What’s Next For America? – 2

WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whatsnextforamericaThis being July the 4th weekend, I want to preach a message that I’ve preached before but from a different passage titled, “WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA?” Not a day goes by that people don’t call, text, or message me with the question – “What now?” “What do the recent decisions in America mean for Christians?” “Will we survive this new order?” “How does the future look like for our children and our grandchildren?”

Jeremiah 29:10-14 10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Background: The passage we just read comes from a very low point in the history of Israel. The people had forsaken God, gone after false idols, and then refused to repent. So God sent the Babylonians against them. In 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and drove the people of Judah 700 miles to the east across the desert to a land they had never seen. They were in exile, where everything was different – the landscape, the weather, the food, the customs, and definitely the people. They were homesick, discouraged, depressed, and feeling sorry for themselves. They just wanted to go home but that wasn’t an option. Psalm 137 1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song…4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song In a foreign land?” All they could do was reminisce and roll in self pity.

Application: Many in America are at this point – They are demoralized, discouraged, and disillusioned. They’ve become helpless and hopeless. What is God saying to us? The same thing He said to His people 2700 years ago – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: It’s not over for our nation. There is a future and a hope. Get up and trust in the Lord and seek Him. By the way, this message goes beyond just a national exile to personal exiles. Many of you are somewhere where you don’t want to be. Things have changed for you. They are not what you expected. What is God telling you? “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Trust in God. He still has your future in His hands. Your exile may be a blessing in disguise.

As these people in exile were crying and wanting to go home, two men showed up from Jerusalem with a letter from Jeremiah the prophet. I want us to walk through this letter now and see what God is saying to us. 3 things –

I. BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED. 

Jeremiah 29:4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused (Not Nebuchadnezzar or Gay Rights or Supreme Court) to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:

3 things you are to do:

  1. Verse 5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.

Meaning: Pull down your tents and make yourself homes. Buy some real estate, dig some foundations, and get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Learn to grow some Babylonian crops. In other words, get settled.

Application: There are many people who are still living out of boxes, still living in tents. They will not commit to the job/church/community that God has given them. They are always looking over the horizon to some better place. They are constantly saying, “I don’t like this place. I want to move here or there.” They have zero commitment to flourish where God has brought them. No wonder, they are constantly negative about their job/ church/community. Yes – things have changed in America but settled down.

  1. Verse 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

Meaning: Start working on your marriages. Learn the joys of a happy God centered marriage. Also, be fruitful and multiply. Have children and grandchildren. Increase your numbers. Teach your children to walk in the way of God.

Application: Part of the blame for where our world is today lies on the failure of American homes and marriages – Children growing up and seeing mom and dad hating each other or growing up in single parent situations or growing up where Father’s role was either lacking or usurped. The world desperately needs to see how biblical marriages are fun and fulfilling. This fall we’re having another “Art of Marriage” event. Sign up! But there’s another problem. Our numbers have dropped. People don’t want children. They are a burden. They cramp our style. They cost money. They are messy. They are trouble. The other side wants to have more and more children and then adopt some. But it’s not enough just to have children. It’s just as important to train them in the way of God. Also remember – not only do we need more physical children but also more spiritual children. Win people into the family of God. Expand our numbers.

  1. Verse 7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

Meaning: Actively seek to get involved in the welfare of our community and our nation. Become the Salt and Light. Part of the reason why we are in the mess we are is because we preached many sermons on how to find God’s purpose for our lives and failed to ask what is God’s purpose for our world. Pray for those around you – at work, neighborhood, and community. Then you will have peace in our own lives. Did it happen? Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and Nehemiah.

Application: How much are you seeking to get involved in our politics and government? How much do you actually pray for community and nation?

II. BEWARE OF THE FALSE PROPHETS OF CHEAP GRACE AND FALSE HOPES

Jeremiah 29:8-9 8For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.

Background: While Jeremiah was sent by God to deal first with the sin of the people and then offer them grace and hope, the false prophets were skipping over sin and going right to cheap grace and false hopes. They wanted to bypass God’s Holiness and go right to God’s Love. God says – “I have not sent them.” Jeremiah even identifies them in his letter—Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemiah and prophesies what will happen to them – The first two Nebuchadnezzar will slay them and roast them over fire and the last will be wiped out from the face of the earth.

Please remember – God is a god of love but He will not compromise His holiness. He hates sin. His wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Romans 1:18

Illustration: Recently – I’ve been amazed at how some people are reluctant to call homosexuality a sin. They do all kinds of hermeneutical gymnastics to show that it’s not as bad. The problem is that many on the other side are okay with grace but don’t judge me. God forbid if we offer them cheap grace.

Application: Are you playing some Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemaiahs in someone’s life? Do you go around excusing what God explicitly calls sin. It’s His Law and He is the Judge. You’ll have to answer to Him.

III. BABYLON IS GOD’S BLESSING IN DISGUISE

What will God do if the people start blooming where they are planted and stop listening to false hopes and false dreams to run back? Listen to Jeremiah 29 10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. Meaning: You will not remain a captive forever. I will bring you out of your land of captivity. But seventy years is a whole generation. You may or may not return but your children and grandchildren will.

I believe that unless Christ comes, our children and grandchildren will right our wrongs. They will fix what we have failed. It is imperative that we train them in the truth and guard them from the agenda of the world. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are after them. They should be our first priority.

Listen to verse 11“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;

That verse has stood as a source of comfort to many people, even many who are here this morning, through some very difficult times in their lives. When you allow God to do His work in your life, He will even take what appears to be hopeless and evil and replaces it with future and a hope.

What were the Ultimate Benefits of the Exile for the People of Israel? (J. B. Tidwell)

BEFORE EXILE AFTER EXILE
1.    The Jewish people were constantly trying to be like their neighbors 1.    The Jewish people became a separate people.
2.    They worshipped many gods. 2.    They gave up idolatry completely.
3.    They could care less about the Law. 3.    They began to dig into the Law.
4.    They had no interest in gathering for worship and study of the word. 4.    They established the synagogues in every town and city as a place of worship, prayer, praise, and study.
5.    Judaism was just a formal religion. 5.    Judaism became a personal religion.
6.    They could care less of winning souls. 6.    They became a missionary people to all the nations.
7.    They refused to repent of their sins. 7.    They learned the blessing of repentance.
8.    They could care less about the coming of the Messiah. 8.    God placed a longing in their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

 Our Babylons are God’s opportunity to bless us spiritually.

Listen to Eugene Peterson: “When the superfluous is stripped away we find the essential—and the essential is God. Normal life is full of distractions and irrelevancies. Then catastrophe: Dislocation. Exile. Illness. Accident. Job loss. Divorce. Death. The reality of our lives is rearranged without anyone consulting us or waiting for our permission. We are no longer at home….Exile reveals what really matters and frees us to pursue what really matters, which is to seek the Lord with all our hearts.”

God is still in America with us and He is just as much in charge now as before. He has allowed us to go into exile to do a deeper work in our lives. He wants us to repent and call upon Him and seek Him with all our heart. In the end, the exile is not against us but for us. There is a future and a hope for us. The place to begin is by asking – “Are you saved? Are you reaching the lost with the truth about sin and grace?

IF THE FOUNDATIONS ARE DESTROYED – 2

IF THE FOUNDATIONS ARE DESTROYED – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

IF THE FOUNDATIONS ARE DESTROYEDIn light of the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to legalize same-sex marriage, I want to preach a message that I’ve preached sometime back from Psalm 11 titled, “IF THE FOUNDATIONS ARE DESTROYED.” We’re living in a time when morality and values are under heavy attack. We’re being told – “A new world is here, whether we like it or not. It has no place for people like us and it would be safer for us to either run with it or run away. There is no hope of going back.”

