Royal – Our Creator King by Pastor Abidan Shah

OUR CREATOR KING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Royal

Introduction: One of my favorite Disney movies is the Lion King from 1994. You know the story – the crown prince Simba is tricked by his uncle Scar into thinking that he had caused his father Mufasa’s death and he flees into exile. There he finds new friends, Timon and Pumba whose motto is “Hakuna Matata.” One day, his childhood friend Nala and his father’s old advisor Rafiki remind him of his true identity and he returns to take his rightful place. Even though it’s a cartoon, I still get choked up when Simba returns and takes his rightful place as king. Unlike earthly kings, cartoon or real, Jesus alone is the supreme undefeated eternal king of the universe, who built his kingdom, redeemed it, rules it forever, and demands our total allegiance. Faith in Jesus is more than just belief or trust. It is also allegiance and obedience to him.

Colossians 1     9“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. . . 12giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyedusinto the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Question: There are only 2 kingdoms – kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of the Son. Which kingdom do you belong to? Is Christ your Savior? Is he also your King?

Context: Today’s message begins our new Christmas series called “ROYAL.” We who grew up in the twentieth or twenty-first century have very little understanding of rulers and royalty. The only encounter we’ve had with kings, queens, prince, and princesses is through movies and an occasional royal wedding. But, did you know that most of the world’s history was dominated by kings and rulers? This is very hard for us to understand because we grew up in some form of consensual government (See Francis Oakley, Kingship: The Politics of Enchantment). Most of the Bible refers to God as our king. In fact, Jesus is never referred to as our Senator or our Representative. He is repeatedly referred to as our King. That changes everything. We don’t elect him to kingship. We simply declare our allegiance to him. We don’t pick and choose what we will obey and what we won’t. We simply obey no matter the cost. But, unlike earthly kings who rule by fear and threats, Jesus our king has redeemed us by his blood. In this series, each message will be focused on an important attribute of King Jesus. The first one is “OUR CREATOR KING.” 2 things about our Creating King:

I. OUR KING CREATED AND SUSTAINS EVERYTHING.

Colossians 1     15“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

There are 2 very important words in that statement: image and firstborn. First, what is the meaning of the “image of the invisible God?”We find it in the LXX, Greek translation of the Old Testament, in Genesis 1:27“So God created man in His ownimage; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” To be created in the image of God was to represent God in his authority and to have certain attributes that the other creatures do not have, especially in being able to have a relationship with God. So, when Paul said that “Jesus was the image of the invisible God,” is that what he meant about Jesus? Not at all. Keep in mind: Adam was made in the image of God. Jesus is the image of God. It is a subtle but a very substantial difference. When we think of the word “image,” we think of a copy or something inferior. That word image in the original Greek is eikwn(eikon) which is a complex word. It has the meaning of the inner core and essence. A good translation would be “He is the DNA of the invisible God.”Another example: difference between a blueprint and a real building. Jesus, the real building was even before the blueprint, Adam.What is Paul saying? Jesus is not like God or reminds us of God. He is God.

Second, what is the meaning of the “firstborn over all creation?” It can mean the first child as in Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn through Leah. So, when Paul said that “Jesus was the firstborn over all creation,” is that what he had in mind?” Not at all. Keep in mind: Firstborn also meant “the legal heir.” For example: David was the seventh son of Jesse but listen to Psalm 89:27“Also I will make him Myfirstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.” It means that even though David was not Jesse’s legal heir, God made him his legal heir.

All this was more than just some honorific title16For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.” Jesus is not just a silent observer. He is the active creator who made everything in heaven and on earth. He made the birds in the sky. He made the fishes in the sea. He made the plants and the trees. According to some estimates, there are 8.7 million species in the world. They are mostly animals and only 1.2 million have been catalogued. He made us. Think about how complex we are. The human eye in one square mm has about 400,000 optical sensors. Imagine a sphere on which you have tennis ball shaped circles and each is separated from the other by the same size/diameter. How much space do you need to draw 400,000 such tennis ball shaped circles? Three times the size of a hot air balloon! He made the galaxies and the countless stars. The sun is 93 million miles away. According to a recent article on BBC, the universe is 93 billion light years in diameter. One light year is 5.88 trillion miles. Not only that but he also created “thrones,” “dominions,” “principalities,” and “powers.” Thrones = angelic beings; dominions = spirit beings; principalities and powers = various levels of spirit beings, good and evil. What’s the point? He made everything that exists.

But there’s something more – “All things were created through Him and for Him.” In other words, you and I and the entire creation was made for his pleasure. 17“And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”Jesus not only created everything and for himself, he also sustains everything below the surface, on the surface, above the surface, and beyond the surface.

Application:How well do you know your king? Do you truly understand who Christ is? What are you afraid of?

II. OUR KING CAME TO REDEEM AND RECONCILE EVERYTHING.

18And He is the head of the body, the church. . .”

Background:Something happened to the creation. Sin came in and everything fell and was under the wrath of God. This was not a surprise to the Son. He already knew that he was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. He knew that he made it and he would have to come down and fix it himself. How did he do that? He died on the cross for our sins and those who believed in him became part of his new creation, the church. Since he brought this about, he is also the head of this body of believers.

Something more – “. . .who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” Once again, we see the word “firstborn.” It has a double meaning: He was the first one to come out of the grave for us and he has the legal authority to bring us out of the grave. “. . .that in all things He may have the preeminence.” Now, Jesus is not only supreme over the first creation but also over the new creation of his people and headed towards the final recreation of everything.

19“For it pleasedthe Father thatin Him all the fullness should dwell, 20and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”  That word “reconcile” was for the guilty party to initiate the process of reconciliation. Instead, God has initiated the process of reconciliation with us and the whole creation. For example: A child pouting and the parent has to reach out. How does God do that? 21“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled22in the body of His flesh through death. . .” Meaning: Our entire disposition was against the King. He could have destroyed us. Instead, he paid our penalty so he could make us friends again.

Then, there was an exchange – 22 to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”

What is our responsibility? 23if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Invitation: How do you see Jesus?

  • Is he the supreme, eternal King who created and sustains this world?
  • Is he the one who came to die and redeem this world and has created the church?
  • Do you belong to his church?
  • Have you been reconciled to him and received his exchange of holiness and blamelessness?
  • Are you continuing in the faith grounded and steadfast and not moved away from the hope of the gospel? Are you obedient in your relationships, with your past, and in your present?

MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 9, 2017)

Most Wonderful Time of the YearOne of my pet peeves is reading or listening to claims that many of our Christmas traditions are just pagan rituals that should be abandoned. Here are some facts on a few of them:

Are Christmas trees just some pagan ritual borrowed from the Scandinavians? While it is true that many cultures have worshipped certain trees, this was not the case for Christians. For them, trees were never sacred, just symbolic: Adam and Eve took the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; Abraham lived by the Oaks of Mamre where He built an altar to the Lord; The people of Israel were promised to become “Trees of Righteousness”; Jesus hung on a tree for our sins; and in Revelation we see the tree of life in the middle of the street of the Heavenly City. So, next time you see “O Tannenbaum” with lights, ornaments, and gifts, think of the many wonderful promises of God, especially the coming of Jesus to die on the wooden cross for us!

