Brightness by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: It was on July 20, 1969, when two American astronauts Neill Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. This was part of the Space Race between the United States and USSR. After several attempts and setbacks, Apollo 11 took off from the Kennedy Space Center and travelled 240,000 miles in 76 hours as hundreds of millions of people were watching. Anybody remembers the words of Armstrong – “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The whole Apollo program cost about $24 billion dollars (That’s about $100 billion in today’s money) and incredible manpower. Even recently, the Solar Dynamics Observatory has been launching semi-autonomous spacecrafts into space to capture solar variability and its impact on the earth. It takes pictures and studies Sun’s magnetic field and energy. Then there is the Solar Orbiter, the joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA. Its goal is to figure out how the sun creates and controls the heliosphere, the outermost atmospheric layer of the sun. Finally, how many of you have heard of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Just yesterday, 4 non-astronauts returned to earth after 3 days in space. Wow! I can go on and on. Here’s the point: Ever since the beginning of time, human beings have been fascinated by space, especially the sun, the moon, and the stars. God has made them to give us light, signs, and seasons, and time. They testify to his benevolence and mercy, even towards those who reject him. They even remind us of the glorious resurrection coming for each of us.

Genesis 1       14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.

Context: We now come to Day 4 of Creation week. So far, God has created the earth from the watery matrix followed by space (atmosphere and outer space) and light. Then, he created land and separated the seas. After this, he created the plant life. Now, he turned his attention to the expanse above. He started by making two great lights (one is greater than the other) and the stars. Let’s focus on each of these for a moment (Sarfati):

  1. Greater Light to Rule the Day – SUN

Typically, those who don’t believe in creation, they like to say that the Sun is nothing special. It is just a star in the spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. Not true.

  • It is big. Its volume is over 1 million times that of the earth, which means over 1 million earths can fit inside the sun. (Compare it to the earth and then other stars.)
  • It is not too big or else it would swallow all the inner planets. By the way, it is a single star compared to the mostly multiple star systems.
  • It is bright. Its surface temperature is 10,000°F and its core temperature is 28,000,000°F. But, if it stopped shining, everything would start freezing in a few hours. The atmosphere would “condense, liquify, and freeze to entomb the entire Earth with a thirty-foot casing of solid air at the temperature of deep space, about 400 degrees Fahrenheit below zero” (Unruh).
  • It is not too bright like the blue-white supergiant Rigel which is about 120,000 brighter than the sun.
  • It is powerful. It is like a gigantic hydrogen bomb, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second.
  • It is an exceptionally stable star, despite the periodic flares. Some stars fluctuate between 10% to 150,000%. Also, the sunspot activity may be responsible for the climate change, if any, rather than the greenhouse gases. We will see this later.
  • It is in the right position in the Galaxy. If it were too near the inner galaxy, it would be exposed to supernovae (star explosion).
  • It is only about 6000 years old. If the earth was 4.5 billion years old, then the sun would be 25% brighter today than back then. Also, the earth would have been –3° C at that time. That was not the case.
  • It is white in color. It is all colors mixed but can be separated into a rainbow. “When the sun is low in the sky, at sunrise or sunset, it may appear red, orange, or yellow, because its outer (shorter wavelength) colors are scattered by the earth’s atmosphere and only the red, orange, or yellow get through the atmosphere for us to see” (Sarfati).
  1. Lesser Light to Rule the Night – Moon

Again, some people try to minimize the special nature of the moon by addressing the satellites of other planets as moons. That is not true. It refers to the earth’s natural satellite:

  • It has no light of its own. It is mostly because it is covered in basalt. This also helps it shine brightly.
  • Its diameter is 1/4th that of the earth. It is the perfect night light.
  • It orbits the earth once a month. Hence, we have the regular cycle of phases (new moon, first quarter, full moon, last/third quarter).
  • It keeps the oceans If you’ve been to the ocean, you know that the levels fall and rise twice a day. As the moon orbits the earth and the earth orbits the moon, the earth pulls on the moon and so does the moon pull on the earth. This is called differential force. It stretches both the earth and the moon along the imaginary line connecting the center of the two bodies. This results in high tides on both sides of the earth. It is not the moon’s gravity that is pulling the water. If that were the case, all our ponds, lakes, and bathtubs would also have water rising. Instead, the force is parallel to the surface and not very strong. But, when you multiply the force over a large body of water like the ocean, it is noticeable. The sun also causes tides but since it is far away, it is only half as powerful. Overall, tides keep the oceans shorelines clean and circulate oxygen and nutrients in shallow seas.

It is often claimed that the moon was formed by a chunk breaking off from the earth or it was captured by the earth’s gravitational pull as it was floating through the solar system or it came out of a dust cloud or it was the result of an impact on the earth. How foolish!

  1. STARS

We will go over this later in another message. Here, it will suffice to note that the estimate for the number of stars is somewhere about 1022. According to Sarfati, “the number is so vast that even using a computer that could count a trillion of these every second, it would take over 300 years to count this high.” The nearest one is 26 trillion miles away. If we go by light years, it is 4.3 light years away. Each one is unique.

Is it any wonder that human beings have been fascinated by the Sun, Moon, and Stars! Every ancient culture had some form of solar worship. The Egyptians referred to the sun as the god Khepri, Re, Atum, Aton, and Amon-Re. He was looked upon as the creator and judge who could see everything and knew everything. Among the Mesopotamians, the sun was the god Shamash, the god of justice. Similar worship is also found in the Ugaritic and Canaanite pantheons. In Sanskrit (Ancient Indian language), the Sun is referred to as “Mitra” or “Friend” to represent the warmth, the sustenance, and optimism its light brings to mankind. So also, the Aztecs, Chinese, Japanese, Persians, and Romans worshipped the sun. In fact, the Romans named each day of the week after their gods and matched them with the sun, moon, and five planets. This system was adapted by the Germanic people who substituted the Roman gods with their own. The Europeans worshipped Sól (Old Norse), which was known as Sun or Sunna in Old High German. Hence, the first day of the week is “Sunday,” literally “sun’s day.”

The Hebrews, the Children of Israel, and the Jewish people knew better. Right from Genesis, God had told his people that the sun, moon, and stars were his creation. He even did signs to prove that he was the Creator – Joshua ordered the sun and the moon to stay in the battle against the Amorites, and King Hezekiah got a sign of the sun going back ten degrees as a promise that God would heal him. Nonetheless, God’s people fell into the same trap as the pagan world. 2 Kings 23:5 Then he (Hilkiah the high priest on King Josiah’s command) removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the places all around Jerusalem, and those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven.” Because of worshipping these heavenly bodies, God’s judgment came upon them, and they were exiled. Later in the Gospels, Jesus (the Creator of the Trinity) also prophesied the future of his creation: Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

Bottom Line: Each of these heavenly bodies are not only unique, but they have their unique purpose and function.

1 Corinthians 15      12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?…In the early church, there were some who were beginning to doubt whether there was going to be a resurrection. Paul wrote to encourage and reason with them why this was a must. Let’s drop down to verse 38 where something very interesting and pertinent to our message is mentioned – 38But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. For starters, the giving of a new resurrected body is because of God’s goodness. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. It is appropriate and natural to us. There is nothing odd and weird here. 40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. It is a glorious body that cannot be compared with anything down here. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. Paul appeals to the analogy from creation. Even though the sun, moon, and stars are all celestial bodies, their glory (specialty, purpose, luster) is different. So also, our glory will be different now. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. If you want to see a pattern of what is coming for us, look to Jesus.

Malachi 4       1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.

Matthew 17      1 “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”

Revelation 1       14 “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”

Every time we step out and see the Sun in the daytime or the moon and the stars in the nighttime, they should remind us of the glory that is coming for us through Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we feel so worthless and pale considering our struggles and weaknesses. Look to the stars and remind yourself of the glory that is coming for you.

C. S. Lewis – “Each day we are becoming a creature of splendid glory or one of unthinkable horror” (Mere Christianity). “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our deal- ings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours” (The Weight of Glory)

Invitation: How do you see the creation in the sky? How do you see yourself? How do you see others? How do you see Jesus?

Genesis by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  How many of you had a friend or knew someone growing up who was very good at telling tall tales? I knew a kid like that in elementary school. We would all crowd around his desk between classes because he told the best stories of finding hidden treasures in his backyard, how his uncle was a spy, and how he was building a rocket ship. He would even bring little objects from home and tell us that they were developed by the military. Looking back, they were probably just small parts from his dad’s car or truck. The point is that he was making these things up just to impress us and make us flock around him. Sometimes, people think that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of tall tales meant to make us flock around the church, especially the first few chapters of Genesis. Nothing could be further from the truth. As you know, we are in our series on Apologetics called “Contend,” and we are turning our attention to the book of Genesis because of some of the questions that we received – #1 Is the Genesis account of creation meant to be taken literally? #2 Aren’t there other ancient myths and legends of creation? #3 Did the Bible borrow from other myths and legends? #4 Doesn’t science contradict the creation account in Genesis? Main Point: If there is one book in the Bible that has been a target of attack more than any other, it is the book of Genesis. That’s because it is both the account of our origin and our fall. In other words, it tells us how we got here and what happened to us. To get this wrong will eventually cause us to get the gospel wrong.

