have you failed to respond to the love of God?

EXAMPLE: I remember my mother giving me the parental curse. It goes something like this: “One of these days I hope you have children just like you!” While God’s declaration through Malachi isn’t quite like this, it is similar in that he tells Israel, “You dare question my love after all I have done for you? Let me tell you something, Buster, there will come a time when you will see my love with your own eyes and recognize it for what it truly is!” That time would come through Jesus. Paul says not only will spoiled Israel ultimately recognize God’s love, but every wayward child of God will: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)” We can be guilty of failing to respond to God’s love in our lives!

Conclusion:

Perhaps you have forgotten just how much God loves you or like Israel did, you may question God’s love. Let me remind you that God loves us with an everlasting love. The spiritual message of Malachi is just as valid this morning. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message and not be like spoiled Israel who failed to respond to God’s love!!

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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Fight the good fight! – 1 Timothy 6:11-21

Fight the good fight! – 1 Timothy 6:11-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 4, 2018

When the father asked his little boy what he should do when another child tried to bully him, he was surprised when the little tike replied, “Hit him hard, hit him fast, and run like crazy!” As children of the King we are to respond differently to the whims of life than the world would. While we are encouraged to “fight the good fight” it is a matter of faith and not fists. Believers are to be different than the world.

Society today frowns on anyone taking a stand for righteousness. Paul wrote that a “time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV)” Paul knew that people could be so perverted that “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32 NIV)” Yet as believers we are to be different. We are commanded to fight the good fight. Let’s see what Paul wrote Timothy…

READ: 1 Timothy 6:11-21

When others turned away from us there was one who willingly grabbed a hold of us and did not let go. However, unless we are reminded to do so as Paul did with Timothy, we can for get that…

I. We are to grab a hold of the Lord and not let go! (Vv. 11-12)

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1. The number one song in America right now is one by Drake called “God’s Plan” and it has nothing to do with that at all. In fact, sadly, you may not want to know exactly what the lyrics do portray. Rather than discussing with Timothy his sexuality, masculinity, or promiscuity Paul addresses the fact that a man of God should desire to remain pure before the Lord and so he writes that Timothy should as a “man of God, flee from all of this” worldly desire that focuses on selfishness and the love of money. Instead, the man of God should “pursue”, run after, desire, and jump at “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness”!  Later Paul would tell Timothy to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22 NIV)” It is the pursuit of holiness with the character outcome of faithful, godly, patient, gentleness which is hard often to find in men in our day and age. In Paul and Timothy’s time it was a dog-eat-dog kind of world. Today it is more of a live like a dog kind of world where such things as holiness and kindness have gone by the wayside. Paul equates this kind of pursuit as a boxing competition where one does his best to “fight the good fight of faith”. Like a Pitbull that doesn’t let go once its jaws snap shut around its prey the believer is to “take hold of the eternal life to which [they are] called”! Timothy was called to serve the risen Lord just as each of us is when come to Christ. In fact, Paul reminds Timothy that he had made his “good confession in the presence of many witnesses”. This is one of the many reasons why we ask you to come forward publically at the end of worship to make a decision. You are showing others your willingness to have them witness your decision to follow the Lord. We are to grab a hold of the Lord and not let go!

EXAMPLE: The dog was mangy and ornery. A flea-bitten cur if ever there was one. No one would go near him. No one wanted to. He trotted around town as the bully of the streets demanding his due that is until one day he willingly followed a little red-headed girl home. She showed up at her backdoor with the mongrel scratched, a little ragged and bloody, and mussed up. When confronted by her mother on how in the world she got the dog to calm down and follow her home so willingly, the little girl responded, “I just grabbed a hold of him and didn’t let go!” We are to grab a hold of the Lord and not let go!

I am so glad that when God got a hold of me he did not let go either. However there are those that forget and think that this is all there is to the whole matter. So much so they forget there is a command that we are to “follow” Jesus and Paul reminds us that…

II. We are to follow through on our confession of faith! (Vv. 13-16)

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time–God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

1. Others are not the only witnesses to our decision to follow Jesus. Paul reminds Timothy that when he decided to follow the Lord it was not only fully “In the sight of God, who gives life to everything” but it was also in front of “Christ Jesus” who he made his own public declaration! It was this same Jesus, Paul reminds Timothy, that also “while testifying before Pontius Pilate made a good confession” openly! Paul wasn’t telling Timothy that he could do whatever he wanted to whenever he wanted to because as a man of God called by Christ Timothy was bound by a greater obligation. As believers all are when we commit ourselves to Jesus! Therefore Paul makes it a serious and conscious decision and writes, “I charge you to keep this command” to live a holy and righteous life “without spot of blame”. And Paul meant that it wasn’t something Timothy could do lightly. Too often we allow folks to think that a commitment to the Lord is a moment by moment thing, and it is not. It is a lifelong serious battle. Salvation is a constant ongoing spiritual skirmish in that we are permanently saved, we are being saved as we walk in him, and we will be saved when we see him face-to-face! Until such time we are, like Timothy, to make good on our confession of faith! Timothy was commanded by Paul to stay true “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time”! When would that be? Paul does not give Timothy any time frame or date, but rather he is to keep on keeping on in his walk with the Lord until he returns at the time of God’s choosing! “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” We are to follow through on our confession of faith!

EXAMPLE: “Keep your eyes on the finish line!” the track coach would remind his team over and over. They were encouraged to “never look back” because if they did they would be in danger of losing the race. Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 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. (Philippians 3:10-14 NIV)” Paul wanted Timothy to know that we are to follow through on our confession of faith!

Follow through is important in pitching a baseball, making a free throw with a basketball, or in a spiritual walk with the Lord. If we focus on the things of this world too much we will end up impoverished. Instead, Paul reminds us that…

III. We are to acquire eternal wealth! (Vv. 17-21)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.

1. Paul was fearful that Timothy could lose sight of what truly mattered in life. He wasn’t far afield either where his concern was focused because so many over the centuries have wandered from their faith when caught up in the lust of acquiring wealth. He tells Timothy “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God”. Sadly, far too many folks who profess faith in Christ have lost their focus when they begin to think that wealth, worldly power, or fame is far more important than their eternal walk with God. There is nothing we own or acquire in life that will matter when we are face-to-face with Jesus! It is the Lord “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” in life! We have need for nothing else. Paul continued by telling Timothy to “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” It is through this kind of living that others will see one’s faith. It is how we are to display Jesus to the world! In fact instead of trying to acquire worldly riches, it is “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” The life we live now lays brick by brick the eternal life we will live with the Lord and that can either be a comforting or disconcerting thing! So Paul ends his letter to his young friend by reminding him to “guard what has been entrusted to [his] care.” He was to make the concerted effort to “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” Not every bit of “godly” wisdom from the world is truly of God and can, like a faulty compass, lead one astray! Paul finishes by tacitly reminding Timothy of God’s love for him by stating, “Grace be with you.” We are to acquire eternal wealth!

EXAMPLE: As a kid I always hated those Twilight Zone TV shows that depicted someone wishing for wealth or something else and then getting more than what they bargained for. My Dad used to tell us kids, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” Sadly we have all seen the personal destruction of those who have gained fame and fortune only to see it disappear or be utterly destroyed by both. I have learned that the things of this world are just so much shadow. Nothing we gain now will matter when we are gone. What matters is what we eternally invest our lives in. Jesus correctly taught, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)” Paul reminds us that we are to acquire eternal wealth!

Conclusion:

We are to grab a hold of the Lord and not let go! We are to follow through on our confession of faith! We are to acquire eternal wealth!

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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