Backsliding Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Do you have to stay on your kids to do something they don’t like to do like cleaning their room or doing the dishes or finishing their homework? With some kids you don’t have to but with most you do. What happens when you walk out of sight? They start goofing around. Then, when you return, they give you some lame excuse and start working again until you leave the room. They have to be held accountable. Typically, the work never gets done. So also, many Christians begin well in their Christian life but they don’t finish well. Just like kids, they get distracted and start goofing around. You need both accountability and personal responsibility to deal with a Backsliding Mind. That’s the title of our in this final message in our series on the Mind of Christ.

Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”2:12“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Question: Twice Paul told the Philippians to continue in the faith even in his absence. Do you have people in your life who hold you accountable? Are you growing into the mind of Christ or are you backsliding? Are you saved?

Context:The past four months have been life-changing for me and also for many of you. This series on the “Mind of Christ” from Philippians 2:5-11has impacted so many people, many of whom have never set foot in this church building but they are listening and watching faithfully every week. We have people from all over the world who tune in every week on Facebook, YouTube, Livestream through the church website, sermon podcast, and 2 radio stations every Sunday morning. The reason for this impact is that these messages go to the very heart of the Christian life. They teach us the importance of having the mindset of Christ. The Christian life is much more than getting saved. It’s about becoming more and more like Christ. I want to encourage you to go back and listen to these messages in case you missed them and share them with others. By the way, we’re also planning on putting them in a book format to be available later this year.

Back to our message on the “Backsliding Mind.”As you know, Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this letter to the Philippian church. He wanted to visit them but he couldn’t. But, word was getting back to Paul, maybe through Timothy and Epaphroditus, that the Philippians were beginning to slip back into their old way of life. They were starting to regress in their faith. So, he wrote them a letter encouraging them to press forward. It’s a balance between accountability and personal responsibility. First, let’s look at the accountability:

  • Paul began by reminding them in Philippians 1:6that he is “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”In other words, he assured them that God is the Initiator, the Overseer, and the Perfecter of their Christian lives. They should trust God that he will complete what he began in their lives.
  • Then, he told them in verses 9-11 that he was praying that their “love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” In other words, Paul’s reminded the Philippians that his prayer was that they would finish with flying colors. For e.g. Elderly couple praying for me and Clearview. What a great encouragement!
  • Finally, Paul told the Philippians that there was a strong possibility that he would not make it out of the prison alive and he was perfectly fine with that. But, on second thoughts, it was far more important for him to stay alive. Why? Listen to Philippians 1    24“Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” In other words, going away to be with Christ would be amazing but staying alive will be more beneficial for the Philippians.

What a powerful model in accountability! All of us need a Paul in our lives. All of us need godly people who can speak biblical truths into our lives. All of us need Christlike men or women who would breath confidence in the work of Christ in our lives. I have people like that in my life. They check up on me and tell me that they are praying for me.

Let me flip that around: All of us can be a Paul to someone around us. You may think you don’t know enough of the Bible but there is some person around us who knows much less. Our task is to encourage them with biblical truth and hold them accountable.

Question: Who is your Paul? Get connected through Sunday School and Inner circle. Who is around you who needs a Paul? Call them. Check on them. Pray for them. 

Now, there’s a shift from accountability to personal responsibility. Here’s the opening passage– Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” The word for “conduct that is worthy” is “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the Greek word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Remember, the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were to conduct themselves according to Roman standards, even though they were outside their homeland. So also, Paul was telling the Philippians to act like believers even though they were in the world and he wasn’t around to keep them straight. In other words, he was saying, “You don’t need me to stand over you for you to behave as a Christian is supposed to behave.”What does that look like? Philippians 1:27“…that you stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Paul repeats the same injunction again in Philippians2:12but with a new title – “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This passage has been debated a lot over the years. Is Paul talking about our individual salvation? Does it imply that we have a part to play in being saved? Of course not. Paul said it very clearly in Ephesians 2    8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.” In the context, working out our salvation is in the context of having the mindset of Christ. We are to be humble and obedient like our Savior and King in how we relate with each other. It’s about shifting from our false assumptions to taking on biblical truths, i.e. the Mind of Christ. Furthermore, this task should not be taken flippantly but with “fear and trembling.” Ultimately, we need to remember that God sees everything. 

For e.g. Lady telling me that I need to fuss at her to keep her in church.

Question: Do you need people to stand over you for you to behave as a Christian is supposed to behave? Are you taking responsibility to shift from false assumptions to biblical truths? Do you have people to hold you accountable? Do you realize that God is watching over you? Has your fire gone out? Are you saved? Have you ever had the fire?

Divisive Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fearful Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

ROADBLOCKS TO RESETTING YOUR MIND – FEARFUL MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: People have all sorts of phobias. Some people are afraid of snakes, spiders, heights, enclosed spaces, lightning, public speaking, needles, water, etc. Some of these fears are understandable and even healthy but then there is a kind of fear that actually becomes a roadblock to having the mind of Christ. We’re still in our series titled MIND (RE)SET from Philippians 2:5-11 and today’s message is called “FEARFUL MIND.” Here’s the message in a nutshell: A fearful mind will either leave you paralyzed or cause you to flee. What you need is the mind of Christ. What you need is the replacing of your false assumptions about life and future with biblical truth and principles.

Philippians 1     12But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happenedto me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Question: Do you have a fearful mind? Are you paralyzed or have you fled? You might say, “I’m not fearful, just cautious.” There’s a big difference between fear and caution. Caution is seeing a warning sign and slowing down and steering carefully around the hurdle. Fear is pulling over and cancelling the trip. Many Christians have pulled over and cancelled their trip. Some have even turned back. Is that you? Are you saved? Jesus said in Mark 5:36“Do not be afraid; only believe.”Have you believed in Jesus?

Background:Before we dive into our message, let me explain as simply as possible how we work as human beings. In life, all of us have certain EXPECTATIONS. They can be our personal goals in life or how we expect things to turn out through circumstances. These expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. When expectations don’t turn out according to our assumptions, they lead us to FRUSTRATIONS. These can be manifested as anxiety, guilt, and resentment. To give you an example: You see a person who is driven to succeed. He wants to be rich. Nothing wrong with being rich. Lots of godly people in the Bible were rich. Unfortunately, the market crashes or health goes bad and he does not achieve what he wanted. The result is anxiety, stress, anger, addiction, relationship problems, etc. We can treat some of these issues but it doesn’t change this person’s attitude towards what has happened. I’m actually talking about saved people. They know their expectations are wrong but they feel helpless. The real problem is not their expectations but their assumptions. If they grew up learning that if you want to please dad or mom, you have to be rich, then their assumption is that not being rich is failing to please dad or mom. Or, if they wrongly learned that money will make them happy, then they are now sad because they are not. There are other examples (marriage, work, spiritual life) but the diagram is the same. What has to change is our assumptions. They have to be replaced by BIBLICAL TRUTHS. Replacing false assumptions with biblical truths is another way of saying “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When this happens, instead of expectations, we have PROMISESand instead of frustrations, we have FRUITS.

Context: Paul wrote to the Philippians about the mind of Christ because they had some false assumptions which were leading to false expectations with frustrations. One such was fear. They had a fearful mind. Listen to Philippians 1     27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28and not in any way terrifiedby your adversaries…” The Greek word for terrified is “pturomai,” which Paul uses only here. In Classical Greek it was used to describe a horse getting spooked in battle. It would get startled by loud noises or shrieks and it would bolt through the battlefield, stampeding anyone in his path. The Philippians were terrified of their opponents and they were ready to cut and run. 

The Philippians were operating under certain false assumptions. Some of these assumptions were coming from their past lives, which we can only speculate about. They were probably fatalistic– things will be what they will be. Based on Paul’s letter, they were selfish – lookout for yourself. They probably assumed that being a Christian means no more problems. These false assumptions came with wrong expectations. Recently, some more of their expectations had been dashed. They had been keeping up with what was happening to Paul, their founder.Listen again to Philippians 1:12“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happenedto me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” What “things” happened to Paul? Paul was in Roman custody when he wrote this letter. To get the background of his arrest, you have to read starting in Acts 21where Paul was falsely accused in Jerusalem of profaning the Temple. The mob at the instigation of the corrupt religious leaders had tried to kill Paul but fortunately he was taken into custody by the Romans. After several years of waiting in prison, Paul was finally transferred to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. All this news must have gotten out to the churches and destroyed their morale. Their leader was in prison and waiting for his execution. It’s over for him and soon it’ll be over for us. The Philippians were no different, especially since Paul had founded the church. Having these expectations dashed must have led to some frustrations.Scholars used to think that Philippians was Paul’s letter of joy and pride but now this view is changing. If you read between the lines, they had plenty of issues: fear, anxiety, disunity, selfishness, conceit, etc.

So, what did Paul say to them? Listen again to verse 12“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happenedto me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” In other words, “what happened to me is a blessing in disguise.” For 2 reasons:

  1. Verse13“so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” While in Roman custody, Paul was reaching out to the praetorian. They were the emperor’s personal troops and bodyguards. Look up my message titled “Perspective” in this series and you will see how powerful this group was. According to some sources, there were as many as 9000 of them camped outside of Rome. They are now hearing the gospel from Paul! Similar to dad preaching when mom was in the hospital.
  2. Verse 14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more boldto speak the word without fear.” There’s the word “fear” from the Greek word “phobos.” When word got out to the brethren (leaders and pastors in the early church) that Paul was sharing the gospel in prison, instead of cowering and hiding, they started to become more and more bold in preaching the gospel. Billy Graham once said“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”

How could Paul be so bold in the face of execution while the Philippians were terrified by their adversaries? Because Paul had the mind of Christ. Paul had certain biblical truths that the Philippians didn’t. He is listing them all along:

  • Philippians 1:6“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will completeituntil the day of Jesus Christ.” God always finishes what he starts in our lives. That’s his job.
  • Philippians 1:18“What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Rejoicing is not playing safe but preaching Christ. The goal is to preach Christ.
  • Philippians 1:21“For to me, to liveisChrist, and to dieisgain.” A believer cannot lose in life or in death.
  • Philippians 1:29“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Suffering is not a mark of abandonment but a mark of advancement.

Do you have the mind of Paul which was like the mind of Christ or do you have the mind of the Philippians filled with false assumptions?

  • Do you constantly worry that things will fall apart?
  • Do you constantly try to control your circumstances and try to play it safe?
  • How do you respond when people or situations push you out of the safe zone?

Are you saved?

I John 4:18 says, “he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

The Greener Grass Syndrome (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

THE GREENER GRASS SYNDROME (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 18, 2018)Greener Grass Syndrome,

Have you ever driven past a herd of cows grazing in a lush green field and seen that one cow sticking its head through the fence, nibbling in the pasture next to it? Why is it doing that? Is there not enough grass in its own field? Is the grass any greener on the other side? Is the grass any tastier? None of the above. The cow is falsely assuming that the grass must be better on the other side. Humans do the same thing but worse. We buy into the myth that our lives are not as good as others’. We say things like: “I can’t wait to get outta here and move somewhere else,” “It was so much better back home,” “If only I looked like her, I would be so much happier,” “If only I had him, life would be so much better.” We see the perfect selfie and conclude that the person’s life must be better than ours. When in reality, that photo was retaken twenty times and tested by multiple filters. This delusion has become magnified in recent years with the rise of social media. As a result, some people have become paralyzed in self-defeat and some have slipped into the abyss of depression. Others have even walked away from a good job or a marriage, with tragic consequences.

So, how do you combat this “greener grass syndrome?” We can follow the example of God’s people in the book of Jeremiah. They were in exile in Babylon, pining to go back home to Jerusalem. They had forgotten that it was their sin that had caused them to be driven out of the land. Instead of repenting and seeking God’s will, they were wallowing in self-pity and longing for the “greener grass” back home. God sent Jeremiah to tell them to “bloom where they were planted.” Listen to Jeremiah 29:5-7 “Build houses and dwellin them;plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters…and seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive…” In other words, “Make yourself at home. Dig some foundations. Get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Become a productive member of the society. Make the place better by your presence.” At first, the people did not want to hear this but God warned them that things would not change for the next seventy years. But, if they were obedient to plant themselves where God had placed them, then his promise to them would be“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) People often quote this promise but neglect to realize that it was contingent on them flourishing where God had sent them.

There may be times when you have to change locations or jobs in order to improve your life. This is not “the greener grass syndrome.” Rather, it’s moving from a famine infested land to a fertile valley. But, just remember, bad habits don’t disappear by changing zip codes or job descriptions. Unless, the old nature has been transformed by Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will still be you even if you move to the other side of the moon! So also, being inspired and motivated by the successes of others is not always bad as long as it doesn’t trap you into envy. There is a fine line between copying and coveting. King Saul crossed that line when he began to despise young David and his successes. It launched him into a horrible depression and provoked within him the desire to kill God’s Anointed.

Ultimately, the challenge to all those seeking the “greener grass” is to make sure that what they think is a better place is not actually astroturf or a septic tank. But, if we let God guide our lives, our Babylon may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

When You Are Where You Don’t Want to Be by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN YOU ARE WHERE YOU DON’T WANT TO BE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonWhen you are where you don't want to be

Introduction: Have you ever driven past a herd of cows grazing in a field and seen that one cow sticking its head through the fence, nibbling in the pasture next to it? Why? Is there not enough grass on its side? Is the grass any greener or tastier on the other side? Not really, but, for some reason, the cow thinks that the grass must be better on the other side. That’s where we get the expression – “The Greener Grass Syndrome.” We humans do the same thing. We say things like— “I hate it here,” “I can’t wait to get outta here,” “It was so much better back home,” or “If only I could be here or there, I would be so much happier.” Today’s message is titled – “When you are where you don’t want to be.” It’s for people who feel stuck because of job, family, finance or something else and sometimes they even blame God for their predicament. Here’s a question: Have you stopped to consider that maybe where you are is actually God’s blessing in disguise?

Psalm 137     1By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. 3For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requestedmirth, saying,“Sing us oneof the songs of Zion!” 4How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?

Question: Are you in a foreign land? Have you hung up your harp? Have you lost your song? Do you think that God has forgotten you? Are you saved?

Pray: Holy Spirit – help us to see our exiles from your perspective. Save those in sin.

Context: The psalm we just read comes from a very low point in the history of God’s people. The year was 587BC and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had for the third time attacked Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Not only did he utterly destroy Jerusalem, the Temple, the palace, the houses, the walls, and every important building but he also took the Jewish people with him 700 miles east to Babylon. They were broken, defeated, and captives in a land they had never seen. What was their response?Listen again to Psalm 137    1“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it.” Their song tells us that they had become hopeless, discouraged, apathetic, and had lost their desire to worship God. What do you do when you are where you don’t want to be? 3 things:

I. STOP BLAMING GOD.

Look again at the words of Psalm 137   3For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requestedmirth, saying,“Sing us oneof the songs of Zion!” The Babylonians were not mocking them but asking God’s people to share their worship songs with them. The people of Israel/Judah were known for their passionate worship songs to God. Listen to their response – 4“How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?” Don’t misunderstand. They were not being pious or standing up for the Lord’s honor. They were actually being bitter against him. They were being sarcastic here. They were being passive aggressive. They were refusing to sing praises to God because they were mad at God.

Application: There are people here who are just as resentful and bitter against God because he didn’t do something for them. They’ve lost their song. They have no desire to praise God. In fact, they are even passive aggressive when they talk about God.

The Jewish people in exile had forgotten that it was their sins and choices that had caused them to lose their land.They had broken all God’s commandments. They had fallen into idolatry and rebellion. Their kings had practiced child sacrifices. One of them had even burnt the Word of God. Instead of turning towards God, they had turned towards Egypt for help.They had forgotten how God had given them many chances to turn but just like their brothers and sisters up North, they had become stubborn.

Application:Are you blaming God for your situation? Stop blaming and start repenting.

II. START BLOOMING WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.

What was God’s answer to his people? As these people in exile were moaning and pouting, one day two men showed up from Jerusalem with a letter from Jeremiah the prophet.Listen to Jeremiah 29    4Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:  5Build houses and dwell in them; Meaning:  Yes, I have sent you into exile because of your sins. You’re gonna be here for a while. Starting unpacking.

Application: There are many people under the sound of my voice who are still living out of boxes. They will not commit to the job/house/church that God has given them. They are always looking over the horizon to the better place. It may not be sin that has brought you here but start unpacking. God has brought you here.

“plant gardens and eat their fruit.6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.”Meaning:  Stop looking down upon the land and people around you. The land is not evil and the people are not beneath you. Stop being superficial with them. Get to know them.

Application:Are you constantly negative about your job, community, or church. Have you been keeping people at arm’s length? It’s time to change.

7 “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”“Peace” refers to the health of the society which comes from the spirit of God. It is not enough to get involved in your community events. It is more important to do something about the spiritual needs of your community. Pray for the people around you. Share Christ with them.

Application:Many people who are listening to this message might say “I’ve been here all my life. I’m not in exile.” It’s your attitude that shows that you are in exile. You need to stop feeling sorry for yourselves, bloom where God has planted you, reach out to the people around you, and share Christ with them.

By the way, stop listening to bad advice. Jeremiah 29   8For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.

Application:Stop listening to Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemiah. They will do you no good.

III. STAY FOCUSSED ON GOD’S PROMISE.

Listen to Jeremiah 29    10For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”

Application: Every trial has a lifespan. What Satan will do is that he will try to convince you that your trial will never end. He will try to fill you with fear and doubt and discouragement. Don’t listen to him.

Instead, listen to verse 11:“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Many people claim this as a life verse but they fail to consider the other things.

Was that it? 12“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13And you will seek Me and find Me,when you search for Me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity.” As tough as the exile was for the people of God, it was a blessing in disguise. (Chart by J. B. Tidwell)

BEFORE EXILE AFTER EXILE
1.    The Jewish people were constantly trying to be like their neighbors 1.    The Jewish people became a separate people.
2.    They worshipped many gods. 2.    They gave up idolatry completely.
3.    They could care less about the Law. 3.    They began to study the Law.
4.    They had no interest in gathering for worship and study of the word. 4.    They established the synagogues in every town and city as a place of worship, prayer, praise, and study.
5.    Judaism was just a formal religion. 5.    Judaism became a personal religion.
6.    They could care less about winning souls. 6.    They became a missionary people to all the nations.
7.    They refused to repent of their sins. 7.    They learned the blessing of repentance.
8.    They could care less about the coming of the Messiah. 8.    God placed a longing in their heartsfor the coming of the Messiah.

 

Listen carefully: I have been through many exiles in my life. One thing I have learned – If you let God do His work in your life, your exile may be the best thing that ever happen to you. It will make you more like Christ. Do you know Christ?

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on October 14, 2017)

How to handle toxic people - Abidan ShahMy last article, “How To Handle Toxic People,” drew more responses than any of my pervious articles! Evidently, it touched a nerve and God used it to meet a real need. Thank you for all the words of appreciation! Some of you raised a question that I feel the answer may benefit others as well – “Daily we go through minor toxic encounters that leave us feeling upset to one degree or another. Does that mean that for each of those incidents we have to go through the same process of praying for 20 days until we are free of the toxin?” Of course not. Toxic people and minor toxic encounters are two different things. The first are individuals who perpetually cause us to feel miserable and the second are chance happenings that inject just enough toxin in us to ruin our spirit. Although the latter are not as harmful as the former, don’t assume that they are completely harmless. If left untreated, those emotional fender-benders can cause us to ruin others’ spirits as well. Let me explain below.

Imagine several scenarios: a kid at the drive-thru messes up your order; someone cuts you off on the freeway; someone fails to thank you for your hard work on some project; and you wave at a friend who doesn’t wave back with the same energy. Or, how about the big one: You put a post on Facebook that you think should go viral and only 3 people like it…What do you do next? Each of those encounters have the potential to initiate an unhealthy conversation within you. For the kid at the drive-thru: “Kids these days are so disrespectful.” For the person who cut you off: “I hope he/she gets caught.” For the friend who didn’t seem that excited to see you: “I’m looking the other way next time.” For those who failed to appreciate your hard work: “I am not appreciated.” And yes, for Facebook, one of those: “If you are my true friend, you’ll comment below and repost.” Such negative self-talk will surely ruin your attitude and keep you from living up to your potential. Unfortunately, such unhealthy conversations don’t stay locked inside for long. Sooner or later they spill over on to the unsuspecting individuals in your lives. In other words, your quest for justice will not rest until someone is convicted, sentenced, or punished. Since you cannot prosecute the original perpetrators, you will substitute those innocent, weak, and docile individuals in your life. Your kids, your husband, your wife, your church family, your neighbor, and your best friend will pay for a crime they did not commit.

What is the solution? First, recognize when your spiritual equilibrium has been disturbed. In other words, acknowledge the gnawing feeling that some wrong may have been committed against you. Second, immediately take charge of your internal conversation. 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us that we should be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” A runaway thought is like a runaway train. There will be casualties. Third, refrain from judging the motives of others. 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” Ultimately, only God knows the true intents of each human heart. Fourth, pray for that individual. Nothing will neutralize hate and anger faster than sincere prayer. Follow the example of our Savior: Luke 23:34 “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Don’t misunderstand. There may be situations where more than prayer is called for but there’s a big difference between restitution and retaliation. Fifth, practice the lost art of the unsent angry letter. Abraham Lincoln would often write his “hot letter” but postpone sending it until he had cooled down. He never sent most of them.

 

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 7, 2017)

bef00a78-d76b-461a-be58-7037520c4569This is the time of the year when many people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to some surveys, about 70% are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions like growing in Christ, reading the Bible, praying, serving in church, etc. Another year comes and goes and there’s zero progress. In Luke 9 Jesus met three such individuals who were buried in the graveyard of excuses. Let’s see if we can learn something from their encounters:

  1. Grave of Comfort – Verse 57 “…Someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple willing to follow Jesus anywhere. In actuality, he was a young man looking to tag along Rabbi Jesus for a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices. Jesus knew his heart and bluntly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not calling him to give up his Sleep Number bed or his Tempur-Pedic pillow and wander around and live under some tree like a hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble. Instead, Jesus was telling him – “To follow me, you have to choose the uncomfortable life. Previously, it was comfortable to tolerate some old sin, habit, grudge, behavior, or desire in your life but following me will require giving them up. How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
  2. Grave of Obligations – Verse 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” What a strange request! Was the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! No. What the man was really saying was “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I will follow you.” He was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s heart too and responded trenchantly – 60 “…Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How could Jesus be so harsh?! Was he actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Again, don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. But in this situation, the man was using his obligations to keep him from obeying God. Jesus was telling him – “Life will never settle down. There will always be another obligation. Follow me now or never.”
  3. Grave of One Last Glance – Verse 61 “…Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’” This sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? – “At least my loved ones deserve to know that I’m leaving.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s real intention. He wanted to take that one last look to make sure that this was a right decision. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who took that fatal glance and like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What do they see? Some see pain and feel they can’t leave until they’ve healed; some see regrets and feel they can’t leave until they’ve fixed things; some see failures and feel their past would repeat again; and some even see the disappointed faces of their loved ones and feel they can’t let them down. Jesus warned him – 62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church told me that when he used to plow with a mule, he would find a fixed point in front and keep his eyes on it. When he looked straight ahead, he had straight rows behind him but if he turned back, he was all over the place. If your spiritual life is all over the place, it’s time to look ahead to Jesus.

By the way, before you can leave your grave of excuses to follow Jesus, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death by asking him to be your Savior. Happy Resurrection!

“When All Seems Hopeless” (2) by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: This evening I want to preach a message I’ve preached before but not from the pulpit. I preached it in front of our fireplace last winter when we were snowed in and, if you remember, we came together on Facebook Live and Periscope. This sermon comes from one of my favorite passages from the Bible – Romans 15:13 and it’s called – “WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS.”

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Twice we come across the word “hope” in this verse. To me this passage has been a source of hope many times over and I’m praying that it will be for you as well.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily unwelcome companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have hope unless you have the Holy Spirit and you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Have you done that? Are you saved?

Let’s take this simple verse apart and examine each section. Once we’ve understood each part, we can put it back together and look at it as a whole. 4 key things in this verse:

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, God of love, and God of our salvation. But here we come across an attribute of God that we don’t hear about much but it is central to His character – “Hope.” Our God is also the god of Hope. When we are in a hopeless situation, He is the One who reminds us “Don’t give up. Keep pressing on. There is hope.” He points us to the door when we feel that there is no way out. He shows us the light at the end of the tunnel when all we can see is a dead-end.

But don’t misunderstand – Our God is not just the God who shows us the way or points us to the light. He is the also the One who actually makes the way for us and turns on the light for us at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

Think about Ruth – her husband died. She followed her mother-in-law back to the land of Judah. She was a Moabite woman, sworn enemies of the people of God. But God brought hope into her life. She married a man named Boaz and became the great-grandparents of King David. But there’s more – in time God grafted her into the family tree of Jesus Christ.

There’s something even greater than all this. God not only shows us hope and brings hope to us but He is the Ultimate Hope. In other words, He not only points us to the door and opens the door for us but He’s also the door. He not only points us to the light and turns on the light for us but He’s also the light.

How does He do that? In the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 10:9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Again, Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Then listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus is the Hope? What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Where do you need Jesus in your life? Someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.” Jesus our hope is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 times. It represents a sense of happiness that is not depended on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Jesus said in Matthew 5 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be all right in spite of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 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.

The point is this – Neither joy nor peace are contingent on our circumstances. Our God of hope sends us both because we need both to get to the desired end.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and all torn to pieces inside. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope overflows us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us both joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace. John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. Again, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “In believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course kind of life. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Some people are willing to do everything but have faith and belief. This keeps the promises of God from being activated in their lives. Alexander Maclaren gave a great illustration to bring out the importance of faith – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9   23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Are you willing to pray for faith?

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years or so He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looed like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

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