Pious Thieves by Pastor Abidan Shah

PIOUS THIEVES  by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Pious Thieves

Introduction:  A $1 bill met a $20 bill. He hadn’t seen him in a while and he said – “Hey! Where have you been? Haven’t seen you in years.” The $20 replied – “I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. I’ve been to the casino, went on a cruise, went to a baseball game, to the mall for Christmas shopping, fancy restaurants, beach, mountains. I’ve been living the high life. How about you?” The $1 replied with a sigh, “Me? Same old stuff…church, church, church.” Today’s message in our series on Malachi is called “PIOUS THIEVES.” Hopefully, it’ll do more than figure out where the $20 bill has been hiding. It’s about the state of the heart.

Malachi 3    6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

Question: I know that some of you have already made your assumptions about this message – “Here we go…Pastor Shah is gonna hammer on money since the new building has to be paid for.” Not really. We grew the most through the worst financial crisis this nation has ever faced. I’m not a least bit worried about money. The message is not about what you give. The message is about what you believe God has done for you. What has God done for you? How much you have belongs to God? Are you saved? This message is for you not from you.

Context: As I mentioned last weekend, the Book of Malachi is written like a courtroom drama where the people of Israel were on trial and God was their judge, their prosecuting attorney, their witness, and their executioner. But don’t think that all this was only one-sided and negative because God was also their public defender who was trying to negotiate a plea bargain that would greatly benefit them. Listen again to verse 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change…” When God said “I am Yahweh,” he was reminding them of his covenant name. In other words, God was showing them the old contract papers to remind them that the agreement he had made with them had not changed. Which agreement? 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” This is the 4th time God mentioned Jacob. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Abraham?” Because Abraham was also the father of the Ishmaelites. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Isaac?” Because Isaac was also the father of the Edomites. God was telling them that unlike the Ishmaelites and the Edomites who had perished or vanished, they were still alive because he had kept his covenant. Their entire existence was because of him.

Application: I mentioned to you a few minutes ago, the message is not about what you give but what you believe about God. The message is not about how much you give but how much you believe belongs to God? Do you believe that everything you are and everything you have is because of God? If you have reservations there, of course, you will have reservations about how much you give. It will be like tipping after a meal. Imagine if I were to tip Nicole after a meal!

Here comes the plea bargain. 7 “‘Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” In other words, admit that you messed up and come back. God is not finished with you. Repent. Refusal would be the unpardonable sin. This is the main message of all the prophets in the OT. Listen to their response – “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?” God answers –  8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Background: Many of us know that tithe means “ten percent.” The word tithe is an Old English word that means “tenth.” Where does it originally come from? From the Bible, from the Old Testament. Actually, there were 3 kinds of tithes:

  • First, the general tithe of the land. Leviticus 27:30 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.” Where do you give it? Numbers 18:21“Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.”
  • Second, the eating of a portion of the tithe at the sacred meal when the first/general tithe was given. Deuteronomy 14  22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, (Jerusalem) the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
  • Third, the tithe collected every three years for the poor. Deuteronomy 14 28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Why were the people keeping back their tithes and their offerings? Think about it. It was an agro-pastoral economy. Most people were poor farmers. This was not by choice but by necessity. They had just returned from exile, maybe a generation or two. We’re not even talking about drought, locust infestation, and neighbors who were angry that the original inhabitants were back. Life was very tough for them. Many were also shepherds. Again, not by choice. Then there were those working for the imperial bureaucracy (the Persian empire) who were doing very well. They were wealthy landowners. So also, the priests appeared to be doing well. The lending and borrowing system made life very difficult for the common person. Usury (lending money at excessively high interest rates) was also being practiced at the time. This was debt slavery. Fraud, bribery, and corruption were also prevalent. Bottom line: Most people felt entitled not to give.

Some people think that all that is in the OT Mosaic Law and we’re no longer under it. Who came first Abraham or Moses? Genesis 14   18 “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him (Abraham)…” And what did Abraham do? 20 “…And he gave him a tithe of all. Another question: Who came first Jacob or Moses? Genesis 28:20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” I believe that the idea of giving a tithe was only ratified in the Mosaic law but it was established since the beginning of time. Does the New Testament obligate us to tithe? Some people bring up Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law” and Galatians 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law…” Yes, we are no longer under the obligation of the traditions and rituals in the law but the principle of the law still stands. By the way, tithing is just the starting point. We are really under grace giving, which is much more. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

Question: Are you tithing? $20/month implies that you are making $200/month; $50/month implies that you are making $500/month; $100/month implies that you are making $1000/month.

Now listen to what God said: 9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.” 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; 12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts.

Personal Testimony: When I first came, I didn’t have anything but I remember my parents telling me to give and I did. God has done above and beyond for me. I don’t give because he gives back. I give because it’s all his.

Are you tithing? Are you grace giving? Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll start caring about this place. Whatever you buy stock in, you’ll care about. Start giving and you’ll see God open the windows of heaven for you. Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll look forward to giving more. If you question my motives, give to another church!

For some reason God has decided to use money as the acid test of our faith. He’s asking us – “How much of what you have do you think belongs to you?” It’s really a matter of the heart.

Are you saved?

Refining Fire by Pastor Abidan Shah

REFINING FIRE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Refining Fire

Introduction:  One night a chemical plant outside the city limits caught on fire. The alarm went out to fire departments for miles around. Here came all the big fire trucks from the city and started fighting the fire but it was no good. After about an hour the president of the company went to the fire chief and said, “We have some secret formulas in a vault in the center of the plant. I’ll give $50,000 to the engine company that brings them out safely.” The chief told his men – “C’mon, we need that money!” They strengthened their attack but two hours later it was still no good. The president raised it to $100,000. Just then they heard a long siren and a fire truck coming towards them. It was from the volunteer fire department out in the country. The truck looked like it should’ve been in a museum 50 years ago! The guys were bunch of retirees in their sixties and seventies. To everyone’s shock they drove right into the flames of the chemical plant. From the distance the other fire fighters with their shiny big trucks and all the public watched in amazement as those old guys hopped off their rig and began to fight the fire with intensity. In about half an hour, the blaze was out and the vault was safe! The president was so impressed that he raised the reward to $200,000! He walked over to thank them – “Wow! That’s Old School right there! What’re y’all going to do with the reward money?” The fire truck driver replied – “Old School? Phoo…The first thing we’re going to do is fix the brakes on that truck!” In this message we’re going to talk about a different kind of fire, not a destroying fire but a refining fire.

Malachi 2:17 “You have wearied the Lord with your words; Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,’ or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ 3   1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap.”

Question: Are you in God’s refining fire? Are you going through a tough time physically, mentally, financially, relationally, spiritually? Could it be that God is using that fire to refine you, to purify you? Are you saved?

