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United! – Acts 2:42-47

United! – Acts 2:42-47
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 11, 2017

Unity, what does it mean to be unified? I know as a military unit you have to work together to achieve the same objective in order to win the battle. As a company you have to be on the same page as to what your objectives, projections, and costs are. And if you are a church the Scriptures teach us that we are to be united as well in order to achieve the kingdom of God here on earth until Jesus returns, but what does that mean and what does it look like?

In our day and age few churches teach about unity except as a spiritual concept or construct but few believers understand or know what it means for the body of Christ, his church, to be unified. In the book of Acts, which is the early history of the first century church we discover that they were united in purpose. Let’s find out what that means for us today…

READ: Acts 2:42-47

If a group wants to achieve anything worthwhile the members have to be on the same page and working together. When they don’t they are dysfunctional, however, in the Book of Acts we discover that…

I. The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! (Vv. 42-43)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

1. Dedication comes in many forms; some make their dedication into a ritual. They do the same things every day in the same way in order to achieve a specific goal. Whether it is running a certain distance, losing weight, or reading through the Bible folks who are successful in achieving their goals have a certain amount of dedication and the early church was no different. However, notice what they were dedicated to: First, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”. There was no New Testament written yet and so they devoted themselves or steadfastly continued in what they had learned about the gospel message and the teachings of Jesus. The gospel became their basic manual and teaching for how they were to conduct themselves and live their lives as Christians. Paul and other apostles began to write commentary in the form of personal letters in how to achieve this. They also continued in “the fellowship” of the church. This means they were members of a local church and made sure to keep themselves in fellowship. The word is the Greek koinonia which refers to a communal attitude and intimate working together. This is possible because believers share the Holy Spirit. Their devotion to learning, being discipled, and to their church was a conscious decision. It demanded personal sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure! Secondly they devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. Now some suggest that this means eating together rather than observing the Lord’s Supper regularly, but I am more inclined that Luke meant it as further evidence of their devotion to fellowshipping with one another in a spiritual capacity. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper and common prayer does unite a church body and we discover that because of their willingness to focus on spiritual learning and furthering their spiritual connection to one another that “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” Much of the modern church has lost its awe of the wonder of God in its midst because we think church should be about promoting us and not our common relationship with the Lord. Here in Acts we discover that the early church was dedicated to their spirituality!

EXAMPLE: She and her children wept when they found out they had to move out of the area. They wept because they were leaving a church family they loved. Being a part of something because it fulfills a check off list for your kids, your personal experience, or the jazzy music is not the same as becoming part of a local body that becomes your spiritual family. When you worship, serve, pray and are discipled together you form mutual spiritual bonds that are strong or even stronger than your physical family. Because we share the same Spirit we call one another brother or sister. The early church understood this and was dedicated to their spirituality!

Families come together as they build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Churches are like families and they too are to build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness; this is done according to the Book of Acts as well. We discover that…

II. The early church was willing to share with one another! (Vv. 44-45)

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

1. Notice that Luke tells us that within the Jerusalem Church “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” In the original Greek it literally states that “all that believed” were together. This is important because it tells us that the first requirement of being part of the church was to be a member. In order to be a member certain criteria had to be met: 1) Members had to be a believers meaning that you had to have placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and you had to have followed through in baptism; complete immersion. The word used in the Bible for church is the Greek word ekklesia, meaning a group of called out (ek – a primary preposition from which the action proceeds, like example) or specifically elected people (klesia a derivative of kaleō – where we get call from) who are called out to do a specific task. In this case the spreading of the good news. Christ does his work through his called out folks in the local church. The church is Jesus’ called out body in the world. As Paul would state, “we are members of his body”. (Ephesians 5:30 NIV) It is through the local church that our time, our talent, and our treasure are best utilized for the furthering of God’s Kingdom! The church knows that “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:29 NIV) We know that “the collection for God’s people” should be done “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income”. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NIV) And Paul again reminds us that our time, talent, and treasure are to be measured out generously: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV) We find that the early church had this spiritual concept down pat and had implemented it in the real world by “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” True believers have a generous spirit because Jesus gave to us generously and was willing to sacrifice for those he never met! The early church was willing to share with one another!

EXAMPLE: This is not communism, which some vainly try to equate it with. It is not the government taking everything from the populace and then doling it out as it sees fit. Rather this is a communal sharing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the lives of Jesus’ body the church by its active members. They were not compelled to do this but did it willingly out of the abundance of their own hearts. The early church was willing to share with one another!

We are often told that “Good things happen to those who do good things.” The Scriptures teach us continually that one reaps what they sow in this life so if a church stays united we learn that…

III. The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth! (Vv. 46-47)

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

1. The outcome of a church fellowship staying close and being united was evident. We discover that the result for the early church was that “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” This would be like our church meeting every day down in front of the county court house praying, worshipping, and singing hymns together! Every day the early church in Jerusalem went up to the temple, at the time of prayer! Wow, can you imagine what kind of witness this was for the early church to the rest of Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin. Later the early Christians would be forced out of their local synagogues and the temple because so many of the Hebrew people were being converted to Christianity. We also learn that in places like Ephesus “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus” instead. (Acts 19:8-9 NIV) In fact, because so many people were converting to Christianity in the area of Asia Minor it affected the sales of silver idols and so “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.” (Acts 19:23 NIV) The fact is that when believers are unified and doing what they are supposed to do they influence their communities, neighborhoods, and nations! We find that the church “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” This is being the salt and light, the holy leaven in a sinful world. The outcome of such unified living is that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” If the church stays united there will be physical and spiritual growth!

EXAMPLE: Some churches depend on programs, music, a really good show to bring in the people, but this is in a way false advertising. When the music, program, or show changes the audience leaves. They are not invited to become part of the family of God, the body of Christ. Instead they were brought into a concert hall atmosphere whereby if the entertainment is not to their liking they will leave and go to the next “spiritual” venue down the road. Yes you can grow a crowd and call it a church, but a true body of believers is made up of those who have commonality in Spirit, relationship, and discipleship of the gospel. We discover that the early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!

Conclusion:

The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! The early church was willing to share with one another! The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!
—-
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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Today’s Thoughts – Personal Mediocrity and Situational Ethics

Today’s Thoughts – Personal Mediocrity and Situational Ethics
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 28, 2015

We live in an age of personal mediocrity and situational ethics. So much so that there are those who claim Christ, but who truly have no idea what that means. I was speaking with a young man the other day and we were discussing spirituality. I shared with him the gospel and he responded that he thought a lot of people believe in Jesus because they did good things, treated one another nice, and were basically good people. In fact, he thought of himself as a believer! I challenged him to consider the statement of Jesus himself where he declares that he is the only way, the only truth, and the only life and that no one will ever know God unless it is through him. And where Jesus declared himself God and that one must believe in him to have eternal life or die in their sins. He just kind of blinked at me and then said, “Well we all see Jesus differently.” As we talked further it became evident that he had settled for his own form of spirituality and has stopped investigating it any further because he is satisfied with his mediocrity and situational ethics. He considers himself a believer without ever believing! And herein lays the danger of most Christianity; too many have settled for their own brand of faith instead of what Jesus actually teaches.

At what point is disobedience, disobedience? We live in a day and age whereby everyone wants to define their faith their own way, and this is simply not biblical and in fact spiritually dangerous. The judgment of the Supreme Court on gay marriage makes this quite plain. Far too many who claim Christ does not see it as any big deal and why should they? After all at what point after we have committed adultery, fornication, clipped, cut, marked, and tattooed our body, used booze and recreational drugs, and reinterpreted Scripture to suit our own emotional proclivity of the moment does any spiritual concept have any relevance in one’s life? As I asked before, at what point is disobedience, disobedience? We no longer go to church to worship God, we go to worship ourselves worshiping the god-concept we have constructed to meet our emotional needs. It is shallow at best and heretical at its worst.

When we simply ignore or rewrite what the Bible plainly teaches on the concepts of holy living, we are living dangerously and may have walked away from the true faith once delivered to all the saints. And sadly, we therefore may have doomed future generations from hearing the truth because most folks will settle for spiritual mediocrity and situational ethics. The Israelites did. It makes one wonder.

