Guardian by Dr. Abidan Shah

 

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

Introduction: Until the coming of the internet, clouds were simply those puffy white things up in the sky. If they turned gray, then you better take an umbrella with you because it will rain. In the age of the internet, we now know of another cloud, but this one has to do with data storage, servers, networking, and backup. Everything is on the cloud now. God’s people knew of another cloud 3500 years ago. This was God’s guardian presence among his people – guarding, guiding, and speaking with them. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that God’s guardian presence is still with his people. It is not up in a cloud somewhere but in the heart of every believer through the Holy Spirit. It is the presence of Christ, guarding, guiding, and speaking to us. Christ is our true guardian through the journey of life. That’s the title of our message today – GUARDIAN. By the way, I love this cartoon – “Here’s the tablets I told you about Mo…there’s no upgrades planned, but they do come with cloud support!”

Exodus 12     37 “Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock.”

Context: After the tenth plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh conceded to let God’s people leave Egypt. This was no small group of people. According to some estimates, as many as 3 million people began the journey from a place called Rameses in Goshen and headed to Succoth, the final city before leaving Egypt’s eastern borders. From there, they came to place called Etham, which means fortress. There were a number of such fortresses that lined Egypt’s northeastern boundary. Think about it: Yes, Pharaoh had told them they could go. Yes, the land of Egypt was a wreck. Yes, the people of Egypt were scared. Yes, the children of Israel were big in number. But, they were still walking through the land of Egypt. They were still not out of harm’s way. In fact, they were walking right past these Egyptian fortresses with plenty of Egyptian soldiers and chariots who had plenty of hate and resentment in their hearts towards them! Less than 24 hours ago they were simply slaves! Who was leading them? What was protecting them? Why didn’t the Egyptians stop them? Listen to Exodus 13     21 “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.” WOW! Think about the most ominous stormy cloud you’ve ever seen. This was worse!

Any wonder that no one stopped them! The Egyptians believed in Set, the god of storm. The Canaanites believed in Baal, the storm god, who was also called the cloud-rider. But, God was just getting started. He led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. This would seem to be a horrible tactical decision to bring the people to a dead end, but God had a plan for Pharaoh. He knew the reach of Egypt and that Pharaoh would not give up. Just when the people would be entering the Promised Land, he would come after them. So, God hardened his heart. Listen to Exodus 14      5 Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him. 7 Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them. 8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel…” This was a massive force that came after God’s people! This was probably couple of thousand chariots with soldiers! Remember, he was trying to round up 3 million people!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses. 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. 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.”

First, who is the Angel of the Lord? Several times in the Old Testament, people encountered the Angel of the Lord: Jacob met him in a dream at Bethel. Moses saw him in the burning bush. In the book of Judges, a man named Manoah and his wife had a visit from him promising them a child who would later be Samson. Two things happened in that encounter: First, when Manoah asked the Angel of the Lord for his name, he replied in Judges 13:18 “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” This was the name given to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…” Second, Manoah offered a sacrifice to God and the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar! Then Manoah realized that this was no ordinary angel and said to his wife in Judges 13:22 “…We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” The Angel of the Lord was the second person of the godhead because no one has ever seen the Father and the Spirit. So, it was the pre-incarnate Christ in the pillar of cloud! Exodus 14    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.” This was much more than just some dust cloud in the field. It had to block about a couple of thousand chariots! 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.”

Application: How do you know Jesus? If you don’t receive him as a merciful Savior, you will meet him as a righteous Judge.

  1. The Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ, GUARDED the people of Israel through the pillar of fire and cloud.

Application: Do you believe that God is guarding you? Why are you so afraid?

What else did he do for his people?

  1. He GUIDED his people through the cloud and fire in their journey and sojourn in the wilderness.

Exodus 40.    36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

Application: Who is guiding you through your journey? Who is guiding you through this pandemic? It’s important to listen to the experts but don’t forget the Expert.

  1. He COMMUNICATED with his people through the cloud. Exodus 33 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door.

Application: As you journey through your wilderness, who are you allowing to speak into your life? 5 minutes with the Savior is worth far more than 5 hours of scrolling.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get it. Listen to how Moses described their rejection of the presence of God with them in Deuteronomy 1      31 “and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God, 33 who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.”

What does all this have to do with us? 1 Corinthians 10      1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Do you see the pillar of cloud? Do you see the pillar of fire? We live by faith. We live believing that these things are happening today even though we cannot see them with our naked eyes. Someone might say, “It would help if we had a pillar of cloud and fire.” If they didn’t believe seeing the things they saw, hearing the things they heard, and feeling the things they felt, we won’t either.

So, where do we stand now? Someone might say, “I guess it is a faith battle for us.” Not really. It was just as much a faith battle for them. In fact, it was worse because they were still in the middle of it. The final act hadn’t happened – Jesus coming, dying, and rising again, as promised in the Scriptures. They didn’t have a complete picture. They sort of understood where they were headed. We have the complete picture! What more do we need! We have to believe looking back that all this happened.

By the way, just know that when you start living by faith, there will be people who will come and wave their hands before your face and ask, “Are you okay?” When you tell them about the cloud, they will say something like “I believe too! But, I’m also a realist!”

Can you see Jesus? Can you sense his guarding and guiding presence? Can you hear his voice? Only through the Holy Spirit you can. He only comes into our lives when we receive Jesus as our Savior and King. Are you saved?

Under God – Part Two by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God Part Two

UNDER GOD (2) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction:  This past week our family made a quick trip to the Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a very relaxing time. In some ways, it was like travelling back in time with horse drawn plows, horse buggies, and farm life. The best part for our children was playing with the farm animals at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. I think Nicole had just as much fun! On the way back, we stopped at the Gettysburg Battlefield, a place I had always wanted to visit. This was the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. In just 3 days (July 1-3, 1863), as many as 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers either died, were wounded, or went missing. The little town of Gettysburg had no idea that a chance encounter between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would forever change their lives. In a matter of just days, their peaceful farmland was turned into a bloody battlefield. Bodies were lying everywhere. Every home, church, and public building was turned into a hospital. The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves. Four months later, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. As I stood on that battlefield, I thought to myself how the people at the time must have felt when they saw the devastation of lives and land. They may have felt like the United States of America was history. They may have felt like our glory days were over. What many people don’t know is that 75 years later in 1938, about 1800 veterans of that same battle came together on that same battlefield. Some were now 90 years old. They shook hands and pledged allegiance to the same American flag. Here’s my point: No matter what is happening in our nation today, don’t lose heart. We are still “One Nation Under God” and our best days are ahead. We need to look to the sovereign God for healing and hope. This is the focus of the second part of our message titled “UNDER GOD.”

