GATEKEEPER by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Years ago, they used to sing a song in Sunday School, “O Be Careful Little Eyes.” How many of ya’ll remember that song? “O be careful little eyes, what you see,
O be careful little eyes, what you see, For the Father up above is looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes what you see.” It had several other verses— “O be careful little ears, what you hear…O be careful little mouth, what you say…O be careful little hands, what you do…O be careful little feet, where you go.” Then, the final verse was— “O be careful little heart whom you trust.” There is so much truth in that song. I think we adults need to sing it! Did you know that song is at least 3000 years old? It comes from the Book of Proverbs! The message is this— “You are the gatekeeper to your heart. You can either let in things that bring you closer to Christ or you can let in things that take you away from Christ. The attack is real, intense, constant, and the cost is heavy.” We are in our miniseries from the Book of Proverbs called SKILLFUL, and today’s message is titled GATEKEEPER.
Proverbs 4 20 “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. 23 Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. 24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.”
Question: How secure is your heart? What are you allowing or have allowed into your heart that is destroying you? Is Christ in your heart? Are you saved?
Context: To understand the true meaning of this passage, I want us to begin with verse 23. Then, we will look at the whole passage starting in verse 20. Listen to verse 23 “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” The literal translation from the Hebrew is “Keep your heart ‘more than any’ guarded thing, for from it come the ‘origins’ of life.” To start with, the word for “origins” literally refers to the exits of a city. The imagery is of a fortified city. When we were in Israel, we saw many gates or hinges to the gates. The guide, my good friend Jacky, asked the question that I have heard him ask many times. What is the most vulnerable part of the city? The answer is “the gates of the city.” It may seem like that the gates would be the most secure part of the city but they’re not. Why? Not because they are made out of wood or anything but because all it takes is for someone from the outside to bribe someone from the inside to open the door. According to Solomon, the heart is the gate of the city. All it takes is for someone from the outside to bribe someone from the inside to open the heart. What does the heart represent? In ancient near eastern understanding (especially the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Egyptians), the heart was the combination of both the inner and the outer aspects of life. The inner includes the thoughts and the conscience; and the outer includes the words and the actions. In the NT, the word “mind” is used to refer to the “heart” of the OT. The heart or the mind is the immaterial part of every human being. The physical body is the material part. What is the heart or the mind made up of?
- The heart or the mind is made by God to connect with him.
- It is damaged because of sin until salvation.
- It is uniquely designed by the combination of our genetic ancestors, good and bad.
- The heart is softened towards God or hardened towards him by our upbringing.
- Our heart is redeemed by our acceptance of Christ or condemned because of our rejection of him.
- The more we grow in Christ, study his Word, and obey the Holy Spirit, the more our heart becomes open to the things of God.
- It is tarnished or transformed based on how we handle the circumstances of life.
Bottom line: The heart is the gate of life and it has to be guarded more than any other guarded thing.
How do we guard the heart, the gate of life? Let’s back up to verse 20 “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; The words of wisdom are the key to protecting our hearts. Listen with your ears and follow with your eyes. In other words, there is no substitute to the daily listening and reading of the Word of God.
Application: How is the daily listening and reading of the Word in your life? Is that a priority in your life? How is the weekly hearing of the Bible and daily personal reading of the Bible? Are you keeping it in the midst of your heart?
What is the cost of ignoring this command? 22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.” In Hebrew, the word for life is “hayyim” and the word for live is “haya.” Hayyim is found 33 times in the book and haya is found 4 times. Unlike the English words “life” or “live” that simply mean “to exist”, the Hebrew can actually mean the “full life,” or “fullness of life,” or having “life indeed.” When Solomon talks about life/live, he is not just talking about “being alive” as a clinical life – having a pulse or a heartbeat or brainwaves. He is talking about a fullness of life. In other words, a person can be physically alive—but, emotionally and spiritually, feel dead. Here’s the principle: if you listen to godly wisdom, your heart will be healthy and your being will be full of life and health. If you reject godly wisdom, your heart will be sickly and your being will have a sickly appearance.Sin will wear you down. By the way, this is not just some Old Testament idea. Jesus also talked about having this kind of life in John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus was talking about a life without regrets, free of envy, free of guilt, free of shame, free of bitterness, free to enjoy living in this world that God has given us.
