Unsearchable by Dr. Abidan Shah

UNSEARCHABLE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: One Sunday morning after church, as the family was driving home, the mother began, “The choir was awful this morning. They were so off-key, weren’t they?” To this, the dad added, “The service was too long and I still don’t know what the minister was talking about.” The mother replied, “And, can you believe they’re going to spend all that money on that mission trip to Guatemala? Don’t we have plenty to do around here?” Their 16-year old daughter chimed in, “Why do the Jones’ always sit in front of us? They act like they are so better than us.” After a few seconds’ pause, their 10-year old from the back seat remarked, “Are we going back? Because, I thought it was a pretty good show for a dime.” Many Christians have a very low view of the importance of the church. Even before the current crisis, many had a take it or leave it attitude about the church. Now, with the current crisis, church has been shoved under the “non-essential” category. As you know, we began a mini-series through Ephesians on the role of the church. Here’s the main point of today’s message: The church is essential. In God’s divine plan, he has chosen the church to make known his mystery and wisdom to the principalities and powers of the evil domain. When the church is the church we are supposed to be, united and holy, then the spiritual rulers and authorities behind the power brokers of the world know that Jesus is in charge and they are not. For the church to shut down its activities is to give free reign to evil in the world. Today’s message is called “UNSEARCHABLE.”

Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Context: The verse we just read is part of a digression by the Apostle Paul. He often does this in his letters, but, unlike our digressions that are losing our train of thought, his digressions are the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to take us deeper into the wisdom and purpose of God. If you remember from last weekend, most believers had been playing on the shallow end of the pool, never learning how to swim in deep waters. All of a sudden, we got slammed by a pandemic tsunami and now we are stranded all over the place, clutching on to whatever we could find. If we’re going to make it moving forward, we will have to step into deep waters and learn how to swim.

Until the end of chapter 2, Paul was explaining to the Ephesians how the Gentiles had been brought into the family of God by Jesus Christ. Listen to Ephesians 2  19 “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” In other words, every believer—regardless of his/her ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or nationality—has an equal status in the family of God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Then, Ephesians 3:1“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles…” Meaning: Paul’s calling from God was to help Gentiles come into the family of God and become one body, the church.

Just when we want to say, “It’s great how there is no more division between the Jewish people and the Gentiles. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Good work Paul!” he stops and takes a digression to help us understand that this one body is much more than just a holy huddle. There is a powerful purpose behind it. Listen to Ephesians 3     2 “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).” What is the mystery of Christ? In some sense, Paul was using a term that the Ephesians would have been familiar with because they had mystery religions with secret knowledge. But, it is more likely that Paul was appealing to Daniel 2 where the Hebrew word “raz” or the Greek word “musterion” was used to refer to God’s secret plan of bringing Jesus into the world to save humanity. Paul was referring to the coming together of the believing Jewish people and the Gentiles into one body as the mystery of Christ. In the Old Testament, Gentiles could join God’s people, but they had to become Jewish first. Now, Gentiles did not have to become Jewish and Jewish people did not have to become Gentiles. Instead, both Jewish people and Gentiles could come together into a new community through Jesus Christ. This was the mystery of Christ. It was not as clear in times past. 5“which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” Now comes the verse we read in the opening – Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” What are the unsearchable riches of Christ? Christ has incredible wealth that we cannot fathom! It includes his grace, his mercy, his goodness, his love, his promises, his glory, etc. All that is now available to each of the Gentiles who have entered into the family God. Verse 9 “and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.”

Question: Are you part of this mystery? Have you been brought into the family of God? Are you saved? Do you value the unsearchable (unfathomable) riches of Christ?

Now, starting in verse 10, Paul goes deeper, explaining to us the critical nature of this new body, the church—10 “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God…” The Greek word for manifold is “polupoikilos,” which means “multifaceted” or “many faced.” The more you get to know Christ, the more multifaceted he becomes! Once again, verse 10 “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Let’s pause here for a moment and ask “What are principalities and powers?” The Greek word for “principalities” is “archei,” which means “angelic rulers.” In our context, it refers to “evil angelic rulers.” The Greek word for “powers” is “exousias,” which means “spiritual authorities.” In our context, it refers to “evil spiritual authorities.” There are 2 other times, they are mentioned in Ephesians:

  • Ephesians 1   19 “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power…20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power…” When God the Father raised his Son from the grave, he also raised him higher than all evil angelic beings.
  • Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly” Here Paul commands us to “Put on the whole armor of God” because we are in a battle against evil angelic beings.

Here’s the point: The mystery of Christ was also kept hidden from all the evil angelic beings. The coming of Jesus not only brought redemption, but it also broke the power of these wicked beings. Even though they know that Jesus is King, they still try to usurp his power. When the church is the church we are supposed to be, united and holy, then the spiritual rulers and authorities behind the power brokers of the world know that Jesus is in charge and they are not.

Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that the church has to proclaim a message to these evil beings. This does not mean that the church has to rebuke the enemy and his cohorts. It simply means that we make known “gnorizo” that we are the body of Christ, united and holy, and evil begins to back off. The Enemy has always used the tactic of “divide and conquer,” starting with Adam and Eve. When we come together in unity and holiness, we are making known to him and his cohorts the manifold wisdom of God.

Question: Isn’t it amazing that the same time evil has raised its ugly head in the past few months that the church has dropped her head and gone into hiding?

Ephesians 6     13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Invitation: Are you part of the mystery of Christ? Are you saved? How important is the church to you? Are you aware that we are in a spiritual battle?

Essential by Dr. Abidan Shah

ESSENTIAL by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: “If you could have only 3 things with you on a deserted island, what would they be?” They asked kids that question and some of their answers were: boat, helicopter, fridge full of food, water, matches, mall of America, my dog, my unicorn named Fluffy, my phone, a knife, my dad, my mom, my family, my best friend, etc. It’s amazing the things we consider essential in our lives. One thing that did not make the list, and I doubt it’s on anyone’s list here, is the Church. We definitely consider Christ, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel as essential, but we don’t think the Church is on the same level. Today, we’re starting a brand-new series titled ESSENTIAL from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here’s the main point: The Church is not second tier in the Christian life. It is top tier. The Church is the body of Christ. Can you imagine a person with just a head but no body? The Church is also the Bride of Christ. Can you imagine a wedding with just a groom but no bride? Everywhere Christ is, the Church is; and everywhere the Church is, Christ is. Christ and the Church are inseparable. The Church is essential. In fact, the Christ-Church relationship is the model and power for all our relationships.

