Greater than Rulers by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Single-Minded by Dr. Abidan Shah

Single-Minded.jpg

SINGLE-MINDED by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: How many of have ever heard or asked questions like—“What were you thinking?” “Did you not think?” “What was going through your mind?” “What possessed you to do that?” I remember a story that my parents often told about my brother when he was about 5 years old. He really wanted a slingshot, and so, they got him one; but, they told him to take it outside. It wasn’t 5 minutes before they heard a loud shatter. The beautiful new Fisher radio in the living room was in pieces. Through the slightly open screen door, they saw my brother standing in the driveway with the slingshot in his hand. They rushed outside to ask him, “Why did you do that?” His answer: “Because I had a clear shot.” In other words, his behavior did not have much reasoning behind it. That’s how many people think about why they do what they do. Here’s the message in a nutshell: We’ve often heard, “what you believe is how you behave.” That’s not exactly true. Unless the Holy Spirit has renewed your mind by what you believe, you will behave as you’ve always behaved. In other words, between belief and behavior, there is the becoming by the transformation of the mind through the Holy Spirit. We’re in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and our message is titled “SINGLE-MINDED.”

Philippians 2     1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

Question: Do your actions match your beliefs? Has your mind been renewed by the Holy Spirit? You cannot have this transformation until you are saved. Are you saved?

Context: If you remember from the past two messages, there had been some divisions among the Philippians. There some bad behavior going on. Listen to Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In other words, the last that Paul had heard, the Philippians were not standing fast in one spirit; they were not with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. We know that at least in the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche, two women who were helpful to Paul in the gospel. Not only this but verse 28-29 give us the indication that they were also facing some opposition from the outside that was causing some fears. So, what is his solution? Listen to Philippians 2:1 “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” Paul appeals to what they believe in general. But, now pay attention to Verse 2 “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” There is a Greek word that Paul uses repeatedly here—“phronema.” He uses that word about 11 times in 2 different forms. The only letter in which he uses phronema” more than in Philippians is Romans (about 17 times in 5 forms). What does that word mean? Before we look at the meaning of that word, always remember that “words get their ultimate meaning from their contexts.” Having said that, “phronema” means “mind,” “thought,” or “way of thinking.” As a verb, it means “to think,” “to judge,” or “to set one’s mind on.” Paul goes on to verse 3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Again, the word for mind is a derivative of “phronema,” which literally reads “humble-mindedness.” 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Meaning: If your mind has been renewed or reconfigured to humility, then think about others. If all this is still not enough to motivate you to get along, then verse 5 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Again, the form of the word “phronema” is here.

Principle: The point is that the remedy for your bad behavior is for the right beliefs to transform your mind.

Let’s pause here: If your behavior is not matching your belief, it’s because the becoming by the transformation of the mind through the Holy Spirit is not happening. In other words, between Belief and Behavior, there is the Becoming. This is not something novel. There is a much clearer example of this in Paul’s letter to the Romans. If you’ve studied Romans, you know that you can basically divide the letter into 2 halves: Romans 1-11 and Romans 12-16. The first half is theology and the second half is behavior. The first half (Romans 1-11) is about the depravity of human beings, the answer of the gospel, the problem of sin, death, and the law, and the place of ethnic Israel (the Jewish people) in God’s eternal plan of salvation. The second half (Romans 12-16) is about how to live in community, how to be good citizens, how to love our neighbor, how to prepare for the soon return of Jesus, and how to deal with the old traditions. What is important for our purpose is that right in the middle Paul writes Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The idea is that there should be a change of mind based on what you know is true so that you can behave differently than you did before. By the way, what is the mind? I preached a message on this last year. The Mind is made up of 7 ingredients in my opinion

  • Created by God to respond to him but damaged by sin until salvation.
  • Uniquely designed by the combination of our genetic ancestors, good and bad.
  • Softened towards God or hardened against him by our upbringing.
  • Redeemed by our acceptance of Christ or condemned by our rejection of him.
  • Renewed by our growth in Christ, his Word and Spirit, and godly fellowship.
  • Tarnished or transformed by how we handle the circumstances of life.
  • All the above under the grace and providence of God with the freedom to reject or obey him.

Here’s the principle: Theology does not automatically impact lifestyle. There has to be a transformation by the renewing of your mind through the Holy Spirit.

Illustration: I can say that I believe in gravity but if I don’t accept the basic definition of gravity that “whatever goes up must come down,” I will step off this stage expecting to fly and come crashing down. I can fly but only if I understand and use the principles of aerodynamics to counter gravity.

Question: Has there been a transformation by the renewing of your mind? This is where daily Bible reading, good Bible preaching and teaching comes in.

So, let’s quickly go back to Philippians 2:1. What are the right beliefs? Keep in mind that Paul is not getting into some deep theological truths here. He’s just appealing to what they believe in general:

  • “if there is any consolation in Christ” meaning “if being in Christ means anything to you.”
  • “if any comfort of love” meaning “if God’s love has comforted you.”
  • “if any fellowship of the Spirit” meaning “if you have experienced the blessing of being in the Holy Spirit together.”
  • “if any affection and mercy” meaning “if you have experienced God’s love and mercy in your life.”

If all this still does not help you submit to the transformation of your mind, then try the example of Jesus. What does his thinking look like? Philippians 2      6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (Better translation: “who being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to grasp after”) 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This example/worship should be transformational in your life.

What should this example/worship of Jesus cause you to do? Philippians 2:12“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Working out your salvation with fear and trembling means work for the full realization of your salvation in your life. It’s another way of saying “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” But, who is really doing the work? 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for Hisgood pleasure.

Main point: Confession does not become Conduct unless there is a Change in Cognition by the Holy Spirit.

Has this change of thinking happened through the Holy Spirit in your marriage, towards your loved ones, towards your church family, towards your neighbors, towards the lost around you?

Are you saved? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you submitted to his renewal of your mind? Is your behavior negating your beliefs?

Righteous Nation by Pastor Abidan Shah

RIGHTEOUS NATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Many nations are known for that one thing or two that that they do really well. What comes to your mind when you think of Switzerland? Swiss army knives or swiss cheese. Egypt? Pyramids. Brazil? Amazon jungle. China? Population. Maybe India too. Afghanistan? War. Botswana? Safari or Diamonds. Italy? Food. How about our own nation, the United States? Freedom and Opportunity. Do you know of any nation that is known for “Righteousness?” Unfortunately, no. From God’s perspective, righteousness is the secret to success as a nation. The timeline of history is littered with nations and peoples that have ceased to be, not because of famine, earthquake, pollution, or deforestation, but, because of unrighteousness.

Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sinisa reproach to anypeople.”

Question: Are we an unrighteousness nation? Are we doing all we can to make our nation a righteous nation? Will our children and grandchildren thank us or curse us for how we are leaving this nation? Righteousness comes through Christ. Are you saved?

Context:The passage we just read comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Sometimes people treat this book as second class compared to Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Daniel, or any of the New Testament books. I’ve even heard people say something like – “The proverbs are not the promises of God but just general truths or observations about life.” Listen to Jeremiah 18:18 “… for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet…” In the context, this statement was being used negatively against Jeremiah but it gives us the breakdown of the word of God. We know what the law and prophecy are but what is the counsel of the wise? Again, God says in Ezekiel 7:26“Then they will seek a vision from a prophet; but the law will perish from the priest, and counsel from the elders.”Counsels are the proverbs, wise sayings. A proverb is a short saying that teaches us how to deal with practical, every day, ordinary issues in life. Someone said that the proverbs in the Bible are designed by God to fit into out mental pockets as we go through our day to day life.In his lifetime, Solomon spoke about 3000 proverbs. In this book we have only about 800 of them. He wrote most of them and collected the rest. Don’t read them as the wisdom of Solomon. Read them as the wisdom of Christ.Paul says in I Corinthians 1:24“to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”Colossians 2:3“in whom (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Each of these proverbs is coming through the treasury of Jesus.

Back to our scripture today – Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sinisa reproach to anypeople.” Let’s take apart that statement and look at the meaning of each word carefully:

1. Righteousness – (tsedek) It refers to our subjection to the divine universal order of things that has existed since creation and will continue till the end of time. It pertains to every aspect of life – relationships, family, children, nature, government, commerce, justice, war, etc. It is not just “certain acts” but a “pattern of life” that is given by God, required by God, and guaranteed by God. I can give you tons of references, but here’s just onePsalm 45     6Your throne, O God, isforever and ever; A scepter of righteousnessisthe scepter of Your kingdom. You loverighteousnessand hate wickedness.” It is the recognition that God is in charge and we are to do things his way. But, it’s more than just an obligation. It comes from a willing heart. One very important reminder: It’s not popular with the world. To practice it, you have to be willing to go against the flow.

The opposite of righteousness is Sin. It’s the word “chatha” which literally means “miss the mark” or “fall short.” It means missing God’s standard of righteousness.

2. Exalts – (rwm) It has many different uses but in the present context, it means success, prosperity, goodness, and longevity. We find the same word used in Psalm 27:6where David says, “And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me.”

The opposite of righteousness is Reproach. It’s the word “Chesed” which can mean kindness or shame. The idea behind it is “eager desire.” It represents “active shame.” Several times it is used in the context of being killed because of a heinous sin.

Here’s the principle: Nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies that choose to live by God’s standards of righteousness will be blessed materially, physically, educationally, culturally, and perpetually. Those who choose to sin against God will find themselves in intense shame and utter oblivion.

Let’s put this to the test. Have there been nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies who chose to disobey God’s standards?

1. Nations before the Flood: Genesis 6     5Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of manwasgreat in the earth, and thatevery intent of the thoughts of his heartwasonly evil continually. 6And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Everyone on the face of the earth were destroyed except for those who were on the ark – Noah and his family and two of every kind of animals. God gave the rainbow as a sign that he will not destroy the whole earth by water again. Now it is used as a symbol of a promiscuous lifestyle! 

2. Sodom and Gomorrah: Genesis 13     10“And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it waswell watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar…13But the men of Sodomwereexceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” As you know, God himself came (pre-incarnate Christ) with two of his angels. God stood with Abraham while the angels went into Sodom to rescue Lot and his family before the destruction. Genesis 19      4Now before they laid down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know themcarnally.”Lot even tried to offer his two daughters but they wouldn’t have it. 24Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. 25So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

3. Egypt: God sent Moses to Egypt to rescue his people from slavery. Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let them go. God sent 10 plagues against Egypt – The Nile River turned into blood. This was followed by the plagues of the frogs, lice, death of the livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness over the land. Then came the final plague – the death of the first born, both humans and animals. Exodus 12:12“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I amthe LORD.” Can you imagine the apocalyptic look of the land of Egypt? If this weren’t enough, God drowned the entire Egyptian army with their horses and chariots into the Red Sea.

4. Babylon: God had raised up Nebuchadnezzar to discipline his people Judah. He had taken them into exile. After his death, his son Belshazzar took the throne. Daniel 5      1Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. 2While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had beenin Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had beenin Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. As this is going on, the fingers of a man’s hand appear opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the king’s palace and start writing. He was shaken up (literally) that his hip joints came loose and his knees knocked against each other. Daniel was called and he interpreted the writing “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” Mene: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it. Tekel: You have been weighed and found wanting. Upharsin: Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. That very night he was killed and Cyrus entered Babylon as the new king. 

5. Greece, Herod, Rome, European Nations, and others: The pattern is the same. When Nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies choose to live by God’s standards of righteousness, they are blessed materially, physically, educationally, culturally, and perpetually. When they choose to sin against God and defy his commandments, they find themselves in intense shame and utter oblivion.

Where are we as a nation? Are we choosing righteousness? It’s easy to blame Washington, Holly Wood, or Media but if we ourselves are unwilling to live by God’s standard of righteousness, what’s the difference? 2 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.”

Invitation: Are you living by God’s righteousness? Are you willing to stand up in the face of opposition? Are you willing to share the gospel? Are you willing to show compassion to those around you, especially the unfortunate? Are you saved?

(Re)Setting the Record Straight (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(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

(Re)Setting the Record Straight“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.

Unlike Us by Pastor Abidan Shah

UNLIKE US by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Unlike UsIntroduction:  Do you remember that old joke? A teacher asked her kindergarteners to draw a picture of someone very important. All the kids began drawing a picture of mom, dad, or some famous person in history. After 15-20 minutes, the teacher noticed that all the kids were done except this one boy who was still working very intently in the back. Curious, she asked him, “Who are you drawing?” Without even looking up, he replied, “God!” The teacher was startled. She went up to him and asked, “How can you draw God? No one knows what he looks like.” He replied, “They will when I get through!” All of us are guilty of doing that. We try to draw God after our own image and understanding. Today’s message will teach us that “God is unlike us. Instead of trying to make him like us, we are to become like him.” The message is titled “UNLIKE US.”

Psalm 50    15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? 18 When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. 19 You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.”

Question: “You thought that I was altogether like you.” Is that what you’re doing? Have you created God in your own image? What sin are you justifying by claiming that God does it too? Are you saved? Have you conformed to image of his Son?

Context: In my devotion time I’ve been reading through the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. As you know, the Book of Psalms was the song book of the children of Israel, later known as the Jewish people. It played a very important role in their worship and daily life. It reminded them of something very important that many Christians fail to understand – It’s not enough to know the truth, affirm the truth, clarify the truth, defend the truth, and share the truth. You also have to take the time to delight in the truth. The Psalms are meant to help us delight in the truth. C.S. Lewis in his book titled Reflections on the Psalms wrote, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” That’s beautiful!

The psalm we are looking at today (Psalm 50) begins with the heading “The Song of Asaph.” Who was Asaph? I Chronicles 6 tells us that he was a worship leader of one of the groups of temple singers established by King David. He was the worship leader when the ark was brought back to Jerusalem. He was again in charge of the music when the ark was brought to the temple built by Solomon. Later there was a musical school named after him that continued centuries after his death. What I am trying to say is that Asaph was no ordinary one hit wonder. He was a worship leader with great depth and legacy. Something else that needs to be mentioned before we look at this psalm in depth – The placement of this psalm at this place in the Book of Psalms is not by chance. It has been strategically placed here to prepare us to read Psalm 51 which is a prayer of repentance by David when Nathan the prophet confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah.

With that in mind, let’s begin – 1 “The Mighty One, God the Lord, has spoken…” If you rush past the opening words, you will miss the significance of the titles for God. In Hebrew it reads “El Elohim Yahweh.” Three different names for God are mentioned here. El – the Mighty God in whom are all the attributes and power of godhead. Elohim – the Creator God who made everything. Yahweh – the Merciful God who reveals himself to us and sets us free. He redeemed the people in Exodus and met them at Sinai.

Application: Is this the God you pray to? Is this the God you worship and sing to? The All-Powerful Creator God Who Alone is Our Redeemer.

One more important description needs to be included here – 1 “…and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. 3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: 5 “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6 Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge. Selah (Lift up/exalt) The All-Powerful Creator God Who Alone is Our Redeemer is also the Great Judge of all the earth.

Application: Are you ready to meet this God? Are you going to lift up and exalt his right to judge or are you going to argue and defend your case?

What does this God have to say? First, he will speak to the righteous among his people – 7 “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God! 8 I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, Which are continually before Me. 9 I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. 13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats? 14 Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. In other words, I don’t need you to go out there and get me meat so I won’t be hungry. The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.”

Application: We are easily swayed by favors people do for us. You cannot sway God. Remember what I said earlier that this psalm has been placed here for a reason. Listen to what David says in Psalm 51   16 “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.” And what’s the reward for those who offer to the sacrifices from a clean heart? 15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Here’s the privilege of obeying God.

But now listen to what God says to the Wicked Righteous – 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? In other words, how do you receive God’s truth when you encounter it in your devotion time, in a message, in a Sunday School lesson, on the radio, or in a Christian literature? How do you receive the Word when it is given to you by a godly friend? Do you hate it and cast it aside? How did David receive God’s Word through Nathan? 2 Samuel 12:13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” In other words, he repented.

What happens when you don’t repent? God goes into detail – 18 “When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. 19 You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. How many sins are mentioned here? Stealing, Adultery, Accomplice/Association, Evil Speaking, Lying, Gossip, Smear, Slander. What did God do about it? 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent…” Just because God does not immediately deal with your sin does not mean that he approves it. Silence is not approval. When we are silent, we are approving. When God is silent, he is extending mercy. But here comes the worst one – 21 “…You thought that I was altogether like you…” This is the sin of misrepresenting God because it suits your purpose and your love for your pet sin.

Application: Do you twist the Bible to justify your behavior, your sin? The worst thing you can do to any person is misrepresent him/her. Yet, people do that to God to justify their sinful action and lives.

What is the consequence? 21 “…But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.” If you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit will not let you off easily. He will convict you and expose to you the error of your ways. What if you still don’t change? 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:” Now it’s no longer private but public exposure. The old principle is true – “You cover your sin and God will uncover it. You uncover your sin and God will cover it.”

Here’s the solution – 23 “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” What will you do? True praise cannot come from a contaminated, sin-filled heart. Furthermore, it’s not enough to say with David Psalm 51    3 “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,” you also have to say with him 7 “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. 9            Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Are you ready to repent? Are you saved?

FUTURE AND HOPE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

FUTURE AND HOPE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 12, 2016)

future-and-hope“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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
  3. 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 in 2 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.

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