What does kissing under a mistletoe have to do with Christmas? In ancient times, mistletoe was considered a miracle plant. When everything was dead in the harsh winter, this rootless parasitic plant would still be flourishing. It symbolized life, hope, and fertility. Ancient Druids and Vikings thought this plant was so sacred that they would marry under it. When they became Christians, the mistletoe took on a deeper meaning. It reminded them of God’s power to bring life where there was death. Later on, in England, when a couple passed under the plant, they had to stop and kiss. If they did, God would bless them with an everlasting love. So, next time someone says, “Hey! You’re under a mistletoe!” Think about the undying love of God in Jesus Christ and oh yes, pucker up!

Do you know that house during Christmas that has everything lit up, even the doghouse! If you’re like me, you wonder how they pay their electric bill! Where did we get this tradition? Legend has it that Martin Luther, the German Reformer, was taking a walk through the woods one late December night when he saw the moonlight sparkling on the snow-covered branches of the evergreen trees. He was so struck by their beauty that he tried to recreate the sparkle by attaching candles to his Christmas tree. It reminded him of Jesus the light of the world. With the coming of electricity, people began to decorate even their homes and yards with light. So, when you drive by that over lit house, ask yourself, “Is Jesus shining brightly in my life?”

Every Christmas you hear complaints about how we have commercialized the birth of Jesus and how we’ve lost the true reason for the season. Ever wonder where the tradition of gift giving at Christmas comes from? Contrary to what you may think, it was not inspired by the magi. In fact, the Christian practice of giving gifts began with St. Nicholas, the pastor of Myra, who rode across Asia Minor distributing gifts to poor children. December 6th in the Western Church and December 19th in the Eastern Church became St. Nicholas’ Day – a day to give gifts to children – and in time this practice merged with December 25th. So, next time you go shopping, enjoy buying gifts for your loved ones but don’t forget to be generous to the less fortunate. After all, we were all undeserving but God graciously gave us the gift of Jesus.

Some people have a problem with Santa Claus. After all, how does some overweight old guy who lives at the North Pole with reindeers and elves fit into the Christmas story! Well, Santa Claus was actually St. Nicholas of Bari who lived in the fourth century. His parents died when he was young and Nicholas distributed all his wealth to the poor and became the pastor of Myra in modern day Turkey, as mentioned in the previous paragraph. He was known for his prayer life and his strong convictions regarding the deity of Jesus. But more than anything else, he became known for his generosity to the less fortunate, especially children. Stories about his kindness travelled everywhere and Nicholas became known as the giver of gifts in the name of Jesus. So, next time you see someone in a Santa costume, don’t frown but smile and remember to be generous like Ole’ St. Nick. Merry Christmas!

Fulfilled: Location of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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Introduction: There are towns in our United States with some really funny names! For e.g. Accident, Maryland; Chicken, Alaska; Cut and Shoot, Texas; Embarrass, Minnesota; Experiment, Georgia; Frankenstein, Missouri; Imalone, Wisconsin; Nothing; Arizona; Pie Town, New Mexico; Santa Claus, Arizona; Tightwad, Missouri; Two Egg, Florida; Uncertain, Texas; and Why Not, North Carolina. I actually looked this one up. It’s in Randolph County, South of Asheboro, where the NC Zoo is located. Story goes that when the first settlers were trying to decide on the name, they kept debating “Why not this” and “why not that,” until one man who had enough of it suggested, “Why not name the town Why Not and let’s go home?” This actually pleased everyone! In this message, we will be looking at another small town which compared to Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and Babylon was nothing but it was the place God chose for the birth of his son. Because, God loves to work through insignificant people and insignificant places. This is our 4th and final message in our series “FULFILLED: THE LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH.”

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. 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.’”

Question: Do you ever feel insignificant? Do you ever feel unworthy? Do you ever feel that you are too little or unsuitable to be used by God? I have and I still do. Here’s the good news! God loves using the insignificant and the unworthy, the little and the unsuitable. Why? He specializes in using those through whom he can get the most glory. But, whether significant or not, you have to be saved? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read has so many things that we can focus on: the identity of the magi or the wise men (Who were these strange visitors from the East); the meaning of the star (Was it a comet? Was it a supernova?); the significance of the gifts (Gold, frankincense, and myrrh). For time’s sake, I would like to focus just on the significance of the little town of Bethlehem in Judea in the coming of Jesus. Listen again to Matthew 2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…” The reason Matthew specifies Bethlehem of Judea is because there was another Bethlehem in the North about 7 miles Northwest of Nazareth. For e.g. If I were to write something like “Wilbur Hardee, the founder of Hardees, was born in Greenville, North Carolina.” Why did I specify “North Carolina?” Because there’s a Greenville, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, California, and about 26 more in the United States! Why do I bring this up? When people claim that the Bible is just a fictitious book made up by the church to control the masses, they haven’t taken the time to carefully examine the historic details in it. Let me say it again: The Bible is unlike any book in the history of the world. It was written by men who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” You can trust it!

What happens next? Wise men (magi) from the East come to Jerusalem and their question is “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.” That title “King of the Jews” is very important. It implies “Where is the descendant of King David?” The magi may not have understood what they said but the people of Jerusalem surely did. Listen to their reaction – 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’” It was no secret at the time of Jesus’ birth that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. In fact, listen to John 7   40 Therefore many from the crowd…said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” The reason they knew this is because 800 years earlier a prophet by the name of Micah had prophesied the location of the Messiah’s birth. Who was Micah? He was a younger contemporary of Isaiah the prophet who primarily preached to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Just like Isaiah he also warned the people of Judah that it was foolish for turning to the Assyrians for help because after they were done destroying Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, they would come for them in the South. Just as he had warned, it happened. The Assyrians destroyed the North and sent them into exile, never to return. Then they marched into the South. Listen to his words in Micah 3   9 Now hear this, You heads of the house of Jacob And rulers of the house of Israel, Who abhor justice and pervert all equity, 10 Who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity…12 Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.” Micah pronounces 3 sets of judgments against them but in the midst of declaring God’s wrath and discipline, he gives them some rays of hope. Listen to Micah 5    2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah (An ancient name for Bethlehem), Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” A better translation would be “whose origins are from of old.” In other words, although this ruler would be a descendant of King David, he will be unique in that he is eternal. He doesn’t have a descent. 3 Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel.” In the midst of sure judgment under the Assyrians, God promises his people that he will not abandon them. Just the way God promised, he miraculously saved his people from Sennacherib’s armies. Read 2 Kings 19 of how when the Assyrian army lay siege to Jerusalem that the angel of the Lord went through the Assyrian camp that night and killed 185,000 of them. God delivered.

Listen carefully: Even when we mess up, He is still merciful.

But that was just a down payment on a much bigger prophecy. One day the true deliverer would come to set his people free from the bondage of sin. He will actually come from the but from Bethlehem of Judea. Where were Joseph and Mary living when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit? In Nazareth of Galilee in the North. I preached on this couple of years ago. Until the 1800s, people denied that there was any such place called Nazareth in history but then through archaeology scholars found inscriptions about Nazareth. It was a tiny village of maybe 250-300 people who claimed to be descendants of King David. Some of them had priestly lineage. Where did they come up with the name “Nazareth?” It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” These people were probably from Bethlehem, the city of David, in Galilee in the South. Why did they move to the North? Maybe because of employment. Maybe because of the Herodians who were crazy to say the least. They had moved up and began this settlement of Nazareth, trying to preserve themselves for the coming of the Son of David, the King of the Jews, the Messiah.

Now we have a problem. It’s time for the Messiah to be born but he’s in the wrong location! I can imagine Mary and Joseph wondering something is not right. We should be in Bethlehem if all that angel has said is true. I can also imagine Gabriel going to God and saying – “Everything is ready for God the Son to land but he’s in the wrong location! Would you like me to take a couple of angels with me and just airdrop them into Bethlehem? We could do it so fast that they won’t even know what happened. Or maybe a strong wind could just blow the city of Nazareth to Bethlehem.” God the Father says, “Nope. I already put my plan into motion about 50 years ago. There’s a megalomaniac who goes by the name of Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome. He thinks he is a god and the savior of the world. He is building up his empire, rebuilding the temples and the public buildings. He is really popular with the masses. But, he’s running out of money because of his 28 legions, each with 5000 soldiers. So, he’s about to do something that will transport Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Listen to Luke 2   1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David. Don’t you love the way God solves problems. Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” How frustrating and uncomfortable for Joseph and Mary but there was no better way.

Don’t forget: “Man’s interruption is God’s providence; human disruption is divine arrangement.” There’s no reason to be frustrated and bitter in the Christian life. Romans 8:28 “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.”

Application: Are you struggling with some situation or some decision someone has made? Have you been handed a bad deal? Do you feel insignificant? Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit. God is still in charge.

God is a God of Mercy. He’s always been merciful to his people. Mercy has a name. JESUS. Have you received him?

Fulfilled: Manner of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: MANNER OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fulfilled 3Introduction:  Every Christmas time the major news magazines carry some article or cover story about Christianity. It’s all about selling copies. This year, the December edition of the National Geographic has on its cover page “The Real Jesus: What Archaeology Reveals About His Life.” Listen to what it asks, “Might it be possible that Jesus Christ never even existed, that the whole stained glass story is invention?” This is nothing new. People have forever tried to deny the existence or the deity of Christ. Our series titled “Fulfilled” will hopefully strengthen our faith in Christ that he did come and he is the one who fulfilled all the promises and prophecies of God.

Matthew 1    18 Now 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. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But 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. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So 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.”

Question: People have asked me “Does a person have to believe in the virgin birth in order to be saved?” I answer them, “No. The thief on the cross didn’t know a thing about the virgin birth when he got saved.” But, let’s suppose that thief on the cross were given a second chance, taken off that cross, and then someone told him about the virgin birth. What should he do? He better believe. Do you believe? I’m not just asking just about the virgin birth. Do you believe that Jesus is God’s only hope for you?

Context: In the passage we just read Matthew gives us the very unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ. He tells us that Mary became pregnant without having any physical interaction with Joseph. He attributes Jesus’ birth to the Holy Spirit. Of course, Joseph does not believe her and wants to divorce her but the angel of the Lord warns him in a dream that the child is indeed of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Mary is pregnant but she’s still a virgin. By the way, we need to clarify something here – “Virgin birth” is actually a misnomer. It implies that Mary was still a virgin when she had Jesus. Although this could be true and, I believe, is true, the real implication here is that Jesus was conceived without Joseph and Mary coming together. In the early church, some actually believed that Mary had a painless birth in which her hymen was not ruptured. So, the actual title should be “virginal conception.” While I’m on the subject, let me also clarify that the “Virginal Conception” is not the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity or the Assumption:

  • Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This idea was an invention of the medieval church and even the Catholic Church did not recognize it until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. It is not a biblical doctrine.
  • Perpetual Virginity or “aieparthenos” teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. This idea has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century. It is not a biblical doctrine either.
  • Assumption of Mary teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven before she died. It is also not a biblical doctrine. Neither is the Dormition of Mary that teaches that Mary died and after three days she rose again.

Let’s return to verse where Matthew writes 22 So 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.” In verse 23 Matthew is quoting Isaiah 7:14“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” This is one of the most debated Messianic prophecies in the Bible. One scholar remarked, “Probably no single passage of the Old Testament has been so variously interpreted or has given rise to so much controversy as the prophecy contained in these verses.” (Walter Kaiser) Why is there so much debate?

  1. Historical context of the prophecy is complicated: This prophecy was given by the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. They were facing an attack from all sides: from the South from Edom; from the West from Philistia; from the North and the Northeast from Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom, also known as Israel) and Syria. Keep in mind it was already determined and prophesied that Jesus would come through the tribe of Judah, through the line of King David. God was going to protect his promise. So, he sent Isaiah to Ahaz to comfort him and give him a sign but Ahaz had other ideas. He had already sent off his ambassadors to King Pul (Tiglath-Pileser) of Assyria, the kingdom north of Syria to get help. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We also look here and there instead of the Lord. Instead of asking for a sign as God had instructed, Ahaz acts condescendingly towards Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah 7:13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?” This is very important how Isaiah addresses Ahaz. He calls him “O house of David.” Meaning: This prophecy is not going to be limited to just the immediate context but has far important significance. First, what is the immediate significance? Isaiah 7:14“…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Meaning: Maybe King Ahaz’s wife or one of his harems was pregnant. This was a sign that the kings to the north will not be successful and that the line of David will continue through Ahaz’s son. I believe that it was probably his son who became King Hezekiah. Second, what is the far important significance? One day in the future another young woman would bear a son who would be the Ultimate Son of David. There’s a difference between the first woman and the second. The first was virgin until conception and the second was a virgin even in conception. And what would be his name? Immanuel. In Isaiah 8:10 it gives us the meaning, “For God is with us.”

Either way, whether to Ahaz (the faithless king) or to sinful us, God’s promise is that God is with us. He is here to save us. Jesus has come to save us.

  1. Liberal scholarship has claimed that the virginal conception is nothing more than a pagan myth and the word for “virgin” could be variously interpreted. First one about the pagan myth, it is claimed that it is only another example of a “hieros gamos” like Zeus and Semele or Isis and Osiris. In all these instances, there are gods and goddesses mating with each other or somehow impregnating human beings. There is no such thing when it comes to the “Virginal Conception” of Mary.

Second, some claim that the word for virgin in the Hebrew text at Isaiah is “almah” which doesn’t have to mean a virgin and that the true word for virgin is “betullah.” Again, this is not true. To start with, there are 5 different words in this debate: 3 Hebrew and 2 Greek. The first Hebrew word is “issha.” It simply means woman or wife. Then the word, “almah.” When you examine every use of the word “almah” in the Old Testament, it actually means “virgin.” Then there is the word “betullah” which does mean “virgin.” But when you compare their uses, “almah” is found in those passages where there is “something other than a normal child birth” (R.T. France) is involved. In fact, when the LXX translators came to this verse, they could have easily translated this “neanis” if it was just a young woman. But, they knew that there was more involved and hence they made it “Parthenos,” which is explicitly virgin. Words change meanings over time. For example: Bachelor – young knight, then lowest rank in university, and unmarried men. Bachelors are not “College educated Knights.” Or Hussy – housewife, then mistress of a household, then disreputable woman today. Don’t call your wife that!

I wish I could say “this is how people outside the spectrum of Christianity believe” but unfortunately, there are people in the ranks who don’t believe in the fundamental doctrines of the faith. They practice what is known as “double-speak” where they use the common terminology but when pressed, they reveal a very different understanding.

Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? To prove that He was sinless, to prove that He was both fully God and fully man, to prove that He came through the Holy Spirit, to be a sign as prophesied by Isaiah.

Are you saved? Only through Christ you can be.

Why didn’t God make it clear, why all these other stories other meanings and fulfillments? Why did God allow such discrepancies and tough issues? Why do we do Easter Egg Hunts? God gets joy out of seeing us discover. All of life is like a drama just like what Shakespeare said. What part of the story are you in?

Fulfilled: Family of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: FAMILY OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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Introduction:  We are a Christmas loving family! We look forward to Christmas all year long! In our home, Nicole starts playing the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving! One year she actually started in October and by the time December rolled around, we were all sick of Christmas. We put our collective foot down and told her that she can’t do that anymore. She tries but we keep an eye on her. Christmas should be the most exciting time of the year! It was on God’s calendar ever since the beginning of time. Throughout the Old Testament God promised to his people that His Son was coming. In fact, the first two chapters of Matthew repeatedly use the word “fulfilled” to announce that he has come and that’s the title of our new series for Christmas: FULFILLED.

Matthew 1    22 So 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.”

Matthew 2   14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Matthew 2   17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Question: The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. Ever since the beginning of time it was on God’s calendar and repeatedly he sent word through his prophets that “he was coming, he was coming, he was coming.” That’s why when Matthew wrote his gospel, he began with “it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled.” What does that mean for you and me? Jesus is God’s only promise of salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life. Has he fulfilled those promises in your life? Are you saved?

Context: Unlike the other gospels, Matthew began his gospel with Jesus’ genealogy. In ancient times, it was not unusual to begin the biography of a famous person with their genealogy. It was a matter of pride to be able to list one’s pedigree. But Matthew’s purpose was much deeper. He was not giving us just a pedigree of Jesus. Neither was he just trying to impress us with big names. In fact, listen carefully to how he began his gospel Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Both David and Abraham had been promised a son from God and Jesus was that Son.

How was Jesus the Son of David? 2 Samuel 7   12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, (We think Solomon. Yes and no.) and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (Solomon only ruled for 40 years.) 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. (Unfortunately, Solomon also messed up and God had to take it from him as well.) 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” This promise was made to David 1000 years before the coming of Jesus. Here’s another promise made to David after he was dead for 400 years. Jeremiah 23:5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.” This promised was made posthumously to David 600 years before the coming of Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of David.

How was Jesus the Son of Abraham? Genesis 12   1 “Now the Lord had said to Abram: (When God called him, his name was just Abram, “Exalted Father,” but he and his wife Sarai couldn’t have any children.) 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.” As you know, Abram obeyed God and in time God changed his name to Abraham, “Father of many,” and at the age of 100 he and Sarah finally had Isaac. Did Isaac become a blessing to all the families of the earth? Unfortunately, he was more interested in eating wild game than being a blessing. This 2000-year-old promise to Abraham was actually about Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of Abraham.

By the way, why did Matthew say “Son of David” before “Son of Abraham”? Because Salvation is of the Jews. You cannot get anymore Jewish than David. For e.g. Who is more American? John Smith or George Washington. But then, he went back to Abraham who would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Never forget: Salvation was always for the whole world. Listen to Matthew 1:2 “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.” In this verse 2 names are mentioned that also received the promise that Jesus would be coming.

  1. Jacob: His older brother Esau despised his birthright but Jacob wanted it badly. So, he deceived his brother because he knew the significance of the promise. He even wrestled with God and had his name changed from Jacob to Israel. Listen to the promise God made to him in Numbers 24:17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” This promise was made about 1900 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is that Star in Jacob’s line and that Scepter (Rod or wand that signified royalty) in Israel’s (Jacob’s name given by God) line.
  2. Judah: He was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Listen to the promise God made to him through his father Jacob in Genesis 49 9 Judah is a lion’s whelp (cub); From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? Jesus is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5) 10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet…” Jesus is that Scepter and the lawgiver. “…until Shiloh comes; (Lit. Until he possesses that which belongs to him.) and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” This promise was made 1800 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, the scepter and the lawgiver, and his final words to his disciples were “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

What does all this mean? The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. It was all according to God’s Providence. He supernaturally engineered the coming of his Son into this world. Thank God for his providence!

Application: Do you understand what God has done for you in Jesus? He has been preparing the plan of salvation for you since the beginning of time. It’s his Providence. In our own life, we can also see the Providence of God guiding us and giving us good parents, education, and a great nation to live in!

But, unlike typical genealogies, Matthew does something very odd. He lists 4 women in the genealogy and, may I add, women with a questionable past. All of us want to claim some royalty in our past but none of us want to admit that we also have some nuts hanging on our family tree. Someone said – “I shook my family tree and a bunch of nuts fell out!” Who were these 4 undesirables? I’ve preached a whole series on them. Besides being women of questionable past, they each had a gentile connection.

Matthew 1:3 “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar.”

  1. Tamar – She was a Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her because he had refused to let her marry his third son.

Matthew 1:5 “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab…”

  1. Rahab – She was an Amorite/Canaanite, a citizen of Jericho and a madam (rich prostitute) by trade. She had helped the spies and in exchange she asked for her family to be saved.

Matthew 1:5 “…Boaz begot Obed by Ruth.”

  1. Ruth – She was a Moabite (enemies of God’s people) whose husband was an Israelite. They lived in Moab until he died and then she followed her mother-in-law Naomi back into the land of Israel.

Matthew 1:6 “and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” Actual wording: “David the king begot the Solomon by the of the Uriah.” “Wife” has to be added and “the” has to be omitted twice.

  1. Bathsheba – She was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David forced her into committing adultery, had her husband killed, and got her pregnant. The punishment the child died.

Why did Matthew include the illustrious and the not so illustrious in the genealogy of Jesus? To show us that in the birth of Jesus we find both God’s Providence and God’s Grace working together. Jesus truly came to bring God’s salvation to the least of the least. No one can ever say that Jesus is just for the elite few. He’s for all.

Invitation: Has Jesus fulfilled the promises of God in your life? Are you saved? You feel undeserving. Jesus is for you as well.

Believing is Seeing by Pastor Abidan Shah

BELIEVING IS SEEING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

believing-is-seeingIntroduction: With the Christmas season here I’m preaching a short series titled – “BELIEVING IS SEEING.” During Christmas we are told to believe in the magic of Christmas, to see things with the eyes of a child and see fairy tales come to life. This series will show us that the real miracle of Christmas is Jesus. Once you believe in Him, He comes alive and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives.

John 5   39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life…45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Bridge: Have you ever said, “Seeing is Believing”? It means – “Before I can believe something I have to see it.” In other words, “Show me the proof/evidence and then I will believe or commit myself to that decision/action. Is that bad? Not really. To some extent, you do need to cautious before stepping out in the unknown. Imagine if people stepped out without first checking the traffic, financial investment, or medical procedures? It would be a disaster. But, when it comes to Jesus, believing comes before seeing. You have to receive Him by faith first that He is who He said He is and then you will begin to see how He is exactly everything He said He is.

Context: In the passage we will look at today, Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for refusing to believe in Him. They kept asking Him for more and more proof before placing their faith in Him. In fact, they were more interested in getting honor from each other than submitting to Him. They even took pride in the fact that they were studying Moses’ writings, the Torah. Jesus declared to them that if they believed in Him, they would realize that Moses’ writings are actually about Him. But before they could see that, they had to believe in Him. The reason they couldn’t is because they rejected Him.

Question: Are you having trouble seeing Jesus? You can see God. You can see Moses. You can see the Law/10 commandments. You can see David and Goliath. You can see Esther and God’s faithfulness. But Jesus…is hard to find. If you’re trying to see Him before believing in Him, let me save you the trouble because you can’t. Belief comes before sight. You have to receive Jesus by faith that He is who He said He is and then you will begin to see how He is exactly everything who He said He is. Are you saved? Once you are, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes and you will see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and in your life

Let’s walk through the passage and see how believing comes before seeing.

I. THE VAIN SEARCH

39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life…”

Background: In Judaism the Scriptures, especially the Torah, were considered to be the source of life. One of their main rabbis, Hillel, said, “the more study of the Law the more life.” He added – “If a man has gained a good name he has gained [somewhat] for himself” but “if he has gained for himself words of the Law he has gained for himself life in the world to come.” The Jewish religious leaders took pride in their study and knowledge of Scriptures. Jesus did not denounce or deride their study. He simply exposed their misunderstanding – “…and these are they which testify of Me.” Meaning: Yes, the Scriptures do tell you how to find eternal life but they point to Jesus as the source of eternal life. By the way, Jesus did not introduce this when He came. Those waiting on Him commonly believed this. John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Studying the Bible without Christ is no different than reading a cookbook and thinking that it will satisfy you. The Bible has the words of eternal life because it points to the one who is coming to bring us eternal life. His name is Jesus.

Application: If you’re seeking eternal life, do read the Bible but then come to the main subject of the Bible – Jesus. Some people study the Bible to find wisdom, others to find strength, and yet others to find peace. All that is fine but it is Jesus who is wisdom, strength, and peace. By the way, if you love bible studies without Christ, you will never be satisfied. After each lesson the question should be – “Now how does this bring me closer to Christ?” Are you searching in vain?

II. THE UNWILLING LIFE.

40 “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

Background: The Greek word for “not willing” is “ou thelete,” which is literally “you do not choose” or “you choose not to.” Meaning: This was not the “unwillingness of ignorance” but the “unwillingness of rejection.” They deliberately chose to reject Jesus.

What was keeping them from coming to Jesus? It was not serious questions from scriptures about the messianic prophecies or difficult passages. Jesus answered some of those already. For example, when Philip told Nathaniel – “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” he replied, 46 “…Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Meaning: Nathaniel was a sincere searcher. 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Meaning: Nathaniel was willing. He was waiting for someone to show him the way.

There are people who have all kinds of questions about creation, flood, miracles, problem of evil, problem of pain, salvation in other religions, etc. None of those are wrong as long as you are open to the outcome of giving your life to Jesus. But, if you’ve already made up your mind that you will not receive Christ for ulterior motives, then no amount of answers and bible studies will help you.

Application: What is your hang-up? Why are you unwilling to follow Jesus? Are you willing to be made willing?

III. THE SERIOUS CHARGE

Background: Just when you want to say – “Maybe…these people just didn’t understand who Jesus really was. Maybe…they needed a little more teaching and a little more time,” listen to how Jesus exposed them.

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. Meaning: These people were the opposite of God’s love kind of people. They had hate, anger, bitterness, and meanness in their hearts. Furthermore, 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. Meaning: Jesus said – “I’ve come with my Father’s authority” and they rejected Him but some others said – “I’ve come with my own authority” and they accepted them. In other words, they were willing to accept anyone but Jesus.

As a pastor, I come across people like that quite often. They are not lost people living in ignorance but lost people living in denial. Their meanness shines forth and their hatred cannot be covered up. They say one thing but they have something else in their hearts.

Now come some very sobering words in this passage44 “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” Meaning: Your unwilling heart is keeping you from believing in Me (Jesus).

45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.

How does Moses accuse them? The same Law that shows us our helplessness also reveals us our condemnation. You can either see the Law and look to the one who can redeem us by grace or we can ignore the Law and be crushed under its weight. John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Application: What is keeping you from turning to Christ? Can you see your condemnation? Are you willing to turn to the One who can bring you grace?

IV. THE LOGICAL STEP

46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Background: These are very deep words and we will study them in the upcoming week – “How did Moses write about Jesus even before He came into this world 2000 years ago?” For now – Here’s the simple understanding of that statement – “When you see yourself under the condemnation of the Law (10 commandments) and find yourself guilty, then next step is to fall helplessly before God. You have to admit to Him that you are guilty and that you cannot save yourself. You need His grace. At that moment, God will open your eyes and you will read Moses (Law/10 commandments) in a whole new light and see that Christ is all over the place.

The moment you are willing to believe, you will start seeing Christ.

My dad did and left Islam and gave His life to Christ.

Application: Are you willing to take the next logical step? Are you at the next logical step

What is Jesus Doing in Your Life? – Part Two

WHAT IS JESUS DOING IN YOUR LIFE? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

What is Jesus Doing 2Introduction: This is our last message in the miniseries “Before the Manger.” The purpose of this series was to understand that Jesus was not just some baby born in a manger 2000 years ago. He was also the Son of God, the King of Glory who had no beginning. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, who appeared throughout the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. Now we are in the second part of the message – “What is Jesus doing for you?”

John 5 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life…45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Overall Background: In the passage we just read, Jesus is chastising the Pharisees and the scribes for their failure to recognize Him. Listen again to verse 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. In other words, “You are so diligent in studying the Old Testament, but you’re so blind that you keep missing Me. Ever said that to somebody? “How can you be so blind? You missed the point completely!” Again he says in verse 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.” Listen carefully: If you try to study this book but ignore Jesus, you will miss the point of this book. I am not suggesting that He is in every syllable and every word but He is the focus and the fulfillment of this book.

Last week we learned that the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is the Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament. 1. He revealed God in the OT. He revealed God in the NT. He is still revealing God to His people today. You want to know more about God, go to Jesus. 2. He called and sent people in the OT. He called and sent people in the NT. He is still calling and sending people today. You want to know what God is calling you to do, look to Jesus. 3. He interceded for His people in the OT. He interceded for His disciples in the NT. He is still interceding for His people today. You want someone to pray for you, ask Jesus to pray for you. Question: What is Jesus doing for you? Is He revealing God to you? Is He calling you? Is He sending you to a task? Is he interceding for you before the Father? Are you saved?

This morning we will look at the remaining ministries of Jesus for His people. Let the Holy Spirit show you how central Jesus is to your life:

I. HE SHOWS COMPASSION TO US. HE ALWAYS HAS AND HE ALWAYS WILL. 

In the OT Jesus came as the Angel of the Lord to Hagar as she was running away from her mistress Sarah. He finds her sitting by the spring on the way to Shur, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. Listen to what He says to her in Genesis 16:10 the Angel of the LORD said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” He even picked the name Ishmael for her. By the way, here you find the seed of the conflict that’s going on in the Middle East. 12 He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” That’s exactly what’s been happening for centuries? Now listen to Hagar’s response to the Angel of the Lord in verse 13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You–Are–the–God–Who–Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Later He showed compassion to Hagar again when she and Ishmael left for good.

Feeding the 5000In the New Testament Jesus did the same thing. The multitude kept following Him from place to place. Listen to Matthew 14:14 “He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, His disciples wanted to send them away so they could find their own food. Instead, Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fish and fed 5000 men, besides women and children. In the next chapter, again, in Matthew 15:32 Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” This time He took 7 loaves and 2 little fish and fed 4000 men, besides women and children.

I can go on and on but the point is this – If you need compassion, turn to Jesus. That’s His job. He always has and He always will show compassion to you.

Question: Do you need compassion in your life? Whom are you turning to? 

II. HE DELIVERS US. HE ALWAYS HAS AND HE ALWAYS WILL.

In Exodus 3 the Angel of the Lord came to Moses in the wilderness and spoke to him through the burning bush. Listen to verse 7 And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. Jesus notices when people are in bondage but He doesn’t stop there – 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…” He is a God who delivers.

In the same way in the New Testament Jesus delivered people out of sin and bondage time and time again. In Mark 5 we read about a man in whom was an unclean spirit, He lived in a graveyard and no one could bind him down. Jesus saw his bondage and delivered him from the unclean spirit. This man sat before Jesus clothed and in his right mind. Again, He rescued Mary Magdalene out of whom he cast out seven demons. I can go on and on. The point is – Jesus has always been in the work of deliverance.

What’s He doing now? He is delivering us from the bondage of sin. Galatians 1:4 (Jesus) “who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age…” Again, Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom…”

Here’s the point – If you need deliverance, turn to Jesus. That’s His job. He always has and He always will deliver you.

Question: Are you in bondage? Do you need to be set free? Are you looking to Jesus?

III. HE PROTECTS US. HE ALWAYS HAS AND HE ALWAYS WILL. 

William-West-Israelites-passing-through-the-wilderness

Israelites passing through the wilderness by William West

In the OT Jesus came as the Angel of the Lord to protect the Hebrews as they left Egypt. Listen to Exodus 13:21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Where does Jesus come in? Listen to Exodus 14:19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, It’s one and the same. Listen to what God says in Exodus 23 20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. 21 Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. 22 If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. This is the same Angel of the Lord who protected Daniel in the lion’s den, as he says in Daniel 6:22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths.”

On the Sea of Galilee

On the Sea of Galilee (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

How about in the NT? In Matthew 8 we find the disciples in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. They’re about to drown and they cry out to Jesus in verse 25 “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replies in verse 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. There He is protecting His disciples.

Listen to Psalm 34:7 “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Here’s the point – If you need protection, turn to Jesus. That’s His job. He always has and He always will protect you.

Question: Do you feel vulnerable? Do you feel you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death? Are you looking to Jesus?

IV. HE JUDGES US. HE ALWAYS HAS AND HE ALWAYS WILL. 

In the OT we come across a very strange passage in I Chronicles 21:1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. Instead of giving God glory for his success, David began to measure his strength in numbers. God was displeased over this evil. It was judgment time. He gave David 3 choices: 3 years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.’ David chose the 3 days. Now listen to verse 15 And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. (70,000 men died with a plague.) Who was doing this disciplining? The Angel of the Lord. “But as the angel was doing so, the LORD saw it and relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the LORD was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 16 David looked up and saw the angel of the LORD standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown. Did you ever imagine Jesus in that role?

Henry Ian Cusick Visual Bible - The Gospel of JohnHow about the NT? At the Passover Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem. Instead of finding a place of worship, He found the temple filled with livestock and money changers doing business. What did He do next? John 2 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” He sounds very much like the Angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.

Did you realize Jesus as the one who disciplines?

John 5:22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.

In Acts 10:42 Peter says, “He (Jesus) commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Invitation: Do you know this Jesus? Bow before Him now or face Him in judgment later.

What is Jesus Doing in Your Life?

WHAT IS JESUS DOING IN YOUR LIFE? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whatisjesusdoinginyourlifeIntroduction: This morning is part 3 of our miniseries “Before the Manger” and today’s message is titled – “What is Jesus doing in your life?”

Luke 24   13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him…27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read, two of Jesus’ disciples were on their way to the village of Emmaus, to the west of Jerusalem. We don’t know the exact location of the road but Nicole and I were in the vicinity. These disciples were trying to make sense of all that had happened. Their Master had been brutally crucified and now His body was nowhere to found. Just then Jesus joined them but they didn’t recognize Him. He asked them why they were so sad and they were shocked – “Don’t you know that Jesus of Nazareth ‘a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people’ had been brutally killed by our leaders? We were hoping He was the One to redeem Israel but He failed.”

What is Jesus’ response? First, He gets on to them and then – 27 beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” In other words, “You think I failed to do what I came to do? Apparently, you don’t know me and you don’t know what I do.” What was their response after He showed them who He was and what He did? Luke 24:32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” I was going to title this message – “How to get spiritual heartburn?” but I figured y’all would misunderstand it. What they were saying is – “Didn’t it set us on fire when He explained to us who He was and what He did?!!”

Listen carefully: The antidote to spiritual dullness is getting to know Jesus like never before! Question: How is your spiritual fire? Is it raging or is it flickering? Do you think that some favorite song or book or series is going to light it? The only thing that will light your spiritual fire is getting to know Jesus like never before and recognize what He is doing in your life. If that doesn’t light your fire, your wood is wet! Are you saved?

First, we will understand who Jesus is and then, we will understand what He does:

I. WHO IS JESUS? 

15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him

Background: I think there is some irony here. These disciples were talking about Jesus but they could not recognize Him! No different than today! 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Wouldn’t you have loved to be in that Bible study?!! Jesus identifying Himself throughout the Old Testament! He is showing them every Christophany – His pre-incarnate appearances. For the next few minutes we will look at the most prominent Christophany – “the Angel of Yahweh/Lord.” Who is this Angel of the Lord?

  1. He is referred to as God. In Genesis 28 Jacob had a dream in which he saw a ladder set up between heaven and earth and angels of God ascending and descending on it. On the top stood God who blessed Jacob. When Jacob woke up he said, 16 “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” He set up a stone pillar and called the place Bethel. Meaning = house of God. Later he says in Genesis 31 11 Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, “Jacob.’…13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Angel of the Lord = God.

Another example: In Exodus 3 Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the back of the desert. Verse 2 the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The bush kept burning so Moses turned to investigate. Verse 4 So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” 6 …“I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. Angel of the Lord = God.

One more example: In the book of Judges we meet a man named Manoah and his wife. They couldn’t have any kids. Judges 13 3 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and promised them a child. When she told that to her husband, he prayed that God would reveal this person once again. So the Angel of God returned and Manoah asked Him His name. Listen to His answer – 18 “…And the Angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” This is the same name given to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given…And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace..” Later in verse 22 listen to what Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” I can give many other examples. The point is the Angel of the Lord is God.

  1. He is not Yahweh. Some people think that the Angel of the Lord is Yahweh. Not true. One clear example of that is Zechariah 1:12 Then the Angel of the LORD answered and said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” Here the Angel of the Lord is interceding on behalf of God’s people to God. He is God but He is talking to God. Can you see the hints of the Trinity here? Two individuals are God.
  2. The Angel of the Lord is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. Why not the Father? Because He never shows Himself visibly. John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Why not the Holy Spirit? Because He never shows Himself visibly. John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

What is the conclusion? The Angel of the Lord is God but not Yahweh. He is one of the Trinity but not the Father or the Spirit. Who is left? Jesus Christ – the one who has always been there. He is the one who keeps coming to His people but they keep missing Him.

Application: Have you missed Jesus? Do you realize that He is the KEY to the work of God throughout history? Do you realize that He is central to our faith? Have you met Him before? If you haven’t, you may know a lot but you are still blind like the disciples.

II. WHAT DOES HE DO? 

Emmaus was not very far from Jerusalem. Time must have stood still. It always does when you truly begin to see God. They got to their destination and He kept on going but they begged Him to stay and He did. Luke 24 30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. Meaning: He came in as the guest but He became the host. How would you like that if you invited someone to your house and they walk in and take over! What He was showing to them was that He has always been the host! We are the guests. He is the doer and we are the receivers.

What does He do?

  1. He shows God to us. He’s always done that and He always will.

In the Old Testament He came as the Angel of the Lord to Moses in the back of the desert and said in Exodus 3:6 “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Later in the New Testament He is doing the same work. John 8 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Later in Matthew 11:27 Jesus said All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Question: Are you getting to know more and more about God through Jesus?

  1. He calls us and sends us. He’s always done that and He always will.

In the Old Testament He tells Moses in Exodus 3  9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” In the New Testament He is doing the same thing. He walks by the Sea of Galilee and sees two brothers Simon Peter and Andrew casting a net into the sea. Matthew 4 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. Later He called Paul on the Road to Damascus. Acts 26 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you. Then at the end of His ministry on earth He gave the Great Commission – Matthew 28 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Question: Can you hear God calling you through Jesus Christ?

  1. He intercedes for us. He’s always done that and He always will.

We saw Him interceding for the people of Israel in Zechariah 1 12   Then the Angel of the LORD answered and said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” 13 And the LORD answered the angel who talked to me, with good and comforting words. In the New Testament we seem praying for His disciples in John 17 11 “…these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are…13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves…17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. Guess what He is doing for us today? Romans 8:34 “…It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Again in Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Question: Can you hear Him interceding for you?

Invitation: Have you come to Jesus? He is the Way, Truth, and Life. He has always been and will always be.

Before the Manger: How Can a Baby Change My Life?

BEFORE THE MANGER – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

beforethemanger1Christmas is here. If you don’t believe that you weren’t out shopping this weekend! Today I’m starting a four-week series titled “BEFORE THE MANGER: HOW CAN A BABY CHANGE MY LIFE?” This message is titled: “ARE YOU READY TO FACE JESUS?”

John 17   1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Overall Background: There are as many as 650 different prayers in the Bible but none of them can match the depth and the height of the prayer we just read. It is prayed by Jesus Himself. In other words, we are being privy to a conversation between the Godhead, the Trinity! How amazing is that! What we are going to focus on today is what He says in verse 5 “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” It appears that Jesus is longing for something that He had to temporarily set aside when He came as a baby in a manger.

For e.g. Like the little boy who was wearing his nice pair of shoes. His dad asked him to help out in the yard. So he took off those nice shoes and put on his simple shoes. Once he was done, he asked his dad – “Can I please put on my nice shoes now?” Dad replied, “Sure son. Thank you.” I know the analogy breaks down because Jesus now has both His nice shoes and simple shoes on! The point is this – The reason many people don’t think much of Jesus is because they only see him in His simple shoes as a baby in a manger. They picture Him only as the carpenter’s son born in a sleepy little town of Bethlehem, surrounded by sheep and cattle, visited by some shepherds. They never contemplate Him in His nice shoes, in His glory before the world was. They never seem Him as the Lord of glory who created the world and who had no beginning. No wonder many people have a tough time declaring Jesus – Lord/Master/Boss of their lives.

Question: Have you ever met Christ in all His glory? Do you understand what He laid aside to come into this world and die on the cross for your sins and mine? If you know Him for who He really is, is He truly the Lord/Master/Boss in your life? Are you saved?

This morning very briefly we will try to catch a glimpse of the glory of Jesus before the world was. The goal is for you to bow before Him. There’s only one response. 3 things:

I. HE WAS BORN BUT HE ALWAYS WAS.

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Bethlehem 1

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 1 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Bethlehem 2

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 2 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Back in January of this year, Nicole and I went to Israel and we were able to go to Bethlehem into the Church of the Nativity. This is where tradition tells us was the place where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. Both of us touched the star that surrounds the bedrock on which the manger was set according to tradition. It was quite a moment to actually touch the ground where Jesus was placed when He was born into the world. At the same time, I had to remind myself that this was not the place where Jesus came to existence. He was there before the world was.

Bethlehem 3

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 3 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The Prophets prophesied about this. Listen to Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Listen to how John begins his gospelJohn 1   1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. But he doesn’t stop there. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. So also Hebrews 1   1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

I can go on and on but the point is this – Jesus did not begin 2000 years ago. He always was! As God, He had no beginning. In fact, He created the world in which He entered.

Application: How do you see this baby in the manger? Do you understand that He made the world and you and me? Do you understand that He breathed life into you? In Acts 3:15 Peter chastises the people by saying that they killed Jesus the “the Prince of life.”

II. HE BECAME LIKE US BUT HE WAS ALWAYS LIKE THE FATHER. 

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself…”

Background: Repeatedly, Jesus talks about His relationship with the Father. Many people misunderstand this relationship. They think a Father-Son relationship means the Son has to be born to the Father. For example: When I say that I am the son of my father, it implies that I had a starting point. When I say that I am a father to my sons, it implies that I was responsible for bringing them into existence. But when the ancient people, especially the people of the Bible, used the phrase “son of,” they were not talking just about being a descendent or having a starting point but having family resemblance. I am related to my father and my sons are related to me. I am like him and they are like me. Jesus repeatedly explained this to the people: John 8:19 “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” John 10:30 “I and My Father are one.” John 14:9 “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Not only that but Father-Son relationship also implies inheritance. John 3:35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” John 16:15 “All things that the Father has are Mine.” Finally, the Father-Son relationship implies access. John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 15:23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.” Listen to how Paul puts it in Colossians 1 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist…19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

Here’s the point: We think of God the Father as the powerful one who controls the entire universe and directs our lives. We forget that He has placed all things in the hands of His Son. The Son is in charge.

Application: How do you see Jesus? Do you see Him only as a helpless baby in a manger or do you see Him as the Son of God with full authority from the Father? Have you come to Him? Have you received Him as your Savior?

III. HE TOOK ON EARTHLY GLORY BUT HE ALWAYS HAD HIS DIVINE GLORY IN REACH.

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Background: While on earth Jesus temporarily veiled His glory. As Paul says in Philippians 2:7, Christ “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” This does not mean that He was “gloryless” on earth. Listen to John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Sure – Jesus set aside his divine glory but He took on a bondservant kind of glory while He was on earth: this glory was reflected when He had to lie in a manger because there was no room in the inn; this glory was reflected when He submitted himself to his parents at 12 years of age; this glory was reflected when He talked to an adulterous Samaritan woman; this glory was reflected when He healed the lepers. I can go on and on – Jesus was glorious because He was full of grace and truth. Having said that, Jesus had to veil/cover up His divine glory when He came into this world. It doesn’t mean that Christ gave up His deity. It only means that temporarily He held back His Heavenly glow.

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

What is this pre-incarnate glory? In the Old Testament it is known as the “shekinah” of God. In Exodus 13 Christ showed this glory to the people of Israel as the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. In Exodus 33 Moses wanted to see “God’s glory” but it was so bright that God had to shield him. In Isaiah 6:5 Isaiah saw this glory and cried, “Woe is me, for I am undone!…For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” Only once did Jesus reveal His pre-incarnate glory. It was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew 17 2 says, “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” Paul describes it in I Timothy 6:16 as an “unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see…” In the Book of Revelation when John saw this glory, he says in Revelation 1   14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. In Revelation 21:23 we read that the Heavenly City “had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.”

Listen carefully – Jesus’ pre-incarnate divine glory is more than just bright light. It is Jesus in all His power and authority. There’s only one response when you meet Him this way. It is submission. Hebrews 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Do you know this King of glory, Jesus Christ?

Illustration: Blaise Pascal was a brilliant French scientist, philosopher, mathematician, and inventor in the 17th century. At the age of 15, he was writing books and inventing theorems. At the age of 19, he developed a calculating machine, which was probably the first computer. He also made discoveries that led to the invention of the barometer, vacuum pump, air compressor, syringe, and the hydraulic press. With all this success he still became disillusioned with life. On the night of November 23rd, 1654 he picked up the Bible and began to read John 17. When he came to verse 3 – “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – it was as if a spark went off and the whole room was on fire. He wrote – “From about half past ten at night to about half an hour after midnight: FIRE.” In that very instant he was converted and became a Christian. When he died, they found this verse sewed into the lining of his coat. It touched him so much that he wanted it always close to his heart.

Question: You may not have a similar experience but are you converted? Have you received eternal life through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? He is coming again but Matthew 24:30 says, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

How to Enjoy the Holidays

HOW TO ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtoenjoytheholidaysToday I’m preaching a message titled, “How to enjoy the holidays?” Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas is not too far behind. If your family is like ours, starting now, the next 2 months are crazy busy and stressful. We can’t wait for January to get here. This should not be the way.

Philippians 4   4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Overall Background: The central theme of the book of Philippians is joy. Paul mentions it about 16 times. Sometimes it is either the noun “chara” that means joy and other times it is the verb “chairo” that means rejoice. Here are some examples:

  • 1:4 in every prayer of mine (I’m) making request for you all with joy,
  • 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded,
  • 3:3 rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
  • 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown,
  • 4:4   Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Caesarea

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 2

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 3

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The point is – Philippians is the letter to read if you want joy in your life. But there’s something more. Listen to Phil. 1:12  But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; Not sure if Paul is in Rome or Ephesus, or Caesarea. If Caesarea, then Nicole and I stood in the very room where Paul’s trial took place. Either way Paul is in prison writing a letter on joy! Here’s the point: Joy is not hinged on your circumstances.

Question: How is the joy level in your life? Here’s another question – would people around you call you a person of joy? Here’s a better question – do you bring joy or do you bring pain in the lives of people around you? Are you saved?

5 things we will learn from this passage about how to enjoy the holidays:

I. FIND JOY IN EVERYTHING. 

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Background: If you read this verse out of context, you will miss the reason why Paul stressed, “always” and repeated, “Rejoice.” Read the 2 prior verses – Phil. 4:2  I implore Euodia and in the church I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Meaning: There was a conflict between 2 women. Who were they? 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Meaning: These women loved the Lord and helped Paul in his ministry. For some reason, they were in a conflict and it was tearing the Philippian church apart. It was stealing their joy. Hence Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

Would you agree that life has many unexpected joy stealers? Relationship conflicts, health, finances, crime, morality, bad news, and the list goes on and on.

For e.g. As I was typing this message, all of a sudden the word file closed. It does that once in a while. Only problem – I hadn’t saved it in the past 5 minutes. It was frustrating because now I had to remember what I had written and retype. Such is life.

Here’s the bottom line: You have a choice. You can either choose to be hateful, painful, or sorrowful or you can choose to be joyful.

Application: What is your choice this holiday season? What joy killers are lurking in your life? Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because joy is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of joy and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

II. FOCUS ON BEING GENTLE.

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Background: The word for gentleness can also be translated “kindness” or “tolerance.” It has the idea of being willing to bend. Bending does not mean compromising. It means learning to get along. In other words, don’t be rude, hateful or impatient but be kind, gentle, and patient. What is your motivation? “The Lord is at hand.” In other words, Jesus is near you and watching your behavior. You better be nice.

Illustration: Remember that old joke – Children were lined up in the cafeteria for lunch. At the head of the table was a basket of apples with a note – “Take only one, God is watching.” Moving through the line, on the other end of the table was a tray of chocolate chip cookies. Some smart aleck wrote a note and put it next to the cookies – “Take all you want, God is busy watching the apples.”

Bottom line: God sees everything. He sees when were being judgmental rather than gentle. Live every moment as if God is watching you because He is.

Application: Are you a gentle person or are you a judgmental person? Beware of self-righteousness. Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because gentleness is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of gentleness and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

III. FIGHT ANXIETY WITH PRAYER. 

Be anxious for nothing,

Background: The Greek word for anxious is “merimnao.” It’s origin is from two Greek words – “merizo” = divide and “nous” = mind. In other words, anxiety is a mind divided. Another synonym for anxiety is worry, which comes from the German “würgen.” It means to strangle or to choke.

Listen to what Chuck Swindoll said about worry – “Stress and worry break us down. They are the unseen source of our headaches, backaches, heartaches, and belly aches. They produce everything from obesity to obscenity, from constipation to diarrhea, and from impatience to impotence. They give us knotted stomachs, sleepless nights, high blood pressure, low morale. They make our tempers short and our days long. They cause indigestion, irritation, chest pain, and muscle strain. “You do not get stomach ulcers from what you eat,” said one doctor. “You get ulcers from what is eating you.”

What’s the solution? It’s not enough to say – “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Listen to what Paul says Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Meaning: The antidote to worry is prayer. What will happen? 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Once again, an old illustration: Frederick Handley Page of England was one of the pioneers in the early days of aviation. The story is told of how once he was flying and he heard the sound of gnawing. It was a rat. This was before autopilot so he could not do anything. He knew one thing – rat is a rodent that is not bad for heights. He began to climb higher and higher until it stopped.

Anxiety is also a rodent that cannot live in the secret place of the Most High.

Application: How is your prayer life? Are you daily grateful for what God has already done for you? Are you making your requests known to God?

IV. FIX YOUR MIND ON WHAT’S POSITIVE.

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.

Some people think that Christian life is simply a list of don’ts, all negative. Christian life is also positive. We have to focus on what is good. You’ll become what you focus on.

For e.g. One time this lady came to me and complained about how she constantly had bad dreams. I told her to read her Bible and pray before she goes to bed tonight and see if it makes a difference. She thanked me and as she leaves she tells her friend – Can’t wait to watch “The Evil Dead” or some movie like that!

Then Paul adds in verse 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Meaning: If you need help finding positive things to focus on, copy me.

Application: What are you focusing on right now? Is it on Christ? Is it on the good that God has done in your life? Is it on the positive? Who are you copying?

V. FILL YOUR HEART WITH CHRIST.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This is one of the most misunderstood and misquoted verses in the Bible. Paul is not saying – “With Christ I can take over the world.” He is saying – “With Christ I can face the ups and downs of life, the time of abundance and the time of hunger.

Illustration: Several years ago I was in Mexico on a mission trip. We were up in the Yucatan peninsula where they still didn’t even have electricity. The people lived in these tiny homes and had hardly anything. All day long we had activities for the kids and in the evening we had songs, movies, and message for all the people in the village. On the last day we had a final activity in the morning and we were going to leave after that. As we were breaking things down, I thought came to my mind – “Is this worth it? Yeah…we spent all that money and came, went somewhere we’ve never been, learned a new culture, grateful for all we have back home, gave these kids something to do for a week but is this worth it?” As the thought was still in my mind, a man approached me. I had seen him several times in the week. He had a wife and couple of little kids. He asked me something in Spanish, thinking I knew the language. I asked the translator to help. The man was asking for a Bible. Of course, we had bought a bunch from the church. I opened my bag and gave him some. No sooner had I done that, 3 more people asked me for one. By the time we left, all were given.

The point is – those people didn’t have much but they were not hungry for stuff. They were hungry for the truth.

When your heart is full of truth, you will be content no matter your circumstances.

Are you ready to face the holidays? Are you saved?

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