Ephesians 1     15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you…:

Context: Paul is commending the Church in Ephesus for their faith in Christ and for their love for the saints. Those are 2 very positive things: Love for God and Love for the Church. Nonetheless, all may not have been so well among the Ephesians. Scholars have debated the reasons why Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesian church. Although, there are many suggestions, the most common one is unity. There are reasons for this: The Greek word for unity “henotes,” from which we get our English word “unity” is found twice, only in this letter. The term “one” (hen) is found about 14 times in the letter. So also, words that emphasize “being with” or “being together” are found a bunch of times in this book. All that to say, Paul wrote this letter to encourage unity in the Ephesian church. Maybe, they were drifting away. But, this unity could not be achieved by force. It could happen only when believers genuinely loved one another and understood why it was vital that they maintained their spirit of unity as a church. So, Paul told them what he was praying for. Listen to Ephesians 1     16 “…making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…” Paul was praying that the Ephesians would have deep wisdom and revelation, and their eyes of understanding would be opened. What should they see? 3 things to be exact:

  • 18 “…that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
  • what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
  • 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe…”

Here’s the translation:

  • Past: We need to have the solid assurance that God will bring to pass what he has promised. While we patiently wait on his plan, we need to look back and remember that he has called us.
  • Future: We need to remember that we are incredibly valuable to God. He will not allow his inheritance to be lost. He will claim us one day.
  • Present: We need to utilize the immense power that he has given to us. This power can withstand any attack of the Enemy and the world system around us.

Out of all 3, the most important is the present because we need power to live now as believers.

Application: Would you agree that ever since this crisis began, the church has lost its sense of power? We have become like cotton candy. We have nothing solid to offer. We are like a door stopper that the world has kicked out of the way and shut the door, leaving us sitting lifeless on the outside. By the way, let’s not blame the world too much. Much of it we have done it to ourselves! We have made ourselves dispensable by emptying out the salt shaker and snuffing out the lamp.

Paul spends some time explaining the source, the display, and the storehouse of this power that is available to believers in the present:

  1. Source: 19 “…according to the working of His mighty power…” God is the source of this mighty power.
  2. Display: 20 “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seatedHim at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” The Resurrection and Glorification of Christ is the display of this mighty power.
  3. Storehouse: 22 “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, Christ is the storehouses of this mighty power. This is manifested in 2 major places:

A. Creation: 22 “And He put all things under His feet” is a fulfillment of Psalm 8:6 “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Everything the first Adam had lost, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, gained back.

Are you worried about what’s happening in the world or in nature? You can stop. Jesus is in charge. Yes, not everything is right or okay, but he is still ultimately sovereign.

B. Church: “…and gave Him to be head over all things to the church.” A better translation: This same Christ is also the head of the church, both local and collective. If you still have any confusion regarding the relationship of Christ and the Church, the next verse solves any doubt. 23 “which is His body…”

Here’s what Paul is saying: Christ = head, Church = body, Christ = body and head. In other words, the church members are bound to each other and we are connected to our head Christ. This cannot be separated.

Application: In the beginning of the pandemic, I found it very interesting how the church was quickly deemed “nonessential.” And, when it was declared lawful to be open, how many were hesitant to open and still are! Don’t think that I don’t understand the health concerns. I do. I understand that some can’t safely return right now. But, how about those who can but choose not to or choose to minimize the importance of the church. Have you considered the ramifications what we are doing?

Final line of verse 23 “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” In other words, God’s fulness, which fills Christ, fills the Church. This is not a one-time filling but an ongoing constant filling. This power is alive and fresh. It is new every day for every challenge and opportunity that may come in our path. We need this power specially to combat the evil powers. We need this power in our daily lives, especially our relationships. What does this power look like? It is God’s moral excellence, his perfection, his truth, his protection, and his blessing.

Application: Do you now understand the emotional, mental, and spiritual health ramifications of not opening the church? In this series coming up we will learn how this impacts our daily relationships, starting with the husband-wife relationships.

Ephesians 5      25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Invitation: Is the Church essential to you? Is the Church essential to your family? Are you part of the Church? Are you saved?

Divisive Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

DIVISIVE MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: One of my favorite episodes on the Andy Griffith Show is the one where Andy plays the marriage counsellor. Fred Boone and his wife Jennie are some of the nicest people in Mayberry but they have one problem – they can’t get along with each other. They fight all the time. When they run out of words, they start throwing dishes at each other. Andy feels like he can help them out. So, he tries to teach them how to speak lovingly to each other, hoping that in time it’ll become a habit. It actually works but then something happens. Fred and Jennie begin fighting with everybody else in town. That’s when Andy and Barney realize that it is so much better to let them fight with each other, if they want to have peace in Mayberry. Do you know people like that? They are always fighting with someone. For them, its normal to be at odds with someone. They have a divisive mind. Unfortunately, such people are also in the church. Today’s message will help us deal with a divisive mind and exchange it for the mind of Christ.

Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Question: Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know what it means to be of one mind with others? Are you saved? Do you have the mind of Christ?

Context: Many of you have shared with me how much the sketch of the volcano and the plant has helped you. So, here it is once again. All of us have certain EXPECTATIONSin life. These Expectations represent our goals in life and how we expect life to turn out through the good times and the bad. These Expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. These Assumptions come from how our mind has been built by God through our parents, through our upbringing, and through the circumstances in life. What happens when our Expectations don’t turn out according to our Assumptions? We have FRUSTRATIONS. These are usually manifested as Anxiety, Guilt, and Resentment. In the past two sermons I gave you some illustrations from wanting success in life, marriage, and child-raising. Here’s another one from being hurt in life. If your Expectation is that the world owes you for the pain you have suffered in your past, you are in for a lot of Frustrations in life. This false Expectation is based on the false Assumption that life is perfect, that human beings are inherently good, that hurts can be rectified in this life, and that if you are hurt, you are entitled to special privileges. That’s not true. You have to abandon the volcano model for the tree planted by rivers of water. Instead of Assumptions, you have to seek after BIBLICAL TRUTHSi.e. THE MIND OF CHRIST. Instead of Expectations, you have to trust in the PROMISES OF GOD. Then, instead of Frustrations, you will have FRUITS. You will have to believe in the fallenness of human beings, the reality of sin, the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the importance of forgiveness.

Now back to our message on the Divisive Mind – Listen again to Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” In order to understand why Paul said those words, we need to take this passage apart and look at it a section at a time. To start with, Paul implores the Philippians – “Fulfill my joyby being likeminded.”The word for joy is “chara” which Paul uses 5 times in various forms in this letter:

  • In Philippians 1:4Paul prays for the Philippians with joy.
  • In Philippians 1:25Paul wants to continue with them for their“progress and joyof faith.”
  • Of course, here in Philippians 2:2 Paul wants them to fulfill his joyby being like-minded.”
  • In Philippians 2:29Paul wants them to receive Epaphroditus, one of his companions in ministry, with joy
  • In Philippians 4:1 Paul calls the Philippians his “joyand crown.”