Context: The book of Malachi has a fascinating literary style. Scholars have given it different names: judicial speech pattern, disputation speech, dialectical style. Bottom line: It reads like a courtroom drama where the people of Israel are on trial for falsely accusing God of being unfaithful to them, not coming through for them. What they didn’t realize was that God was their judge, their prosecuting attorney, their witness, and their executioner. So, welcome to God’s court. Let’s listen in on the trial – Malachi 2:17 “You have wearied the Lord with your words…” The people of Israel were bringing their leftover, rejected sacrifices to God and murmuring under their breath. What were they saying? “…Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,’ or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ Why were they talking like that? Bad things had happened in their lives and they were comparing themselves to their ungodly neighbors and saying, “Look at them. They don’t go to church but they don’t get sick with cancer. They don’t give their hard money in tithe but they seem to buy a new car and a new boat. They didn’t raise their children in church but they seem to be doing just fine. There’s no benefit to following God. Looks like bad people have a better life than we do. God must love them more. He’s not just. He’s not fair.” They were calling God’s character into question.

Listen carefully: I’ve been there. Let me warn you – If you look at life only through your natural eyes, you’ll talk like that too. If you compare yourself to your neighbors only by earthly standards, you’ll also become bitter towards God. In fact, Satan’s greatest temptation against believers is that “God is holding out on the best for you” or “God is not giving you what you deserve but I will.” He did that with Adam and Eve – “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He even tried that with Jesus – “If you fall before me, I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world.” He was implying that his father won’t!

Application: Are you comparing yourself to someone? Have you allowed bitterness to come into your life? Are you going through the motions but inside you have become angry towards God? You need to humble yourself, repent, and seek God’s forgiveness.

How did God answer their false accusation? 3   1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. What an unusual answer! Before we try to understand what all that means, let’s identify the different personalities mentioned in that verse:

  1. “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Who is the “I” and the “Me” here? This is God the Father. He is the one saying all this.
  2. “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Who is this “Messenger” who will prepare the way before God? Malachi gives his identity in 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Does that mean Elijah the prophet will come back from the dead? Not really. It means a person like Elijah the prophet will prepare the way before God when he comes. (We’ll come back to this in a second.)
  3. “…And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. Who is this “Lord” and this “Messenger of the covenant?” They are one and the same. The Hebrew word for Lord is “ha adon” which is God. The word messenger is “malech” which is also “angel.” This “angel of the covenant” is none other than the “angel of the Lord” who led Israel out of Egypt, went before them as they crossed the Red Sea, led them through the wilderness, and filled the temple with his glory. He is the pre-incarnate Christ. In other words, the Lord who will suddenly come into his temple and the Angel of the covenant are none other than Jesus. What is this covenant? It’s the same covenant that God made to save the world. He made it with Eve, with Shem, with Abraham, with Moses, with David, and on to the renewed covenant in Jeremiah. Hebrews 12:24 says “Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” What will he do? 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? Meaning: They thought God would come to fulfill all their desires and wants. Instead, when he comes, it will be unbearable. He will come in judgment.

Let’s put all this back together. The people of Israel were murmuring because God was nowhere to be found. God said, “I hear you and I’m coming but I’m sending my Son Jesus, the same one who made the old covenant with you. This is how you’ll know that he is the One – there will be a messenger who will clear his way first and then he will come without warning into his temple. And don’t think for a moment that this will be all fun and games. You won’t be able to stand it.” 2000 years ago John the Baptist came crying in the wilderness. Was he Elijah? In a sense, he was. If you remember, the angel told Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist in Luke 1:17 “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah…” by which he meant that the same spirit and power that energized Elijah in the Old Testament will also energize John the Baptist. Jesus also said in Matthew 11:14 “if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come,” meaning in spirit and power John the Baptist was like Elijah. What did John preach? Matthew 3   11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Some of y’all are thinking “But Jesus didn’t do that.” Read the gospels carefully and you will see how many times he pronounced judgment on the religious leaders – Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Then he called the temple a “den of thieves.” Then he cursed the fig tree as a representative of his people. Listen to him in John 9:39 “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

Listen carefully: The mistake we make is in thinking that all Jesus came to do was to be our Savior. Don’t forget that he also came as our Judge. Ever since then he has been doing both in our lives and he will complete his task with the people of Israel at his Ultimate Coming. If you want to know what his work now looks like, try to understand what it will be like at his Ultimate Coming – 2 “…For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.” Growing up I remember ever so often my parents would take me along to the goldsmith and silversmith shops. There was an entire row of these shops. It was always fascinating for me to watch them as a kid. Nowadays it’s all sophisticated but back then they used to sit on the ground in front of this small portable furnace. They would place the silver into this pan and hold it over the fire. After a few moments, the silver would turn into molten state. As the ore melted, the dross (impurity) would rise to the top. The silversmith would then take a small scalpel like instrument and remove the impurity and stoke the fire even more. Some more impurities would rise to the surface and he would keep scraping them off. Occasionally, he would sit up and look into the pan. What was he looking for? Silver in its purest form turns into liquid mirror. When he could see his face reflected in the pan, the silver was ready. Same way with us, God allows trials to come into our lives. Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, loss of health, financial troubles, family problems. What is God doing? He is turning up the heat. If he let him, he is removing the dross from our lives. How does he know when we’re ready? When he can see the face of his Son Jesus reflected in us. Is Jesus your Savior?

Rotten Blessings by Pastor Abidan Shah

ROTTEN BLESSINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Rotten BlessingsIntroduction:  Sometime back someone gave us some Georgia peaches. I love peaches! I had a couple and I put the last two in the fruit bowl in the kitchen. The next day Nicole went grocery shopping and bought a bag of oranges. One of the inhabitants of our home put the bag of oranges right on top of the peaches. I forgot all about them. Couple of weeks went by until we got to the last of the oranges and I felt something pulpy and slimy underneath. Buried under there were those two peaches. They had rotten. What caused them to rot? To start with, they began dying the moment they were plucked from the tree, the source of life. Then, under the weight of the oranges, their thin skin was easily broken which made it easier for the elements to take over. When the inside of the peaches became exposed to air, then microorganisms began to use them for their own purposes. I can go on and on but losing their source of life was the first step towards rottenness. So also with us, God blesses us with many blessings. But, when we detach ourselves from him, the source of our blessings, those same blessings become rotten. That’s the title of our message “ROTTEN BLESSINGS.”

Malachi 2   1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart… 9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law.”

Question: Are you detached from the source of your blessings? Have you lost sight of God in your life? Have your blessings turned rotten for you? Are you saved?

Context: In our first message in this series on Malachi we learned that the Jewish people had become ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards God. God sent Malachi to shock them back into reality. That’s why our series is called “Counter-shock.” As much as God was disappointed with his people, he was really angry with the spiritual leadership, the priests and the Levites. Listen to Malachi 2:1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.” God was holding the priests accountable for the behavior of the people. Never forget – We will all have to give an account at the judgment seat of Christ but those who are in leadership will face a far stricter judgment as James 3:1 warns us. Now listen to verse 2 “If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, (How do you give glory to God’s name? Praise him, Fear him, Represent him with truth and integrity) “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart. What does that mean that God would curse their blessings? It has 2 meanings:

  • First, it refers to the blessing that the priests would pronounce twice daily in the temple, one in the morning and the other in the evening. It’s found in Numbers 6 23 “…This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’ 27“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” God was telling them – “When you say those words, you’re actually cursing the people.” By the way, Malachi 3:11 tells us that their crops were failing terribly at this time.
  • Second, it refers to what the priests and the Levites considered to be their personal blessings (their financial compensation, food, and their children). They too had become a source of shame and suffering.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my favorite preachers from yesteryears, gave an excellent illustration of this in modern day America. Our nation was founded upon biblical values. Let me say here: There are elements in our country right now who are working very hard to tear down our foundations. Make no mistake, the attacks against our flag and our national anthem are symbolic of a much sinister attack against us as a nation. At least on September 11, 2001 we saw the planes flying into the World Trade Towers. This to me is worse because we cannot see that we are under attack but our foundational values are being torn from under us. Anyways, one of our foundational values as a nation was that Sunday was a day of rest, a day set aside to worship God. Six days we could do as we pleased but then the 7th day was to be the Lord’s Day. In the old days, everything slacked off by Saturday evenings to get ready for church the next morning. As our country departed from God, Saturday and Sunday became the weekend, the time to unwind. Saturday became the party night and still is and Sunday became the day to sleep in, especially if you had a hangover. Statistics tell us that 1 out of every 5 Americans are involved in an alcohol-related car crash and the day on which those injuries occur the most is Saturday and the second is Sunday.

Back to our illustration: After our Navy was destroyed in Pearl Harbor, our Congress held several hearings of the Joint Commission investigating the attack. There were as many as 9 investigations. Several books are there on it: At Dawn We Slept; Dec 7, 1941; Pearl Harbor Papers; etc. Our people went into the war department in Tokyo and found out that the Japanese espionage had been spying on America for years and that Admiral Yamamoto, the mastermind of the attack, had deliberately chosen Sunday morning as the day to attack. Why? Several reasons – the ships would be in the docks, most sailors would be out on leave because of pay day but more than anything, it was the one day that most people would be down with a hangover. Bottom Line: The Japanese had determined that if America was attacked early Sunday morning, it will find it most vulnerable! As you know, Sunday morning (Dec. 7th 1941) Japanese fighter planes came in. The man at the radar reported but the officer in charge didn’t do anything because of his hangover and the bombs were dropping and destroying our navy. Did God cause it to happen? Absolutely not! We took God’s blessing of the day of rest and turned into a day of hangover and our blessing became a curse. In other words, our Day of Rest became a Date which will live in Infamy, as FDR called it.

This is exactly what God is saying to us today. Every blessing comes from him but when you take him out of the blessing, it becomes a curse – Money (take God out and it becomes our Master); Education (take God out and you have school shootings); Technology (take God out and it becomes a distraction); Freedom (take God out and it becomes a liability); Marriage (take God out and it becomes a misery); and even Children (take God out and they become a nuisance) 3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants…” I would even add Church to that list (take God out and it becomes a meaningless ritualistic burden, a relic of the past). Have your blessings become your curses?

But God is not through – “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it. What’s going on here? To understand that you have to understand how sacrifices were done by the priests in the temple. It’s all laid out in the Book of Leviticus. When a person sinned, they would bring a lamb for the sacrifice. The priest would first examine the Lamb to make sure that it didn’t have any blemish. Keep in mind that all this was pointing to Christ. I Peter 1   18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things…19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Then the person bringing the lamb would place their hands on the head of the lamb. It symbolized the imputation/transfer of the sins of the individual to the animal. Again, it was a picture of Christ, the Lamb of God taking our sins upon himself. Then the priest would take the lamb by the wool and lift it on top of the altar. The altar was sitting North to South with the northern end towards the Holy of Holies. By the way, the cross was located on the north side of Jerusalem. Now, with one stroke of the knife the priest would cut the jugular vein of the lamb and the blood squirting out was caught in a bowl which was then placed on the North side of the altar towards the Holy of Holies. The Blood was to becoming the propitiation for our sins. So also Jesus poured out his blood as an atonement for our sins. Someone might say, “Isn’t that barbaric?” Leviticus 17:11 “…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Hebrews 9:22 “. . . without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Remission means “Cancellation of debt.” God will punish sin. Either he will punish it in the individual or he will punish it in the substitute. Jesus became our substitute. All you have to do is ask him to be your Savior.

What’s next? The priest would then take the blood from the North side of the altar and sprinkle it 7 times before the veil. It would signify God’s acceptance. Now he would come out and apply the blood to the altars. It was a symbol of the way being opened from God to us. Next, the priest would take the knife and quickly flay the lamb. The wool was used for clothing. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The skin was cured and the Bible would be written on it. Christ is the Word of God for us. The meat of the lamb was eaten by the priests. We feed upon Christ daily. Nothing of the lamb was wasted just as everything of Christ is essential for us. Then something else would happen. The priest would remove the intestines which was filled with unexpressed dung and put in a bowl on the south side of the altar. Later, that bowl along with the “offal,” which were the waste parts of the animal, were taken out the dung gate on the south side of the city and dumped on the ash heap outside the city walls. This place was called Gehenna, a place of constant burning. It became a symbol of Hell.

Listen again to verse 3 “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.” Do you get the imagery! God is saying, “If you reject the blood of the Lamb on the north side of the altar, I will smear your face with the dung of the Lamb on the south side of the altar and you will be sent to hell. By the way, this was not just any feast but the solemn feast, the Feast of the Passover. In other words, if you refuse Jesus as your Savior, you will have him as your Judge.

Invitation: Have your blessings become a curse? Have you removed God from your blessings? Have you received the Lamb of God? Is he your Savior or your Judge?

Cold Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

COLD LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Cold Love

Introduction:  Years ago there was a cartoon of an old farmer and his wife riding down the road in a pickup truck. The first frame showed the old farmer sitting behind the wheel with his arm out the window and the wife sitting up against the door on the other side. The second frame showed a young couple passing them. They were sitting so close to each other that you couldn’t tell which one was driving. In the third frame the old woman says to her husband, “Pa, you remember when we used to ride like that…What happened to us?” In the last frame the old farmer replies, “Ma, I ain’t moved…” It’s the same thing when it comes to our relationship with God. If you find that your love for him has grown cold, guess who moved? Not him. This is our first message in our series on the Book of Malachi. It’s called “Cold Love.”

Malachi 1    1 The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord.

Question: “Oh what a weeriness!” Some translations say, “Oh, what a burden!” It has the idea of exhaustion behind it. The people had become tired of serving God. For reasons we will see this morning, they had become sick of God. Does that describe you today? Has the Christian life become a burden for you? Have the things of God become a drag for you? If so, then you need a revival, you need a countershock. As someone said, “before you can be revived, you have to be vived, you have to be saved.” Are you saved?

Context: The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It belongs in a collection known as the Twelve Prophets or the “Minor Prophets.” They’re called “minor” not because they’re less important but because compared to the bigger writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel they were much smaller. But even though Malachi is small in size, it has a big message. To really understand that, we have to understand the context in which it was written. From my study of the language and theology of the book, I believe that it was written sometime towards the end of Nehemiah’s ministry. For those of you who may not be familiar, here’s a quick timeline:

  • In 538 BC God raised Cyrus, King of Persia, to free the Jewish people. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had taken the people into exile and had destroyed everything. Under Cyrus they were able to return and rebuild.
  • Some returned and by 515 BC (23 years later) the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt. God sent his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the people to rebuild the temple.
  • In 458 BC (60 years later) God sent Ezra the scribe to come and read his law to the people and call them to spiritual, moral, and social renewal.
  • In 445 BC (10 years later) God burdened Nehemiah to leave his high-profile position in Persia and rally the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem and they did it in 52 days! He also led them in revival. But then Nehemiah had to go back to Persia and spiritually and morally things began to go downhill again.

This is the time period in which God sent Malachi the prophet to his people. It was God who had brought them back into the land. It was God who had helped them rebuilt their lives. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the temple. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem. You would think that the people would be grateful to God and willing to serve him and obey him. Instead, they were becoming ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards him. Why? They were angry with God over why he had allowed them to go into exile in the first place. Why did so many have to die? Why did so many have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be turned upside down? They had forgotten that it was their sin that had brought the judgment of God. Now they were doubting the power of God, the love of God, and even the existence of God. As a result, some had turned towards atheism, others towards Epicureanism, and yet others had become reluctant believers. In other words, they were simply going through the motions but inside they were defiant towards God.

Illustration: Like the little boy whose daddy made him sit. He sat down with his arms crossed and said, “Fine. I’m sitting on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside.”

Application: Is that you? Have you become cynical and sarcastic towards God because of some bad situations? Are you simply going through the motions? Do you come to church but it’s a duty rather than a desire? Are you angry with God?

So God spoke to his people through Malachi– 1 “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” Some translations have it as “the oracle of the word of the Lord.” I believe that burden is a better translation because the word “massa” in this context has a sense of heaviness. The words that God is about to say to his people are heavy. Every message I preach I ask God to give me a burden for the people, a sense of urgency.

Now listen to the dialogue between God and his people. It’s in a “charge” versus “counter-charge” format – “God Speaks, Israel Speaks” 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. The word for love is “ahab” which has the idea of a sovereign, unconditional, and personal love. It represents covenant love. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” You have to read that with a tone of sarcasm and scoff. They were doubting the character of God.Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” What was God saying? Jacob and Esau were brothers. God in his divine sovereignty had chosen Jacob and his descendants to fulfill his plan of redemption in the world. There was nothing that special about Jacob. It was totally divine election. What God was saying to them is “Don’t you remember that I chose you to be my people? Don’t you remember that I am the reason for your existence?”

Application: Have you forgotten where God has brought you from? Have you forgotten that everything you have is a gift from God? We don’t go back to Jacob but to Jesus.

By the way, why did God say “but Esau I have hated”? The descendants of Esau were the Edomites. They were cousins but they hated the descendants of Jacob, the people of Israel. In fact, when Babylon came up against Jerusalem, the Edomites helped them to destroy the city. God says, “I have — 3 “…laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.” And if they try to rebuild, God said, “I will tear down faster than they can build. ‘They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness.’” In other words, God was saying “I will deal with them for what they’ve done to you.” By the way, sometime in the fifth century a group of Arab tribes drove the Edomites out of their homeland. By around 312 BC the Nabateans took over the region and made Petra their capital city. Nicole and I went there 3 years ago. It’s beautiful but a wasteland to this day.

6 “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts…” They were defying the honor of God. By the way, the reverence of God is not “organ music and lofty prayers.” It’s uncompromised obedience to him. Who were leading the charge here? To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, “In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ The priests and the Levites had no fear of God themselves. When the people would bring defiled food (the leftovers) and rejected stuff to the altar, the show-bread table and the altar of burnt offering, they would not stop them. They would say, “Yeah, it’ll work.” 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. 9 “But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. What a powerful analogy! People still try to offer God their leftover money, time, and talent. We are so prone to give what hurts the least. God says, “If you’re going to give me something, it should cost you something.” Why? It should be a sacrifice. It cost God something when he gave his Son on the cross.

Application: Have you lost the fear of God? Have you lost the reverence of God? Are you still trying to offer God your leftover money, time, and talent?

10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the Lord of hosts. 12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. They were openly disgruntled in worship. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord. Weariness is when you go from “I get to” to “I’ve got to” – “I’ve GOT to go to church” “I’ve GOT to teach S.S.” “I’ve GOT to sing.” “We’ve GOT to tithe.” Listen carefully: If you’ve lost the joy of the Christian life, you might as well stop the work of the Christian life. There’s nothing more dull, dry, boring, and tedious than Christian work without the joy of the Christian life.”

14 “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the Lord of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.

How to know your love has become cold? Doubt the character of God, defy the honor of God, and openly disgruntled in worship. Are you saved?

The Soul-Multiplier by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE SOUL-MULTIPLIER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul Multiplier

Introduction: I enjoy fishing but I really enjoy fishing with my boys. It’s more fun for me to watch them fish than to fish myself. It’s funny to me how they start out at the opposite sides of the pond until one of them starts catching fish. Then, before you know it, the other one starts sliding in the direction where the fish are biting because he wants to catch fish too. So also in today’s miracle, the disciples had cast their nets all night and had caught nothing until Jesus came to them and help them and when he did, they could not pull in the net because of the catch was so big. In this final message in our series on the miracles of Jesus, we’re going to learn that God wants us to fish, fish for souls. He’s willing to help us catch, not just one or two souls but a net full if only we would listen to him. After all, Jesus is the great SOUL-MULTIPLIER.

John 21   1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

Question: Have you caught any fish lately? When was the last time that you won a soul to Jesus? Did you know that God wants you to catch a net full of souls in your lifetime? By the way, before you can catch, you have to be caught. Have you ever been caught in the net of God’s amazing grace? Are you saved?

Background: This final miracle in our series comes from the Gospel of John again. You’ve heard me repeat throughout this series that John the apostle (writer of the 4th gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. As you know, signs were more than just miracles. They also proved that Jesus was/is God. Having said that, this sign was different. All the previous signs were done before Jesus went to the cross. They were done to prove that he was the Promised One. But then, Jesus did the ultimate sign by rising from the grave on the third day. No more signs were needed to prove that he was the Promised One. Now it was time for a decision. Listen to the verse prior to this miracle – John 20   30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” In other words, the time for signs was over. Now it was time to believe him or reject him.

Application: Many of you have heard message after message. You’ve been given proof after proof but you have yet to receive Jesus as your Savior. What are you waiting for?

Now back to our miracle: If the time for signs was over, then why did Jesus do this one more sign? Listen carefully: This sign was not done by Jesus to manifest the glory of God. This sign was done by Jesus to motivate his disciples to carry out the mission of God. In other words, this sign was not about the person of Jesus. This sign was about the mission of Jesus. First, let’s clarify what was the Mission of Jesus. He had given it to them just a few verses earlier in John 20   21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Meaning: The disciples were to go out in the power of the Holy Spirit and tell the whole world about Jesus and how he had come to forgive their sins. The message of salvation was now in the hands of the disciples and they had a part to play in the eternal destiny of people.

Application: By the way, this is also our mission when we get saved and join the family of God. We have the same mission as the disciples to seek and to save the lost. How is the mission coming? Are you seeking and saving the lost? This is the mission of Clearview.

