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God Hears Us When We Call to Him! — Psalm 86:1-13

God Hears Us When We Call to Him! — Psalm 86:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 26, 2020

I can remember my mother asking me, “Young man, did you hear what I said?” Of course no matter if I did or not the correct answer was always “yes”. Being distracted is the profession of teenage boys and unfocused believers. It is good to know therefore that God is never distracted and always hears us when we call to him.

David, in this Psalm, was crying out to the Lord and if we just read what David says we might think that perhaps God had been distracted. The reason we would think this is because we often are distracted ourselves in how we talk with God, listen to him, and how we follow through with what he asks. David comes to the Lord asking that God hear him when he calls to him, let’s discover what this means…

READ: Psalm 86:1-13

It is a curious thing but when we all of sudden need help we are often willing to humble ourselves in order to get a quick response thinking that we can perhaps fool God. However we can never fool the Lord and in fact we learn from David that…

I. God hears us when we call to him in honesty! (Vv. 1-5)

Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.

  1. David uses the word “hear” several times throughout this Psalm. It is the idea that David desires God to listen to his prayer. David is almost being like a small child who cries out in the middle of the night for their parent to come and comfort them. David cries out “Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” David realizes that he cannot be dishonest with the Lord. God knows if he is lying or not and whether or not David truly needed him. Therefore David humbles himself as being “poor and needy”. David’s earnest desire is that the Lord would “Guard [his] life”. That God would protect him in the midst of his trials. God is the only one David could go to with his fear and in his fear David admits his need and that he is “devoted” to the Lord. At this time David realizes his total dependence has to be firmly in the Lord his God. “You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.” In his need of the moment David understands that there is only one who truly would come to his aid even when perhaps he did not deserve God’s help so David prays “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.” Evidently David was suffering from his sin the consequences of which had come home to roost and now David only knew sorrow. This is why David requests God to “Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” And in his suffering because of his sin David knows that he has to be truthful with the Lord and admit his sin. As he prays he tells God that “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.” It is there the petitioner can find joy and know God cares. David reminds us that God hears us when we call to him in honesty!

  EXAMPLE: I do not know about you but I dislike it when people have hidden agendas. Often they cannot be honest with others and they cannot be honest with their selves. God hates dishonesty. This is why when we come to him we must come to him with all that we are. Over the years as a pastor I have listened to some of the lamest excuses from folks about their relationship with the Lord. It makes me want to yell, “Just be honest!” David teaches us that God hears us when we call to him in honesty!

God knows our heart. He knows our inner most thoughts. He is never fooled by our words, false deeds, or inconsistent lifestyle. David learns not only should he be truthful with the Lord but that…

II. God hears us when we call to him for mercy! (Vv. 6-10)

Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

  1. Again, David asks God to “Hear my prayer” and to “listen to my cry for mercy.” David needed the Lord’s undeserved love. That’s what mercy is all about. David was in personal distress. “In my day of trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.” Just like we sometimes do David felt that no one would listen or that no one would care that was facing a day of trouble. It’s like someone once told me, “Pastor, no one wants to hear about your problems!” But that is not true! God always does. He never tires of us coming to him whether it is in the good times or our troubled times. David knew God would answer him. Curiously David declares openly that “Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.” David wasn’t advocating that there were actually other gods but rather that those who believed in other gods than the Lord God should know that those made of wood, stone, or clay could not compare to the Living God. Their supposed deeds were mere fables whereas God’s deeds were real and David could testify to the fact. The truth was that eventually “All the nations” with those false gods would “come and worship before you, O Lord” and “they will bring glory to your name”! Not only was David testifying about the mercy and might of God, to grant him mercy but those nations which God had made with their mythical manmade gods would eventually have to glorify the Lord! David affirms, “For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” It is because of God’s greatness and who he is that he grants us his grace. David teaches us that God hears us when we call to him for mercy!

  EXAMPLE: We are willing to go to God for mercy but we often think he may not be listening to our cry for help. It always amazed me but when our daughter was little, even if she just kind of whimpered in her sleep, my wife could wake up out of sound sleep, jump out of bed, and be at her crib in seconds. Loving parents respond to the cries of their children no matter how soft and David teaches us that our loving God hears us when we call to him for mercy!

Abraham Lincoln is credited with the saying, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” I’ve learned that you can’t fool the Lord at any time; he knows when we are being insincere. And here we learn from David that…

III. God hears us when we call to him with all that we are! (Vv. 11-13)

Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

  1. Finally David gets down to what he truly desires as the outcome of his prayer to the Lord. Later in this Psalm we learn that arrogant and ruthless men were seeking David’s life. They didn’t care that he was God’s chosen. David however knows that God is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”. This is an absolute truth that we all should write on our heart of hearts. And it is in this truth that David comes and asks God “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” David, even with all his sin and faults, wanted to learn from the Lord, to walk in his truth with an undivided heart. Far too many folks try to fool the Lord thinking they can pull the spiritual wool over him. In doing so they show a contempt and total disregard for whom God is. Not David, he wanted to “fear” even the very name of God. David understood that words mean nothing without action. Out of his fear, out of his entire being David tells the Lord, “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” David only considered himself the “son of a maidservant” before the Lord, even though he was king of Israel. David desired a “sign” of God’s “goodness” towards him so that his “enemies would see it and be put to shame”. In this he could confidently say, “For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” David knew without a doubt that God hears us when we call to him with all that we are!

  EXAMPLE: The other day as I was sitting in my living room some kids came walking by and the youngest was screaming at the top of her lungs for her mother. I mean it was not just loud; it was piercing in the extreme. Her older sister stopped in the middle of the street and being a bit annoyed and being the older sister she hollered back, “Why are you yelling so loud?” The little girl responded, “I just want mom!” You know what? When a person truly needs the Lord, God knows it. And here David teaches us that God hears us when we call to him with all that we are!

Conclusion:

God hears us when we call to him in honesty! God hears us when we call to him for mercy! God hears us when we call to him with all that we are!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2020 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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How we are to shepherd his flock! – 1 Peter 5:1-11

How we are to shepherd his flock! – 1 Peter 5:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 16, 2020

As look for a pastor to lead us it is vital that we find a man who can mentor and mature us as a church until Jesus returns. We live in a world where the church is dismissed, the gospel is seen as a truism, and Jesus as either a myth or at best a “good guy” who taught good stuff. Shepherding the church is tough task in today’s world and we need to look for a man who is up to the task.

The title “elder” is used interchangeably for pastor in the New Testament and here in Peter’s letter we find him addressing the early church and its leadership. The church in Peter’s day faced troubling times due to Jewish leadership seeking to destroy the gospel and the Roman authorities who wanted to squash any dissent. The church stood out because its leadership and members were different because of their faith. Shepherding the flock properly was important let’s discover why…

READ: 1 Peter 5:1-11

Michael Ray wrote a country western song that states “Real men love Jesus” and this could not be more correct than when it concerns the church’s leadership. Yet we discover that Peter taught…

I. Pastors should be mentors! (Vv. 1-4)

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

  1. God was supposed to be mankind’s great shepherd but Israel refused to introduce the world to him and they had wandered away like scattered sheep themselves. In fact Peter saw himself as a pastor/shepherd. Peter’s teaching here kind of reflects Ezekiel 34:1-16 where false shepherds were contrasted with the True Shepherd. Peter is using kind of a double entendre here referring both to pastors and older believers. Elders were respected because of their age but they were also to be respected because of their wisdom and actions. Peter tells these elders to be the mentors they were supposed be so he writes, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed”. Peter knew what he was writing about because he had witnessed it! They too were “witnesses” because they now shared “in the glory to be revealed” in Jesus! Therefore these men were to be “shepherds of God’s flock that [was] under [their] care, serving as overseers–not because [they] must, but because [they were] willing” as God wanted them to be! Peter had heard Jesus command him to “feed my lambs… take care of my sheep” and again to “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). He took it seriously. These pastor/elders were to feed the sheep (congregations) of their churches! These men were to be “examples to the flock” by “not” being “greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those” who were “entrusted” to them! Peter understood that Jesus was the true Shepherd and his sheep hear his voice and follow him (John 10:14). Those who were chosen by the Lord to be leaders in his church as pastor/elders should therefore be “examples to the flock” until Jesus returns. So “when the Chief Shepherd appears” they would “receive the crown of glory that will never fade away”! As shepherds of Jesus’ church, his flock, Pastors should be mentors!

  EXAMPLE: There are a lot of voices out there who demand our attention. Each says it is just as valid as the next but they are not. While the ungodly world wants you to think otherwise those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing are liars, have ulterior motives, and have nothing of value for the Lord’s church. It is therefore extremely important that Pastors should be mentors!

Humility is in short supply in our world. Arrogance and hubris was on full display during the recent Oscars. Peter had experienced this within the early church and he taught that…

II. Young men/pastors should respect their elders! (Vv. 5-7)

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

  1. Just as those who were “elders” in the church should serve out of humility the “young men” of the church “in the same way” should “be submissive to those who are older.” Our world does not respect older generations thinking that they have nothing to offer. This could simply be because we were not very wise in our examples to the younger generation or that they have not been taught to have the proper kind of respect for those around them. Peter gets right to the issue for the church and reminds his readers that “All of you” meaning the entire congregation should “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another”. Paul would write the church: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12 NIV)” because like Peter he knew as well that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humility is in short supply in our world. The church has forgotten it is to be the example of Christ in a sinful world. Again Paul would agree with Peter and write that we are to “Let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts, since as members of one body [we] were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:15-16 NIV)” Peter knew it was an outward attitude of what occurred inwardly and as God’s church we should “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” When the church understands that it exists only because of Jesus and it is to serve one another as it reaches out to the world around it the concerns of life fade. We can “Cast all” our “anxiety on him because” we know without a doubt that “he cares for” us! Humility is display when young men/pastors respect their elders!

  EXAMPLE: I am not teaching that we should respect all senior adults simply because they are older. Both Peter and Paul were referencing the church itself and how individual believers were to respect older fellow believers. Recently I was subjected to an older man whose vocabulary consisted of every foul word in the English language. He could not string two thoughts together without using some of the most vulgar language possible. Without knowing him, I lost all respect for him simply because of how he presented himself. But Peter was not speaking about the world, he was referencing Christians in the church and therefore young men/pastors should respect their elders!

