Genesis by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. No Division in Genesis

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

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

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

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

  1. No Dependence in Genesis

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

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

  1. Garden of Eden

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

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

  1. Sons of God and Daughters of Men

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

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

  1. Global Flood:

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

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

  1. Tower of Babel

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

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

  1. No Doubt Regarding Genesis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atonement by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Context changes everything. If I were to say, “He threw the book at me,” you would want to know who the “he” is. “‘He’ is my friend.” “Oh, I guess he was joking.” But, what if the “he” is the judge? “What trouble did you get into?” Here’s another one –  “Let’s eat, Grandma.” Hopefully, the context will make it obvious that we’re not going to sit down to eat Grandma. So also, in today’s message, the context is very important to understand the meaning, the intent, and the force of the passage. We’re still in our series through 1 Petertitled “Together Forward” and we are now in the section in chapter 2 where Peter referred to Isaiah 53. Here’s the main point: Sin not only brings God’s judgment upon us, but it also causes us to go astray. Jesus came not only to redeem us from the penalty of sin but also to provide for us a pattern to trace our life. With that in mind, we are starting a series titled “ATONEMENT” from Isaiah 53, which will take us into the Easter season.

1 Peter 2     21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

Context: As Peter began the application portion of his letter, he called on the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) to submit in the realm of government, work, and marriage. However, throughout the section, he used resistance language, reminding them to comply but qualify, to submit but also resist. In order to facilitate this message, Peter gave them an example of how to suffer. He used the Greek word “hupogramon.” By the way, this is a very interesting word that referred to a pattern of the alphabets that the children would trace over in order to learn how to write. I remember having an alphabet tracing tablet. Here’s the point: If we’re going to face the difficult days ahead, and still impact the culture and shine God’s marvelous light, it will require much more than just some passive attempt at trying to be like Jesus. We will have to trace our lives intentionally, carefully, and totally in the life and mission of Jesus. In other words, you cannot be in the pattern of Jesus today and in the pattern of your old self or the world tomorrow.

Application: Are you tracing your life in the pattern of Jesus? Are you saved?

Where did Peter turn to in order to provide for them the example/tracing sheet? Listen to 22 “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” If you grew up in church or studied the Bible, it doesn’t take long to realize that Peter was quoting from Isaiah 53, the most famous and clear prophecy of the Messiah, and his suffering and death in the Old Testament. If we’re going to understand how to trace Christ as our pattern, we need to understand what Isaiah 53 is all about. If not, we will take it out of context. Yes, Isaiah 53 does give us an example on how to suffer, but it is much much more than that! One scholar (Ivan Engnell) said that it “may without any exaggeration be called the most important text of the Old Testament.” Another scholar (William Urwick) remarked: “Here we seem to enter the holy of holies of Old Testament prophecy—that sacred chamber wherein are pictured and foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow.” One more scholar (Franz Delitzsch) declared that Isaiah 53 was “the most central, the deepest, and the loftiest thing that the Old Testament prophecy, outstripping itself, has ever achieved. It looks as if it had been written beneath the cross upon Golgotha…” Martin Luther, the German reformer, said that it is so important that “we must [all] memorize it.”

In order to understand the true meaning of Isaiah 53, we need to understand the context in which it was given. What is the historical background of the book of Isaiah? Isaiah the prophet lived in the 8th century BC. By his time, the nation of Israel was divided into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah). Isaiah was primarily speaking to the people of Judah. His ministry extended over 40 years, from the time that King Uzziah (Azariah) died in 740 BC until the invasion of the Sennacherib, the Assyrian king in 701 BC.

What was Isaiah’s message to God’s people? To understand this question, we have to divide the book of Isaiah into 3 sections: Chapters 1-39; Chapters 40-55; and Chapters 56-66. The first section deals with events in Isaiah’s lifetime (739-701 BC). The second section deals with events about a hundred years after Isaiah (605-539 BC) until the coming of Jesus. Finally, the third section deals with events from 539 BC-the future restoration of Israel that is still to come. So, the first section is talking in real time for Isaiah, but the second and the third are prophecies about the future. What was Isaiah saying in real time between 739-701 BC? The Assyrian Empire was at its final period of greatness. Prior to this, Assyria had been struggling to hold on to all its territories. Hence, neighboring nations had enjoyed their prosperity, even Israel and Judah. They had become complacent, thinking that God must be blessing them. The prophets Amos and Hosea had tried to warn the people but they didn’t listen. Israel (Northern Kingdom) was really bad, but Judah (Southern Kingdom) was not far behind. What were they doing that was so bad? The prophets Hosea and Ezekiel called it “prostitution.” They had forgotten the living God and gone after false gods. Just then an Assyrian king named Tiglath-pileser III (Pul) came to throne of Assyria. He wanted to rebuild the Assyrian Empire as in the days of old. Israel was in its path and he wanted more than just the regular tributes. Judah to the south used this as an opportunity to fight against their own brothers and sisters. They became pro-Assyria. This led to a coalition between Pekah, the king of Israel, and Rezin, the king of Damascus (2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 28) and they attacked Judah. So also, Philistia and Edom attacked Judah. Judah reached out to Assyria, their “ally.” What was Isaiah’s word to them? Isaiah 8      5 The LORD also spoke to me again, saying: 6 “Inasmuch as these people refused the waters of Shiloah that flow softly,and rejoice in Rezin and in Remaliah’s son; 7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them the waters of the River, strong and mighty—The king of Assyria and all his glory; He will go up over all his channels and go over all his banks. 8 He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; And the stretching out of his wings will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.” This prophecy was against both Israel and Judah. True to prophecy, that is exactly what happened when King Ahaz turned to Assyria for help. The Assyrian king not only defeated Syria and take Israel, but also made Judah pay heavier tributes than ever.

