(Published in the Newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 9, 2019)
“The Bible will come alive for you! It will be a life-changing trip!” I could tell that my mentor really wanted me to go on a tour of Israel. Few years later, we took him up on it. Since then, my wife and I have visited the Holy Land several times and it is truly everything and more than you can imagine! In our last tour in January, along with the usual sites (Galilee, Jordan River, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, etc.), we visited six Middle Bronze Canaanite cities in Israel (Megiddo, Hazor, Tel Dan, Beth Shan, Jericho, and Jerusalem). In the chronology of the Levant, the Middle Bronze period is between 1800BC-1550BC. Although scholars disagree over the precise terminology, this is the time period when the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was occupied by the Canaanites and the Amorites. These were the cities that God told Moses to lead the people of Israel to go in and possess.
Typically, we think that the reason God wanted to drive the Canaanites out of the land is because they were primitive savages. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s what we found:
1. They were master builders. In order to protect their cities, they first built massive free-standing walls (some places 50 ft tall) around the city. This was followed by a massive embankment with crowning walls. All this was psychological warfare to discourage an invading army from wasting their time.
2. They understood hydraulics and built massive water storage facilities, underground drainage, and irrigation lines.
3. They were very good farmers, pottery makers, and metal workers. They learned how to make bronze by alloying copper with tin. Now they had weapons that could be shaped and sharpened. They even had an export business with Egypt.
4. They created the ancestor of our English alphabet. Unlike the Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Mesopotamian cuneiform, their descendants (the Phoenicians) standardized the 22 signs for each sound that we use to this today.
Nonetheless, as advanced and prosperous as these people were, something was not right with them. Deuteronomy 12:29-31“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them…for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”In other words, they practiced every kind of perversion imaginable but worst of all, they sacrificed their babies to their god Molech! Although literary evidence from Canaan is scant, there is plenty regarding the Phoenicians, the Canaanites who established a colony in North Africa. Siculus, a Greek historian, wrote – “There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.”Plutarch, another Greek writer, added that “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.” Historians and archaeologists would deny these accounts claiming that it wasn’t possible for such an advanced culture to do something so heinous. In 2014, Dr. Josephine Quinn of Oxford University along with a team of scholars confirmed these accounts as absolutely true based on further research.
Here’s the point: God wiped out the Canaanites because they chose to kill their children. What do you think God thinks of America today? Over 638,000 are being killed each year. Will we repeat the vicious cycle and face God’s wrath or will we speak out for the innocent and the voiceless? It is much more than a political issue. Jesus said “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
VICIOUS CYCLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Have you ever made the same mistake twice or thrice or more times? Have you ever found yourself saying – “I knew better.” I love spaghetti but spaghetti and white shirts are magnets. It seems like every time I eat spaghetti I am wearing a white shirt and it’s a matter of time before there’s a red spot on my shirt. It’s a vicious cycle. That is very very trivial compared to what is happening in our country. We are about to make the same mistake that other ancient cultures that were very advanced for their time also made and they suffered total extinction. We are talking about the issue of abortion. We think that it’s no big deal but we are about to repeat a very vicious cycle of self-destruction. The message is called “VICIOUS CYCLE.”
Deuteronomy 12 29“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
Question: Are you aware of the debate that is taking place in our country today regarding late term abortion? New York passed a bill that would allow abortion after the 24thweek and as late as the 40thweek. By the way, there were eight other states that already had no gestational limits – Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington DC. According to the CDC, only 1.3% of the abortions are after 21 weeks. How many is that? If there were 638,169 abortions per year recently, that’s about 8000 late term abortions in a year in America. It’s right there with gun related murders and yet abortion is okay but guns are not. Last week, many of you saw the video of delegate in Virginia introducing a similar bill in the House of Delegates. Where do you stand? What do you think about life? It’s an issue that affects all of us. Do you have eternal life? Are you saved?Pray: Holy Spirit – give us biblical convictions. Help us to stand for the innocent, especially those who don’t have a voice. Save the lost.
Context: As many of you know that we went to Israel in January. When I was planning the tour, I purposely chose to include some Middle Bronze cities. Middle Bronze is the period between 1800-1550. This is the time period immediately following the time of Abraham and before the coming of Moses. This was very important to me because they represented the time period before the people of Israel entered Egypt. So, we went to 6 cities that came from that era – Megiddo, Hazor, Tel Dan, Beth Shan, Jericho, and Jerusalem. We wrongly think that the Canaanites or the Amorites who lived in the land that God promised to the children of Israel were just a bunch of savages. We only focus on the part of the people of Israel getting scared of the people in the land and suffering from the “grasshopper syndrome.” What we fail to realize is that they had every reason to be afraid of them. What do we know about the Middle Bronze Canaanite Cities?
1. Around the start of the Middle Bronze period, the city life was revived in the land of Canaan. For some reason, these cities began to grow and advance. They build large fortifications around their cities. They built walls that were as large as 50 feet tall, with each stone about 8-10 feet long. But they were very smart. They would build the outer walls and then build a man-made mountain followed by another wall. They built the walls in such a way that the Mesopotamian battering rams were useless against them. This was all psychological warfare. It was meant to discourage the enemy and make them feel emotionally defeated. Did it work?Deuteronomy 1:28“…Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, ‘The peoplearegreater and taller than we; the citiesaregreat and fortified up to heaven…”
2. They had some advanced water storage facilities. When an enemy would surround a city, they would first try to cut off the water supply. So, the Canaanites dug deep into the ground to find water through springs. They built cisterns to collect rain water. They even had underground drainage system. We saw similar structures in Megiddo, Hazor, and Jerusalem. They had superior hydraulic engineering that are still a work of marvel.
3. How about farming? They knew how to plant wheat, barley, and fruits like olives, grapes, pomegranates, and everything you can imagine. They knew how to store food. They also knew how to raise sheep, cattle, camels, and all kinds of farm animals.
4. When it came to pottery, they had learned how to turn clay on a wheel. Now they could mass produce pottery. Museums have some incredibly pieces of pottery.
5. Something much more incredible happened. They learned how to make bronze. They learned how to alloy copper and tin with 90% copper and 10% tin. Now weapons could be shaped better. They could be made sharper and sturdier. (Pics of spear blades)
6. They were also known for their export business. With Egypt – grain, olive oil, cattle, timber, copper, etc. They even learned how to make glass. We find glass beads.
7. Finally, they created the ancestor of our alphabet. They didn’t want the Egyptian hieroglyph or the Mesopotamian cuneiform. They came up with 22 signs for each sound. Later the Phoenicians, the descendants of the Canaanites/Amorites standardized them.
What’s the point of all this?The Canaanites or the Amorites were a very advanced people. They were at the height of their power, technological advance, and prosperity. Nonetheless, their time was up.Archaeologists still don’t have any solid answer why they collapsed. Was it drought? Was the threat of Egypt too much to bear?
Leviticus 20 1Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who givesanyof his descendants to Molech…” Meaning: He was a Canaanite god to whom the people offered their children as a sacrifice in the Valley of Hinnom, to the South of Jerusalem. Archaeologists/guides will tell you that they did not find any bones of children in this area. But, the descendants of the Canaanites/Amorites were the Phoenicians who later established a colony in Carthage, North Africa (Tunisia) who practiced child sacrifice. We can learn about the Canaanites from them:
Cleitarchus, a Greek historian of Alexander the Great, wrote: “Out of reverence for Kronos, the Phoenicians, and especially the Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity if they are especially eager to gain success.”
Siculus, a Greek historian, wrote – “There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.”
Plutarch, a Greek writer, added that “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”
There are tophets, burial sites for the urns with markers. One such says that the parents sacrificed a defective child with the hopes of getting a healthy one. Isn’t that the same with amniocentesis if congenital abnormalities are suspected?
Let’s come back to Leviticus 20 2 “…‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who givesanyof his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has givensomeof his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. 4And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he givessomeof his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, 5then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.”
Deuteronomy 12 29“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess…” Meaning: The Middle Bronze Cities of Canaan were under God’s judgment and he was going to use the Children of Israel to destroy them. Instead, they got scared of their height and their city walls. Listen again to what God said to them –30take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” Child sacrifice was a major sin against God. That’s why God destroyed them and wanted the land cleansed. Now you cannot find any trace of the Canaanites. If I were building a church building on a piece of property and adjacent to that property, there used to be some cult site. What’s the first thing that I would do? I would clean up the place. Later Josiah cleansed that valley as well.
Same thing with the Phoenicians: People tried to claim that all this was just propaganda by their enemies. Dr. Josephine Quinn (Oxford University) said in 2014 – “Perhaps the reason the people who established Carthage and its neighbours left their original home of Phoenicia – modern-day Lebanon – was because others there disapproved of their unusual religious practice.
Will we go down the way of the Canaanites, the Amorites, and the Pheonicans?
Psalm 139 13For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfullyandwonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And thatmy soul knows very well. 15My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, Andskillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there werenone of them.
What do you believe about the baby inside the womb? They are not a hindrance but our example to come to Christ.
Matthew 19 13Then little children were brought to Him that He might putHishands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Are you saved? Are you willing to come to Christ as a little child?
We’re going to see the importance of handling this issue and how we as believers should respond when faced with the topic of abortion. The title of this weekend’s message is “VICIOUS CYCLE.” Have we, like so many around us, fallen into the vicious cycle of sin? How do you view the issue of abortion? Are you saved?
(RE)SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 17, 2018)
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12
“America was founded as a Christian nation!” My father-in-law made that remark to me over twenty years ago. I remember hearing the frustration in his voice and being puzzled by it. I told him that I thought every American believed that. How could they not? After all, this was “One Nation Under God.” He explained to me that there were people who believed that this was never a Christian nation. To the contrary, they claimed that it was birthed in greed and selfishness with the privileged few controlling the many through fear and oppression.
I decided to research for myself. Here’s what I found: Yes, America was founded on biblical values. But, no, that doesn’t mean that everyone who came across the ocean was a born-again Christian. There is a big difference between Christian values and individual Christian lives. The first is a worldview and the second is a transformed life through Jesus Christ. Examine the Constitution of the United States – 34% of all citations are from the Bible. The ideals of freedom of religion, natural rights, and equality were grounded in Christianity. It was repeatedly affirmed that God’s providence was behind the birth of our nation. But this does not mean that every person, even the signers, were always orthodox in their belief and perfect in their character. Here’s an illustration: Our refrigerator keeps the temperature cold which preserves the food. But, this doesn’t mean that everything inside is delicious. In fact, some foods may even get a freezer burn and be harmful. So also, the Christian values of America did not guarantee that every individual would be Christlike. As John Fea in his insightful book “Was America founded as a Christian Nation” remarked: “History is complex. Heroes sometimes do unheroic things. It is the responsibility of the historian to make every effort to explain the past in its fullness.”
Unfortunately, there is no such balance in recent rhetoric. It is adamantly claimed that “we need to set the record straight regarding our past.” Such allegations are a byproduct of the postmodern revision of history. It views the past as Hegel’s “historic dialectic,” wherein truth is relative and nothing more than an outcome of the struggle for dominance. All understanding of the past is viewed with suspicion. This is terribly misleading. Yes, revisionism is appropriate but only if more historical documents are discovered or new information sheds light on the existing documents. But, this has to be done very responsibly. If not, we are creating a false narrative to push an agenda. To claim that the First Amendment was a separation of church and state is a gross misunderstanding. It was a protection on other Christian groups from practicing their beliefs without repercussions from the state church. It was never meant to discard Christianity.
Furthermore, tearing down our nation’s Christian foundation is also very dangerous. It is like taking a sledge hammer to the foundation of your house and still expecting the walls and the roof to remain intact. It is impossible. The house will collapse. Those who want to revise our nation’s past are willing to take that chance. I suggest that they travel overseas and visit nations that did not have a strong biblical influence in their past. There is a marked difference in individual rights and dignity of the weak. In fact, it is punishable by death to even challenge their nation’s past. Having come from a nation not founded on Judeo-Christian values, I can testify that this nation was built on biblical values. To use the analogy of the refrigerator again: Don’t throw out a perfectly good refrigerator because some foods have gone bad.
In this episode, the Clearview Church staff sit down to talk about the true American foundation. The biggest attack against Christianity today is that America was founded on selfishness and greed, not Christian values. If you have any topics you’d like us to discuss, be sure to email us at email@example.com!
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on April 29, 2017)
“Local business gives back.” “I like to support companies that give back.” “We feel that we need to give back to our community.” It seems that “giving back” is the new litmus test for being a good business. It is assumed that most businesses are basically bad because they only take from the people. Behind such thinking is the idea that deceiving people is the only way that businesses grow and their owners get rich. Hence, “giving back” is the moral way to come clean and make things right.
Is this really true? Do businesses profit only because they exploit the ignorant masses? Are the rich getting rich only because they deceive and take advantage of the poor? Before I answer that, let me acknowledge that throughout history there have been those who have prospered by manipulating the unsuspecting or seizing from the weak. I call them the “Mr. Potters” from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” With that being said, most are more like George Bailey.
The Bible is replete with examples of such businessmen and women whom God used in his eternal plan. In the Old Testament, he called Abraham and Sarah, a wealthy couple, to initiate his plan of salvation for the world. He led Boaz, a prosperous farmer, to redeem Ruth, the great grandmother of King David. In the New Testament, Jesus chose a small business owner to lead his church. Yes, Peter was not just some poor illiterate fisherman, as his letters (I Peter & II Peter) prove. Paul was helped by Lydia, a businesswoman from Philippi. But doesn’t the Bible warn the rich in James 5 to “weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten…you have heaped up treasure in the last days”? True, but keep reading – “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out…you have condemned, you have murdered the just.” The rich who were being condemned were those who were cheating the defenseless workers. The point is that God is not against those who have justly accumulated wealth through business. In fact, he frequently used them and even blessed them with more!
The slogan “giving back” wrongly portrays businesses as one-sided and parasitic. To the contrary, “giving back” happens when you receive goods or services in exchange for money. For example: When you buy a sandwich, you are getting back a full stomach; when you pay for a lawn care service, you are getting back a well maintained yard; etc. Good business is recognizing what people need, meeting the need, and making a profit from the exchange. Booker T. Washington (Founder of the Tuskegee Institute) said it best, “No one who continues to add something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward.” The reward can then be used as the owner pleases. Personally, I know many who give very generously to the community but choose to stay anonymous.
Lately, it has become fashionable to march down the street and hold up a sign against the greed of the rich. I wonder about their true motivation. As Father Robert Sirico once told Dinesh D’Souza, “If greed is the natural vice of those who have more, envy is the natural vice of those who have less.” How about dropping those self-righteous signs and check how much you’ve “given back.” Compared to the millions in the third world countries, you are rich!
PRAYER AT THE LAW ENFORCEMENT MEMORIAL RIDE by Pastor Shah
(On May 8th 2017 on the steps of the Vance County Court House, Henderson, NC. The ride was to raise awareness and honor those law enforcement individuals who lost their lives in line of duty. The funds raised were to go towards the Officer Down Memorial Page – www.odmp.org)
You made this world and you desire justice and peace in your world. Because of sin our hearts are set against you and your will for us. But you sent your Son Jesus to change all that. He gave his life on the cross so that we may live in peace and harmony with you and with those in this world. We thank you for his sacrifice.
But when we look around, every crime reminds us that sin is still powerful. It causes men and women to disrupt peace, steal property, and take life. So God you appointed “law enforcement” to maintain justice and peace in your world. As your word tells us, “there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” We thank you for giving us our law enforcement all over this land that put their lives on the line so that we may live in justice and peace.
Today, we are gathered to pay our deepest honor to those of our officers who were killed in the line of duty. They remained true to the oaths they swore to protect and serve, to make this world a safer and better place. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. We pray today that their sacrifice would not be in vain. We pray that their memory would never be erased by time. We pray that their faithfulness would strengthen their fellow officers to continue their task without bitterness or fear. We pray that their lives would be an inspiration for the next generation of law enforcement that you are raising up. We pray that their loved ones will receive your peace and encouragement to keep their memories alive.
Now we pray for those in this memorial ride who are giving their time, resources, and energy. Bless them, protect them, and honor them. Bless also our local enforcement, especially our Sheriff and Police Chief.
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 12, 2016)
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Last month Americans all across the land proved with their ballots that they were dissatisfied with the direction of our country. What is being called “one of the greatest political shakeups in history” is a glimpse into the soul of the real USA. Americans have overwhelmingly declared that they do care about the economy, security, and morality of their country. They do want a better world for their children and grandchildren. Once again they are seeing a future and a hope. These are indeed exciting times in our nation’s history. Along with the other positive changes, here are some more that we cannot afford to ignore:
Unite as Americans – It’s obvious that we are more divided as a nation today than we’ve ever been. Wicked forces have done everything they could to tear us apart along cash, class, and color lines. It is vital that we bring about a healing in our great nation. We will have to reach out to each other and show love and compassion. The world is watching to see if we are still the “United States.” The wise king Solomon wrote, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Equip our next generation – It’s imperative that we train our kids in politics, economy, and morality just as much as we train them in sports, dance, and music. We cannot shelter them from the issues facing our nation and the world. Instead, we should prepare them to change the world for the better. If they are to continue the good changes that are coming, we will have to teach them to lead with wisdom and courage. AsProverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Prepare for a spiritual awakening – The recent shakeup proves once again that God is not through with our nation. When we study our nation’s history we notice that He sent the greatest spiritual revivals when things were really low. He loves to work in dire situations because it brings all the glory to Him. We cannot forget to give Him thanks for giving us a second chance. But that’s just the beginning. We will have to return to the promise in2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Abraham Lincoln said, “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” The dream is still alive.
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 23, 2016)
“What’s going on in this world?! What’re we gonna do?!” I was greeted with those words as I made my way to the church office. I knew this person was referring to the recent headlines – “police officers murdered,” “terrorist attackin France,” “military coup in Turkey,” etc. I casually responded – “It seems like people have gone crazy…I guess we just need to pray more…” As I closed my office door behind me, those words began to ring louder and louder in my mind – “What’re we gonna do? What’re we gonna do?!” Just then a quote popped into my head that I read years ago – “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
What can good people do in a world gone mad? Of course we need to pray but it’s time we did more than just pray:
It’s time that Christians step outside the four walls of their churches and take a lead in marching for peace and unity. The chaos and destruction in our nation and world is evidence that the followers of the Prince of Peace have abandoned their posts. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We resemble our Heavenly Father the most when we spread harmony in our world.
It’s time we recognize that there are elements in our country and outside who are taking great delight in seeing us turn on each other. They want to see our law enforcement weak and the discontented angrier so that they can take advantage of the situation. Unless we recognize this threat and make efforts to unite, we will fall right into the enemy’s hands. As Benjamin Franklin famously remarked (although variously attributed to others), “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
It’s time we stand with our law enforcement officials. Of course there will always be some bad apples but, as a whole, most of our law enforcement are good men and women who want to keep us safe. They deserve our support and encouragement. To make them weak is to throw the gates open to evil men.
It’s time we look beyond a person’s skin pigmentation and offer respect and understanding to each other. No amount of slogan throwing will solve our divisions. If one segment of our American population feels that they have been negatively stereotyped and mistreated, then we should find ways to reach out in brotherly love and help change the situation. There will be no end to the present crisis unless a genuine attempt is made to understand and heal.
It’s time we recognize that leadership matters. Part of the reason we’re in the mess we are collectively, financially, defensively, and spiritually is because of leadership. Stop looking for a perfect candidate and support the leader who will best represent biblical values. Vote for the leader who will believe in American exceptionalism and will make us a force for good once again.
Does America have a tomorrow? As long as the good people are willing to do something in God’s strength, the future is brighter than ever.
AMERICA TOMORROW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This morning I am preaching a special message in light of all that is transpiring in our nation and across the world. It’s called “AMERICA TOMORROW.” It is different than how I typically preach but it’s a message we desperately need to hear.
2 Chronicles 29 1 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old…2 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. 3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. 4 Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, 30:1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the LORD God of Israel…10…but they laughed at them and mocked them. 11 Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.
Bridge: In recent days many of you have shared with me how troubled you are over the state of our nation and our world:
Islamic Terrorism continues, as we saw couple of days ago in Nice, France where innocent people were killed at a national celebration. Then last month, in our own country, a terrorist killed people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
In the age of Internet and social media, people everywhere are more divided today than they’ve ever been. Even in America we’re divided by our skin pigmentation where one group feels that they are negatively stereotyped and mistreated.
Then the recent anger against law enforcement and the senseless violence in Dallas, Texas where 5 police officers were murdered.
Morally and spiritually our nation and world seems to be on a downward spiral.
Governments, even our own, seem too week and unconcerned to handle these problems and some are even unstable, as we’re seeing in Turkey with the military coup.
Question: What’s the answer? What is God doing? Is this the end of the world? Is there any hope for the future of our country and this world? Today’s message will challenge and encourage you to turn to the only one who has given us the answer – God. He has given us the answer in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But before we can see that how this works for our nation and world, the question is “Do you know Him personally?” “Have you received Him as your Savior?”
There are 3 things we’re going to learn from the passage we read that will help us with the problems were facing nationally and globally:
I. LEADERSHIP MATTERS.
29 1 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old…2 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.
Background: If you read that casually, you will miss a very important point. The writer of the Chronicles is telling us – “Hezekiah’s father was David.” But that’s not biologically accurate. David lived about 300 years before Hezekiah! It’s like if one of you claimed – “George Washington is my dad.” We would laugh because he lived almost 300 years ago! So who was Hezekiah’s father? Two verses earlier in 2 Chronicles 28:27 it tells us “So Ahaz rested (died) with his fathers…Then Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.” King Hezekiah’s father was King Ahaz. Did the Chronicler make a mistake? No. Hezekiah’s Father, Ahaz, was an ungodly and wicked king of Judah. He had made images of Baal, practiced child sacrifices and idolatry.
What did God do? He gave him and his kingdom into the hands of the Syrians but that didn’t change him. Then God gave his kingdom into the hands of Israel and that still didn’t change him. Instead of turning to God, Ahaz turned to the king of Assyria for help, gave him the vessels from the temple but he still didn’t help him. He even sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, which made things worse. 24 So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the LORD God of his fathers.This was Hezekiah’s real father Ahaz.
When the Chronicler says that Hezekiah “did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done,” he was saying – “Hezekiah chose to follow David as his father instead of his own immediate father.” He began by opening the doors of the temple, repairing the damage his father had done, calling the priests and the Levites to return, and telling them to sanctify the house of God. For the first time in many years, people came together to sacrifice and worship again to the living true God.
Leadership matters. I hear people say – “Politics don’t matter.” Part of the reason we are in the mess we are collectively, financially, defensively, and spiritually is because of leadership. Everything rises and falls on leadership. What if people don’t listen? Someone said – “You cannot lead the orchestra unless you turn your back to the crowd.”
Application: Do you care about politics? Do you care about the issues facing this nation? Do you speak out on critical issues? Do you care about who gets in the office? Do you pray for our nations leaders? Do you inspire our young people to strive to be future leaders?
II. UNITY MATTERS.
30:1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the LORD God of Israel.
Background: Remember, Hezekiah was only the king of the Southern kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been taken into exile and just a mix bag of people remained. Furthermore, the Northern Kingdom did not have a good relationship with the Southern Kingdom. If you remember, the Northern Kingdom had captured the Southern Kingdom under Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, and his people had been taken as servants to Samaria. So things had not been good between them. Nonetheless, Hezekiah knew that to rebuild the people of God, there had to be unity. Not only that, but he also sent letters to Ephraim and Manasseh. These were the descendants of Joseph from his Egyptian wife. The half tribe of Manasseh had refused to go into the Promised Land. In fact, Joshua had to plead with them to help the other tribes fight when they entered the Promised Land. It appears that they never truly felt part of the people of Israel. They even failed to drive out the Canaanites as God had told them. Nonetheless, Hezekiah reached out to them as well. There can’t be true unity unless there is a real attempt at unity.
It’s no secret that we as a nation are more divided today than we’ve ever been. The slogan on one side is “Black lives matter” and on the other side is “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.” In my opinion, all these slogans drive the wedge even further between us as a people. We need to first recognize that each side is saying something that the other side is not hearing. One side is saying – “How come mostly black men keep getting shot?” and the other side is saying, “Why are mostly black men committing crimes?” I don’t claim to have all the answers but my heart goes out to two groups:
First, to the law enforcement. Last year the Police Department sent me to attend a Post Critical Incident Seminar designed to help officers who were involved in some kind of shooting, either they had to shoot someone or someone shot at them or they witnessed a shooting or had to deal with the aftermath. I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. The facilitator asked each individual to share his or her experience. I was thinking – “This is cool stuff!” The same gruff and tough men and women began to share how they were struggling with those deaths and many broke down crying. None of them were wearing their story as a badge of honor. Each of them was deeply impacted by those shootings. Not only them but also their wives and children and friends were struggling with them. I’m not dismissing the bad apples but, as a whole, we need to be grateful to our law enforcement.
Second, to the black men, especially young men. Several years ago I was helping a young person from the black community who had made some bad decisions early in his life and had to spend some time behind bars. Now he was trying to find a job but because of his record he couldn’t. One day I was telling him to be patient and have a better attitude. He broke down crying. He said – “Do you know how hard it is to go through life without any direction? No male figure to get on to me and guide me. I’m angry at why this happened to me.” Then he said to me, “Even my very existence is a mistake.” He was born due to incestual rape. I’m not suggesting that all go through the same situation but I could finally see the despair and hopelessness in his life. Someone might say – “If they would pull up their pants, act nice, and appreciative, maybe we would try to help them.” Do you really think people in need will come to you in humility seeking your help? How did Ephraim and Manasseh respond to Hezekiah? 10 “…but they laughed at them and mocked them.” Think about how God reached out to us. Did a human coalition approach God in humility, acknowledging that we were hell bound sinners in need of a Savior? No. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Unity matters because there are elements in this country and outside who want to see our law enforcement weak and the discontented angry. Like Hezekiah we will have to reach out to all of our own.
Application: Do we appreciate our law enforcement? We are planning to provide a lunch and we will be taking a love offering for that purpose in the next two Sundays. Will you give? Have you prayed for the young people, especially those from the black community? Kindle is just one step in that direction but more has to come.
III. REPENTANCE MATTERS.
11 Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.
Now they did something very very important – 30 14 They arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and they took away all the incense altars and cast them into the Brook Kidron. Then the priests, the Levites, and the people cleansed themselves. They repented. 18…Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement for everyone 19 who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.” 20 And the LORD listened to Hezekiah and healed the people. It was supposed to be a 7 day feast but it became a 14 day feast. 25 The whole assembly of Judah rejoiced, also the priests and Levites, all the assembly that came from Israel, the sojourners who came from the land of Israel, and those who dwelt in Judah. 26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.
This is what America needs! Leadership Matters. Unity Matters. Repentance Matters. Without Jesus, nothing matters
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES – Article by Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 5, 2015)
Thank you for your desire to lead our great nation! We can only imagine the toll this has taken on you and your loved ones.
Let’s get right to it – You are running for the job because you agree that something is broken with our nation and you have the answer to fix it. If you think everything is just fine, then you’re out of touch with the American people. Frankly, the worst thing that our citizens can do is put you in the office! But, if your desires are noble, then the question is – “what do you think is broken with our nation?”
Here are some things that are not broken:
Our American Spirit – We don’t need a President who feels that he has to constantly apologize to the world on our behalf. Most of us are very proud of our great nation! We have things to work on but it’s not our spirit. We think John Wayne said it best – “Sure, I wave the American flag. Do you know a better flag to wave? Sure, I love my country with all her faults. I’m not ashamed of that, never have been, never will be.”
Our American Values – Our nation was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles. The freedoms and dignity that we continue to enjoy are hinged on them. We need a President who will uphold and protect them. If you set out to revise them, you will destroy our very foundation. As Proverbs 22:28 warns, “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.”
Our American Dream – There’s no such thing as the Russian dream or Chinese dream or Swedish dream. It’s only in America that you can chart the course of your life. People may complain of injustice and unfairness but having lived overseas, I can assure you that this is still the land of opportunity. Please don’t communicate entitlement or hopelessness to our young people. They need to believe that if they work hard, their dreams can become a reality.
Here are some things that need to be fixed:
Our Image before Our World – In the past few years it appears that America has lost the respect it once had before other countries. Some may ask – “Why do we deserve any special treatment?” or “What’s wrong with taking a backseat?” Remember the adage – “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” The reason wicked men are running amuck and rogue nations are threatening nuclear war is because the leader of the free world is nowhere to be found. Now the inmates are running the asylum! Our world needs us to lead again. Luke 12:48 reminds us, “to whom much is given, from him much will be required.” We need a President who will restore our position as the force for good.
Our Faith in Our Government – If you ask most Americans, they will tell you that we have become uncomfortable with the growing infringement on our freedoms and values. We have to ask – “What is the role of our government?” It is to protect our life, liberty, and property. It is to punish those who infringe on the rights of others, get restitution for the victims, and care for those who are really in need. Most importantly, it is obligated to defend us against foreign and domestic threats. When law-abiding and tax-paying citizens become leery of the government, something is terribly wrong! Romans 13:3 is the litmus test of good government – “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.” We need a President who will restore our trust in our leaders again.
If you feel you are up for this task, our prayer is that God will give you the wisdom of Solomon to lead these United States.