Wishy-washy behavior has become a way of life; in fact so much so that we now condone and applaud mediocre behavior. It has infected the church as well. Peter warned against it and taught…

III. Everyone should be unyielding in faith! (Vv. 8-11)

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

  1. Believers often forget they live in enemy territory. Not that the world is ruled by Satan (far from it) but rather a sin-fallen universe! Never forget that Satan is a created being and not all powerful. He has a beginning and he has an ultimate end coming in a “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10). Jesus reminds us that “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:18 NIV)” and that we have authority over him and his minions! (Luke 10:20) In this ungodly country we are to be “self-controlled and alert”! Just like diligent soldiers we are to be on guard always. Why? Peter tells us it is because “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” An ungodly sinful world wants to gobble believers up! Christians have an active fierce enemy who desires to destroy their faith. As we look for a new pastor there will be gossip, don’t listen to it. There will be fear, overcome it. There will be those who try to dissuade you in staying the course, ignore them. Peter writes that the only way we defeat this enemy is to “Resist him, standing firm in the faith”! As a church and as individual believers we can stand firm in our faith “because [we] know that [our] brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” We are not alone! Peter understood this well because he lived it daily. In our day and age and here in America we do not experience the persecution other believers throughout the world experience. As we look for a new pastor this is not persecution. It is not even a time for concern but one of joy and excitement. So as we pray, seek God’s wisdom, and weigh candidates we can remind ourselves that “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”. This is a promise for every believer and a promise for our church as well! We can be strong, confident and secure because “To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” Therefore everyone should be unyielding in faith!

  EXAMPLE: At one time we used to have a huge black walnut tree that stood out by the parking lot here at church. It was well over a hundred years old and may have been one of the oldest nut trees in the County. As magnificent and large as that tree was it had a secret. It was rotten in its core. While it was bigger around than most cars and its branches were thick and huge, it was about to come crashing down. Sadly, we had to cut it down. A church needs to guard against inner rot by standing firm in the faith and especially while we are looking for a new pastor. At this time during a time which for some may seem uncertain, everyone should be unyielding in faith!

Conclusion:

Pastors should be mentors! Young men/pastors should respect their elders! Everyone should be unyielding in faith!

This article is copyrighted © 2020 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 uses the foolish things! – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

God uses the foolish things! – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 26, 2020

When things change it can seem foolish to those who get used to the way things as they are. Yet we can be the “foolish” ones when we make demands like: “If they do not do it this way I will…” or “If it isn’t done the way I like, then…” We are like the petulant child who doesn’t like the way the game is going and takes his ball home. However, we learn that God often uses the foolish things of the world.

The Jews had gotten used to being the slaves of whichever power marched through their homeland. While they mouthed their allegiance to God within their hearts they had truly stopped believing. And now God had sent himself in the form of a man bringing a different message than the one they were used to. It seemed as foolishness just as it does in our day and age that have gotten used to living their lives the way they want instead of following the Lord. We learn that God uses the foolish things.

READ: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

As we decide who are future pastor will be we must never forget that first and foremost he will be our leader in presenting the message of the cross to an unsaved world and…

I. This message seems foolish to the lost world! (Vv. 18-21)

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

  1. The new church was tiny in its membership compared to the population of the pagan world around it. While believers today number in the hundreds of millions, back then they numbered in the hundreds. What chance did the church have in a vast void of a world of unbelief? Simple, we should never forget the glorious truth that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”! The power of God for eternal life is contained within is words to a foolish world. There is no greater message on earth or in heaven or hell than the gospel! It is not based on the esoteric simplistic spirituality made up wisdom of mankind. It isn’t Facebook memes of the moment. It is the very wisdom of God for foolish mankind! What sages have pondered for centuries the simplest folk can have for their own! Professors, psychologists, and potentates may not comprehend it but we can! “For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’” The notion that someone might die for a good person isn’t too farfetched but to die for those who do not care and who are in sin that seems truly foolish. This is why the rhetorical questions of “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” is answered in the fact that “since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” And this is the message our new pastor must have on his heart and melted into his very soul to preach to the lost of this community. Even if this message seems foolish to the lost world!

  EXAMPLE: Frick and Frack were two Swiss skaters who came to the United States in 1937 and joined the original Ice Follies show as comedy ice skaters. Their show consisted of them doing a series of out-of-control stunts while linked together. To the audience it seemed as if they would fall at any moment but in fact they were in perfect harmony with one another having practiced and perfected their seemingly chaotic stunts. The world sees the Christian faith much as the audience of Frick and Frack viewed them but in fact it is the eternal plan of God. The message may seem foolish to the lost world but it is the plan of God!

As look for new leadership we must never forget that the task we are calling our new pastor to is…

II. The power of God in a foolish world! (Vv. 22-25)

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

  1. Spiritually ignorant people always want one more proof. They desire that everything be explained to them in a manner that only they will accept and this simply is not how God works. “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”. This is what the church is about. This is what GBC is to be about. This should be the driving message of the man we might consider. The message is not about social justice. The message is not about how we should feel about our faith. The message is not the means for happiness in life; although it can be found in its adherence. The message is “to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks”, the people of God and the rest of the world! Perhaps we have forgotten what we are to be about as a church? It is not for our own comfort. It is not for our own satisfaction! It is not for us to feel holy or good or just or nice! We are to be about “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”! It is the marvelous, wonderful, and mighty work of the Lord! Living in a world of the spiritually ignorant should call each of us who have the knowledge of the gospel to a greater commitment, a greater concern, and a greater effort to reach the world around us! It can be frustrating when a congregation gets too comfortable, it can be tiresome when the world seems uncaring, and it can become difficult when we would rather do anything else than share our faith. Yet as we look for leadership and to encourage one another during this we must find comfort and strength in the fact that “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength”! We should never forget that the power of God in a foolish world!

  EXAMPLE: When we become blinded to the wonders around us we can become cynical to a lot of things including our spirituality. Our world reflects this by the cynical attitude towards the Christian faith we see in TV shows, the media, in schools, and with younger generations. What the world finds as “scientific” exposes their spiritual foolishness. History, personal testimonies, and logical proofs show otherwise. As we look for a new pastor we will need to find someone who can relate the power of God in a foolish world!

Many churches in our day and age have fallen into the selfish trap of thinking that everything should revolve around us because we have forgotten where we have come from. We are reminded that…

III. Without God we are foolish! (Vv. 26-31)

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

  1. If we do not consider the selection of a new pastor a sacred and important matter then we denigrate and dismiss the holy things of God. It is not a personality contest; it is not about popularity, age, looks, or any human standard! You need to “think of what you were when you were called” to Jesus in the first place! In fact most of us were not special in any way at all; “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” However we were all in sin and needed rescue! As we look for the man to lead us we need to be reminded that it is often in the simple things we find the power of God: Complete love of God and our love for one another! We must remind ourselves that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” Brothers and sisters in the Lord do not use this time to advance your agenda, do not use this time for your personal gain, and do not use this time to threaten to take your ball and go home! But instead in all humility be mindful of the fact that “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” It is during this time we as a church and as individuals remind ourselves “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” because without God we are foolish!

  EXAMPLE: We live in a world that has tried to solve its morality problem by thinking that anything is okay as long as it doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself. And when or if you might feel bad about yourself you can smoke dope or get drunk until it doesn’t matter to you any longer. We can slaughter unwanted unborn children, be any sex we want anytime we want, and never ever dare tell anyone at anytime they are wrong, evil, or ungodly. Sadly, this convoluted philosophy of personal “diversity” is supposed to be enlightened. In reality it only exposes the truth that without God we are foolish!

Conclusion:

This message seems foolish to the lost world! The power of God in a foolish world! Without God we are foolish!

This article is copyrighted © 2020 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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2nd Sunday of Advent – The peace of God – Isaiah 52:6-10

2nd Sunday of Advent – The peace of God – Isaiah 52:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 8, 2019

Last week we spoke of how the Messiah would be called by the names of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. There were those who incorrectly thought that the Messiah would bring about the end of war or that everyone would find bliss. Interestingly, there are those in our day who still have misconceptions of who the Messiah is and the peace he brings.

Isaiah introduces us to a Messiah who would bring peace to all mankind. He begins these verses by calling the nation of Israel to “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised (ungodly) and defiled will not enter you again.” Jerusalem’s pagan conquerors — the uncircumcised and defiled — would never again invade and pollute the holy city after the Messiah came. This is part of the peace he would bring when he came. Let’s discover this morning of the Second Advent, the peace of God!

READ: Isaiah 52:6-10

The world today thinks that peace comes from the absence of conflict that it can be obtained through gain or government, but Isaiah teaches us that…

I. The peace of God comes from Him alone! (v. 6)

Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.

  1. God’s people would be freed from their chains, never to be enslaved again! Isaiah prophesied, “For this is what the LORD says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.’” (v.3) No amount of money could pay the debt they owed! The Israelites did not fully understand that the enslavement God saw his people under was the rebellion of sin and that they could never buy themselves back without the blood of a sacrifice! No amount of ransom could buy them back from their enslavement to sin, only the blood of a perfect Lamb could! This is why the writer of Hebrews would later write, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and in offerings, you were not pleased… Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:3-7 NIV) God would ask them, “And now what do I have here?” He answers his question by relating, “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, and all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (v. 5) while we may be shortsighted, God’s view is much longer. The Israelites willingly sold themselves into slavery for a pittance and those who enslaved them mocked God as a result! They refused to listen and repent. Yet, God’s plan all along was to redeem all people and his desire was that they would know how it occurred and who was responsible when it happened! Isaiah was told by God, “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore, in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” When the peace of God came, all people everywhere would know who brought it about. This is why the angels rejoiced singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) The peace of God comes from him alone!

  EXAMPLE: Daily Bread’s Les Lamborn writes, “During the Christmas season, we wait. We wait in traffic. We wait in checkout lines to purchase gifts. We wait for family to arrive. We wait to gather around a table filled with our favorite foods. We wait to open presents lovingly chosen. All of this waiting can be a reminder to Christians that Christmas is a celebration of waiting for something much more important than holiday traditions. Like the ancient Israelites, many are waiting for Jesus” the peace of God. Isaiah teaches us that the peace of God comes from him alone!

God made the first move when he came as a baby. A star would appear marking the way, angels would proclaim him, and shepherds would witness to what they saw. Isaiah teaches us that…

II. The peace of God would be proclaimed! (Vv. 7-8)

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.

  1. Here is a wonderful picture of rescue. The enemy has surrounded the city, they are encamped around the walls and there is no escape and it seems as if no one is coming to their rescue. Thousands upon thousands of the enemy’s troops are assembled and just when they are ready to step forward to fight, there comes a cry from one of the watchmen on the wall of the besieged, “Look! Look to the mountains there is where our help comes from!” And all eyes strain to see a lone runner from the foothills headed to the besieged and the enemy parts for him like the waters of the Red Sea for Moses. Isaiah declares, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Notice that the deliverance is not brought about by a larger army, more advanced weaponry, or a master general but by the beautiful “feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation”! And what is this message of salvation they would proclaim to those waiting for rescue and to the camp of the surrounding enemy? “Your God reigns!” As wonderful as the return of Israel from their Babylonian captivity, what utter joy will there be when the Messiah finally comes to Zion and proclaims, “Your God reigns!” Now, dear child of the King, you are the messenger of the Messiah in our besieged city, our occupied territory, and surrounded nation. You are the one with beautiful feet to proclaim the peace of God, you are the one running from the mountains bringing good news that that he alone reigns! “Listen!” Isaiah commands. “Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.” Those entrapped can rejoice, because “When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” Israel would see their Messiah coming to them, but some would not care or would refuse to hear him when he came. But whether they wanted to believe it or not he would come. And, they would see it with their own eyes. The peace of God would be proclaimed!

  EXAMPLE: Isaiah was a watchman; Nahum was a watchman and various men in various ways prophesized announcing the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world. John the Baptist was the last “who was sent from God… He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” John knew that “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” In fact it was Jesus who “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:6-11 NIV) And, now the last command the Messiah has given his watchmen on the wall who look to the mountains is, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”! The peace of God is to be proclaimed!

What joyous news, what a wonderful truth to proclaim, those enslaved and those surrounded by the enemy can be freed forever! Isaiah teaches us that…

III. The peace of God brings salvation! (Vv. 9-10)

Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

  1. Over and over we find Isaiah telling the people to “burst into song” to “rejoice” because God would hear their cries for help. Isaiah tells them, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” In the midst of standing in the ruin of their lives and the rubble of their city, the embattled and surrounded Israelites were to “Burst into songs of joy together”! How could they do such a thing? God has already “comforted his people.” In fact, the important message is that God has already “redeemed” bought back Jerusalem, meaning all of Israel. This is why John the Baptist’s papa, Zachariah, would break his silence by singing, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people!” (Luke 1:68 NIV) Isaiah wrote, “All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing.” (Isaiah 14:7 NIV) Matthew would understand and reiterate Isaiah’s words by reminding us, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:16-17 NIV) The promise Isaiah proclaimed is the fact that God Himself would “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” God would show the entire world his power and ability to bring salvation through his Messiah. It is summed up in the majestic wonderful words of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus would say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) The peace of God brings salvation!

  EXAMPLE: There are folks who read the last chapter first when they start a new thriller. They may think that it takes the anxiety out of reading. So it is with Christians because we know the end of the story, we can be messengers of peace in the midst of utter chaos, calm in the face of disaster. We are to experience peace under pressure. Kingdoms may fall, friends may falter, churches may fold, oceans may rise, and mountains may crumble, but we can be at peace. How do we maintain such composure? By remembering that the “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). In fact, just as Isaiah wanted the Israelites to be comforted that the Messiah would come, Jesus reminds us, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelations 22:20 NIV) Today could be the day! The peace of God brings salvation!

Conclusion:
The peace of God comes from Him alone!
The peace of God would be proclaimed!
The peace of God brings salvation!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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1st Sunday of Advent – Our expectation and hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7

1st Sunday of Advent – Our expectation and hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7
December 1, 2019
Pastor Lee Hemen

We should not allow outside circumstance to dictate how we respond to life. Recently however the political and social climate of our nation has caused many to become full of gloom and despair. There are those in the political arena that encourage their constituents to be despaired by their opposition simply because things are not going the way they want. Life hardly ever does, yet on the 1st Sunday of Advent we light the candle of hope.

Hope is more than wishful thinking; it is the outcry of the human heart and the certainty of God’s promise. We as his children hope in him because we know who he is and what he has done. The Israelites of Isaiah’s day had no such experience. They should have been able to trust God and the promises he made from knowing their own history, but in the midst of war, famine, and the threat of enslavement it can be tough to see God or his promises. Perhaps this is where you are today. Take heart, there is hope. Let’s discover what Isaiah tells us during this day of Advent concerning hope…

READ: Isaiah 9:1-7

In a world where we find self-centerness at the forefront of the human condition it is often hard to find hope in the world. But today we can discover anew just what it means to have hope in what may seem a hopeless situation. Isaiah tells us that…

I. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! (Vv. 1-3)

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan–The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

  1. There would come a time in Israel’s history when instead of asking God they would consult with “mediums and spiritists” to seek what the dead had to say concerning the living. Because of their fickle nature concerning the word of God and not following him alone they would go hungry both physically and spiritually. Things would get so bad they would become bitter and blame God for their own faithlessness!  The coming Messiah would be their hope of joy and “there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” The Israelites could now look forward to the Messiah’s coming which would bring renewed joy. In fact even the non-believing gentiles would find the joy of God and so Isaiah tells them that “In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan–The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The wonderful truth would be that something good would indeed come from Galilee of the Gentiles. He would be from there and out of what the Jews considered to be an area of spiritual darkness, there would be the light of life, Jesus Christ! Death was an ever present shadow in the life of those who could not or would not trust God; however, a new light would dawn. God would “enlarge the nation and increase their joy” because of those who would now trust in the one coming. Isaiah foretells that the nation of Israel would “rejoice” before God “as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” What a wonderful time Isaiah spoke about! The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

  EXAMPLE: Christmas is that time of year when children began making wishes and wants made known. They long for something wonderful to unwrap on Christmas Day. With excitement and anticipation their longings turn into hope and when the day arrives — it turns into joy! When Jesus came as a baby in a feeding trough the world did not know that the hope it had long awaited for had arrived. Yet all of creation paused on that one moment as a child was born and the hope of the ages came true. Matthew fittingly applied this passage to Jesus, who began His preaching and healing ministry in that region. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

Certain religions encourage the spiritual enslavement of their adherents. Islam, Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others do this through the deliberate distortion of Biblical truth. Throughout the history of the world sinful mankind has used whatever means, including religion to force others into slavery. However, Isaiah tells us that…

II. The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! (Vv. 4-5)

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

  1. We truly do not understand what it means to be enslaved; even those who would like to riot or feel justified in their marching against racism, do not know the injustice of enslavement. Yet, we are all enslaved until we are set free from the bonds of sin. And sadly, even fewer folks understand their enslavement. However, the Israelites did and they longed for their freedom from not just physical oppression but from their bondage to sin. Here, Isaiah proclaims to them they have hope because just “as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.” The Messiah would bring an end to their bondage! Midian had been a thorn in the side of the Israelite’s flesh for years. Because of the Israelite’s own sin God allowed the Midianites to so oppress them that they had to prepare “shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds” and “Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.” (Judges 6:1-6 NIV) God rose up Gideon who would resoundingly defeat thousands of them with only 300 men, but now they would have a new Deliverer. He would completely shatter their yoke of slavery that burden them and the rod of their oppressor would be gone! In fact, the hope the Messiah would bring about and would do away with the reminders of war! “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” These things would now only be good for the flames of a funeral pyre; the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

  EXAMPLE: Some think that it was Christians who began the Crusades; this is an outright boldface lie. The Crusades began as a response by believers for the decades of war and enslavement the forces of Islam brought to the Christian world. Wherever the armies of Islam marched, you either submitted or died. When they finally came to the shores of Italy and had forcefully taken over most of Europe, the Mediterranean and Middle East, the Pope responded by raising armies to fight the threat. Many of the areas Paul and the other disciples had won to Christ fell under the heavy boot of Islam and never returned to the truth of Christ. Isaiah’s nation now faced similar circumstances and longed for real freedom. He tells them that the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

True freedom is found in trusting Jesus, but freedom without peace is little freedom. However, the freedom Jesus brings is spiritual first, which influences the physical nature of the world around it when it is applied to the lives of those he influences. But Isaiah now turns to a new truth concerning the coming Messiah. He would be more than just a king or leader; Isaiah tells us that…

III. The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! (Vv. 6-7)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

  1. Now Isaiah proclaims to them such a wonderful thing that many found it hard to believe. They were now living much as their ancestors did; under the oppression from their own rulers like Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh and the threat of coming annihilation from Assyria and finally Babylon. They were not to trust in others like Egypt to save them, but instead rely on God alone. However, here Isaiah goes beyond their current circumstances and looks to the future of his people. He foretells that “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” The one to come would be their ultimate ruler; but more than being simply a king or monarch, the one to come would “be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, [and] Prince of Peace.” These are not the common titles or monikers for cruel kings but the wonderful names for one who would be concerned and care for his people! The Messiah would be the “Wonderful Counselor” of God (Holy Spirit), he would be “Mighty God” (God himself), the “Everlasting Father”, and the “Prince of Peace” (the Son of God)! All three personalities of the trinity are named and actively involved! However, the peace the Messiah would bring would not be like the world gives, Jesus would declare, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27 NIV) In fact, Isaiah declares that the ministry of the Messiah would be different from any earthly ruler: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” His rule and reign would not last just a lifetime, it would be forever! His rule and reign would bring a lasting peace no one had ever experienced before! The coming Messiah would be God in human flesh and “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

  EXAMPLE: It amazes me that whenever someone is faced with the truth of a situation they often get angry. I was speaking with someone the other day about how the healthcare system has been destroyed; how it has affected me and my brother as well. His retort was not just confusing, it grew louder as he spoke. I have learned the volume of your response does not mean you are right. The frustration of one’s soul is calmed by the presence and power of the Spirit. As the saying goes, “No God no peace, know God know peace!” The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

Conclusion:

The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! That is what this day of Advent is all about; hope.

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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Have no fear! – Matthew 10:26-33

Have no fear! – Matthew 10:26-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 10, 2019

Some information is so important that it should never be hidden or kept secret. In a free society we believe this to be a foundational truth. There are those who want to stifle free speech and try to keep certain things from the public by using things like secretive personal internet servers or throw away cell phones. Usually these folks do these things because they know that if their secrets came out they might likely go to jail.

However, the message of the Gospel is not to be kept secret. There are no special or secret messages within it or in the life of Jesus. He is exactly who he said he was: “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” Jesus desired that his followers would continue to share the good news until he returned again to take home his church. In doing so his disciples did not need to be afraid because what they believed and shared was not to be kept from anyone. They were to have no fear! Let’s see what this means…

READ: Matthew 10:26-33

Perhaps today’s Christian has forgotten the urgency of the gospel message in that it saves lives for eternity. But more than that we are responsible for what we know. It is the same moral obligation we would have if we could easily save a person’s life but refuse to do so because we were afraid, didn’t want to schedule the time it took, or were just plain lazy. Jesus related that… 

I. Our fear should motivate us to share! (Vv. 26-28)

So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

  1. If Jesus’ followers were persecuted by family, friends, co-workers, teachers, or other students they did not need to “be afraid of them”. Quite the contrary in fact because what they have to share should not be kept to themselves. The message is for the whole world! Jesus tells them bluntly that “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known”; this is why when anyone, no matter who they are, tries to say or teach you that there are or were secret messages Jesus hid from his disciples just ignore them. They are false teachers and disciples. God is the God of truth and only Satan and his minions are liars. Jesus emphatically taught: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” Sadly far too many Christians stay hidden, run away, or are ashamed of the gospel message. A believer cannot ignore the truth of Scripture. We live in a world full of half-truths, tacit lies, and false narratives. Believers should never shy away from sharing what they know to be true! Even our fear should not keep us silent: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” There are many in our day that think that by doing good, feeling good, or by being momentarily good reserves a place for them in the Kingdom of God – nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus revealed that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)” This is why we are to be fearful of God who “can destroy both soul and body in hell”! Our fear should motivate us to share!

  EXAMPLE: Fear is good thing because healthy fear can keep us healthy and make us go to the doctor, from personal harm by not crossing the street against the light, or safe by the people we choose to be in our lives. However, we can fear the wrong things in life that we have absolutely no control over like the weather, what will happen in the future, or how others respond to us. Jesus wanted his followers to understand the urgency of the message of him being the Messiah. They now had the means to defeat sin and death and to allow people to choose eternal life with a loving God! Wow! Because we are now privy to this message we are responsible for its content and to sharing it with others around us! God holds us accountable and our fear should motivate us to share!

God loves us more than we could ever understand. Paul wrote: “For I am 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 8:38-39 NIV)” Jesus reminds us that…

II. Recognition casts out our fear! (Vv. 29-33)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

  1. The Apostle John would later declare that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 NIV)” John knew what Jesus meant when he shared with his disciples the comforting truth that “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” If God who created and knows the birds of the air even down to the tiniest caged sparrow, wouldn’t those who trust him be even more on his mind? And the answer is a resounding “YES!” His eye is indeed on the sparrow but even more on those who have trusted him! The “penny” here is the denarius, which was about 1/16th of a day’s pay for a Roman soldier and for that tiny penny one could purchase two caged sparrows in the marketplace to take and release. Romans would do this as a sacrifice and to remind them of their freedom as a Roman citizen! Yet, as special as these tiny birds are to the Lord, we are even more special because “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”  (Some of us have more to count than others.) We often forget that God knows us intimately. The Psalmist reminds us that “the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Psalms 121:8 NIV)” and King David taught that God knew him even while he was in his mother’s womb: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalms 139:13 NIV)” So don’t you think God cares about you? Jesus makes a beautiful promise here concerning our willingness to come to him by faith: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” In other words if you are willing to come to him publically and confess him as your Savior and Lord, he will confess you as well! But it also goes to the truth of our willingness to share our faith openly and honestly with others because the converse is: “whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven”! It goes back to God telling those who try to feel their way into heaven, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” but here in Matthew’s gospel we learn the truth that recognition casts out our fear!

  EXAMPLE: Going through his five-year-old son’s backpack, a father found a picture of a little boy standing under a rainbow crying. His first thought was, “Oh God, my son is having some serious problems.” When he asked his son about the picture, the little boy told his father that he had been playing at school, and he saw a rainbow. “Dad,” the little boy said, “the rainbow was so beautiful it made me cry.” The child is awestruck, arrested by beauty. Why? He recognized the beauty of creation that surrounded him in that rainbow. How often do we dear child of God forget the love of God that surrounds us? Recognition casts out our fear!

Conclusion:

Our fear should motivate us to share! Recognition casts out our fear!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The answer for an unsaved nation! – Matthew 10:1-15

The answer for an unsaved nation! – Matthew 10:1-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 27, 2019

We live in a time where it seems our Nation has lost its way. Young people do not know what to believe in and so tend not to believe anything or rather have others do their thinking for them. Free speech, honest debate, and simple social manners have gone to the wayside. A few radicals are driving the herd to the cliff of societal destruction. It is a time where Christian beliefs are dismissed and superstitions are rationalized. What is the answer for our Nation?

Here in Matthew’s gospel he recorded how Jesus met the very same societal and national problems head on. Jesus knew he could never get the good news out unless others were willing to do so. It takes those who are willing to see their nation and world changed by the love of God armed with a plan and willing to do the hard work of saving a nation. These same principles can be applied to our Nation; let’s discover the answer for an unsaved nation…

READ: Matthew 10:1-15

It is one thing to gripe about our national condition but it is another thing to do something about it. We learn that…

I. An unsaved nation needs willing messengers! (Vv. 1-4)

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

  1. We look at America today and have a tendency to think that people do not act very “Christian” but the real problem may be that Christians are not acting like Christians. We are called to be the salt and light in a sin-darkened world around us and we have failed in the past several generations to be just that by allowing our children to think whatever they want and to do whatever they want. The Scripture plainly teach us to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)” The idea conveyed is one of steering a boat and the parent is to steer their children in the way of their faith. Notice here that Jesus recognized that his nation needed to come back to God and so “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” Now contrary to some Pentecostal notions and heretical teachings Jesus was not giving every disciple and every single believer from then on the same abilities. This was for those he chose at that time in order for them to impact their nation with the good news of the Messiah! Israel needed a good kick in their collective spiritual pants and Jesus knew he was not going to be around much longer. These 12 men: “Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him” were the first spiritual shock troops in a spiritual battle that continues to this very day. But these men were extremely important because they would be the ones to establish his body, the church, in the world. At this point in time Jesus needed each one of them, including Judas, to do the work he assigned them to do in order for his message to get out and his plan to be enacted. Just like today, Jesus is using you, his disciples, to do his work and will in this world. Why? To “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)” Jesus has commanded! An unsaved nation needs willing messengers!

  EXAMPLE: Many believers are willing witnesses only as it suits their needs for the moment. Are we to buttonhole or coerce every person we come into contact with during the day? Nope. When Jesus told his disciple to “go and make disciples of all nations” the terminology is literally “as you go”. He meant as you go about your daily lives. For the disciples they were specifically charged with being missionaries and while some of us may be given that task, most of us have not. However we are to share the good news as we go throughout our day. We are to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and share as he directs. Are you willing? An unsaved nation needs willing messengers!

It truly is not complicated. The message is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow: Jesus. And we are to be its messengers. It’s as simple as that. We discover that…

II. An unsaved nation is conquered with a simple plan! (Vv. 5-10)

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.”

  1. We have forgotten that the gospel, the good news of Jesus is simple. We do not need to embellish it, vehemently inflict it on others, or slyly be used-car salesmen in order to get the worldly rubes to swallow it. We are to share it honestly and openly. We learn however that “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is near.’” These men were given strict instructions. They were not to mess with those who did not want to hear the message they had to share. At this time it was important that Israel hear the good news first and they were to keep the message simple: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Their job was to be simple as well: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” Jesus knew they would gain an interest from an unbelieving populace if they were able to do the things Jesus did. It is interesting to me that Jesus fully trusted all of them from Peter to Judas to be able to do what he asked of them and I believe the same is true for all generations of believers. Jesus knew that all disciples could do the task. How could these simple men do these things? Jesus gives them the simple answer: “Freely you have received, freely give.” All believers have the abilities that Jesus has given them to do the task required of them. These men would be able to do what Jesus did in order that Israel would come to its spiritual senses and realize who he was. In doing so they were not to take anything with them that could hinder them in doing the simple task asked of them. Jesus tells them: “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.” It is easy for us to get distracted by the things of the world just as it was for Jesus’ disciples. Remember Judas had a problem with money and the other disciples were always asking about the rich verses the poor. When sharing our faith, like them, we are to depend upon Jesus. An unsaved nation is conquered with a simple plan!

  EXAMPLE: When I was in seminary our preaching instructor told us to “stand up, speak up, shut up and sit down.” It was his version of the old acronym K.I.S.S. as in keep it simple stupid. Far too often we either allow others or ourselves to muddy the waters when we share the good news by getting into useless arguments, silly discussions, or unnecessary worry. I’ve learned that the world needs an answer and that answer is Jesus. It is as simple as that. Never forget that you are the result of one of Jesus’ disciples winning one person to Christ and that person won another and so on until you came along centuries later. An unsaved nation is conquered with a simple plan!

Frankly, I do not care if someone wants to debate me about Creationism, if God is female or not, or if he can make a rock bigger than he can lift. I’ve learned that…

III. An unsaved nation is saved by not getting side-tracked! (Vv. 11-15)

“Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

  1. We have so many more things in life to sidetrack us from sharing our faith than the disciples did. I am not making excuses it is just a simple fact. The world has gotten almost instantaneous in the information age, science and technology has revolutionized both the quality and quantity of our lives. Yet as complicated as things have gotten the message of the gospel is the same. Jesus related to his disciples that “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.” The word used here for “worthy” really means “suitable”. Jesus knew there would be wolves in sheep’s clothing that would lie to his followers but they were to go to those who were worthy enough to want to hear the good news and stay there. If they had gone to someone who wasn’t really interested they would get sidetracked into useless arguments or worse. This is true for today as well. We should know enough to say enough and not bother with those who truly have no interest in the good news. The peace they offered is the same we offer: The peace of God found in the good news. He tells them “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” This has not changed. Do not waste your time with those you know who would rather argue than listen or who delight in discussing nonsense. Shake the dust off and move on. Jesus warns them that “I tell you the truth; it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.” Do you understand what Jesus means here? These were the towns that wanted to abuse godly messengers and who were totally destroyed by God for their ungodliness. God will take care of those who want to sidetrack you; just remember an unsaved nation is saved by not getting side-tracked!

  EXAMPLE: The other day our neighbor’s cat was chasing a squirrel up our maple tree. She got halfway up and saw a house finch and decided to go after that instead. In doing so she had to turn around in mid-air, lost her balance, and hit the ground with a thud. (And no she did not land on her feet.) She sat there a bit dazed, began to wash her face with her paws when a fly landed on her and the chase was on. It was hilarious to watch because that cat was so easily distracted. Do not get distracted by what is going on in the world today. Stay focused on who you believe in and why. An unsaved nation is saved by not getting side-tracked!

Conclusion:

An unsaved nation needs willing messengers! An unsaved nation is conquered with a simple plan! An unsaved nation is saved by not getting side-tracked!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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