Enjoy Your Bible

One thing that I like to do at the end of every year is evaluate how things are going in my walk with Christ. I believe that faithfulness to Christ will always result in personal growth. With that in mind, I like to look back and ask, “How have I grown this year?”

The Bible teaches that we are all a work in progress. The moment we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior was the moment that God began, through His Holy Spirit, to progressively transform us into the image of His Son.

One of the primary tools that He uses to mold and shape us is His Word. So, how is your time in the Bible going? Are you experiencing the soul satisfying pleasure of communing with Jesus through His inerrant Word? I want to help you enjoy your Bible this year by answering two important questions.

What is the Bible?

My favorite description of what the Bible is comes from the Jesus Storybook Bible.

“Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne–everything–to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling on Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.”

The Bible is first and foremost a Story about Jesus! That’s why C.H. Spurgeon says, “From every passage of Scripture there is a road to Christ.”

But what sets the Bible apart from other good books? There are three important characteristics about the Bible that makes it completely unique.

  1. The Bible is the Word of God (2 Time 3:16-17) – In Theology we call this inspiration. The doctrine of inspiration teaches that the various human authors were supernaturally inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to record the sacred words of Scripture. That’s why the Bible can say, “Thus says the Lord.” It is a God breathed book!
  2. The Bible is Authoritative (John 17:17) – The Bible isn’t just true, it is THE truth, and therefore the highest authority in life. Wayne Grudem says that “The words in the Bible are God’s words, and therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”
  3. The Bible is Inerrant (Psalm 19:1-7) – Inerrant means that the Bible does not err. It tells the truth concerning everything that it talks about.

What difference will the Bible make in my life?

  1. The Bible lights the path before you (Psalm 119:105) – This means that you don’t have to walk through life blindly. God’s will for you is clearly revealed in His Word. But will you follow the path, or choose to ignore it? Every time we ignore God’s Word and instructions for our lives it’s like putting a bucket on our head.blake
  2. The Bible helps you grow (Isaiah 55:10-11) – God compares His Word to rain. When rain falls upon thirsty plants they GROW. If you feel like a dried up plant in need of rain, then run to God’s Word and let His rain fall upon your life.
  3. The Bible nourishes your soul (Matthew 4:4) – Do you know what God sees when He sees you? Your soul! What is the condition of your soul? Is it vibrant and glowing, or sickly and gaunt? Jesus invites you to feed your soul by feeding on His Word.

 

So let me ask again… Are you experiencing the soul satisfying pleasure of communing with Jesus through His inerrant Word? This is your invitation to experience the abundant life by enjoying your Bible.

Watch the sermon on-line: Enjoy Your Bible!

Born Is the King of Peace

A few weeks ago I celebrated my daughter’s first birthday. Time flies! Only a year ago she was a little newborn curled up in my arms. Now she’s a 25lb, walking, talking, climbing, teeth brushing, little princess (yes, she likes to brush her own teeth). Looking back over her first year of life reminded of what a gift it is to be a daddy.

What I love most about being a daddy is knowing that my daughter trusts me. My daughter, like most children, has a habit of getting herself into unusual predicaments. The good news is that all she has to do is yell out “Daaad,” and I come running to the rescue.

Did you know that God delights in being a Father? Just like any good Father, He finds great joy in being there for His children. When we find ourselves in unusual predicaments, or when life throws us a curveball our response should be similar to that of my daughter’s.

In this weekend’s passage, Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, lost all peace the moment he was thrown a major life curveball. One day out of the blue his betrothed, Mary, announced that she was miraculously pregnant with a child from the Holy Spirit. As you can imagine, this announcement sounded more like a cover-up than the truth. But the moment Joseph lost peace regarding his future with Mary was the moment that God responded just like any good Father would.