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Family, what are you going to do? — John 7:1-10

Family, what are you going to do? — John 7:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 22, 2015

A comedian once quipped, “The problem with relatives is that they tend to be family.” I am not sure exactly what he meant by that, but I am sure there are some folks in our families we would rather not relate to. Families can be close or they can be dysfunctional, sadly, far too many in our day and age are the latter. We know that Jesus had younger brothers; James, Joseph, Jude and Simon to name four (Mark 6:3), and some sisters as well. We also know that Mary was his mother was still alive and yet Joseph, his adoptive father, was probably dead by the time he began his ministry. And, we also discover that his family did not fully understand Jesus’ calling nor who he was (Mark 3:21, 31) and tried to dissuade him from following the path God had set for him.

I remember well when I decided to follow God’s calling in my life, how my own family reacted. It wasn’t all rose blossoms and birds singing. In fact, they kind of thought I was weird in doing so because at the time, none of them understood what it meant. Here in John’s gospel we discover Jesus’ family, namely some of his brothers, attempting to get Jesus to do what they desired instead of following what God desired. Isn’t that the way sometimes families can be? Family, what are you going to do? let’s discover what this meant for Jesus and what we can learn from it this morning…

READ: John 7:1-10

A builder in California has come up with an innovative idea to sell his houses. He thinks that a good way to make a house more appealing is to have a family there when showing the house. So he hires actors to play happy families in his company’s model homes. Would-be buyers can ask them questions about the house. Each fake family cooks, watches television, and plays games while house-hunters wander through. Have you ever wanted to hire a fake family? Here in John’s gospel we discover that in the case of Jesus’ family…

I. Faith is not necessarily found in the nearness to one’s family! (Vv. 1-5)

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

1. This short section is kind of a pause between another confrontation with Jesus and the religious authorities of his day. And in the midst of the mix we find his own family getting into the act of trying to discourage him from doing what God desired him to do. After Jesus faced off with those who followed him around the Sea of Galilee for food, he now confronts his own brothers. We learn that ” Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.” Jesus was not stupid and his time had not yet come for him to begin the confrontation that would ultimately lead to his sacrificial death and resurrection. And, in fact, “when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.'” The Bible Knowledge Commentary relates that “The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the three great Jewish feasts… This feast, also called the Feast of Ingathering, was a time of thanksgiving for harvest. It was a happy time; devout Jews lived outdoors in booths made of tree branches for seven days as a reminder of God’s provision in the desert during their forefather’s wanderings. The feast also signified that God dwells with His people.” So, it would not be unusual for Jesus’ family to encourage him to go, what greater place than Jerusalem and this feast to show himself to the world! Perhaps they had seen many of his disciples leave after his difficult teachings concerning himself. Perhaps they were trying to push Jesus into publically proclaiming who he was. Whatever the case, it was not Jesus’ desire at this time. And, we learn that “even his own brothers did not believe in him.” There is the truth of the matter. We discover that faith is not necessarily found in the nearness to one’s family!

EXAMPLE: Over the decades I have had many folks try to assume they are closer to God because of a family member who was a missionary, pastor, or deacon. Nothing could be further from the truth. Faith is not inherited. It is not a birthright. Being the son of a pastor, the grandson of a preacher or the nephew of a deacon does not guarantee one’s salvation. What your granddaddy, great granddaddy or auntie did has no bearing on the outcome of one’s life in Christ. Certainly their Godly influence could have had an effect, but spirituality and salvation are one’s individual decision to make and live. Faith is not necessarily found in the nearness to one’s family!

Have you ever had one of those spontaneous moments where one of you cries out, “Family hug!” then you all gather around each other and give one great big bear hug? Of course there is always one killjoy who does not want to be part of this embarrassing scene. That is when you have to insist they join in or else suffer the consequences. You might have to do it in public when they least expect it! Here in John’s gospel Jesus teaches us that…

II. Faith demands we act in spite of our family! (Vv 6-10)

Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.