Now that we know the mission, let’s return to the miracle in John 21. What is the sign behind this miracle? Listen again – 1 “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat…” Why in the world did Simon Peter say, “I am going fishing”? Why did he go back to his old life? To understand this, we need to keep in mind that the disciples had just been through the worst mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical rollercoaster of life. They had been through a very traumatic time, to say the least. Think about: Their Master had been killed right before their eyes and just when they thought it was all over, he had reappeared! How do you think they were feeling?

  • They were in shock. I doubt if any of us here have ever seen someone being killed. These disciples had seen a person they loved and respected very much killed in the worst possible way on a cruel shameful Roman cross.
  • They were disheartened. Imagine if you knew someone as amazing as Jesus for 3 ½ years. Imagine if you had seen and heard things that were mind blowing and life-changing as the disciples had seen and heard from Jesus and just when you thought that this Jesus would become your King Messiah and change the world forever, he was ripped away from you and killed. All that for nothing…
  • They were confused. Again, think about it – your Master died a cruel unjust death. How sad! How wrong! But just when you were beginning to process all of that, he comes back! “What! Are we hallucinating? Are we losing our minds?” Plus, he’s not exactly like he used to be. Something has changed about him.
  • They were feeling inadequate. Jesus was back and saying things like, John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” All they could recollect was how they had abandoned Jesus on the night he was betrayed. They were probably thinking, “Why do you even care about us? We turned our backs on you.”
  • They were feeling embarrassed, especially Peter. Think about the last encounter that Peter had with Jesus before he was crucified. Just as Jesus had warned him, he had denied him three times before the rooster crowed.
  • They probably felt that the cost to follow was too much. They must have given thought to what it would take to follow Jesus and the road seemed too hard. It was so much easier to go back to the familiar, the easy, and the inconsequential.

Application: Which one are you? Maybe you don’t feel shock since Jesus died 2000 years ago but do you at times feel disheartened, confused, inadequate, or embarrassed? Do you feel that the cost is too much? Are you tempted to go back to your old life?

What happened next? 3 “…They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” It never works out when you run from the call God has on your life. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. What’s amazing is that the Master doesn’t abandon us even when we abandon him. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. This was not about the fish. This was about their true calling. Don’t forget that each of us has been called by God to his mission. You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary but you have to be a soul multiplier.

Now watch how Peter responded – 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. Why? He was done running from God. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” How beautiful is that sight! When we mess up, Jesus doesn’t wait with a whip but with breakfast! Plus he wants us to join him in catching souls. 11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Why is the number significant? People have tried to come up with all kinds of ideas about it. Here’s my answer: Every soul counts in the kingdom of God. Let me draw some applications:

  • No matter our occupation, fishing for souls is our calling.
  • It never works out when you run from our calling.
  • Jesus expects from us on a large scale what he did on a small scale. John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
  • Our job is to cast. His job is to fill the net.
  • When we mess up, he waits for us with breakfast.
  • You have to be caught before you can catch others.

The Grave-Robber by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE GRAVE-ROBBER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Grave Robber

Introduction:  Graveyards are gloomy to say the least but some people have tried to lighten the mood by what they have written on their gravestone. Here are some of my favorites – “William H. Hahn: I told you I was sick”; “Robert Clay Allison: He never killed a man that did not need killing”; “Rest in Peace Cousin Heut: We all know you didn’t do it”; “Raised four beautiful daughters with only one bathroom and still there was love”; “Barbara Sue Manire (with a parking meter) – Our Mother…Her humor lives on”; Walter W. Stauffen: Uncle Walter loved to spend. He had no money in the end. But with many a whiskey and many a wife, he really did enjoy his life”; “Here lies Good Old Fred: A great big rock fell on his head.” I hope none of these were photoshopped. There is one gravestone that had to be carved twice. It was the gravestone of Lazarus. After 4 days in the grave, Jesus brought him back to life. He is the great GRAVE-ROBBER.

John 11   1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 

Question: Death is inevitable. Death is inescapable. Where will you go when you die? Jesus has not only brought us forgiveness of sin but he has also taken the sting out of death. Grave no longer has power over us. Have you received him as your Savior?

Context: The miracle we’re looking at today comes from the Gospel of John again. You know by now that John the apostle (writer of the fourth gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. Signs were more than just extraordinary events done by Jesus to help people in need. Signs also served to prove that Jesus was/is God. In this miracle, the word “sign” is used again. Listen to John 11:47 “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” In other words, the raising of Lazarus was more than just Jesus bringing a dead man to life. It was also a sign. What was the sign behind this miracle? The answer is found in John 11:43 “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’” The Greek words are “deuro exo,” where “deuro” is “come” and “exo” is “out.” Together, it is “Come Out!” Something else, when that word “deuro” is used with “exo,” you can actually translate the phrase as simply “Out!” Lazarus, even though he was dead, even though he was buried in the grave for 4 days, recognized the voice of Jesus, recognized the voice of his Savior and came out.

Let me illustrate: Imagine if were to stand in my driveway and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think Nicole or the kids would do? They would recognize my voice immediately and come running outside – “What’s wrong? What do you need?” How about if I were to stand outside your house and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What would you do? At first you may get startled but then you’ll recognize my voice – “That’s Abidan or Pastor Shah!” – and you’ll come outside and ask me, “Hey Pastor Shah! What’re you doing here? Is everything okay?” Now, what if I were to stand in someone’s driveway who doesn’t know me and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think they would do? Depends on who they are and where they live, they may start by dialing 911 and ask from behind the door, “Who’re you? What do you want?” or maybe even come out with a shotgun and tell me to get off the property. What is the difference between the first two and the last reactions? The first two recognized my voice and knew me but the last one didn’t.

To understand the sign behind this miracle, you have to back up to John 10 and get the context: John 10   2 “…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them….14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Then John tells us that they began to argue over whether he was crazy or had a demon. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” So, guess what they did. They tried to stone him again. Listen carefully to what Jesus said to them then – 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” In other words, if there’s a contradiction between my works and the Father’s (God’s), then don’t believe in me. But if my works lineup with the works of the Father (God), then believe the works and in turn believe that the Father is in me and I am in him.

What are the kind of works that the Father does? John 5:21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” John 6:39 “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” Repeatedly, Jesus told them that raising the dead and giving them life was the work of the Father (God). Jesus was sent by his Father to carry on his work.

With that in mind, let’s return to the miracle of Lazarus.

  • Jesus heard about Lazarus’ sickness but delayed coming for two days. Why? He said in John 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Meaning: Lazarus was going to be an object lesson to prove that Jesus was/is the Son of God. 2 days turned into 4 days and Lazarus died. Meaning: This was not going to be an ordinary healing miracle. This was going to be the big one, just like magicians do their toughest trick in the end.
  • When Jesus got there, Martha had lost all hope but Jesus challenged her in John 11 25 “…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?” She replied 27 “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She was a sheep who heard the voice of the shepherd.
  • Mary also doubted and said to Jesus in John 11 32 “…Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” The words are literally “he got angry in his spirit and stirred up in himself.” Why? Because here was a sheep who was not hearing his voice but acting like those outside the fold. Jesus was so upset that when he got to the tomb, he wept. Now some people think that he wept because he loved Lazarus or he was moved by the sorrow of the family members. The word for Jesus weeping is dakruo while the word for Mary and the Jewish people weeping is klaio. These were not tears of sorrow but of anger.
  • As he made his way to the tomb, they continued to doubt him and verse 38 says, “Jesus, again groaning in Himself…” Same word as verse 33. Why? Because he was surrounded by those who were deaf to him.
  • When Jesus commanded them to move the stone, Martha objected in 39 “…Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Now the sheep who was listening to his voice is not listening either. Listen to Jesus’ response: 40 “…Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 “…And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Then he cried with a loud voice and the irony of ironies, the living people couldn’t hear the voice of Jesus but the dead guy heard it and came back to life.

Let me draw some applications:

  • Power over life and death belongs to Jesus.
  • His sheep hear his voice and follow him.
  • If you are a sheep and you cannot hear his voice, doubt has come in your life.
  • God takes doubts very seriously.
  • Once you belong to him, he will never let you go.
  • If you’ve never heard his voice, you don’t belong to him.

The Eye-Opener by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE EYE-OPENER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Eye Opener

Introduction: The closest I’ve ever come to being totally blind was several years ago when our family went to the Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, Missouri. It’s the only ride through cavern in the USA. The scenery was beautiful with all the stalactites and stalagmites! Once we got deep into the cavern the guide told us that he would turn all the lights out for a “moment of total darkness.” He did and I don’t think I’ve ever been in such thick darkness in my life. You could cut it with a knife! I remember the kids clutching tightly to us. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t turn the lights back on. We were totally helpless. Then lights came back on and everything was fine. It was a great illustration of how each of us is born spiritually blind in this world. We are totally helpless until God turns on the light. Jesus is the light of the world. He is the great eye-opener.

John 9   1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing. 8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?” 9 Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.” 10 Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.” 12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”

Question: To be spiritually blind means others around you can see the work of God but you can’t. Others can describe it to you but you can’t see it for yourself. Do you have your spiritual eyes or are you still spiritually blind? When you come to Jesus he opens your spiritually eyes and you begin to see the work of God for yourself. Have you ever been to Jesus yet? Has he opened your spiritual eyes? Are you saved?

Background: In our series on the miracles of Jesus from all four gospels we’ve learned that John the apostle (the writer of the 4th gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. There’s a difference between signs and miracles. Although signs were miracles, they were also proofs that Jesus was/is God and he was the one to come. So, what was the deeper sign in this miracle? To answer that, we have to jump ahead to John 9:14 “Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” If you ignore the time of the miracle being Sabbath, you will misunderstand this miracle.

What is the Sabbath? It was the 7th day of the Jewish week on which no work could be done. It went back to Genesis 2:3 when “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” In the Decalog (10 Commandments), God even commanded His people Israel to follow his pattern. Exodus 20   8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” It keeps going. In fact, it is the longest of all the 10 commandments! Breaking the Sabbath was considered a capital offense. The goal was not to find people working and kill them. It was to set aside a day to slow down, worship God, spend time with your loved ones, and get your priorities in order. Interestingly, God did not specify the details about work. He left it up to the people to flesh it out. Unfortunately, by Jesus’ day, the Jewish people had come up with a long lists of dos and don’ts as to what constituted work. Can you light a fire? How far can you walk? Can you help someone in need? How much can you help them? In short, the Sabbath was a major source of dispute among the various Jewish groups. They had lost sight of the real reason for the Sabbath. It was so bad that the Jewish leaders were angry with Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath. Previously, in John 5, Jesus had healed a man who was paralyzed for 38 years on the Sabbath. What was the reaction of the Jewish leaders? John 5:16 “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.” Listen to how Jesus responded to them – 17 But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ In other words, “My Father and I made the Sabbath. Yes, it’s a day that you cease working but not cease from doing good, helping those in need, and bringing salvation.” Those are to be done round the clock. Keep this in mind because it’s the key to this miracle.

Context: Let’s return to the miracle in John 9:1 “Now as Jesus passed by…” Where was Jesus coming from? For e.g. If I were to say, “I passed by your house this morning.” You may ask, “Oh really, where were you going?” I may answer, “I was coming from the grocery store and going home.” To find out where Jesus was “passing by” from, back up to the previous verse which is John 8:59 “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” This miracle did not happen when Jesus was taking a nice stroll down the boardwalk or the beach. This miracle was done as Jesus was trying to flee a mob of people with stones in their hands. Why did they want to do that? Because Jesus had told them things like – John 8  19 “…You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” 24 “…if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” 29 “…The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” 44 “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do…” 47 “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 58 “…Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” All this made them so angry that they picked up stones and began to chase him. By the way, what day was this? Can you pick up stones and chase after someone? They were breaking the Sabbath. They were utterly spiritually blind and they didn’t want to see.

Application: All of us come into this world spiritually blind. We can’t see the things of God. But we have a choice. Either we can admit our blindness or deny it. These people denied it and wanted to kill the light of the world! There are people like that even today. Instead of submitting to the eye-opener, they fight him! Which one are you?

What did Jesus do as he was trying to duck away from this angry mob? He noticed a man who was born blind as his enemies were breaking the Sabbath in their zeal for keeping the Sabbath! His disciples decided to launch into a theological discussion over whose fault it was that he was born blind. Listen to Jesus’ answer in verse 3 “…Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” There’s a sense of urgency in the words of Jesus. He doesn’t have time to waste. Work has to be done as long as he is in the world because the night is coming soon. By the way, what day was this? Sabbath.

Application: Don’t let your traditions get in the way of reaching the lost. Traditions are fine but salvation trumps tradition any day.

Now listen to how he does the miracle: 6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground (which is work) and made clay with the saliva (which is work); and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay (which is work). Was Jesus just trying to antagonize the Jewish leaders over the Sabbath? Of course not. Look back again to what Jesus did. Just like God made Adam out of the dust of the earth, he used clay to heal the blind man’s eyes. Just like God breathed into Adam the breath of life, he used his spit to make the clay. The blind man already had the breath of life in him. The spit was simply to put a patch on a broken creation. What Jesus is declaring through his actions is that he is the same God who made the heavens, the earth, and everything in it, including man in his image. He is also declaring that he is the God who gave them the Sabbath and it was never intended to be what they had done to it. Listen to verse 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). (Which is work) So he went and washed, and came back seeing. (Which is work). Then he told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Why? In those days they used the water from the pool of Siloam for the daily processions to the temple. It was considered sacred. But John tells us that the name meant, “Sent.” What Jesus is saying to the blind man and to all who were listening is “Go wash in my pool.” In essence he was saying that he was the God who gave sight to the blind. Psalm 146:8 “The LORD opens the eyes of the blind…” Isaiah 29:18 “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.”

What was the result? His neighbors couldn’t recognize him. The Pharisees began interrogating him. His parents distanced themselves from him. But Jesus came looking for him and asked in John 9 35 “Do you believe in the Son of God?” 36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.

Let me draw some applications:

  • All of are born spiritually blind. Our blindness is due to sin.
  • Only Jesus is the Light of the World. He is restoring sight round the clock.
  • Persecution may follow after receiving sight.
  • Spiritual blindness will make you ignore the hurting
  • It’ll make you major on the minors.
  • It’ll make you lose your sense of urgency.

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah 

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 19, 2017)

It was a perfect end to a busy week. I had accomplished everything on my agenda, which is rare. Now it was time to head home and catch up on some well-needed family time. My face was smiling, my shoulders were relaxed, my mind was clear, my steps were unhurried, and I was humming Old Satch, “What a Wonderful World.” Then it happened. In a matter of seconds, the smile vanished, the shoulders became tense, the mind turned muddy, the swag was gone, and I think I began humming Old Hank, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” The family time was nothing like I had envisioned. If truth be told, it was a rather miserable weekend. You ask, “What brought such sudden and miserable change?” Well, I ran into a toxic person. You know the type who pushes you into Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, the fictional bog in which a person sinks under the weight of sin, guilt, shame, and discouragement. Have you ever been a victim of a toxic person? Let me share with you how to handle them:

First, recognize them for who they are. Toxic people come in all types. Dr. Travis Bradberry (double PhD in Clinical and Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence 2.0) identifies 10 kinds of toxic people: The Gossip, The Temperamental, The Victim, The Self-Absorbed, The Envious, The Manipulator, The Dementor, The Twisted, The Judgmental, and The Arrogant. Most of these designations are self-explanatory except for maybe the Dementor and the Twisted. The former are the kind who suck the life out of the room by their negativity and pessimism and the latter are out to hurt you, make you feel bad, or get something from you. Bradberry warns, “toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs…Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.”

Next, always be prepared to face toxic people. To think that we can avoid them completely is unrealistic and naïve. They might be in the family, neighborhood, workplace, or social organizations (even church!). Trying to ignore them or keep them at arm’s length will only aggravate the situation and attempting to mirror their behavior will only lead to disaster. Instead, learn their behavior patterns and establish the appropriate emotional boundaries in your mind. Don’t get smug like me and stumble into a bad weekend. Also, avoid any toxic song, show, movie, book, or event in your life. Such things only add unnecessary toxicity to your life.

What if the damage has been done? Many years ago I allowed a toxic person to steal my joy. It took a toll on my health, family, and spiritual life. God in his mercy sent a mature person into my life who immediately recognized my distress. He pointedly asked, “Do you want this toxin out of your system?” At first I pretended to be fine and then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride. This godly person told me that he too struggled with it and he found help in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” He said, “Start praying that God would bless this person who has been toxic in your life. Pray for the next 20 days for physical, spiritual, and financial blessing in their life. Be aware that the first time you pray that it will be impossible to mouth those words. Do it again the next day and you might feel sick to your stomach but don’t stop. Eventually, it will become easier and easier. Then, there will come a day when you will pray and actually find yourself praying sincerely as if for a friend. Somewhere towards the end of the 20 days, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you are free. The toxin has cleared out of your system.” Guess what! It actually worked!

Ultimately, sin is the toxin and only the grace of God through Jesus Christ can heal your life. Give it a try today.

The Fear-Defier by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE FEAR-DEFIER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Fear Defier

Introduction: I usually don’t use movies as illustrations but if there’s one that I’ll make an exception for, it is my all-time favorite, “Tombstone.” It’s based on the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona where Wyatt Earp and his two brothers along with Doc Holliday had the famous shootout with the cowboys Billy Claiborne and the Clanton and the McLaury Brothers. A few years back Nicole and I actually took a trip there. There’s a part in the movie where Wyatt Earp shoots his way out of a tough situation. The next scene shows the men cleaning their guns and Sherman McMasters (one of the good guys) asks, “Where is he (Wyatt Earp)?” and Doc Holliday replies, “Down by the creek, walking on water.” It implies that Wyatt Earp just pulled off a miracle like Jesus walking on the water. As great as that movie is, nothing is further from the truth. Sure, Wyatt Earp was bold and fearless but it takes much more than that to walk on water. There’s only one who did that. His name is Jesus. He alone is the great Fear-Defier.

Matthew 14   22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. 25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

Question: All of us have some fear or another in our lives. Some are afraid of their past. Others are afraid of their future. Some are fearful of some person in their lives. Others are fearful of those they don’t know. For some it’s the fear of rejection. For others it’s the fear of failure. The list goes on. What is your fear? What are you afraid of? Have you ever met Jesus? He’s the great fear-defier. What’s amazing is that he will not only give you peace in the midst of the storm but he’s also lead you to walk on water.

Context: Let’s begin with verse 22 “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.” In Greek it is “anagkazo,” which is literally “forced” or “urged” them to get away. Why did Jesus do that? Keep in mind that this was right after that great miracle of feeding the 5000 men plus women and children. If you remember from last week, we came up with the estimate of at least 15,000 people. Now think about it. 15,000 ÷12 = 1,250 people per disciple. Imagine if you were responsible to feed 1,250 individuals! How exhausting that would be! I can imagine some of them already asking for the breakfast menu! But I don’t think this was the main reason. The main reason was that Jesus did not want the disciples to start thinking like the unbelieving crowd. If you remember, some of them wanted to take Jesus by force and make him king. What they wanted was a walking talking cafeteria. Jesus knew the danger of that thinking and he got them out of there.

Application: At Clearview there are disciples and then there’s the crowd. The disciples roll up their sleeves; the crowds fold up their arms. The disciples ask, “What can I do?” the crowds ask, “How long will it take?” The disciples offer their time and energy; the crowds offer their doubts and demands. The disciples bring their wallets to church; the crowds leave their wallets at home. Which one are you? If you were there back then, would Jesus send you away with the disciples or with the crowd?

Now Jesus goes up on the mountain by himself to pray. 24 “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.” Confession Time: I’ve struggled with this passage. If Jesus truly cared about his disciples enough to rescue them from the crowd, then why in the world would he send them into a storm! It’s like – “Let me help you cross the street” but when you get to the other side, he turns around and pushes you into the oncoming traffic. Did Jesus not know that there would be a storm? Of course he did. He was and is God. But there’s something else. 25 “Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them…” Fourth watch in the Roman time system was between 3am to 6am. The Gospel of Mark adds something here that has puzzled scholars for a long time. Mark 6:48 “…Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.” Why would he do that! To get the answer to these questions, we have to turn to geography. Luke in his gospel tells us that Jesus fed the multitude somewhere near the city of Bethsaida (Luke 9:2). Bethsaida is located on the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee. More than likely, it was not directly next to the city since the gospels say that it was a deserted place but Bethsaida was the closest big town. But then Mark says that after the miracle Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat and go to Bethsaida. What Jesus was doing was trying to get the disciples away from the crowd but sail close to the shoreline and get back to the town of Bethsaida. John in his gospel tells us that the disciples got into the boat and decided to go towards Capernaum, which is on the northwestern corner of the Sea.

Why did they do that? I’m going to give you my opinion but it will make sense to you when you look at the whole context. The clue is found in the Gospel of Luke. Even though Luke does not record the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, he tells us something very interesting that Matthew, Mark, and John do not tell us. After sending the disciples to the boat and the multitude on their way, Jesus went to pray by himself. We think that the disciples were probably on the boat by the time Jesus started praying. Not true. Listen to Luke 9 17 So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. 18 And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” 20   He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “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.” 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” Now the disciples make their way to the boat. I believe that they were in stunned silence. After sailing for a few minutes someone must have spoken up – “What do you guys think? Do you really think he is who he says he is? I mean he’s talking about dying and coming back to life. He’s talking about picking up our cross and following him! He’s talking about coming in his glory and his father’s and the angels.” Then someone must have turned to Peter and asked,” Hey Peter, do you really believe that he’s the Christ of God?” Just my opinion but at that moment Peter must have said, “I don’t know what I believe. Forget Jesus. Let’s go to Capernaum.” They all decided to bail on Jesus.

