The Blessing of Bringing Harmony

theblessingofbringingharmony

This weekend we will be looking at the seventh beatitude in our series called SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount. This message is titled “THE BLESSING OF BRINGING HARMONY” – Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”

Human beings are prone to conflict. That’s in our sinful nature. The first conflict began in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve broke God’s commandment and ate the forbidden fruit. When God came and questioned them, the blame game began…and it continues to this day – spouses are in conflict, families are in conflict, neighbors are in conflict, communities are in conflict, nations are in conflict, and, unfortunately, even Christians are in conflict.

God is the source of true peace and harmony. The only way we can have harmony is if those who claim the name of Christ start living in peace and become peacemakers in the world. For that to happen, we will have to reject the urge to be selfish and stubborn and seek to be Spirit-filled.

Do you need peace in your life? Do you need to be the peacemaker for someone who is in conflict? Do not miss this message. Invite someone to come along!

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?

WHEN MOTHERS PRAY

WHEN MOTHERS PRAY by Abidan Paul Shah

When Mothers PrayHistory is replete with examples of the prayers of women, especially mothers. God delights in their prayers and wants to answer them. One such example is found in the Old Testament – the prayer of Hannah (1 Samuel 1). As you know she couldn’t have any children and she prayed before God earnestly and her prayers were answered.

How did she pray?

  1. SHE PRAYED FROM THE HEART.

Verse 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.

  1. SHE PRAYED VERY SPECIFICALLY.

Verse 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child…”

  1. SHE PRAYED SACRIFICIALLY.

Verse 11 –If You “will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

  1. SHE PRAYED PERSEVERINGLY.

Verse 12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD…

Hannah kept praying even though the priest questioned her sincerity.

  1. SHE PRAYED BELIEVINGLY.

Verse 17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” 18 And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

WHAT WAS THE RESULT OF HANNAH’S PRAYER?

  1. Her prayer was answered.

Verse 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.”

  1. She kept her word to the Lord.

Verse 24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her…27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.”

  1. God used the little boy in a powerful way.

This is the Samuel who went up and down the length and breadth of Israel to unite the people. He is the one who anointed Saul as the first king and then replaced him with David – the true King through whom came Jesus.

This is what happens when women pray, especially mothers. Where is prayer in your life? Where is God in your life? Where is Jesus in your life?

The Blessing of a Spiritual Appetite

THE BLESSING OF A SPIRITUAL APPETITE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofaspiritualappetite

We’re in our series on the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 called, “SALT AND LIGHT.” This morning we will be looking at the fourth beatitude and our message is called, “THE BLESSING OF A SPIRITUAL APPETITE.”

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: 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” On the surface, this beatitude seems very simple to understand and easy to apply but it’s anything but that. Look at it carefully and you realize that there’s more to it than what you think – 1. What is righteousness? 2. Why do we have to hunger and thirst for it? After all Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 61:10 “For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” I don’t have to work for it. I only have to trust Jesus for it. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Keep in mind that the Beatitudes build upon each other. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we develop an appetite for spiritual things like never before. There’s a new hunger and thirst in our lives. You know that you are accepted by God because of Jesus Christ but now you want to live a life that looks like Jesus Christ. It is a life that is simultaneously full and not full enough, quenched and unquenchable, satiated and insatiable, satisfied and yet always yearning for more.

Challenge: Does this describe your life? Do you hunger and thirst for the things of God or are you the type who can take it or leave it? Here’s a deeper question – have you ever had a spiritual appetite? A lost person is a dead person and a dead person cannot have an appetite.

This morning as we walk through this message, listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying in your heart. Hopefully, by the end of this message your spiritual stomachs will start growling. If you’ve never had a spiritual appetite, we pray that you will be born-again and begin your spiritual meal. Three questions again this morning:

I. WHAT IS RIGHTEOUSNESS?

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

Background: When we hear the word “righteousness” in this beatitude, we need to first look at what it means in its immediate context.

Meaning: Two things in this verse – First, this kind of righteousness does not come naturally. You have to seek after it. Second, when you truly seek after this kind of righteousness, then you are filled. The words are in the passive voice referring to God. In other words, you seek after it and God fills you up. So we have – This kind of righteousness is not natural. You have to seek for it and then God fills you up with it. But that still doesn’t tell us much about this “righteousness.” Let’s go beyond this verse to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount –

5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…

Meaning: Two things again in this verse – First, this kind of righteousness brings about an external and noticeable change in our lives. It’s not just some internal righteousness. Secondly, it does not always evoke a pleasant and favorable response. Sometimes the response is negative, hostile, and hateful. In other words, some of those who don’t have this righteousness persecute the ones who do have it. What do we have now? This kind of righteousness is not natural. You have to seek for it and then God fills you up with it. People can see it and some of those who don’t have it persecute those who do.

5:20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Meaning: Two things again in this verse – First, this kind of righteousness can be faked. Jesus is saying, “You gotta do better than the hypocritical scribes and the Pharisees.” Second, if its fake then it can keep you out of the kingdom of heaven. So let’s see it again – This kind of righteousness is not natural. You have to seek for it and then God fills you up with it. People can see it and some of those who don’t have it persecute those who do. Fake righteousness can keep you out of the kingdom of heaven.

6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Meaning: This time righteousness is connected to the kingdom of God. If you remember, kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven is the rule of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.

So let’s connect the dots. What is this righteousness in this context? It is the work of the Holy Spirit that leads us to want to live a life that pleases God and looks more and more like Jesus Christ. It brings about external change that causes some people to be hostile. Those who fake this are not in the kingdom of heaven – under the control of the Holy Spirit. God promises to take care of those who really hunger and thirst for it.

Application: Does this describe you? Has there been a real change in your life? Is the Holy Spirit working in your heart causing you to yearn for the things of God? This does not mean that you are perfect but you are definitely not fake.

II. HOW TO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR IT? 

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

In America it is very hard to understand hunger and thirst. If you’re hungry, go in the kitchen and make yourself a sandwich. If you’re still hungry, get a bag of chips or some cookies or some ice cream. If you’re hungry and don’t want to work for it, then get in your car and go through a drive through and get what you want. If you’re hungry and want somebody to wait on you, then go inside the restaurant and order what you want. What if you’re thirsty? Go to the kitchen sink and get some water. If you’re thirsty and don’t want water, then you have soft drinks, sweet tea, milk, juice, and other beverages we’re not going to name. We’re living in the land of milk and honey. I’m not saying there are no hungry people in America. There are people, especially some children in America, who would love to have what you threw in the trashcan last night. Overall we don’t understand hunger and thirst.

Illustration: Come to India with me and I will show you what real hunger and thirst looks like. Children walking around on the streets with their bellies bloated not because they ate a lot of food but because they have Kwashiorkor – protein malnutrition that swells their bellies. I have seen children so weak that they could barely walk. They have Marasmus. I’ve seen a brother and sister fighting over a piece of bread on the street. We have the luxury of all these drinks but I’ve seen people drink water from places that I wouldn’t use to water my lawn. They have Cholera and Typhoid.

Let me cut to the chase – If you’re not hungering and thirsting for righteousness, it could be a symptom of a deeper problem.

  • You are already stuffed. What are people stuffed with? Entertainment, Hobbies, Sports, and Toys. Not that all these things are bad in themselves but they cannot give you the nutrition that you need for your spiritual lives. No wonder many Christians are walking around with Spiritual Kwashiorkor and Marasmus. Psalm 63:1 “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.”
  • You are eating wrong spiritual food. What are you eating and drinking spiritually? If you are listening, watching, and reading the wrong biblical stuff, you will have Spiritual Cholera and Typhoid.

What are the consequences of a poor diet? It affects our relationship with God and with each other. We don’t have faith, hope, joy, peace, and wisdom. Instead, we have anger, bitterness, wrath, envy, jealousy, misunderstandings, and all the other junk. No wonder our churches are in such a mess! Listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? Sometimes people come to church one Sunday and say “feed me.” My question: “How long since you ate?” It’s been a year! Imagine if you missed your meal for a year – 365 X 3 = 1095 meals! By the time a put a bib around their neck, they’re on the way out. “I went to church/bible study and it didn’t help me.” Same goes if you miss a week – 7 X 3 = 21 meals!

Application: How is your spiritual diet? Are you truly seeking after the things of God? Are you daily feeding upon His Word? Are you daily submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Are you dealing with sin harshly and resting in the righteousness of Christ?

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

Background: When people truly hunger and thirst for righteousness, God does the filling. The Greek word is “chortazomai” which means “fattening animals” or “being stuffed.” Spiritually malnutritioned people are a very poor representation of Jesus Christ. They are like the Snickers commercial – “You’re not you when you are hungry.” They make decisions that are shameful and embarrassing. They hurt people around them. They act in ways that are contrary to the Word of God. They actually repel people from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When the world sees Christians who are stuffed with the right food and drink, the Holy Spirit holds them as an advertisement of what Jesus can do for them. They may not be perfect or have all that they want or they may have their struggles but in their hearts and on their faces there is the smile of contentment.

Invitation: Which one are you? Come to Jesus. He said in John 6 48 I am the bread of life…51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” John 7 37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

The Blessing of Humility

THE BLESSING OF HUMILITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofhumilityThis morning we are looking at the third beatitude and our message is titled “THE BLESSING OF HUMILITY.”

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 meek, For they shall inherit the earth. At first glance this beatitude seems very simple to understand and easy to apply but it’s anything but that. I preached on it 13 years ago and so I pulled out my notes thinking that I could just warm up this old biscuit and serve it. I couldn’t do it. It’s not that I preached something wrong back then but I did not realize how deep it was entrenched in our system. It is listed as one among the three things that is not from God – “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16) It’s as if the Holy Spirit said to me – “You were digging in the right spot but you didn’t go deep enough.”

Application: Do you consider yourself a humble person? Be careful how you answer that! “Pride is so subtle. Just when you think you are humble, you get nailed!” As someone said, “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.” Here’s a better question – Do others consider you a humble person? Pride is the enemy’s choicest weapon against the Christian and the church. When they asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He answered, “whoever humbles himself as this little child.” Are you saved? To be saved you have to set your pride aside, admit that you are no good, and humbly receive God’s grace.

This beatitude is probably the most difficult beatitude that Jesus gave. Once again we’re going to ask 3 questions about this beatitude. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you.

I. WHO ARE THE MEEK?

“Blessed are the meek”

Background: Typically people run to Webster’s or some quote from a famous person to define meekness or humility. When Jesus gave this beatitude He did not have some dictionary or some Chinese philosopher in mind. Instead, He was quoting a psalm of David from the Old Testament – Psalm 37. Listen to verse 10 “For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. 11 But the meek shall inherit the earth…” Jesus was quoting David. To understand meekness, we have to understand what David meant by it. He wrote this psalm to help the righteous deal with the wicked. He tells them to be meek. Keep in mind that this is not in the context of daily security or national defense. Remember David killed the wicked Goliath. This is in the context of daily relationships.

Who are the meek who inherit the earth according to David? If you put two verses in this psalm side by side, you get the true definition. Verse 11 “But the meek shall inherit the earth…” and verse 9 “But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth.” In other words, meek are those who wait on the Lord. Typically, people think of the meek as people who walk around all hunched over saying, “I’ll go along with whatever” or “Just pretend I’m not here” or “Forgive me for living.” David’s description of the meek and the humble is a person who waits upon God when people do their thing. Instead of getting angry, frustrated, or disappointed with God, the meek let God handle their case.

It’s easy to be meek/humble when people are being nice to you. It’s a whole different story when they’re not. The perfect example is found in Numbers 12:3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) What a complement! But do you know the context of this statement? Listen to verse 1 Then Miriam and Aaron (brother and sister) spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. (They didn’t come out and say that.) 2 So they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. Do you think Moses didn’t know that? He must have told her – “Ignore them” but his friend God had heard it. Verse 4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” 6 Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. 7 Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. 8 I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?” Isn’t that amazing when God speaks in your defense?!! You know why many times God doesn’t come to our aid? Because we are not meek and we take matters into our own hands.

But it doesn’t stop there. 9 So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed. 10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron begged Moses to do something. Moses was not strutting saying, “Remember that next time. Don’t mess with me.” Instead, verse 13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!” How many of us would have done that? What was God’s response? 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” You know why sometimes God doesn’t come to our aid? Because He knows we are not meek and we would love to crush our enemies instead of praying for them. Any wonder that Moses was the most humble person on earth?!!

Application: The true test of meekness comes when people mistreat us in our family, friend, work, neighborhood, and even church. Are you a meek and a humble person? True meekness and humility is a life that waits upon God and let’s God handle our battles. Do you wait upon Him? Do you trust Him to handle your case?

II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO INHERIT THE EARTH? 

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.

Background: We have to go back to Psalm 37 to understand it’s meaning. 5 times in this psalm that phrase “inherit the earth” is used. What is the point that David is making here? He explains it in the opening verses of the psalm – 1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. What a powerful imagery! The proud wicked seem to be cropping up and flourishing. They seem to be gaining power and prestige. They abuse and mistreat people but seem to be getting away with it. Don’t be afraid because they are like the grass in the Middle East. For the moment it appears so lush and green but once that hot desert wind known as the “hamsin” comes, it will dry up and fade away. Unlike Aaron and Miriam who were saved but acting like the proud wicked and God disciplined them, what will He do with the proud wicked? 13 The Lord laughs at him, For He sees that his day is coming… What else? 35 I have seen the wicked in great power, And spreading himself like a native green tree. 36 Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.

But what about the meek and the humble? “For they shall inherit the earth.” The key word here is “inherit.” What is an inheritance? It is something that has been passed down because of family connection. Because God is our heavenly father, Christ is our brother, and we are joint heirs with Him, everything that God has now belongs to us also. What should the meek focus on? 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Some of this inheritance will come to you in this life and some in the life to come. Don’t fret over it or be envious or waste your life wondering why they are so blessed and you’re not. Be meek and wait upon God. He will take care of you. You will “feed on His faithfulness.” You will have the “desires of your heart.” You will have “abundance of peace.” He will give you exactly what you need.

But there’s more. This inheritance is not just for you but also for your children and grandchildren. Here’s one of my favorite passages in the Bible – 25 I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread. The blessing goes on!

Application: Do you want to inherit the earth? Do you want God’s blessing in your life? Are you waiting upon Him? Are you meek and humble in His sight?

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

Keep in mind that the beatitudes build upon each other. The first one 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Remember – the kingdom of heaven is the Holy Spirit ruling your heart. When you are “poor in spirit” meaning less and less of self, you will be more and more led by the Holy Spirit. What is the second beatitude? 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. In life you will go through loss, which will bring grief and mourning. Instead of giving in and falling apart, the Holy Spirit will come alongside and comfort you. What is the result of this? You come to realize how much you cannot make it by yourself. You understand how much you need God’s help and grace in your life. You set aside your pride, your wisdom, your strength, and self-confidence and you wait more and more upon God. You don’t worry about the wicked proud but you become meek and humble. How? The Holy Spirit helps you with this. D.L. Moody, “A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.”

In turn the world sees the difference in our spirit and attitude. J.C. Ryle said, “Humility and love are precisely the graces which the men of the world can understand, if they do not comprehend doctrines.”

Are you saved? You have to humble yourself and acknowledge that there’s nothing you can to save yourself. You need God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

Augustine said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”

The Blessing of Sorrow

THE BLESSING OF SORROW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofsorrowWe are in Matthew 5 for our series titled – “SALT AND LIGHT.” This morning we are looking at the second beatitude and our message is titled “THE BLESSING OF SORROW.

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 those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. You can picture Jesus looking across that mountain and seeing the multitude/people.

  • There sits a family that just lost their home in a fire.
  • There sits an old man who lost his ability to see.
  • There sits a young man who just lost his job as a soldier.
  • There sits a young couple that was robbed on their way to Galilee.
  • There sits a father whose son just ran away from home.
  • There sits a mother who lost her daughter to an epidemic.
  • There sits that middle-aged couple wondering where time has gone.
  • There sits a young girl who lost her innocence to what she thought was love.
  • There sits a little boy who lost his parents.

As the Bible says, “seeing the multitudes” he opened His mouth and said – “Blessed are those who mourn.” In other words, “Blessed are those who have gone through some loss.” Why do we mourn? Because something or someone we had is not there anymore.

Not much has changed. The multitude is still grieving. There are people all over this room who are mourning. As someone said, “In every pew there sits someone with a broken heart.” We are grieving over the loss of a job, house, health, relationship, love, money, vision, time, or a loved one. Life is a series of losses – some big and some small – and because of that we all mourn or sorrow to some degree or the other.

Application: What are you doing with your sorrow? Are you pretending that everything is all right? Are you looking to false substitutes to cope with your sorrow? Are you looking to Jesus? Are you trusting Him to get you through? Only He can truly comfort you.

3 things we will see in this message. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will apply this beatitude to your life so not only will you get this but go further to Luke’s rendition of this beatitude – “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

I. WHY DO WE MOURN?

This week was a busy one for me. All day Monday through Wednesday I was in Raleigh for NCLEAP – NC Law Enforcement Assistance Program. They were conducting what is known as PCIS – Post Critical Incident Seminar. It is an event designed to help officers (Police, State Troopers, Sherriff’s Dept.) and their spouses who have gone through trauma like line of duty shooting and line of duty death. People don’t realize what men and women in law enforcement go through every day of their lives. They are constantly bombarded with trauma, death, loss, and grief and it begins to take a toll on them and effects their health, relationships, and work. Just to let you know – as many as 100 commit suicide every year. At this seminar men and women and their spouses come from everywhere who are struggling with loss and they are helped with peer support and teaching. As the chaplain for the Henderson PD I was invited to be there and I am really glad I went. One of the teachers was Dr. Therese Rando who is a world-renowned grief expert and Clinical Director of The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss. She has published as many as 80 works on the subject and been on national TV and everything. Amazing how the Holy Spirit works! This week I am preaching on mourning and the world expert is sitting behind me! Here’s what she shared:

There are 2 kinds of loss in life:

  1. Physical loss – car is stolen, house burns down, leg is amputated
  2. Abstract loss – divorce, job loss, relationship loss

Both of these are known as Primary Loss. But there’s something else happens next which is known as Secondary Loss – Because of primary loss, people go though a deeper loss of their worldview – what they believe about God, this world, themself, and others. Because of your loss you begin to look at everything differently. Keep in mind that there’s a difference between losing your keys and losing a loved one to cancer but your loss is important to you. Children leaving the home can be a loss. Depending on how serious your loss was to you, you begin to rewrite your life script.

What’s next? Loss leads to grief and mourning. There’s a difference between the two:

  • Grief is your reaction to the loss. This can be psychological, behavioral, social, and even physical. It includes crying, depression, guilt, anger, irritability, restlessness, fear, anxiety, numbness, sleep deprivation, social withdrawal, addiction, etc.
  • Mourning is learning to cope with your loss. It involves adjusting to the loss by undoing our previous ties with that thing or person. It involves building new ties with that thing or person. It involves revising our worldview and learning to move forward. By the way, people grieve and mourn differently.

Life is a series of losses – some big and some small – and because of that we all grieve and mourn to one degree or another. This is a big problem of life. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus began His Sermon with the most common human problem?!! After all He is God! What did you expect! It behooves me when people say that the Bible doesn’t apply. It applies much more than you think!

Application: Are you struggling with some loss in your life? Are you trying to pretend that you are strong and it doesn’t bother you? Are you living in grief and mourning? God understands. Jesus understands. He cares.

II. WHAT ARE SOME WAYS PEOPLE COPE? 

People try all sorts of ways to mourn. They are known as “coping mechanisms.”

  • Act out = Go wild. Do crazy things. You owe it to yourself.
  • Adapt = Find a new normal. Just adapt to this loss.
  • Altruism = Help other people and it will make you feel better.
  • Avoid = Just don’t face it. Pour yourself into your work, hobby, or relationship.
  • Cry = Let it out.
  • Distance = Move away. At least get away for a while.
  • Emotionality = Have an outburst. Make people scared of your anger.
  • Fantasy = Go into your make-believe world. Turn on a favorite song and dream.
  • Help-Rejecting Complaining = Ask for help and then reject it. Look for pity.
  • Intellectualize = Think deep on the subject. Go get a PhD on it.
  • Passive Aggression = Be stubborn and hostile even if it hurts self. Procrastinate.
  • Provocation = Get others to act so you can react.
  • Regression = Act like a little kid.
  • Self-harming = Cause pain to self so you don’t have to face the pain of loss.
  • Trivializing = Pretend that it’s not a big deal.

Why do people try these coping mechanisms? Because they give some temporary relief or even long-term relief but there’s a big difference between relief and comfort. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will find relief.” The English word “comfort” comes from the Latin com = with and fort = strong. It’s connected to words like fortify and fortress. We will see all this in the last point.

Application: Which one of these coping mechanisms are you using? Are you just satisfied with relief? Relief can only shift the pain, sometimes on those around you. Can you see the pain that others are feeling through you?

III. HOW DOES GOD COMFORT US? 

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

Background: Keep in mind that Jesus gave these beatitudes in a particular order. You cannot jump around here. The first one is the first one for a reason – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Remember the “kingdom of heaven/God?” It is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the life of everyone who has received Jesus as his/her Savior. Remember Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Who are the “poor in spirit?” They are those who have less of self. So the first beatitude is saying that those who have less and less of self will be more and more under the control of the Holy Spirit. When you have this in place you are ready for the second beatitude – “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Look at the word “comfort,” not in English but in Greek. It is the word “parakaleo.” It is the verbal form of “parakletos,” the name Jesus used for the Holy Spirit.

  • John 14 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
  • John 14:26 But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
  • John 16 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

When Jesus gave the second beatitude, it was in the context of the Holy Spirit being the one who comforts. Jesus Himself is our Comforter but now He is also at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. So he sends another Comforter the Holy Spirit. Amazing! We have 2 Comforters! What are they doing? One is advocating for me in heaven and the other from earth. The Holy Spirit encourages me, guides me, strengthens me, gives me exactly what I need, sends the right people in my life, and even uses my loss to comfort others. Guess what? It works! “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” – G. K. Chesterton

But it doesn’t stop there – Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 1   3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. The point is that we’re not just waiting to be comforted but as salt and light we comfort others.

Invitation: Do you know Jesus as your Savior? How are you handling loss in your life? Are you looking to the Holy Spirit to comfort you? Do you know someone who needs Him?

The Blessing of Brokenness

THE BLESSING OF BROKENNESS by Pastor Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Blessing of BrokennessWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and as of last week we are in our miniseries on the Sermon on the Mount called “Salt and Light.” Today we will look at the first Beatitude and our message is titled, “THE BLESSING OF BROKENNESS.”

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: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The first beatitude is very important for us to understand. It sets the tone for the rest of the Beatitudes. To be honest, it sets the tone for the Christian life. The principle behind that verse is “the way up is down.” It goes contrary to everything in our human nature. We think that the way up is up. As Emerson said, “Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star…” As a naturalist, he was talking about harnessing the power of nature but the point still stands that we as human beings think that the way up is by hitching our wagon to a star. Not so in God’s eyes. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Men and women throughout the ages who got this truth got the heart of God and lived a life of blessing.

Application: Which way is up for you? If you want to go with God, the way is down. Do you want God’s blessing in your life? Are you willing to be broken? That’s good not bad.

By the way, this principle is not only true in our relationship with God but also in our relationships at home, church, and community. Men and women, boys and girls who truly live by the principle “the way up is down” bring blessings every where they go. In fact, they become the salt and light in their circle of influence. They season and brighten their world for the better. If there’s anything our nation and our world needs right now is a healthy dose of “the way up is down.”

Three important questions we will ask about this beatitude:

1. WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? 

Background: Several times in Matthew we see Jesus using the term the “kingdom of heaven.” Ay the way, it’s no different than the “kingdom of God” in Mark, Luke, and John. For some people the kingdom of heaven/God was an earthly rule by the Messiah – something that would set them free from their Roman rulers. For other people the kingdom was the ultimate rule of God in the end of times. It was a future ideal rule of God with his people. When Jesus used that term He was talking about something quite different. It was something more internal than external. It was something right now and not just out there in some distant future. It was something that was more eternal than temporal. In Matthew 13 Jesus gave many parables to explain it’s meaning –

  • 24 “…The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.”
  • 31 “…The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
  • 33 “…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
  • 44 “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
  • 45   “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…”
  • 47   “the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind..”

Even though Jesus tried again and again to explain the meaning of the kingdom of heaven to his disciples they still didn’t get it. In fact, even after his resurrection in Acts 1:6 they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” I can picture Jesus shaking his head when he said in verse 7 “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But then he made the statement that holds the clue to the meaning of the kingdom of heaven – 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The kingdom of heaven/God has to do with the Holy Spirit.

Why didn’t Jesus just come out and say it during his ministry? As John 7:39 says, “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” They were not ready for the Holy Spirit. It would’ve been too confusing for them. He said a few things about the Holy Spirit – the comforter – the focus was still the cross.

So what is the kingdom of heaven/God? It is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who have received Jesus as their Savior.

Romans 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you in the kingdom of heaven/God? Are you living in the power, control, and direction of the Holy Spirit? How do you get into this kingdom? Matthew 18:3 “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

2. WHO ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT?

Background: When we hear that phrase “poor in spirit” we immediately think of someone who is down on life, downcast, melancholy, and gloomy. Someone kind of like Eeyore – “Good morning Pooh Bear, if it is a good morning, which I doubt.” “It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it.” As someone said, “People like that brighten up a room just by leaving it.” They’re always fishing for sympathy. That’s not what this is.

I think to truly understand the meaning of “poor in spirit” you have to think the opposite of “rich in spirit” – someone who is rich in self or full of SELF – self-confident, self-assured, self-reliant, self-made, self-centered, self-righteous, self-seeking, self-preserving, and self-sufficient. In other words, they are SELFISH. It may be a lot or a little but they are rich in their spirit.

“Poor in spirit” is just the opposite. These are people who have very little of self. They’ve come face to face with their abilities, weaknesses, and limitations. They’ve come to realize that all that they are and all that they have is by the grace of God. They truly believe that they are unworthy and undeserving. Please don’t misunderstand – it’s not that they have a poor self-esteem; they just have a proper esteem of self. It’s not that they’re insecure but they realize that their security is not in self. In fact, many of them are very rich, very talented, and very successful. It’s not about that. The poor in spirit are simply grateful that God and people think as well of them and treat them as well as they do. Just like the poor when they get that dollar they’re grateful.

How do people get this way? It’s the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s called the breaking process – breaking our self down and replacing it with his self. He does it in many ways –

  • He does it through the teaching of the Bible. In Matthew 18:4 Jesus said “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Messages like this remind us of how much we are to humble ourselves before God and how much we are to let him control our lives.
  • He’s does it through our pain and our circumstances. Not always but sometimes he uses our needs and suffering to remind us of our poverty. 2 Corinthians 12 Paul said 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
  • He does it through the examples of other people. I remember growing up and missionary by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander. He was a mentor to my dad. He lived next door and would eat with us almost every day. He was a scholar in biblical languages. He translated of the Bible into Marathi. I used to sit on his lap and he would read books to me. I’ve never met a man so “poor in spirit.” One time a man came to him begging for some shoes. Keep in mind – the British used to rule India and some of the officers were quite hateful. But when this man asked Dr. Schelander he immediately began to take off his shoes. The man thought that he would beat him with his shoes for daring to ask and he took off running. Dr. Schelander had to chase him down and beg him to take his shoes.
  • He does it through our sin life. In his prayer of repentance, David said in Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.”

Application: Are you rich in spirit or poor in spirit? Has God taking you through the process of brokenness? If the kingdom of heaven is about the Holy Spirit, how much is he controlling in your life?

3. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

Background: The Greek word for “blessed” is “makarios.” It comes from the Hebrew word “asre.” We are more familiar with the Hebrew word “baruk,” which means “blessed by God.” If it was “baruk” here then the Greek word would have been “eulogetes.” But “makarios” from the Hebrew “asre” is not restricted to just being blessed by God. It has a wider meaning. Yes – it does carry the connotation that God looks at you favorably but it doesn’t stop there. I think the best translation may not be literal but it communicates the sense best. It is something like “You’ve got it good” or “You’ve got it made.” You bring blessing to others. When people come across you they’re not threatened by you or your self. Instead, they are drawn to you and they want to know the secret of the hope that is within you. They want to know how they can have a life that is not controlled by circumstances. They want to know how they can have a life that is directed by God. They want to know how they too can be blessed.

Our brokenness not only blesses us but also blesses those around us. By the way, this has always been God’s way as Paul says in I Corinthians 1 27 “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

The way up is down so that God gets the glory.

For e.g. I remember as a little boy going to a small village in India where we had planted a church. Those Christians lived in these tiny huts, no bigger than 10X10. They had hardly anything. Then in the evening we would have worship and preaching and it was amazing to watch them sing. They sang from their hearts. They sang as if they had it made!

For e.g. I also remember a very wealthy man in our church who sat on the floor with those village Christians and worshipped with them.

Application: How do you look at your life? Are you looking down at yourself because things don’t seem to working out as you wished they would have? Have you lost hope and become skeptical because it’s not all sunny in your life? Are you surrendered to the Holy Spirit and His work of brokenness in your life? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you being the Salt and Light to people around you?

Salt and Light: The Myth of a Secular Nation

SALT AND LIGHT: THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

saltandlightWe are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we come to Matthew 5 to what Augustine called the “De Sermone Domini in Monte” = Sermon on the Mount – the passage in which Jesus gave the Beatitudes, the Six Antithesis, the Lord’s Prayer, the Golden Rule, and other important principles of the Christian life. With that in mind, today we will begin a long miniseries titled, “SALT AND LIGHT – THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION.” There is something in this series that is very vital for our personal lives, our families, our church, our community, and our nation.

Matthew 5:13-14 (Click to watch video of reading by the Mount of Beatitudes)   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 may not know but the Sermon on the Mount has been discussed and debated ever since it was first written. As early as the first century we know of a document called the Didache that tells us that the early church struggled with how to obey such high standards that Jesus gave to His disciples and to the multitudes. People throughout the centuries have questioned if it was even possible to apply these rules and could it be that they were meant for another time and another place. Some people claimed that this passage was only meant for those who lived before the cross and that Jesus did not expect them to obey them but was just showing them how God’s standard of holiness was too high and how much they needed His grace in their lives. Others claimed that the list of righteousness and holy living has nothing to do with the past or the present but with the future millennial kingdom. In other words, there has to be an ideal environment for this high standard to be achieved.

So what do we do with the Sermon on the Mount? Do we just skip over it? I believe that the Sermon on the Mount is for every Christian of every generation. When you truly study this passage in its context you realize that Jesus did not give this sermon just to make us feel helpless before the holiness of God or to make us feel hopeful for some future Kingdom of God. He meant this sermon to be obeyed by all believers of all ages. There are some powerful truths embedded in these verses – truths that will change the way we live the Christian life, truths that will bless our homes and our families, truths that will change the way we function as a church, truths that will transform our community, and truths that will change the direction of our nation.

The Sermon on the Mount is a kind of Christian life that not only brings personal blessings but it also transforms the world around us. It’s not a life that runs from the world or a life that compromises with the world but a life that seasons and brightens the world around us. Daily I come across people who are either fed up with the world or fearful of the world. The Sermon on the Mount challenges us to live in such a way that the world sees our good works and glorifies our Father in heaven.

Application: Do you think we need this kind of a Christian life? Do you think our community needs this kind of a life? Do you think our nation needs God’s blessing? Are you being the salt and light in this world? Let’s ask a deeper question – are you saved?

This morning we won’t look at just one passage but several passages from the Sermon on the Mount. We will set the foundation for the rest of the series. If we get this message, we will get the rest of the series. 3 things stand out in this Sermon:

I. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF ISOLATION FROM THE WORLD. 

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…

Background: Some people think that this proves that Jesus did not want the multitudes. “He saw the multitudes and went up the mountain with His disciples.” Not true. Let’s go to the end of the sermon in 7 28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 8:1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. This was not a private lesson just for the disciples.

How did the multitudes find Him? Let’s go to the verses immediately preceding the sermon on the Mount – Matthew 4 23 And Jesus went King of Kings Sermon on the Mountabout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people…25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

Bottom line: The multitudes did not find Jesus. He went and found them. One of the problems in our churches is that we are either running from the multitudes or we are waiting for them to find us. We like to talk about how bad the world is and how far we have come and how things are not what they used to be. Sometimes we’re doing everything we can to keep the world out. Make no mistake – we need to stay away from worldliness but not stay away from people. There’s a big difference. Jesus was not worldly but He loved people. He went out and met the needs of the people and then people followed him.

This does not mean that He was naïve about the multitudes. What kind of people were in the multitudes? Matthew 4:24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, (What do sick people do? They moan and groan and complain.) and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Do you think some of them fussed with each other? Do you think some were greedy, lustful, critical, and demanding? Of course! Ministry is messy. Jesus did not consider the crowd to be a burden. Sometimes we tend to think that the crowd is a burden. You’ll hear things like – “We got too many people here now.” “I don’t know every body anymore.” “It’s hard to keep up.” “I liked it when it was small.” Jesus loves this! It’s for the people that He came.

If Christianity is going to survive in America, it will have to go to the multitudes and that will be messy but that’s all right. God has not called us to isolation. He wants us out there seeking and saving that which was lost.

For e.g. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, learned from George Whitfield that if change were to come in England, they would have to go outside the church to fields and the docks and the markets. At first Wesley didn’t like it. He was too traditional. But on April 1, 1739 Wesley preached to a group gathered on Nicholas Street. Guess which passage? The Sermon on the Mount! He was chastised by church leaders but listen to what he wrote in his journal on July 11, 1739: “Permit me to speak plainly…God in Scripture commands me, according to my power, to instruct the ignorant, reform the wicked, confirm the virtuous. Man forbids me to do this in another’s parish; that is, in effect, to do it at all, seeing I have now no parish of my own, nor probably ever shall. Whom then shall I hear, God or man? “I look upon all the world as my parish…” England was riddled with immorality, skepticism, atheism, and the coming of Wesley saved it. He went to the people. We’re looking for new ways to grow our churches. Maybe we need to try the Jesus way!

Application: What do you think about the multitudes? Do you run from them? Do you spend your time criticizing them? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and save them? If not, step out of the way and let others do it.

II. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD 

2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Background: Just when you think that Jesus would laugh over sin, He raises the bar. Sometimes we think that in order to win the world we have to become like the world. Nothing is further from the truth. In the weeks ahead I’ll be preaching on each of these beatitudes. Let me just tell you – the Standard is high, very high!

Here’s more – 4 Blessed are those who mourn, (Some were complaining) For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, (Some were proud) For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, (Some were hungering for the things of this world) For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, (Some were bitter and hateful) For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, (Some had hidden sins) For they shall see God.

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If we want God’s blessing in our lives, it has to be the way of holiness and righteousness. We can’t go around that. In fact in Matthew 5:20 Jesus says to them, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees and the scribes at a high standard but Jesus said – “Your standard better be higher then theirs if you want to get to heaven.” Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Nothing destroys our testimony before the world than hypocrisy and hidden sin.

Application: How is your sin life right now? Is there hate in your heart? Is there anger in your life? Is there unforgiveness towards someone? Is there lust? Is there greed? Are you having trouble seeing God? Could it be because “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

III. A LIFE OF BLESSING AND RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT TRANSFORMS THE WORLD.

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.

Background: Just when you think Jesus is only interested in our personal spiritual lives He makes a statement that I feel is one of the greatest passages in the entire Bible. Salt seasons our food. It makes it worth eating. But if the salt loses its flavor then it is worthless for the food. It has to be thrown away. People just walk over it.

Christianity is being trampled upon in America. It’s because Christians have lost their flavor.

Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

For e.g. As you know, Nicole and I went to Israel in January. One thing that really got me were the ultra Orthodox. They reminded me of the Pharisees and the scribes, maybe not in every aspect but regarding tradition. These people wear black robes, black hats, and black shoes. They have long sideburns and they’re constantly doing their Torah reading and mumbling their prayers. They are an oddity. They’re different. They’re strange. They’re judgmental. I asked our guides about them and both of them had some not so nice things to say. Both our guides were Jewish but secular Jewish.

I thought about our churches in America and Christians in America. In some ways, we have become an oddity. We have become different and strange. By that I’m not saying that we are different as in God’s people different but different as in old, outdated, harmless, naïve, flavorless, and “matter of time before they’re extinct people.”

Jesus went on to say in verse 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.”

Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt. He notes that “Christianity and Christian influence on the government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; outlawing pedophilia; granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy in the Western world; prohibiting the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advancing the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlawing slave trade and slavery.

I’m amazed at how some Christians have been backing away from the public square when we should be the ones taking the public square. The reason we have the freedom we do and the blessings we do is because this nation was founded to be the salt in the light of the world. The reason we are compassionate towards people, animals, the less fortunate, the ones who are sidelined, and abused is because of Christianity. We have been beneficiaries of someone else’s faithfulness. Much has changed. Either we are hiding our light or we have a false light or we have no light.

When you and I begin to live the way Christians were meant to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the life of Christ in us, with the word of God on our lips and in our hearts, we become the salt and the light of the world. Do you want to know why the world and America and our community is in such a mess? Stop blaming Hollywood. Stop blaming the politicians. Stop blaming the atheists and the sexually immoral. They’re just living by their nature. Start looking in the mirror. If our Christian lives were what they were supposed to be, this world would be a better place. If we were teaching our children how to live the blessed life, they would be the change makers in our society today.

It’s not too late. Today’s the day to begin. First, if you are not saved, you need to get saved right now. Let’s go a step further – what are you doing right now to impact our community? What are you doing to make this 30-mile radius the best place on earth? Are you praying for our nation? Are you getting involved in politics? It’s not enough to preach the gospel. It’s also important to impact the culture. This is not just so we can keep preaching but also so that our society will remain civil, kind, compassionate, and blessed.

By the way, what did Jesus say in the Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Meaning: The very first thing that we are to pray for after glorifying God is for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

How To Beat Death

HOW TO BEAT DEATH? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtobeatdeath-page-001Today we are celebrating Easter Sunday. It commemorates the day Jesus rose from the grave. With that in mind, I am preaching a message titled “HOW TO BEAT DEATH.” Unless Jesus comes for us first, death is coming to all of us.

Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Overall Background: If you ever want to kill a conversation, mention death. If you ever want people to avoid you, bring up the subject of death. Most people are afraid of death. One evidence of that is the number of euphemisms we have come up with for death – Bite the dust, kicked the bucket, passed away, is in a better place, R.I.P., etc. Bottom line: people don’t want to face the great unknown, the great beyond. The Bible has the most balanced view of death. On the one hand, it deals with the reality, finality, and brutality of death but, on the other hand, it also reminds us that death doesn’t have to be an enemy, it’s not final, and it is in fact the beginning of another life that never ends and its wonderful! It does that not by giving us cute euphemisms but hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that through Jesus we can beat death.

Application: Are you afraid of death? If you don’t know Jesus, you should be. Saying – “What will be will be” is not enough because God has provided a way to decide how you will spend your life on the other side. To ignore what God has to say about life after death is to insult Him, reject His work, and bring His judgment upon us. Are you saved?

Three questions we will answer in this passage that will teach us how to beat death.

I. DID JESUS ACTUALLY BEAT DEATH?

Background: When you start talking about the resurrection of Jesus to people who don’t believe the Bible, you get the following responses:

  • It’s an ancient myth found in various religions (Gnostic redeemer, Mithras, or fertility cult) and Christianity is no different. The problem with that is that there is zero parallel in ancient history of a human being to have died and come back to life and reappeared to people who knew him.
  • Some since the nineteenth century have claimed some rationalistic explanations for Jesus’ resurrection – Jesus never truly died. He just swooned. When someone says that, I like to say “How about if we were to flog you 39 times and then drive nails through your hands and feet, hang you on the cross which would dislocate your shoulders and you go into a hypovolemic shock. Then after you die pierce your side with a spear and break your legs. Then take you down and wrap you in a burial cloth, place you inside a tomb, and roll a big stone over it. What are your chances of getting out?!!”
  • Yet others claim that it’s a bunch of stories the disciples made up to cope with Jesus’ death or the church is behind it? The disciples themselves stole His body or they went to the wrong tomb or it was just a case of mass hallucination or it was just a spiritual experience. How do we answer that? Let’s just read the text and see if there are any clues that prove that the Bible is telling the truth and the disciples didn’t make this up and that Jesus actually did beat death. There are many.

Let’s look at a couple:

  • Luke 23   50 “Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member…”
Garden Tomb 3

Garden Tomb Outside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

This is referring to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem – the supreme court of the Jewish people made up of 70 members and one High Priest.

“…a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, (Maybe Northwest of Jerusalem) who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before.”

What a great risk? Not just for Joseph of Arimathea but for the gospel writers to mention this man’s name, position, and the town he came from! All I have to do is prove that he is not a member or from the town of Arimathea.

  • Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them…

If I were making up the story of the resurrection, I would have chosen the high priest who happened to be in the area or Pilate who was out for an early morning ride or even one of the male disciples who were the first to witness the empty tomb. Instead, verse 10 “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.” Women were not considered a legitimate and credible testimony.

  • Luke 24 1 “…came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.”

The disciples were not even expecting the resurrection. They came early to probably avoid any confrontation with those who had killed Jesus. They brought spices to embalm Him because as far as they were concerned, it was over.

  • Luke 24 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. And Matthew adds in Matthew 28  2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

Earthquake? It means everybody in the vicinity felt it. You are setting your self up big time if it didn’t happen.

We can go on and on from other passages but the point is clear – something extraordinary happened to the dead body of Jesus. It came back to life. The proofs are too many! The evidence is leaning heavily towards the fact that Jesus beat death. The disciples died believing that Jesus had risen. Nobody does that for a hoax, not a group.

Application: Do you find it hard to accept that Jesus beat death? Is it because you have examined the evidence or are you just repeating what you heard on TV or in a class or read in some magazine article? It’s too important to dismiss casually.

II. COULD JESUS ACTUALLY BEAT DEATH? 

Background: This is a deeper question. Although the written evidence shows that Jesus beat death and came back to life, the greater question is – “Is this even possible?” “Can human beings come back to life?” The overwhelming evidence says “No.” People die and that’s final. That’s why we have cemeteries and graveyards. Muslims have their “kabaristans,” Hindus have their “shamshan ghats,” Parsis have their “Tower of Silence,” and Native Americans have their “Burial Mounds.”

Death is universal unless you’re not human. Then, you’re not bound by death.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Who was Jesus? We know that He was a human being because He died. But He was more – Listen to verse 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. (Matthew tells us that they were angels.) 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

The key phrase here is “Son of Man.” Some people think that Son of God refers to Jesus being God’s Son, fully God, and Son of Man refers to Jesus being Mary’s Son, fully Man. Although, that sounds pretty good, there’s more in that title than that. You have to go to the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament to understand the true meaning of that title. Daniel 7  13  “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man. What He was claiming was deity. He was claiming that He was God. Just a few chapters earlier in Luke 21:27 Jesus said, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” When Judas came to betray Him, He said in Luke 22:48 “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Then in Luke 22 66 As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, 67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 68 And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. 69 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” 70   Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” 71   And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

Here’s the point – If Jesus was the Son of Man, then He was God and as God who created life and gives life and sustains life, death has no power over Him.

On the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached, He said in Acts 2 that even though they had crucified Him, God raised Him – 24 “…having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Then in Acts 3:15 he called Him the Prince of life.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of Man? If so, then the Resurrection is not a problem, the Virgin birth is not a problem, and walking on water is not a problem. Miracles are not a problem. By the way, the greatest miracle is none of them. It is the resurrection of a dead soul to life everlasting. Have you been resurrected?

III. WILL I BE ABLE TO BEAT DEATH? 

Let’s go back to verse 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Garden Tomb 2

Garden Tomb Inside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

When did Jesus say that? Luke 9:22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Was this just casual information? Luke 9:44 “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” Meaning: He really wanted them to get the reality of the resurrection. Why? It had a tremendous implication for their life! When we receive Jesus as our Savior, His life begins to flow through us. It’s the life of God. It’s the life that death cannot conquer. When I die, because of the life of Jesus in me, I am coming back to life just like Him. In other words, I am going to beat death like He did.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 14:19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

1 Corinthians 15 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is an old folk tale titled as the “Appointment in Samarra” (retold by W. Somerset Maugham [1933]) – “There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

Invitation: Are you ready to beat death? Through Jesus you can!

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