They are very similar to the opening words of Psalm 11In the Lord I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain”?For look! The wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”

Overall Background: The psalm we just read is one of my favorite psalms in the Bible. No one knows the exact setting of this psalm. Maybe David wrote it in his earlier life when he was dodging King Saul; maybe, he wrote it when he was battling against the Philistines; or maybe, he wrote it as he was fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom. No matter what prompted David to write this psalm, one thing is for sure – it begins with a call to retreat. Things are going downhill and there’s nothing you can do about it. Run away. They remind us a lot of what we’ve been hearing for the past few days:

  • America’s glory days are over.
  • We’re under God’s judgment.
  • We are living in the last days. Get ready for Jesus to come.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard these statements from some very well meaning people. They’re not the response that God expects of us. Before we try to understand how we are to respond and what’s the next step, let me ask you first – does it bother you where our nation is morally and spiritually today? If it doesn’t –

  • Could it be that you could care less for our nation? I know people like that – They love Jesus but America can crash and burn and they won’t care. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”
  • Could it be that you don’t know any different? Sadly, I come across people like that a lot in America. They’re very nice people but they are naïve people. They’re ignorant about issues and consequences. Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
  • Could it be that you’re moral and spiritual thermostat is broken? In other words, you have the same trash in your life that people have in the world. No wonder it’s hard for you to say anything. You have to begin by repenting of your own sins.
  • Could it be that your love for the lost has gotten cold? Here’s a question to you – when was the last time you witnessed to anybody?

As we walk through this Psalm, ask the Holy Spirit to give you biblical convictions and show you how to respond to what’s happening in our nation. 3 things we will see:

I. FAITH DECLARED

1 In the Lord I put my trust;


Background: David begins the psalm by declaring that his trust is not in people, things, armies, or chariots. His trust is in the living God. Repeatedly he talks about this –

  • Psalm 5:11a “But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them.”
  • Psalm 32:10 “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked;
But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.”
  • Psalm 40:4 “Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.”

David was a man of deep, unshakable faith in God.

The only way that you and I can survive in this world is by trusting in the Living God. No matter what the Supreme Court says or any human institution decrees, “In the Lord I put my trust.” By the way, that is the official motto of our nation – “In God We Trust.” Even though this motto was not officially recognized until 1956, this statement defines us as a nation. We’ve been through so much as a nation. It’s only by the grace of God that we have been able to dust ourselves off and get back up.

Application: Are you trusting in the Lord right now? Show me a man/woman who is all frazzled and frustrated, and I will show you a man who is not trusting in God. Faith is the antidote to fear. This is not just with regards to our nation but also in our personal lives.

II. FOUNDATIONS DESTROYED

How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain?

Background: Keep in mind that these are not David’s words. Now he is quoting the counsel of his friends. “Flee as a bird to your mountain?” Birds are some of the most skittish of all creatures. You take one step towards them and immediately they fly away. David’s friends are counseling him to flutter away like a bird, not just to some tree but to a mountain. Go as far away as possible to some remote place and never return again. What else? 2 For look! The wicked bend their bow,
they make ready their arrow on the string,
that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. Meaning: If you try to come back, their arrows aimed at your heart. But they’re not done – 3 If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?” This is even worse. “David – Give up. The very foundations of the society are destroyed. There’s no hope.”

By the way, the very foundations of our nation are crumbling before our eyes –

  • In 1947, the Supreme Court sharply defined the separation of church and state.
  • In 1962-63, the Supreme Court decided to ban prayers in public school.
  • In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade.
  • Now in 2015, the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriages.

Do you believe that the foundations of our society are crumbling before our very eyes? In 1934 an Oxford anthropologist by the name of J.D. Unwin published a book called Sex and Culture in which he studied and analyzed the sexual behaviors of 86 cultures through 5,000 years of history. Unwin was not a Christian. He admitted: “I offer no opinion about rightness or wrongness.” But listen to what he concluded: “In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence.” Meaning: When a society becomes promiscuous instead of a man and woman having sex only in the confines of marriage, it’s a matter of time before that society will shrivel and die. After studying the Romans, Greeks, Sumerians, Moors, Babylonians, Anglo-Saxons and many others, he wrote, “The evidence is that in the past, a class has risen to a position of political dominance because of its great energy, and that, at the period of its rising, its sexual regulations have always been strict. It has retained its energy and dominated the society so long as its sexual regulations have demanded both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence…I know of no exceptions to these rules.”

This issue about same sex marriage is not about marriage. It’s about neutralizing the fundamental identity of human beings as male and female. It’s about silencing those who will call it sin. It’s about stealing away the innocence of our children and exposing them to actions and behaviors of a promiscuous few. It’s about tearing down our society.

Application: Does the plight of our society bother you? Do you care about the lost around you? Are you praying for God to show you what must be done?

III. FOCUS DIVERTED

The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord’s throne is in heaven;


Background: All this time David is busy looking around him and he is getting discouraged. But now he chooses to look to the temple and he sees that God is still there! For Christians now we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God is still with us. Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” Jesus promised – Matthew 28:20 “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

But then David looks up and he sees God’s throne is in heaven. Meaning: God is still in control and He is still the king of the universe and the final judge. While down on earth everything was in despair, up in heaven everything was in control! What else? His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men. God was not for a moment disheveled by the happenings on earth. As the famous preacher Robert G. Lee would say, “God is not a bewildered bellhop running up and down the corridors of the hotel He created trying to find His key!” In fact, He is seeing everything.

What are His purposes? For the Righteous – 5 The Lord tests the righteous,
 For the righteous, it was a time for testing. God is testing our great nation. He is testing to see if we are still one nation under God; He is testing to see if we will recognize that He is the source of our strength; He is testing to see if we will turn towards Him. Our financial/moral/spiritual crisis is not what God is doing to America as much as what God is doing for America.

For the wicked – But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. For the wicked, it was a time for judgment. God is getting ready to pour His wrath on the wicked. He will not allow even a single, small transgression to go unnoticed. Romans 1 is very clear that homosexuality is a sin. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness… 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

Back to Psalm 11 6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals;
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous,
He loves righteousness;
His countenance beholds the upright.

What’s the message for the people of God in America?

  • Don’t lose hope. Trust God. He is perfectly in control.
  • Examine our hearts and see if there is any wickedness in us.
  • Rebuild our families and marriages according to biblical standards.
  • Step out of our hiding place and be the salt and light in our community. Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16 13“You are the salt of the earth… 14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden…16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
  • Share the gospel with the lost world around us because judgment is coming.

And God will win – “From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.”

Are you discouraged? Are you looking up? Do you trust God? Are you saved? Are you sharing the gospel?

DADS WANTED PART 2

dadswanted

This weekend I will be preaching part 2 of the message DADS WANTED.   Last week we looked at the first 5 letters that Solomon wrote to his son Rehoboam.  He warned him to avoid the wrong crowd, seek wisdom, be successful, appreciate discipline, and have a godly heritage.  In the next 5 letters, he will be reminding his son about the dangers of bad company, exercise self control and have a happy marriage.  The last point is so important that Solomon dedicates the last 3 letters to it! Our children desperately need dads who will take the time to lead their children in these vital truths, especially on how to have a happy home.  Look forward to seeing y’all Sunday!

Dads Wanted

DADS WANTED – Part 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

dadswanted

Introduction: This weekend being Father’s Day we’re going to take a break from our ongoing series on the Sermon on the Mount and talk about something that is very dear to my heart – something more important to me than being a pastor, more important than being a scholar, and it comes next only to my relationship with my wife. It’s my calling to be a dad. Those who know me know that I take it very seriously. Today is part one of the message – “DADS WANTED.”

Prov. 1:8-19 8 My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; 9 For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck. 10 My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. 11 If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait to shed blood; Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; 12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, And whole, like those who go down to the Pit; 13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, We shall fill our houses with spoil; 14 Cast in your lot among us, Let us all have one purse”— 15 My son, do not walk in the way with them, Keep your foot from their path;

Overall Background: 8 My son, hear the instruction of your father…” Who is the son and who is the father? To get their identity, you have to go back to the first verse of this chapter – The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: So the father is Solomon the son of King David and he is writing this letter to his son Rehoboam. Do you see the 3 generations – Granddaddy David, daddy Solomon, and son Rehoboam. Before we go further, what kind of a man was granddaddy David? He was the shepherd boy who killed Goliath, the sweet psalmist of Israel who wrote songs like Psalm 23, the great King and leader, and the man after God’s own heart. But what kind of a dad was David? Besides being an adulterer and a murderer, he was a failure as a father.