What happened next? Storm came up and the boat was tossed by waves to somewhere in the middle of the sea. Now Jesus comes walking on the waves and Mark says that he “would have passed them by.” Do you blame him? I would too! In fact, I would’ve kicked up the waves a little! The disciples thought he was a ghost and began to scream out of fear. Jesus immediately called out – “It’s me. Have courage. Don’t fear.” Then Peter did something that he was known for, something impulsive. “Boys, it’s now or never.” “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” What’s the big deal about walking on the water? It’s God’s calling card:

  • Job 9:8 “He alone spreads out the heavens, And treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • Psalm 77: 9 “Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters…”
  • Habakkuk 3:15 “You walked through the sea with Your horses, Through the heap of great waters.”

Just like Jesus, Peter began to walk on the waves but then the old fear came back and he began to sink and cried out “Lord, save me!” and Jesus grabbed his hand and said “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then he got into the boat and the disciples came and worshipped him saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Listen to how Mark closes in 6   51 “…And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”

Let me draw some applications:

  • If you are a disciple, God expects much more from you than from the crowd. The greatest need of the multitude was food but the greatest need of the disciples was faith. The end goal of the multitude was contentment but the end goal of the disciples was advancement.
  • Confession should be followed by Obedience.
  • Hardness of heart is the source of Fear.
  • When we’re faithless, He remains faithful. He cannot deny himself. (2 Tim. 2:13)
  • Keep your eyes on Jesus and not on the wind and the waves.

The Soul-Sustainer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE SOUL SUSTAINER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul Sustainer

Introduction: Nicole and I look forward to summer when kids get out of school and we don’t have to get up as early or stay on a rigid schedule. But, somewhere around mid-summer we actually look forward for school to start. The reason: Our Grocery Bill! Nicole buys the groceries on Monday and by Wednesday the fridge and the pantry are empty! That’s just trying to feed 6 people! Now imagine trying to feed 5000 men plus women and children. Do the math – if half those men were married, that’s 2500 women and if each of those couples had 3 kids (By the way, that’s a conservative number for families back then), that’s 7500 kids. Altogether that’s 5000 + 2500 + 7500 = 15000 people. Jesus not only fed them but had 12 baskets left over! As great as that miracle was, Jesus did not come just to provide physical sustenance for the body. He came to provide spiritual sustenance for the soul, which is far more important. He is the great SOUL SUSTAINER.

John 6    2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Question: Your physical life comes from your physical appetite. Your spiritual life comes from your spiritual appetite. If your physical appetite is poor, your physical life will suffer. If your spiritual appetite is poor, your spiritual life will suffer. How is your spiritual life? What are you feeding your soul? Are you feeding upon Christ and his words? Are you saved? Have you ever been made spiritually alive?

Context: Let’s read again verse 2 “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” If you remember, few sermons back I explained to you that when John the apostle used the word “signs,” he had more than “miracles” in mind. He was referring to those incidents that proved that Jesus was/is God and he was the one who was to come. In other words, signs were more than miracles by Jesus to help people (the other gospels); they were proofs of who he was/is and why he came. The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 men plus women and children was more than just about physical hunger and physical appetite. It was about spiritual hunger and spiritual appetite.

Listen to verse 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. If you read those verses too quickly, you’ll miss the sign behind the feeding miracle – the feast of the Passover. The Feast of the Passover (Pesach) along with the Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Masot) were joint festivals that commemorated the freedom of the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt. Exodus 12 tells us that God commanded them that on the night of their escape the head of each Israelite home had to slaughter a lamb and smear its blood around the doorpost and the lintel of the house. This was to keep the destroyer from taking the life of the firstborn. Also, each family was to eat the roasted lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Something more – Exodus 12:11 “And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste…” In other words, this was no leisurely meal. They had to stand and eat as if they were late for a journey. For e.g. Ever been late for somewhere important and you had to eat before you left? No time for salt and ketchup. By the way, God also told them that this was not a one-time deal. They had to keep this feast for generations to come.

With that in mind, let’s return to John 6  5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” At first glance it appears that Jesus was just messing with Philip but that’s not true. Go back to John 1   43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” If Philip really understood Moses and the prophets, he would not have replied as he did. He would’ve fallen on his face before Jesus and said, “You are God. Nothing is impossible for you.”

Principle: When God tests us, he gives us the review sheet first.

What happened next? Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother finds a young kid with 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish and brings him to Jesus. What was the main course of the Passover Meal? Roasted Lamb. No lamb at this meal, just fish. Or is the lamb there already? Twice in the first chapter of John the lamb of God is identified for us. John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Now, listen carefully to Jesus instructions – 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” The Greek word there is “anapesin” which actually translates “recline.” How were they supposed to eat the Passover meal? Standing up as if they were running for their lives. Not any longer. Why? Jesus is the Lamb of God. Life was in the lamb. You don’t run from your food. What is really happening here? Keep in mind that this is a sign. Just like the water into wine miracle where the new wine was better than the old proved that Jesus was superior to all the previous purifications rules and rituals. Now, Jesus is also superior to the Passover.

John adds a very interesting detail in verse 10 “Now there was much grass in the place.” Picture a vast multitude of people reclining on green grass. What does that remind you of? Psalm 23 1 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” The Lamb is also the Shepherd. Now listen to how the miracle happens. 11 “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” No bright light. No great sound. The food just keeps on coming. When they were full, Jesus told his disciples to gather up the fragments and 12 baskets were left over. Why was it so important to gather the fragments? Keep in mind that this was a multilayered sign. On one hand, it was proof that Jesus had superseded the Passover but, on the other hand, it was proof that Jesus had also superseded Moses. To understand this, drop down to John 6   32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. Remember, they were not supposed to gather any more manna than they needed for the day. What would happen if they did? It bred worms and stank. Listen again to Jesus in verse 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.” You can never have too much of Jesus! Gather as much as you want of him. There’ll always be more!

What was there response? 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. They missed the sign just like people still do. Few truths from this miracle:

  • All of us have been created with a spiritual appetite. Blaise Pascal (physicist, philosopher and a born again believer from the seventeenth century who got saved reading John 17) in his book Pensées called it the “infinite abyss.”
  • Only Jesus and his Word can satisfy this spiritual appetite.
  • Don’t revert to spiritual junk food. You become what you eat.
  • The longer you go without spiritual nourishment, the less hungry you become.
  • The more you feed upon Jesus and his Word, the hungrier you become.
  • People are dying of hunger. If you are a disciple, you have to pass the bread.
  • Don’t forget that Christ is also the Lamb of God. What’s the difference? Bread was a peasant’s food. But, don’t ever think that Christ is cheap. He’s also the priceless lamb!
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