Marvelous by Dr. Abidan Shah

Marvelous.jpg

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.

Unrest by Dr. Abidan Shah

unrest.jpg

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!

Confidence by Dr. Abidan Shah

Confidence.jpg

CONFIDENCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: When our kids were young, they loved watching Winnie the Pooh. Their favorite characters were Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, and Tigger. My favorite was Eeyore—always pessimistic and down on life. I’ve met a lot of people who may not sound like Eeyore but they definitely have an Eeyore view of life. They have a victim mindset. They feel that life is just a series of unfortunate events. They often compare themselves to others and wish that fate had dealt them a better hand. They often moan, “all these things are against me.” As we stand at the starting line of a new year and a new decade, does that describe you? How confident are you about your future? Here’s the gist of the message: How you see your life—past and future—is a direct result of what you believe about the sovereignty of God. The right view of the sovereignty of God will give you the right perspective on your past and give you the confidence to face whatever lies ahead and win. That’s the title of our message today—CONFIDENCE.

Genesis 42:36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Question: Which one are you? Are you like Jacob who moaned “All these things are against me” or are you like Paul who proclaimed “All things work together for good to those who love God?” Do you love God? Are you saved?

Context: The first passage we just read from Genesis 42 is one of the most depressing statements in the Bible. Listen to it again36 “And Jacob their father said to them, ‘You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin…’” The Hebrew word for “bereave” is “shekel,” which translates as “childless.” Why did Jacob make such a drastic claim? Like always, we need to look at the context in which Jacob said those words. The beginning of Genesis 42 tells us that there was a famine in the land and Jacob had sent his sons to Egypt to get some grain. His sons had just returned home, but, unfortunately, one of their brothers Simeon was not with them. He had been held hostage by the ruler of Egypt, who they didn’t know at the time was Joseph, their younger brother. He had told them that he was going to keep Simeon there until they returned with their younger brother Benjamin. Keep in mind, Joseph and Benjamin were the only sons from Rachel, the wife he really wanted to marry. Joseph had mysteriously died (or so Jacob thought) and now they had to take Benjamin back with them to Egypt. To make matters worse, when they opened their sacks of grain, their money pouches were still there! Now, they were probably deemed thieves in Egypt for stealing grain or so they thought. When Jacob heard all this, he cried out “You have made me childless!” Keep in mind that 10 of his sons were standing before him! In other words, in his anguish, he was exaggerating the situation.

Application: Do you exaggerate your situation? You may not say “You’ve bereaved me,” but how about, “You’ve ruined my life” or “he/she has ruined my life?” Don’t misunderstand. It is bad what’s happened to you and people may have to be held accountable for what they did to you. But, do you exaggerate what’s happened to you?

Nonetheless, all this was still understandable until Jacob said something that went beyond the immediate context. He cried out “All these things are against me.” What was Jacob talking about? This was the magma, volcanic ash, and gases that were churning below the surface in Jacob’s heart that finally burst through into a devastating volcano. This is how he had been feeling for quite some time and he finally just let it out. In some ways, Jacob had every reason to say what he did. Yes, things had been rough for him. At a young age, he had to leave his home and run for his life. All this because his brother Esau had tried to steal the birthright that rightfully belonged to him and his father Isaac was more concerned about his taste buds than the plan of God. Then, his uncle Laban had tricked him into working for 7 years and gave him the wrong daughter for a wife. That’s enough to ruin your day! After working for 7 more years, he finally got the right one. But now, he had 2 wives plus 2 concubines! If that wasn’t enough, Uncle and now Father-in-law Laban even tried to take advantage of Jacob by giving him the defective livestock. Fast forward a few years, Jacob’s sons killed all the men of Shechem out of revenge over their sister Dinah. If you remember Jacob’s words in Genesis 34:30 “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land…” In other words, he couldn’t control his sons any longer. Then, Rachel, Jacob’s love of his life, died in childbirth. Finally, the worst happened when Jacob sent Joseph to take some food to his brothers and a few days later, his sons returned with Joseph’s tunic of many colors covered in blood and asked him, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?” Deep down, Jacob knew that his sons had something to do with Joseph’s death. Now Simeon was held hostage in Egypt and Benjamin had to be taken to meet this Egyptian ruler. Any wonder that Jacob exploded like he did!