Here are three things to remember when life throws you a curveball…

  1. God is Immanent – The God of the Bible is a personal God who is actively involved in the in-workings and out-workings of His creation. He is so involved that a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without Him knowing. He even knows the very hairs on our head. His immanence is a reminder that He sees, cares, and intervenes. It is a reminder that God is never absent in our time of need.
  1. God Intervenes – While Joseph was writhing over the news of Mary, God intervened by bringing a supernatural peace. Matthew records that “as Joseph considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’”

God sent an angel to deliver a simple message, “Do not fear! God is in control!” Maybe today you have lost sight of the fact that even when life throws you a curveball, or hits you with a tragedy, or takes an unexpected turn; God is still in control. He is actively involved in the details of your life and has the supernatural ability to bring peace where you have none. All you have to do is call out to Him. The peace of God is a heavenly peace granted through prayer (Phil 4:6-7). The moment we fall to our knees is the moment that the peace of heaven collides with earth.

  1. God Saves – According to Matthew 1, God is so involved with the world he made that he actually becomes like His creation through the incarnation. The incarnation teaches that the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, took on flesh as Jesus. The identity of this miraculous Son is captured in the two names that the angel gives him. The name Jesus describes what he will do (“for he will save his people from their sins”) and the name Immanuel describes who he is (“God with us”).

This announcement from the angel reveals an even greater need for peace than the temporary peace that Joseph lost. We all have a need for eternal peace. Yes God cares about the things that rob us of peace, but we must never forget that our greatest need of all is peace with God through the forgiveness of sins. Without this need met, we can never know true peace.

Do you have peace today? If not, get on your knees and ask for it. God cares about the curve balls in your life. He is immanent. He intervenes. He saves

Do you have the assurance of eternal peace? Don’t let your need for temporary peace distract you from your greatest need of all, which is peace with God. Eternal peace comes only through faith in the King of peace, Jesus Christ.

–Ricky Hemme

You can listen to the sermon here: Born Is the King of Peace

 

A Message of Joy

As I thought about this idea of “The Ultimate Christmas Story,” I couldn’t help but think about my own love for good stories. Good stories have a way of pulling the listener into its world. In a good story you feel what the characters feel and experience the raw emotions that the plot dictates. Every story, both good and bad, sends the listener away with some kind of emotional feeling. I personally like stories that send me away feeling good and joyful inside. I’m not a fan of sad endings or unresolved conflicts; instead I like happy endings and clear conflict resolution.

What I love about the Bible is that it is a big, epic story, with a happy ending! Not only that, but it’s a story that all people throughout all of time participate in. The interesting thing about this story is that we know in advance how it ends. If you fast-forward to the book of Revelation you will see that the Bible ends with two major events. (1) God resolves the great conflict that sin brought upon the world. He rights all the wrongs of creation. (2) He throws a great party in celebration of heavens victory.

These two future events will be marked by one overwhelming emotion, and that emotion is JOY. In Revelation 19 we get a glimpse of the great joy associated with the Bible’s happy ending. We read that multitudes upon multitudes are so overwhelmed with joy that four times they shout out “Hallelujah!” Their resounding Hallelujah is so powerful that the heavens shake at the sound of their voices. Revelations 19:6 says it this way: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.’”

The great joy of this future day will be so overwhelming that all the sorrow we have ever experienced in this present world will simply vanish. Jesus compares the joy of this future day to the joy of childbirth. He says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:19-24 ESV)

The sorrow that we experience now will be completely overpowered by the joy of this future day. Every doubt, every hurt, every regret, every fear, and every sorrow will disappear at the sight of Jesus. This day will be unlike any other day in our entire existence.

The question is, are you ready for this day? Are you ready to see Jesus? Will you be welcomed into His joy? These are questions only you can answer.

Ricky

#DontBeAPharisee

Matthew 12:1-14

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He often conversed and rubbed shoulders with stubborn, hard-hearted people. He preached sermons and gave talks to people who had no intention of listening. He often found Himself ministering to people who wanted nothing to do with His way of life or the salvation that He offered. The sad thing is that those who were most opposed to Jesus should have been His biggest supporters. Jesus’ opposition came primarily from men who knew the Bible inside and out but failed to really hear and understand what it meant.

The Jews since antiquity have had three sects of philosophy: the Essenes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees.(1) Our passage of interest records two hostile encounters with the most prominent group, the Pharisees.