Application: How is life for you? How do you feel?
We can fool others and even our own selves into thinking that our heart is healthy and everything is fine. Here’s the test:
- Speech Test
24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you.
Colossians 3 9 “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”
- Vision Test
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.
Matthew 6 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
- Direction Test
26 Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.”
Matthew 7 13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Invitation: How is your speech? How is your vision? Which way are you headed? How is your heart? How is your life?
Romans 10 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
SKILLFUL by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Last Friday evening at our Valentine’s banquet, I showed some pictures of people doing some foolish things and it drew a lot of laughs! Let’s look at them again. What is the problem in all those pictures? Sometimes people are using the wrong tools for the job, sometimes they have the right tools but they are locked up, sometimes they are being reckless in the face of hazardous materials, or sometimes they are overestimating their abilities or misjudging their obstacles. All of this reflects lack of skills and sense of discernment. So also, in life, people lack the right skills and a sense of discernment, and they make foolish and costly decisions. Skillful living comes when we turn to God for wisdom and guidance. More specifically, true wisdom is Christ. When he becomes our life, we begin to live skillfully. For the next few weeks, we will be in a brief series through Proverbs titled “SKILLFUL” (also the title of today’s message). The goal of this series is to help us live life skillfully.
Proverbs 3 5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Question: Who do you lean on for understanding in life? Self, friends, family, or God. Are you living your life skillfully? Is Christ truly at the center and focus of your life?
Background: When it comes to the Book of Proverbs, people typically have a low view of it compared to other books like Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any of the New Testament books. This is a huge mistake. In Jeremiah 18:18, we find an ancient saying that reveals to us the various ways that God spoke to His people. It goes like this—“… for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet…” The context of this passage is negative but the implication is still valid. It is this: God considers the counsel from the wise (proverbs) to be on the same level as the law from the priest and the word from the prophet. In other words, Law, Prophecy, and Wisdom are the 3 different ways that God spoke to his people. Proverbs are not secondary or optional. They are just as important for our spiritual growth. In fact, Billy Graham used to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs every day. He said that there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, one for every day of the month. I encourage you to do the same and get your children to read a chapter of Proverbs every day.
Back to the passage we just read—Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” Before we go any further, this goes completely contrary to what the world says—“Trust your heart.” Amazing how the Enemy has stolen some key words from this verse! As a result, we have made the heart the object rather than the means to the real object who is God. Trusting your own heart is like the guy who attached the safety harness to himself! But it’s worse than that—Jeremiah 17 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart…” Jesus said inMatthew 15:19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Are you trusting your heart?
Let’s look at this verse carefully: The Hebrew word trust is “bethath,” which means “to lie helplessly, face down.” It is a picture of a servant patiently waiting on his master’s command. Trusting in the Lord is not “I’m hoping things will work out”, “I’m trying to hang in there,” “I’m trying to be strong or positive,” “I’ve been going to church and reading the Bible every day,” “It is what it is. I cannot control what happens. The man upstairs is in charge,” or “I’ve given up.” Trusting in the Lord is about developing a deep personal relationship with God.How do you develop a deep personal relationship with God? How do you develop a deep personal relationship with any person? Listening and Talking to them. Isn’t that what dating is all about? Same with God. You listen to his voice by reading his Word. You talk to him by praying to him. This does not happen automatically. You have to work at it and invest time in it. Unless you receive Jesus as your Savior and King, your relationship with God will only remain superficial.
The proverb emphasizes that this trust has to be “with all your heart.” There is no place for half-hearted, wishy-washy, quick waiting before God. In fact, if you are wise, you will wait on your face before God for as long as it takes. The longer you look at God through the eyes of faith, the more you will get to know him in a deeper and more personal way; you will begin to understand how he thinks and how he feels; and, you will begin to understand how much he loves and cares for you. Please don’t misunderstand: Waiting before God does not mean inactivity. It is not sitting there just staring at God. We’ll come to that in a moment. For now, just remember that “trusting in the Lord” means developing a deep personal relationship with him.
Application: Do you have a deep personal relationship with God?
Listen again, Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Unfortunately, instead of lying on our face before God, we tend to lean on our own understanding. What falls in this category of “understanding?” Our upbringing, our experiences, our education, our impulses, etc. You have to be willing to lay all of them aside if they don’t line up with the Word of God. In the Bible we see many examples of such “understandings”:
- Abraham did this when there was a famine in the land and they had to flee to Egypt. In a moment of fear, he told Sarah to pretend to be his sister rather than his wife. What a colossal mistake. Pharaoh was about to take her to be his wife!
- Joshua did this when he decided to send a measly two to three thousand men to go up and attack the city of Ai. In a moment of self-confidence over Jericho, he failed to consult the Lord if there was sin in the camp.
- Peter did this when he decided to follow Jesus on the night he was betrayed and ended up denying him three times. In a moment of fake loyalty, he failed to obey his Master who had told him to watch and pray.
Let me give you some positive examples:
- Job faced the worst trials anyone other than Christ faced and yet he said Job 13:15“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
- Ruth refused to go back to her people and chose to follow Naomi to Israel.
Application: Are you trusting in the Lord with all your heart? Are you leaning on your own understanding and insights?
Now, verse 6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him…” The Hebrew word “yada” can be translated admit, confess, acknowledge, and recognize. In other words, in all your daily happenings give God credit for everything. Lift him up. Glorify him. Use every opportunity to magnify his name. It also means check to make sure that he is still with you. Don’t drop him and run ahead. Stay right behind him. No matter what that step is (a job, a date, a venture, an opportunity), say a simple quick prayer, “Your will be done God, not mine.”
Application: Do you do that? Do you constantly glorify God no matter what’s happening? Do you constantly glance up to make sure that he is still ahead of you and you haven’t wandered off? Do you pray “Your will be done, not mine” daily?
What is the promise if you do that? 6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” The actual word here is “yashar,” which means smooth, straight, and right. The idea is that God will help remove the obstacles from your path as you follow him. It does not mean that there will be no obstacles. Only that, he will remove them for you. Isn’t that awesome! Now you can live skillfully as you follow Christ.
Personal Illustration: My parents taught me growing up to always acknowledge God and to keep him first in everything. This did not make life easy. I had many obstacles in my life. I remember the Christmas of 1993 being stuck at an exit waiting for my brother to come get me. The weather is freezing cold. I wrapped myself inside a telephone booth to keep myself warm. I made a promise to God then and there that my life belongs to him from here on. It hasn’t been problem free but God has made the path clear for me. I give him the glory.
Invitation: What is your testimony? Is Christ the center of your life? Do you have a deep personal relationship with him? Do you acknowledge him in all your ways? Are you saved?
As many of you may know, Dr. Shah and many of our Clearview members are traveling in Israel. This weekend, we will have the opportunity to hear from some of the men in our church family. These men will be sharing what God has laid on their hearts and helping us to think about how we as believers ought to live. We are so blessed to be part of a church family with such godly leaders and teachers!
Pray for Dr. Shah, John, Rebecca, David, and the rest of those that are traveling. You can follow along with them on social media and see the sights through their eyes. Be sure to leave them a comment or send a message and let them know you are praying for them.
We are looking forward to worshiping with you this weekend! Invite your friends and family to come along, too!
MARVELOUS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Recently, I was on Twitter when a statement caught my eye. I didn’t know the person making the statement but based on his profile, it seemed that he believed like I did about biblical/ethical/moral values. He said (I am paraphrasing), “Why does Abortion always have to become the main issue? There are other issues that are just as critical.” When I read that, I was like, “Maybe, we don’t agree as much as I thought we did, or, maybe, you’ve lost your moral compass, if you ever had one.” As I was about to dismiss that statement as an anomaly, I saw another one just like it! This one said (again, I’m paraphrasing)—“Abortion is used as the trump card (no pun intended) to get voters to abandon all other issues and vote a certain way.” Again, based on this person’s profile, I would have assumed that we would’ve had similar values. Here’s the heart of the message: Abortion is not about politics. Abortion is not about rights. Abortion is not about science and technology or health and quality of life. Abortion is ultimately about God. With that in mind, our message today is titled “MARVELOUS.”
Psalm 139 13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and thatmy soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
Question: Do you believe that you have been fearfully and wonderfully made by God? Do you believe that human life is marvelous? Do you have eternal life? Are you saved?
Background: Many of you may not realize but today is the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday or Weekend. Forty-Seven years ago, on January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in all 50 states. It’s popularly known as Roe v. Wade. On January 9, 1989, President Reagan issued a proclamation designating that day as the first Sanctity of Human Life Day. Since then, every third Sunday (weekend) in January is recognized by churches all across our country as a day to give special emphasis to God’s gift of life, to remember the lives lost due to abortion, and to commit ourselves to speaking out for human life at every stage. Today’s message is again a little different than how I typically preach but it’s one that we need to hear, especially the younger generation. The further we get away from our biblical foundation, the harder it is for people, even some Christians, to understand the importance of certain convictions like the value of the unborn child.
With that in mind, let’s go back to the psalm we just read, Psalm 139. It is known as a psalm of David. As you know, David was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). So, here in Psalm 139, David gives us God’s heart on the unborn child. I want you to notice especially the language he uses to describe God’s creation process of the unborn child. It is beyond beautiful! Shakespeare, Milton, and Elliot have nothing on him! Listen again to verse 13 “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” I don’t have time to pause at every single word and look at its meaning from Hebrew, just the important ones. For starters, David doesn’t say “my parents formed my inward parts” or “the coming together of the sperm and the egg formed me.” He says, “God, you formed me.” Listen carefully: A married couple can come together in love or two strangers can hook up in lust, the forming of life is God’s work. Bringing life inside the mother’s womb can only be done by the life-giver. He holds the copyright on life. “You covered me in my mother’s womb.” David uses a very special word to describe this process, “sakhed,” which is not really “cover.” It should actually be translated “weave.” David is depicting God as the grand weaver who actually knits every child carefully inside the mother’s womb. In other words, God is intricately involved in the development of every child in every womb ever since the beginning of time!
14 “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” The Hebrew word for “marvelous” is “palah,” which can be translated as “surpassing,” “extraordinary,” “beyond one’s power to do,” “wonderful,” and “marvelous.” David is praising God for his marvelous work in creating life. 15 “My frame (skeletal structure) was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret…” The Hebrew word for “secret” is “sether,” which means the “hiding place” or “secret place.” The point here is not a hideout but a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend. “And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” The Hebrew word for “skillfully wrought” is “rekhem,” which means “using different colors, textures, and patterns to make a special cloth. In other words, God makes every child unique and beautiful in his/her own way, even if there are disabilities. The disabilities are not because he failed but because we live in a broken world. His work is still perfect!
Finally, verse 16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.” The Hebrew word for “substance” is “golem,” which means the embryo. It has the idea of an “unfinished vessel.”“And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there werenone of them.” In other words, even before a child is born, even before they are in an embryonic form, all their days, not necessarily their individual decisions but all God’s providential acts designed for that life, are written out in God’s chronicles.
So, what do we gather from Psalm 139?
- God holds the copyright on every life.
- God makes every life intricately and lovingly.
- God’s marvelous work should cause us to praise him.
- God supervises the entire developmental process of every life.
- God marvelous work in bringing life can never be fully understood.
- God makes every child unique and beautiful, even if there are disabilities.
- God records beforehand his providential acts for every life even before birth.
Abortion goes against this entire list. People may say – Abortion is about a women’s right to choose; it’s about population control; or it’s about the quality of life. No matter how people support abortion, it ultimately contradicts everything about God because it is philosophically based on an anti-God premise. To understand this, we have to look at the roots of the American Abortion Movement. Margaret Sanger, the first president of Planned Parenthood, which provides the most abortion in the world, wrote a book titled “Pivot of Civilization.” If you want to know about the roots of this movement, here are just a few examples:
- Regarding the poor, blind, deaf, mute, and those intellectually disabled: “When we learn further that the total number of inmates in public and private institutions in the State of New York—in alms-houses, reformatories, schools for the blind, deaf and mute, in insane asylums, in homes for the feeble-minded and epileptic—amounts practically to less than sixty-five thousand, an insignificant number compared to the total population, our eyes should be opened to the terrific cost to the community of this dead weight of human waste.”
- Regarding the poor and disabled people: It sees that the most responsible and most intelligent members of society are the less fertile; that the feeble-minded are the more fertile. Herein lies the unbalance, the great biological menace to the future of civilization. Are we heading to biological destruction, toward the gradual but certain attack upon the stocks of intelligence and racial health by the sinister forces of the hordes of irresponsibility and imbecility?”
- In her magazine, Birth Control Review, an article was published by Dr. Ernst Rudin, a Nazi doctor in the Eugenics movement advocating racial hygiene among the Germans. There were other articles advocating ethnic cleansing of American Gypsies and Defective Families. Sanger openly praised Hitler’s policy of racial cleansing and Hitler admired her work. Such racial science fit perfectly with Hitler’s agenda of cleansing the society of the weak and disabled, then moving on to those ethnicities that were unwanted, starting with the gypsies and ending with six million Jewish people being sent to the gas chambers.
- In the 1930s, Sanger began the “Negro Project.” It started with handing out contraception and then culminated in promoting abortion to control the race.
I can go on and on. The point is not that everyone who is pro-abortion is cruel and racist. What it does mean is that the philosophy behind abortion is one that denigrates and devalues human life, especially the weak, the poor, the disabled, and the minorities. All this is ultimately about claiming that it is my right to decide what happens. As I said, “Abortion is ultimately about God” because–
- Abortion tries to steal God’s copyright on life.
- Abortion reduces life to just a biochemical process.
- Abortion seeks to praise only self.
- Abortion denies the beauty of the developmental process.
- Abortion understands life only through personal and collective convenience.
- Abortion rejects the uniqueness of every child.
- Abortion destroys God’s chronicles of every life. It brutally murders the child before they even have a chance to live out the days fashioned for them.
What does all this mean for us as believers, as the church? Do we believe that life is God’s gift? Do we believe that he gets to first and the final say on life? Jesus came to die even for the unborn. To terminate that pregnancy, is to terminate the opportunity from that life to receive Christ and live out the days fashioned for him/her by God.
Invitation: Today is the day to repent if you have believed wrongly. Today is the day to pray for our nation and for the unborn. Today is the day to give our lives to Christ.
This weekend, our message will take a look at the events that have happened in recent days and how we ought to approach them from a biblical perspective. In today’s world, we are bombarded by so much information, it is difficult to discern what is true and what is not. In order to think rightly about the world and the events around us, we must approach them from biblical and historical perspective.
In this message, we will look at the current crisis through the lens of history and Scripture. We will examine the nation of Iran throughout history. Regardless of what we might have heard, this message will help us understand the current situation in light of past events and the Word of God. The title of this weekend’s message is “UNREST.”
What are your thoughts on the current crisis? Do you believe that God’s Word can help us think rightly about culture? Are you saved? Invite your friends and family to worship this weekend. This is a message that none of us can afford to miss!