Application: Have you ever exploded like Jacob—“All these things are against me?” Have you ever felt like he did?

Yes, Jacob had every reason to say what he said but he knew better than to say what he said. God had given him plenty of assurance that he was with him, guiding and protecting him.

  • When Jacob was fleeing from his brother, he had a special vision of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending. It was a reminder that God was with him.
  • When Laban was cheating Jacob, he had a special visit from God warning him and calling him to head back to the land of his family.
  • When Jacob was afraid to face his brother Esau, he had a personal visit from the pre-incarnate Christ. In fact, he wrestled with God and prevailed. He received a new name.
  • When Jacob was afraid of the repercussion of his sons killing the people of Shechem, “the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue them.” God appeared to him again in Bethel and assured him in Genesis 3510 “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name…” 11 “…I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. 12The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.”

Even after all this, he still said, “All things are against me.” What a poor testimony before his children!

Application: Have you done that? You need to repent.

But, thank God that for every negative example, he has given us a positive one to follow. Just a few chapters later, in Genesis 50:20, we find a different declaration—“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Who said this? Jacob’s son Joseph. Yes, Jacob had a rough life no doubt, but Joseph’s was no less. For starters, his mother Rachel died giving birth to his brother Benjamin. That’s rough on any child. Next, his brothers envied him and could not speak peaceably to him. As we’ve already discussed, they did the ultimate—sold him into slavery. Imagine that! In Egypt, he was bought by an influential man named Potiphar who was super impressed with his work ethic and integrity and made him the head of his household. Just when things began to look up for Joseph, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of trying to rape her and had him thrown into prison. In prison, he interpreted the dream of the chief baker and the chief butler. The chief butler’s dream restored him to his previous position. As he was leaving, Joseph begged him “remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house.”Unfortunately, the chief butler did not remember him for some time. Joseph could’ve had a horrible attitude towards life. When his brothers came before him, he could have taken his revenge. Instead, he did what he did to bring them to a point of repentance (I don’t have time to get into that right now) and reconciled with them. But, after their father Jacob died, the brothers were afraid that Joseph would try to take his revenge now. Instead, he said to them, “You meant evil against me but God meant it for good.” Don’t miss this: He didn’t excuse their behavior. Neither did he blame them for everything. By the way, blame is a tell-tale sign that you are still not over your past and you’re not ready to move forward. Instead, he simply chose to affirm the sovereignty of God in his life. To say it another way—the son succeeded where the father failed!

Listen carefully: For every negative experience in your life, God has given you a positive one. You have to choose to see it:

  • You have to choose to see the sovereign hand of God guiding you and protecting you as you walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
  • You have to choose to praise God than to curse those who have caused you pain.
  • You have to choose to proclaim “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” rather than to moan “All these things are against me.”

Unless you have the proper view of the sovereignty of God in your life and in this world, you will not have the confidence to face whatever lies ahead and win. Are you a Jacob or a Joseph? Are you saved?

Related by Dr. Abidan Shah

Related.jpg

RELATED by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Relatives, family members, loved ones—We all have them. We love them. We would do anything for them. Having said that, they’re also the very people who drive us crazy, especially during the holiday season. Someone said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” In today’s message, we’re going to learn that even Jesus had to deal with a crazy earthly family. In fact, throughout his earthly ministry, they thought that he was out of his mind! He had to exercise great wisdom and grace in dealing with them. So also, we need wisdom and grace if we’re going to make it with our earthly family. Our message today is titled “RELATED.”

Mark 3    20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”  31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” 33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

Question: Jesus’ family thought that he was out of his mind. Can you imagine that! Do you have family members who think that you are out of your mind? How much do you let family dictate how you live your life? Do you have lost family members? Have you prayed for them to be saved? Are you saved?

