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A mentor – 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

A mentor – 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 9, 2018

When I began as a pastor, I heard that Sunday School was a way to reach, teach, win, and develop believers. I chose to adopt these concepts. Developing Christians requires personal mentoring as well as teaching. As a church we are to be alert for Christians who are growing spiritually and who give indications they would make excellent workers in the Lord’s kingdom and then mentor them for that task. In spite of our busy schedule, lack of confidence, or belief that only God or staff members can mentor another believer we are all called to mentor others in Christ.

First Kings ends with the ascension of Ahaziah to the throne of Israel, and 2 Kings begins with Ahaziah already reigning as king. 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book. The approximate date for the starting point for 2 Kings is 853 BC. The first two chapters in 2 Kings record the last two acts of the prophet Elijah and the first three miracles of his successor Elisha. Elijah’s mentoring of Elisha provides an illustration of some helpful steps any Christian can take in mentoring another Christian. Mentor means a trusted guide, a tutor, or a coach. Let’s discover what that means for us today…

READ: 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

Whereas Elijah mentored Elisha to be his successor as God’s prophet, most Christians will mentor workers for other tasks like teaching, witnessing, serving, working in Extended Teaching, Trail Life or any number of ministries to which God leads them. What qualifications would you look for in another Christian to determine if that person is ready to be mentored? In these verses we discover how to…

I. Test others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:1-3 NIV)

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.”

1. Just before Elijah’s home going in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on the way from Gilgal. The Hebrew word translated whirlwind can also refer to a windstorm, a gale, or a violent wind. God took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. In the prophets’ relationship Elijah was able to demonstrate to Elisha what this ministry was all about. Elisha was able to watch Elijah closely and see how he served God as a prophet. When the time came for Elijah to go to heaven and for Elisha to assume Elijah’s work; Elijah tried to get Elisha to remain in Gilgal by telling him to stay there while he went on for the Lord. Elisha responded by saying, “I will not leave you.” So together, they went to Bethel. Three times Elijah tried to leave Elisha behind (vv. 2, 4, 6). Each time Elisha refused to leave. Elijah’s command to Elisha to stay behind was a test of Elisha’s determination to become a prophet. Elisha showed he would remain with Elijah. As the two approached Bethel, the sons of the prophets came out to speak to Elisha. These men were prophets and were being trained or mentored in their religious duties by leading prophets such as Elijah and Elisha. They asked Elisha if he knew the Lord was going to take his master from him that day. The expression from you, or literally “from your head,” alludes to the custom of students’ sitting at the feet of their teachers. Their being in that position made the teacher taller than their heads. Elijah was Elisha’s teacher who was mentoring him for future prophetic service. God had revealed to these students that Elijah’s time on earth was over and that God was going to take him that day to heaven. God had revealed the same sad truth to Elisha also, for he said, “Yes, I know.” However, he told the prophets, “Be quiet,” for that news was very painful. God was also testing Elisha to see if he was ready to assume the prophetic mantle of Elijah.

EXAMPLE: It is good for churches to test prospects for service within their ministries. Over the decades I have watched as some churches have not done this and suffered the consequences of their inaction. When churches were considering setting a person aside for a particular ministry they would have a time of training, then allowing the candidate to serve within the particular ministry, followed by an evaluation period. These verses teach us this morning that it is a good idea to test others while mentoring them!

Elijah was testing Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity and determination to follow him and become his successor just as God planned. Like Elijah, all mentors need to test those they mentor to see if they are spiritually committed and suited for their particular function in God’s service. Elisha, however, had no trouble passing the test. In these verses we learn to…

II. Mentor others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:7-10 NIV)

Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours–otherwise not.”