1. Like many of us, Jesus’ own family misunderstands him. And “Therefore Jesus told them, ‘The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right.'” His timing was different from his own family’s desire. They in fact could come and go as they pleased, his life was dictated by different motives than theirs. Jesus always pleased his heavenly father, so his life and what he did with it was directed by his father’s will. It was not time for him to be sacrificed for the whole world. He tells them bluntly, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.” Being part of a sinned stained world, his brothers and their actions would not be disdained or hated by it, but his actions that were directed by the father and therefore were holy, would be hated! The world has its religions, its programs, its plans, its values, but Christ witnessed that it is all evil. This is why much of what believers do in life is disdained by the world or in fact seen as stupid. It is contrary to how the rest of the world reacts and works. He then tells them, “You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” Here is a difficult thing for some because they wonder, “Was Jesus lying, since he eventually did go to the Feast?” The answer is “no”. Jesus simply refused to be pushed into a hasty decision by his brothers to do that which might not be what God desired! In fact, the rendering here strongly suggests that after a time of reflection, of staying in Galilee, and “after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also.” However, notice Jesus went privately, in secret and not publically as his brothers tried to push him to do. Remember, there were those who were now plotting to kill Jesus. However, Jesus never allowed himself to be pressured or pushed into doing someone else’s will, he only did what his father in heaven told him to do. Faith demands we act in spite of our family!

EXAMPLE: Working on the playground I have come into contact with a lot of children who come from dysfunctional homes. Many spend their free time watching TV or playing video games. I am concerned that far too many families use these things as babysitting tools instead of including their children in family life. We want to be aware that some of the things we do to make our lives easier can actually deprive our kids. Children need to mix with older generations so they can hear the stories of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents. They need a regular meal time where they sit down and eat with one another. This helps them learn from those who have gone before them. Even single parents need to have a suppertime where they learn about their children’s day. Can this be difficult and will our kids always want to share? The answer again is “no” but we can insist and begin to also introduce them to how to use their faith during these times. Faith demands we act in spite of our family!

Conclusion:

Faith is not necessarily found in the nearness to one’s family! Faith demands we act in spite of our family!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Official’s Son — John 4:43-54

The Official’s Son — John 4:43-54
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 7, 2014

There is an old saying that states, “It’s all fun until someone gets hurt” and this is more often the truth about our lives as well. What is true on the playground is true for life as well. Here is what I mean: Many do not give a single thought as to the consequences of their lives or their actions until the fun suddenly and abruptly come to a screeching halt due to sickness, death, injury, or just plain life happening. Then and only then do we cry out for the help we have always needed thinking that God should be at our beck and call.

Here in John’s gospel we find a royal official who had it all. Life was good and good things happen to good people, right? He had his office, his power, his money and recognition but now all of that is worthless because his child is sick and dying. When life falls apart, as it always does, who are you going to trust for strength, answers, and hope? Let’s discover what occurs with the official’s son…

READ: John 4:43-54

People have not changed much. We discover here in John’s gospel that…

I. Trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment! (Vv. 43-45)

After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.

1. In the other gospels we discover that when Jesus went to his own hometown they took offense to what he tried to teach them about the Kingdom of God. We discover that Jesus “went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ (Mark 6:1-4 NIV)” It was a derogatory comment about not only his occupation but his family as well. Their inference was that Jesus and his family was common, ordinary, and without education so how in the world could he teach like he was? So, after leaving Samaria, he heads to Galilee. “When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.” Interestingly, later even Jesus’ own family would question his ability and his teachings! And we find that the only reason the Galileans were interested was because “They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.” They saw Jesus go after the corrupt in their midst and not thought he might suit their needs, not that they believed he was actually the Messiah! This is not faith, and this certainly is not trusting God! Like many today, those in Jesus hometown were only interested in Jesus when he could meet their needs. We discover, however, that trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment!

EXAMPLE: John is describing people’s spiritual selfishness. They only wanted something to do with Jesus when he could meet their needs of the moment. It is like the person who complains, “What has God ever done for me?” But they have never had anything to do with God! Like children on a playground who walk by a ball and when asked to pick it up declare, “It’s not mine!” or “I didn’t use it!” Their focus is only on what benefits them at that moment. Jesus would later admonish his listeners by telling them, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children. (Luke 7:31-35 NIV)” Like many today, those in Jesus hometown were only interested in him when he could meet their needs. We discover, however, that trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment!

II. Faith in Jesus begins with trust! (Vv. 46-50)

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

1. Jesus was back where it all started with his first miracle and “Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.” However, since that time things had changed and others are now taking notice of Jesus. We read that “there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum.” Isn’t it interesting that things have not changed much in that those who show no interest in godly things all of sudden do so when life reaches out and affects their lives? This official could have been goyim, a Hebrew, a Roman, or someone from Herod’s court, but we are not told who he is or what his function was as an official. But now he takes an interest in Jesus because, “When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.” Here is the crux of the matter, his son was sick and close to dying. Jesus became this man’s last hope for his ill son. He was willing to beg Jesus to come and heal him. We forget that Jesus wants folks to fully understand what it means to ask him into their lives. This is why when preachers who do not tell the entire truth concerning the gospel are not only frustrating the message but they are angering the Lord. Like a lot of folks do, the royal official wanted Jesus to heal his son simply because he asked! Why is this convoluted thinking on his part? Many think God should do what they want when they want him to because it suits their needs, heals their hurt, and helps them in some way. They think that a relationship with God begins and ends with their need of the moment. Was it tragic this man’s son was sick and dying? Yes! But is it God’s responsibility to act when we have never even given him any of our time, talent, or treasure? This is why Jesus responds, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” A faith built only on miraculous signs, only on what Jesus can do for you, is not a complete faith!  There is a change in the man’s attitude however and Jesus has compassion on him. He tells Jesus, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” The term “sir” is Lord, meaning he was willing to submit to what Jesus desired of him. Here is where true faith begins! Jesus replies, “You may go. Your son will live.” And notice what the man does! “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” He trusted Jesus to do what he promised! Faith in Jesus begins with trust!

EXAMPLE: When teaching a child how to ride a bike, swim, or take their first jump off a high dive, they first learn to trust the person how is encouraging them. The fear is in falling, failing, or not being able to take that leap of faith. The same can be said for those who often fear to let go and allow God into their lives. However, there is no other way for God to work in the life of someone without their willingness to trust him. There is no such thing as partial trust. Faith in Jesus begins with trust!

We also see here that…

III. Trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards! (Vv. 51-54)

While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed. This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

1. The royal official is hurrying back to his home. He can only think of his little boy slowly dying. In Jesus’ day, if you got sick with a common cold, measles, a mere fever – you would probably die. Life was and is fragile. We are not given a promise that we will all live to be 110 and then die quietly in our sleep. Some of us die from falling down a stair. We die from cancer, from drunk drivers, from war, a mosquito or spider bite, pestilence, hunger or thirst. Life is fragile and death waits in the wings to claim us at any moment! We think it is unfair and unjust when those we care about or love are ripped from the fabric of life by whatever means. But now, “While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.” He is ecstatic and “Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’” Does Jesus heal everyone? No. Did Jesus heal everyone he met? No. Jesus worked and works within the universe of his creation and according to his plan. Healing for God is not necessary. Our physical condition is not all there is to life or death. We are created for eternity and we forget what that means. Paul would later write, “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58 NIV)” Our labor, our lives are to be in the Lord! Notice, the man cannot believe what he is hearing. And then it comes to him and he realizes that his simple trust in what Jesus told him to do was the means by which his son was cured. I believe he went home and shared everything with his household and this is why we read, “So he and all his household believed.”  Trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards! “This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.”

EXAMPLE: Do you have some of those “rewards card”? I do. Some I use and others are just taking up space in my wallet. I stopped getting them several years ago because they are the junk mail of my wallet. I think there is a hidden truth here in that not everything we are asked to trust in gives us the rewards we think they do. That includes religion. Some want you to meditate until you levitate; some want you to genuflect until you are circumspect, but only in Christ can one find hope. I have discovered as did this royal official that trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards!

Conclusion:

We discover that trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment! Faith in Jesus begins with trust! Trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 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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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…

By Pastor Lee Hemen’

July 19, 2014

 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33 NIV) For we know that our old self was crucified with him… (Romans 6:6 NIV) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds… (Ephesians 4:22-23 NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace… (1 Peter 4:10 NIV) The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11 NIV)

 

What is up with all the “selfies” people take? What does this say about us? We go to different places and then stick a cell phone in our own faces, snap an intimate shot of our facial imperfections and nose hair to share with thousands of others. We cannot even see what is behind us because the whole focus of the picture is us! I am not speaking to the world here but to believers who say they love Jesus and want to live for him. Could this modern-day electronic digital affliction be problematic of what we have allowed society to implant in us? Perhaps this is true. If we take the snapshot selfishness into our church membership, our relationship with Christ, or our spiritual growth what we will end up with is a lot of the focus being on us instead of the big picture – namely God’s kingdom. Couldn’t we take one picture of our nose hairs and simply lie to others about where we are in our selfies? Are we so focused on ourselves that we do not serve, we do not seek ways to grow God’s kingdom, or we have become static in our spirituality? Perhaps we need to take the cell phone out of our faces and take a snapshot of our lives in Christ instead. Would we like the hairs and imperfects we would see there? If so, then what will you do about taking so many selfies instead of sacrificially serving the Savior? Makes one wonder…

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
by Pastor Lee Hemen
May 2, 2014

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. (James 1:9-10 NIV)

I was just wondering about how we have sold our souls to the societal notion of Christianity. We no longer have a clue what it means to be humble before the Lord. At Age 32, Elizabeth Gilbert faced a life crisis of personal conscience – she did not want to be married anymore to her devoted husband or to have his children. Locking herself in the bathroom of her upscale home she began to pray over and over, “I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to live in this big house. I don’t want to have this baby.” A voice, her own, answers her and tells her to go back to bed. Thus, begins her own self-focused “spiritual” journey. She goes through a dreadful divorce, moves in with an uncaring lover, and begins a self-ingratiating spiritual quest. Her final theological epiphany ends the way it began, from hearing her own voice speaking to her she concludes her highest religious dogma and theology is “to honor the divinity that resides within me” and to worship at the feet of the God within. Gilbert wrote, “Eat, Pray, Love.” A hedonistic spiritual journey wrapped in cultural selfishness.

The old time country singer Mac Davis sang, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” This is where the likes of Gilbert self-worship leads. In our Christian culture today, sadly, we have sold our souls to the notion of desiring what our spirit wants for us in the moment. After all the heart wants what the heart wants! We have emotionalized our spirituality. Oprah Winfrey would say we need to know we are “creation’s son… creation’s daughter” and that we are “ultimately I am Spirit come from the greatest Spirit. I am Spirit!” Not much humility found there. However, James knew what it meant to find oneself, it meant to lose oneself in Jesus. We forget Jesus taught that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and everything in life follows after that. Perhaps we have lost what it means to live in humble circumstances, not poverty, but spiritual humility. Makes one wonder…

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 25, 2014

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:5-8 NIV)

I was wondering why much of the world is confused by what constitutes good wisdom, it isn’t knowledge. Knowledge comes from facts, events, or studying while wisdom comes from using those facts, events, or studies in the real world. Wisdom often comes from our experiences coupled with our knowledge. This is why having more education does not necessarily make one wiser, just perhaps more knowledgeable! Facts are useless unless you know how to use them. James knew this to be true and why he wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Anyone, anywhere, can ask God at anytime for greater wisdom and this is the key, the wisdom James refers to is the wisdom that comes from God. It isn’t the wisdom of the world which often leads believers astray concerning spiritual matters. However, James says there is a caveat, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” Now James is not saying you can never have doubts concerning your faith what he is referring to is an individual doubting that God can give them the wisdom they need when they ask! The problem arises when we are uncertain we can trust God! When we doubt we are like “a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Often we do not recognize the answer given from God because we have doubted we would receive one in the first place or we only look for the answer we desire and ignore everything else! Too many believers have fallen into the false doctrine of thinking God is involved in every minute detail of their lives, when in fact he is not. Now do not misunderstand what I am saying, God does know what you are about after all he is omniscient – all knowing. He does know the hairs on our heads and when a sparrow falls to the ground, but he does not necessarily get personally involved in every detail of our daily lives where it truly does not matter what choice we make or when we know the choice we should make! In our hurried lives we often want answers in our timing and not in God’s. We therefore willingly forget that God can answer yes, no, wait, or not at all! Contrary to what Copernicus taught and many Christians think; the universe and creation does indeed revolve around the Son! His plan does not revolve around you personally. Jesus related to his disciples what James is teaching here when he taught, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV) The problem is that too many sheep do not recognize the voice of their Master because they are so busy listening to their own wisdom or that of the world instead. They are trying to get God to agree with the answer they desire so that it will justify their ungodly wisdom. Makes one wonder…

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