Under God – Part Two by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God Part Two

UNDER GOD (2) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction:  This past week our family made a quick trip to the Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a very relaxing time. In some ways, it was like travelling back in time with horse drawn plows, horse buggies, and farm life. The best part for our children was playing with the farm animals at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. I think Nicole had just as much fun! On the way back, we stopped at the Gettysburg Battlefield, a place I had always wanted to visit. This was the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. In just 3 days (July 1-3, 1863), as many as 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers either died, were wounded, or went missing. The little town of Gettysburg had no idea that a chance encounter between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would forever change their lives. In a matter of just days, their peaceful farmland was turned into a bloody battlefield. Bodies were lying everywhere. Every home, church, and public building was turned into a hospital. The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves. Four months later, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. As I stood on that battlefield, I thought to myself how the people at the time must have felt when they saw the devastation of lives and land. They may have felt like the United States of America was history. They may have felt like our glory days were over. What many people don’t know is that 75 years later in 1938, about 1800 veterans of that same battle came together on that same battlefield. Some were now 90 years old. They shook hands and pledged allegiance to the same American flag. Here’s my point: No matter what is happening in our nation today, don’t lose heart. We are still “One Nation Under God” and our best days are ahead. We need to look to the sovereign God for healing and hope. This is the focus of the second part of our message titled “UNDER GOD.”

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”

Context: If you remember from last week, Psalm 33 is connected to Psalm 32. This connection indicates that before we can talk about “Blessed is the nation,” we need to talk about “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In other words, before we can talk about how much we need God’s blessing as nation, we need to talk about how much we need God’s forgiveness as individual believers. Keep in mind that this is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. He did not write some cheap poetry, but he gave us what God desires from us. Once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, then we can see that God is our hiding place and we don’t have to live in fear. Instead, we are to look to him and follow his guiding eye. We can see that he loves righteousness and justice. Listen once again to Psalm 33    4 “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice…” In our nation today, people are calling for justice, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, we are not calling for righteousness, which is just as important. In fact, we want justice without righteousness. God demands both.

We need a change in perspective on God. For starters, we need to remember that God is not subject to us. He is a sovereign God. First, he is sovereign over his creation. 5 “…The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. (Land, Plants, and Animals) 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. (Sun, Moon, Stars, and Universe) 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. (Waters, Fish, Sea Creatures) 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. It’s one thing to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, but how about his sovereignty over nations and people? 10 “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.” First, the word for nation is “goy,” which has more of a political meaning. Second, the word for peoples is “am,” which has more of an ethnic meaning. In other words, whether it is an organized nation or an organized group, if they God against God’s sovereign will, he will “pur,” frustrate their plans, and he will “nu,” hinder and prevent them.

Question: Are we seeking to achieve our goals and our plans in this world? God will bring them to nothing. Instead, we have to accept verse 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

Now comes our focal verse—12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” There are 2 different decisions here: First, a nation has chosen God. Second, God has chosen the nation. You’ve heard me say this time and again. Our nation was built to be under God. Our Founding Fathers were not perfect people but they definitely believed that God was the source of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence begins with this preamble – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Our Constitution does not directly mention God but he is assumed and implied. The 2 documents had different goals but they both chose God as the source of blessing for our nation.

But, God also has to choose us as a nation. In my view, America has been a source of good throughout her brief history. Has everything been perfect? Of course not. Nonetheless, God has been guiding us with his eye. 13 “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.” We have to choose to see that? Have you heard of the “All-seeing eye” or the “Eye of Providence?” You can see it on the back of a $1 bill. It is on the top of a pyramid with 13 layers, representing the 13 original colonies. Over the capstone are the words “Annuit Coeptis,” which means “Favors Undertakings” or “God has favored our undertakings.”

God is not only omnipresent and omniscient, but he also actively shapes us. 15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. This is not just in a personal context but in a national context as well. 16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army. A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” God shaped the hearts of our Founding Fathers so they could design a nation like no other. God gave them the wisdom to design a nation that would not be under the tyranny of a monarch. We all know that the Revolutionary War was fought against the strong and coercive measures by King George of England against the colonies. Neither did the Founding Fathers want a nation under the tyranny of the multitude. They didn’t want to set up a democracy like the ancient Greeks. That was just majority rule. They didn’t want that. Can you imagine what it would be like if the majority in a society made decisions only for themselves and not for the minority? What if the majority wanted to enslave the minority? What could we do to make sure that the majority could be kept in check? The Founding Fathers were not only trying to prevent the tyranny of a king, but they were also trying to prevent the tyranny of the majority. They came up with 8 block and tackle measures to keep the majority in check (I’m getting most of this from Dinesh D’Souza’s recent book “The United States of Socialism”):