Application: Many of you grew up with a David as a father. Instead of wasting your time regretting the past or blaming all your problems on him, let God bring healing for your past and you do things differently. If you are that David, do whatever you can to make things right. Listen to 1 Kings 2 1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. (Maybe he was saying – “I wasn’t the man I was supposed to be but you make it right.”) 3 And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn…” Now Solomon is a father and he is doing things differently. He is writing letters to his son Rehoboam teaching him about God, life, wisdom, relationships, decisions, and the difference between right and wrong.

Men in Factories 1800sWhy do these letters matter to us? America is in a crisis today – the Civil War Childrencrisis of fatherhood. It began as early as the 1830s when the Industrial Revolution started and fathers had to go to a factory or an assembly line away from home. Even back in 1830 people saw the dangerous trend and they warned against it. During Civil War, soldiers often wrote home and what they wrote is a good indicator of how the home was run. One soldier wrote to his wife: “I think of you…and I wish I could be there to send Ed to bed on time…should I ever reach home again I feel thankful to think I am spared on Edwin’s account as I know he will grow up a bad boy unless some father guides him.” Sadly, such accounts became rare as we approached the 1900s. Now the mother became the “natural” caretaker of the child and the father became a provider, a supervisor and disciplinarian. He earns, fixes things, mows the lawn, and that’s Civil War Children 2about it. In fact in 1900, someone said that “the suburban husband and father” was just a “Sunday institution.” That was a hundred years ago. We have moved way past that point.

For e.g. Back in 1995 (20 years ago), a book came out called “Fatherless America: Confronting our most urgent social problem.” Listen to what the author, David Blankenhorn, said in his introduction: “Tonight, about 40 percent of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation’s children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhoods living apart from their fathers. Never before in this country have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their Men in factories 1900sfathers. (Its one thing if the father has died.) Never before have so many children grown up without knowing what it means to have a father. . . Consider this prediction. After the year 2000, as people born after 1970 emerge as a large proportion of our working-age adult population, the United States will be a nation divided into two groups, separate and unequal. . . The primary fault line dividing the two groups will not be race, religion, class, education, or gender. It will be patrimony. One group will consist of those adults who grew up with the daily presence and provision of fathers. The other group will consist of those who did not. By the early years of the next century, these two groups will be roughly the same size.” Further down in chapter 12, he writes: “The most urgent domestic challenge facing the United States at the close of the twentieth century is the re-creation of the fatherhood as a vital social role for men. At stake is nothing less than the success of the American experiment.”

Bottom Line: America desperately needs some Solomons – men who will REFUSE to let their past define them, men who will REJECT the negative labels that society has placed on them, and men who will REFLECT God as a standard of fatherhood. Altogether Solomon wrote 10 letters but this morning we will only look at the first five and then next week the remaining five. Again, we’re not looking at every detail in these letters, that would take days, just the highlights. 5 Reasons Dads are wanted:

I. DADS ARE WANTED TO TEACH CHILDREN TO REJECT BAD COMPANY.

Proverbs 1 10 My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. 11 If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait to shed blood; Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; 12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, And whole, like those who go down to the Pit; 13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, We shall fill our houses with spoil; 14 Cast in your lot among us, Let us all have one purse”—

Young people – parents (especially dads) have a built-in troublemaker detector. That’s why they say things like – “If all your friends were to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?” That’s not the time to ask – “What if the bridge is on fire?”

15 My son, do not walk in the way with them, Keep your foot from their path; 16 For their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood. 17 Surely, in vain the net is spread In the sight of any bird; 18 But they lie in wait for their own blood, They lurk secretly for their own lives.

Illustration: My dad told me to stay away from wine, women, and gambling.

Application: Dads – Do you take the time to teach your children the difference between good and bad company? Here’s a better question – what kind of company do you keep?

II. DADS ARE WANTED TO TEACH CHILDREN HOW TO FIND WISDOM.

Proverbs 2 1 My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, 2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; 3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding,

Would you agree that our young people desperately needs wisdom? They need wisdom in their relationships, finances, future, and daily decisions.

Where does wisdom come from? 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

Application: Dads – do you take the time to teach your children how to find wisdom? Again, do you seek for wisdom? Do you read the word of God on a daily basis?

III. DADS ARE WANTED TO TEACH CHILDREN HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL.

1 My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; 2 For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you. 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Mercy = “Hesed” It could be translated “kindness” or “help to the needy.”

For e.g. Do you teach your children not to make fun of people regarding their color, clothes, and looks?

Truth = “Emet” It can refer to “faithfulness” or “being trustworthy” or “living by truth.”

For e.g. Do you teach your children to tell the truth or do you teach them to cheat?

When these two things are in your life, God will look at you with favor and so will people.

Application: dads – do you teach your children the value of mercy and truth? Here’s a better question is there mercy and truth in your life? That’s the secret of success.

IV. DADS ARE WANTED TO TEACH CHILDREN DISCIPLINE.

Proverbs 3 11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

People swing from Dr. Spock on one end to Dr. Watson on the other. The former advocated permissiveness and the latter strict discipline. The grandson of Spock committed suicide by jumping off the building where his father worked. The son of Watson also committed suicide. The answer is neither. It is the bible that has the truth.

We’re not called to punish but discipline. We’re called to correct and redirect. We have to understand age appropriate discipline. In our society – dads have given up their God-given right to correct their children. Why? Because they are full of problems themselves.

Application: Dads – do you discipline your children? Are there things in your life that need God’s discipline?

V. DADS ARE WANTED TO TEACH CHILDREN A GODLY HERITAGE.

Proverbs 4 1 Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding…3 When I was my father’s son, Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, 4 He also taught me…”

This is very interesting because Solomon remembers David teaching him when he was a child. Now he is passing it down to Rehoboam. Not all tradition is bad.

Application: dads – are you passing down any godly heritage to your children? Do you have any to pass along?

We cannot understand how to be a dad until we understand how God is our heavenly father. He teaches us to turn away from those who walked towards sin. He calls us to find wisdom. Through his Holy Spirit he teaches us the wisdom that is in Christ. He gives us mercy and he gives us truth so we can find favor with God and with people. He disciplines us when we lose our way. That reminds us that we belong to him. He daily reminds us but we belong to the family of God.

Do you know your heavenly father? You cannot come to the father unless you go through the son. Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

WHY WE LOVE OUR COMMUNITY? Newspaper Article by Abidan Paul Shah

WHY WE LOVE OUR COMMUNITY? Newspaper Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on June 6, 2015)

Why we love our community“Embarrassed of my hometown…” “Not what it used to be…” “Not surprised…” “Wish I could move…” These were some of the reactions to a recent crime report analysis circulating on Facebook. Actually, these were some of the nicer comments. Others were too crude to be mentioned here. Why are some people so quick to trash their community? It seems that they get some strange pleasure in mocking it and talking down about it. Instead of coming to her aid, they join the assailants. They’re like that person who sees an arsonist dousing his home with kerosene and offers him a match! Such people live somewhere at the intersection of Nostalgia Avenue and Bad Experience.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not naïve or oblivious to our problems. Nicole and I have raised our four children in this community for over 17 years and we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. But, as the adage goes, “All that glitters is not gold,” we have come to realize that there is no perfect world. What are ranked as the ideal places to live have their fair share of problems as well. Unfortunately, the average person only looks for their town ranking. They don’t stop to consider population dynamics, high crime areas, and latest annual crime reports, which are not properly factored in many of the raw data analyses.

Our community definitely has its problems but it desperately needs our love. Here are some reasons why we love our community:

  1. Our children call it their home. They’ve had a positive experience growing up with wonderful friends and neighbors. At the same time, they haven’t been sheltered from the problems plaguing our sin-sick world. Our community has given them a balanced view of life and reality. No matter where God takes them, they will neither be shocked nor disappointed but will become productive and contributing members of their community.
  2. We have a wonderful unity in diversity. I’m sure there are plenty of stories of crime and bad experiences but I dare say that there are plenty more stories of friendships and positive experiences. When we make the effort to go beyond skin pigmentation and get to know one another, we find that we have the same needs and pains, hopes and dreams. As Americans we also have a common biblical culture and values. Our community can be a good model of living in true harmony.
  3. Our community has plenty of opportunities to show compassion. Like the parable of the Good Samaritan, we daily come across people in physical and moral suffering. We can either skirt around them like the self-righteous priest and Levite or we can bandage their wounds and demonstrate the selfless love of Christ. Could it be that God has placed hurting people in our community because He knows that we will do something to help them?
  4. We have some wonderful law enforcement officials. Daily they put themselves in harm’s way to ensure our security. To dis our community is to dishonor their sacrifice and dedication. When we acknowledge the positive difference they are making, we empower them to be God’s minster for good. Recently a friend shared with me that some of our men and women in uniform have the words “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” etched somewhere on their belonging.
  5. God has His hand on our community. It has faced incredible odds (Yes – I have read the book and even have a copy of it) but it is still standing. It goes to show that if God is for our community, then no amount of ranking will be against us. Our best days are ahead!

Go and Be the Difference

GO AND BE THE DIFFERENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Go and Be the DifferenceWe are in our series called Salt and Light on the Sermon on the Mount and today we are looking at a very familiar passage from Matthew 5. We’ve been going over and over again on this one passage because it is critical that we get it – critical for us individually, for our children and grandchildren, for our nation, and for our church. Our message is titled – “GO AND BE THE DIFFERENCE.”

Matthew 5 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” When Jesus spoke these words 2000 years ago, the world was in a big mess. Tiberius Caesar was ruling Rome – a cruel man, an open homosexual, perverse beyond your wildest imaginations. Herod’s sons were controlling the various regions. One of them (Herod Antipas) had even taken his own brother’s wife and had John the Baptist beheaded. Annas (father-in-law) and Caiaphas were running the temple. They cared more for money, politics, and power than anything else. The people were struggling under heavy tax burdens. You can imagine them saying – “It’s just getting worse and worse.” “How long will God let this go on?” “When will He step in and make things right?” Just when you would’ve expected Jesus to tell the multitude to sit tight and hold on, He challenged them to stand up and head out – “Go be the Salt and Light!”

Our world is in a big mess – politically, financially, morally, and spiritually. As a nation, we’re divided. As a people, millions are struggling to make ends meet. As a culture, we’re losing the battle for traditional values. As Vance Havner would say, “Sin that used to slink down back alleys now struts down main streets.” As a world power, we don’t have the respect we once did. As a church, we are barely keeping up with the lostness around us. What is Jesus saying to us in 2015? Same as back then – “Go be the Salt and Light.”

Application: Are you concerned about the condition of our world? Does it bother you how our nation and our world are sinking in every way? Have you asked God what He wants you to do? Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior?

Here’s the essence of this message – When the beatitudes become a part of your nature, you will become the salt and the light of the world. As we walk through this message, ask the Holy Spirit to help you be the difference makers in this world.

I. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HUMBLE SPIRIT.

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit…5 Blessed are the meek…”

Background: They are 2 different aspects of humility – “Poor in spirit” means people who have very little of self. “Meek” means people who wait upon God. As poor in spirit they know that all that they are and all that they have is by the grace of God. As meek, when people offend them, instead of getting angry, frustrated, or disappointed with people or God, they give everything over to God. Humility has nothing to do with how much or how little you have in your bank account. It has everything to do with how little you think of yourself and how more you think of others.

The Christian spirit of humility transformed the Western culture. Men and women full of the Holy Spirit began to put others ahead of themselves. People became gentlemen and ladies and started greeting each others with “good morning,” “good evening.” They began saying things like excuse me, pardon me, my bad, or go ahead. They began standing in lines instead of jumping in front of others. Have you traveled overseas? People will climb all over you to get into a bus or a train. It’s considered normal. The further we get away from Christian values our world becomes more barbaric.

Application: Are you a humble person? Better question – do people consider you a humble person?

II. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A COMPASSIONATE HEART.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Background: Many of us found comfort for personal grief and loss when I preached on this few weeks ago. But Christians saw so much more in this beatitude. They heard their God and Master telling them that if they see someone mourning, it was their obligation and privilege to provide comfort to them. In fact, another beatitude says 7 “Blessed are the merciful…” Meaning: if you see someone in need of mercy, you be merciful. It’s a step beyond humility.

The Christian spirit of compassion transformed the Western culture. In Hinduism, there is not much compassion for the poor. Simplistically speaking, the poor are in that state because of their previous life. For you to help them would be to interfere with karma. Somebody might say – “How about Gandhi? Didn’t he fight for the rights of the untouchables?” What many people don’t realize is that Gandhi was greatly influenced by Christianity. Someone else might say – “Wait a minute! Didn’t he say that he would be a Christian if it wasn’t for Christians.” That’s very hypocritical of Gandhi. When he was attacked by fellow Indians in the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa and left for dead, a Baptist pastor by the name of John Joseph Doke took him into his home and nursed him back to life. Gandhi was grateful but he was also forgetful.

How about Islam? If you are a Muslim beggar, maybe you’ll get something. But if you are anything else, you don’t count. I can go on and on. It’s the coming of Christianity to the east that brought orphanages, women’s shelter and relief societies.

Everywhere people are talking about fairness and equality. Unfortunately, Christians are looked upon as being bigoted, racist, and prejudiced. How did this happen? We’re the people of Wilberforce, Newton, and Wesley! We should be leading that fight!

Application: Are you a compassionate person? Do you care about others or is it all about you? How do you respond when you hear people suffering?

III. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HOPEFUL ATTITUDE.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Background: Who is a peacemaker? They are not people who compromise the truth or sweep things under the rug but they actively seek to bring a resolution in conflict. They do whatever they can to promote peace in their family, neighborhood, church, community, nation, and world. They are hopeful that people can live in peace. Why? Because Jesus is the Prince of peace. Wherever Jesus goes, peace follows.

The Christian spirit of peacemaking transformed the Western culture. Instead of lex talionis or the law of retaliation (what we know as “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth”), men and women full of the Holy Spirit began to put down their battle-axes and reach out with love and compassion. It did not mean that didn’t have laws and consequences for crime. It just means that they stopped being bloodthirsty. I wish I could say that with the coming of Christianity there was never another battle or war in the West but that would be a huge lie. As long as there are sinful, self-centered, and greedy people, there will be conflicts but true Christians have always called for peace.

Application: Are you a peacemaker? Or, are you a troublemaker? Do you pray for peace in our community, our nation, in our world? Are you hopeful that there can be peace?

IV. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HIGHER CALLING. 

5 “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.”

Background: Have you thought about what it means to “inherit the earth?” It goes back to the book of Genesis 1 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Have you ever wondered why the Western culture has been so successful? Because we don’t worship the Sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the rivers, animals, trees, spirit beings, and any carved image. We worship the living true God. We believe that He has given us authority and power over everything. We don’t worship nature. We transcend it. We harness it. No we don’t destroy it but we use it for our benefit and the benefit of all human beings.

There was a time when Christians were the most creative people but unfortunately we’ve become a stick in the mud. Lost people seem to have the market on art, music, education, exploration, business, and the list goes on! We’re not just conservatives but we have become preservatives! We’re looked upon as being the fun killers. I don’t have time to list for you all the scientists, artists, and innovators in history who were born again Christians or operated under the Christian worldview.