I don’t have time to look at the related word “chairo” meaning rejoice, which is found about 7 times in various forms. The most famous one being Philippians 4:4Rejoicein the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Why is Paul so obsessed with joy and rejoice in his letter to the Philippians?

Before we answer that question, what is the meaning of this word “joy” and even “rejoice?” Of course, we can go to the Lexicons and the Greek dictionaries but the best way to discover the true meaning is by looking at the context in which those words are used in the Bible. Here is what I have found: Joy is a feeling of deep happiness based on biblical truths.What does this “deep happiness” feel like? C.S. Lewis, in his book Surprised by Joy,describes it as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” What Lewis is saying is that true joy never runs out or reaches its goal but keeps multiplying. Furthermore, it is not depended on our circumstances.

Back to our question – Why did Paul use the words “joy” and “rejoice” so many times in his letter to the Philippians? Listen again to Philippians 2:2Fulfillmy joy…” Fulfill implies that at the moment Paul’s joy was incomplete. It had depleted. It was leaking. What caused it to leak? “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” Just in case the Philippians were to misunderstand what Paul meant, he clarified it in 3 different ways – “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Talk about being emphatic! Why did Paul restate this in 4 ways? Because the Philippians were either divided or on their way to being divided. 

Listen very carefully – Nothing will deplete your joy in the Christian life faster than division in your life, your marriage, your family, and your church.

Where do divisions come from? 3“Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”Divisions come from selfish ambitions, conceit (excessive pride), sense of superiority (especially spiritual superiority, legalism), and self-interest. If a person has grown up in an environment marred by arguments and fights because of these negative qualities, it becomes a normal “Assumption” for them to live in contention with those around them. It is an unhealthy, evil, and destructive normal. It takes one divisive person to start something and before you know it, the whole body is infected with a spirit of division. 

How do you counteract such a divisive mind?Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:14-15“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…”Philippians 4:8“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” What do you do when someone brings negative divisive junk to you? Here’s an example from the Old Testament worth considering – David and Jonathan were best friends even though Saul (Jonathan’s father) hated him. After Saul’s house collapsed and David became the King over Israel, David wanted to do something nice for his old friend Jonathan. He asked if there was anyone left and a servant of Saul by the name of Ziba informed him that Jonathan had a son by the name of Mephibosheth who was lame in his feet. David had him brought and told him not to fear and that he will give him all the inheritance of his grandfather Saul. Wow! Then he told Ziba that he is to serve Mephibosheth the way he served Saul. All sounds great. Jump ahead to Absalom’s rebellion against David, his father. David had to run for his life and Mephibosheth could not accompany him because of his handicap and sent Ziba to help David fight against Absalom. Ziba met David and told David that he has come to help even though his master Mephibosheth has pledged his allegiance to Absalom. David told Ziba that in that case, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is now his. The battle is over, Absalom dies and David is victorious. Mephibosheth comes to congratulate David and David asks him why he did not go with him. He replied that he couldn’t because of his handicap and that Ziba had lied to him.What did David do next? Did he put Ziba on trial? Did he return Mephibosheth his property? No. He said in 2 Samuel 19:29“You and Ziba divide the land.” Why? Even though Ziba had lied, David’s mind was now contaminated against Mephibosheth and he could never trust him again. Factually he knew that Mephibosheth was good but emotionally he couldn’t trust him anymore. This is what happens when you allow a divisive person to speak into your life.

What needs to happen is that your assumptions have to be replaced by biblical truths. Philippians 2:1“Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” So much I could say about each – Salvation through Jesus, love for one another, Holy Spirit binding us in him and actively showing affection and mercy is need to deal with a divisive mind, whether yours or someone else’s.

Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know someone who does? Pray for them. Are you saved?

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?

United by Pastor Abidan Shah

UNITED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

UnitedIntroduction: Have any of ya’ll ever walked into an establishment like a restaurant where the waiters or waitresses didn’t get along? The meal was good but the atmosphere gave you a heartburn! Have any of you ever been to someone’s house where the family members didn’t get along? The house was beautiful but it was not a home. Have any of you ever attended a church where the members did not get along? They shook your hand but you didn’t feel welcome. They sang but it was not worship. They preached but it was not a message. What was lacking? Unity was lacking. Something else was lacking. God’s blessing was lacking. Disunity negates God’s blessing in a business, in a family, and, especially, in a church. Unity invites God’s blessing.

Psalm 133     1“Behold, how good and how pleasantit isfor brethren to dwell together in unity! 2It islike the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. 3It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.”

Question: How is unity in your life, in your family? Are you promoting unity in this church body or are you eroding it? Are you part of the body of Christ? Are you saved?

Context: The psalm we just read is attributed to King David. Unlike some of his other psalms, this one is kind of unusual. It’s a song of worship but it reads more like a proverb. Although it talks about God, its theme is the importance of unity among God’s people. A few weeks back, when I was praying over what God would want me to preach after we get into the building, he laid this psalm on my heart. Clearview exists to magnify Christ but we cannot do it without unity in our church family. You can also apply this message to your family, your workplace, and your community. 3 things about unity:

I. UNITY IS UNCOMMON. 

1“Behold, how good and how pleasantit isfor brethren to dwell together in unity!

Background:The reason David says this is because it is natural for brethren not to dwell together in unity. Ever since the beginning of time, brothers have been fighting. Cain killed his brother Abel. Esau wanted to kill his brother Jacob. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers. If it was David who wrote this psalm, his brothers hated him as well. It probably began when Samuel the prophet came to their home to anoint the next king of Israel. Samuel thought the oldest one, Eliab, would be the king but God told him in 1 Samuel 16:7“. . . Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.For the LORDdoes notseeas man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Six more brothers passed by in front of Samuel but God kept refusing them. Finally, David was called in from the field where he was keeping sheep. When he walked in, God said to Samuel in I Samuel 16:12“. . . Arise, anoint him; for thisisthe one!” Question: How do you think the brothers felt? We find the answer in the next chapter with the Goliath incident. David’s three brothers (Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah) were on the battlefield and their father, Jesse, sent David with some food for them. When David got there, he saw Goliath the Philistine giant taunting the armies of Israel. David was filled with the Spirit of God and he asked the soldiers why somebody wasn’t doing something! Listen to what happens next – 1 Samuel 17:28Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”Wow! Talk about talking down to someone! Talk about resentment and bitterness! Talk about judging someone! When David wrote those words, his eyes probably welled up with tears.