Genesis 1      1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Context: Most of us have no questions or qualms in reading that passage. That’s what God’s Word says how this world began and that’s what we should believe. Unfortunately, that’s not how everyone thinks about that passage or the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or even just Genesis 1. It may surprise some of you that there are 4 different ways that people have taken this book or these sections, especially Genesis 1-11 (Todd Beall): 1. Not historical, just a myth. 2. Not a myth, just figurative. 3. Not a myth, but partly figurative and partly literal. 4. Literal (Plain-view). I hold to the 4th view. Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that we don’t consider the different genres in the Bible like poetry, wisdom, parables, etc. We understand that sometimes the biblical writers used metaphors like in Psalm 104     2 “…Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. 3 He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters.” The more you study Genesis, especially the first 11 chapters, it is a narrative and not an extended poetic metaphor. None of the elements of Hebrew poetry like schema, metaphor, and other tropes are found.

Here’s a reminder: There are people who don’t take the fourth view like I do, but before I call them unbelievers or pass judgment on them, I must examine how what they believe about Genesis 1-11 impacts the first rank doctrines – the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture. Here are some things that affect the first rank doctrines with regards to Genesis 1-11:

  • God and the creation are separate, and he made the creation out of nothing. That’s his aseity (independence and eternality).
  • The world was perfect before sin came in.
  • Adam and Eve were real historical individuals who were created in the image of God but chose to disobey God and fell into sin.
  • With them all of us are also sinners (original sin) and we need redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

There are issues that are placed in the secondary or even tertiary category – the age of the earth and the length of the days in creation, etc. We need to be careful here because these issues do impact the Authority of Scripture, which is a primary issue. If I say that a part of the Bible is just a myth, legend, or figurative, then what happens to the other parts? Can I truly then say that “All Scripture is given by Inspiration of God?”

Why do I believe that the Genesis account should be taken literally? 3 major reasons (Beall and James K. Hoffmeier):

  1. No Division in Genesis

There are people who will say that Genesis 12-50 is literal, but not Genesis 1-11. Keep in mind that we divide the Bible into chapters and verses, but that’s not how Moses wrote it. For those of you who may not know – Chapter Divisions were put into the Bible by Stephen Langton (1150-1228), the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Verse Divisions were put in by Robert I. Estienne or Robert Stephanus (1503-1559), a printer/ scholar in Paris. By the way, the Red Letters of Jesus’ words were put in by Louis Klopsch (June 19th, 1899). He was the editor of the Christian Herald magazine, and he asked his mentor T. De Witt Talmadge (Pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle) to help with that. The point is that all these breaks came much later.

To the contrary, the entire book is connected by a phrase that is repeated – “eleh toledoth,” meaning “these are the generations of” or “this is the history of”:

  • Genesis 2:4 “This is the history of the heavens and the earth”
  • Genesis 5:1 “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam”
  • Genesis 6:9 “This is the genealogy of Noah”
  • Genesis 10:1 “Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah”
  • Genesis 11:10 “This is the genealogy of Shem”
  • Genesis 11:27 “This is the genealogy of Terah”
  • Genesis 25:12 “Now this is the genealogy of Ishmael, Abraham’s son”
  • Genesis 25:19 “This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son”
  • Genesis 36:1, 9 “Now this is the genealogy of Esau”
  • Genesis 37:2 “This is the history of Jacob”

Each time that phrase comes up, it narrows the focus to a particular group of people. These names are not fictitious but real historical people. The historical references are not just in Genesis 12 onwards but also in the first 11 chapters – 66 geographical names, 88 personal names, 48 generic names, 21 items like gold and other precious metals (Walter Kaiser). He even adds that Genesis 10 has 5 times more geographical information than the entire Quran. In conclusion, the first 11 chapters are setting up for the historical call of a historical person named Abram in chapter 12.

  1. No Dependence in Genesis

There are people who claim that the opening chapters of Genesis resemble Babylonian, Canaanite, and Egyptian myths and mythologies. Of course, there may be some parallels, but there are far more differences. For example: some point to the similarities between Enuma Elish (Babylonian creation myth) and Genesis creation. The only clear parallel is where the god Marduk splits Tiamat into 2 spheres of water, which is like God dividing the waters in the firmament on day 2. What many don’t consider is how Enuma Elish is different from the Genesis account. There the god Marduk is being portrayed as superior to other gods and the universe coming into being after a big battle between the gods. Also, not much about the creation of light or the plant and animal beings. In the Canaanite myths, it is the conflict between the storm god Baal and the sea god Yam. So also, in the Egyptian myths, the focus is on the creation of the gods and the cosmos. Even there, these gods are made in all sorts of ways – Ptah speaks the world into being, Atum’s semen and fingers are used in creation, even his spit. Finally, the world is cyclical, where the sun is born every day and the Nile recedes each year. Finally, the gods are themselves a part of nature. This is nothing like the Genesis account of creation.

To the contrary, there are 4 things that stand out as evidence that the events in Genesis 1-11 are to be taken literally:

  1. Garden of Eden

Genesis 2     10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

Tigris and Euphrates are clearly identifiable. Gihon – through the land of Cush, cental Mesopotamia could have been known as the land of Cush, after the Kassites. Pishon – possibly the river discovered from the Shuttle Imaging Radar technology that flowed east from Saudi Arabia.

  1. Sons of God and Daughters of Men

Genesis 6     1 Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. 3 And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

We will look at this in detail further down. For now, think of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh which depicts a hero holding a lion in his arm. His name appears on the Sumerian King List as the 5th king of the first dynasty of Uruk. This is dated around 2750 BC. Bottom line: History is stranger than fiction!

  1. Global Flood:

Genesis 6     13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. 15 And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.

Compare this with Epic of Gilgamesh where a man Utnapishtim recounts the flood story. The sky god Anu decided to send a flood because people were making too much noise. The god Ea decided to reveal the plan to Utnapishtim, and he built the ship. When the floods came, the gods cowered like dogs outside and the goddess Ishtar screamed like a woman in childbirth. When the flood was over and he offered sacrifices, the gods crowded around the food like flies!

  1. Tower of Babel

Genesis 11       1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

More and more evidence support that our languages had a common beginning. The Sumerians had myths about a period when there was only one language.

  1. No Doubt Regarding Genesis

At least 25 passages that talk about Genesis 1-11. Here are just a few:

Matthew 19      4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Matthew 24     37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Conclusion: We have a real problem that stems from a real event that took place in a real garden to 2 real people. God knew that when he created the world that he would also have to come to save it. He did 2000 years ago by sending his Son to die on a real cross on a real hill called Calvary. There is a real judgment coming where if you don’t receive him, you will be cast into a real lake of fire which was prepared for a real Satan and the fallen angels. You don’t have to go there. Instead, you can go to the real new heavens and the new earth by receiving Christ as your Savior and King.

Invitation: Genesis is true, and the Gospel is true. Are you saved?

Revelation by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  What if you were to find a brown paper sack with ten thousand dollars in ten- and twenty-dollar bills in the bushes where you parked your car? What if you go to visit a rich uncle who gives you a check for ten thousand dollars? What’s the similarity? They are both leave you with ten thousand dollars. What’s the difference? One could get you shot or land in jail and the other fills your heart with love and gratefulness for your uncle. What makes the difference? How did you come across it? In our series called “CONTEND,” we are spending the next few weeks on some of your questions regarding the Bible. Some of you asked, “Is the Qur’an for the Muslims what the Bible is for the Christians?” “Aren’t all religions basically saying the same things in their holy books?” Main point: Before we can understand and evaluate the Content of any holy book, we need to understand the form of its Revelation. In other words, before we can open and decide if a holy book is God’s word, we need to understand how it came to us. Unlike other holy books, biblical revelation testifies to God’s holiness, love, and grace towards fallen sinful human beings. It is his rescue manual to save us and draw us to himself.

Jeremiah 1:9 Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.” Jeremiah 30     1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 “Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.”

Context: Last week, we learned that “Authority is the basic theological issue into which discussions of biblical revelation, inspiration, and interpretation finally run” (J.I. Packer).

  • The Bible has to be obeyed (Application) because it is Authoritative.
  • Before you can properly apply, you have to correctly interpret it (Interpretation).
  • The Authority only extends to the Canonical books because they alone were recognized by the church.
  • They alone were recognized by the church as Canonical because they alone were Inspired.
  • Because they are Inspired, they are Inerrant.
  • They are Inspired and Inerrant because they were Revealed by God through the Holy Spirit to his people.

In today’s message, our focus is on REVELATION, especially Special Revelation. If you remember, we need more than General Revelation (Nature, History, Human Nature). We also need specific instructions regarding God’s plan of salvation. I briefly touched on how the 66 books of the Bible have information in them, which is Personal, Anthropic, and Analogical. Sometimes, it is historical acts (Abraham and Isaac; Babylonian exile), other times, it is divine speech (“The word of the Lord came to me…”), and then there is the major revelation – the incarnation of Jesus. Muslim apologists challenge the biblical claim of special revelation on 2 points:

  1. They claim that how the Qur’an was revealed is far superior to how the Bible was revealed.
  2. Moreover, they claim that the Bible is no longer God’s revelation because it has been corrupted by Jewish people and Christians.

Others even try to be dismissive and claim that they’re all the same.