Application: What is your calling? Are you a conservative or a preservative? Have you taken God’s command to go out and create like Him?

V. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HOLY LIFESTYLE.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

Background: Righteousness is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings about an external change in our lives. “Pure in heart” is a person who is no hypocrite. They our holy externally as well as internally.

Our society definitely needs people who hunger for righteousness and are pure in heart. What do you think will happen if people are pure in heart in businesses, media, and the courtroom? They do what is right not because they’ll be caught by some law enforcement but because they have to answer to someone much higher, i.e. the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you holy both externally as well as internally? Do people refer to you as a person who is genuinely pure in heart?

VI. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A RELENTLESS PASSION FOR LOST SOULS.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Background: there’s more to being a Christian than just being a good citizen. It involves telling people that they are sinful and headed to hell. Unfortunately, many people don’t want to hear that. You will lose friends, opportunities, privileges, and even your life. But that is the most important thing about being the salt and the light. When the salt is put in the food, it disappears. When the lamp is lit, it burns away.

Dirk Willems - Love your enemies

Dirk Willems – Love your enemies

For e.g. Dirk Willems was imprisoned in his hometown of Asperen in the Netherlands for being an Anabaptist. He escaped the prison by making a rope of strips of cloth and slid down over the prison wall. He ran across the frost-covered pond over a thin layer of ice. Dirk had been eating prison food and was very thin but his pursuer fell through and began crying for help. Dirk turned around and pulled the man out. You would’ve thought that they would let him go but they didn’t. The burned him at the stake on May 16, 1569. His tongue was not clamped and so you can imagine him screaming. The wind blew the flame away from him so that his death was long and miserable. Time and again Dirk cried out to God. Finally one of the authorities could not bear to see him suffer any longer and ordered an underling to end his torment with a quick death.

Are you willing to go and be the difference? Are you saved

The Blessing of Standing Up for What’s Right

THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

standingupforwhatsright

This is our eighth and final message in our series on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount and today’s message is titled, “THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT.” Keep in mind the series called SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount is far from over.

Matthew 5 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This final beatitude is very different from the rest. It deals with a subject that is very painful and has brought great sorrow to the people of God through the centuries. It has tested the reality of their faith and the firmness of their convictions. In fact, I don’t like to talk about it much because I had to experience it growing up. The subject is Persecution. Simply defined, it means – “any form of harassment and aggression against you because of your faith in Jesus Christ.” I’m sure we’ve all heard of the persecution of the early church and through the Middle Ages, and even now in Russia, China, and the Middle East. Unfortunately, persecution is not that far away anymore. It’s already on your doorstep. Ask Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the Oregon-based Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and were fined $135,000. Eventually, they were forced to close their business.

Aaron and Melissa Klein

Aaron and Melissa Klein

Sweet Cakes by Melissa

Sweet Cakes by Melissa

Klein Family

Klein Family

Application: What would you have done? Would you have stood up for righteousness or would you have given in? How would you handle persecution? Here’s a deeper question – Is there enough evidence in your life for the world persecute you? Are you saved?

Many of you have told me how much you have enjoyed this series. If you ask me, this is the most important message in this entire series on the Beatitudes. It is important for us individually, for our children, for our grandchildren, for our church, and for our nation’s future. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you like never before. 3 questions again:

I. WHY DOES PERSECUTION COME? 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…”

Background: Jesus makes it clear that persecution comes for righteousness sake. Now, what is righteousness? Remember, the fourth beatitude – Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” In this context, righteousness is not just the imputed righteousness of Christ – the righteousness that is accounted to us as Paul talks about it in Romans 4, the forensic righteousness – but it is the daily practical righteousness. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that brings about an external change. Because we are saved we begin to live a life that day-by-day pleases God, that step-by-step obeys His word, and that moment-by-moment looks more and more like Jesus Christ. There’s a difference in the way we walk, talk, see, and hear. There is a difference in the way we work, play, shop, and live in this world. There is a difference in the way we treat our friends and families. There is also a difference in the way we treat our enemies and our opponents. In short, it’s not the righteousness that saves but the righteousness that shows that I’m saved.

How does the world react to this kind of righteousness in us? Some people admire us. Some people aspire to be like us. But, there are others who avoid us and even attack us. This is persecution for righteousness sake. Jesus was actually quoting the Old Testament when He gave this beatitude. Psalm 37:12 The wicked plots against the just (righteous), And gnashes at him with his teeth. Psalm 119 157 Many are my persecutors and my enemies, Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies…161 Princes persecute me without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word. But Jesus gave a deeper reason for this hatred. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, if you are persecuted for being godly, it’s because you have the kingdom of heaven. What is the kingdom of heaven? Do you remember the first beatitude? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who have received Jesus as their Savior. Remember what Paul said in Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Persecution is the assurance that the Holy Spirit is in your life. Listen carefully – “The real reason the world hates you is not you but the one who is in you.”

For e.g. I used to work at a job laying Cat 5’s all over the state. The guys I worked with knew what I was doing. Some of them were fine with me but others hated me and I never understood that. Maybe its because I wanted to go home rather than drink and go to the doll house.

Application: The question is not “Are you facing persecution?” The real question is “Are you godly?” 2 Tim. 3:12 “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Here’s a different way of asking that question: “Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life?” If you’re not saved, then you don’t have the Holy Spirit and there’s no reason for the world to hate you.

II. HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE PERSECUTION? 

Background: Unfortunately, most messages end with – “Persecution proves that America is not a Christian nation anymore.” “It’s just gonna get worse and worse.” “It’s just the signs of the times.” The problem with these statements is that it is contrary to what the Bible says. Thank goodness Jesus told us what to do! Listen to verse 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Who are the prophets before you? We don’t have time to recount each of them but here are just a few:

Moses – Exodus 17:3   And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”

Jeremiah – Jeremiah 20 1 Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. 2 Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.

Daniel – Daniel 6  4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”…16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions.

Application: This is a hard one to apply because many of us haven’t faced hard-core persecution. Let me ask in a different way – how do you respond when you get slighted, mistreated, and neglected? Do you rejoice? Are you exceedingly glad? Do you consider your great reward in heaven? Or do you pitch a fit? Do you pay back ten fold? Our response to our trials is just a precursor of our response to persecution.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

13 “You are the salt of the earth;

Background: Keep in mind that this is all one message. Just when you think that the message is over, the most important point is about to come. We use just a pinch of salt in our food. That’s all we typically need. What’s the point? Persecution has a way of thinning out the crowd down to a pinch. What’s happening in America is that God is weeding out the imposters from the real deals. The problem in America is too many people are pretending to be something they’re not which is hindering those who are really searching for God from coming to Him. That’s why I believe that the greatest revival and awakening is coming very soon to America.

Now the crowd is down to a pinch but the pinch becomes indispensable. Just like salt – it’s a very small in proportion to the whole meal but it changes the flavour and the taste of the meal. “but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” What happens to those who have lost the flavour of Christianity?It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Churches are closing all over America but that’s not a bad thing. Too many sincere people are stuck because of some obligation and some loyalty but it’s killing the cause of Christ. But a new day is coming!

What will happen in this new day? 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Have you ever driven towards a big city at night? You can see the glow towards the sky. Those who’s truly have the light will shine brightly in this dark world and people near and far will come to them. By the way, I love it when people refer to our church as “the church on the hill.” This is not the time to hide your light but to shine it even more. Our job is not to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. But listen to verse 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Personal Illustration: As a 9-10 year old, I remember coming back home from school and trying to turn on the lights and the fan and nothing happened. Imagine 115° temperatures in the hot summer and not having any electricity to turn on the fan, forget about any air condition. I went to the kitchen and asked my grandmother if the power was out and she told me that our electrical connection has been cut. “Why?” “Because we’re on the same line as the church. They cut the power to the church and so our power is out as well.” I remember that night my mom crying as she went around the house lighting candles and oil lamps. We ate in the dark by candlelight, not something unusual because when power would go out, we would do that. But this time it was different. There was no estimated time when services would be restored. We went to bed early that night obviously, hoping against hope that somewhere in the middle of the night the fan would start blowing but it never did. The next morning, no hot showers. This was for real. Later that week, my dad was able to talk to a so-called “Christian” neighbor who was kind enough to run a single line to our house, just enough to turn on a light bulb. At least, we could have light. Unfortunately, some time later he got upset with us for some reason and cut the line. I think that hurt much more than the first time. But that experience and many more shaped me into the person I am today.