Application:Did you grow up in a home where people didn’t get along? Did you grow up in a situation where harsh words were spoken, grudges were held, and motives were judged? Don’t think that you are the only one. Disunity is natural. You have to work at unity. By the way, people bring the same attitudes to church and they spread the disease of disunity.

II. UNITY IS SACRED. 

2“It islike the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments.”

Background:To explain what unity feels like, David draws a word picture for us from the time of Moses and Aaron. It comes from Exodus 30   30And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that theymay minister to Me as priests. 31“And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you makeany otherlike it, according to its composition. It isholy, andit shall be holy to you. 33Whoever compoundsanylike it, or whoever putsanyof it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.”In the verses following, God gave the exact concoction of this sacred oil and again warned against using it for anything else. In other words, this was a very sacred oil. Any abuse or corruption was punishable by banishment. Then in Leviticus 8the actual ceremony did take place when Aaron was anointed with oil. At the end of this 8-day ceremony, it says in Leviticus 9   23 “. . . Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, 24and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people sawit,they shouted and fell on their faces.”

Why did David use this imagery to describe unity? Just like the sacred oil, unity should also be treated as sacred. Any abuse and corruption should also be punishable by banishment. Don’t mess with unity. There are people in church who say things and do things that are detrimental to the unity of the church family. We should think twice about doing that! Don’t misunderstand: We can have different opinions and ideas but let nothing, except for the truth of the Word of God, divide us.

Application:How sacredly do you guard the unity in this church family? How sacredly do you guard unity in your family, your workplace, your community?

III. UNITY IS A MUST FOR GOD’S BLESSING. 

It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.”

Background: Once again, David draws a word picture for us but this time from the climate and the land. Dew was and still is absolutely essential in Israel. From April to October there is little rain. So, dew is absolutely essential for the vegetation. What is dew? It is moisture condensed from the warm air by the cold ground. Mount Hermon sits on the North of Israel and its about 9000 ft high. The dew from Mount Hermon flows down and brings life to places all over Israel. It is the source of life. Without it, even Mount Zion would be barren. What is David saying? Just like the dew from Mount Hermon brings life and sustenance to the mountains of sacred Zion, so also unity gives God the opportunity to bless his people. The blessing is “life forevermore.” Show me a church that is lifeless and I will show you a church lacking in unity. Show me a family that is lifeless and I will show you a family where relationships are fractured. Show me a workplace, neighbourhood, or community that is lifeless and I will show you a place that does not have unity.

Application:Is there lifelessness where you are? Are relationships dying? Is growth struggling? Unity is the problem.

So, how do you achieve unity?

  1. Be discerning. Don’t get sucked into someone’s wrong agenda.
  2. Know the difference between unity and uniformity. Just look around.
  3. Love fervently. It will cover a multitude of sins.
  4. Focus on our common bond. What matters.

Ephesians 4    1“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,2with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,3endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.4There isone body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism;6one God and Father of all, whoisabove all, and through all, and in you all.”

Do you have this bond? Are you saved?

Train Up a Child (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

TRAIN UP A CHILD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on March 31, 2018)

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.”

Train Up a Child (1)The world is upside down. We have become W.B. Rands’ “Topsy-Turvy World” where “three times one was nine…the pony rode his master…the cats were afraid of the mouse…and the mamma sold her baby.” Now right is wrong and wrong is your right. The good guys are the bad guys and the bad guys are the heroes. Sin is freedom and morality is intolerance. As the late pastor Adrian Rogers would say, “sin that use to slink down the back alley now struts down the main street.”

As bad as all that is, we’ve hit a new low when children are being made to lecture adults on what’s right and what’s wrong! Now kids are being held up as spokespersons and activists against time-honored foundational values. There are some who are celebrating this but I believe that it will prove to be devastating to our kids as well as to our society and future. It is no different than giving those same kids a wire-stripper and setting them loose in an electrical panel or giving them a scalpel and letting them do critical surgery.

Train Up a Child (2)Don’t think for a moment that I am talking down about children. To the contrary, I am repulsed by the adage – “Children are to be seen and not heard.” Jesus welcomed children. He compared the reception of his kingdom to the humility of a child. He threatened those who would hurt children with the severest punishment. Repeatedly, the Bible commands us to treat children with the utmost respect and care. This requires that we understand that what they truly deserve and desire from us is right training. Proverbs 22:6 lays out the 4 non-negotiables in this process:

  1. The Child – The Hebrew word is “nahar,” which can mean anywhere from an unborn child to a young person. From the context, it is obvious that the training has to begin as early as possible. Delay in training will diminish the promise. Children are like a garden. The longer you let it go, the harder it is get it back.
  2. The Way – There are only 2 ways in life. The first is God’s Way and the second is the Sinful Way. One leads to life and the other to destruction. Once on the right way, you cannot keep going back to the wrong way and still expect to get to your destination.
  3. The Training – Read Deuteronomy 6:6-9. It is not a one-time event but a 24/7 job. It is not accidental but intentional. It is not irrational but logical. It is not authoritarian but empathetic. It is not cherry picked but balanced. It is not harsh but firm. It is not disheartened but patient.
  4. The Trainer – Training is more caught than taught. In other words, it’s not enough to just preach at your kids. You have to practice what you preach. Doing immoral and unethical things and warning your kids not to does not work. Dropping your kids off at church as you squeal your tires out of the parking lot does not cut it. As someone wisely said, “whatever you do in moderation, your children will do in excess.” You want your kids to follow Christ, then you follow him. If you do those 4 non-negotiables correctly, then only the promise is that those kids may lose their way but they will be back.

If Neil Postman was right that “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see,” what message are we giving to our kids? I see a bright future ahead as more and more parents are rising up and taking their rightful roles as trainers and models to their kids.

Changing Seasons of A Marriage (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

CHANGING SEASONS OF A MARRIAGE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 3, 2018) 

Genesis 8:22 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season…”

Changing Seasons of a MarriageWe all have our favorite seasons. Many of us love the Fall with its changing leaves and beautiful colors. Some of us love Winter with its cooler temperatures. I know a lady in our church who left Florida because she got tired of the warm weather! She makes it a point to remind me that a perfect forecast is when they’re calling for below freezing! Personally, I love Spring because it’s a glimpse of the resurrection that awaits us. And, what can I say about Summer! Long days, beach trips, and the yellow inferno, which some call “the Sun.” No matter how much we love one season more than another, we cannot hold on to our favorite ones or skip over those we don’t like. They all change in due time and each one is essential for the next to arrive. Without Spring, there would be no Summer and Summer prepares us for Fall, which in turn ushers in Winter. In the same way, a marriage also has different seasons. We may prefer one over the other but we cannot hold on to any or skip over the ones we don’t like. I want to briefly explain the various seasons of a marriage and how that understanding can enhance your relationship. My information is coming from two books that have helped me greatly in my pre-marital and marital counselling: “Passages of Marriage” by Minirth, Newman, and Hemfelt; “Seasons of a Marriage” by H. Norman Wright. Altogether, there are five seasons in a marriage:

  1. “Fall Season” – It is romantic love filled with captivating colors and perfect temperatures. The air is full of expectations that the colors will never fade and the temperatures will never change. Unfortunately, the leaves start falling, the temperatures start dropping, and only the barren woods and brown grass remains. Unfulfilled expectations can sometimes lead to hurt, anger, and bad choices.
  2. “Early Winter Season” – It is marked by a growing realization that love is not enough to face the dropping temperatures. Bills, mortgage, and car payments have to made. But, it’s not all bad. It can also be a time of much joy and excitement with the arrival of new members in the family! New roles and adjustments have to be made but it is fulfilling. Warning: It can also be a time when silk sheets get replaced with flannel!
  3. “Late Winter Season” – With no Punxsutawney Phil in sight, the days seem depressing and meaningless. Being locked up indoors, the defects in each other become more distinct and annoying. Cabin fever can sometimes drive people to venture out to re-discover themselves. Someone cleverly called it the “go-away-closer disease,” where the spouse wants to be closer and yet pushes the other person away. If properly handled, it can actually lead to deeper intimacy and commitment.
  4. “Spring Season” – Just when it seems that winter would last forever, the leaves start budding, the flowers start blooming, the birds start singing, the temperature starts rising, and “love is in the air.” Having weathered the harsh winter of life, people become more realistic and mature. Don’t take this as some “as good as it gets” life. Instead, it brings a far richer love and appreciation for one another.
  5. “Summer Season” – Far from being the “last years” of a marriage, these can be the “masterpiece years.” Michelangelo began his work on the Sistene Chapel at 76 and created the architectural plans for the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli at 88. Having been through the hurricanes of the Fall, blizzards of the Winter, hay fever of the Spring, and other unexpecteds of life, you are well-qualified for a masterpiece marriage.

Remember: “Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall; All you got to do is call” on God and he will see you through any season of your marriage.

Becoming a Chain Breaker by Pastor Abidan Shah

BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

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Introduction: Many years ago Nicole and I decided to take our 3 kids at the time to our old stomping grounds in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. There is a place there called Helen, kind of a tourist town, built like an Alpine village. The Chattahoochee River winds through the town and people can go tubing. It’s beautiful. We arrived that evening and went for a walk and saw the people floating around in ankle deep water. Nicole and I had done that before and we decided to take the kids tubing the next day. We didn’t pay attention to the weather but all night it rained and rained. The next day we got to the tubing place and it was no longer a lazy river but looked like some white water rapids. Against our better judgment we decided to go for it. Nicole kept Nicholas with her, I kept Abigail, and Rebecca was by herself. It wasn’t 30 seconds into the river that I realized that this was a huge mistake. The ankle-deep river was now about chest high in places and we were being hurled through as if we were on the Colorado River. I hung on to Rebecca’s tube until a big boulder knocked her out of my hands. Before I could react she had slipped a few meters and then a few yards away. People on the banks were watching us in shock. Rebecca went around a bend and I couldn’t see her anymore. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life. We could see slippers and tubes that were abandoned by people but we didn’t want to get out because Rebecca was somewhere out there. Finally, we got to the end and she was there waiting for us. The point is this – when I made the decision to go tubing, I never anticipated what would happen. In fact, after the first 10 minutes, I lost sight of our daughter. So also in life, we make decisions but we don’t realize the consequences that follow. Most of the time we will never see what may happen in the future. The series we’re starting today is called “THE FAMILY: SOME DO’S, SOME DON’T’S, AND SOME WHO KNOWS.” People have asked me to teach on marriage, family, and parenting and I’m always reluctant because there’s so much I don’t know. But I had to remind myself that it’s not about my opinion but about the Word of God. So, we will be studying the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. The advantage of this series is that we’ll be able to track the consequences of their good and bad decisions to the third, fourth, and even later generations. Today’s message is called “BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER.”

Genesis 12   1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”…5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan.

Question: Before we begin the first message, let me ask you a few questions. Do you feel that you have a good understanding regarding marriage, family, and parenting? How is your marriage? How is parenting working out for you? Where did you get your understanding on those subjects? Was it from a parent, grandparent, celebrity, friend, or church leader? Were those individuals truly successful in their marriage, family, and parenting? Do you have Christ in your life? Without him, you’ll never have what you truly need to be successful. Why don’t you invite him into your life right now?

In this first message we’re going to learn what it means to be a chain breaker. As we go further it’ll become clear what I am referring to.

  1. The first Chain Breaker.

When we thing about the beginning of the people of Israel, we only think about Abraham and Sarah but truly we need to go a few steps back and read the preceding verses. Listen to Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.” We mistakenly think that Abraham (Abram) was the first and only one to get the call to follow God out of the Ur of the Chaldeans. Not really. In fact, the first one to step out was Abraham’s father Terah.

Who was Terah? When we do a careful study of the genealogies in the Book of Genesis, we find that Terah is located at the end of the first age and the beginning of the second. The first age begins with Adam and Eve, goes through Noah and his three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), zooms in on the line of Shem, and ends with Terah in Genesis 11:24. The second age begins with Terah in verse 27 “This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” The point is this – Terah is the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. He was the first chain breaker. The Bible doesn’t talk about it but I can imagine the struggle he must have faced in leaving Ur. Archaeological evidence tells us that it was a large city. Being near the Persian Gulf, people from everywhere came there for business. Also, Ur was a center for moon worship. There is evidence to this day of a ziggurat dedicated to the god Nanna or Sin. He was the god of the cowherders, cattle breeders, and orchardmen. Basically, he was the god of fertility (keep that in mind), along with his consort or wife, Ningal, the goddess of reeds. Terah had to leave all this behind to follow God to Canaan.

Principle: When you see a successful person, don’t immediately give them all the credit. Look for whose shoulders they’re standing on. Someone had to step out and be the pioneer in their life. This is especially true in the Christian life. Remember Paul telling Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5 that he is filled with joy every time “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

For e.g. You’ve heard me give my dad’s testimony and how he was the pioneer to follow Christ in his family but this was also true in my mom’s side of the family. It was my grandmother’s dad (my great-grandfather) who practiced medicine back in the late 1800s-early 1900s. I remember my grandmother telling me that he was the first one to follow Christ through the work of some Reformed Presbyterian missionaries from England. He became a lay preacher. He was the pioneer on that side of the family.

Question: Who has been the chain breaker and pioneer in your life? A father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. It is their sacrifice that brought blessing into your life. Sometimes, there’s no one in the past that you can thank and you have to be your own pioneer. In my early years as a pastor I used to hear, “we used to go to church as a little kid.” Now, it is, “no, our family never went to church…”

Application: Are you the pioneer in your family? It’s not easy to do what you’re doing. No one has set any pattern for you. There’s no one to look up to in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. Just like the pioneers in our nation’s history, you have to make the tough sacrifices. But if you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the pioneer.

  1. The reason for the move.

Why did Terah decide to move out of Ur? We have no indication in the text that God called Terah the same way he called Abraham. Maybe it was because of the losses in his life. First, there’s no mention of his wife, which means she must have died in Ur. Second, verse 28 says, “And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.” We don’t have any details on Haran’s death but you can imagine what effect this must have made on Terah. Maybe this was a catalyst for him to move out of Ur.

Principle: All pioneers have to go through pain to move out of their comfort zone. God doesn’t cause the pain but he uses the pain to bring something good into our lives.

For e.g. Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States is one of my favorites. February 14th, 1884 was an awful day for him. He was in the NY state legislature trying to get a bill passed when he was called home. His mother had died due to typhoid fever. Few hours later, his wife of 4 years also died due to some kidney problems. She had just given birth to their daughter. Teddy Roosevelt left everything and went into the badlands for a couple of years and worked as a rancher and a local sheriff. When he returned, he was a different man who made a big impact in America and the world. Teddy Roosevelt came from a Christian home and he knew that God had used his pain to mature him.

Question: Have you been through pain in your life? You can do one of two things. Either you can sit and blame the people or situation that has brought pain into your life or you can ask God to use that pain in your to push you out of your comfort zone.

  1. The warning to the Chain Breaker.

Joshua 24:2 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.

I don’t want to deal too much in speculation, hypothesis, and theory. I like to stick to the facts. But just for a brief moment, I wonder if God called Terah before he called Abraham. Terah obeyed but only partially. He could not move past the ancestral gods. Terah came out of the old country but the old country did not come out of Terah.

What was the result? Listen to what Stephen said in his sermon before the high priest in Acts 7   2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

While Terah staggered at his call, Abraham continued the journey with God. Unfortunately, he had to wait till Terah died. If I may add, because of his delay, Abraham was stuck with Lot, which was very costly. Also, it delayed the coming of Isaac and caused the birth of Ishmael, which was also very costly.

Principle: If you’re stuck in your ways and your ways are from the Bible, that’s great. But, if you’re stuck in your ways but your ways are not from the Bible, someone else may have to finish your journey.

In order to be a chain breaker:

  • Be willing to leave your comfort zone.
  • Be willing to let God use your pain for your growth.
  • Be careful about hanging on to old gods.
  • Be aware of who will be following you and what your disobedience may cost them.

For e.g. Nicole’s grandfather was a chain breaker on that side of the family.

For e.g. Kid who followed his dad to the bar by placing his little feet in the imprint of his dad’s feet in the snow.

Are you a Terah or an Abraham? Whom are you following? Do you see the significance of your disobedience? Are you still hanging on to the old gods? Are you saved?

Love is Cheering by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS CHEERING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love-is-cheering-2Introduction:  As you know, we’re in our series – LOVE IS THE GREATEST. Many of you have commented to me about how much you have loved this series and how much you are looking forward to the messages coming up. Thank you! This morning we come to the third message from I Corinthians 13 titled “LOVE IS CHEERING.”

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Bridge: I remember the first ball game I went to in America. It was a basketball game. What fascinated me the most were these students on the sidelines who were jumping up and down, holding up placards, blowing the megaphones, and telling us to clap our hands, stomp our feet, and shout some slogans. I asked the guy next to me. “Why are they doing all that?” He told me that they were cheerleaders. My question: “What if they stop cheering?” He replied: They play better when we cheer them. People in our life also play better when we cheer them. In this message, we’re going to learn how love is cheering the other person, not envying them.

Context: Once again, Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians because there were a lot of selfish and self-centered things happening in the church. The worldly mentality was creeping in. They were treating each other hatefully. They were becoming more and more divided. They were falling into worse and worse sins. When Paul got news of it, he wrote this letter to them. The message of this letter was not just “don’t be selfish” or “don’t be hateful” or “don’t be divided” or “don’t fall into sin.” The message was “love each other the way God has loved you.” Why? The root of all their problems was the love problem. Last weekend we learned that “love is calming” and today “love is cheering.”

Question: But before we do that, would you agree that at the root of a lot of our problems is the love problem? Would you agree that many of the problems we are facing in our marriages, homes, churches, communities, nation, and world is because we don’t know how to love others? Are you a loving person? Are you saved? Have you accepted the love of God in your hearts through Jesus Christ? You can never love properly until you have properly accepted God’s love in your hearts. Have you done that?

What did Paul mean when he wrote, “…love does not envy…” If you remember from last week, “Words have inherent meaning only to a certain extent. They get their true and full meaning from their context. For example: the word “oversight.” “She has the oversight of that project.” It means “she is in charge of that project.” “I’m sorry. That was my oversight.” It means “I accidentally missed something when I was going over it.” The context helps you understand the true meaning. Biblical words also have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning from the biblical context.”

Let’s look at the true meaning of the Greek word that Paul used to describe love – “…love does not envy,” the Greek word for “envy” is “zeluo.” It literally means “to burn” or “to boil.” It can have a positive or a negative meaning. Positively, it means to “deeply desire,” “eagerly desire,” or “zealously strive.” It’s like when we say, “He was burning with energy” or “She was burning with excitement.” For example: In I Corinthians 12:31 Paul says, “But earnestly desire the best gifts.” Meaning: Passionately and earnestly seek after the best gifts that God wants you to use in the church. But this same word can also have a negative connotation. Sometimes it can mean “jealousy” and other times it can mean “envy.” People often confuse them. There’s a difference between them.