To answer these charges, we need to compare the Events and the Content of the 2 revelations (Taken from Ida Glaser’s works and my dad’s many sermons):

  1. Event

A. Qur’an – It is claimed that it came to one man, a prophet named Muhammad from the age of 40 until his death, 23 years later. The account is found in the Hadith. They are reports of what Muhammad said or did. The Qur’an is interpreted through the Hadith which were collected 200-300 years after his death. The Qur’an is the Wahy, the pure revelation of God. It exists in heaven and everything else, including translations, is just interpretation or rendition. Ilham is God revealing his knowledge into the mind of the person. This is like the Biblical doctrine of inspiration. Under wahy, there is no such thing as the “original message” or “context” or the “true words” of the prophet Mohammed; the Qur’an is the word of God. There are debates about the Hadiths right now. Also, there are commentaries on the Qur’an. Since, there is no context, not much is left to interpret, only application. Also, there are differences and many don’t interact with each other. Nonetheless, listen to the Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari 1:3 –

The first revelation that was granted to the Messenger of God was the true vision of sleep, so that he never saw a vision but the truth of it shone forth like the bright gleam of dawn. Then solitude became dear to him and he used to seclude himself in the cave of Hira, where he would devote himself to Divine worship for several nights before coming back to his family. He would take provisions for this purpose, then he would return to Khadijah (first wife) and get some more provisions for a similar (period), until the Truth (Gabriel) came to him while he was in the cave of Hira. The Angel came to him and said, ‘Read’. He said, ‘I am not one of those who can read.’

And he continued ‘Then he (the Angel) took hold of me and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore, after which he let me go and said, ‘Read’. When I replied, ‘I am not one of those who can read’, he took hold of me and pressed me a second time so hard that I could not bear it anymore, then he let me go again and said, ‘Read’. I said,’ l am not one of those who can read’.

The Prophet continued: ‘Then he took hold of me and pressed me a third time, then he let me go and said, “Read in the name of thy Lord who creates―creates man from a clot. Read, and thy Lord is most Generous” (from Surah 96:1-3).

The Messenger of God returned with this (message), his heart trembling, and he went to Khadijah, daughter of Khuwailid and said, ‘Wrap me up, wrap me up’. So they wrapped him up until the awe had left him.

In al-Bukhari 1:2, we find more information regarding these events:

Aishah, the mother of the faithful reported that Harith ibn Hisham asked the Messenger of God, ‘O Messenger of God, how does the revelation come to thee?’ The Messenger of God said, ‘Sometimes it comes to me like the ringing of a bell, and that is the type which is the hardest on me; then he (the Angel) departs from me and I retain in memory from him what he said. At times the Angel comes to me in the likeness of a man and speaks to me and I retain in memory what he says.’ Aishah said: ‘And I saw him when revelation descended on him on a severely cold day; when it departed from him his forehead dripped with sweat.’

It is claimed that Muhammad’s illiteracy is the greatest proof of the miracle of the Qur’an, as it is the highest style of Arabic poetry. Also, only the Arabic Quran is authoritative. This is the language in which it was given, and the translations involve interpretation, which can be distorted. School kids are told to memorize the Quran in Arabic even in countries where Arabic is not the main language. Recitation of the Quran must be in Arabic. The original is in the heaven and was

B. Bible

  • The Bible was written by 40 independent writers.
  • It was written over a time span of 1500 years.
  • They wrote it in 3 different languages – Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
  • The writers lived in 3 different continents – Asia, Africa, and Europe – Moses wrote in the desert of Sinai, Daniel from exile in Babylon, and Ezra in the ruined city of Jerusalem, Paul wrote in a prison in Rome, and John on the island of Patmos.
  • They had 20 different occupations – kings, a general, at least 2 fishermen, a musician, a priest, a tax collector, a medical doctor, a judge – Moses was a shepherd, Solomon was a king, Matthew was a tax collector, Luke was a medical doctor, and Paul was a scholar/missionary/tentmaker.
  • It has a cast of 2,930 characters in 1,551 places.
  • Its message is expressed in all literary forms – poetry, prose, speech, lists, etc.
  • There were certain qualifications for prophets in the Old Testament.
  • It was written under many different circumstances – Joshua wrote while invading the land of Canaan, David wrote during a time of war, Jeremiah wrote at the sorrowful time of Israel’s downfall, Peter wrote while Israel was under Roman domination.
  1. Content:

A. Qur’an

  • Sometimes, it is a warning (Surah 18:4). Other times, it is a reminder (Surah 81:27). Yet other times, it is a guide and a witness (Surah 46:12).
  • No organization. It is claimed that the sections can be divided into Mecca, Medina, and Mecca. It is based on information from much later that is disputed.
  • No such thing as the Fall. Man is just forgetful and must be reminded.
  • Those who disregard or reject the Qur’an will face the judgment to come.
  • Ultimately, it is God’s law for man and submission is the way.
  • No mediation or sacrifice is needed. God is merciful.
  • Many times, it makes references to events from the Old and the New Testament. In fact, it needs the bible to make sense of many of the references regarding Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, Job, Jonah, Zechariah (father of John the Baptist), John the Baptist, and Jesus.
  • It even reprimands the Jewish people and the Christians for refusing to accept Muhammad as “the prophet like Moses,” “altogether lovely” from Song of Solomon, and the paraclete (another comforter). Sometimes, it refers to us as “the people of the Book” and misunderstand the Trinity! “O people of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion…so believe in Allah and His Apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah:” (Surah 4:171-172) “And when God said, “O Jesus son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind, “Take me and my mother as gods apart from God?” [Jesus son of Mary] said, “Glory be to Thee! It is not for me to utter that to which I have no right.” (Surah 5:116-118)

B. Bible

  • Mainly a narrative which implies a history and encounter between God and his people. Yes, there are plenty of commands/laws, but they are in a context.
  • Prayers are a two-way relationship.
  • Wisdom and truth are to help us live with God’s guidance.
  • Much emphasis on Jesus because it is the main point!
  • Human beings were made in the image of God with the ability to have a relationship with him. In fact, that is the goal of God for us.
  • We have fallen because of sin. We cannot reach God. He must reach down to us.
  • God is holy. He will punish sin. We cannot handle sin and hence, he must punish a suitable substitute. Only his Son could qualify. The central theme of the Bible is Jesus Christ – In the OT Christ is anticipated and in the NT he is realized.
  • There is just one message – Our problem is SIN and the answer is SALVATION through Jesus Christ.
  • This drama of redemption was communicated throughout the ages – Moses wrote as he led the people to the Promsied Land, Isaiah wrote to warn the people of Israel of God’s judgment against their sins, Zechariah wrote to encourage a disheartened Israel who returned from Babylonian exile, Paul wrote addressing problems in different Asian and European churches, and Matthew wrote to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. They are all written in the context of God’s relationship with human beings.
  • One great example is the story of Cain and Abel: “But recite unto them with truth the tale of the two sons of Adam, how they offered each a sacrifice, and it was accepted from the one of them and it was not accepted from the other. (The one) said: I will surely kill thee. (The other) answered: Allah accepts only from those who ward off (evil). Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee, lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Lo! I would rather thou should bear the punishment of the sin against me and thine own sin and become one of the owners of the fire. That is the reward of evil-doers. But (the other’s) mind imposed on him the killing of his brother, so he slew him and became one of the losers. Then Allah sent a raven scratching up the ground, to show him how to hide his brother’s naked corpse. He said: Woe unto me! Am I not able to be as this raven and so hide my brother’s naked corpse? And he became repentant. For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.” (Surah 5:27-32)

The source of the raven scratching the ground is Jewish commentary (midrash) about how Adam and Eve wondered what to do with their dead son. The context is to warn the older brothers (Jewish people and Christians) of being jealous of the younger brother (Muslims). How about the original context? Cain disregarded God’s requirement for sacrifice. God disapproved Cain’s offering. Cain got angry. God confronted Cain. In envy, he killed his brother. God saw it all. He confronted Cain. He denied his sin. God cursed him. Cain pleaded for mercy. God put a mark on him and said to him in “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” What a world of difference!

Let’s go back to the opening where Adam and Eve couldn’t look God in the face. All of scripture is simply God getting us to look him in the face, in the eye. Numbers 6:23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘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;

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

2 Corinthians 4:6 “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 5.     17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

Invitation: Are you looking God in the face? How do you see the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments? Are you saved?

The Age of Paradoxes by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE AGE OF PARADOXES by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Everywhere you turn on social media, there are graduation pictures with parents and grandparents proud and excited to see their kids growing up and becoming successful. One thing that is relatively new with regards to the graduation attire are decorating the graduation caps. Here are some interesting ones that I came across: “Bye Buddy hope you find a job,” “This was nothing like high school musical,” “Did everyone see that? Because I will not be doing it again,” “Bye Mr. Anderson, I’m graduating, tardy or not,” “Thousands of years later,” “I don’t even go here,” “Last minute like everything else I did in high school,” “Ya’ll hiring?” and my favorite “I is smart.” The last one is sort of an oxymoron, a contradiction. On one hand, the student is claiming to be smart because he/she is graduating. On the other hand, the student should not be allowed to graduate since they don’t even know basic grammar. In this message on Graduation Sunday, I would like to speak on paradoxes, which are much more than just oxymorons or contradictions. I’ll explain the difference in a few moments. We are still in our series through 1 Peter and this message is directed towards our graduates, but it is for all of us. Main point: Ours is the Age of Paradoxes, much more than at any other time in history. Especially in the post 2020 world, we are smarter and dumber, united and divided, bold and fearful, and woke and wicked, all at the same time. It is vital that we adopt those paradoxes that please God and fulfill his purpose in his world. It is vital that we adapt to our new setting but still maintain our old convictions.

1 Peter 3:13 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?”

Context: Keep in mind that that Peter had just quoted from Psalm 34, David’s psalm at the cave of Adullam. The previous verse, 1 Peter 3:12, said, “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” Here David was teaching the distressed, indebted, and dissatisfied people how to be ready for the bad days when it seemed that the wicked were winning. Peter was also telling the Christians that God can see what the wicked are doing and he will protect them from any who would try to harm them for living righteously. The conjunction “and” is more of an inference “then.” What an assurance! But, listen to the very next verse – 14 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” It appears that Peter just used a paradox – “No harm will come to you if you follow God, but when harm comes to you because you follow God, don’t be afraid.” Paradox often gets confused with contradictions. There’s a difference: Contradiction: Out of two things, one is true, and the other is false. For e.g., living death or poor rich girl. Paradox: A statement that appears contradictory on the surface but can be true on further examination. I don’t have to suggest examples. We are living in the Age of Paradoxes and the culprit is the Internet, especially social media. Don’t misunderstand: The Internet has brought tremendous benefits to our world, but it has also created the Age of Paradoxes. Here’s how:

  1. We are Smarter and Dumber at the same time.

We are living in the Information Age. People from poor and remote corners of the world can access knowledge at just the click of a button. Unfortunately, the Internet is also filled with loads of false information, especially on social media, which was the root cause of much panic and fearmongering through the 2020 crisis.

  1. We are United and Divided at the same time

The world has become smaller, faster, and easier as communications, transactions, and even shopping have been revolutionized. Social media platforms have connected us with old friends and helped us make new ones. Unfortunately, the various social media platforms that were meant to connect us have also become weapons to attack one another. It’s easy to be a “keyboard warrior” and fire off a post or a tweet against someone you disagree with. If you really don’t like someone, you can cancel and shame them out of your tribe without giving them a chance to explain themselves or apologize.

  1. We are Bold and Afraid at the same time.

Researchers claim that in some areas self-esteem is on the rise, as young and old are unafraid to post their photos and videos online, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, people are afraid of being called out online for some action or lack thereof. Concurrently, many decisions of 2020 were, and still are, made out of fear of being shamed. Also, false information has also caused a lot of fear, as mentioned in the first point.

  1. We are Woke and Wicked at the same time.

“Woke” is the catchword for awareness regarding social justice and racism, especially on social media. Now, it’s everything from LGBTQ+, women’s rights, immigrants, and everyone who is disenfranchised. With as much self-proclaimed righteousness, wickedness is still on the rise. Pornography that takes advantage of women and children is on the rise like never before. Hate and bitterness hasn’t gotten any better. We are fooling ourselves into thinking that we are better because we are “woke.”

This is the world in which our post-2020 graduates are entering! Add to all these paradoxes, the political chaos of 2020 and 2021, the terrible violence and destruction of our major cities, the toxic cancel culture and censorship on social media, and the increasing attack on our Constitution and our values? As a result, we are now trillions of dollars in debts, divided as a people across racial, religious, and political lines, and facing an uncertain future. Things are no different across the globe – due to the shutdowns, people are struggling like never before, ISIS is back, Israel is under attack, and so much more. If our post-2020 graduates are to survive this Age of Paradoxes, they will have to seek a new set of paradoxes. They will have to learn to live the paradoxical life that Peter described in these verses. Listen again to 1 Peter 3 again – 13 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” On one hand, we have to live knowing that no harm will come to us if we live for God. On the other hand, we will have to accept the possibility that harm will come if we live for God. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be afraid. Peter was now quoting from Isaiah 8:12. This was the promise God had given to Isaiah the prophet when Judah had turned to Assyria for help instead of turning to God. In time, the southern kingdom was also gone forever. It took going into exile for them to learn what it means by literally “Their fear do not fear.” Initially, it was, “don’t fear what they fear,” and then it became, “don’t fear what they threaten you with.” In other words, “nothing will harm you, but if harm comes, don’t fear.” Even though the people of the southern kingdom failed to follow this paradox, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lived by this paradox in Babylon. They had to adapt to their new setting but still maintain their convictions:

  1. They complied but resisted every step of the way.

The complied when they were given Babylonian names, but they resisted when it came to eating unclean food. Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.” At the end of the 10 days, Daniel and the other three were 10 times in better shape than the others. You will also have to learn to comply and resist. I know that seems so contrary to our thinking, but, as a minority, if you don’t, you will lose your identity. In 2020, many of us only complied when we should have also resisted. In the post-2020 age, people will flock around those who can make sense out of the chaos, display a sense of discernment, and know when to comply and resist.

  1. They looked to the past but lived in the present.

A plan was hatched to trap Daniel. Everyone in the land was to pray to King Darius for the next 30 days. If not, the offender shall be cast into the den of lions, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians. What was Daniel’s response? Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” We quickly focus on prayer, but did you notice the direction of his prayer? Daniel did not forget where he came from. There has been an attempt for quite some time to rewrite our past as a nation and a people. I won’t say that everything in our nation’s past has been perfect, but let’s never forget the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation. You will have to go back and rediscover how we came about as a people. What did our founding fathers believe? Why did they think the way they did? Having said that, we are not to live in nostalgia. We are to live in the present.

  1. They worked as if it depended on them but prayed as if it depended on God.

Daniel 2     48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. Can you imagine the workload of these 4 young men! Can you imagine the burden of the entire Babylonian Empire on their shoulders!

Nowadays, people don’t want to work. I was at a restaurant the other day. They had a hiring sign as well as a table setup with flyers and applications. So, I talked to the person, and she said, “People come by and apply and then they are back on the unemployment list. They rather collect free money than work.” How long can we do that? As someone once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Nonetheless, repeatedly, it is claimed that Daniel prayed every step of the way. Daniel 9      20 “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, 21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.” Many are collapsing in our world right now. Prayer will help you resist temptation, maintain your integrity, and refocus your life. Daniel prayed even though he was thrown in the lion’s den.

  1. Ultimately, they were aware of the hopelessness but remained hopeful for the future.

Daniel 9      16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

In that prayer, you can sense both Daniel’s hopelessness in the present and his hopefulness for the future. Our best days as a nation and as a people are ahead of us. It will require repentance. It will require redemption through Jesus Christ. It will require you to live the life of paradoxes apart from the Internet and dedicated to Jesus Christ.

Post-2020 graduates, as you approach the new age of paradoxes, you will have to craft an identity that is distinct from your social media persona.

Ultimately, it comes down to the great paradox Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Do you know him? If you do, he will be with you no matter what age comes or goes.

Family Resemblance by Dr. Abidan Shah

FAMILY RESEMBLANCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  If you grew up in America, especially in the South, you have heard of the legendary feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys, 2 families that lived on the border of West Virginia and Kentucky by the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. The two patriarchs of the families – William Anderson (Devil Anse) Hatfield and Randolph McCoy got into a dispute over the murder of Randolph’s brother sometime after the Civil War. They also had an ongoing conflict over timber. Few years later, some of the descendants fought over a pig and the star witness was killed soon after. Then, it was a romance between Hatfield’s son and McCoy’s daughter that didn’t work out and some more murders followed. Altogether, it is claimed that at least 20 men and women (some even claim 100) were killed over the family feud. Although, everything had been long forgotten since they shook hands in 1897, there was a dispute in 2000 over the access to the cemetery. So, in 2003, both the families had to sign a truce. Little did those 2 patriarchs realize the pattern they set for their descendants even 2 centuries later! It’s amazing how much we follow the trajectory of our parents, good and bad. Main point: Yes, we should honor our parents, but we should be careful about following their trajectory, especially when it comes to marriage and family. Instead, we are to choose to be daughters of Sarah and sons of Abraham. In other words, seek to be a submissive wife like Sarah and an understanding husband like Abraham.

1 Peter 3:1 “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.”

Context: In our series on 1 Peter titled “TOGETHER FORWARD,” we come to the section that has been very controversial through the years. It has been misused and abused causing a lot of pain, mostly to women, but also to children. It was very tempting for me to skip over it, but the more I prayed about it, the more I realized that to skip over it is to skip over God’s words. I don’t have the authority to do that. So, don’t shoot the messenger. In fact, the proper understanding of this passage is actually liberating to women rather than binding. Furthermore, it is the linchpin issue that deals with the rest of the craziness that is happening in our culture with gender and race issues.

Before we dive into this section of husband-wife relationship, we need to keep in mind the section that we just came out of. Peter had just finished telling his readers to follow the example of the Servant from Isaiah 53. He wanted his readers and us to have the mindset of the one who was “wounded for our transgressions…bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Without that mindset, the section we are about to get into will be like fingernails on chalkboard.

Application: Do you have the Servant mindset? Are you willing to suffer for others? Do you know the Servant, Jesus Christ? Was he wounded for your transgressions? Was he bruised for your iniquities? Was the chastisement of your peace upon him? Were you healed by his stripes?

Back to our section – Even though the section on husband-wife relationship begins in 1 Peter 3:1, I would like to begin at 1 Peter 3:5 where Peter invoked the example of the marriage of Abraham and Sarah to explain how wives should be submissive and husbands should lead in marriage – 5 “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. 7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” Even though Abraham’s name is not mentioned in verse 7, the implication is there: Women be a wife like Sarah and men be a husband like Abraham. In other words, those who truly exemplify what marriage is supposed to be become the true descendants of Sarah and Abraham. So, how was the marriage of Sarah and Abraham?

  1. She was a supportive wife.

Genesis 12      4 “…And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan.”

Keep in mind that Abram was originally from Ur. It’s his father Terah who led the first exodus out of Ur with his kids, livestock, and possessions and came to Haran. By the time they were there and Terah died, Abram was 75 years old. That would make Sarah 65 since she was 10 years younger than him. It’s already been one big move. When God’s call came to Abram in Haran, he left and Sarah followed her husband. The Bible doesn’t talk about it but I can imagine what a struggle that must have been for her. Archaeological evidence tells us that Ur was a large, civilized city. Being near the Persian Gulf, people from everywhere came there for business. Haran was not as prominent, but it was still a big place. There was a large temple to the moon god there. Nonetheless, Sarai followed her husband. Why? She knew that God had called her husband.

Application: Ladies, are you supportive of your husband? I understand that there will be times that you will have to put your foot down, but have you ever been supportive?

  1. He was not always an understanding husband.

Genesis 12      10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, “This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you aremy sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”

Technically, she was his sister (Genesis 20:12), but what a horrible thing to do. Also, how cowardly can you get. Thankfully, God intervened and saved Sarah by plaguing Egypt. Unfortunately, he still didn’t learn his lesson. In Genesis 20, 25 years since the Egypt incident, he did it again and this time he was 100 years old. Again, God had to intervene. Goes to tell you that age does not always equal maturity. Stupid has no age limit!

Application: Men, have you been understanding towards your wife? I understand that none of us are perfect, but is there a mental block somewhere?

  1. They both made some big mistakes.

Genesis 16      1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.

Their mistake was not that they were helping God out. Their mistake was that they both thought that Sarah was not part of God’s plan. She was being unselfish, and he was not talking to God. Later, Sarah told Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away and we wouldn’t listen to her and God had to talk to Abraham. How tragic when husbands and wives are not on the same page spiritually.

Application: Couples sometimes make bad decisions, and their marriage comes to a halt. Is that you? Has your marriage come to a standstill because of the complications of sin?

  1. Nonetheless, she submitted to his leadership.

When God came to inform Sarah that she would be with child, listen to her response –Genesis 18      10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.) 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” That is the passage that Peter quotes in his letter. The word she used here in Hebrew is “adoney,” which means lord, master. In spite of all his weaknesses, she laughed at the proposition but still showed him respect for his leadership.

Application: Ladies, have you stopped respecting your husband for some decision(s) he has made? How do you talk to him? How do you look at him?

  1. He, not Sarah, was called by God to do the most difficult sacrifice.

God called him, not Sarah, to sacrifice Isaac. He was the spiritual leader of the family. Just like after Adam and Eve sinned, God knew who took the fruit first, but he called, “Adam, where are you?” The most difficult thing for a wife is a husband who doesn’t lead spiritually or is inconsistent?

Application: Men, God is going to require from you, not your wife, the account of your family?

What is submission not? (From Grudem)

  1. Putting your husband in the place of God.
  2. Giving up your mind and thought.
  3. Suppressing any efforts to influence and guide your husband.
  4. Giving in to every demand of the husband.
  5. Being inferior in Christ compared to your husband.
  6. Getting spiritual and personal strength primarily through your husband.
  7. Being fearful and timid.

1 Peter 3:6 “as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.”

What is leadership not?

  1. Thinking that you are closer to God.
  2. Expecting blind allegiance.
  3. Refusing to take your wife’s advice and input.
  4. Doing whatever you want.
  5. Leaving all spiritual stuff to your wife.
  6. Refusing to take the blame for where your family is headed.
  7. Being brash and authoritarian.

What is submission? The inner quality of gentleness that affirms the leadership of your husband.

What is leadership? The outward demonstration of understanding that gives your wife the honor that is due.

What is the goal? So, you can be heirs together of the grace of life and your prayers may not be hindered.

1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Invitation: Do you have family resemblance with Sarah and Abraham or with your own “Hatfields and McCoys?” Are you in the family of God? Are you saved?

Assignment by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Growing up, I remember my parents helping me with my assignments, my homework. Sometimes they totally misunderstood the assignment. Anyone else ever did that? That happens a lot when it’s some kind of a project. It was ironic because my dad had been a math and physics professor and my mom was a teacher (and later retired as a principal). Nonetheless, they could not understand the directions. In our series on 1 Peter, Peter gave some assignments to the first century believers in Asia Minor who were facing persecution. But, if we’re not careful, we will also misunderstand what he meant. Main point: When we are living in a culture which is becoming increasingly hostile to our values, it is imperative that we comply but also resist. Yes, we need to do good works that will lessen conflict, but we should also challenge the world by unashamedly declaring our allegiance to Christ and his word.

1 Peter 2     11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Context: If you remember from week before last, 1 Peter can be divided into 2 halves: first half is from 1:1 – 2:10 and the second half is from 2:11 – end. The first half is focused on how the believers in Asia Minor saw themselves and the second half is focused on how the believers should live before the watching world. Between those two sections are 2:11-12. They are the transitional verses helping us understand the tone of how to live out our faith. I also pointed out 3 important words in verse 11 that set the tone for the application: Beloved(We are all in this together), Sojourners and Pilgrims (We are simply passing through), and War (We are in a spiritual warfare with the culture which surrounds us). Now, in verse 12, Peter told them how to win this war – 12 “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers…” Why are they deemed evildoers? Because they are now believers and they don’t worship the old gods and goddesses. So, how do they combat such accusations? “…they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” The best ammunition against the lost world are the good works of the believers that the lost world will brag about to God when he comes again. By the way, you cannot glorify God when he comes again unless you are saved. In other words, the gentile neighbors will get saved by observing the good lifestyles of their Christian neighbors whom they hated. Once again, we don’t combat the lost world by copying their tactics of shouting matches, smear campaigns, and savage/senseless behavior. We combat the lost world with displaying a lifestyle that they admire and desire to emulate.

Now, we go a step further. What exactly are the good works of the believers? Here, it gets into the fine detail. Repeatedly, Peter employs some form of the Greek word “hupotasso,” which means “submission” with regards to government, work, and marriage:

  • With Government: 1 Peter 2 13 “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”
  • With Work: 1 Peter 2:18 “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.”
  • With Marriage: 1 Peter 3:1 “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.”
  • The word for “submission” shows up in some form a couple of more times.

The mistake that many have made here is that they think that the “good works” means unconditional submission or compliance. In other words, just submit and do as you are told. Last year, when we were allowed to reopen, and we did, a couple of people asked me, “What do you make of 1 Peter 2 and Romans 13?” They were implying that we were not obeying the authorities. 2 things here: “first, we were allowed to reopen; second, they misunderstood the assignment that Paul and Peter had given to their readers.”

What is the correct understanding of good works or how are we to submit? In recent years, there have been 2 different opinions among scholars. Some scholars (David Balch) have taken this passage to mean that Christians should be as much like the culture as possible. By accepting the hierarchy in society and following the household code, they can appease their lost neighbors. It’s called “acculturation.” That way, the world would let up because we are all the same. Some churches, pastors, and denomination are doing that, and they have gone off the deep end. Other scholars (John Elliott) have taken this passage to mean that Christians should distance themselves from the gentile world and follow God. It’s called “distinctiveness and solidarity.”

Both these views have problems. The first one has clear problems. How can Christians go back to the old ways of life if Peter had just told them in 1 Peter 1:14 “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.” The second one also has problems because clearly Peter told them to submit, as in 1 Peter 2:13 “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”

So, what is the true meaning of “good works” and “submission”? To begin with, when Peter talked about “good works,” he was appealing to a concept that the people in the Greco-Roman world were quite familiar with (following is taken from David Horrell and Travis B. Williams’ works). It meant good things and philanthropic acts done by the wealthy for the poor. It would include big banquets where everyone was invited to eat or serving the city as a leader and helping the people. It could also mean valor in battle. Bottom line: The good works had a horizontal focus. The persecuted believers in Asia Minor did not have such wealth and such influence any longer. Instead, they were to use the same term “good works” but look at it through the lens of the Old Testament and the example of Christ. Their “good works” were to have a vertical focus. It was living a life that was pleasing to God, that followed the example of Christ. 1 Peter 3:16 “having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” In other words, same terminology but a different focus.

Important clarification: The “good works” may win some to the gospel, but they may increase the hostility. 1 Peter 2:20 “But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” 1 Peter 3    13 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.” 1 Peter 4:19 “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”

Why would their good works increase hostility? As they were complying, they were to qualify their compliance.” In other words, comply but don’t forget to resist. Pay attention to the resistance language in the submission commands:

With Government:

  • 1 Peter 2:13 “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”
  • 1 Peter 2:15 “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

At Work:

  • 1 Peter 2:19 “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.”
  • 1 Peter 2:21 “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”

In Marriage:

1 Peter 3      1 “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.” There is no place for abuse. Peter would not approve of that.

There’s more resistance language in 1 Peter:

  • 1 Peter 4:3 “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles.”
  • 1 Peter 4:16 “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”
  • 1 Peter 5 8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” The Greek word for resist is “anthistemi,” which is a combination of 2 Greek words: anti (against) and histemi (to stand).

How does all this apply to us? Taken from erlc.com – “On Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a controversial bill titled the Equality Act. This legislation, filed as H.R. 5, seeks to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code.”

“This year the Senate is evenly divided, with 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 2 Independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) who caucus with the Democrats. If the Senate voted on the measure and Collins voted in favor while Manchin opposed, the result would be a 50-50 tie, which would be broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.”

“But before the bill would even come up for a vote, the bill would have to overcome a filibuster, an attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter. The only formal procedure that Senate rules provide for breaking a filibuster is invoking Rule 22, which requires 60 members to end debate on most topics and move to a vote. This Senate rule is the reason almost all partisan legislation in the Senate, with a few notable exceptions, requires 60 votes rather than a 51-vote majority.”

This bill impacts religious liberty, women and girls’ rights, prolife, and our very society and future generations.

I am for equality. We are equally made in the image of God as male and female. We are equally lost and in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ came to die equally for us. If we receive him, we can equally become sons and daughters of the King. The cross is the greatest equalizer of all! Galatians 3     26 “For you are all sons (and daughters) of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Where do we stand? Let’s speak out. Let’s stand for the truth. We comply but qualify. We are to submit but also resist. We have to follow Christ. Pray for our nation. Reach the lost. Are you saved?

Operation Safeguard: Part 2 by Dr. Abidan Shah & Nicole Shah

OPERATION SAFEGUARD 2 – Dr. Abidan and Nicole Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  We are in part 2 of our message titled “OPERATION SAFEGUARD.” Last weekend, Nicole and I focused on the 10 kinds of homes we come from that impact what kind of marriages we will have. In today’s message, we will focus on the danger of isolation and the ways to intimacy in marriage. Once again, I want to invite Nicole to the stage. Last week, we heard from so many who come in person or watch online as to how much they loved and learned from our talk on marriage. We are hoping to do this periodically to help marriage and family in our culture today. As I mentioned last time, we are still in our series through 1 Peter. So, let’s turn there now.

1 Peter 2      11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Context: If you remember from last week, 1 Peter can be divided into 2 halves: first half is from 1:1 – 2:10 and its focused on how the believers in Asia Minor saw themselves; the second half is from 2:11 – end and its focused on how the believers should live before the watching world, especially with regards to government, work, and marriage. Verses 11 and 12 of chapter 2 are the transition between the two sections. Last weekend, I pointed out 3 important words in verse 11 that set the tone for the application: Beloved (We are all in this together), Sojourners and Pilgrims (We are simply passing through), and War (We are in a spiritual warfare with the culture which surrounds us). Now, in verse 12, Peter told them how to win this war – 12 “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers…” Why are they considered evildoers? Because they are now believers and they don’t worship the old gods and goddesses. So, how do they combat such accusations? “…they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” The best ammunition against the lost world are good works of the believers that the lost world will brag about to God when he comes again. By the way, you cannot glorify God when he comes again unless you are saved. In other words, the gentile neighbors got saved by observing the good lifestyles of their Christian neighbors whom they were hating. Here’s the point: We don’t combat the lost world by copying their tactics of shouting matches, smear campaigns, and savage/senseless behavior. We combat the lost world with displaying a lifestyle that they admire and desire to emulate. In other words, we are called to win by recruitment not retribution. These are good works with regards to government, work, and marriage. Because of Valentine’s Day, we skipped over government and work, but we will be back. So, how can we have good works in marriage that our lost neighbors will admire and desire to emulate?

NICOLE:

Tragically, one hindrance to good works in marriage is ISOLATION. This is the heart of the problem for most marriages. God said in Genesis 2:24“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Unfortunately, marriages automatically drift towards isolation. What are the causes of isolation in marriages?

  1. Changes in our culture (devaluing of marriage, family, and children; over valuing of independence; influence of media and entertainment)
  2. Our childhood and expectations (from last weekend’s message)
  3. Selfishness (focusing on our spouse’s weaknesses and justifying our rejection of our spouse)
  4. Improper responses to the struggles in marriage (poor models, wrong advisors, no plan for crisis in marriage)
  5. Extra-marital affairs (Activities affair, Materialism affair, Career affair, Family affair, and Love affair)

Marriage is God’s idea and he desires ONENESS in our marriages for 4 reasons:

  • It reflects God’s image;
  • it gives us companionship in life;
  • it spreads a godly legacy;
  • and, it reflects the relationship between Christ and the church;

How can we have this oneness in marriage? There are 6 different intimacies (We are getting these from Tony and Alisa Dilorenzos):

ABIDAN:

  1. Spiritual intimacy – The first, and, I believe, the most important intimacy in marriage is spiritual intimacy. This is the relationship that the husband and wife have with Jesus Christ and each other. We talked about this last week, so we are going to dive deeper. This type of intimacy includes going to church together as a family, doing devotions together and praying together. As we talked about last week, our marriages should be a commitment between husband, wife and God. In this commitment is going to church to be spiritually fed together. This is so important not only for the husband and the wife, but also for the children as well. This sets the course for the rest of their lives. The decision to follow Jesus Christ is the most important decision you will ever make with the choice of a spouse second. Spiritual intimacy also includes devotions together as a couple. How? Choose a devotional book, preferably one for couples and decide how often you and your spouse will do them: every day, once a week, etc. We recommend at least once a week. If you can do every day, great! Also, end your couple devotional time with prayer. Either each one of you pray or take turns who prays after each devotion.

Don’t neglect your individual devotions because each of you need this as well. This is where scheduling is important. Nicole gets up every morning before the boys to do her devotions for uninterrupted time. It takes discipline.

  1. Intellectual intimacy – This type of intimacy is all about the issues you and your spouse consider to be important to your marriage. This could be goals for your marriage, values for your marriage and family or even creating a budget for your family. Intellectual intimacy requires communication. I can see the wives are excited with this one, and the husbands are tuning out! Maybe you can begin your communication with books life Connect Like You Did When You First Met or One Question a Day for You and Me. These will help to start great conversations between the two of you. If you are not sure if you need help in this area, ask yourself: do you know your spouse’s hopes and dreams? If your spouse asked you to pick up a toiletry item for them at the store, would you know the brand?
  2. Financial intimacy – This type of intimacy is sharing your financial situation. We step on some toes here, but first of all, couples should have a shared checking account. Too much mine and yours does not create intimacy. There is nothing wrong with having a husband’s and wife’s fun money account, but the main family accounts should be joint. We do understand that there are times that this is not easy. If one spouse spends indiscreetly, this can cause so much trouble. Also, if business and employees have to paid out of this account, this has to be done with trust. Having said that, your finances can be a great intimacy builder as you plan and dream for the future; or it can be an intimacy killer, if you both constantly disagree on how to handle your finances. If you and your spouse fit the latter category, maybe you should begin your financial planning sessions with prayer. Remember, God is the third person in your marriage. Also, if you don’t tithe as a couple, you will always have financial struggles. Abidan and I have found that if we are tithing, God provides all of our needs. It’s His money anyway, and He only asks for 10%.

NICOLE:

4.  Recreational intimacy – This type of intimacy is having fun together doing something that you both enjoy. This is where your hobbies might come into play. Is there something that you both enjoy doing? A sport, an outdoor activity, and indoor activity, or activities involving the arts. Here is a list that I got from Tony & Alisa Dilorenzo’s book Stripped Down, but you can find exhaustive lists on Pinterest or asking Google. If you don’t enjoy doing the same things as your spouse, make a list of your personal top 5 or 10 things you enjoy doing. Exchange lists and take turns going on dates doing something off your spouse’s list. You might find that you enjoy doing something that your spouse enjoys. At the least, enjoy being with your spouse.

5. Emotional intimacy – Other than spiritual intimacy, emotional intimacy is foundational for your marriage. This intimacy is the feeling of closeness to someone special in your life. You can have emotional intimacy with many people in your life: your parents, your children, your friends; but the most important person is your spouse. How do you start? Think back to when you met your spouse. You went on dates.

  • Keep dating your spouse. They don’t have to be extravagant; just spend time together.
  • Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that require more than a yes or no answer. We have 2 books in our resource room that can help with this part of emotional intimacy.
  • Share a hobby together. This is doing something together that you both enjoy. For example, sports, crafts, hunting, travel.
  • Get away for a weekend. For example, a nice hotel in the next city, a bed and breakfast, or a resort.

These are just a few ways that you can build and strengthen your emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is the gateway to great physical intimacy.

  1. Physical intimacy – This intimacy includes holding hands, hugging, kissing and sex. This part of marriage is definitely influenced by the way you were raised. What were your parents’ attitude towards sex? Their attitudes towards the subject of sex have affected the way that you view sex. Ladies, if your mother communicated to you that sex was a duty or was dirty; you need a mind shift. If you didn’t already know this, God created sex. He said that everything that he had created was good. Sin changed that. Genesis 2:25 “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” I know this sounds crazy, but you need to pray and ask God to change your attitude about sex. You also need to subscribe to the One Extraordinary Marriage podcast or Marriage 365 webcast, or both! Men, your wives need emotional intimacy to be ready for sex. Ladies, your husbands need sex to feel emotionally close to you. Some ideas to help you begin to work on your physical intimacy are:
  • Pray – Invite God into your bedroom, and He will bless it.
  • Do a sex challenge – decide how many days you will have sex, make the commitment and stick to it.
  • Adopt the intimacy lifestyle – Check out resources from Tony and Alisa Dilorenzo.

Isn’t it amazing that Peter included marriage in his list of good works that causes the gentiles to get saved! If your marriage was the gospel plan for somebody, how good is your gospel?

Invitation: Is your marriage drifting towards isolation or intimacy? Is Christ the center of your marriage? Are you saved?

Marvelous Light by Dr. Abidan Shah

MARVELOUS LIGHT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Couple of days ago, with the snow and ice, a lot of people lost their power. We don’t realize how much we depend on electricity until it goes out. Summer time, it gets hot; winter time, it gets cold; but, the worst part for me is the darkness. For the heat, we can open the windows; for the cold, we can bundle up; but, what can we do about the darkness? We can’t see anything. We can’t do anything. We can’t go anywhere. We become completely helpless. Of course, we use flashlights and candle light, but we operate on less than half of our capacity. We wait for the day to dawn so we can do what we need to do. But, what if there were no daylight? What if darkness was all there was to life? My favorite sound when the power is out is the beep of the oven and the microwave. That is the heart of what Peter was telling his readers in our passage today. Today’s message is this: Every one of us is in darkness until God calls us into his marvelous light through Jesus Christ. Light is the realization of our new status in Christ: chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, and his own special people.

1 Peter 2      9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Context: As you’ve heard me say throughout this series, Peter wrote this letter to encourage the persecuted church of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. They were facing ostracization by their families and societal discrimination by their neighbors. Unfortunately, this persecution was having a negative effect on them as some of them were beginning to regress in their Christian growth. Peter wrote this letter not only to encourage them but also to rebuke and admonish them for picking back up those old behaviors of “malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking.” He reminded them that they were living stones in God’s house with Christ being the Chief Cornerstone. By the way, this was no ordinary house but a holy temple in which they were priests offering sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Application: How do you act in times of trouble? Do you reflect the Christian graces or the carnal vices, vestiges of your past life? Are you saved?

Now, we come to verse 9. Here, Peter gave what one scholar called “one of the most dense constellations of ecclesiological imagery in the New Testament” (Boring). Listen again to verse 9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…” Before we dive in and look at each of these designations, we need to have a better understanding of the situation the Christians of the Anatolian peninsula were facing. There has been a lot of debate among church history scholars over the range and the extent of persecution in the early church. At one time, it was believed that the persecution began early and became intense during periods until the time of Constantine and the Edict of Milan in AD 313. Then, it was believed that the persecution was intense during the time of Nero and then later under certain emperors like Domitian, Trajan, Decius, Valerian, and Diocletian, but not throughout.

According to the latest research (Travis B. Williams), persecution began under Nero (54-68) when he changed the legal status of Christians and continued for the next 300 years. Starting with Nero, professing Christianity became illegal. It became a punishable offense if it was charged before the governor’s tribunal. The reason Christians could still function under such conditions was because of 2 reasons:

  • The judicial process in Asia Minor;
  • The relationship of Christians with their society.

In the first matter, the judicial system was not as simple – the accuser had to submit a formal allegation, then, the governors would be changing every year and you never knew who would be the judge, and the legal process was long. So, even though Christians were not daily facing capital punishment, the fear constantly loomed over the head. In the second matter, the Christians maintained involvement with society. It was not easy to go against Christians because they were connected with friends and family. Having said this, Christians always lived under the fear that one of their own would turn against them.

Here’s the point: Even though Christians were not being killed every day for their faith, their legal status in society had changed. To start with, they couldn’t join certain clubs like the “bakers of the Ephesus” and the “neighborhood group in Prusa” because to join required burning incense to the gods. Imagine how many business deals were lost because of that. Next, Christians refused to worship the Emperor. These cults were in the hands of the elites of the city or province. Again, Christians were excluded. At special town festivals and games, the emperor was honored before the start of the festival or games. Again, Christians were excluded. Finally, the worship of the traditional gods. Because, Christians did not worship these old gods, some people thought that they had become atheists. People blamed them for any natural, economic, or enemy threat.

There was yet another reason for the persecutions of the early Christians: Good Works. This may seem odd at first. How could a person, family, or a group practicing self-discipline, holiness, fear of God, righteousness, purity, sympathy, tender-heartedness, humility, love for one another, submission to government, enduring injustice, living with love in marriage (wives following their husbands and husbands giving honor to their wives), hospitality, shepherding the flock of God be a problem to society. They were looked upon as weird, different, cultish, and non-natives. Bottom line: There was persecution. Hence, Peter says in 1 Peter 4:16 “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” In other words, just the name “Christian” was illegal, reprehensible, and criminalized.

Application: Are you prepared for such a day in our lifetime? Are you preparing your children for such a day in their lifetime? How far will you go to stand for your faith and values?

By the way, in what forms did the early church and even the readers of 1 Peter face persecution? Verbal assault, physical abuse, legal actions, relationship struggles, financial hardships, and social ostracism.

Illustration: Dad was disowned by his family, beaten up for his faith, and even rejected by the nominal Christian community. When he took us to visit his family, they tried to lure mom to get him to come back home. They offered her the key to the family treasury.

Back to verse 9 – Peter reminds them of their new status since coming to Christ:

  1. Chosen Generation – genos eklekton. Here Peter is quoting from Isaiah 43:20 “The beast of the field will honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen.” This was the promise given to the Jewish people in the Babylonian exile. The promise now applies to us as well.
  2. Royal Priesthood – In Israel, they represented 2 different offices. When King Saul tried to blend those two, Samuel cursed him. When King Uzziah tried to blend those two, he was driven out from the temple with leprosy. But, Christ was promised as the priest king in Zechariah 6:13 “Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” Now believers can come near to God as priests and they are also to rule over the hearts of the people around them in love and truth.
  3. Holy Nation – ethnos hagion. The world may ostracize us, but we already have a citizenship in another nation. This does not mean that we don’t obey the reasonable laws of this nation. 1 Peter 2 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
  4. Special People – We have a special purpose just the way God chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for a special purpose. Again, Isaiah 43:21 “This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.” There is still work left for ethnic Israel in the end of times. But, for now, we have been chosen for a purpose – 9 “…His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Our purpose is to share the gospel.

10 “who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” Maybe, this is an allusion to Hosea 2:23, but the point is that they are no accident of fate. God has brought them in by his mercy, as promised.

Invitation: How do you see yourself? Chosen Generation, Royal Priesthood, Holy Nation, Special People. Are you singing his praises? Are you shining his marvelous light in this dark world? Are you prepared for the persecution that may come? Are you children and grandchildren prepared? Are you saved?

Faithfulness by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: If there is one refrain or chorus that we have all said or heard again and again, it is “what a crazy year 2020 has been!” None of us ever imagined in our wildest dreams or nightmares that this year would turn out this way. Although, this year was quite serious and sad in many ways, people found humor in it as well. Check out some of the memes that people sent me – “T-shirt with the year in review stars – ‘Very bad, would not recommend,’” “picture of a knight in his armor with the caption ‘me being prepared for 2020’ and the next picture with an arrow through the eye slit,” “a bunch of porta potties on fire with the caption ‘if 2020 was a scented candle,’” and this one with “Sorry folks, the world is closed.” As I was praying about what is it that God would want us to remember at the close of this crazy year, he directed my attention to Psalm 66. Here’s the main point: If we look at our trials only through the lens of our personal story, we will become fearful and hopeless. Instead, we have to look at our trials through the lens of our collective story; then we see that we have faced worse situations before and God has been faithful. The foundation of our faith is not our own experiences but the collective experience of God’s people in the Scriptures. If he was faithful then, he will be faithful now and in the future. I can pray to him in confidence and know that he will answer the prayer of the clean heart.

Psalm 66       1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 2 Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.”

Context: Many of us treat the psalms as second-class literature compared to the narratives, prophecies, gospels and epistles. This is false. The psalms are equally Scripture. They are theology that sings. Once we decode the symbolism and the literary structure, they have some deep theology that is not found anywhere else in Scripture.

To start with, the psalm we just read (Psalm 66) can be divided into 2 halves: Verses 1-12 and verses 13-20. The first half is focused on corporate worship and the second half is focused on personal worship. In other words, first, we hear the chorus of the whole community singing and then we hear the voice of the individual worshipper. The first half lays the foundation for the second half. Without the corporate worship, there would be no individual worship.

First half – The choir calls all believers to praise God for his wonderful works. Listen again – 1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!” In the context, I would say that “all the earth” is referring only to the “God-fearing Israelites” or only to “all the believers of the earth.” After all, how can the lost world shout joyfully to the living God? Also, 2 “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.” Again, how can the lost world sing out the honor of God’s name and how can they make his praise glorious? Romans 3:23 is clear, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moving on to verse 3 “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power your enemies shall submit themselves to You.’” Every human being is an enemy of God until he/she meets Jesus Christ.Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Also,Colossians 1      21 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” Once we receive Christ as our Savior, we can join the throng of those who sing praises to God’s name. 4 “All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah

Application: Have you been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? Are you singing praises to God?

Now the choir invites all believers to take a trip down memory lane – 5 “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. 6 He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot…” Here the choir of God’s people are singing about the exodus from Egypt of their ancestors, particularly the time when the people of Israel found themselves hemmed between the Red Sea before them and the chariots of Pharaoh behind them. Remember, after the final plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh allowed the people to leave Egypt. As this massive crowd of 3 million began their journey, the land of Egypt was a wreck and the Egyptians were scared. The people of Israel had to walk right past the fortresses on Egypt’s eastern borders. There were soldiers and chariots in these fortresses with plenty of hatred and anger towards the people of Israel. Even though they were large in number, these former slaves (less than 24 hours) were no match for trained angry soldiers in chariots. God led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. Just then Pharaoh changed his mind and decided to pursue the people of Israel with a couple of thousand chariots with soldiers. What a horrible tactical decision!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses – Exodus 14     10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Listen to Moses’s response in Exodus 14     13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then, God commanded Moses to stretch his rod over the Red Sea to divide so the people could go on dry land. God sent a strong east wind that divided the sea and made dry land for them. Now, listen carefully to what happened next – Exodus 14    19 “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” As the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground, listen to what the Angel of the Lord did 24 “Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians.” This Angel of the Lord and pillar of the cloud was the pre-incarnate Christ who guarded God’s people until they were safely on the other side. Then God gave the command and the sea came back and drowned the entire Egyptian army.

Let’s return again to Psalm 66:6 “He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.There is a shift in the “person” from third to second. There is something very subtle here which is very substantial for our faith. The singers/congregation were not there at the Red Sea. Their ancestors were there. Nonetheless, they were there in the sense of the confessional statements (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). In theological terms, this is known as the “actualizing identification with Israel’s salvation history.” It means that by faith we are part of the whole story of God’s people. In other words, even though I wasn’t there physically, I was there spiritually and I saw the faithfulness of God in my life. We do that as Christians through the Communion – 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

The choir/congregation continues – 7 “He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah 8 Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, 9 Who keeps our soul among the living, And does not allow our feet to be moved.” This is the key verse of this psalm. God has preserved our feet from slipping into the netherworld. This does not mean that people have not died in 2020 of various causes, but God has our times in his hands and none have left this world outside of his time. 10 For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. 11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. 12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Everything from the exodus experience is now personal.

Application: What is your faith story? The Bible is our faith story. We have been through worse. If God brought us through fire and water, he will bring us through 2020. Can you sing that? Can you shout that? Do you understand now why we need community? We understand those who cannot be with us because of health concerns. That’s why we go above and beyond to make sure that we have the best online experience possible for those who cannot attend in person. To stop assembling is to take away our faith story. We have to remind each other of it.

Second Half – The individual proclaims his personal thanksgiving to God and promises to keep his vows. Listen – 13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows.” There is a shift in the “person” from second to first. The choir goes silent now and all eyes are turned towards the individual as he makes remembers the promises that he had made to God through the trials. 14 Which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah Many different kinds of sacrifices are in view here.

Applications: What promises did you make to God in 2020? You say, “I didn’t make any promises.” So, you just asked God to get you through? Get you through for what? Why should God give you another year? If were truly honest, many of us got through but our faith disintegrated. Many have destroyed the faith of others.

Listen to the conclusion of the psalm – 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. 19 Butcertainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” There is confidence in our prayers when our heart is clean before God.

Application: Is your heart clean before God?

Conclusion:

  • We need both descriptive praise and declarative praise.
  • We need to go back and then we can talk about the now.
  • We need both the community and the individual.
  • We need both worship and thanksgiving.
  • We need hearts that are clean if we want our prayers to be heard.

Can you see God’s faithfulness in the past and the present? Are you saved?

Greater than Rulers by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER – THAN RULERS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How many of you have watched the old “Twilight Zone” TV show? I don’t know about you but, after a while, it starts to mess with your mind. One time, our kids were watching one episode after another and I had to tell them to stop! I felt like someone was always watching me or out to get to me. If there was one character in NT history who was always paranoid, it was King Herod. He constantly felt that he had to prove his kingship and that the world was out to get him. In our 3-week Christmas series titled “GREATER,” we are learning how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. Last week, we saw that Jesus was greater than Rome and Augustus Caesar. In this message, we will see that Jesus was greater than Herod, the paranoid king. Please find Matthew 2. Main point: Throughout history, people have tried to prove their significance and leave their legacy. Unfortunately, they’ve all failed. There is only one who is truly significant and whose legacy has no end. His name is Jesus. His coming was promised in the Scriptures, sought by the wise men, accompanied by celestial signs, and protected by the angels. He alone is the legitimate king, and he wants to bring his rule and legacy to your heart and mine.

Matthew 2     1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?’”

Context: Just like Luke 2 last week, this passage is also very familiar, especially during Christmas. Again, we usually rush past this to discuss the star or the wise men, and we miss something very important in the verses we just read. Listen again to verse 1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…” Of course, we know that Rome was in control of Palestine at the time, but it did so through local rulers. Herod was that local ruler, the client King, who ruled the region where Jesus was born. Herod’s policies made a big impact on the Christmas narrative.

A quick point here – It is vital that believers be involved in every level of government: local, state, and national.

So, who was Herod the King? Herod came from the Antipatrid family of Idumea, a region to the east and the south of the Dead Sea. Although, originally, they were descendants of Esau (brother of Jacob), now they were a mixture of Edomites, Jewish people, Arabs, Phoenicians, and Greeks. They had been forcibly converted to Judaism by a Jewish ruler named John Hyrcanus. In other words, they were a non-priestly, non-royal, and non-truly-Jewish family. That’s a lot of nons! Antipater I, Herod’s grandfather, had worked his way up and became the governor of Idumea. Herod’s father also followed in his footsteps and became even more successful. Sadly, some people were envious of his success and poisoned him. Now it was Herod’s turn. He was born with somewhat of a silver spoon in his mouth but he still had to work for every bit of what he had. He was hard working and had unending energy. As a strategos (military governor) of Galilee at the age of 25, he was not the type who just made his soldiers fight. He was unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat, a very good horseman, and even a good hunter.

How was his character? Overall, he was quite generous. When there was a drought, he used his own resources to help the people. He built up a strong military. He protected his people against bandits and tried to make his region safer and more peaceful. He was an amazing architect. He built forts, public buildings, streets, water systems, supported the Olympic games and on and on. According to Josephus, Herod’s most important achievement was the building of the temple in Jerusalem at his own expense. It took ten years to build. He doubled the foundation of Solomon’s temple and literally reshaped the layout of Jerusalem. Josephus tells us that the entire façade of the temple was covered with gold plates. When the sun rose, it was blinding to look at it! The upper parts were probably marble. He even took care to have the priests trained as masons and carpenters so that there would be no disruption of services. Furthermore, he made sure that no one family would control the priesthood. I can go on and on about the good he did. Yes, he did have a bad temper, but that’s minor compared to all the good that he did.

Did the people love him for all this? Not really. His people didn’t appreciate him. The Jewish people didn’t accept him because he wasn’t Jewish. His enemies tried to bring him to trial. The supporters of the opposition group tried to attack his family. He had to fight off the Parthians. He had to constantly keep Rome happy. He had to kill all the Hasmoneans (Jewish royalty) to ensure his rule. He even had his own brother-in-law – Aristobulus, the High Priest – killed. He had 300 of his military leaders killed. Yes, he was ruthless but it was all because he felt that they were a threat to his success.

Application: Do you know someone like that? He/she had to work hard all his/her lives. He had to deal with junk growing up. She had lowly upbringing. He didn’t have the best of family growing up. She made some bad choices. He tried to help people but he was not appreciated. Is that you? How do you handle those feelings of insignificance?

How was Herod’s love life? Herod’s family life was a mess, partly because he had ten wives and each of them wanted their son(s) to be the next king. His second wife deserves to mentioned in particular. He dismissed his first wife and son to marry Mariamme, a woman from a Hasmonean (prominent Jewish) family. Initially he did it to help his position, which it didn’t, but then he really loved her and had 5 children with her. She knew what he was like and she didn’t love him. Keep in mind that Herod had her brother killed. As Josephus the historian said, “her hatred of him was as great as was his love for her.” Then, Herod’s sister, Salome, started a rumor that Mariamme was cheating on him and he had her put on trial. He didn’t believe his sister but his sister kept pushing him with more and more lies. Finally, in a fit of rage, he had her killed. Then, he realized what he had done and began to grieve over her and even refused to believe that she was dead. He would often call for her. When he got sick, he took it as God’s judgment.

How was Herod as a father? He loved the two oldest sons he had with Mariamme and even sent them to Rome for their education, hoping to turn the kingdom over to them. When they returned they were arrogant and Herod couldn’t stand that. He even heard rumors that they wanted to avenge their mother’s death. After much back and forth, he had them strangled. Then he made a will (4th one to be exact) to give the kingdom to his son from his first wife but 5 days before he died he had him executed for plotting against him. Altogether, he changed his will 6 times before he died! By the way, I’m only dealing with the issues with his sons. I don’t have time to go into all the other family problems.

How was his end? In his final years Herod became terribly sick. Some scholars believe that he had syphilis. He had tried to get some relief in some healing baths near Jordan River but it didn’t help. When he realized that he was dying, he gave orders to his sister Salome to gather the prominent Jewish people at the hippodrome near Jericho and kill them when he died so people would actually cry when he was gone. He knew his own family wouldn’t cry for him. Thank goodness that after he died his sister did not follow the orders. I feel sorry for the guy. Don’t you?

Application: Do you know some people like that? They’ve had a bad home life. They’ve been let down in their marriage. They’ve tried to be good to their family but it never worked out. Their kids don’t appreciate them. They’ve made decisions that they can’t take back. They live in constant regret and guilt. Are you that person? You are trying to find significance in all the wrong places. You need Christ.

Did God forget Herod? No. In fact, he sent the gospel right to his doorstep. Matthew 2      1 “…behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

  1. Unlike Herod who had to prove himself constantly, Jesus was clearly promised in the Scriptures.

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

  1. Unlike Herod’s wise men who failed to prepare him, Jesus was sought by the truly wise men.

Matt. 2:9   When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

  1. Unlike Herod’s failed attempt to build his legacy, Jesus’s coming was accompanied by celestial signs.

11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

  1. Unlike Herod who constantly lived in fear of being killed, Jesus was protected by angels.

16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.”

This could have gone a whole different way. Herod could have found true significance. God didn’t hate Herod! He sent Jesus to be born 6 miles from where He lived. He sent magi from 430 miles to tell him about His birth. He even had all the chief and scribes at his disposal to tell him about the location of Jesus’ birth. Ultimately, it was his own wicked heart.

Application:  How is your heart this morning? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If you know Him, are you sharing Him with others? Are you willing to step out of your hiding and follow Him boldly? Where are you seeking significance?

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