Home church in India (1)

Home church in India (1)

Home church in India (2)

Home church in India (2)

Home church in India (3)

Home church in India (3)

Home church in India (4)

Home church in India (4)

People have a lot of false ideas about persecution in America. Some think that it’s going to get worse and worse and it’s time to fly out. Others think that it automatically grows the church. Neither is true when you study the Bible carefully. First, God thins out the numbers to those who are truly godly. But He doesn’t stop there. Then, He holds them up like the pinch of salt and a little oil lamp to change the world for the better.

Listen to verse 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Imagine once again people in America praising your Father in heaven!

Persecution is not what God is doing to Christians in America but what God is doing through Christians for America.

Are you saved? Are you living a godly life?

The Blessing of Bringing Harmony

THE BLESSING OF BRINGING HARMONY by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

theblessingofbringingharmonyThis is our seventh beatitude in our series on the Sermon on the Mount called SALT AND LIGHT and today’s message is titled “THE BLESSING OF BRINGING HARMONY.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” When we place our faith in Jesus as our Savior, we become sons and daughters of God. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” The right to be a child of God is only awarded to those who receive Jesus as their Savior. But, according to this beatitude, there is a difference between being a child of God and being called a child of God. Listen again – “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” The title of son/daughter of God is only awarded to those who are peacemakers. Meaning: If you are a troublemaker, a rabble-rouser, an instigator, and an agitator, then you may have the position of being a child of God but you will not receive the title of being a child of God. You may claim that you are a Christian but God doesn’t boast about you nor do people acknowledge you.

For e.g. I remember this young man in our hometown – a rough character, a gangster. He was a friend of my brother. One day my brother told me that he actually came from a very prominent family and his father was actually a judge. I couldn’t believe it! He had the pedigree of a good family but his reputation was very different.

Application: This morning, you may be a child of God but the question is “do people call you a child of God?” Are you known as a son/daughter of God? There’s a big difference between position and reputation – between being a Christian and being known as a Christian. Better yet – Are you known as a peacemaker or as a troublemaker? Are you even saved? You cannot have God’s peace until you get saved.

As we walk through this message, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to your position as well as your reputation as a Christian. Three questions again:

I. WHO IS A PEACEMAKER? 

“Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Background: When Jesus gave that beatitude, there were all kinds of people in the crowd, just like the crowd in this place:

  1. There were troublemakers in the crowd, like the zealots. These were people who were constantly itching for a fight with the oppressive Romans. In fact one of Jesus’ own disciple was Simon the Zealot. There are some zealots here this morning. These are people who are constantly looking for conflict. They love turmoil and chaos. They enjoy seeing people at odds with each other. It’s normal for them. They love drama. Maybe they grew up that way in an environment of constant tension. I know someone like that, no one here. Every time I see this person, there’s always some drama that’s brewing and some fire raging.

Question: Is that you? Stop starting trouble and stop thinking that the whole world is like you. You need to ask God’s forgiveness.

  1. There were parasites in the crowd, like the tax collectors. These were people who had mastered the art of taking advantage of the situation. Just get all the taxes you can, avoid any confrontation, and let people kill each other. Some tax collectors are here this morning. They are only interested in exploiting the situation. They are not interested in bringing peace, just using the conflict for their personal benefit.

Question: Is that you? You take pleasure in watching people go after each other because it takes the attention off of you. You need to realize that you are part of the problem. You also need to ask God’s forgiveness.

  1. There were peacekeepers in the crowd, like the Roman soldiers. Their job was to maintain the Pax Romana (the peace of Rome). They knew how to weed out the bad element and enforce peace. There are some Roman soldiers here this morning. These are people who want peace at any prize. They will compromise the truth, avoid the facts, sweep things under the rug, and pretend that everything is just fine. “Let’s not talk about it.” Only problem is that one day it all comes out. By the way, I’m not referring to law enforcement but everyday peacekeepers.

Question: Is that you? God sees everything and you will have to answer for what you’ve done. You also need God’s forgiveness.

  1. There were false peacemakers in the crowd, like the Pharisees and the scribes. They found peace in controlling the masses. Their idea of peace was to get people to respect them and honor them. There are some Pharisees and scribes here this morning. They’ve got plenty of problems but delight to tell others how to solve theirs. One time someone I knew had unjustly attacked me and I had to distance myself from this person. What was funny was this other person who wanted to be the mediator – “You know I can see both sides.” This person couldn’t solve his own conflicts! I told this person to take a hike.

Question: Is that you? Then you need to stop trying to fix others and seek God’s forgiveness in your own life.

Mt. Sodom

Mt. Sodom (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Lot's Wife

Lot’s Wife (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

But Jesus presented a whole new category to all these people – peacemakers (Gk. eireinopoioi). Although this word construction is found only once in the New Testament, the concept of peacemaking is found all over the Bible. The earliest example we see is in Genesis 13:7 “And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.” What was Abraham’s reaction? “Let’s not fight. Pick what you want and I’ll go the other way.” What did Lot do? 10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD… Lot picked the lush, green, and fertile land. As we just read, it was Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities known for their sexual immorality. We’ve been through there. What’s amazing to me is that when God came to destroy those cities, he mentioned his plan to Abraham. What did Abraham do? He could’ve said, “I told him so. He asked for it. I knew this would happen.” Instead he tried to bargain for Lot’s life and family! That’s a true peacemaker.

Peacemaker is someone who has more than just a peaceful disposition. You know people like that – they don’t meddle in anybody’s business; conflict tears their nerves; and they’re always thinking of their happy place. Peacemakers are much more. They recognize conflict and they do whatever they can to bring resolution. They’re not blind to the facts or compromise the truth or sweep things under the rug but they actively seek to promote peace. They are people who when they see that someone is at odds with them, they set aside their pride, step out of their comfort zones, reach out to the other person, and try to make things right. They are people who when they see two parties in conflict, they set aside their agenda, step out of their comfort zones, and try to bring reconciliation. They don’t do that to look important or to play the judge. They do that because it’s the right thing to do. These people know how to approach the two parties, sometimes with words but many times just with their presence. They pray more than they preach.

Application: Are you a peacemaker? When someone is at odds with you, how do you handle it? Do you find ways to avoid them? Do you try to show them how mad you are or how it does not bother you? Or, do you try to make things right? Are you known as a peacemaker between others? You cannot be a true peacemaker until you have God’s peace in your heart. You need to be saved before you can go save others.

II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A SON/DAUGHTER OF GOD? 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”

Background: Keep in mind Jesus is the Son of God, son with a capital S. We worship one God but three persons – Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is how God has chosen to reveal himself. Jesus is God’s Son in the past, present, and future. It is known as the eternal functional subordination of the Son. That’s the triune God we worship. But, God has many sons and daughters. They’re not eternal but they’re adopted. Listen to Romans 8 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” When we receive Christ as our Savior, we are adopted into the family of God, with all the rights and privileges. In time we also take on the family characteristics. We begin to look like God.

What is God like? We know that God is holy, loving, gracious, powerful, wise, unchanging, eternal, and on and on. But did you also know that He is a God of peace?

Isaiah 9:6 “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Romans 15:33 “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

Romans 16:20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way…”

I can go on and on but the point is simple – God is a god of peace and when we enter into His family, we become people of peace. You look just like God than when you forgive and reconcile.

Illustration: Nicole loves to talk about who the kids look like in our family.

Application: Whom do you look like? Jesus often identified some of his enemies as “sons of the evil one” and “sons of those who kill the prophets.” When you actively seek to promote peace, you look like God’s son and daughter. How do people describe you?