What is “jealousy?” It’s when “I have something that I will not share with you.” Human beings are often uman Hujealous over someone or something. “He’s such a jealous guy.” Meaning: He’s so possessive over his girlfriend or something else.” Here’s something very interesting. The Bible tells us that God also gets jealous. In the Old Testament God repeatedly becomes jealous over his people. In Exodus 20 he told the children of Israel – 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” Did you know that one of the names of God is “Jealous?” Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).” The Hebrew word for jealousy and envy in the Old Testament is “kanah,” which is literally “to become intensely red.” When the Jewish people translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek, they used the word “zelou” to translate “kanah.” What God is saying here is that he turns intensely hot when we give his honor to someone else. He will not share our allegiance with anyone. Please don’t misunderstand – God shares many things with us. He shares his love, his power, his authority, and even his glory with us. Someone might say, “Oh no, not his glory. Doesn’t God say in Isaiah 42: 8, ‘I am the Lord…And My glory I will not give to another?” Keep reading – “Nor My praise to carved images.” That passage is against idol worship. But listen to Romans 8   16 “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Isn’t God so gracious and generous towards us?!! The only thing that God will not share with anyone is our loyalty to him.

Why am I going so deep? Christianity in America has become simplistic. There’s a difference between simple and simplistic. Simple: “This is the day the Lord has made.” Simplistic: “Have a nice day.” There’s a reason why people are struggling with their convictions. Because of ignorance, they have become shallow. It’s time to move from simplistic to simple.

As I was saying, the word “zelou” can also mean envy. There’s a difference between jealousy and envy. What is envy? John Piper gave a great definition for it – “Envy is desire mingled with resentment.” In other words, “You have something I really want and now I resent you for it.” Let me clarify: You can like someone’s dress and that’s not envy. You can desire someone’s success and that’s not envy. You can model yourself after some person and that that’s not envy. Envy is not admiration. Envy goes a step beyond. It is desire plus resentment. By the way, God is never envious towards us. There’s nothing in us that he desires or resents us for. Envy is exclusively a creature problem and it has been around since the beginning:

  • It got Lucifer in trouble – He began to envy God.
  • It was the cause of the first sin – Eve envied God and wanted to have His knowledge.
  • It was the cause of the first murder – Cain killed his brother because he envied his offering.
  • Down through the ages brothers have envied each other – Ishmael envied Isaac, Esau envied Jacob, Joseph was envied by his brothers, David was envied by his brothers, even Jesus was envied by his brothers.
  • Someone might say “this must be a man thing.” Not true – Sisters have envied each other as well – Rachel envied Leah in the OT. Martha envied Mary in the NT. Aaron and Miriam were envious of Moses.

All of us at some point have been bit by the “green eyed monster”:

  • A friend of yours has a boyfriend/girlfriend and you don’t. You wish you had someone like they have in your life. That’s okay. But now you begin to talk bad about that person. That’s envy.
  • You want to play sports and then there’s that kid who is better than you. You wish you had their talent. That’s okay. But now you begin to badmouth them. That’s envy.
  • You wish you could sing but so and so is amazing. You can admire that person’s gift and that’s okay. But now you begin to spread rumors about her. That’s envy.
  • You have children who are average or sick but then there are other families that have healthy children and great performers. They always seem to come out on top. You can pray and ask God to bless your children as well. That’s okay. But you begin to make snide remarks about them. That’s envy.
  • Then the big one – how you look. Why do I have a weight problem, height problem? I don’t like my nose, my chin, my eyes and on and on. We often feel like God is so unfair in giving looks. On a scale of 1-10, we think God goes around saying “Everyone is 10, you are just 1-2.” When you see someone who is a 10, you look for faults in their life and secretly wait for them to fall. That’s envy.
  • Someone has a better husband/better wife, better job, better house and the list goes on and on. To desire to have those things is not wrong. It becomes envy when you begin to malign the other person.
  • Don’t think this doesn’t happen in ministry. it happens more in the ministry than in any other field. How do I know? I have been both the perpetrator and the victim of envy. I have felt the intense dislike for a person just because they had a bigger church, ministry, and influence. Several years ago Nicole and I went to the SBC convention. On the way back, something happened. I wasn’t talking much. Nicole asked me if I was okay and I said “yes.” But she knows if something is wrong and she won’t let me rest until I share it. Envy had its ugly grip on me. I lost my passion, lost my prayer life, lost my joy. I was envious of someone I had never met and he did not know I existed. I have also felt the intense dislike of others towards me because I pastor a bigger church, have a bigger ministry, and wider influence. I was elected to be the moderator of our Association. After the meeting, one pastor came to me and said – “you know they asked me first but I told them that I was just too busy for stuff like that.”

Socrates said, “Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of murder and revenge, the begetter of secret sedition, the perpetual tormenter of virtue. Envy is the filthy slime of the soul; a venom, a poison, a quicksilver, which consumes the flesh and dries up the bones.”

How does God love us? He loves us without envy. He wants the best for us. He wants to see us to grow and mature and live in joy and peace. He even sends trials in our lives to help us, never to hurt us. He not only sent His Son to die for us but now he also lives in us through his Holy Spirit and cheers us on from the right hand of the Father.

How should you love others? Love them without envy. It begins when you cheer others in their success. It’s when you rejoice when you see them win. It’s when you pray that they won’t fall. It’s when you encourage them when they seem to struggle. Do you ever conquer envy? Probably not. But you learn to repent and refocus faster and start cheering that person in love.

By the way, when you see that person fall, don’t misunderstand what is happening. One way God deals with envy is that He crucifies the one being envied. If I were God, I would crucify the one who is envying – right? Not really. Just the opposite. Someone said, “God never makes the path of greater fruitfulness enviable.” When you have a problem with someone because of envy, God says “I will crucify that guy for you.” Cain – you have a problem with Abel, I will take him early in life; Ishmael – you have a problem with Isaac, I will take him up on Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him; Esau – you have a problem with Jacob, I will keep him running all his life; Joseph’s brothers – you have a problem with Joseph, I will have him sold into slavery; David’s brothers – you have a problem with David, I will keep him running from cave to cave hunted by Saul. James – you have a problem with Jesus, I will crucify him.

Are you saved? Are you cheering others in love?

Love is Calming by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS CALMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

love-is-calmingIntroduction:  This is the second message in our new series – “LOVE IS THE GREATEST.” As Valentine’s Day is approaching, we’re looking at what the Bible has to say about love. Again, please don’t misunderstand, the series is not just about romantic or marital love. It’s about love in general – in our families, church family, community, nation, and world.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Bridge: Kids have a way of saying things that make us laugh and think at the same time. A group of little kids were asked what they thought about love. Listen to what they said (This list has been floating on the internet for a long time):

  • “I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn’t supposed to be so painful.” — Manuel, age 8
  • “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy – age 6
  • “Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss” Emily – age 8
  • “During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8

In this series, we’re going to learn what true love is all about and how to show it.

Context: If you remember from last week, Corinth was the place to be in the ancient world. It sat on the crossroads between the north and the south and the east and the west, on the isthmus connecting Mainland Greece with Peloponnese. People from all over came there to make a life, to do business, or to watch the games. Paul purposefully chose to go there because plenty of lost people were there. After 18 months of working as a tent maker and preaching Christ, the Corinthian church was born. Paul moved on to other places but he began to hear that the church in Corinth was having problems. So, he wrote this letter to them not only to deal with their problems but to deal with a deeper problem – misunderstanding and lack of true love.

Question: Before we go any further, do you agree that at the root of a lot of our problems is a misunderstanding and lack of love? Do you understand what true love is really about? Are you truly a loving person? Will people around you say that you are a loving person? Are you saved? If not, today is the day to let God’s love into your hearts.

Today we’re going to look at the first description of love in verse “Love suffers long and is kind…” Before we start analyzing what the Greek word is for “suffers long” and “kind,” we need to step back and try to understand how words get their meanings. Many times people misunderstand what biblical words mean and they base their lives on some misinterpretation. I’ve seen it often and it’s very costly.

Here’s a very important statement: “Words have inherent meaning only to a certain extent. They get their true and full meaning from their context.”

Here’s a simple example, a silly example – think about the word “hotdog.” The context tells you that it’s not some hot canine. It’s a favorite American food.

Here’s an interesting example – think about the word “oversight.” “She had the oversight of that project.” It means she was looking over that project. It’s positive. “It was my oversight.” It means I missed something when I was going over it. It’s negative. Again, the context helps you understand the true meaning.

Here’s an extreme example – think about the word “set.” The Oxford English Dictionary gives 464 meanings for that word! Here’s just a few of them – the stage is set; I did a set of exercises; we had a setback; set it down over there; he’s set in his ways; get set go; we can go on and on. The context helps us to understand which use it is.

Here’s a cultural example – think about the word “smart.” Where I grew up, if someone was intelligent, you’d say – “He/she is really smart.” When we came to the NC, people would tell our children – “Now be smart.” I wanted to ask – “Why? Do they look dumb?”

The point is that words have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning by how they’re used in their context. Here’s another very important point – biblical words also have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning from the biblical context. In other words, many times, words in the Bible take on deeper and richer meaning than how they’re normally used outside the Bible.

Paul said to the Corinthians “Love suffers long and is kind…” To understand what “suffers long” and “kind” really mean, we have to go the biblical context. The Greek word for “suffers long” is “makrothumeo.” It comes from two Greek words “makros” = long and “thumos” = wrath or passionate longing. When you put those two together, it means “long wrath.” In English, you’ve heard of someone with a “short fuse.” It means someone who doesn’t take long to get angry or blow up. Long wrath is someone with a “long fuse,” someone who takes a long time to get angry or blow up. You may say – “Oh I get it. Love suffers long means love doesn’t get angry quickly.” True but there’s more to it.

For starters, this word was used many times to translate Hebrew words for patience in the Old Testament. (As a side note, prior to the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, it is found only once before!) Let me give a couple of examples: Proverbs 19:11 “The discretion of a man makes him (makrothumein) slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.” Meaning: A wise man does not get angry quickly and is willing to overlook someone’s fault. But there’s another use for it – Proverbs 25:15 “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, And a gentle tongue breaks a bone.” Meaning: If you want something done by a ruler, wait patiently for him to make up his mind. The point is “makrothumeo” has the idea of not getting angry but its more than that. It’s also about waiting patiently for someone to get to where they need to be.

This is especially true in how God relates with us. Listen to Exodus 34:6 “And the Lord passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” Here God is meeting Moses for the second time on Mount Sinai. The first time God gave him the Ten Commandments, the people had already built the golden calf for themselves and 3000 died because of that sin. God didn’t give up on His people but told Moses to get a second set of stone tablets so he could regive his law to them. Then God passed before Moses and declared that he was “makrothumia,” meaning “willing to work patiently with people who were not ready to follow him.” This same idea about God is presented in Proverbs 103   8 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.”

This same idea is found in the New Testament. When Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18 how many times he should forgive his brother, “up to seven times?” Jesus answered him “up to seventy times seven.” Then He gave the parable of a servant who owed a lot of money to his king. When it came time to pay he begged the king, “have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” The king had compassion on him and forgave his massive debt. But this man’s fellow servant owed him a fraction of the amount he owed to the king and he begged him with the same words, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you” but he wouldn’t and threw him into prison. When the king heard about it, he was angry. He caught the man and delivered him to the torturers until he would pay it all back. The point is, Jesus said, 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Meaning: If you’re unwilling to wait patiently on others like God waits patiently on you, then God will no longer wait patiently on you. The same idea is found in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The point is that the word “makrothumew” tells us not to be angry but wait patiently for others, just the way God does not destroy us in anger but waits patiently for us. Meaning: Yes, God is a god of wrath against sin but he’s not some cantankerous unreasonable old man – “Y’all better get your act together or I’m about to lose it and destroy all of you!” Instead, picture a loving father who patiently helps his little boy/girl ride the bike. The child falls again and again but the father does not get angry or give up but patiently helps him/her.

If all this isn’t enough to understand the true meaning of “makrothumeo,” Paul adds a word to it that is not found anywhere else. It is the word “chresteuomai.” It means “to show kindness.” It is connected to the word that Jesus used in Matthew 18 where He says, 28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy (chrestos) and My burden is light.” I can go on and on, but here’s the point – God could burn us in His anger but because He loves us, He waits patiently for us and shows kindness to us.

I can imagine that when Paul heard of the divisions, the pushing and shoving that was happening in the Corinthian church, his heart was broken. How could those who were filled with love of God act this way towards each other? How could those whose sins had been forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ hold grudges against each other? How could they be so impatient and unkind towards each other when God has been so patient and kind towards them? He tells them – “Love waits patiently and shows kindness.”

Question: How do you feel when someone waits patiently for you and shows kindness to you? I can tell you in the definition of the 8-year-old I read in the opening – “During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8 Why wasn’t she scared anymore? Her dad’s love was calming.

Here’s a test: How do people feel around you? Do they feel judged, stressed, and misunderstood? Or do they feel calm? Someone might say – “Does that mean that I should tolerate anything and everything?” Does God tolerate anything and everything you do? Absolutely not but he works with us to bring us where he wants us to be. You can sense the calm assurance of His presence in your life. By the way, generally speaking men and women show love in different ways. Men may not say all the sweet things that women are able to say. Here’s the test: Did you feel the calm sense of their presence in your life. That’s love.

Invitation: Is God’s calming love flowing through your life? Can you people around you sense that same love flowing through you? Is our church a place where people feel that calm love of God flowing through us?

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