Much of what we know about the Pharisees comes from Josephus, the Gospels, and the Rabbinic tradition after AD 70.(2)  While the gospels describe the Pharisees negatively, Josephus is prejudiced in favor of them. Josephus records this: “The Pharisees simplify their way of life and give in to no sort of softness; and they follow the guidance of what their doctrine has handed down and prescribes as good… Because of these doctrines they hold great influence among the populace, and all divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices are performed according to their direction. In doing so the cities bear witness to all their virtuous conduct, both in their way of life and in their words.”(3)

The Pharisees were respected in their communities because they were whole-heartedly committed to God’s Law. Yet the Pharisees, as religious separatists, prided themselves in their own righteousness.(4) Their way of life bred pride, legalism, and self-righteousness. R. T. France describes it this way, “Pharisaic concern for the detailed regulation of religious duty was in danger of putting the rules before the good purpose for which they were given.”

In other words, the Pharisees’ zeal for the law had turned them into self-righteous hypocrites who “followed the law” at the expense of hurting themselves and others. Their approach to keeping the law actually resulted in their own breaking of the law. They had lost sight of the fact that God desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). Jesus points out that the law was created to serve people, instead of people being created to serve the law.

What About Us?

The question must now be raised; “What about us?” How can we protect ourselves from being heartless rule followers? How can we be men and women who follow Jesus from the heart and minister to others out of a desire to be like Christ? It would be foolish to think that we couldn’t possibly turn into the Pharisees that Jesus criticized in Matthew 12.

We are just as capable of reading but not understanding, hearing but not doing, and seeing but failing to perceive. We are just as capable of living the hypocritical lifestyles that Jesus accused the Pharisees of living.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon pointed out that it is possible to read the Bible, know the Bible, and be passionate about the Bible, but completely misunderstand what the Bible is really teaching. He warns that, “Much apparent Bible reading is not Bible reading at all. The verses pass under the eye, and the sentences glide over the mind, but there is no true reading. An old preacher used to say, the Word has mighty free course among many nowadays, for it goes in at one of their ears and out at the other; so it seems to be with some readers—they can read a very great deal, because they do not read anything… Now, beloved, unless we understand what we read we have not read it; the heart of the reading is absent.”(5)

My hope is that Matthew 12 would inspire people to be continually transformed by God’s Word instead of hardened by it. This passage serves as a good reminder that it is only those who come into God’s presence with humility and brokenness that will leave changed by Him. It’s a reminder to check our hearts and ask why we even read and study the Bible in the first place.

Why do we attend church? Serve? I would suggest that if everything we do is not motivated by a heart of worship, it is a great offense to God. Even our rule following can be disgusting in God’s sight.

Let us be men and women who exalt God first and foremost and live out the demands of Scripture because of our love for Jesus and others, rather than out of a love for the applause of men.

Ricky

(1) Josephus. Antiquities 18.1.2-3 11-13

(2) Green, Michael. (1988). Matthew. The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Matthew. Pg. 144-147

(3) Josephus. Antiquities 18.1.2-3 11-13

(4) Augsburger, Myron S. (1982). Matthew. The Communicators Commentary. Pg. 121-122

(5) Charles H. Spurgeon, sermon

 

September 13 – Weekend Passage

Matthew 12:1-14

 

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

A Man with a Withered Hand

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Scripture quotations taken from the ESV

June 21 – Weekend Passage

Deuteronomy 6:1-9

“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

March 8 – Weekend Passage

Lent 2014

Although we’re taking a one-day break from the Old Testament, continue to focus on and think about Lent…and your sacrifices and offerings.

What will you sacrifice through this season? Throughout our daily readings, take the time to reflect on the following:

1. What’s God’s Story in the passage and what are the implications for my life?

2. Praying for your 8-15 (those in your life who need Jesus)

3. What will you sacrifice in order to draw closer to Christ?

4. Opportunities to invite your 8-15 to church or our big Easter culmination “Journey to the Cross” on Good Friday

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Luke 5:12-32

The Leper and the Paralytic

12 While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 13 And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And He ordered him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 15 But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

17 One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. 18 And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. 19 But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” 22 But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.” 25 Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. 26 They were all struck with astonishment and beganglorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Call of Levi (Matthew)

27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.

29 And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

 Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)