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”

Context: If you remember from last week, Psalm 33 is connected to Psalm 32. This connection indicates that before we can talk about “Blessed is the nation,” we need to talk about “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In other words, before we can talk about how much we need God’s blessing as nation, we need to talk about how much we need God’s forgiveness as individual believers. Keep in mind that this is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. He did not write some cheap poetry, but he gave us what God desires from us. Once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, then we can see that God is our hiding place and we don’t have to live in fear. Instead, we are to look to him and follow his guiding eye. We can see that he loves righteousness and justice. Listen once again to Psalm 33    4 “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice…” In our nation today, people are calling for justice, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, we are not calling for righteousness, which is just as important. In fact, we want justice without righteousness. God demands both.

We need a change in perspective on God. For starters, we need to remember that God is not subject to us. He is a sovereign God. First, he is sovereign over his creation. 5 “…The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. (Land, Plants, and Animals) 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. (Sun, Moon, Stars, and Universe) 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. (Waters, Fish, Sea Creatures) 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. It’s one thing to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, but how about his sovereignty over nations and people? 10 “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.” First, the word for nation is “goy,” which has more of a political meaning. Second, the word for peoples is “am,” which has more of an ethnic meaning. In other words, whether it is an organized nation or an organized group, if they God against God’s sovereign will, he will “pur,” frustrate their plans, and he will “nu,” hinder and prevent them.

Question: Are we seeking to achieve our goals and our plans in this world? God will bring them to nothing. Instead, we have to accept verse 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

Now comes our focal verse—12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” There are 2 different decisions here: First, a nation has chosen God. Second, God has chosen the nation. You’ve heard me say this time and again. Our nation was built to be under God. Our Founding Fathers were not perfect people but they definitely believed that God was the source of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence begins with this preamble – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Our Constitution does not directly mention God but he is assumed and implied. The 2 documents had different goals but they both chose God as the source of blessing for our nation.

But, God also has to choose us as a nation. In my view, America has been a source of good throughout her brief history. Has everything been perfect? Of course not. Nonetheless, God has been guiding us with his eye. 13 “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.” We have to choose to see that? Have you heard of the “All-seeing eye” or the “Eye of Providence?” You can see it on the back of a $1 bill. It is on the top of a pyramid with 13 layers, representing the 13 original colonies. Over the capstone are the words “Annuit Coeptis,” which means “Favors Undertakings” or “God has favored our undertakings.”

God is not only omnipresent and omniscient, but he also actively shapes us. 15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. This is not just in a personal context but in a national context as well. 16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army. A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” God shaped the hearts of our Founding Fathers so they could design a nation like no other. God gave them the wisdom to design a nation that would not be under the tyranny of a monarch. We all know that the Revolutionary War was fought against the strong and coercive measures by King George of England against the colonies. Neither did the Founding Fathers want a nation under the tyranny of the multitude. They didn’t want to set up a democracy like the ancient Greeks. That was just majority rule. They didn’t want that. Can you imagine what it would be like if the majority in a society made decisions only for themselves and not for the minority? What if the majority wanted to enslave the minority? What could we do to make sure that the majority could be kept in check? The Founding Fathers were not only trying to prevent the tyranny of a king, but they were also trying to prevent the tyranny of the majority. They came up with 8 block and tackle measures to keep the majority in check (I’m getting most of this from Dinesh D’Souza’s recent book “The United States of Socialism”):

  1. A Written Constitution: Unlike England’s common law, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution, a supreme charter that would override the will of the majority. This would keep the government in check. This could be amended but the process is very difficult.
  2. The Bill of Rights: This was added to put a series of limitations on the government that begin with “Congress shall make no law”—
  • no law restricting speech, or the press, or the free exercise of religion
  • Citizens have the right to assemble, to bear arms, and enjoy the due process of the law, and to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure
  1. The Supreme Court: They can strike down those federal laws that go against the Constitution and protect the rights of the citizens against the majority.
  2. Representative Government: People elect leaders who represent them. If you don’t like your leaders, then elect others at the next term.
  3. Separation of Powers: Power is divided between 3 branches—
  • Legislative with elected officials in the House of Representatives and Senate, together forming the Congress. Their job is to make the laws;
  • Executive with the President of the United States who acts as the head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He implements and enforces the law by appointing heads of federal agencies and Cabinet;
  • Judiciary with power to arbitrate and resolve legal disputes. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  1. Federalism: Power is divided between the national government and state government.
  2. Checks and Balances: Congress makes laws but the President can veto them. To overturn a veto, it requires congressional supermajority. The President can enforce the laws but the congress and the judiciary branches provide oversight. The judges interpret the Constitution, but they are appointed by the President and confirmed the Senate.
  3. The Electoral College and the 2 branches of the legislature – the House and the Senate: The President, members of the Congress, and senators are elected by the people. However, the Electoral College makes sure that the bigger states with more people do not decide the presidency. Each state has 2 senators a piece but the smaller ones have fewer congressional representatives.

The point is that our Founding Fathers wanted to create a nation that would be fair to everyone. By God’s hand, they came up with an amazing system of checks and balances. They wanted to make sure that “might will not make right.” Our nation fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery. But, in each generation, our leaders knew that this would happen but the nation would go on because it was built on the right foundation. Lincoln acknowledged this in the Gettysburg Address (Video):

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

How much clearer can we get!

Let’s read the final words of the psalm—18 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. (In God We Trust.)22 Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

Are you praying for our nation? Are you hoping in his mercy on our nation? Are you saved?

The Plan by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE PLAN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Game Plan.Meal Plan. Health Plan. Floor Plan. Master Plan. What’s the plan? Man with a plan. Let’s go to plan B. There is no plan B. We need to plan ahead. It’s amazing how much we use that word “plan” in our daily lives. But, there is a plan that far exceeds any plan we may have and that is “The Gospel Plan” or “The Plan of Salvation.” Our plans may fail. Our plans may get disrupted. Our plans may have to be revised. But, God’s Gospel Plan does not fail, will not get disrupted, and it’s not open to revision. The Plan of Salvation is the only hope for every man, woman, boy, or girl. Today it can happen for you and change your life forever. (Circle 3 key words in our passage below.) 

Mark 1     14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent,and believein the gospel.”16And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17Then Jesus said to them, “FollowMe, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18They immediately left their nets and followed Him. 19When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the sonof Zebedee, and John his brother, who alsowerein the boat mending their nets. 20And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

Question:Which plan are you trusting in for your salvation? Your Plan? The Church Plan? The Denomination Plan? The wrong plan of salvation will cost you your soul. Are you truly saved? Repent, Believe, and Follow Jesus Christ.