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK? 

Background: Human beings are constantly in conflict. Every moment there are millions upon millions of conflicts taking place all over this world – conflict between a husband and a wife, conflict between siblings, conflicts between friends, conflict between neighbors, and, on a large-scale, conflict between nations. It began in the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve for his disobedience. Later conflict spread to the children when Cain killed Abel. Where do conflicts come from? James gives us the reason in James 4 1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Conflicts are the result of sin.

We can do anything about it so God took the first step of peace by sending Jesus as the peacemaker. Listen to – 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” Once we receive this peace, we become God’s peace ambassadors. Listen to 2 Corinthians 5 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

People constantly talk of peace. Most everybody wants world peace. Peace will not come into this world until Christians who know the Prince of Peace Jesus Christ take the gospel of peace every human being. Then and only then will we not only have peace with God but also peace with our fellow man. We fuss about how terrible things are in the world and in our nation. Here’s my question: where are the peacemakers?

Are you saved? Do you know the Prince of Peace Jesus Christ?

The Blessing of Spiritual Vision

THE BLESSING OF SPIRITUAL VISION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofspiritualvisionIntroduction: So glad all of you are here this morning and also glad to have all those who are joining us by radio! Thank you for tuning in! We’re back in our series called Salt and Light on the Sermon on the Mount and this morning we will be looking at the sixth beatitude in our message called – THE BLESSING OF SPIRITUAL VISION.

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Just when you think that you have a handle on these beatitudes, this one throws you for a loop. Think about this – As a Christian you can be poor in spirit and have the kingdom of heaven, mourn and be comforted by the Holy Spirit, meek and inherit the earth, hunger and thirst for righteousness and be satisfied, merciful and receive mercy but if your heart is impure, you’ll never see God. In other words, you can be stable emotionally, growing biblically, and acting mercifully but if you are living sinfully, then you will be blind spiritually. You can do a lot of things right as a Christian and even be a salt and light to the world but if there is sin in your life, then God will be hidden from you.

There are two words that have all but disappeared from Christian vocabulary. First is the three-letter word – Sin. We talk about everything from prayer, worship, ministry, God’s will, conservative values, and reaching the world but sin? Who wants to talk about that! Another word that has gone out of her vocabulary is holiness. In fact, that word is looked down upon as legalistic, negative, old-fashioned, judgmental, and boring.

Question: How is your sin life? What do you think about holiness? When was the last time you repented before God? Has the Holy Spirit convicted you recently of some sin in your life? Have you done anything about it? There is no substitute to holiness in the Christian life. Here’s the heart of the matter – are you saved? If there is no conviction of sin, it’s probably because there is no Holy Spirit in your life. You’ve never seen God and you’ll never see God until you see Him on the Day of Judgment.

This morning ask the Holy Spirit to remove the trash in your heart so that your vision may be clean enough to see God. Once again – three questions in this passage:

I. HOW TO HAVE A PURE HEART?

“Blessed are the pure in heart…”

Background: Before we run to Webster’s to define purity, we need to look in the immediate context. Jesus was quoting this beatitude, almost word for word, from Psalm 24, a psalm of David. To give you a little context – this psalm begins with the declaration that everything belongs to God – 1 The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. This earth, this universe, and all of us human beings are God’s property and He is the Creator King but He is not satisfied with just that. Listen to vs. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Meaning: God is not some almighty sovereign ruler, despot, and dictator who lives in His grand palace and can never be seen and approached by the common people. To the contrary, He wants to meet us, talk to us, and connect with us. He wants us to come to Him, hang out with Him, and live with Him. But there’s a problem – “Or who may stand in His holy place?” There’s a barrier/barricade that keeps us from getting near Him. It’s God’s holiness. He is holy and we are sinful.

People ask, “What is sin?” Paul gives a detailed list in Galatians 5 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 1 John 5:17 simply says, “All unrighteousness is sin…” Bottom Line: Sin is anything that is contrary to the nature of God and goes against the will of God. It is neither neutral nor passive. It wants to spread and take control and destroy everything. But God is holy and He cannot and will not let sin rule. That’s why His wrath is against sin and since we are sinners, it is against us. In fact, Romans 5:10 tells us that sin has made us “enemies of God.” Don’t misunderstand – God’s wrath is not some bad temper. He’s not some bully going around threatening people or a cantankerous old man, always angry and yelling at people to get out of His yard. Isaiah 28:21 reminds us that God’s wrath is His unusual act.” Think of it this way – “It is a love which is so jealous for the good of the loved one that it blazes out in fiery wrath against everything that is evil.” (Leon Morris, Apostolic Preaching of the Cross)

So sin invokes God wrath but that’s not the final word. To the question, who can stand in His holy place, the answer comes in vs. 4 “He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” Meaning: To come close to God you need to purify yourself, externally and internally. In other words, you need total holiness. No hypocritical, half-hearted, pretend holiness will do. God sees the heart. We are like an open book in His sight.

Application: Are your hands clean before God? Is your heart pure before God? Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin’?” It’s a rhetorical question. Jeremiah 17 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart…” David clarifies in vs. 4 “…Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.” 2 things God hates: 1. False gods – anything that is taking the place of God in your life. It’s more than just some idols in a temple. 2. False swearing – claiming God’s name falsely. When you say you are a Christian and yet disobey Christ and His Word, that’s swearing deceitfully.

Application: Is someone or something playing God in your life? Are you taking God’s name in vain? Have you ever received a spiritual heart transplant? Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? That’s the only way you can receive a clean new heart.

II. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SEE GOD? 

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

Background: How does that work? We have to go back again to Psalm 24. Listen to vs. 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5 “He shall receive blessing from the LORD…” Now listen carefully to vs. 6 “This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face.” For over 2000 years people have struggled with this verse. What exactly is David saying here? “Those who cleanse their hands and purify their hearts will receive a blessing from God. They will be called the Jacob generation. Who are they? They are those who are determined to see the face of God.”

Who was Jacob? Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and twin brother of Esau. Esau was the firstborn but despised his birthright. Jacob wanted that blessing and bought it for a bowl of stew. Later when Esau tried to get the blessing back, Jacob went as far as to deceive his father to get what was rightfully his. By the way, the Bible never condemns him for that. Esau made a vow that he would kill Jacob and he had to flee for his life. Twenty years later, it was time for Jacob to head home but he had to face Esau. The night before he prayed to God foe help. What was God’s response? Genesis 33:24 “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” How strange?!! Just when you’d think that God would have sent a cool breeze, put some angels around him, and given him sweet dreams on a soft bed so Jacob could wake up fresh and ready to take on Esau, some stranger jumps on him and tries to pin him to the ground! This goes on all night but the worst is about to come. Genesis 39:25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint…” Ouch! So now he’s sleep deprived, physically exhausted, and limping in incredible pain. Will he finally give up?

What in the world is God trying to do? God is testing Jacob. “You tricked Esau and got the birthright. You tricked Laban and got your Jacob wrestling with Godfamily out. You are about to trick Esau and head back to your home. Are you going to trick Me too? But how much do you really want the blessing?” Somewhere between the grappling and tussling, pushing and shoving it hits Jacob – his opponent is not just some man or even some angel (He had seen some earlier in Mahanaim). This person is a whole different being and immediately he tightens his grip. Did he pass the test? Maybe. The person says in vs. 26 “…Let Me go, for the day breaks” but Jacob replies, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” It was no longer about Esau. It was no longer about his livestock. It was no longer about his family. Did he pass the test? Maybe. 27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Meaning: You wanted the blessing. You fought for it and got it. Did he pass the test? Maybe. 29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. Did he pass the test? Now he passed the test.

Listen to Jacob’s response in vs. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Who was this? There’s only one who qualifies to be both God and man. It’s Jesus Christ pre-incarnate. The same way he came to Abraham and later to Moses, Daniel, and others, he came to Jacob.

Application: Do you really want to see God? God doesn’t reveal His face so easily and cheaply. How much are you willing to purify your heart? What would happen if you and I had that kind of determination to seek after God? The Holy Spirit is waiting to do that kind of work in our lives.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK? 

Jacob and Esau reconcile by Francesco HayezBackground: Keep in mind the true blessing of the beatitude is not to self but to others. We are blessed in order to be the Salt and Light to others. Let’s go back briefly to Genesis 32:31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. You can silhouette of a truly broken man. He sees Esau and bows seven time to the ground. What was Esau’s reaction? Genesis 33 4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. What a beautiful sight! 8 Then Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company which I met?” Remember the hundreds of animals – goats, ewe lambs, rams, camels, cows, bulls, donkeys, and foals? And he (Esau) said, “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 And Jacob said, “No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.

Our world is so broken right now. Our country is so divided right now. What is the answer? It may sound simplistic but here goes – “Men and women, boys and girls with clean hands and pure hearts who have only one desire – to see the face of Jesus.” When we go out like Jacob who saw the face of Jesus, then and only then will forgiveness and salvation come to the Esaus. Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Is your heart pure before God? David said in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do you need a new heart? Are you saved?

The Blessing of Not Getting Even

THE BLESSING OF NOT GETTING EVEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofnotgettingevenIntroduction: In our series SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount we come to the fifth beatitude from Matthew 5. Thank you for joining us this morning and especially thank you to those who are joining us by radio. This morning’s message is titled – “THE BLESSING OF NOT GETTING EVEN.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 7 “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.” So far the beatitudes were primarily dealing with our personal relationship with God.

  • You are to be “poor in spirit” and have more of the Holy Spirit.
  • In times of loss and pain, trust the Holy Spirit and He will comfort you.
  • Be meek and give your problems to God and you will inherit His riches.
  • You are to hunger and thirst for His righteousness and you will be satisfied.

All of these are important but they focus primarily on our personal relationship with God. But the fifth beatitude – “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy” – has to do with our relationship with people. When people take advantage of us, hurt us, mistreat us, or insult us, instead of retaliating, getting revenge, paying them back or getting even with them, we are to show mercy to them. People think that mercy is showing compassion towards those who are less fortunate and cannot do anything for you. That may be true but it’s much more than that. It is showing compassion towards those who have done something wrong to you, hurt you, and maybe even hate you.

Question: Are you a merciful person or are you a person who gets even? Are you a person who forgives and reaches out or are you a person who pays people back? Do your family members and friends say that you always get the last word and you always come on top? Let me ask you a deeper question – Have you ever accepted the mercy God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? If not, no wonder you can’t show mercy.

This message is very important because how you show mercy is how you obtain mercy. If your life is only full of justice and only eye for an eye and only tit for tat, it’s because that’s how you are. Do you often say, “I wish I could get a break?” Then “Start giving others a break.” Let the Holy Spirit help you today. 3 Questions this morning:

I. WHAT IS MERCY? 

“Blessed are the merciful…”

Background: There is a lot of confusion over the meaning of the word “mercy.” People confuse it with so many other things. Let me explain with four scenarios:

  • First Scenario: Joe insults Mike so Mike insults Joe back. That’s JUSTICE. He has every right to do that. We do that all the time especially in our culture. We have a very tit for tat society. We like to put people back in their place. We like to have the final word. We see that even in how we joke with each other – “If you can’t take it, don’t dish it.” The problem is – We don’t just dish it back, we dash the other person! But that’s JUSTICE and we understand that very well.
  • Second Scenario: Joe insults Mike but Mike instead of insulting Joe back and getting justice, just walks away and gives it to God. That’s MEEKNESS.

(Qualifications – all this is in the context of personal relationships. When it comes to individual safety and national security, we have to defend the helpless and ourselves and even make preemptive strikes against the enemy. That’s a very different issue.)

  • Third Scenario: Joe insults Mike and Mike gives it to God but instead of just walking away and distancing himself from Joe, Mike does something else. He forgives Joe. He refuses to hold a grudge. He refuses to be bitter. He doesn’t want to carry that extra baggage in life. That’s FORGIVENESS.
  • Fourth Scenario: Joe insults Mike and Mike gives it to God and even forgives Joe but he doesn’t stop there. He puts his guard down, sets his pride aside, and reaches out to Joe. As hard as it is, he tries to see things from Joe’s perspective. He tries to be patient and kind to Joe. He tries to redeem and restore the relationship. That’s MERCY.

Mercy is forgiveness plus much more. If you want to understand it, you have to turn to the Bible – Ephesians 2 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, What is salvation? It is a gift originated in God’s love, worked out in his mercy, and offered to us by his grace. It not only forgives us but it raises us up and seats us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. All we can do is receive it by faith. Listen to verse 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” We have offended God but because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God has not only forgiven us but also given us all the riches in Christ. No other religion can demonstrate mercy. It is an exclusive Christian virtue. Other religions may have justice, self-control, self-restraint, and even forgiveness. Only Christianity tries to redeem, restore, rebuild, reaffirm, reassure, and a lot of words starting with “re.”

What happens when we are touched by the mercy of God? We abdicate our right to revenge and retaliation. We relinquish our right to get even. We hand over the gavel of justice. Just like how God is towards us, we too forgive the person who has offended us but don’t stop there. We try to reach out and bring out the best in that person’s life.

Application: Have you ever received God’s mercy in your life? He worked out the plan of salvation when you were so undeserving. Unless you get saved, you cannot even begin to understand mercy. F.B. Meyer said – “It (mercy) is an exotic which Christ brought with Him from heaven.” Are you holding out mercy towards someone in your life? Are you only giving justice or forgiveness? Are you willing to go beyond?

II. HOW DO WE OBTAIN MERCY? 

“Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy”

Background: What does it mean to “Obtain Mercy?” It means having God’s forgiveness and restoration in our lives. Mercy is not just something that we need when we get saved but it’s also something we need every day after we get saved. Everyday we need God’s forgiveness towards us. Everyday we need God’s restoration in us. Why? Because we are weak. Because we cannot keep God’s standards. Because we fail so often. Of course our salvation is intact. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our eternal destiny is secure. But because of sin our relationship with the Father get’s broken. Even though we are headed to heaven, life begins to feel like hell.

How do you get mercy (forgiveness and restoration) in our lives? Some people think we need to pray for mercy. Some people think we need to ask God to forgive us for our sins. What does God have to say? “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy” Meaning: If you want mercy in your life, you have to show mercy to others. If that’s not enough, in the Lord’s Prayer or Disciples’ Prayer, Jesus said it again in Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” Then he gave an amazing parable in Matthew 18 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Application: Are you known for justice? Are you known for just forgiveness? Are you known for giving people three strikes and then out? If so, then you are setting the course of your life. James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

When you show Mercy and in return have God’s Mercy in your life, your life becomes a blessing to those around you. When Jesus was in this world He often reprimanded the scribes and the Pharisees for failing to show mercy. They were not horrible people. They tried to keep God’s commandments. They even tried to witness to others. Matthew 9  10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ (Jesus was quoting Hosea 6:6) For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

What the world needs to see are people who are so full of God’s mercy that they cannot help but show mercy to others. It will call on us to reconcile with the fact that some people who have offended us may even get away with what they did to you. You will have to kiss revenge goodbye. You will have to refuse to talk bad to people’s faces and even behind their backs.

In return not only will God show you mercy but people will also show you mercy when you need it. Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Corrie ten Boom Story on Forgiving (from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive”)

Nazi Holocaust

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. “It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’ “The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue Jewish Women Holocaust 2uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.] “Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? “But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. “‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me. “‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’ “And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

Corrie Ten Boom and Billy Graham“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. “For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ “I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ “And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ “For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”

That’s MERCY – forgiveness that calls the person a brother or sister. The only way we can do that is if we have the love of Christ in our hearts. That’s what this fallen world needs to see. Do you have it?

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,776 other followers

%d bloggers like this: