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God brings joy! – Psalm 30

God brings joy! – Psalm 30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 13, 2017

George Weiss and Robert Thiele wrote the lyrics: “I see trees of green, red roses too; I see them bloom for me and you, and I think to myself what a wonderful world.” It’s a song everyone knows because it has been used over and over again in different movies. And it was made famous by the Jazz singer and musician Louis Armstrong in 1967. It goes on to say, “I see skies of blue and clouds of white; the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself what a wonderful world. The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do, they’re really saying I love you. I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll never know. And I think to myself what a wonderful world. Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.” The song hits home because it speaks of the wonder of the world, God’s creation, and the joy that it all brings.

While happiness is a momentary thing in life — more than a room without a roof or simply being the truth — joy is an inner quality of life. Far too often folks confuse joy with momentary happiness and when the clapping stops they then struggle to maintain their happiness. The Psalmist David sings to us what joy is and where it is found; let’s discover what he wrote about the fact that God brings joy…

READ: Psalm 30

What could be more joyous than dedicating a new building for the Lord? I remember years ago we decided to rededicate this old wooden building to God and we walked around it, prayed, and praised God for it. We did this because of what God had done through us as a church in paying off our loan. We learn from David that…

I. God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from! (Vv. 1-3)

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.

1. David immediately sings “I will exalt you, O LORD” meaning that he will lift up God’s name to anyone who would listen. Lifting up the name of the Lord should be a common practice for the child of God. I know I remember my parents and how they raised me, then should we not therefore remember our Heavenly Father and how he too has raised us up as well? In fact notice that David sings “for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me”! We far too often get comfortable in our walk with the Lord and begin to forget just what we were pulled out of and saved from. For too many it is more of a stroll with God like being pushed in a baby stroller because we never learn to actually walk with him but rather like spiritual infants we just lay back and try to enjoy the ride! But David remembers what God pulled him out of: “the depths” and from his “enemies”! Now you may not think you have very many enemies because for your way of thinking the word “enemy” denotes someone who seeks to destroy you like North Korea or something. But remember Peter wrote that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) and Jesus referred to the Devil as our “enemy” who sows seeds of weeds among the wheat. (Matthew 13:39) The world is full of the Enemy’s wisdom, wiles, and wit. He seeks to destroy you and to take away your joy in the Lord. Yet David knew where he could immediately turn to: “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” It is God alone who heals us through Jesus! In fact it is God in Jesus that “brought me up from the grave” and “spared me from going down into the pit”! Never forget that it is Jesus who brings true joy because of what he brought you out of! God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget being out on the jetty at Ilwaco, Washington as a young boy fishing with my brother-in-law. He warned us not to go out to the end of the jetty and to always keep our eyes on the ocean for “sneaker waves”. And of course being a ten-year-old boy I knew what I was doing and did not listen to a single word he said. I climbed out to the end of the jetty and neglected to watch the ocean. A huge wave washed over me engulfing me. I grabbed a hold of a boulder as I was being swept out to sea. I was completely frightened and then these hands reached down and dragged me out of the swirling waters and pulled me to safety. It was my brother-in-law. I never forgot from that day on to watch the ocean no matter how calm it looks because I never forgot what I was saved from. God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from!

When I am saddened by what life throws my way I know I can go to my sweet little wife and she will gently kick me in the pants and say, “Straighten up! It only lasts a moment!” She has a deft way of helping me to remember that while my happiness may be fleeting, God’s joy is lasting no matter what the circumstance. David reminds us that…

II. God brings joy that lasts! (Vv. 4-7)

Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

1. Whether it is a good root beer drinking song or a rousing traveling song sung at the top of everyone’s lungs in the car while traveling to some vacation destination it is always good to have others join in and sing with you. This is why singing in church, whether you can sing or not, is so important. It creates intimate spiritual fellowship with one another and with the Lord who you are there to worship. Over and over we are reminded in Scripture to “sing to the Lord”! This is why David tells his listeners to “Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.” I am baffled when Christians do not sing to the Lord. Is life so horrible you do not have a song to sing to God? I sing to the Lord all the time. Ask my wife. It doesn’t have to be hymns or just Christian contemporary radio tunes because God is also pleased when you simply make music to him from the inner joy in your heart that overflows to him! Why would David want others to join him? Because he knew God’s “anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime”! And shouldn’t believers sing all the more loudly because we have the everlasting joy of Jesus? (You betcha by golly Mr. and Mrs. Saddiface.) In fact David gives us one of the most endearing stanzas in the entire Bible when he eloquently reminds us that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”! The sadness of sin’s darkness lasts only a short while but the enduring joy of the Lord comes at the break of a new day and lasts forever! WOW! David knew that in a world where anything could happen to anyone at anytime and living in a world of sifting sand that “When I felt secure, I said, ‘I will never be shaken.’” He understood that God was his secure foundation, his rock of ages, and his steadfast mountain: “O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm”! As life went well David knew God was there but he also knew that when things went pickle barrel in life; when God “hid” his “face” and he “was dismayed” God was there as well. David could trust in God and he knew where his joy came from! God brings joy that lasts!

EXAMPLE: People love those dollar stores where supposedly everything within them only costs a dollar. When I was a kid they were known as the 88 Cent Store or the 99 Cent Store or Woolworth’s! Anyway these places are filled with all kinds of junk that only lasts for a little while because that is how it is made so you will come back and by more junk, right? Yet I can remember being a little kid and being given a quarter, which was a lot of money way back during the dinosaurs, and going into the store to buy something. I would take my time to make sure that what I bought was exactly what I wanted and that I could play with it for a while. I remember buying a wind-up car for ten cents that lasted only a day and it broke. I cried. As I wailed away my dad patted my shoulder and in his great fatherly wisdom said, “What do you expect? It was only a dime!?” I am so glad that David reminds us that God brings joy that lasts!