Context: As many of you know, we’re about to start a new series on the parables of Jesus. Today’s message is to lay the foundation for those messages coming up. But, before we start looking at the Gospel Plan or the Plan of Salvation, let me clarify an important point: As we examine the passage we just read, it’ll become evident to you how some people have the wrong plan of salvation. They have the wrong elements or they are missing some elements. This should not to make us feel superior to them but it should motivate us to reach out to them in love and humility. But, let me clarify something – don’t think that everyone has the wrong plan of salvation if they don’t use the exact words and phrases like we do or understand every detail as we do. Let me give you an example:Imagine if you announced to your family that you are all going to Disney World. Dad, what’s going through your mind? Do I have enough vacation? If driving, do I need to get the oil changed? If flying, what flights are available? Mom, what’s on your mind? I need to get some clothes for the kids. Are we going to hop parks? How much food should I pack? If working, who can I get to cover my shift? What is little Johnny thinking? I’m definitely taking Buzz Lightyear with me. What is little Susie thinking? I’m wearing my Princess Jasmine T-shirt. Dad and Mom, are you going to expect Johnny and Susie to understand how your vacation days work and how many frequent flyer miles you can use before you can take them to Disney World? Of course not. So also, when it comes to salvation, people may not use the same words or understand on the same level as you but the main elements are there. But, let me take that illustration a little further. What if on the day you’re about to leave, little Johnny gets in his little ride on truck and says “I’m going to Disney World!” What do you do? “That’s great buddy but you have to get in my truck.” What if he says, “No, I’m going in my truck!” Now you have a problem. So also, the main elements of the Gospel Plan are non-negotiable, doesn’t matter who you are and how sincere you are.

The Gospel Plan or the Plan of Salvation has 2 parts:

1. DECLARATION:

Mark 1     14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee…”

Before we can gaze at Jesus, we have to take a quick glance at John the Baptist.He symbolized the fulfillmentof the prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus. Listen carefully: The Gospel Plan did not drop out of the sky 2000 years ago. It was repeatedly promised throughout the Old Testament. Something else: John the Baptist is described as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The wilderness represented hope and new beginnings. Just like God met Israel in the wilderness and made them his people, God was about to make a new people through his Son, Jesus.

14 “…Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 

Many times, we ignore the kingdom aspectin the gospel. The gospels record over 100 times where Jesus talked about the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven.” What is this kingdom?It was not some earthly political kingdom or some imaginary fairy kingdom. This was an internal spiritual kingdom. Luke 17    20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” It is visible only to the those who have a spiritual birth. John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Back to Mark 1:15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”

What time is being fulfilled? The time for Jesus Christ, the Messiah, God’s Anointed Kingto take his rightful throne.His kingdom will not be inaugurated through some royal decree or some earthly battle or takeover. His coronation will come by way of the cross. As prophesied in the Scriptures, Jesus died on the crossfor the sins of the whole world. He was buriedbut roseagainon the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by manyListen to Paul’s definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15     1Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once…” And on and on.

Application:Do you understand the declaration of the gospel? Do you believe that God’s spiritual kingdom has come? Do you believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise? Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son, the Anointed King, who died for your sins, was buried but rose again, and was seen by many?

2. DECISION:

15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent,and believein the gospel.”

  • REPENT– The Greek word is “metanoia,” which has the core idea of a “change of mind” or a “change of thinking.” There are 2 common errors here:Some think that it means sorrow or regret. This may have come in through the Roman Catholic translation of “penance” and “penitence” but it’s incorrect. There may be some tears involved in repentance but crying, feeling sorry, or feeling ashamed do not guarantee salvation. Neither does it mean to “turn and return.” People turn, return, and turn back all the time. The key here is that there’s a change of mind and thinking regarding Sin, Self, and Savior. Prior to repentance, sin was okay but now you hate sin. Prior to repentance, you were at the center of your life but now God is at the center. Prior to repentance, you didn’t think you needed a Savior but now you want a Savior who can save you. Have you truly repented?
  • BELIEVE– The Greek word is the verb “pisteuein” or the noun “pistis,” which is much more than just our common belief or believe like “I believe it’s going to rain today.” It has the idea of “trust” like trusting in a life jacket or a safety harness. It is total confidence that Jesus can remove the guilt of sin and give you eternal life.Listen to John 1:12“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believein His name.” John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believesin Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”John 3:36“He who believesin the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believethe Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 8:24“if you do not believethat I amHe,you will die in your sins.” Are you truly trusting in Jesus?
  • FOLLOW– This is the major missing ingredient in today’s gospel presentations. Back to Mark 1    16And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. (This is not the first time that Jesus encountered them. John the Baptist had already introduced them to Jesus. Also, in Luke 5, Jesus did the miracle of many fishes for Peter and he proclaimed, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” The point is that they did believe in Jesus but they were not completely following him.)17Then Jesus said to them, “FollowMe, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Same thing happened with James and John. Here’s the point: The call to follow is included in the gospel. If you claim that Jesus is yourKing, you have to follow him, no matter the cost. You may struggle at times but if the desire to follow is not there, there is no true salvation. Matthew 10:38“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”“Followship does not determine salvation but true salvation will initiate followship.”

Application:Do you understand the decision of the gospel? Has there been a change of mind? Are you fully trusting in Christ for your sins? Are you willing to follow him no matter the cost? Come today. The Holy Spirit is here to help you.

DIGGING DEEP 3 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

DIGGING DEEP – 3 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

Recap from last week:

  • 2 Major views of Translation: Formal Equivalent (literal/word-for-word); Functional Equivalent (idiomatic/meaning-based/dynamic)
  • Range of translation: Highly Literal, Modified Literal, Idiomatic, and Unduly Free
  • No translation is strictly one or the other (except maybe the Unduly Free). They frequently overlap, some more than others.

Difference between FORM and MEANING (From Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions):

  • FORM includes letters, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc.
  • MEANING includes concepts or thoughts from the forms

“For genuine translation to take place, 2 things must happen: The meaning must remain the same, and the form must change (at least to some degree). If either of these two things does not happen, we have not translated.” (Brunn)

How to translate words?

  • “Words” are important. They are the building block of any language, the starting point of form.
  • “Full meaning of most words does not transfer directly between two languages. Meaning should be viewed as an area and not a precise point.” (Brunn)
  • Usually, there is only a partial overlap of meanings between corresponding words between two languages.
  • A Greek word has a range of meanings and the most appropriate has to be picked in translation.
  • Many times translations are not as accurate or consistent as they should’ve been.

Case in point: Logos (Taken from Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions)

  1. Logos has more meanings than just “word”

John 1:1 (NKJV) “In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.”

Acts 1:1 (NKJV) “The former logos I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.”

Romans 14:12 (NKJV) “So then each of us shall give logos of himself to God.”

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NKJV) “For the logos of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:1 (NKJV) “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of logos or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:4 (NKJV) “And my logos and my preaching were not with persuasive logos of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV) “Let no corrupt logos proceed out of your mouth…”

1 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV) “This is a faithful logos and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV) “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a logos for the hope that is in you…”

Acts 20:24 (NKJV) “But of no logos; nor do I count my life dear to myself…”

Matthew 5:32 (NKJV) “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for the logos of sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery…”

  1. Logos is more than just a “single” word

Galatians 5:14 (NKJV) For all the law is fulfilled in one logos, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Check the interesting rendering here by NASB)

John 19:7-8 (NKJV) The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that logos, he was the more afraid.”

  1. Guidelines for best translation of logos:
  • Literal translations use “word” most of the time for logos since it is the one that corresponds the most.
  • Idiomatic translations use the meaning that fits the context the most.

How about Revelation 22   18   For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

– Check Matthew 25:19; I Corinthians 15:2; Philippians 4:15; and Hebrews 4:13 (Logos is missing in the KJV translation because the translators were going for meaning rather than form.)

DIGGING DEEP 1 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

DIGGING DEEP – 1 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

Total number of all the Bible translations in the world: Not Sure.

Old Testament: Samaritan Pentateuch, Aramaic Targums, and the Septuagint.

New Testament: Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Ethiopic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Slavonic, English, etc.

Total number of English Bible translations: According to one estimation, there are 900 and another as many as 1400. This includes translations as well as paraphrases, revisions, and partial translations.

Original Languages of the Bible: 98.5% of the OT was written in Hebrew. Parts of the OT were in Aramaic: Genesis 31:47; Jeremiah 10:11; Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; and Daniel 2:4b-7:28. Also, Jesus more than likely spoke Aramaic based on evidence of inscriptions, Aramaic words in the Gospels, Aramaic papyri evidence, etc. But, the New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

Translations are still the Word of God – translations are also inspired and inerrant to the extent they represent the original text. We believe that the original words are not isolated entities. They come together to make propositions. Hence, as long as the translations are true to the original text, they are just as much the Word of God as the original text.

Difference between the translations of the Quran and the translations of the Bible: In Islam, only the Arabic Quran is considered to be 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 has to be in Arabic. Why is this? In Muslim theology there are 2 key words that are important to understand: wahy and ilham. Wahy is 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 similar to 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 Quran is the word of God.

A good example to explain the difference between the Quran translations and the Bible translations: From Rodney Decker, “Verbal-Plenary Inspiration and Translation” – The International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sévres, Paris, has the official International Prototype Kilogram. It is the standard against which all kilogram measures are established. But, my weight measures are still accurate.

2 Timothy 3   16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Peter 1:21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Major points to remember:

  • There is no perfect or ultimate English Bible translation.
  • There is no such thing as a word-for-word translation.
  • There is no such thing as consistent formal equivalent translation.
  • The best translation is the “modified literal.” “Modified” represents the real situation and “literal” represents the ideal goal. (Dave Brunn) In other words, “modified” acknowledges that the translators have to modify in order to reflect the best meaning. Literal is the goal of the translation.
  • Translations carry the same authority as the original text, to the extent that they reflect the original text.
  • Translations have to be constantly updated.

Couple of examples:

(Taken from Dave Brunn’s book – “One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal?”)

Jeremiah 48:4  בְּנֵ֥י שָׁאֽוֹן׃  = sons of roar, crash, noise

 NKJV – “Those who fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon because of exhaustion. But a fire shall come out of Heshbon, a flame from the midst of Sihon, and shall devour the brow of Moab, the crown of the head of the sons of tumult.”

HCSB – “Those who flee will stand exhausted in Heshbon’s shadow because fire has come out from Heshbon and a flame from within Sihon. It will devour Moab’s forehead and the skull of the noisemakers.

NIV – “In the shadow of Heshbon the fugitives stand helpless, for a fire has gone out from Heshbon, a blaze from the midst of Sihon; it burns the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of the noisy boasters.”

NASB – “In the shadow of Heshbon the fugitives stand without strength; For a fire has gone forth from Heshbon and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and it has devoured the forehead of Moab and the scalps of the riotous revelers.”

 

Romans 3:20 σὰρξ = Flesh, physical body; human nature, earthly descent, human being, person, man, earthly life, etc. 

NKJV – Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

ESV For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since zthrough the law comes knowledge of sin.

HCSB For no one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.

NLT For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

MessageOur involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.

NETFor no one is declared righteous before him23 by the works of the law,24 for through the law comes25 the knowledge of sin.

NIV Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

NASBbecause by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

DIGGING DEEP 8 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 8 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

Greeks (1500-165BC)

  • Alexander the Great and the spread of Greek culture.
  • Koine Greek

Romans

One constant factor during the writing of the New Testament was Rome. Roman history can be divided into three parts:

  1. ROMAN KINGDOM – early stages of Rome. (753 BC – 509 BC) Not very significant for our discussion
  2. ROMAN REPUBLIC – still an early stage of our discussion (509 BC – 44 BC)
  3. ROMAN EMPIRE – (44 BC – 6th century AD)

Rome had great admiration for Ancient Greece. Unlike Persia and Greek, Rome knew how to make people Romans. Persian Empire tried to absorb the conquered people but they still did not create unity. Greece tried but not everybody could be a citizen of Greece. But Rome knew how to truly absorb the surrounding cultures – both people and gods.

Some key aspects of the Roman Empire:

  1. The Emperor
  • In 48 BC Julius Caesar declared himself the Dictator. After he was assassinated, his adopted son, Octavius through a series of battles and events became the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Some of those battles might be familiar to you (Mark Anthony and Cleopatra).
  • In 27 BC the Senate gave him the title of Caesar Augustus and they became just an advisory council to the Emperor. His rule brought the PAX ROMANA. Rome’s first institutionalized police force and fire fighting force. He built roads throughout Italy.
  • The Imperial cult was typically instituted after the death of the emperor. Domitian (AD 81-96) was the first to institute it in his own lifetime. He demanded to be addressed as “dominus et deus” = “Lord and god. This was a major problem to the Christians. (See I Peter 3:12-17; and Revelation 2:13 – “Satan’s throne” in Pergamum)
  1. Provinces
  • Main administrative units; 2 kinds: Senatorial and imperial
  • Senatorial provinces were ruled by governors who were appointed by the Senate. They were no threat to peace. For e.g. Sicily, Spain, Pamphylia, Africa, Macedonia, Asia, Crete, Cyprus, etc.
  • Imperial provinces were also ruled by governors who were appointed by the emperor. They were on the borders of the empire and had a threat of revolt. For e.g. Syria, Gaul, Galatia, and Britain.
  1. Client Kingdoms
  • Not directly administered by Rome but still under Roman rule.
  • They were independent rulers who could appoint their own officials and implement their own policies.
  • Palestine was ruled by Herod from 40BC – 4 BC (Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Peraea, and Idumea)
  • After his death, his territory was divided into 3 parts: Judea, Idumea, and Samaria to Archelaus; North of Galilee to Philip; and Galilee and Peraea to Antipas.
  • Archelaus was removed after 10 years and Idumea and Samaria went under Roman procurators (Pilate, Felix, and Festus).
  • Later Herod Agrippa (Herod’s grandson) was a client king over North of Galilee, Galilee, Perea, and Judea. (Acts 12) His son Herod II (acts 25-26).
  1. Colonies and Free Cities
  • Self governing settlements of Roman Citizens
  • For e.g. Philippi and Corinth (locals who were granted Roman citizenship)
  1. Roman Citizenship
  • People could have dual citizenship like Paul (Tarsus and Rome).
  • It ensured loyalty.
  1. Roman Law
  • Basis of Roman Authority was Legal. It all depended on RIGHT and JURISDICTION. Magistrates had complete power. Measure of all things was the LAW. (Greek – man; East – king; Jewish people – God).
  • It was not perfect – THERE WAS CORRUPTION. The further from Rome, the more the corruption.
  • The power over life and death (ius gladii) was always retained by Governors.
  1. Roman Taxation
  • Poll tax was on every adult, including women and slaves.
  • An amount was set but the local governors could set their amount.
  1. Benefits
  • Pax Romana
  • Roads
  • Common Currency – Greek coins (lepta, drachmai,) and Roman coins (assaria, quadrans, denarius). Also temple currency was in shekels

Test Passages:

  1. Matthew 10:18; 11:8; 17:25; 18:23; 22:2; 25:40

 

  1. John 18:31

 

  1. Acts 16:19-40

 

  1. Galatians 3:28

 

  1. Acts 24:5

How to Close a Prayer by Pastor Abidan Shah

HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtocloseaprayer

Introduction: This is our final message in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father.” At the end of the service, Ryan will be making an exciting announcement about it so stay tuned. Today’s message is titled – “HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: Would you agree that how you end a conversation matters? There are conversations that end on a high note and then there are some that end on a low note. Some end with hope and anticipation while others end with doubt and despair. Some end with joy and gladness while others end with tears and sadness. Prayer is also a conversation and it matters how you end it. Jesus ended the “Lord’s Prayer” with the doxology – “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” By the way, according to Jewish custom, prayer was always followed by a conclusion, a doxology. In the Mishnah (m. Ber. 1.4) it says, “In the morning two blessings are to be said…which they ordered to be concluded (with a benediction) must not be left without such a conclusion…” In the Old Testament, you see this repeatedly at the end of prayers. Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

Question: How do you end your prayers? Is it with hope and anticipation or is it with doubt and despair? Is it with joy and gladness or is it with tears and sadness? Do you pray? Are you saved? It’s hard to have a conversation with someone you don’t know.

Matthew 613 footnote

Matthew 6:13 with a footnote

This morning we will look at the doxology or the end of the Lord’s Prayer and my desire is that it will encourage you to pray with hope and joy and faith. But before we jump in, there’s an important issue that we need to address. Some of your Bibles may have this statement next to this verse or at the bottom of the page – “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have these words” or “some late manuscripts add the doxology” or “the NU text omits the doxology.” In many translations the doxology is included but in brackets and in several Bibles it is not included at all. What exactly is going on here?

Matthew 613 brackets

Matthew 6:13 in brackets

Matthew 613 omitted

Matthew 6:13 omitted

My first encounter with this issue came when I was in elementary school. I went to St. Aloysius, a Catholic School, where every morning during school assembly we said the Lord’s Prayer. What was startling to me was how the nuns would end the prayer with “And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.” Wait a minute! You’re forgetting something! “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” Later on I learned that the Catholic Bible did not have the doxology. Why? Because it was based on the Latin Vulgate which also did not have the doxology. Little did I know at the time that one day I would pursue a PhD in the field of New Testament Textual Criticism (I don’t like to brag about that), which deals with these very issues. I believe that the doxology should be included in the text. Why? I don’t have time to go in depth but let me quickly give a couple of things to remember. But before I do that, let me be clear – I am not a “King James Only.” It’s a great translation but I’m not here to defend it.

  • It is true that the doxology is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts that have survived (Aleph and B) from the 4th It is also not found

    Gk Mss Dist Matt Doxology

    Greek Mss Distribution of Matthew’s Doxology

    in 3 manuscripts from the 5th century (D Z 0170). But one thing that many people don’t realize is that 4 out of those 5 seem to have a common origin, which narrows their weight.

  • But, what many people don’t realize is that the doxology is found in 1 early Greek manuscript (W) from the 5th century and 2 (sigma and phi) from the 6th
  • Furthermore, the doxology is absent from only 13 or so manuscripts and 10 of them after the 13th
  • But, from the 8th century on 1504 manuscripts have the doxology! One of my friends (Jonathan Borland) did the math and altogether 98.6% of all Greek manuscripts have the doxology, a few with some variations. They had to be copied from somewhere.
  • It is also true that the Latin version omits it (I just mentioned that) and so also the early church fathers (Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine).
  • But the doxology is found in an Old Latin, (k/1), some of the Old Syriac versions, some Coptic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Georgian, and Armenian.

I can go on and on but the question is why did some manuscripts drop it?

  • Maybe because Luke does not include it, some scribes may have felt that Matthew shouldn’t either. They should have remembered that maybe Luke left it out because the Gentiles didn’t see the need for a doxology at the end of every prayer.
  • Maybe because when the church collectively read the passage, they would stop at “deliver us from evil” and the priest alone would say the doxology. This could have become a norm and the doxology got left out by a handful of manuscripts.
  • Personally, I think its because some scribe thought that it was contradicting the opening of the prayer – “Your kingdom come.” It could be that the scribe felt that if the kingdom was still to come in the future, how can we say “Yours is the kingdom,” as if it is already in the present.

We don’t have all the answers but my conclusion is that the evidence is in the favor of the doxology. Please don’t misunderstand – this does not mean that people who don’t include it are liberals or unsaved. That’s not true. So, why did I go through all this trouble? Our young people are bombarded daily with allegations that the original Bible has been lost in transmission. That’s not true and cookie cutter answers won’t work. We have to, as Peter says in I Peter 3:15, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Back to our message – This doxology reminds us of 3 things about God as we close our prayer:

I. HE IS THE RIGHTFUL OWNER, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is the kingdom…forever.”

Background: If you remember the message on – “Your kingdom come” – the Jewish people knew that God was their eternal King. He was their rightful King. And one day He was coming to take His rightful throne over the world and rule forever. By ending with the doxology– “Yours IS the kingdom” – Jesus was saying that even now God was the rightful King. Even now He owned everything and everyone. It was very similar to the doxology that David prayed in I Chronicles 29   10 Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. If you remember, the people of Israel had rebelled against God and had demanded a king to be like other nations. Even though David was the king of Israel, He was humbly acknowledging that God was Israel’s true king. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. Is it any wonder that God repeatedly heard David’s prayer and established His kingdom forever?!

Here’s the point: No matter how we come to God in prayer, we need to remember that God owns this entire creation and everything in it, including all our problems and us. Like that old song—

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

……….

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:

Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and Heav’n be one.

………

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?

The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He owns it all? Do you proclaim Him king over your circumstances and over yourself?

II. HE CAN CHANGE CIRCUMSTANCES, NOW AND FOREVER.

“For Yours is…the power…forever.”

Background: This almost sounds like the last point but there is a difference. It’s one thing to be the rightful owner but it’s another thing to be in control. To say it differently – you can own something but still be helpless to change a situation. By ending with the doxology – “For Yours is the power” – Jesus was saying that the Father was not only in charge but He also had all the power to change all circumstances. By the way, Jesus demonstrated that when they brought a paralytic to Him on a bed. Matthew 9   2 “…When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’ 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house. 8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

Here’s the point: No matter what we are facing in this life, when we come to God in prayer we need to remember that God is perfectly capable of handling that situation, be it physical healing or spiritual healing.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He has power to work in your situation? Do you proclaim Him all-powerful and all capable?

III. HE GETS THE GLORY, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is…the glory forever.”

Background: The Greek word for glory is “doksa” from which we get the word “doxology.” At the end of it all, God wants to get the glory and He will get the glory. It means that when your prayers are answered, it’s not because of how strong or wise or patient or even prayerful you were. It was all because of God, for God, and to God. The best example of this is the healing of Lazarus. If you remember, Jesus was a friend of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from the town of Bethany. He often visited them. One day He got word that Lazarus was sick. Now you would think that Jesus would leave it all and go help out His friends. Instead, listen to John 11:4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. How strange?! He loved them and so He stayed 2 extra days instead of coming to them immediately! He finally gets there. The sisters are distraught and they get to the grave and Martha says to Him – “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” What was His response? John 11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” What was the result? Not only Lazarus was raised to life but many believed in Him. Ultimately, God got the glory.

Application: The real question is “Are you willing to give Him glory in your life and through your circumstances?” Are you willing to let God use you to draw people to Himself?

Are you saved? Are you praying? Are you praying for His kingdom, His power, and His glory?

Help! I’m Losing My Faith in the Bible.

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

HELP! I’M LOSING MY FAITH IN THE BIBLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

bible-with-question-mark copy You should know by now that we are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning I’m preaching a message titled “HELP! I’M LOSING MY FAITH IN THE BIBLE.” Instead of just one passage, we will be reading two passages – one from John 2 and the other from Matthew 21; one from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the other towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. When we read them, you will notice that they are both describing how Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem from the money changers and their animals.

John 2 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. 12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days. 13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.

Matt. 21 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” 12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

Overall Background: Lately I’ve heard (more times than I would like to count) about another young man or woman who has given up on Christianity and turned to atheism or agnosticism. Let me give you a recent example – In January 2015 an article made news. It was written by someone named George Perdikis who called himself the cofounder of the Christian group Newsboys. In this article he wrote about how he had become an atheist.

Listen to his words: “I left the band in 1990 and went back to Adelaide. There, I got married, taught guitar, played pubs and clubs, built homes, and had two beautiful daughters. As I carved out a life for myself away from the church, I began my own voyage of inquiry into what I believed. My perceptions started to transform when I became interested in cosmology in 1992. I soon found myself fascinated by the works of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Cox, and Richard Dawkins. I learned so much and was blown away by all the amazing scientific discoveries and facts. When my marriage dissolved in 2003, I turned my attention to human psychology. By 2007, I renounced Christianity once and for all and declared myself an atheist.”

Sad, isn’t it? But what I found sadder were some of the comments that followed:

“As a long-time Christian, I did take a long, hard look at Christ and his teachings, and became a convinced atheist.”

“I spent the better part of my life being a Christian. I sought desperately for evidence that would demonstrate that Christianity was true, and the thousands of other religions that mankind has invented over the centuries are false. In the end, though, I found absolutely nothing to distinguish Christianity from the rest of the pack, and found no real evidence to support the truth claims of any them.”

“Sorry, but there really is no evidence that anything in the Bible is other than story…There are literally hundreds of contradictions in the Bible.”

Just last week I heard that one of my good friends who inspired me to do a PhD died. He was one of the smartest men I knew and very knowledgeable about the Bible, history, and philosophy. I have books in my library on apologetics that he helped write. But that’s not the sad part because he is with Jesus right now. The sad part is that two of his oldest children have nothing to do with God and one of them is an atheist. I wasn’t able to sleep that night, not because my friend had died, but because of where his kids are today.

My heart breaks every time I hear such reports. To me, nothing is more painful than knowing that our children are no longer walking in the truth. The question is WHY? Why would someone who claims to have grown up in church, went to Sunday School, VBS, and Youth group give it all up? Why would someone turn their backs on the faith of their parents and grandparents? Why would someone discount that moment when they prayed to receive Christ as Savior? The reasons are many:

  • Maybe they were never truly saved.
  • Maybe they were holding onto rules and regulations rather than faith in Jesus.
  • Maybe they were never truly grounded in God’s Word. They are like the ones who received the seed that fell on stony places – heard the word and immediately received it with joy but since there was no root, they only endured for a while. For when tribulation or persecution came because of the word, they immediately stumbled.

Meaning: We did a poor job in grounding our young people in the word of God.

I often ask God what is my task as the pastor. Is it just to get up and give a three-point sermon on how to do better at something? Is it just to help people understand and apply the Bible? Is it just to lead us as a church to win the lost and grow? Or, is it more? The Holy Spirit pointed me to Titus 1:9 where Paul is giving the requirements of a pastor –holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. Meaning: I need to hold fast to the faithful word the Bible and exhort others to do the same and convict those who contradict it.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we need to spend our whole time defending the Bible. As Charles Spurgeon said to the meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1875 – “Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself.” No, we don’t need to spend our whole time defending the authority of the Bible but we do have a mandate to teach our children to hold fast to the faithful word. If we don’t, our young people will very well succumb to the idle talkers and deceivers.

This morning I only want to focus on the claim that “I cannot be a Christian anymore because there are contradictions in the Bible.” We don’t have time to look at every alleged contradiction in the Bible but we’ll look at one.

We read two passages this morning, one from John 2 and the other from Matthew 21. Some people consider them to be aHenry Ian Cusick Visual Bible - The Gospel of John contradiction. Both passages describe the event when Jesus came to the Temple, was appalled by the desecration of the moneychangers and their animals, and he made a whip of cords and drove them out. The problem comes in because Matthew 21 and also Mark 11 and Luke 19 mention the incident in the last week of Jesus’ ministry. In fact, after He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (which we call Palm Sunday) that he went into the temple and began to clean it. On the other hand, John 2 mentions the incident at the beginning of his ministry, right after the wedding in Cana of Galilee, which was the beginning of signs. How could that be?

  • Some people have taken this example to claim that the Bible has errors. If that’s the case then it’s no longer the Word of God. If it’s no longer the Word of God, then it’s no longer binding on our lives. If it’s no longer binding on our lives, then it’s no different than other “holy books” of other religions. In other words, Christianity is one among many ways to God.
  • Some Christians have tried to defend the Bible by claiming that Jesus actually cleansed the Temple two times – one in the beginning of his ministry and again towards the end of his ministry. The problem with this view is that there are too many similarities between the two incidents to be anything but the same incident. Also, if there were two different incidents, John could have mentioned it again in chapter 12 when he talks about Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding on the donkey but he doesn’t.

So what’s the answer? These are one and the same incidents. John has put an incident from the end of Jesus’ ministry at the beginning of his gospel. 3 things we need to understand:

  1. Positive not negative – Some people claim that the church has manipulated and corrupted the Bible. If I we’re trying to make the Bible look like God’s Word, this is one passage that I would definitely fix. This proves that people did not try to mend the Bible as is often claimed. It also proves that if people did not try to mend it then it must not have been a problem. We might have a problem with it but the early readers did not.
  2. Style of John – John repeatedly says “the next day” in John 1:29, 35 or “the following day” in John 1:43. But in John 2:1 he says “On the third day.” Is it the day earlier or is it three more days later? Actually, John is not trying to count the days. Instead, that’s just his style. It’s another way of saying “another day” or “the other day.” For e.g. Like people saying “the other day I was talking to my doctor or my mechanic.” You mean yesterday or day before. “Oh, actually a year or two ago.”
  3. Purpose of John – Towards the end of his gospel, John gives us the reason why he wrote this gospel. First, in John 19:35 “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” Second, in John 20 30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke who were laying out Jesus’ entire biography, John’s purpose from the beginning is to get you to the Passion Week. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus’ trial begins in the last week. In John, the entire gospel is Jesus’ trial before the Jewish religious leaders. Right from the start in John’s gospel, Jesus begins talking about His hour. If you remember in the first part of John 2 at the wedding in Cana when Jesus’ mother says to Him, “They have no wine,” Jesus responds by saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

Did you notice the word “signs?” Signs are more than just miracles. They are pointers towards the most critical week – the Passion Week.

In a sense, John is writing his biography of Jesus but he has a greater concern. It is to get to the Passion Week so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

INVITATION:

  • Are you saved? I think we made our case that the Bible doesn’t contradict. But please don’t misunderstand, this doesn’t mean that we need to answer every contradiction before you can become a Christian. If that’s the case, then you’ll never give your heart to Jesus.
  • Do you know that the Bible is unlike any book in the world?
  • Are you reading the Bible?
  • Are you allowing the Bible to be translated into your life?
  • Are you passing along the Bible to your children and grandchildren?

Episode 3: Dr. Maurice A. Robinson

Hoi Polloi Pod Cast ImageIn this third episode of Hoi Polloi, Abidan Shah interviews Dr. Maurice A. Robinson, a noted New Testament textual critic and Research Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Robinson is the co-editor of the “The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform” and many other books and articles. In 2014, he was awarded a Festschrift by his friends and students for all his contributions in the field. In this interview we will chat with him about his reflection over the past four decades in New Testament Textual Criticism. If you have any questions or topics you would like to be discussed, tweet them to @hoipolloiradio.

FAITH YOU CAN BET ON

FAITH YOU CAN BET ON by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Faith You can Bet onThis morning we begin a brand new series titled, “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” I’ve never been more excited about a series than this one! This series will cover the entire life of Christ from all four gospels. The first message is on Luke 1:1-4 called, “FAITH YOU CAN BET ON.” Unlike all other religions in the world, Christianity alone is based on rock solid historical evidence. The proof is so overwhelming that, just like poker (Not that I am advocating playing poker), you can move all your chips into the pot. You don’t have to worry about any bluffs and look for any tells. Compared to all other faiths in the world, this is the real deal. Anything other than Christianity is a losing hand.

Luke 1:1-4   1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Overall Background: In the New Testament there are 4 individual accounts of the life of Jesus – Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each of them is from a unique perspective. Matthew was a tax collector (a government official), Mark was a young man (imagine someone in their mid-late 20s), Luke was a medical doctor, and John had a fishing business. The Holy Spirit used their different personalities, experiences, and capabilities to give us a different angle on the same Jesus. He guided them and guarded them through the whole process. Listen to what Peter says in 2 Pet. 1, (By the way, tradition tells us that he was Mark’s source for his gospel.) 16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. But then he clarifies in verse 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture (even the gospels are prophecies because prophecy is not just foretelling but also forth telling) is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. So different human beings but one Holy Spirit.

Now Luke does something in his opening lines that the other gospel writers don’t. He tells us the process by which he wrote his gospel. Even though Matthew, Mark, and John don’t tells us their process of research and writing, more than likely, they used a similar process.

Why did I choose to preach on this process of how the gospels were written? There is a myth, false belief, out there that the holy books of all religions came together the same way the Bible did. In other words, the way the Bible was written for the Christians is the way the Quran was written for the Muslims, the Gita for the Hindus, the Lotus Sutra for the Buddhists, and the Norse sagas for the early Scandinavians. It’s just that we happened to be born in a world where the Bible is prominent that we think the Bible alone is the Word of God. To say that is to be a bigot and ignorant.

I know some of you are saying – “Oh, I believe that the Bible alone is the Word of God.” That’s wonderful but your children and your grandchildren are living in a different world. They don’t necessarily think the way you do. Our young people are being told that all sacred books are on the same level.

This morning I am going to give you a glimpse of how the other sacred books where put together and then we will return to how the gospels were put together.

I. HOW OTHER “HOLY BOOKS” CAME TOGETHER?

1. AVESTA – The holy book of the Parsis or the Zoroastrians. It’s a religion that came from ancient Persia (Iran) somewhere around the 6th Avestacentury BC. It’s founder, Zoroaster, lived about the same time as Jeremiah and Daniel in the Old Testament. The Parsis had to flee their homeland because of Muslim persecution and many of them came to India and became very successful. You may have heard the name Zubin Mehta – a famous orchestra conductor. Here’s one I’m sure you have heard – Freddie Mercury from Queen (We are the Champions) was born into a Parsi family.

The Avesta is a collection of writings that came at different times in the history of Zoroastrianism. Some of them are from the early period written by Zoroaster himself. They are hymns or Gathas. Others are prayers and magic rituals. Some of the old writings are in an ancient language called Avestan, which is very hard to understand. In fact, many sentences make no sense. Others were written as late as the ninth century AD known as Pahlavi scriptures and there seems to be a conflict between the later stuff and the stuff that Zoroaster taught. By the way, scholars even estimate that approximately 75% of the Avesta has been lost.

This is the holy book of the Parsis or the Zoroastrians.

2. VEDAS, UPANISHADS, AND GITA – The holy books of the Hindus. Hinduism is a religion that has gone back and forth through various phases. You see monotheism (worship of one god), henotheism (worship of one god even though there are other gods), polytheism (worship of many gods), and animism (everything has a spirit so worship of animals, plants, rocks, rivers, stars, etc.) Bottom line – there is no core set of beliefs but part of being a Hindu means to consider the Vedas as holy books.

VedasLet’s start with the Vedas – There are 4 Vedas – Rigveda (1,028 hymns to gods of early Hinduism), Samaveda, Yajurveda (hymns of rituals and offering formulas), and Atharvaveda (magic formulas). Altogether, they are several times the size of the Bible. No one knows who wrote them. They were composed somewhere between 1500 and 800 BC and passed down orally until the sixteenth century. If you want to go back and check who wrote what for sure, you can’t. There’s nothing there!

There’s more – Brahmanas (instructions for the priests), Sutras (instructions for the people), and Upanishads (supplements to the Vedas). The last one (Upanishads) were written by wise men after 500BC. Again, nothing was written down until the 17th century.

How about the Gita? It is part of large epic called the Mahabharata that tells the story of the struggle between two branches of a family. It contains the conversation between Arjun and Krishna on the need to be totally devoted to Krishna and do his duty as a member of his caste. It was written somewhere between 400-100BC. Again, we don’t have any ancient copies.

These are the holy books of the Hindus (loosely speaking).

3. THE PALI CANON AND THE LOTUS SUTRA – The holy books of the Buddhists. The first one comes from the early stages of Buddhism known as Thervada Buddhism. The Pali Canon is also called Tripitaka or 3 divisions: rules for Buddhist monks, teachings of Lotus SutraBuddha, and some analysis of Buddha’s teachings. Even though it was formulated by Buddha’s disciples after he was gone, it grew through the centuries. The complete form came about 400 years later in the first century BC. So much has been added and taken away that no one knows what was originally there.

The Lotus Sutra comes from the later stage of Buddhism known as the Mahayana Buddhism. It supposedly contains Buddha’s teachings given towards the end of his life. Here’s the problem. It wasn’t put together until the 2nd century AD, that is 700 years after he lived. By the way, there are many contradictions between what the Lotus Sutra says that Buddha said and what the Pali Canon says.

These are the holy books of the Buddhists (loosely speaking).

4. QURAN – It is the holy book of the Muslims. I don’t have to give you a lot of introduction on Muslims and Islam. Since September 11, 2001, we have come to know this religion more than any other.

QuranSo what’s the deal with the Quran? It is claimed to contain material that Mohammed had received as revelation from the angel Gabriel. Some he gave at Mecca and others at Medina. These sayings were collected by his followers on whatever they could find – pieces of parchments, palm leaf, piece of wood, bones, etc. There were differences between what his followers wrote down. Not only that but some of them were killed in a battle a year after Mohammed’s death. Then Mohammed’ s most trusted secretary, Zayd ibn Thabit, was appointed to gather the material. Even then there were several different versions of the Quran floating around. Once again Zayd was called to edit an official version of the Quran and all other manuscripts were destroyed.

Many different branches of Muslims disagree over the integrity of the Quran. Many scholars have tried to point out the errors and they have been threatened by the Islamic clerics. By the way, there are also the Hadiths – they contain information on Mohammed’s life and informal sayings. They are used to shed light on the Quran. But there are many disagreements over them.

This is the holy book of the Muslims.

4. DAODEJING – The holy book of Daoism – Chinese popular religion. More than likely it was put together about 300 years after its founder had died. It has not much to do with Daoism but deals with how metaphysical balance brings about spiritual power.

5. KOJIKI, NIHONGI, AND AMATSU NORITO – The writings of Shintoism. It was put together in the 7th century by a man named Yasumaro under the command of the emperor.

6. NORSE SAGAS – The myths and mythologies of the Anglo-Saxons. There are no writings, except what were written down by the Christians.

7. GURU GRANTH SAHIB – The holy book of the Sikhs. It contains some 6000 hymns. It was collected by the 5th guru Arjan Dev about 1604 AD. About a hundred years later it was elevated to the status of a guru. The original copy is at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. It is treated as a person.

II. HOW WERE THE GOSPELS WRITTEN?

Listen once again to how Luke begins his gospel. This is one long Greek sentence with no stop. – 1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative

Meaning: I’m not the only one who has thought about writing a gospel. Maybe he is referring to Matthew and Mark but more than likely there were more. By the way, the “more” are not the Gnostic gospels – Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, and Gospel of Judas. These came much later. The gospels he’s referring to are probably lost forever. Did you also notice that Luke does not say “My gospel sets the rest of them straight”? They were telling the same historical account.

of those things which have been fulfilled among us,

Meaning: These were not random events. These were fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies. The gospel is not something new. It is an account of prophecies given since the beginning of time that have finally come to pass.

2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us,

Meaning: Luke is not 50 years or 100 years after Jesus. He is still able to talk to the eyewitnesses. If Luke were to write something untrue, those eyewitnesses will stand up and defend the truth.

3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first,

Meaning: Literally, it is “having followed along closely.” This is no haphazard writing.

to write to you an orderly account,

Meaning: The product is no gibberish or some mystical stuff that no one understands. It is orderly.

most excellent Theophilus,

Meaning: There is much debate over who was Theophilus. Some say he was a real person and others say that he was just someone who was looking for the living God since Theophilus means “Lover of God.” Either way, it is clear that Theophilus was not looking for fluff. He wanted rock, solid truth.

4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Meaning: Theophilus already has some good idea of who Jesus was and what He did. Luke wrote not just to inform but to confirm.

This is the Gospel that we have in our hands. It is the Word of God. No other book comes even close to being its equal.

This is the Book that says – John 3:16-17 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. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Are you willing to trust what this gospel says?

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