Application: Who do you turn to in times of difficulties? Have you tried to make a deal with the Devil? It will never work out. Don’t think the Devil will just show up in a red suit, pitchfork, and a bifurcated tail. He uses people and their worldly ideas.

Then, King Tiglath-pileser died and people everywhere were rejoicing, even King Hoshea of Israel. It was short-lived since Shalmaneser his son took charge and he put down the rebellion in Babylon and other places. Then, he came to the city of Samaria and put it under siege for 3 years. It was horrible! 2 Kings 6:26   Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” 27   And he said, “If the LORD does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?” 28 Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, “Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.” All the horrors that were prophesied by Amos and Hosea came to pass. This was the time (around 722 BC) when the northern kingdom was taken into exile. 2 Kings 17:6 “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.” The south was no better under King Ahaz. 2 Kings 16:10 “Now King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the design of the altar and its pattern, according to all its workmanship.”

The Assyrian domination continued. Shalmaneser also died and another king named Sargon came to the throne. To the south, Hezekiah was the king of Judah. He was a good king who was not pro-Assyria, but he turned to Egypt for help. Isaiah 30      1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, That they may add sin to sin; 2 Who walk to go down to Egypt, And have not asked My advice, To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, And to trust in the shadow of Egypt! 3 Therefore the strength of Pharaoh Shall be your shame, And trust in the shadow of Egypt Shall be your humiliation.” Sargon died and another king came named Sennacherib. He once again restated his demands to Hezekiah. This time, he tried to turn to Babylon for help but Sennacherib crushed them. On his prism in the British Museum, he referred to Hezekiah as a “bird in a cage.”

Application: Is that how you feel in your life? Is that where we are as a nation?

All this was in real time, but God showed Isaiah what was still to come 100 years later.By the way, in 681 BC, he was sawed to death by a wooden saw at the hands of Manasseh, the evil king of Judah. By 605 BC, Babylon was in power. Empires come and go. We are seeing that right now. In 587 or 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the walls of the city, and especially destroyed the ancient temple of Solomon. Not only that but he also dragged the Jewish people 700 miles away into exile to Babylon. They had no hope of ever returning back and there was nothing left to return back to. Everything was gloomy and hopeless. They were losing all hope and were becoming more and more attracted to the Babylonian religion and culture. Isaiah gave promises of God’s faithfulness to his people in exile. He promised them that in his timing he would bring them back. In 539 BC (about 50 years later) Cyrus the king of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire and set the people free to go back home to Jerusalem. Not only that but Cyrus even returned the items that had been taken out of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and placed in the temple of his gods. He also provided support and commanded the people to do the same for those who were going back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. How amazing that a pagan king would do that! But God had revealed all that to Isaiah – Isaiah 44     28 Who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” ’ 1“Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—To subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut.” He even gave them the future promise of a complete restoration of Israel in the end times.

What is the point of all this?

  • We tend to think that we are the only ones living in a complex and chaotic world.
  • We turn to everyone but to God in the midst of our crisis.
  • God has the power and the deep desire to fight for us if we would turn to him.
  • He wants us to take on the servant mindset of complete trust in him
  • He offers his help to us by his grace, but he will not tolerate sin.
  • He wants to make us a light in the midst of the darkness.
  • His purposes will always be done.
  • God will rescue us, but his greater desire is to rescue us from sin.

As he is dealing with us, helping us, and working out his purposes in us and his world, he is also tracing the person and work of his son if would see it.

Isaiah 52     13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. 14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; 15 So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; For what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider. Isaiah 53     1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked—But with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, he shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Invitation: Can you see the pattern of Jesus? Are you saved? Are you tracing your life after him?

Greater than Religion by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER THAN RELIGION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Throughout the world, people have all kinds of traditions when it comes to Christmas. In Norway, they hide their brooms on Christmas Eve, because, according to tradition, witches are out on Christmas eve. In South Africa, children look forward to fried caterpillars or Christmas caterpillars on Christmas day. In India, where I grew up, we sang Christmas carols all night from door to door of every church member. To miss someone’s home was a big insult. They would wait for us with food, sweets, coffee, and tea. By the way, the same morning was Christmas day and we had church service at 9 am. It was tough because some of us were half asleep. All these traditions are good but sometimes traditions can overshadow the truth and we end up with religion and religious leaders. In our Christmas series titled GREATER, we’ve seen how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. In this message, we will see that Jesus was even greater than all the religious power brokers of the world. Find John 1:19. Main point: Jesus did not come to fit into our religious traditions. He came to bring us into a relationship with God. Jesus came to tear down the curtain in the Holy of Holies from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

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? 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.

Context: If you remember, last week, this was the same passage we used for the message, but our focus was on King Herod. We are using it again because it gives us the third power broker of the ancient world – the Religious Authorities. Next to Rome and Herod, they were in charge. Just like Herod was connected and subjected to Rome and Augustus Caesar, the Religious Authorities were also connected and subjected to Herod. In fact, they were also connected and subjected to Rome, as we will see later on.

In the passage, the Religious Authorities appear to be at Herod’s beck and call4“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.” They knew better than to reject his summons. After all, he was the king. He controlled the appointment of the high priests. He expanded and built the temple in Jerusalem. He maintained peace in the region. He kept a buffer between them and the Romans. Of course, they lined up on the double. Were they aware of the answer? 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.’” Amazingly, they even gave the right answer. What was Herod’s response? 7 “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.” Why didn’t Herod order the chief priests and scribes to go with the wise men? Why didn’t they go on their own initiative? One of 2 reasons:

  • They didn’t believe this was going to happen. It was just a myth to them.
  • They didn’t want it to happen. It was too costly and risky for them.

By their refusal to act, they were going to cancel the first Christmas! They would rather stay with their traditions and rituals than to go after the real thing.

Application: I find it very interesting how people are willing to shut down Christmas or redefine Christmas or see Christmas differently this year. What annoys me the most is when people try to use spiritual lingo to cover up their fear. How many of you have heard of the term “cancel culture”? It is when a person does or says something controversial and they are immediately cancelled. This happens on social media a lot. People turn against someone and they cancel them. 2000 years ago, people tried to cancel Christmas. They failed. They are trying it again and, unfortunately, believers are going along.

Who were these Religious authorities? In the passage it says “chief priests and the scribes of the people,” but altogether there were 4 major groups with some subgroups: Priests and Levites, Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes:

  1. Who were the Priests and Levites? As you know from the Old Testament, priests belonged to the tribe of Levi and had to be descendants of Aaron. Along with the Levites, they were the “ritual specialists and mediators between God and people” (Kugler). While the priests were responsible for running the temple and carrying out the sacrifices, the Levites handled the music and the supervision and management of the temple activities. Under Moses’ supervision and Aaron’s leadership, the standards were extremely high regarding holiness. Exodus 28 36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE Lord. 37 And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban. 38 So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.” Unfortunately, through the centuries, the priesthood in Israel had continued a downward spiral. In 174 BC, a man by the name of Jason had bribed Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, to become the high priest. Three years later, a man by the name of Menelaus, who was not even a Levite, also bribed his way to the position. After that, the Hasmoneans family of priests controlled the position. The Levites were no different. Does this mean that every priest and Levite was corrupt? There were a few like Zechariah and Elizabeth who were truly righteous, but, it seems that those from Jerusalem proper were corrupt. Remember, the parable of the Good Samaritan. The antagonists in the story were the priests and the Levites.
  2. Who were the Sadducees? The first time we hear about the Sadducees is under John Hyrcanus (135-104 BC). The Sadducees claimed to be the “righteous ones,” going all the way back to Zadok, the righteous high priest. In reality, the Sadducees were mostly from the aristocracy and despised by the common people. Under Alexander Jannaeus (103-76BC), 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Sadducees. Then in 37 BC, with the coming of Herod the great, the high priesthood became a political appointment under Rome’s supervision with the Sadducees in charge of all the temple activities. They were not necessarily all priests or attached to the temple. The chief priests and the high priests came from the Sadducees. This was the reason why some Jewish people actually built a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt and some left to form the Dead Sea community at Qumran. In short, the people went to the temple but inside they knew it was in corrupt hands. What did the Sadducees believe?No resurrection, angel, or spirit. They did not accept the oral law or the law of the sages, as the Pharisees. They had their own traditions regarding the Torah. They placed more emphasis on the books that focused on the temple. The came testing him with the question about the resurrection of the 7 brothers married to the same woman. Matthew 32:22 “…God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” They didn’t want Jesus. He was a threat to the establishment.
  3. Who were the Pharisees? They were mostly a lay movement of people who were trying to live a pious life. They believed in the right doctrines. They advocated a simple lifestyle. They were popular with the common people because they would help them keep the law. They focused on “Table Fellowship” – they called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Every household was held responsible. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. This does not mean that they rejected the priesthood or the temple. Their meals were exclusive and hierarchical because they believed that what you put inside of you matters and who you have around matters. They couldn’t get over Jesus’ eating habits and association with sinners.

Unfortunately, they constantly butted heads with Jesus. They were frustrated that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. They were frustrated that Jesus did not keep all their trivial Sabbath laws. They wanted Jesus to give them a sign. They accused him of being demon possessed. Jesus did not let up on them. He told his disciples in Matthew 5:20 “…unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He called them “Blind Guides,” “Hypocrites,” and “White-washed tombs.”

Attached to the Pharisees was a subgroup known as the scribes. Jesus often addressed them together.

  1. Who were the Scribes? They interpreted and taught the Law to the people. They were closely connected to the temple in Jerusalem and, in the smaller villages, they held positions of authority. They were envious of Jesus’ knowledge of the bible and popularity with the people. They considered themselves to be experts in the law/Old Testament. Listen to how Jesus dealt with them in Mark 12 38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” He pronounced woes upon them along with the Pharisees – Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. The Priests and the Levites were corrupt.
  2. The Sadducees were protecting the status quo.
  3. The Pharisees were about self-righteousness.
  4. The Scribes were busy showing off their knowledge.

In this world Jesus came not to fit into the religious categories and traditions but to tear down the curtain from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

1 Peter 1     18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Invitation: Do you have religion or do you have a relationship with Christ? He came not to fit into our traditions. He came to clean it up. Are you saved?

Greater Plan by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER PLAN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: When the kids were young, sometimes they would enjoy helping me in the yard, some more than others. It would start out with a lot of excitement until they got tired, bored, or hot. Then, they would go back in the house to get a snack or a drink, and I wouldn’t see them after that. Although they would genuinely help me, I always knew that the bulk of the work was going to be on me. In the evening, we would get ice-cream to celebrate, it was not just for “my” work but “our” work. As you know, we’re in our series on 1 Peter and we now come to verse 10. Main point: When the trials of life become too distressing, you have to remember that you are simply a small part of God’s greater plan. In other words, when doubts arise as to where life is headed and what God is doing, tether yourself to God’s eternal plan of salvation through Christ. It began before you and it will continue to those after you. Here’s the best part – If you suffer with Christ, you will also share with him in glory. The title is “GREATER PLAN.”

1 Peter 1:10 “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.”

Context: Here Peter was talking about the salvation of the pilgrims of the dispersion in Asia Minor. These were Jewish background and Gentile background believers in the Anatolian peninsula, modern day Turkey, who were facing persecution in the form of ostracization and rejection by their own families and community. This was all because they had received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Peter encouraged them to rejoice (aggalion = exultant joy, shouting joy) knowing that God was testing their faith and purifying them through their trials. He also reminded them to keep their eyes on Jesus Christ, whom they had not seen historically but they loved him and whom they could not see presently but they trusted him. As they loved and trusted Jesus through their trials, his invisible presence became visible and filled their hearts with joy inexpressible and full of glory. Not only that, but they also received the assurance that they would receive the end of their faith—the salvation of their souls.

Application: As you’re going through your trials, how is your love for Jesus? Do you take the time to think on his earthly ministry? Does your heart overflow with love for him? Are you trusting him every day? Do you take the time to reflect on his heavenly ministry right now? Does your heart take on new courage and strength knowing that he is with you? Do you have the assurance of your salvation? Are you saved?

Peter was not through. Since he brought up the subject of their salvation, he wanted them to understand how privileged they were in the whole course of salvation history, God’s greater plan. Listen again to 1 Peter 1:10 “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.” Which prophets was Peter talking about? The Old Testament prophets. They inquired (ekzeitein) and searched carefully (eraunein). When those words are used in the context of discovering divine will, they have a very deliberate and meditative meaning. In other words, this was not just some side hobby or idle pursuit. They were very intense and intentional in their search:

  • We could start with Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people. In Genesis 20:7, God called him a prophet. Did he inquire and search carefully? Jesus said in John 8:56“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
  • How about Moses? He said in Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.” When Jesus began his ministry, people began to make the connection with what Moses had said – John 6:14 “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’”

By the way, their search was not about the nature of his coming but about the timing of his coming. Listen to 1 Peter 1:11 “searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” The phrase “searching what, or what manner of time” should be read as “what time or what sort of time.” They knew what the Christ would do when he came; their question was “when?”:

  • Listen to David in Psalm 22 15 “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. 16 For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet…18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” No confusion there about how the Christ would suffer!
  • Also, listen to Isaiah 53     5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Again, no confusion here regarding how the Christ would suffer.
  • I don’t have time to bring up the rest of the prophets. Listen to Peter in his sermon from Solomon’s porch in the temple in Acts 3:24 “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.” The point is that the suffering of Christ was no afterthought. It was well understood. Their question was “when?”

Who was prompting this questioning? The “Spirit of Christ” = The Holy Spirit. By the way, this timing question became even more intense as it got closer to his coming:

  • Isaiah 6:11 “Then I said, ‘Lord, how long?’”
  • Daniel 12 8 “…Then I said, ‘My lord, what shall be the end of these things?’ 9 And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.’” Illustration: Like kids asking “Are we there yet?”
  • Habakkuk 1:2 “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear?” Habakkuk 2 2“Then the LORD answered me and said…3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.’”

By the way, this was not just about Christ’s suffering but as verse 11 adds, “the glories that would follow.” What are these glories? 1. Resurrection – 1 Peter 1:21 “who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory…” 2. Ascension and Authority – 1 Peter 3:22 “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”

What is the point of all this? 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven…” Throughout their existence, the people of old, especially the Old Testament prophets lived in the light of Christ’s coming suffering and glory. They faced their trials in the shadow of this greater plan of suffering and glory. More importantly, they did all this for us:

  • When Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah, he had this greater plan in mind.
  • When Joseph lay dying, he spoke to his brethren about this greater plan.
  • When Rahab the prostitute hid the spies in her house, she had this greater plan in mind.
  • When David was fleeing for his life from Saul, he wrote about this greater plan in his psalms.
  • When Jeremiah wrote to encourage the people in exile, he had this greater plan in mind.
  • When Esther resolved to stand up for her people saying “if I perish, I perish,” she had the greater plan in mind.

I can go on and on, the point is this – Those Old Testament people faced their trials with the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow with us in mind. In a way, they were partaking in Christ’s suffering that would come in the future, along with the glories that would follow. By the way, a side note here – 12 “…things which angels desire to look into.” Meaning: The angels watch in awe this entire drama throughout human history!

What is the application for us? Some people live in the microcosm of their own trials, griefs, pains, and uncertainties. They feel defeated, disillusioned, or distressed. They want God to get them through or bless them with something or teach them some great truth or principle. What if life was never meant to be lived in some personal bubble. What if my suffering or yours were part of a divine Master plan? What if our trials were meant for us to connect with the sufferings of Christ and the glories that are to follow? What if what we’re going through is not for us but for those coming after us? What if we are to rejoice and not reject the sufferings of life? Listen to 1 Peter 4:13 “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

Here’s the principle: If you don’t tether yourself to God’s greater plan of salvation through Christ, the storms of life will carry you away or tear you to pieces or leave you bruised and wounded. And, when you get through, that’s it. There’re no glories to follow.

Invitation: Are you bogged down with the immediate? Can you see what God is doing through your storm? Can you see what God is doing through the storm of 2020? What are doing for those who are coming behind you? Are you saved?

The Calling by Dr. Abidan Shah

CALLING by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of ya’ll know someone who does not have a filter? He/she says whatever is on the mind. He/she speaks without thinking. It gets this person into a lot of trouble. Are you that person! Would you also agree that you never have to worry about what this person is thinking? In many ways I just described for you the Apostle Peter. He did not have a filter. He often said things without thinking and it got him into a lot of trouble, especially with Jesus. Today, we are starting a brand-new series on I Peter. We were set to start this series back in July, but the more we prayed about it, the more we felt that some other messages had to come first. Main point: When Christ calls us, he calls us to follow and remain with him. To follow is to begin the journey with him, but to remain is to develop a personal relationship with him.

1 Peter 1:1 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”

Context: Who was Peter? In the Bible, he is known by 4 different names: Simon, Peter, Cephas, and Son of Jonah. His given name seems to be from Simeon, after one of the lost tribes of Israel. This name came back into prominence during the Maccabean period as a hope of national renewal. It could be that his parents named him in the hopes that the Messiah will come in his lifetime. How about the other brother being named Andrew, a Greek name? True, but he became a disciple of John the Baptizer! One more thing: Their hometown was Bethsaida, a minority Jewish community. When people grow up surrounded by majority other faiths, they either get assimilated or they become stronger in their convictions. It seems to be the latter for Peter and Andrew. In fact, they moved to Capernaum, a majority Jewish community, and he even married a girl from there. Quick Application: It matters how we raise our kids. I don’t want to claim more than the text allows, but it is very likely that Peter grew up in a God-fearing home.

So, where did the name “Peter” come from? To answer that, we need to turn to John 1starting in verse 35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” This is the second time that John the Baptizer used that title to describe Jesus. So much is packed into that title:

  • The lamb represented sacrifice for sins as commanded in the Old Testament. Unlike the passive lambs that did not know what was coming for them, here was God’s lamb that would actively take the sins of the world upon himself.
  • But, there’s more here. When John the Baptizer called Jesus the Lamb of God, he was referring to his purity and blamelessness.
  • There’s still more. Jesus was “the” Lamb of God. The definite article tells everyone listening that there was no one else like him. He alone was God’s chosen one.
  • Wait, there’s still one more critical thing. In John 1:29 John the Baptizer actually adds, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus alone is the Savior of the world.

Application: Do you believe that Jesus willingly gave his life for you? Do you believe that he was pure and blameless, but he took your sins and mine upon himself? Do you believe that Jesus alone is God’s sacrifice for sins? Do you believe that Jesus alone is the Savior of the world?

What was the reaction of the two disciples when they heard John the Baptizer say that? 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” This was not an ordinary question. Jesus asked this question to the soldiers that came to arrest him in the garden of Gethsemane. He asked that question to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning as she was weeping for him. This is the fundamental question of life.

Question: What are you seeking in life? Food, clothing, shelter, money, success, power, accolades. Augustine in his Confessions said, “Because you have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee.”

Listen to the response of the disciples: 38 “…They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” This may seem like a normal question, but it has a deeper meaning. The Greek word for “staying” is “menein.” This is the word that Jesus used repeatedly in the gospel of John.

  • John 6:56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”
  • John 8:31Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”
  • John 12:46 “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.”
  • John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”

What’s the point? Human beings are looking for something that will remain/last forever. We constantly fight against temporality (time is fleeting), change (everything changes in life), and death (the inevitable). Only Jesus will last!

What was Jesus’ response? 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour). Nothing else is given regarding this encounter, but listen to the response of one of the disciples. 40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). Why did Andrew immediately go to find Peter? Could it be that Peter was struggling with his faith? Could it be that everything that he put his hope in had faded away? Could it be that Peter had become wishy-washy?

How was the interaction between Jesus and Peter? 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). Every time in the Bible God changed someone’s name, it reflected something much greater – Abram became Abraham; Sarai became Sarah; Jacob became Israel; Saul became Paul. Name change implied a deep work of God in a person. Here Jesus called him Cephas (Kephas), which in Aramaic meant, “rock.” Rock in Greek was Peter. Why Rock? It symbolized stability, dependability, endurance, and perseverance. By the way, Jesus had to call Peter again later – Matthew 4     18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

It took Peter sometime to understand what it meant to remain and abide with Jesus, but he did. John 6     65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter made that declaration again and Jesus reaffirmed his new name – Matthew 16     13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. When we are built upon the solid and immovable rock, Jesus Christ, we become immovable in the face of whatever may come.

Invitation: What are you seeking in life? Are you willing to follow Christ? Are you willing to remain with him? Are you built upon him? Are you saved by him?

Impart by Dr. Abidan Shah

IMPART by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  There was a time when fathers would pass down their trade skills to their sons, like woodworking or smithing; and mothers would pass down their homemaking skills to their daughters, like knitting and craft-making. The world has changed so much in the past few hundred years. Now, we’re living in the technological and information age where our kids know far more than we do! Plus, everything is always evolving. It feels like we have nothing to pass on to our children, other than material wealth and some life hacks. Sometimes, the younger generation may even act like they don’t need anything from us, especially now where everyone in the past was wrong and outdated; but that’s not altogether true. Today’s Message: God has entrusted us with the tremendously responsibility to pass down godly values to the next generation, especially our children. They need much more from us than just material wealth and life hacks. They need us to impart to them godly principles and convictions that will help them live successfully. That’s the title of our message today – IMPART.

Joshua 24      1 “Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.”

Context: This was the second time that Joshua had gathered all the major representatives of the people of Israel. The first time was in the previous chapter in Joshua 23. There are some similarities between the first gathering and the second gathering, but there are also some distinctions. The major distinction was this—In the first gathering, Joshua talked to them as an old man, the veteran leader, giving his farewell address to his people; but, in the second gathering, Joshua talked to them as one of them, as a family man, as the head of his household. As important as the first address was, I want to focus on the second one in this message. There are 3 things he brought up in the second gathering:

  1. Don’t forget where God has brought you from.

2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.” The primogenitors of the people of Israel—Terah and his sons, Abraham, and Nahor—lived on the other side of the River. This is the area that is to the north and east of the Promised Land, across the Euphrates River. The cuneiform tablets found in this region show that the people were worshipping many gods, especially in places like Ur and Haran, which were centers of moon worship. Until God found Abraham, he and the other ancestors were just pagan people. The idea that Abraham himself was not born a Hebrew or an Israelite or a Jewish person is shocking to people! 3 “Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.” What’s the point? Joshua was reminding the people of Israel that they may be God’s special people today but their beginnings were not so illustrious.

Let’s not forget that we were no better but by the grace of God! I Corinthians 6     9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

Application: Do you take the time to remember what God has saved you from?

Now, from verse 4 to 8, God reminded them about what he did for Isaac and Jacob, and how he brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. 9 Then Balak…king of Moab, arose to make war against Israel, and sent and called Balaam…to curse you. 10But I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he continued to bless you. So I delivered you out of his hand.” In other words, God turned his cursings into blessings. Hasn’t God done that for you? What people meant for evil, God turned into good! In verses 11 and 12, God gave them victory over all the nations that attacked—Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Then, verse 13 “I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.” Don’t misunderstand: It doesn’t mean that they were freeloaders, eating the fruit of someone else’s labors. This was God’s land. He gave it to whomever he chose.

Here’s the point: The worst thing that can happen to us in the Christian life is to forget where God has brought us from. We are where we are by the grace of God.

Personal Illustration: I remember like it was yesterday, standing in that telephone booth on this one-gas-station exit, somewhere on this side of the Pennsylvania turnpike. I was all alone, waiting for a ride until 2-3am. I know where God has brought me from! I learnt that from my father who had an old tin box that he left his home with when his father kicked him out because he was a Christian.

Application: Do you take the time to remind your children how God saved you and where he has brought you from? If you don’t, they’ll never know.

  1. Don’t forget where God has brought you from.
  2. Don’t assume that God doesn’t know what you’ve been up to.

14 “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!” If you were here last weekend, you learned that the people of Israel were under the cloud by day and under the fire by night. It was the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ, who went with them from within Egypt to all the way into the Promised Land. He guarded them, guided them, and spoke to them. He provided manna from heaven, meat from quail, and water from the rock. He did not abandon them a single moment. Nonetheless, they kept their false gods secretly in their tents!

They had 3 sets of false gods with them from 3 different rivers. Why Rivers? This would have been a good time for them to lose their false gods but they didn’t.

  1. The Sumerian gods from the other side of the Euphrates River, brought by Rachel and others.
  2. The Egyptian gods from the other side of the Nile River, brought by the first generation of the slaves.
  3. The Amorite gods from this side of the Jordan River, picked up by them when they came into the Promised Land. 15 “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.”

Before you say, “I don’t have any false gods in my life,” just remember: Anything that begins to dominate your life, anything you treasure more than God, anything you refuse to let go is now a false god in your life, and anything you fear more than life itself. By the way, Abraham had been gone for 500 years. The last generation had been dead for about 40 years. The point is that the gods had been passed down from one generation to the next.

Application: What false god(s) are you passing down to your children? One more thing: it is possible to receive God’s blessing and still hide your gods. Are you assuming that your blessings are proof that God is okay with your false gods?

  1. Don’t forget where God has brought you from.
  2. Don’t assume that God doesn’t know what you’ve been up to.
  3. Don’t think that you can play neutral for long.

15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” The closer you get in your walk with God, the farther you will get from some people. This is a must if you want your household to last.

Their response was “Absolutely!” So, listen to verse 19 “But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.’ 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD!” 22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!” 23 “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.” Then Joshua made a covenant with the people at Shechem, wrote them in the Book of the Law of God, and then did something that was done about 8 other times in the book.  26 “…And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” There are so many stones in Israel. We have no idea where this stone is now. But, on that day of judgment, that stone will be brought up as exhibit A that they broke the covenant of God.

After you and I are gone, this church building may stand as a witness to your children and grandchildren that they have broken the covenant of God. What are you imparting to your children? Do you have a faith and a godly lifestyle to pass down to your kids? If you didn’t have a godly legacy, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

2 Corinthians 6:2 “For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Are you saved? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and King?

Onward by Dr. Abidan Shah

Onward

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

Introduction: How many of you remember the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could?” My parents got me a copy of it when I was very young. It was one of my favorite books as a child. The story is of a little blue engine that did not have any confidence in himself to pull a train full of toys and food up on the mountain to the little boys and girls on the other side. The Shiny New Engine didn’t have time to help and the Big Strong Engine didn’t want to help. So, the Little Blue Engine thought about all the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain who were waiting for their toys and food, and decided to give it a shot. He tugged and pulled as he went up the mountain, saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” He climbed and climbed, and, at last, he got over the other side, saying, “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could…” Finally, he pulled in to the station, saying, “I made it.” Here’s the point: Some of us are standing on this side of the mountain, saying, “I know I can’t, I know I can’t…” We are terrified to go onward to the other side. What is needed is not “I think I can, I think I can…” What is needed is “I know I can’t but I know God can, I know I can’t but I know God can.”

Numbers 14     36 Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, 37those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.”

Context: Last weekend, we learned that 14 months after God freed his people from their slavery in Egypt that he brought them to a place called Kadesh Barnea on the southern end of the Promised Land. God told Moses to send in 12 spies, one from each tribe of Israel. Numbers 13:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.” These 12 men went into the land for 40 days. Then they returned with their report. Ten of the spies said that the land is indeed wonderful, but the cities are well fortified, the people are big and strong, and the giants are still in the land. And, they added, Numbers 13:33b “…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” What was the result? The people were terrified. Listen to how Moses recounts it in Deuteronomy 1     26 “Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; 27 and you complained (Lit. “rawgan” = murmur, whisper, grumble) in your tents, and said, “Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. What a statement! 28 Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, (Lit. “mawsas” = caused to melt, intimidate,).

Question: Do your words breathe faith in people or fear? Do you bring out courage in people or cowardice? 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Only 2 men exercised “power, love, and sound mind.” They were Caleb and Joshua. Who were they?

  1. Caleb represented the tribe of Judah. There is one more designation given to him other than that he was the “son of Jephunneh.” It is found only 3 times in the Bible, once in Numbers and twice in Joshua. He is called a Kenizzite. Numbers 32:12 “except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD.” Who are the Kenizzite? That’s not a Hebrew or even a West Semitic name. We find it mentioned in Genesis 15   18 “…the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites,…” They were a non-Israelite group that came from the desert below Negev. Somehow, they became associated with the tribe of Judah, maybe intermarriage, and were grafted into God’s people!
  2. Joshua represented the tribe of Ephraim. What do we know about the tribe of Ephraim? They came from Joseph. If you remember, Joseph had two sons from his Egyptian wife: Manasseh and Ephraim. They were half Egyptians. Nonetheless, they had a good portion in the Promised Land. If later texts are any indication of how the early people of Ephraim behaved, it doesn’t look good for the tribe of Ephraim. Psalm 78:67 “Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph, And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.”

What’s the point? You don’t need godly pedigree to understand the heart of God. It doesn’t matter what your family tree looks like. We all have a few nuts hanging on our family tree. My dad came from a Muslim home. Look where God has brought me today!

How did these 2 men respond to the reaction of the people to the 10 spies?

  1. They spoke up. Listen to Numbers 13:30 “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.’” You can imagine someone saying, “Look at this Kenezzite trying to get us killed!”

Question: Do you speak up? “Well…I wanted to say something…But, I feel like I’m a nobody.” Don’t misunderstand: I’m not talking about being argumentative or combative or trying to get the last word, or even speaking up for your rights. I’m talking about speaking up for God.

  1. They feared God. Listen to Numbers 14:6 “But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes.” Why did they tear their clothes? Tearing clothes was a sign of distress. Sometimes, it was a sign of mourning for dead. Unlike the multitude, these two understood the ramifications of failing to obey God and going into the Promised Land.

Question: Do you fear God or do you fear people? Do you fear people more than you fear God? If you fear God, you won’t fear anyone else.

  1. They tried to inspire others. Listen to Numbers 14 7 “and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, “a land which flows with milk and honey.” 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread”; What does that mean? Earlier inNumbers 13:32, the 10 spies had given a bad report to the children of Israel saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants…” That could mean that the land was barren, wild, filled with plagues, constant wars, or even like Hell. To this, Joshua and Caleb said that the people of the land “are our bread”! Several times the Bible uses that manner of speaking. It means more than just winning over our enemies. It also means that with each victory we become stronger just like with each meal we become stronger. Instead of fearing our enemies/challenges, we should face them, because we get stronger with each victory. Furthermore, “their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”

Question: Are you helping others stand up to fears or are you hiding behind your own fears?

Both Caleb and Joshua had a glorious future.

  1. Caleb: God said in Numbers 14:24 “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” Sure enough, in Joshua 14, Caleb came to Joshua to redeem God’s promise – 10 “And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12 Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.” Caleb got his mountain!
  2. Joshua: Listen to Deuteronomy 34:9 “Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.” Repeatedly, God told him to be strong and of good courage. Then, right before the Jericho campaign, the pre-incarnate Christ came to him in Joshua 5:13 “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, ‘Are You for us or for our adversaries?’ 14 So He said, ‘No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant?’ 15 Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, ‘Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” Joshua saw God! (Revelation 22:8-9)

Matthew 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Invitation: What kind of a spirit is in you? Spirit of Fear or the Spirit of God? Only those with the Spirit of God can see God. Only those who can see God can help others see God.

Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Without him you cannot have the Spirit of God.

Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

Prayer Doctrine.jpg

PRAYER – DOCTRINE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Kids have some very interesting prayers! I found a few online:

  • Dear God, If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set. Raphael
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Larry
  • Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. Joyce
  • Dear God, Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. Peter
  • God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. Love, Chris.
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. Sam

Unlike kids, who pray with a childlike faith and innocence, adults have a complex and sometimes even an unbelieving attitude towards prayer. Today we begin a 2-part series on prayer: first, we will focus on doctrine, and then, on practice. Here’s the main point of the first message on the doctrine of prayer: Our prayers reflect our understanding of God’s providence. In other words, our understanding of how much God is in control and how much free will we have will directly impact how and how much we pray.

1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Background: The Greek word for confidence is “parresia,” which can be translated as openness, confidence, boldness, and frankness. This is the kind of spirit we should have when we come to God in prayer.

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for my dad. We were not a perfect family, but we were a praying family. From an early age, I remember watching my mom, my dad, and my grandma pray. In church, I remember listening to adults pray, just like we do here. We even had home prayer meetings twice a week. We had 2 different language services (still do) and we would meet at different people’s homes each week to pray; Wednesday evening was people of the Hindi language service and Thursday would be of the English language service. As a little boy, I remember praying all the time—for a baby sister, for a new bike, for new shoes, for good grades in school, for being able to win a race with the other boys. I believed in prayer. But then, it happened. When, I can’t pinpoint the time, but I began to become more “realistic” and “grownup” about what I asked in my prayers. I began to lose the childlike faith and innocence in my prayers. I still prayed, but it wasn’t the same. I believe I have just described the prayer life of most of you here.

Why do we experience such a shift in our prayer life? Short answer: We grow up and face real life. We go through suffering and loss. Our hopes get dashed. Our prayers remain unanswered. We even come face-to-face with evil. Now, there is a change in our view of God and our prayers. It’s like the child who has a toy doctor kit and one day he gets a little cut. Instead of using the instruments (thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure kit) in the box, mom and dad take him/her to a real doctor or nurse who have real instruments. That’s when the child realizes that the instruments are simply toys. They are just pretend. Now, the child does play with the kit but it’s only pretend.

Long answer: Real life jars our view of God’s providence, and, with that, our prayers change as well. Let’s begin with defining the word “Providence.” For starters, that word is not found in the Bible but the concept is everywhere. Basically, it is the answer to how much is God in control of the world he has created and how much can we influence him. When we begin to seriously deal with the matter of God’s providence, a lot of complex and deep questions rise up. I don’t have time to deal with all of them here. There are some wonderful books out there like “Providence and Prayer” by Terrance Tiessen. Here, I just want to bring out a few of the major ones (they are interconnected): Is God timeless or is he bound by time just as we are? Because if he is in the same boat as we are, then, how can he really be prepared for what is coming around the corner? Does God know the future? How much does he know? If he does know the future, why doesn’t he do something about bad things? Does God allow evil to exist? Is he helpless to combat evil? Is he allowing evil to bring about something good? How about when it brings a lot of pain? Do I have any free will? Can people interfere with the plan of God? Does God change his mind? Bottom line: Does prayer change things?

If such questions about God’s providence are not answered, our prayer life will suffer.

Here’s how the proper view of the providence of God can help our prayer life:

  1. God’s providential control is comprehensive, detailed, capable, loving, and best.

There is much about the providence of God in creation in the Book of Psalms and Job. But, here is a classic passage from Matthew 6     26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 10     29 “…And not one of them (sparrows) falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Miracles are also part of his equation, but they are rare.When they don’t happen, we have to trust his perfect plan.

  1. People act freely within God’s overall will.

The best way to understand that is to imagine a road trip growing up. Mom and dad will get to the destination but it’s up to us as to how we will enjoy the trip. When it comes to humans, his sovereign will is always done, even if his moral will may be rejected. God’s purpose was to bring the people into the Promised Land. This was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah one day. Nonetheless, they all had a choice in how they would live in the land.Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Even evil has been allowed to exist temporarily but the boundary is set, as in Job. In his divine wisdom and care, he allows it. Through his foreknowledge, God already knows what we or evil will do, but everything is always within his reach and control. Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

  1. God works in us to bring us in partnership with his will and he uses prayers as a major means.

This happens through scripture, prayer, (personal and corporate) and fellowship with other believers. 1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Moses prayed for God’s people and miracles happened. The early church prayed and circumstances changed. Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Jesus wanted his disciples to participate in prayer. John 16      23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This applies to our personal lives as well because we are connected to his comprehensive plan. James 4:2 “…Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” Can we change the mind of God? In his perfect wisdom and plan, he has even allowed for that. His overall plan is always intact, but it does impact the immediate plan of God.

  1. Providence, Prayer, and everything else are ultimately connected to our salvation through Jesus Christ.

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: What do you believe about prayer? Does God answer? Can he answer? Have you prayed to invite Jesus into your life to be your Savior and King?

Uncomfortable Obedience by Pastor Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2018)

Manger NativityIntroduction: Thank you once again for being here this evening. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, using our gifts in his service, and leading someone to Christ. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our comfort zones. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Matthew 1     18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a justman,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were in their teenage years or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Joseph today (next Christmas Eve, we may focus on Mary). He was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary was pregnant and it was not his child.What a shock. Furthermore, she was not claiming that she was raped. She was not admitting to any guilt. What a shame. What a scandal. What’s even worse is that the word on the street was that she was claiming to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Joseph must have gone through a range of emotions: Shock, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, and even hate.
  2. They were still in the betrothal period and he was not officially married to her. Even though she was his wife technically, he still had the option to walk away from her. He was not the bad guy in this. No one was blaming him. They knew him better. In fact, they were expecting him to divorce her. Not to do so would be admitting to personal guilt.

Joseph gets a visit from the Angel of the Lord telling him that what Mary is saying is true. Plus, he had to stick around and name that child. Joseph chose to obey God instead of his emotions, his culture, or his family and friends. What would you have done?

How could he do that? The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally.I John 5:3“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Joseph loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

Double Honor (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

DOUBLE HONOR (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on October 6, 2018)

“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” (1Thessalonians 5:12-13)

Double HonorEach year, the month of October has been designated as the Pastor Appreciation Month. I know that may come as a surprise to some of you who thought that October was only about Halloween. Slide over Jason, Freddy, and Chucky! It’s time to make room for us good guys!

But seriously, pastors are among the most unappreciated individuals. Contrary to what people think, it’s not an easy job. Lifeway Research from 2015 listed the following statistics regarding pastors:

  • 84% say they’re on call 24 hours a day.
  • 80% expect conflict in their church.
  • 54% find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
  • 53% are often concerned about their family’s financial security.
  • 48% often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
  • 21% say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.

Both my wife and I grew up in a pastor’s home and we saw some of these challenges firsthand. We made up our minds that pastoral ministry was not for us. When God called me, we both struggled for a while. Although we love what we do today, it’s still quite challenging. We are very grateful for our church family that appreciates us and finds ways to encourage and support us and our children. It makes ministry a fun journey rather than a grudging duty.

Question: What is your church planning to do for your pastor and his family? Here’s a suggestion: Please don’t just give him a cheap picture frame with a Bible verse or some praying hands statue. Also, no more sending empty cards or gifting some used appliance that you don’t need (someone did that to us years ago). Give them some gift cards, so they can go out for a nice date. Maybe even send them for an overnight getaway all-expense paid. A healthy marriage will be far more beneficial to the church. And, don’t forget the kids! Do something nice for them as well. Any wonder why pastor’s kids go off the deep end? It’s probably due to the lack of encouragement from the church growing up.

Please don’t misunderstand. The office of a pastor is not a higher calling. It’s not superior to being a teacher, doctor, salesman, business owner, law enforcement, landscaper, truckdriver, waiter, secretary, homemaker, etc. I believe that every profession is a calling from God and equally important in the sight of God. Nonetheless, the pastor’s work helps every individual to be spiritually healthy in order to fulfill their various responsibilities. Doesn’t it deserve to be appreciated and encouraged?

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