Background: As many of you know, I have been pastoring for about 21 years. Through the years, people have come to me for all kinds of counselling. In my experience, one of the major issues that people struggle with in life is family relationships—How to deal with people we grew up with? How to get along with people who are connected to us for no other reason other than the providence of God! On one hand, our family can be a great source of blessing and comfort to us. They can give us a sense of belonging. They are a reminder that we are not alone in this world. They are people who know our past—good and bad—and still accept us. On the other hand, our family or a family member can also be a great source of consternation and pain to us. There are family members or a family member who for one reason or another have/has turned toxic towards us. They(he/she) use 2 weapons of mass destruction to make our lives miserable—blame and shame. Either way, the result is devastating! Even though Jesus came for the primary purpose to redeem us from our sin, he was not immune to the daily struggles of life. He too had a family that tried to use those 2 weapons of shame and blame against him. But, he dealt with them with wisdom and grace. In the next few minutes, we’re going to learn how to do the same.

Context: Let’s return to the passage we just read—Mark 3:20 “Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.” To understand what this means, we need to back up to Mark 3 starting in verse 7 But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. 9 So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. 11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. I would say that judging by all standards, Jesus’ ministry was extremely successful. Not only that but many people were being helped. Their lives were being transformed for the better. His ministry was so successful that he did not even have time to eat!

What was the response of his family? 21 But when His own people heard about this…” His own people were probably people from his hometown or even extended family members or leaders in the family from Nazareth. “…they went out to lay hold of Him…” They came to Capernaum to “krateo” = seize him! “…for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’” The Greek for “out of his mind” is one word “exhistemi.” It means “to be out of his senses,” “confused,” or “crazy.” In other words, his extended family was not in favor of his success. So, they came to drag him physically because he had gone crazy!

Application: Has that happened to you, maybe not physically but verbally and emotionally? You go out, work hard and smart, hoping to hear a “well done!” from your loved ones.” Instead, you get nothing. You put pictures on social media, hoping that family will like them but they ignore. You check it 100 times an hour! Take heart, Jesus had the same problem.

Why were they like that? Mark 6 gives us some clue—1 “Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ So hateful! Are you like that? So they were offended at Him.” The Greek word is “skandalizo,” which gives us our English word “scandal.” Their problem was SHAME.

Remember: Some people will never get over your past. Hometown heroes and heroines are few and far between. If they build you a statue in your honor, it may be after you are dead and gone. Word to the wise: Grow with the people in your life. Don’t think that people are still where they were when you first met them. They will appreciate you more if you meet them where they are today. They may even give you credit for their success.

4 But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” By the way, this was all a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 69:8 “I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children.” 5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.”

How do you handle “shame”? Know your true IDENTITY IN CHRIST—redeemed, forgiven, made new, child of God, more than a conqueror.

But it’s not over yet. Mark 3:31 “Then His brothers and His mother came…” Maybe the hometown crowd pressured them to. “…and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him.” Why standing outside? I don’t think this was because there was no room in the house. Listen to verse 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” If crowd was the problem, the word would not have reached him. By refusing to come in, they were refusing to endorse his success. They were communicating their displeasure with him for causing such a raucous. They were telling him that they were not impressed with his latest shenanigans! Their problem was BLAME.

What was Jesus’ response? 33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” This is very powerful: Jesus did not submit his ministry to his family’s approval. He stood his ground and refused to go out to meet them. He did not alter God’s VISION to please his earthly family.

Principle to remember: If you keep seeking the approval of those who don’t understand you, you will never complete the vision God has for your life. It’s great to have the blessing of your loved ones but ultimately, it’s God’s approval that counts.

If we were to end here, this would be “us against the world” sermon. This is not what Jesus did. He demonstrated GRACE towards his earthly family:

  1. To his Mother—John 19 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
  2. To his Brother—1 Corinthians 15 4 “…He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James…” James was the head of the Jerusalem church and the writer of the book of James. So also, Jude was another brother who wrote the short letter in the New Testament that bears his name.

Ultimately, our goal with our family should not be approval or validation. It should be salvation through Jesus Christ and a growing likeness to him. In the end, that’s all that will matter. When you are clear about your IDENTITY and VISION, refuse to succumb to SHAME and BLAME, and choose to show GRACE, you can overcome any family problems.

Invitation: Are you still hurt about what your family has done? Have you hurt someone in your family that you need to seek forgiveness from? When was the last time you prayed for them to be saved? When was the last time you encouraged them to walk with Christ? Are you saved?

 

Christmas Mythbusters by Dr. Abidan Shah

Christmas Mythbusters.jpg

CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Couple of weeks ago, I was at a used book store in Raleigh when 2 ladies walked in. I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation, not that I was eavesdropping. They were just so loud and obnoxious! Then, one of them belted out to the cashier—“Hey, did you know that Jesus was not born on December 25th? That day was actually a Roman festival honoring the Greek god Saturn. The church leaders adapted it to keep their people from going back to old pagan holidays.” I wanted to step in and say “Hey, that’s baloney!” but I knew that wouldn’t be good. Please listen carefully: The church did not create Christmas from some pagan holiday. December 25th did not become the birthday of Jesus through some church council decision. Instead, it was passed down through the earliest tradition as the day the Savior of the World was born. In fact, ever since the beginning of time, it was the “most important event” on God’s calendar. Today’s message is different than what I typically preach but it’s one we need to hear, especially our children and grandchildren who are bombarded with anti-Christmas statements this time of the year. It is titled “CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS.”

Galatians 4     3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Question: What do you believe about Christmas? Do you believe that it’s just a myth or do you believe that it’s the “fullness of time” when God sent his Son to save you? Have you received the adoption as sons and daughters of the King?

Foreword: We’re living in what’s known as the “Information Age.” Sometimes, it’s also referred as the Computer Age or the Digital Age. Never in the history of the world did so many people have so much access to so much information. In the past, if we wanted to know about a subject, we had to go to the library or a book store. But, now it’s at our fingertips! Any time any place we can access any information! In some ways, that’s a blessing, but, in some ways, that’s also a curse. People, even Christians, read something on the internet and immediately think that they are getting the truth on a matter. Please listen: Just because something is on the web, it does not mean that it is true. Also, reading a couple of blogs and watching a couple of YouTube videos does not make you an expert on a subject.

Having said that, there is a myth on the internet, which has been around much longer than the internet, that claims that December 25th was actually a pagan holiday that the church adopted as the birthday of Jesus to keep Christians from participating in their old pagan holidays. This began somewhere around the 4th century after Constantine converted to Christianity. Is this true or false? False! Sometimes even Christians say this without realizing the inherent danger. When we say that December 25th as the birthday of Jesus is a myth, the logical questions that follows is “Is anything else about Jesus a myth? Was he really the Son of God? Did he really die and rise again? Is he really the Savior of the world? Did he even come?”

To start with, there are 2 different lines of arguments in support of this myth, sometimes even used by Christians:

  1. The History of Religions View: This view goes back to the 1600s. According to this theory, in AD 274, the Roman Emperor Aurelian built a temple in honor of the Sun God, Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun). He did this because he had won some victories in battle and he wanted to honor the patron god of soldiers. He even instituted some special games in the god’s honor. Guess what date this was? December 25th. Furthermore, this was also the time of the Saturnalia, which ran from December 17th-23rd, in honor of the Roman God Saturn who was the god of wealth and agriculture. This was all based around the winter solstice. In the Northern hemisphere, this is around December 21-22, when the earth is at its maximum tilt away from the sun. The day is short and symbolized the death and re-birth of the sun. It was a time of great feasting, parties, gambling, and gift-giving. Christian leaders under hijacked these pagan festivals and Christianized them.

Listen carefully: There is zero evidence in early history from pagan or Christian writers that the church leaders did this. Instead, we find in historical documents statements that affirm that, according to tradition, Christmas was celebrated in Rome from the very beginning. Furthermore, parts of the world that were not directly impacted by Rome were also celebrating Christmas around the same time period. I can go on and on. In my opinion, the Roman emperor could have instituted his festival to counter the Christians celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25th.

  1. The Calculation View: This view goes back to the late 1800s. According to this theory, the December 25th day was calculated by the church leaders from the date of the annunciation (when Gabriel came to Mary) and the Conception of Jesus. These dates were then taken from the date when Jesus was crucified. This is all based on some rabbinic tradition that all the great prophets of Israel died on the same day as they were born (Integral Age). So, supposedly the early church leaders figured out that Jesus died on March 25th and then they calculated from there 9th months. That’s how they got December 25th. This is the biggest mess because here we’re not talking about the annunciation but the conception. So, what is it? Who knows! By the way, I don’t have time to get into some of the calendar issues, except to say that some of the later calendars are not very accurate. So, we are trying to recreate a date based on a faulty calendar! Again, there is no shred of evidence that the early church actually did this kind of math to figure out the birthday of Jesus!

So, is December 25th the actual date of Jesus’ birth? To start with, I cannot give you all the evidence in the next 10 minutes. I’m going to give you just two from the Gospels:

#1. Matthew 2    1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet…” Let me stop there. When did Herod die?Josephus (Jewish Historian) tells us of an incident before the death of Herod. He had set up a Roman eagle above the gate of the temple in Jerusalem. This was a slap in the face of the Jewish people. Herod was getting sicker by the day and some of the Rabbis called on the young men to tear down the eagle from the gate. They did but got caught. Herod sent them to Jericho along with the rabbis and ordered that they be burned alive. The date of the execution was January 10, 1 BC. But, he’s getting worse. Then he decides to head out of town to the mineral springs beyond Jordan in the middle of February, 1 BC. Now, we have a statement by an ancient writer by the name of Macrobius. He recorded some witty sayings of the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. Here’s one—“On hearing that the son of Herod, king of the Jews, had been slain when Herod ordered that all boys in Syria under the age of two be killed, Augustus said, “It’s better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” This was a play on words from “hoos” (pig) to huios” (son). We have the date when Herod had his son Antipater executed. Herod died just 5 days after his son’s execution. This would place his death on April 8, 1 BC. But, let’s stop here for a moment: When did Herod have boys 2-year-old and younger killed. Matthew 2:16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” So, the wise men probably saw Herod before he left for the mineral springs in the middle of February. Where does this put the birth of Jesus? Exactly where we have always believed around December 25th.

#2. Luke 1    5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. This is referred to as the priestly course. King David had divided the priests into 24 courses to set up a calendar when they could serve. This is complicated but it puts Zacharias’ service around September 5-11, 3 BC. According to tradition, John was conceived around September 22nd, 3 BC. What does John the Baptizer’s birth have to do with Jesus’s birth? Luke 1    26 “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” Can you count 6 months from September? March, 2 BC. That’s when Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Can you count 9 months from March? December.

Then there are other silly arguments that the shepherds could not have been watching their flocks by night in the winter. According to the Mishnah, the sheep around Bethlehem were outside all year. This was especially true of the Passover Sheep which had to be outside for thirty days before Passover. This would be in February, the coldest and wettest month of the year. December would not be a problem.

What’s the point of all this? Listen again—Galatians 4     3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

God sent his Son and that’s a fact. What will you do about it? Have you received him as your Savior and King? Are you adopted in God’s family?

Invitation by Dr. Abidan Shah

for blog site.png

INVITATION by Dr. Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: I’ve done a lot of weddings in my 20+ years of ministry. What I have observed is that one of the toughest things for any couple in planning their wedding is sending out the invitations—who to invite and who not to invite. Does that sound right? “If we invite so and so, then we have to invite so and so. But, if we don’t invite so and so, but invite so and so, then their feelings will get hurt.” At times, I’ve had to talk a couple or two out of eloping because they couldn’t agree over the invitation list! So also, the kingdom of God is like a wedding to which everyone is invited. Unfortunately, not everyone accepts the invitation. But, if you do accept the invitation, don’t forget it’s a gracious gift. Dress appropriately. Your confession may get you in but it’s your clothing that will keep you in. Are you dressed in Christ’s righteousness? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we coming to the final parable of the Wedding Banquet and the message is titled “INVITATION.”

Matthew 22      1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, “Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Question: As you know by now, parables are like a mirror. You have to see yourself in the story and ask which character you are playing. Are you the invitee who made light of the invitation and went his way? Are you the invitee who seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them? Have you ever received the invitation? If not, here it is—Jesus, the Son of God, came 2000 years ago in the form of a baby, lived a sinless perfect life, preached the good news, and then gave his life on the cross for our sins. He was buried and he rose again on the third day, according to scriptures. If you repent and believe in him, you can have forgiveness and life everlasting.