1. Elijah and Elisha arrived at the Jordan after their trip from Gilgal and Jericho. Fifty prophets came out and from a distance. The Jordan River here is where it flows into the northern end of the Dead Sea. When they reached the Jordan, Elijah took his mantle, struck the waters and the water parted, allowing them to cross on dry ground to the east side. Just as God parted the waters for Moses when he held his staff over the sea God parted the Jordan for them. Now “Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.” Elijah’s question to Elisha was very important. Before he died, Elijah asked Elisha, “What can I do for you?” This question was another test for Elisha. Would he ask for riches, fame, safety, or something like that? Instead, Elisha’s reply was a request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elisha was not asking for twice the amount of Elijah’s spirit or some form of mystical power. The double portion terminology goes back to passages like Deuteronomy 21:17. A father’s oldest son received a double share of the inheritance. That implied the oldest son would succeed his father and have his father’s authority and blessing. Elisha wanted to follow Elijah in his prophetic ministry. He asked for Elijah’s spirit his zeal because he knew Elijah’s power and ability came from God working in Elijah. Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity made him aware that he would need that same God-given spiritual ability to be Elijah’s successor. Elijah called Elisha’s request something difficult. He knew only God could answer such a request. But he promised Elisha that he would inherit his prophetic office and his spiritual gifts if he remained with him and witnessed his death. If not, then Elisha would not receive what he requested. Elisha must reveal his willingness to stay with Elijah all the way. The older prophet could not produce his spiritual power in Elisha but he could mentor him and prepare him for God to use him. Elijah mentored through example and through teaching. He made sure Elisha saw that God was the source of his power and preaching.

EXAMPLE: Mentoring another is not an easy task yet every believer is called to do so at different times. It could be someone they lead to the Lord; it could be their children, a spouse, a friend or someone within the church! I had several mentors over the years from friends, pastors, deacons, teachers, and others. God used these men and women to polish the edges, give me greater wisdom, and the ability to learn how to be the best possible pastor I could be. Through the years I have tried to mentor others as well. As believers we are called to mentor others.

In evangelism we often challenge Christians by saying, “Each one should win one.” In discipling others for Christian service, we need to challenge each other by saying, “Each one mentor one.” However there comes a time when the ones we are mentoring must be left on their own to develop and mature in Jesus in their own time. In the following verses we discover that we must…

III. Leave the work to others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:11-14 NIV)

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart. He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

1. The time came for Elijah to go home with the Lord. As Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking together, God revealed a chariot of fire with horses of fire. God took Elijah up into heaven in the whirlwind. The picture of Elijah and Elisha walking along the road together and talking with each other is a good picture of the mentoring process. The mentor must spend time with the one being mentored. The learner needs to ask questions and the mentor needs to demonstrate what is to be done and to explain how and why the one mentored needs to do these tasks. God often revealed himself through fire, as he did to Moses at the burning bush and to Elijah on Mount Carmel before the prophets of Baal. The appearance of the chariots and horsemen was used elsewhere to describe an appearance of God (see 2 Kings 13:14). God separated them; Elijah to go home with him and Elisha to stay and minister to his people. Elisha addressed Elijah as “My father, my father,” meaning his spiritual father. After watching Elijah go out of sight, Elisha tore his clothes apart in anguish. This action and his intimate address of Elijah as “My father, my father” revealed the grief of Elisha’s heart at the departure of Elijah. Evidently in Elijah’s miraculous translation to heaven in the whirlwind, he either discarded or dropped his mantle. This garment was part of the uniform of Elijah the prophet and served as a symbol of his ministry. Elisha picked up the mantle and went back to the banks of the Jordan where Elijah had parted the waters. Taking Elijah’s prophetic cloak was meaningful symbolism. Elisha was assuming responsibility as Elijah’s successor and began his journey back to Israel to serve the Lord. Using the mantle in the same manner as he had seen Elijah use it, Elisha struck the waters. He asked, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” Elijah was gone. Only his cloak remained. Was God gone also? Facing the obstacle of the river was Elisha’s first test as to whether God really had called him and empowered him to succeed Elijah. When Elisha used the cloak on the river, it divided and he crossed over. God answered Elisha’s question: God was with Elisha as He had been with Elijah! Elijah had left the work to others, namely Elisha!

EXAMPLE: We need to be reminded that unlike now because of Jesus’ resurrection we enjoy the power and presence of God always. During Elijah’s and Elisha’s day this was not the case. The presence of God through the Holy Spirit had not been given permanently as it is today. Elisha was unsure and he needed to be reassured by the Lord. God show him that he indeed was Elijah’s true successor by parting the waters of the Jordan just as he had done for Elijah. That hairy old garment was not magical or special, it was the people God worked through who were. Elijah had left Elisha to continue the work of being God’s prophet.

Conclusion:

1. Mentors need to test those they are mentoring to see if they are suited for the task.
2. Those who demonstrate spiritual sensitivity to serving God should be mentored.
3. Those mentored must be released do the work for which they have been mentored.
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Partners! – Philippians 1:1-11

Partners! – Philippians 1:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 3, 2018

Having a good partner is important in life whether it is in marriage or in friendship. A good partner can lift you up when you are down, they can be there for you when you need them to be, and a good partner knows when to correct you so you can be the best you can be. Partners are important.

When we think of partners in history we might think of Orville and Wilber Wright, partners in old time comedy would be Abbot and Costello, and of course partners in the Bible would be Paul and Barnabas. Yet Paul had other partners as well and we see him writing to those he considered to be in close partnership with him in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s see what Paul says to his partners in the gospel.

READ: Philippians 1:1-11

Here we discover that…

I. Paul understood where his partnership came from! (Vv. 1-2)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Here in these opening verses we see that Paul addresses the Philippian church, who he considered his partners in the gospel, by telling them about his partnership with Timothy: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus”. Paul understood what his partnership was based on with his young pastoral apprentice and friend Timothy, namely that it was founded in their being “servants of Christ Jesus”; literally Messiah Jesus. Paul was asserting the fact of who their Master was and he was the Messiah the world had longed for and who had made those he was addressing “saints”! Paul uses the word hagios which meant that they were made pure and holy because of their faith in “Christ Jesus”! All Christians are made holy and pure because of Jesus and this is why all who believe in Jesus are considered “saints” in the Lord! But Paul’s letter was not just to the mainstream congregation at large because Paul had some specific things he wanted to share with “the overseers and deacons”, the pastors and leadership within the church itself. Within Paul’s opening remarks we read the love and devotion he had for these folks at Philippi. Paul desires they know “grace and peace” which was a common enough opening for letter of the time but here we discover that this grace and peace Paul wanted for them was to be from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” What a wonderful thing to write your partners in Jesus! Paul understood where his partnership came from!

EXAMPLE: It has been said that “Christians shoot their wounded” meaning that they allow themselves to criticize or ridicule fellow believers when they are spiritually hurt or wounded. This should never happen instead like the writer of Hebrews we should “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13 NIV)” And Paul would write that Jesus “died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 NIV)” Paul understood where his partnership came from!

We now learn that…

II. Paul was grateful for his partners! (Vv. 3-6)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

1. I heard an old time preacher state that “Christians should develop an attitude of gratitude” and he was right on in his insight. In reading the letters of the Apostle Paul you can immediately tell who he had struggles with and who he was grateful for and he was grateful for the Philippians! Paul writes, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” What a wonderful thing to have written about you by someone else! For all of history this church will be known as the church Paul was truly thankful for! But even more than that he thanked God for them every time he remembered them! Wow! But even more than that Paul thanked God every time he remembered them “In all [his] prayers for all of {them]”! When Paul prayed, which I believe was quite often, he remember his partners in Philippi and thanked God for ALL of them! How many believers are truly that thankful for their church? I pray most are because they should be. Paul was so glad to have this church as his partners in Jesus that when he prayed for them he “always pray[ed] with joy because of [their] partnership in the gospel from the first day until now”! How in the world could Paul pray this way for these folks? He writes it was because “being confident of this, that he (meaning Jesus) who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”! Paul was grateful for his partners!

EXAMPLE: Too often pastors or other believers can become impatient with new believers but they should not because it is God’s job. And Paul reminds us of this when he writes to his new partners in Jesus at Philippi that he was confident God would complete what he had started in them just as he does for all believers. Perhaps we should develop that attitude of gratitude for fellow believers and see them as our partners in Christ. How wonderful to learn that Paul was grateful for his partners!

Finally we find out that…

III. Paul desired the very best for his partners! (Vv. 7-11)

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.

1. In this letter we discover that Paul knew that “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you”. He not only felt this way about his partners in the gospel in Philippi “since I have you in my heart”. Paul kept his partners close in his thoughts and prayers. Paul cared about them deeply and he meant it. He tells them “for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me”. When we share our faith, when we pray for one another, and when we fight the good fight for the sake of the gospel we as believers share in each of these things. We are truly partners in Jesus and we “share in God’s grace”. The mere fact Paul wrote this testifies to his deep godly affection for his fellow believers. This is why Paul writes that “this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ”. Paul wanted them to not only experience God’s love as he did but Paul desired that heir love “abound more and more”. Paul wanted them to grow in “knowledge and depth of insight” so that they “may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ”! Shouldn’t this be all believers’ desire for one another? Like Paul all Christians should deeply want one another to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God”! Paul desired the very best for his partners!

EXAMPLE: When one Christian witnesses we all share in that witness as we pray, encourage, and lift one another up. When one of us suffers we all suffer because we are all one in him who saved us. In speaking about the observance of the Lord’s Supper Paul writes “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV)” In fact he would write, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV)” And Paul desired the very best for his partners!

Conclusion:

Paul understood where his partnership came from! Paul was grateful for his partners! Paul desired the very best for his partners!

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

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An overseer! — 1Timothy 3:1-7

An overseer! — 1Timothy 3:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 7, 2017

When we think of leadership in our day and age we sometimes do not have a very good opinion or view of it and it is only natural considering what we see in politics, in entertainment, in business, or in sports. In fact there are religious leaders that have left a sour taste in our mouths as well. But should leadership get such a bad rap from us? Paul would say, “No.”

Continuing his instructions to Timothy on how a church should act Paul relates who should be considered as leaders. He knew the entire world would be looking at the early church. Christians would need to be above any criticism. In other words they had to be like Jesus if they proclaimed the gospel message of Jesus to the world. Let’s see what Paul said about being an overseer…

READ: 1Timothy 3:1-7

The word overseer is not used much in our day and age and when it is used we have a tendency to think it means a slave driver or task master, nothing could be further from the truth. Here we will discover that it means the leader of a local church, a pastor. Paul gives Timothy several guidelines for when a church is looking for a pastor and he relates that…

I. An overseer must be well-balanced! (Vv. 1-3)

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

1. Paul begins this section by stating “Here is a trustworthy saying” which was a familiar phrase people of his day used in order to acquire the listener’s or hearer’s attention to what the speaker is about to teach. So Paul is writing to Timothy to listen up because what he is about to teach him is important. “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble” or good “task.” The term overseer (episkopos) is sometimes translated “bishop”. It is one of several words used in the New Testament to describe church leaders. “Elders” (presbyteroi) is the most common. Other words are “rulers” (proistamenoi), “leaders” (hēgoumenois) and “pastors” (poimenas). They are seen as interchangeable. So Paul is writing to Timothy a pastor about what it takes to be a good pastor. He continues by writing that “the overseer must be above reproach” in the world they would minister. Jewish husbands would divorce their wives for burning their dinner and the Greeks or Romans hopped from one relationship to another without a thought of the emotional, mental, or spiritual toll it took. Therefore the pastor should be “the husband of but one wife” meaning that he should only be a one woman man when the church would consider him for service. This phrase prohibits both polygamy and promiscuity and Paul didn’t write a man could never be divorced or that divorce was the unpardonable sin that some churches make it out to be, but rather the man they were considering should be married to one woman! He should also be “temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, [and] not a lover of money”. Leaders of the church must be self-controlled, ethical, moral, godly men who can lead not just through their speaking ability but through the wisdom they garner as they follow Jesus! An overseer must be well-balanced!

EXAMPLE: As my mama was making biscuits one day I came into the kitchen to gripe about my brother bugging me. With flour, eggs, baking powder, and salt my mother made the best biscuits ever. As she listened to me she reminded me that “You and your brother need to strike the right balance with one another instead of always trying to strike one another. You both are made of the same basic ingredients just like my biscuits, but not all biscuits come out the same even if they have the same ingredients. You have to be the one to strike the right balance in life.” Paul knew that a life that is spiritually proportional that is defined and in the way God desires is a life that is worthy of respect. In a world that was often guided by its own lusts, desires, and personal wants Paul knew that the early church would face an uphill battle. An overseer must be well-balanced!

There are men who can direct large companies, invest large amounts of money, or invent all kinds of things but are not able to lead their own families. Paul knew that a pastor who was entrusted with the church of Jesus must have certain qualities and one essential was that…

II. An overseer must direct his family well! (Vv. 4-5)

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)

1. I have often found it amusing that churches will put a humongous emphasis on a leader’s marital situation or his ability to speak well but ignore what kind of a husband, person, and parent the man is! However Paul related that this is a very important part of considering someone for leadership as a pastor! Notice again the emphasis on the leader of the pastor as being a male: “HE must manage HIS own family”. Paul did not say that women could not be leaders in the church but the pastor should be a man. It goes back to the idea of who is the leader and assumes responsibility for the direction of the church. The church is like a family. After writing about how a marriage and family is to work and how husbands are to love their wives and wives honor their husbands Paul writes that just as a man leaves his mother and father and forms a home with his wife, the individual leaves behind the world and becomes part of God’s family the church! “This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32 NIV) The idea here in 1Timothy is that the man should be able to stand before his family as an example of what a husband and father are supposed to be. He is to maintain and preside over his family as a consistent figure “and see that his children obey him with proper respect”. Now I have learned that respect is earned and not forced. It is earned over days, weeks, and years of being the father and husband a man should be. Far too many churches suffer because their pastors cannot lead their own families. Their children are disobedient, disrespectful, and disloyal. Paul rightly suggests that “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” And the answer is that he can’t. Pastors should have families that reflect their Godly leadership and not their sinful tyranny. An overseer must direct his family well!

EXAMPLE: Families are like symphonies. There are highs and lows, sometimes they can be fast-paced or slow but they are always on the verge of reaching a crescendo. The beat goes on. And like a symphony a family needs a conductor to make sure all the participants are in sync. Paul knew that the church was like a family and needed someone to direct, lead, and keep it safe. Paul knew that an overseer must direct his family well!

Just as we would not want a brand new graduate that has had not been an intern and assisted in surgeries do heart surgery on us for the first time we should not want someone that has not had some kind of experience or background in ministry, preaching, and leading to be our pastor. Plus we should want a surgeon that has a good reputation just as a pastor ought to. In fact, Paul writes that…

III. An overseer must be well thought of! (Vv. 6-7)

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

1. How a pastor walks within their personal relationships is important but so is how they are seen in the community around them. Also, in order to be well-acquainted with spiritual teaching and spiritual matters one should have some kind of track record. You can often hear or read it in the immature wisdom of the newly indentured seminary student as they express their myriad of theological opinions they have recently been exposed to. In other words as Paul would write, “He must not be a recent convert”. And there are several reasons for this: “he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” Of course Paul is referring to the conceitedness of Satan whereby he thinks of himself as an equal with God! How his knowledge and standing corrupted his very nature and made him into the evil and corrupted being he is. The Devil forgot he was created and not the Creator! Mankind can do this as well. Paul saw this in the edicts of the Roman Emperors his world had to deal with in viewing themselves as gods – kind of like Congress. Overseers in the church should never ever see themselves as above their congregation or the community they minister to. In fact this is why I am glad that a lot of pastors are electing to preach from the main floor of their churches rather than being “high and lifted up”. This was and is from medieval times whereby the congregation was to be separated from the minister and the minister “above” his flock! They would even elevate the pastor and he would climb a special stairway to his pulpit! However, Paul reminds us that the pastor should also be seen in his community as approachable and writes that “He must have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap.” Paul writes that an overseer must be well thought of!

EXAMPLE: Abraham Lincoln said that “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Joseph Hall a 15th century English preacher wrote that “A reputation once broken my possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep an eye on the spot where the crack was.” And my dad reiterated that “our reputation is what others think of us but our character is what God knows about us.” In his letter to his friend Timothy Paul wrote that an overseer must be well thought of!

Conclusion:

An overseer must be well-balanced! An overseer must direct his family well! An overseer must be well thought of!

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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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!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15

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

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Just Wondering…

I was wondering what you thought about teaching. You know what I mean, what you teach others about what you believe by the actions you display. Perhaps you say you believe in the one who died for you, but then your actions teach otherwise. Perhaps you teach your children about how to use his name in vain when you use his name as a punctuation point or the many shades of pornography by the books you read. Perhaps others are learning about adultery, fornication, or idolatry by the relationships you keep. Your lips say you love him who sacrificed himself, but your actions say you love your money, your time, or your talents more. Perhaps you are teaching others just what being a hypocrite is about by the two-faced way you tutor. Makes one wonder…

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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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