I have often reminded you that all the material things you now hold dear now will be sold at garage sales, given to the Salvation Army, tossed in the trash, or placed in someone else’s storage shed until they have to get rid of it. And here in this Psalm of David we are reminded that it isn’t things that bring us true joy but rather…

III. God brings joy when we remember him! (Vv. 8-12)

To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

1. All through this Psalm David’s focus is on the Lord and again he sings to remind us that “To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy”. It is only God who can give us mercy when we sin. It is because of his wonderful love that he came as Jesus that we could have eternal life in him. The Apostle Paul would later remind us that “we were by nature objects of wrath… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:3-5 NIV) David in his honest singing to the Lord asks God, “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?” David is asking honest questions that many have asked of God; basically “Why would you do this to me? How can I worship you through this hardship?” Like the rest of us while David knew God loved and cared for him, he sometimes struggled that God would punish him or would allow bad things happen to him. You know, “why do bad things happen to good people?” Eliphaz the Temanite in the Book of Job asked Job, “Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit him?” (Job 22:2 NIV) Of course he was making the case that God did not need anyone even Job and wanted Job to repent of any sin he might have forgotten. Yet we all ask this of God at some point in our lives. We forget that life is tainted by sin. All creation is. Bad things will happen to good people until we see Jesus face-to-face! Paul would ask, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” and then he would remind his readers that nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus! (Romans 8:31, 35 NIV) David knew this as well and this is why he also continued to sing, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.” David remembered that while we may waver in our faith God never wavers in his love for us and so he finishes his song by singing, “O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” God brings joy when we remember him!

EXAMPLE: Happiness is fleeting but real joy is learned in life. Joy can be hard work. Too many think that once they are married then everything will be sweet singing birdies and rose petal strewn paths. Anyone who has been married for more than a couple of years will tell you it is a lot of hard work, consistency, love and forgiveness. It is a lifetime commitment and not a momentary made for TV moment. I knew this startling fact for the first time when the sweet darling girl I married put her hands on her hips and demanded I begin to “use the clothes hamper instead of the floor” for my dirty clothes and that I should actually “rinse” my “dishes and put them in the sink” instead of “leaving them for” her “to pick up”. Then I learned that I could not “fix” her moods by simply doing something, I had to actually listen and let her work it out as I supported her. Was it tough for a bachelor to learn? Yep. And there were times when I wondered what I had gotten myself into just as she did as well. But the true joy of marriage took hold when I realized we were both in it for the long haul as partners, lovers, and friends. David teaches us this about God in this Psalm as well. Happiness is fleeting but God brings joy when we remember him!

Conclusion:
God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from! God brings joy that lasts! God brings joy when we remember him!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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God listens! — Psalm 40

God listens! — Psalm 40
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 6, 2017

“Are you listening to me?” was one of my mother’s favorite questions to ask me when I was younger. She wanted to make sure I understood what she had just told me to do; however there were times when as a young person I wished my parents would have listened to me as well. All young people go through this kind of stage in their life. In fact senior adults often express how younger folks do not always listen to them because they think they are too old, senile, or something. Isn’t it good to know then that the believer has someone who always listens to them no matter what age they are?

The Psalmist David knew and experienced God intimately. In our day and age there are a myriad of books, articles, and seminars that try to help Christians to experience God intimately. David gives us some good advice and examples as to just how God listens to those he loves. Let’s discover what he writes this morning…

READ: Psalm 40

Patience was not my strong suit as a young person, it was something that I had to learn and in fact I am still working on in my life! Yet we discover that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength and soar like eagles; running and walking without growing tired. David related that…

I. God listens to those who wait! (Vv. 1-5)

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

1. If patience is a virtue, few of us have it. Yet David writes that he “waited patiently for the Lord”. The idea is one of being silent, listening, and waiting for God to respond no matter how long it takes. When David did this he discovered that “he turned to me and heard my cry”. Far too often we do not have the tenacity to wait patiently for anything in life and then we wonder why we do not experience God as we think we should. For David this was very real occurrence because when he waited on the Lord he sang that “he lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire” and then God “set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand”! Have you ever felt in life you were bogged down by the filth of the world or the desperation of life? David did. But God listened to David and gave him a rock to stand on. God has given us Jesus the solid Rock that no earthly wind or rain can wash away! In fact God went further and “he put a new song in [David’s] mouth, a hymn of praise to our God”! When we are willing to wait on the Lord he gives us firm footing in life, a place to stand in a slimy mud-filled pit of a world. He gives us a new song to sing that influences those around us and “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” because of our patience in waiting for God to speak! David would sing, “Blessed” happy “is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn to aside to false gods” like worldly wisdom, philosophies, or manmade concepts but instead to a listening God who loves and cares for him! David understands who has his life in the palm of his hand, who listens to his prayers, and who responds and so he sings, “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” David learned as we need to as well that God listens to those who wait!

EXAMPLE: I learned a lot from my father about fishing. One of the first things he taught me was patience. If I sat quietly by the stream or by the lake and watched intently my bobber or the lure I was using I would be rewarded for my steadfastness. He would tell me about how to fish the swirls, behind the large rocks, and riffles in a stream. How to look for the concentric rings of fish as they surfaced for food and how to lay a lure or fly just right in the water so as not to scare the fish but to attract them to my hook. He taught me to keep my shadow from falling onto where I wanted to fish and to be silent. He taught me to listen to the flow of the water, the songs of the birds, and the quietness of the woods. He taught me patience. David teaches us that God listens to those who wait!

What we focus on in life says a lot about who we are. For the believer their focus must be on the Lord; we are to “seek fist” his “kingdom” and his “righteousness” and then we will know him better; Jesus’ words not mine. In fact we learn from David that…

II. God listens to those who desire him! (Vv. 6-10)

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

1. We live in a world of hustle and bustle. We think therefore that God wants us to “do something” for him instead of waiting on him. It is a matter of what we desire in life. Are we focusing on ourselves or on him? Too many in David’s day had begun to focus on what they could do for God instead of what God truly desired from them. David correctly understood this and sang, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire… burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” God did not need these offerings especially from those who were really focused on something else instead of him! And so curiously David sings, “But my ears you have pierced”. The meaning is twofold: First, slaves had their ears pierced with an awl by their owners to signify their slavery; David was referring to his willingness to be bound to God. Secondly, David felt that he only heard God when he was in a right relationship with him; when his ears were “pierced” so he could truly hear what God was saying to him! This is why David tells God, “Here I am, I have come”. He was ready, willing, and able to listen to God. Because David listened to God he knew God had a plan for his life. David came to hear what God had in store for his life and so he sings, “I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” One cannot hear God’s voice until they are ready to give themselves completely over to the Lord; to sacrifice themselves and become totally God’s. Then it becomes easy to “proclaim righteousness in the great assembly” because for those who know God understand he listens to them! David could not “seal” his “lips” nor could he “hide” God’s “righteousness in [his] heart” in who he was. God was fully a part of David’s life and not some secondary occurrence he was exposed to once in a while. David was not a nice guy who tried to love God, he was a guy who loved God and became the man God desired and so he spoke of God’s “faithfulness and salvation”. In fact, David never concealed God’s “love” and “truth from the great assembly”. David learned that God listens to those who desire him!

EXAMPLE: In an old country and western song by Tom T. Hall he relates the ungodly philosophy of a scrawny old cowboy who tells him that life is about “faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money”. Sadly this is what many in the world truly think life is all about. They live life full throttle earning more money, living for the moment, and for the thrill instead of for the One who created them in the first place. God is either a far off concept or a curse word for them. They have never heard his voice because they have drowned it out with the desires of the world. Yet if they were willing to have their ears pierced so they could truly listen they would hear his voice calling them. David discovered that God listens to those who desire him!

Honesty is the best policy but many while they desire it from others do not practice it themselves. We live in a world of deceit and therefore we cynically expect politicians to lie to us, the media to distort the truth, and even family and friends to conceal hidden motives. David teaches us that…

III. God listens to those who are honest with him! (Vv. 11-17)

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me. May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The LORD be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.

1. We all want God when we want him. This is something I have learned in my 40-plus years of ministry and 32 years of pastoring: When things get bad, which they always do in life, we cry out to God whom we have not thought about before. As one old pastor said, “We get real about God when life gets real with us.” We find David being totally honest with God. He understood that God cannot hear those who come to him with false motives or pretenses. He desires all of us. So David sings, “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me.” More than anything David desired God but David knew he had sinned and so he confesses to the Lord, “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” David is being straightforward in his prayer to God. He was suffering the consequences of his sinful life and so he cries to the One who can truly rescue him, “Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.” David did not experience the grace of God we as believers now enjoy because of Jesus. God, the Holy Spirit, comes to seal us and stay with us forever but David did not have this intimacy of grace we now enjoy. So he asks for God’s protection: “May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ be appalled at their own shame.” In this we discover that we can be very real with the Lord in our conversation our prayer just as David was. David needed to be rescued from his predicament. From his sin and those who sought to do him evil and so he willingly turns to the One who listens. Yet David also desired that those who were willing to seek the Lord would “rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, ‘The LORD be exalted!’” David wanted to be rescued but he also desired that those who sought to do him ill would know the Lord as he did. And finally David the King and commander sings, “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” God listens to those who are honest with him!

EXAMPLE: Recently I took a camping trip to Montana with my son-in-law and grandson. It was a blast. Not only did we see all kinds of wildlife but we swam in an ice-cold river, experienced nature, and cooked our food out-of-doors. Yet one of the things that I will always remember is going down to the river after dark and looking up at the night sky. Without the light pollution of the cities we could see the Milky Way in all of its glory. As I stood there looking up I experienced a moment of unsettlement. I realized just how miniscule I was compared to the universe God had made. Yet I wanted to shout for joy when I realized that this awesome God who created all of the stars and galaxies speaks to me intimately! I was humbled and confessed to him that I was unworthy of such love. We learn from David that God listens to those who are honest with him!

Conclusion:

God listens to those who wait! God listens to those who desire him! God listens to those who are honest with him!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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God our helper! – Psalm 121

God our helper! – Psalm 121
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 23, 2017

From the movies and into the language fabric of American culture has been the question: “Who’re you gonna call?” and the answer, “Ghost Busters!” But who do you call when you need help in life? Some call their therapist, psychiatrist, minister, friend, or family member. Calling 911 isn’t going to help you answer the deep spiritual questions one has or some of the day to day problems one faces. So, who do you call to when you need help?

The Bible teaches us over and over that the believer is to be dependent upon the Lord and to go to him when they need answers in life. Sadly, few do unless only as a last resort. I have had thousands of conversations about relationships, finances, family problems, addictions, and fatal attractions and few have heeded the advice I have offered only to later respond that they wished they had. Once I was asked where I went for help and I remarked, “To God our helper.” Let’s discover what the Psalmist sings about this…

READ: Psalm 121

The Israelites were told over and over and over again to depend upon the Lord and not themselves, the pagan gods of the land, nor the worldly wisdom of the age. Yet they often failed to do so and suffered the consequences of their decision. Here we discover that…

I. God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! (Vv. 1-4)

A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

1. The title “song of ascents” identifies Psalms 120-134 as a song to be sung when the Israelites “ascended” or “went up” to Jerusalem for their annual feasts. Four of these 15 psalms are ascribed to David but this one is anonymous. Jerusalem sat on a hill and the temple rose up on the highest point, so when the pilgrim went to worship God in his temple he would sing, “I lift up my eyes to the hills”. Like a scene from a movie of a besieged city looking to the hills for reinforcements against her enemies, we lift our eyes to the Lord! The believer is to look to the heights of the Lord for their help; not just in times of distress but in every situation! So, today, like the pilgrim of God ask yourself, “Where does my help come from?” Your answer should be immediate and direct, “My help comes from the Lord!” But notice why the Psalmist was willing to sing this? He knew that God, like we learned last week from Colossians, is “the Maker of heaven and earth”! The Christian knows and understands that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” and that “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-16 NIV) Therefore he is sure and certain and he keeps us from slipping up in life, as the Psalmist sang, “He will not let your foot slip”! We forget Jesus told us succinctly, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7 NIV) This is not some “name it and claim it” heresy but rather the promise of the Lord God that if we walk daily with him he will walk daily with us! There is so much false advice and ungodly wisdom in the world today that it is good to know God will keep us from slipping up when we remain in him. The Psalmist realized this and reiterated that “he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep!” God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

EXAMPLE: You can by hiking boots or walking shoes with treads designed to give you better footing in rough places; you can purchase cork or felt-soled waders to help you navigate the moss and algae-covered rocks while fishing; and you can buy simple flip-flops to protect your feet while using public showers in gyms or at the swimming pool. But what can we depend upon to keep us upright in a sin-filled world that offers so much trash for advice? The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

A good parent doesn’t hover over their child but they remain watchful throughout the child’s life. When they are younger they help them to stay safe, look both ways, and to say “please”, “thank-you”, and “you’re welcome”. We discover that like a watchful loving parent…

II. God helps us by watching over our lives! (Vv. 5-8)

The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

1. God is not a nag. He does not scold you, berate you, or remind you of your mess-ups. He is not some angry old grump or judge watching and waiting for you to mess up just so he can discipline you back into line. It was truly liberating for me to learn that rather than an angry God that the God of the Bible was a loving God who loved me even before I was born and knew every step I would take in life! He loved me so much that he provided for my salvation from sin’s judgment! Rather than a judgmental narrow-minded bigoted deity, he is my helper, redeemer, and friend. The Psalmist reminded his readers that “The Lord watches over you”; not as a nag but to be your “shade at your right hand”! He is the one we can depend upon to shield us and lead us in a corrupt world and to keep us safe and secure. Shade was an important part of life during the Psalmist’s time. The Israelites looked for it as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship; shepherds sought it out to rest in during the heat of the day; and all wanted the protection of the snug roof over them at night — so he sings to those who are seeking shade and shelter, “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night”. It does not matter the time of day, the season of the year, or what phase of life you are in, God is with you; right beside you, shading you and protecting you, “The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” I truly like that. It is refreshing to know that a loving God cares enough for me to remind me that he is with me always, through every stage or up and down of life. The Apostle Paul asked and age-old question when he queried, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Like the Psalmist even Paul was “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NIV)  God helps us by watching over our lives!

EXAMPLE: One of my favorite hymns is “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”. It speaks of how God loves us and watches over us just as he does each tiny sparrow like Jesus reminded his disciples, “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 6:26 NIV) The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us by watching over our lives!

Conclusion:
God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! God helps us by watching over our lives!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19

The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 25, 2017

In Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” the Queen of Hearts asks Alice where she comes from, Alice tries to explain that she is trying to find her way home. The Queen retorts, “Your way? All ways here are my ways!” We have all known folks who radiate the notion that “It’s my way or the highway!” And this might pass muster if you are an infant, toddler, or preschooler but it gets old and very tiring from an adult. Yet many live their lives this way. Perhaps they need to reconsider their way of life and consider the way of the Lord instead?

Here in this Psalm we discover the ways of the Lord are truly magnificent. In fact in many ways they are quite indescribable and incomprehensible. The Psalmist David tries his best to describe for his listeners the way of the Lord. Let’s discover what he sings…

READ: Psalm 19

As amazing as some of things mankind has created none of it compares to the creation of God. The Psalmist David teaches us that…

I. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! (Vv. 1-6)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

1. Within the next couple of months, our area will experience a total solar eclipse; a heavenly event only seen a few times in a person’s lifetime and extremely rare. When the ancients saw such phenomenon some thought some evil disaster would occur, however, others like the Hebrews saw it as a manifestation of the creative wonders of God. This is why the Psalmist David writes that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Both the starry skies at night and sunlit days declared and proclaimed God’s creative work because “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” In fact the writer understood that the whole world experienced God’s handiwork, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Therefore in his understanding there was no excuse for people not knowing there was a Creator; a God who made everything they saw in the heavens at night or saw in the sunlight by day! All they had to do was look up! From dawn till dusk a person could see God’s creative work for “In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” Just as the sun burst forth in the morning and seemed to all of sudden appear like a rejoicing bridegroom or a runner ready to run his race we can see the work of God in the sun running its race across the sky each day! All of creation, all mankind had a front row seat to this heavenly spectacle as “It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”  Truly for the Psalmist David the way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

EXAMPLE: Just as artists sign their works, use the same brushstrokes, or leave their fingerprints in the paint; or as sculptures that use certain chisels or polishing techniques that leave telltale marks on the statues they carve, we can see the signature of God in the things he has made. From the atoms that are the building blocks of everything there is to the most complex life form we see the signature of God in his creation. The Psalmist David simply looked to the heavens and saw that they declared God. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

In a world where so many are searching for something and often finding they have not been told the truth it is refreshing to find that God’s words are steadfast and true. The Psalmist David writes that…

II. The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! (Vv. 7-11)

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

1. Not every child is perfect but almost every mother sees their newborn as such. Why is that? I believe it is simply because most every mother instantly falls in love with their child. By their sheer devotion they accept their child completely, utterly, and without hesitation. Faith is a bit like this. It is the individual’s willingness to utterly accept what God has revealed to them. Until one does, they can never ever fully understand or know God’s word. This is why the Psalmist David wrote that “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.” We are imperfect but God’s law is and can restore us completely when we follow its ways. In fact, “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” God’s laws, his ways are not complex, confusing, or hard to understand; one simply follows God wholeheartedly and loves others as he loves himself! “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.” Some of the simplest folks I have known have been truly the wisest and happiest because they adhere to this one godly precept. For the Psalmist David God was not unknowable or a concept and neither were his laws; they gave him insight, light in a sin-darkened world, and a way to view reality as it truly was and so “The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” He knew that when one drew near to God they would be awed by his presence and humbled by the experience because “The fear (the awe) of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.” This is what reminds us who we are and whom we are to worship and is why there was no question of doubt in his mind that “The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” David could absolutely trust in the law of God, his statues, precepts, commands, and ordinances. And as he did they became “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they [were] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” The Psalmist David had come to know God intimately by walking with him moment by moment in following his ways and in doing so he had learned that “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

EXAMPLE: I have found a wondrous consistency in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that I did not find in any other spiritual work I ever read. The Koran, the Vedas, Book of Mormon, or other works seemed shallow, simplistic, disjointed, and totally fabricated. While there are those who will declare that there are also inconsistencies within Scriptures it is usually because they are like someone who looks at a sweet little child’s work of art and can only see the mistakes instead of the heartfelt joy, the beauty of creation, or its simple reliability. No wonder so many folks have not discovered what the Psalmist David did, that the way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

Much of the psychological, emotional, and spiritual problems the world faces are because the world’s view of morality has been drastically skewed. The Psalmist teaches us that…

III. The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin! (Vv. 12-14)

Who can determine his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

1. Unless a person is willing to look at and acknowledge their own imperfections they are not being honest with themselves or others and certainly not with God. It can be difficult to do. This is why the Psalmist David asks, “Who can determine his errors?” And if course the answer is “no one can.” We are to narrow in our view of ourselves. Yet if we are willing to honestly look at ourselves and truthfully admit our sins we can be the people God desires. This is why the Apostle John would write, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:8-10 NIV) So the Psalmist David immediately confesses, “Forgive my hidden faults.” These were the sins he tried to hide from God but knew he could not yet he had deceived himself into thinking he could! Kind of like we do. Yet he took his condition one step further by requesting, “Keep your servant also from willful sins” because his whole desire was that “they not rule over me.” He did not want his headstrong nature and stubborn sin or anything that was unconfessed to rule or reign in his life! We often try to make excuses for our ungodly actions but this man wanted to be fully free from any guilt in order to follow God. He knew that if he was honest about his ungodliness then he would “be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” In thinking about the wondrous works of God and his simple yet beautiful precepts the Psalmist David realized his own evil nature. He would write in another Psalm, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (Psalms 51:1-4 NIV) And so it is here we find him praying, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Because like Paul, David knew that “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:10 NIV) The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

EXAMPLE: I find it humorous when a believer is caught in their sin and they blame circumstances, others, or try to justify their actions in that they deserved to commit this sin in this instance! I often want to blurt out, “Don’t you hear yourself?” For all of his faults David was willing to do whatever it took to restore his relationship with the Lord. And here in this wonderful Psalm about God’s creation David teaches us that the way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

Conclusion:

The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The righteous person! – Psalm 1

The righteous person! – Psalm 1
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 18, 2017

Many base their entire lives on their feelings. Emotionalism will get one into trouble if it isn’t tempered by rationality. The one thing my Dad taught me was to rationally think things through, whether it was fixing something, doing a job, or my school work. Sadly, much of the church today is influenced irrationality. Colleges, the media, and politicians have all sold their souls on the altar of selfish emotionalism. Morality is often dictated by how it makes someone feel so personal sin is regarded in the same way. The Psalmist teaches us that the righteous person does not live their life this way.

The Christian is to live their life by their faith in Jesus and his teachings not their feelings or how we think he might have felt. Feeling good or bad about something does not make it righteous. Believers are to live holy lives. Our foundation is not in people, feelings, or what makes us happy for the moment. Holiness is found in walking with God; let’s discover what the Psalmist teaches about the righteous person…

READ: Psalm 1

Society’s attitude about contentment has changed a lot in the past several thousand years or so since this Psalm was written, however, the basic have not changed much. We still want food and water, shelter and safety. Yet there is more to life and the believer is taught that…

I. The righteous person finds satisfaction in God! (Vv. 1-2)

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

1. Right away the writer of this Psalm establishes how the righteous person is to live their lives: “Blessed” or happy “is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” Notice the progression. First we find our happiness not in people, places, or things; the believer finds all they need in God alone! So much so they will “not walk in the counsel of the wicked”. In other words they would never give any credence to ungodly notions that are counter to the Word of God. The wicked world’s advice has nothing of value the righteous person should consider. The righteous person also will not “stand in the way of sinners”. The meaning does not mean that they would block a sinner’s way but rather it means the righteous person will not stand with those who like to sin or who live in sin! In fact ungodliness would be abhorrent to them. And finally the righteous person does not “sit in the seat of mockers”. Jude says that these kinds of scoffers or scorners “are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:4 NIV) Each expression becomes more intense and signifies a progression from a casual influence of ungodly people to complete collusion with them in their scorn against God and his righteous people! Rather the righteous person’s “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night”! Instead of joining in or trying to be liked by the ungodly world the righteous person finds their inner and outer joy in God’s ways and in fact thinks about and meditates on it as he walks with his Lord moment by moment! Jesus taught that “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21 NIV) The righteous person finds satisfaction in God!

EXAMPLE: When we are younger we wanted to please those who were in charge of us like parents, coaches, or teachers. We found satisfaction in achieving goals and gaining the approval of those I mentioned. One of the harshest things for young people to hear is if those they hold in high esteem are disappointed in them. I still remember when my father told me he was disappointed in me after I had promised to work in the yard for my mom but went and played instead. The Psalmist wrote that the righteous person finds satisfaction in God!

In order to live a life that is full and truly free one must have a good foundation in which to base their life on. Like a strong tree that can weather any storm…

II. The righteous person has deep roots of faith! (Vv. 3-4)

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

1. Paul wrote that the believer’s “faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5 NIV); that “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23 NIV); and the writer of Hebrews reminds us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Why is this truth important to understand? Simply because we have either forgotten what faith is or we do not practice it as we should! Faith is not some kind of wishful thinking or hoping. Faith is based on a certainty, biblical truth and spiritual foundation. The writer of this Psalm understood this and wrote that the person with faith “is like a tree planted by streams of water”. The idea conveyed is one of being firmly rooted in a place whereby the person receives their spiritual sustenance from the living flow of God alone! The Hebrews rightly knew that a flowing stream was healthier to drink from in that day than stagnant pools of standing water. In fact the writer noted that a deeply rooted fruit tree would yield “its fruit in season”. This was also important to them because a tree that produced good healthy fruit was important for daily survival; one could dry its fruit for future use as well. I am reminded of when Jesus went to a certain fig tree wanting to find fruit and found that it had none so he cursed it and it never bore fruit again! (Matthew 21:19) The well watered tree “whose leaf never withers” is blessed and produces in season what it is supposed to just as those who remain in the living stream of God. In fact “Whatever he does prospers.” Yet, we learn: “Not so the wicked!” Those who are easily influenced by the ungodly world wither in their faith and blow away at the latest politically correct notion. “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” They soon leave their church, their Christian friends, and blow away like dried up spiritually worthless husks! However, the righteous person has deep roots of faith!

EXAMPLE: We live in a society that seeks to find deep happiness in the moment. This is impossible no matter how many Hallmark made for TV movies we watch. Life is more than pithy sayings found on greeting cards or Facebook re-postings. Interestingly recent statistics show that more and more couples are opting for marriage rather than living together. Many have discovered that a lasting relationship begins with trust which begins when you are willing to say “I do” without reservation and mean it. Even though my father was critically ill we kids knew he loved my mother more than anything. The righteous person has deep roots of faith!

Some go through life as if it were some kind of personal game not thinking or caring there are consequences for their actions. There is an outcome in life in making either good choices or bad ones and the Psalmist finishes his thoughts by relating that…

III. The righteous person is sheltered by the Lord! (Vv. 5-6)

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

1. The prophet Job would ask, “Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger? How often are they like straw before the wind, like chaff swept away by a gale?” (Job 21:17-18 NIV) The answer to Job’s question was every time unless they repent of their sin and walk with God. John the Baptist warned that the Messiah (Jesus) would baptize believers “with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12 NIV) Jesus also explained that the kingdom of heaven was like a net full of fish where the good ones were separated from the bad and that “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) Jesus taught over and over there were serious consequences for rejecting him as the Messiah. In fact Jesus would declare, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18 NIV) The Psalmist wrote, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” The righteous person will be rewarded. Jesus taught that one day the Lord will stand in front of all mankind and only some will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness… For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:23, 29 NIV) Jesus knew the reciprocity, the relationship, between God and mankind. “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” The righteous person is sheltered by the Lord!

EXAMPLE: The other day it poured rain and as I looked out our living room window I noticed that three squirrels and quite few different birds found refuge during the downpour. The maple tree in our front yard works as a great natural canopy protecting whatever is under it from the hot sun or spring rains. My father’s arms felt the same way when I was little. When things got bad he would put his hand on my shoulder or wrap his arms around me and I would feel safe. The Psalmist describes for us that the righteous person is sheltered by the Lord!

Conclusion:

The righteous person finds satisfaction in God! The righteous person has deep roots of faith! The righteous person is sheltered by the Lord!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15

Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 4, 2017
I have learned a lot by being a people watcher and listener. When I was younger it was hard for me to keep my mouth shut; I know it seems hard to believe but it is true! So, over the years I have made it a goal to really focus on how people pray and what they pray and in doing so I have noticed several things. First, a lot of folks misunderstand what prayer is and secondly, interestingly, they copy others in how they pray. Now that I have made you conscious and uncomfortable of how you should pray in front of me, I believe we need to learn what prayer is all about.
Prayer for the Hebrew during Jesus’ day was much by rote. They were kind of “Catholic” in a sense in that they all got together and recited similar prayers all together at the same time. They were not as dreadful as some religions and their overly mind-numbing chanted prayers that begin to sound like so much background white noise than actual prayer. Jesus’ disciples noticed how Jesus intimately prayed and they wanted to learn more. In the midst of Jesus’ landmark sermon on the mount he introduces a lesson in how to pray; let’s discover what he has to say about prayer…
READ: Matthew 6:5-15
Luke tells us that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1 NIV) Here in Matthew is the fuller rendition of what Jesus taught them. We learn that…
I. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! (Vv. 5-8)
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
  1. For Jesus there was never any doubt that his followers would not pray regularly and so he tells them, “And when you pray”. Prayer should be just like our taking a breath, something we do not even thinking about it but we do it anyway. Not like some robot reciting the same catch phrases, wording, or mantra but rather it should be something we naturally do! Notice he warned that when we pray we are not to “be like the hypocrites” who loved fine sounding words. Jesus said that “they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” They loved the sound of their own voices but more than that they loved the attention they got from others! Have you ever known someone who loved the sound of his or her own voice? Jesus bluntly told them, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” However, when the believer speaks to God it is to be one-on-one and personal. It is your conversation with the Creator of the universe and so Jesus quietly tells them, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Now did he mean we should never pray publically? Nope. What Jesus is telling us is that our prayer is not for the ears of others but a conversation between two individuals: us and God! We are not to think about what others think; we are to focus on the one to whom we are conversing. The Pharisees had turned prayer into an act to be seen by men to demonstrate their supposed righteousness. Their prayers were directed not to God but to other men, and consisted of long, repetitive monologues. Jesus taught, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Like the wind rattling through the trees or the sound of rushing water their prayers were meaningless. So Jesus warns us, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
  EXAMPLE: In the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast there is a crude, rude bully named Gaston. He likes himself and the sound of his own voice. Can you imagine telling the person you love just how much you love them in meaningless phrases at the top of your lungs in a crowded public place? While we may think it kind of romantic the first time it would soon get old, embarrassing, and meaningless if you did it all the time. Prayer is not all about you; it is your conversation with the Lord. It is individual and to be special. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
As Baptists we often forget to whom we are praying and while it is a conversation with God we must never forget to whom we are speaking to. We learn that…
II. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! (Vv. 9-11)
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.”
  1. Notice how Jesus taught that our prayer should focus on the one we are praying to. He begins by teaching, “This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven”. He understood that prayer is directed to “Our Father in heaven” and not to some manmade idol, statue, or effigy. God is our father not in that we are biologically related as some heresies teach but rather he is the one who made us, loves us, and sent himself to save us! Like children with loving parents, we depend on him for everything in life! Jesus continued by teaching our conversation with our Father in heaven should also remember his distinctiveness: “hallowed be your name”. God is to be revered and honored because he is God! He is holy, just, loving, all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere. God should be honored in our prayer to remind us to whom we are praying. Our prayer is not to be all about us and in fact we are to pray that God’s purpose and plan for creation should be fulfilled: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom will be established whether we think it will or not. Jesus fulfilled the coming of God’s purpose and no matter what the rest of the world believes, God’s purpose and plan “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Our prayers should fit within the framework, purpose and plan of God which is to “seek and save what was lost”! (Luke 19:10 NIV) Far too often we think our purpose and plans are more important than God’s and that the only reason Jesus came was to give us a better life. I hate to burst your bubble but he did not. He came to give us life in him! We are to be dependent on God alone therefore we are to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” Food was a daily focus for folks of Jesus’ day; not like today where we have refrigeration, grocery stores every four blocks, and availability to all kinds of food within hands reach. We can even get it pre prepared and sent to our homes over our cell phones! Earning enough money and being able to go to the market or being able to grow your own food for the day was a concern. Jesus was teaching that we are to be more dependent on God than we realize. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
  EXAMPLE: Don’t you just hate it when you have to go to some business or family function and you are greeted by folks who have a pasted on smile, nod and mouth they are glad to see you but are really looking for someone more important to greet than you? You know what I mean; before they are done with you they have already dismissed you and moved along. Now suppose you treated your significant other, your spouse, or the person you were dating this way? How long would your relationship last? And yet this is how we often pray. We go through the motions wanting to get through it in order to do the next chore we have to do. Prayer is not to be a check off list of regurgitated phrases. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
Our conversation with God is to be more than about ourselves; it is a reflection of our attitude and our relationship with the Lord. We learn that…
III. Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition! (Vv. 12-15)
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
  1. To truly have a conversation with someone there has to be give and take with both of you listening and sharing. And in this sharing you must be sincere and focused just like when you pray. Our prayer is a reflection of who we are. If we cannot honestly converse with our Creator, Savior, and friend how do we expect our prayers to be answered? Prayer, our conversation with our Father God, should be open and honest. It should begin with us reflecting on our relationship with others and with him! Jesus taught we are to ask him to “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” These are not debts we can repay or owe to God but rather are so called, because on account of them we owe satisfaction to the justice of God. Jesus paid our debt of sin fully, but we must acknowledge the payment daily for the sins we commit. If we cannot forgive others their sin against us how in the world can we expect God to forgive us? Our prayer should acknowledge our inability to make satisfaction for the debt we owe due to our sin and that only God can forgive and fully pay the debt! We are to humbly ask for forgiveness as we have forgiven others who have sinned against us. If we are willing and wanting that the Creator should forgive us we should be as mere humans more than able and ready to forgive fellow sinners. God is to be our guide in life. He is the one we are to follow and so it is quite correct to ask him to “lead us not into temptation”. The idea is not that God would deliberately tempt us or take us where we might be tempted but rather it is asking him to always clearly show us the right path to follow and “deliver us from the evil one”. The idea is we are to ask that we not be led astray by the world or Satan but that we instead would be drawn to God’s wonderful presence! Jesus explains that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Jesus knew the Jews were a people very subject to revenge; an eye for an eye. Believers are not to be this way. Jesus is teaching about personal fellowship. One cannot walk with God and be unwilling to forgive others. Paul said it best, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
  EXAMPLE: Jesus knew he was about to do something so marvelous that it would boggle the minds of those around him. Because of what he would do their relationship with God would change forever. He would pay the price for their sins and the sins of the entire human race past, present, and future! When Jesus did this prayer no longer was a means by which one would come begging before God but it would reflect the relationship the believer now enjoys with his Father in heaven. Paul wrote that we have “received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” And that “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16 NIV)  Again Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8, 10 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
Conclusion:
Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21

Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 12, 2017

In 1993 there was a movie based on the life of the singer Tina Turner that used the title of her hit song “What’s Love Got to do With It”. The song deals with the confusion a person has between physical and emotional love. For her it is only a “second hand emotion” that is “a sweet old fashioned notion”. People have confused emotional love and sexual lust for centuries.

Biblical love has been misinterpreted for generations as well. In fact there are those in our day and age who think that while God is love and that he so loved the world then he loves everyone equally the same. I hate to burst your politically correct bubbles but this is simply not true. When John taught that since God loved us then we should live in his love he did not mean some emotional state or an acceptance of ungodly sin. God’s love is sacrificial and we are to walk in that kind of love.

READ: Ephesians 5:1-21

God sacrificially loved us so much that he came as Jesus to die for our sinful condition. Because of our willingness to accept his sacrificial love we must be willing to live in the same kind of sacrificial love ourselves.

I. We must emulate God’s love! (Vv. 1-7)

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

1. We live in a world where there is a complete misconception concerning what the love of God is all about. If you have believed in Christ you will be changed by his sacrificial love for you, period. If that change is not displayed in your life, then there is something drastically wrong. Paul bluntly writes, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love”. Sacrifice is to be part and parcel of the believer’s life as God’s children. In fact Christians are to live such sacrificially focused lives “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”! We are to set aside the ungodly sinful desires we had before because “among” God’s children “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” In a society where every song, every movie, TV show, commercial, and way of life is saturated with an ungodly and unhealthy view of what real love is this can seem impossible! But a child of God is spiritually changed and that change should affect every aspect of their life. And as God’s holy people there should not be any “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”! Paul understood that there should be a change; he had experienced it for himself! This is why he continues that “of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” When someone tries to fool you into thinking he or she is saved when in fact they are not they are dishonest, dirty, and or grasping self-indulgent narcissists and they have no “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”!  When one claims the sacrifice of Jesus they are being deceptive and their words mean nothing and God’s wrath remains on them because of their disobedience. Paul says, “Therefore, do not be partners with them.” We must emulate God’s love!

EXAMPLE: I can tell when my granddaughter needs her diaper changed. She can smile, giggle, and make like there is no need but just one whiff and you know she needs to be changed. And like a dirty diaper on a baby you can tell by the smell if a person is truly saved or not by the way they live their lives for the Lord. When we allow the ungodly world to dictate to us what the love of God is we become partners with the world, instead we are to be “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” just like Jesus. We must emulate God’s love!

When we live in God’s love we are changed from our sinful condition and brought into a new life. Therefore Paul writes that…

II. We are to live in the light of God’s love! (Vv. 8-14)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

1. Just because we come to faith in Christ does not mean we are instantly changed in our attitudes or actions. Old habits die hard but die they must. We may ask, “Why?” Paul explains that it is simply because “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Light has always been seen as a means to disclose what lurks in the dark corners; including in a person’s life! When the light of the Holy Spirit shines in the sin-darkened life of the individual all of our ungodliness is exposed. God’s children are to “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)”! But more than that we are to “find out what pleases the Lord”! Paul would ask the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV) Christians are to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather (as God’s children we are to) expose them” for what they truly are. We have forgotten that “it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” Yet we watch it, read about it, talk about it, and sing about it all the time! Rather than being disgusted with people’s ungodly behavior we make their filthy lives into mainstream media hits! Is it any wonder that while the world has accepted wholeheartedly ungodly lifestyles and behavior that they hate anyone who lives for God? Paul explains it is because “everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.” The Christian church has become dazed and mesmerized by the perversion of the world. Paul writes, “This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” We are to live in the light of God’s love!

EXAMPLE: My mother could not believe what we had been up to, however, she could smell it and see for herself. She demanded, “You tell me right now what you were doing today!” We had been having cow chip fights. Cow chips are cow manure that has been hardened by the heat of the sun and you can throw them like Frisbees. Some were still kind of soft in the center, thus the smell and such. She vehemently told us, “That is disgusting! Why would you do such a thing? You boys are to never ever do that again, do you hear me?” I wonder how God views people who claim Christ but are willing to accept the ungodliness of the world. While believers are called not to participate in the filthy sin of a degenerate world, we are not to judge it; that duty is reserved for God alone. However, we are not to encourage or participate in the filth either! We are to live in the light of God’s love!

We have discovered that the love of God is more than an emotional state of being. His love is active and sacrificial. Paul continued to teach then that…

III. We are to make the most of God’s love! (Vv. 15-21)

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

1. The world is no longer wise in what it accepts and does. Wisdom does not come from accepting anyone or anything that feels good or looks good. Wisdom weighs the final result and works toward the best possible outcome. This is why Paul wrote, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” We have forgotten that we live in “evil” days. Paul was not fooled by the things of the world, he knew that every day is evil until the Lord returns, so he continued by writing “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Sadly it seems as if fewer Christians try to understand what the Lord’s will is. He desires that we be his body in the world sharing the good news of Jesus! Instead we focus on what makes us happy for the moment. Paul knew this would happen when we forget about how we are to live in love! He tells them, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” “Debauchery” is an old fashioned word that means utter depravity and the corruption of personal norms of decency and morality. Our world sees booze and drugs as a means to get high in order to have a moment of happiness. However, “Instead, (we are to) be filled with the Spirit.” When we are filled with the Spirit it will be evident in our lives and we will “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” The idea is where the focus of our life is to be; either on the ungodly world or the holy things of God. Spirit-filled folks will “Sing and make music in (their) heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In fact our lives will be lived in how we “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We are to make the most of God’s love!

EXAMPLE: The complete acceptance of getting drunk or using pot has now infested the Christian church to its utter shame and disgrace. We make excuses in how we should be just like the world in our drunkenness or our pot usage. The shear immature impudence expressed is not just disheartening it is mindboggling in its audacity. Just because everyone is doing it, it makes us feel better for a time, or that we all did it at one time is no excuse. We all have sinned so does that mean we should continue to do so? God forbid! Believers are to try to mature in their faith. We are called to be holy; Christians are to be like Christ! We are to make the most of God’s love!

Conclusion:

We must emulate God’s love! We are to live in the light of God’s love! We are to make the most of God’s love!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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