Context: The parable of the wedding banquet is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. As you know by now, the context is the key that helps us understand its correct meaning. To understand the context of this parable, we have to back up to Matthew 21    14 Then theblind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant.” I want to focus on the blind and the lame for a moment. Why were the chief priests and the scribes so indignant over the blind and the lame coming to Jesus in the temple? It could be because of a misunderstanding of Leviticus 21. Listen to verse 16 onwards—And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying: ‘No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame…21 No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the LORD…22 He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy; 23 only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I the LORD sanctify them.’” On first reading, those words seem so cruel and heartless? Does that mean that God discriminates against those who are sick, weak, and cannot help their circumstances? Of course not! If you read further at Leviticus 22, it will begin to make more sense, starting in verse 17 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, who offers his sacrifice for any of his vows or for any of his freewill offerings, which they offer to the LORD as a burnt offering— 19 you shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. 20 Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf. 21 …it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. 22 Those that are blind or broken or maimed…you shall not offer to the LORD25 …because their corruption is in them, and defects are in them. They shall not be accepted on your behalf.’” Why was there so much emphasis on being perfect? Because sin is imperfection and it can only be countered with perfection. All these sacrifices were simply a picture of the sacrifice of the perfect lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Listen to what Peter says in I Peter 1    18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” What happens when we receive Jesus as our Savior? Our sin is countered with his holiness. Now, we are made perfect and holy before God as he is.

Application: What sacrifice are you bringing before God? Are you still trying to offer your defective and broken sacrifice to God? The only one acceptable is Jesus Christ.

With that in mind, let’s return to the parable: The king arranged a marriage for his son and send out his servants to those invited to come to the wedding. It appears that the wedding invitation had already gone out and this was simply a reminder that the dinner was ready. Surprisingly, they were not willing to come! He sent out other servants to plead with the guests saying “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. The Greek word for “to make light of it” is “ameleo,” which means “to have no care for” or “be unconcerned.” Question: Is that you? God’s invitation is coming to you but you are making light of it, you have no care for it. Do you think you are too good for it?

But some went beyond that. 6 “And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.” Keep in mind that this parable is coming to us in the language of Israel’s history but the application is to all of us. Throughout history, God has sent his messengers to different peoples with the gospel. Some have accepted and some have rejected. People ask me what happens to those who haven’t heard the gospel. My answer to them is that many times people haven’t heard because servants and missionaries who went with the gospel were treated spitefully and killed. Nonetheless, our job is to go or send others. That’s what the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is all about. What was the king’s response? 7 “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” That’s judgment. Listen to what Jesus said in John 12:48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” Don’t forget: Grace is amazing because there is a judgment!

The king decides to revise his list—8 Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.” 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. The word for highways is the Greek word “diexodos” which means the place where the street leaves the city limits and goes into the open country. Translators made it highway, which is technically okay but not in the sense of our highways today. What is the significance of this? In the city limits, you could find the lame and the blind on the street corners but these are those who are not even worthy to come inside the city limits!

Illustration: My father did not grow up in a Christian home. He never even went to a church. He was one of those who were outside the city limits. By the grace of God, he was invited to the banquet and he came!

Just when you think that the parable is done, there is a twist in the story. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.” Just like today, weddings are special occasions. You want to put on the best that you have. The man may have been poor, blind, and lame but he could have put on his Sunday best for the wedding. Apparently, he didn’t care! 12 So he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” Application: You may have been the blind and the lame. You may have grown up in a rough situation. You may have gone through a rough past. But, when it comes to the kingdom of God, it doesn’t give you the excuse to live as you please. Is that you?

What was the consequence? 13 Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Listen carefully: Your confession will be powerless on the other side. God will also look at your clothing. What is your clothing? Isaiah 61:10 “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herselfwith her jewels.” Paul sings out from the New Testament—Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” How is your spiritual attire this morning? Are you clothed in his righteousness? Do people see Christ in you? Are you saved?

%d bloggers like this: