Discipleship 3: Together by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – TOGETHERNESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Together

Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Resources, did a Twitter survey sometime back on the really strange reasons people give for not attending church. Here are a few of my favorites:“We were out of peanut butter.” “My wife cooked bacon for breakfast, and our entire family smelled like bacon.” “The pastor stays in the Bible too much.” “The worship leader pulls up his pants too often. It’s distracting.” “The church is too close to drive, and too far to walk.” “We got burned out at church and have been taking a break for the past seven years.” I’ve been pastoring this church, my only church, for the past 20 years and I’ve met people who are always looking for reasons to skip church. Today’s message is on the importance of togetherness in discipleship. You can grow alone in a flower pot for only so long. True and ultimate discipleship is long term and it happens only in the soil of community. You need others to be a true disciple.

Acts 2   42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Question: The early church understood the value of togetherness. Do you understand the importance of being together in the body of Christ? Are you a part of the body of Christ? Are you saved? What binds us together is the same Holy Spirit? Is he in you?

Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. We’ve already looked at the first two letters W and A and, in this message, we will focus on the third letter T = Togetherness. 3 main things we need to understand about Togetherness:

 I. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS TRAINED IN TOGETHERNESS BY JESUS.

Background:When people read in Acts about how the early church was together, loving and caring for one another, and putting each other first, they assume that it was some organic movement that just happened. Not true. For e.g.When you watch your favorite ball team play a great game, you know that it didn’t just happen. You know that the coach has been training them.So also, Coach Jesus had been training his disciples on the importance of being together and they were simply living it out.

I want us to look at a major training session that Jesus had with his disciples towards the close of his ministry. You remember in John 13, after the Last Supper, how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Itwas unthinkable for a master to wash his disciples’ feet.Peter even tried to stop Jesus but he warned him that this was a must if he was going to be his disciple. Why was this so important? Listen carefully to how Jesus explained to them the meaning of what he had done for them – 12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 14If I then, yourLord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”Don’t misunderstand:This was much more than “Y’all get along when I’m gone. Wash each other’s feet until I return.” Listen carefully –34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Loving one another was the mark of a disciple before the watching world. The key words here are “one another.” I can wash my own feet but that is not keeping this commandment, that is not proving my discipleship before the watching world. I can even try to wash the feet of the world (feed the hungry, house the homeless, take care of the needy) but that is still not keeping this commandment and proving my discipleship before the watching world. This commandment can only be obeyed in the context of “one another.” This is why the early church was doing what they were doing!

Application:If you are a disciple of Christ, the same commandment applies to you. Do you love others in the body of Christ? Do you care to prove your discipleship to the watching world?

II. IT IS NATURAL FOR DISCIPLES TO NEGLECT TOGETHERNESS. 

Background:Very early on in the church’s life, the disciples began to drift away from each other. They forgot Jesus’ commandment of being together. A major evidence for this is found in the book of Hebrews. By the way, a key phrase in this book is “let us.”Listen to chapter 10verse 22let usdraw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let ushold fast the confession of ourhope without wavering, for He who promisedisfaithful. 24And let usconsider one anotherin order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, asisthe manner of some, but exhortingone another,and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Why did the writer of Hebrews have to exhort the early Christians to keep meeting? Or why did the early Christians stop meeting? I believe for the same reasons that Christians or disciples stop meeting even today. Here are a few that I’ve come across:

  • I don’t have to be in church in order to be a Christian.If you say that, you do not understand what the church is. It is not a building. In fact, it is described in different ways. Paul gives several ways in his letter to the Ephesians. He calls it the body of Christ.Ephesians 1 22And He gave Him(Christ)to behead over allthingsto the church, 23which is His body…” What if I told you, “I love you very much but I hate your body”? Other times, he calls it the family of Jesus. Ephesians 2:19“…you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your family”? Sometimes, he calls the church the bride/wife of Christ. Ephesians 5:25“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your wife”?
  • I’m very busy and Sunday is my only day off.We always find time for things that are important. Time is not the problem. Understanding is. If you understanding the value of being with other believers, you will make time for it. Also, we have services several times on Sunday mornings and even on Saturday evenings.
  • There are a lot of hypocrites in church.What’s your point? In fact, what better place for hypocrites to be than at church where they can hear the truth. By the way, be careful about pointing fingers at others. As a pastor once said to someone who said that – “Come on in. We have room for one more.”
  • I did until something bad happened to me.I’m very sorry for what happened to you. This is one I do understand. When I first came here from India, I went to church. Little did I expect what was about to happen or not happen. This church was known as a good church and bible believing church but no one shook my hand. I was so hurt that I didn’t go to church for almost 2 years. God had to use circumstances and people to bring me back. Here’s my encouragement to you – When you stop going for one reason or another, no matter how legitimate your reason is, you are no longer able to demonstrate your discipleship.

Application:What is your reason for rejecting togetherness with other disciples? Are you willing to give that hurt to God and forgive that person or church and let God prove your discipleship before the watching world?

III. TOGETHERNESS IS A MEASURING STICK FOR DISCIPLESHIP. 

In the first message in this series on discipleship, I explained to you how Jesus moved people through 3 concentric circles.Outside the circles was the CROWD, the vast majority who were not following Jesus. Then came the first circle, the CONGREGATION.These were the multitudes that followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Then came the second circle,theCOMMUNITY. These were the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 from Luke 10as well. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Finally came the third circle, the CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. From these, Jesus expected much more. What I want you to understand is that to each of this groups Jesus had a different call:

  • To the crowd, it was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • To the multitudes, it was “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
  • To the disciples, it was “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • To the inner circle, it was “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

This applies to us today:

  • Crowd (people out in our neighborhood, workplaces, friends) – get saved
  • Congregation (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) – commit yourself;
  • Community (disciples – Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Studies) – love one another, learn to be together;
  • Circle (Accountability groups) – help each other.

Invitation:Which group do you belong to? Do you understand the value of togetherness? What are you doing to move through these circles? Are you saved?

No Benchwarmers by Pastor Abidan Shah

NO BENCH WARMERS – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

nobenchwarmersIntroduction: Today I’m starting a brand new series called – “NO BENCH WARMERS.” For most churches, including ours, the calendar does not begin in January but in August or September. This series is designed to prepare us for our new church year.

Exodus 18   13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out.

Bridge: How many of y’all have heard the adage or saying – “20% of people at church do 80% of the work”? Is that true or false? By the way, it’s is not just at church; it’s everywhere. In the secular world it’s sometimes called the “80-20 rule,” or “the law of the vital few” or even the “Pareto Principle” after the Italian economist who first observed it. Why is it that 80% of people are inactive? I’ve heard all kinds of reasons – “People are just lazy,” “They don’t want to get involved,” “They don’t know the needs,” or “You just have to ask people.” The goal of this series is to change that statistic, to move people being “bench warmers” to “getting in the game”?

Context: Each message in this series is going to come from a different book in the Bible. The first sermon is from the passage we just read in Exodus 18 where 3500 years ago Moses had to deal with the same question – “How can I move the people of Israel from the bench to the field?”

Question: Are you in the game or are you just a bench warmer? Do you just come, sit, listen, and leave or do you have a part in the greatest game in the world? The greatest game in the world is not basketball, football, baseball, soccer, or any one of the Olympic games. It is the battle for the soul of every man, woman, boy, and girl. The goal is to connect that soul to its creator, to God. There’s just one rule – “Only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. You have to come to Jesus.” There is no rematch. You get only one life. There is a shot clock but you can’t see it. By the way, if you are breathing, you’re already in the game. Your clock is already ticking. Two Questions: Have you come to Jesus? Are you helping others come to Jesus?

In this message we will learn why some churches become weary and what has to happen. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your hearts. 3 things stand out in this passage:

I. POSITIVE EXCITEMENT 

Exodus 18   1 And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt….5…came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God.

Background: Moses had left his wife Zipporah and two sons with his father-in-law when he went to Egypt to free the Hebrews. The news got back to Midian that it had happened and God’s people were free. So Jethro brought Moses’s family to him. Picture the excitement as they arrived at the camp. 9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.” It goes on to tell us that Jethro was also a believer and offered burnt offerings and sacrifices to God. The point is that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was genuinely glad at what God had done for the people of Israel through his son-in-law.

Keep in mind that not everything was perfect. In chapter 14 when the people of Israel were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army, they had turned on Moses, saying – “We told you to leave us alone.” In chapter 15, just 3 days into the wilderness, they were thirsty and complained against Moses. In chapter 16, just a month or so later, they complained against Moses and Aaron saying, “We had pots of meat and bread in Egypt and here you are killing us.” In chapter 16 again, the people refused to keep the Sabbath and tried to gather manna. In chapter 17, they were thirsty again and tried to stone Moses in their anger. In chapter 17, the Amalekites attacked the people of Israel. But listen to Exodus 18:8 “And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the LORD had delivered them.” Here’s the point – You can either focus on the negatives or you can focus on the positives.

Application: Do you see the positive that God is doing at Clearview? Are you genuinely excited at the lives that are being saved, the children that are coming to Christ, the young people that are gathering, the marriages that are being reconciled, the homes that are being restored, and the community that is being transformed? Sometimes this is very hard to understand and appreciate in the church culture where it is more natural to groan, moan, and complain. The early church had their list of problems but it says in Acts 2:46 “…they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Here’s a principle: Excitement precedes involvement.

II. NEGATIVE OBSERVATION 

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening.

Background: According to some estimates the population of the people of Israel that left Egypt with Moses was altogether 2-2.5 million. To give you an idea of how big that number is – according to the United States Census Bureau, the combined population of the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), as of 2014, was a little over 2 million people. Imagine a crowd that big! Out of them I would assume at least a few thousand are standing in line everyday over personal problems, disputes, and crimes.

Here’s an important principle – Just because God is doing wonderful things among His people does not mean that His people will be problem free. I hear people say – “the church has problems.” Folks – Moses had problems sitting in the shadow of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night! The early church had problems just days after receiving the Holy Spirit in all power. As long as we live in this sinful world where there is a Satan and we still have our sinful natures, there will be problems. The question is “What do we do with those problems?” We cannot deny them. We have to deal with them biblically, prayerfully, graciously, and courageously. That’s exactly what Moses was doing.

Moses’ father-in-law was a godly man. He did not say – “Moses, you have a horrible bunch of people. This thing isn’t gonna last” He saw a deeper problem. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” Don’t misunderstand this question. Jethro was not saying – “Moses – Who made you the head honcho? Do you have control issues? Why can’t people go to others?” Jethro’s remark was based on a genuine heartfelt concern for how much Moses was doing.

Listen to the rest of the dialogue – 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.” Jethro, a godly man, saw past the surface to a deeper problem – the physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual exhaustion of Moses.

Application: Do you ever stop to think about how much goes on every day to make this place possible? What is your part? Are you content to sit back and let other people wear themselves out? Do you ever wonder – “what can I do to lighten the load?” “How can I share the burden so they and they do not have to sit under the hot sun all day (proverbially speaking)?” Do you see past the surface to the deeper needs at Clearview?

III. WISE SOLUTION 

19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. By the way, becoming a leader at Clearview is not about control and power, it’s about humility and service. I remember in the early days of our church’s transition, I had a guy visit us a few times and his first question was how do I get on the board here. I wanted to say – “Since you asked that question, I’ll never tell you.”

22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.” What Jethro was doing was telling Moses to delegate, to divide the work. 24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

What if Moses had refused to listen? It would have put him in an early grave. It would have caused problems in his marriage. It would have delayed justice for the people. It would have caused frustration among the masses. It would have destroyed the people.

Question: What could you be doing right now that could help lighten someone’s load? Are you a player in the greatest game on earth or are you just a bench warmer? On the last weekend of this month, August 27-28, we will be having our first annual ministry drive. Start praying right now about what is it that God is calling you to do.

Are you eligible to play? Have you ever given your life to Jesus? Until you do, you will have no motivation to play the game. You will have no desire to serve. You will have no desire to lighten the load of others. You will only be a spectator and that too a griping grumbling spectator

Why We Need Community – Part Two

WHY WE NEED COMMUNITY? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whyweneedcommunity2Introduction: Today we’re going to look at part 2 of the message titled – “Why We Need Community?” Sometimes people have a false impression about community. They think that getting into small groups means losing all your freedom and letting others control your life. That’s not true and today we will learn what is and is not community.

Acts 2 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Overall Background: The Book of Acts gives us the history of the first church. It tells us how the church grew by leaps and bounds after Jesus ascended into heaven. There are things in this book that we are supposed to copy and then things that were not meant to be copied. For e.g. In chapter 2 we read that the Holy Spirit came as a rushing mighty wind and rested as tongues of fire over the disciples. We cannot replicate that today. It was a once-for-all event. Such things belong to what John Stott called the “honeymoon period” of the church. Then there are things from the early church that can be copied. For e.g. 46 “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” Meaning: the first church not only met at the temple for worship but they also fellowshipped from house to house. And what was the result? 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. In other words, the lost world saw the love among these Christians and they were drawn to them.

Listen carefully – there’s a reason why Christianity is struggling in America. It’s not because there is less preaching or worship or the Holy Spirit. It’s because most Christians in America are living in isolation. Somehow they have the false idea that Christianity is only about coming to church on Sunday mornings and then – we’ll see you when we see you. Community is a non-essential. It’s a headache. It’s a burden.

Question: What do you think of community? Are you afraid of community? Do you realize how important it is for your own life and the growth of the church? Are you willing to connect with others in the body of Christ? Are you saved?

Unfortunately, many people have a lot of misunderstandings and fears about community. In this message we will understand what community is not and what true community is. Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the truth about the Body of Christ.

I. WHAT COMMUNITY IS NOT.

Here are the three things it’s not:

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS NOT COMMUNISM.

Acts 2  44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Some people have misunderstood what this means. They think that it means we are to take from the rich and give to the poor. They think that it means we have to reduce everyone down to the same level, something like communism. That’s not true. Sure – in the early church, they had to resort to pulling their resources together to help each other. This was to help the new movement get on its feet. People had lost their homes and jobs because of their faith. Hence they had to sell “their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” But nowhere is this prescribed for all Christians through the ages. God is not against people working hard and getting rich or creating a better world for their children. God loves the poor but He also loves the rich.

Illustration: In London’s Hyde Park, at the Speaker’s Corner, a communist stood up to make his speech. He went on and one and then pointed to an poor elderly man in the crowd and said – “When the communists are in charge, they will put a new suit on that old man.” To which a pastor in the audience shouted back – “When Jesus is in charge, He’ll put a new man inside that old suit.” Couple of years ago I was speaking at a retreat for Chinese scholars from a big university. They were sent here for their education. They were the cream of the crop. I spoke to them on “Why Jesus is the most popular person of all times?” After the second night, they challenged me saying communism was better. So I gave them that same line. They didn’t know what to say.

Community means we need to take care of each other. When we see someone in the body in need we are to come together and help them. Listen to Deuteronomy 15:11 “therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’” Again, 1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

But let me caution – this does not mean that you can sit on your blessed assurance, make bad decisions, and expect everyone to take care of you. That’s called taking advantage of the generosity of your church family. I’ve seen some of that too.

2.  TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS NOT A CAGE.

46 So continuing daily

Some people mistakenly think that being in a community means being stuck in a cage – you can no longer do what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you want to live. Now you are obligated to everyone else. That’s just not true. Sure – in the early church, they had to come together and stick to each other because they were all baby Christians. They needed each other 24/7. But nowhere is this prescribed for all Christians for all ages. God does not expect us to start a commune and build high fences and shun each other if we get out of line. God loves variety. He loves how we are different in the body of Christ.

What this does mean is that we are to come together and build relationships with others in the body of Christ. Listen to what Jesus said in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Again in 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Community is not controlling each other’s lives. It’s coming together because we have the same blood running through us – the blood of Christ. It’s being family.

3.  TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS NOT A CLICK.

Some people have misunderstood what this means. They mistakenly think that community is some kind of an exclusive group of the chosen ones. They think that somehow they are better than others. That’s just not true. It is true that Christians have a whole new perspective on life. It’s true that now they live under the direction of the Holy Spirit, which is very hard for lost people to understand. Having said that, community is not a click. God wants us to connect with each other in such a way that the world would see us and want to join in.

Listen to John 13:35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” When the lost world sees our community, they should want to join us. When they see the way we care for each other, help each other, encourage each other, hold each other accountable, they should want to join us.

II. WHAT IS COMMUNITY?

Here are the three commonalities that hold a Christian Community together.

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY MEANS HAVING A COMMON FAITH.

Acts 2 44 Now all who believed were together,

The basis for our community is what we believe. It is our common faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. You take that away and we are no different than any worldly club. As long as we keep Christ at the center of our lives and seek to help each other draw closer to Christ, we are a true community of faith. This is why community is not about controlling each other. It is about leading each other to trust Christ more each and every day. When we are together in our faith, we grow in our faith. This is how it was always meant to be. Are you growing in your faith? If you noticed, I didn’t ask – “Are you growing in your knowledge?”

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY MEANS HELPING EACH OTHER IN OUR COMMON STRUGGLE.

and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Even though community is not communism. It is communal. We help each other out through our common struggles in life. All of us have physical struggles (we get sick or have unforeseen circumstances), emotional struggles (we feel sorrow, regrets, guilt, shame, loss, doubts, fears), financial struggles (money is not everything but it’s a very important thing), and spiritual struggles (past failures, present mistakes, future doubts). For this and more, God wants us to stick together. Listen to Galatians 6   1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY MEANS HAVING COMMON GOALS.

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people.

Community is not just about personal growth or the growth of those in the community but it is also about those who are outside the community. Christians began to have favor with their neighbors. Meaning: the world began to look at the church with a sense of admiration and longing. Won’t that be something if we could have that today?

And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Meaning: The church kept on growing by leaps and bounds.

Are you saved? Are you connected?

Why We Need Community – Part 1

WHY WE NEED COMMUNITY? – pt 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whyweneedcommunityIntroduction: This weekend I am beginning a two-part message titled “Why We Need Community?” In our world of hyper-connectivity with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, we’re still isolated. With isolation comes anxiety and anxiety brings bad decisions.

1 Samuel 21   10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.

Overall Background: I’m sure all of us are familiar with David in the Bible – the shepherd boy who rescued his father’s sheep from a lion and a bear, the young lad who defeated Goliath the Philistine giant, or the great warrior who subdued thousands of Israel’s enemies. But there’s one image of David that’s very hard to imagine. Listen to verse 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. What in the world is David doing? He’s acting as if he’s lost his mind! The clue to his erratic behavior is found in the question that Ahimelech the priest asks David when he came to him: “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” David is running from Saul and he is all alone. What happens when people are alone? They become afraid. What happens when people are afraid? They make bad decisions. Listen to verse 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath (Philistines). In other words, he jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Talk about a bad decision!

It’s amazing what loneliness will cause a person to do. It will cause people to be afraid and when people are afraid, they will make decisions that they would never make in their right minds. In other words, loneliness leads to fear and fear leads to foolish choices.

Question: Are you filled with anxiety? Are you making bad decisions? Are you isolated? You say – “Oh no. I’ve got friends.” Are they the right kind of friends? When you get saved you become part of this body. Are you saved?

This morning we will learn why we need community from the life of David. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

I. NEED FOR TRUE FRIENDSHIPS 

1 Samuel 20 41 “…And they (Jonathan and David) kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’ ”

Background: Who is Jonathan? He was the son of King Saul, king of Israel. Jonathan was David’s best friend but his father Saul hated David. It all began when David returned after defeating the Philistines and the women came out singing and dancing, saying – “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” This made Saul very angry and from that day forward he began to eye David. He tried every possible way to kill him. Jonathan was aware of his father’s hatred against David but he also knew that David was the rightful heir to the throne and he was willing to stand with David even though it would cost him the kingdom. He repeatedly tried to encourage him. Later in 1 Samuel 23 16 Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. Even though David was a man after God’s own heart, he still needed a Jonathan to strengthen him. John Piper said – “Don’t ever think that a man is so strong that he does not need to be strengthened in God.” Listen to how Jonathan encouraged David – 17 “…Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Can you imagine the courage that came into David’s heart because of Jonathan’s words? That’s what true friends do.

Beth Shean

Beth Shean (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

All of us need a Jonathan in our lives. All of us need friends who will love us unconditionally and stand with us even if the whole world turns against us. David loved his friend Jonathan right to the end. In the famous battle on Mount Gilboa, the Philistines killed Saul and Jonathan and hung their bodies on the walls of Beth Shean. Nicole and I have been there. Valiant men came and took down their bodies and David rewarded those men. He even wrote a beautiful song in honor of Jonathan and Saul. David understood the value of a true friend.

Application: Do you have such a friend/friends? Do you have such Jonathans in your life? Many people are loners, especially when it comes to the Christian life. No wonder they fall apart. No wonder they make poor decisions. Are you making poor decisions? Could it be it’s because you are a spiritual loner? “I just don’t have no friends.” You have to be friendly to have friends.

II. DANGER OF ISOLATION 

1 Samuel 20 42 “…So he (David) arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.”

Background: After Jonathan and David wept, it was time to part. Jonathan went back to the city of Gibeah, north of Jerusalem and David went 3 miles towards the city of Nob, southwest of Jerusalem. Listen to 1 Samuel 21:1 Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” For the first time David is all alone and Ahimelech could probably see that in his eyes. Fear is contagious. David’s fear transferred to Ahimelech. What happens when people are afraid? They make bad decisions:

Here’s bad decision #1verse 2 So David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ And I have directed my young men to such and such a place. That’s a lie. Out of fear, David is lying. By the way, this lie would cost Ahimelech his life as well as the life of 84 other men and women, children, nursing infants, and livestock.

Ahimelech giving sword to David - Aert de Gelder

Ahimelech giving sword to David – Aert de Gelder

Here’s bad decision #2 – verse 8 And David said to Ahimelech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” He keeps lying. Verse 9 So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.” That should’ve been enough a wakeup call. God was reminding David to trust Him as he had done as a young lad against Goliath. David is too scared to think straight and he chooses to trust in Goliath’s old sword. Out of fear, David has lost his faith in God.

Here’s bad decision #3 – verse 7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD. And his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chief of the herdsmen who belonged to Saul. Uh oh…David must have noticed this Edomite servant of Saul near the tabernacle and he immediately got scared. What did he do? Verse 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. This was a Philistine city 23 miles to the west. What is worse is that it was the hometown of Goliath! This is the guy who killed their hometown hero and he shows up with Goliath’s sword! David has lost all sense of wisdom.

The Philistines recognize David and they tell their king – “Isn’t he the one who has killed our thousands?” Listen to David’s response – 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. How tragic! This courageous man of God out of fear has been making one bad decision after another and now he is acting like a fool. Many of us make foolish decision and keep sliding down the slippery slope of despair when we are isolated from God’s people.

Application: Have you been making some bad decisions in your life? Have you gone from faith to fear? Where are the Jonathans in your life? Are you connected to God’s people? If you are honest, you would agree – this place has kept many of y’all from making some very foolish decisions in your life?

III. GOD’S PURPOSE IN COMMUNITY

David wrote Psalm 56 as a prayer during this time. Listen to it – 1 Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. 2 My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High…6 They gather together, They hide, they mark my steps, When they lie in wait for my life. He is asking God to come to His rescue. God answers His prayer. He doesn’t strike Saul. He doesn’t strike Doeg the Edomite. He doesn’t strike the Philistines. What does God do? 1 Samuel 22   1 David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. This was a well-known place in Judah. It was 10 miles from Gath and 15 miles from Bethlehem. Once again David prayed like he did back in Gath. One such prayer is Psalm 142. Listen to the words – 1  I cry out to the LORD with my voice…4 Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul. 5 I cried out to You, O LORD: I said, “You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living…7 Bring my soul out of prison, That I may praise Your name; The righteous shall surround me, For You shall deal bountifully with me.” What David is saying is “God – I need you and I need some righteous people to come alongside of me.”

Did God answer David’s prayer? 1 Samuel 22  1 “…So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him.” God sent people to David. By the way, they are not perfect people. 2 “And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.”

God’s plan for us hasn’t changed. If David needed community, you and I need community. The reason marriages fall apart is because there is no one there who is holding people accountable. The reason children go off the deep end is because there is no one holding our young people accountable. The reason men and women make foolish decision is because they are going about as Lone Rangers, trying to take on the enemy. It was never meant to be this way. God designed us to work in a community.

In this coming year our focus at Clearview is community. We want you to plug in through our Sunday School, Fish groups, and Clearview Circles into some kind of community that will give you the courage to face life and make wise choices. No amount of bible study and prayer can take the place of godly connection.

Simple Question

  1. Are you connected to Christ?
  2. Are you connected to the Body of Christ

CHANGE IN PERSPECTIVE – Article by Abidan Shah

A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE – Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 22, 2015)

Old Picture of HendersonAfter my last article – “Why we love our community?” – many of the readers thanked me for refuting a report floating on Facebook that we are one of the worst places to live in North Carolina. I explained that such town rankings do not factor “population dynamics, high crime areas, and latest annual crime reports” in their raw data analyses. Some of the readers asked me to clarify further, so here goes–

Neither the SBI nor the FBI ranks geographical areas (town, city, county) based on crime reports. In fact, the FBI webpage for Uniform Crime Reporting cautions that such “incomplete analyses have often created misleading perceptions which adversely affect geographical entities and their residents.” It also warns against using the report to evaluate the effectiveness of any law agency. There are numerous factors – clearance rates, part II offenses, arrest rates, etc. – which are not included in the report that should be taken into account.

So who comes up with these rankings? A quick search on Google reveals that it is online marketing sites promising to give objective analysis of places, products, and services. Here you will find articles such as, “Best Places to Live,” “Ten Cheapest Cities,” and “Most Dangerous Towns.” Their analysis is anything but objective. One actually declares, “We try to paint a picture of what’s happening in a region based on ‘FridayNight Science’ – how’d you argue at a bar.” And where do they get their information? From the latest FBI crime reports! By statistical gymnastics they create an “aggregated crime score,” weighting the violent crimes at 90% and property crimes at 10%, even though the property crimes are far more prevalent. Factors such as high crime zones, relationship of the assailant to the victim, and motive for the crime are never considered.

Recently, one such site ranked Elon as 1st among the top 100 safest cities in North Carolina while Henderson trailed in at 98. I’ve visited Elon and it’s a wonderful place but before you rent a U-Haul, here’s what a similar site reported: When Elon is compared to Henderson – Household income in Elon is 61% less than it is in Henderson and 67% below National Average; Elon had 39.6% fewer High School graduates than Henderson; Elon spends 10.4% less per student than Henderson. Furthermore, Elon is 33% more densely populated and 9.7% more expensive than Henderson. How about crime? Of course, by their pseudo-math, we appear to be a war zone! Bottom line: All such ranking is faulty and haphazard at best. Even the most ideal places have their share of problems. According to the SBI Crime Index, a safe community like Cary saw a 9% rise in overall crime in recent years.

I am by no means trying to gloss over our problems. All I am suggesting is that we are not as unredeemable as we are made out to be. What we need is a change in perspective. Instead of looking back with nostalgia or looking around with condemnation, we need to look inward with soul searching. What have we done to improve our community? Are we being the Salt and Light in our world? Ultimately, it’s not the courthouse or the jailhouse but the church house that has the answer. By the way, here’s one ranking that caught my eye – “People living in Henderson are 6.88% more likely to have a religious affiliation than people living in Elon.”

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