  1. A Written Constitution: Unlike England’s common law, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution, a supreme charter that would override the will of the majority. This would keep the government in check. This could be amended but the process is very difficult.
  2. The Bill of Rights: This was added to put a series of limitations on the government that begin with “Congress shall make no law”—
  • no law restricting speech, or the press, or the free exercise of religion
  • Citizens have the right to assemble, to bear arms, and enjoy the due process of the law, and to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure
  1. The Supreme Court: They can strike down those federal laws that go against the Constitution and protect the rights of the citizens against the majority.
  2. Representative Government: People elect leaders who represent them. If you don’t like your leaders, then elect others at the next term.
  3. Separation of Powers: Power is divided between 3 branches—
  • Legislative with elected officials in the House of Representatives and Senate, together forming the Congress. Their job is to make the laws;
  • Executive with the President of the United States who acts as the head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He implements and enforces the law by appointing heads of federal agencies and Cabinet;
  • Judiciary with power to arbitrate and resolve legal disputes. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  1. Federalism: Power is divided between the national government and state government.
  2. Checks and Balances: Congress makes laws but the President can veto them. To overturn a veto, it requires congressional supermajority. The President can enforce the laws but the congress and the judiciary branches provide oversight. The judges interpret the Constitution, but they are appointed by the President and confirmed the Senate.
  3. The Electoral College and the 2 branches of the legislature – the House and the Senate: The President, members of the Congress, and senators are elected by the people. However, the Electoral College makes sure that the bigger states with more people do not decide the presidency. Each state has 2 senators a piece but the smaller ones have fewer congressional representatives.

The point is that our Founding Fathers wanted to create a nation that would be fair to everyone. By God’s hand, they came up with an amazing system of checks and balances. They wanted to make sure that “might will not make right.” Our nation fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery. But, in each generation, our leaders knew that this would happen but the nation would go on because it was built on the right foundation. Lincoln acknowledged this in the Gettysburg Address (Video):

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

How much clearer can we get!

Let’s read the final words of the psalm—18 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. (In God We Trust.)22 Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

Are you praying for our nation? Are you hoping in his mercy on our nation? Are you saved?

Under God by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God

UNDER GOD by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Lately, I’ve heard a lot of “I can’t believe what’s happening in our country” and “We need a lot of prayers as a nation.” I agree—It is sad what’s happening in our nation and we do need a lot of prayers. But, sometimes, I also hear things like “America is a horrible nation” and “Other nations are so much better than us in this or that.” Once in a while, a Hollywood actor will also claim that he/she is leaving America. I want to ask them “How soon can you make that happen!” To be honest, most of these people won’t last 5 minutes out there! And, I’m not talking about living in some gated resort or on a movie set. Here’s my point: America is not a perfect nation. It has its faults. Having said that, I still believe that it is the greatest nation on earth. The secret of our success in the face of some incredible odds is that we were built on the foundation of “One Nation Under God.” It is up to us, the church, to fix our faults by God’s help and continue to be that “One Nation Under God.” That’s the title of our message today—UNDER GOD—from Psalm 33:12. Let’s turn there. By the way, this is part 1.

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” This verse is often invoked as the source of our Christian or godly heritage in America. It’s essence can be found in some very important places. First, it can be seen on our nation’s monuments, like the capstone on the Washington Monument has the words “Laus Deo,” which is Latin for “Praise be to God.” In the Capital Building, over the east doorway of the Senate Chamber are the words “Annuit coeptis,” which is Latin for “God has favored our undertakings.” The same statement is also found on the Great Seal of the United States. Then, the slogan “In God We Trust” is found over the south entrance of the Senate Chamber, in the House Chamber (Behind the President in the State of the Union address), and on our money. Then, our Pledge of Allegiance also carries the phrase “One Nation Under God.” All these examples show that Psalm 33:12 is a very important scripture for us as Christians in America. Even if the verse is not quoted, the idea is everywhere.

Personal Testimony: Having grown up in a country that was not built on this verse, I can attest that this nation is unlike any nation on the face of this planet.

Context: Before we start studying this verse to see how it applies to us as a nation today with all that’s going on, we need to back up and notice that this psalm does not have a title or a superscription like the other psalms around it. In other words, we don’t know for sure who wrote this psalm or why it was written. But, there is some evidence from early manuscripts from Qumran that this was probably a psalm of David. Then, why was this description omitted in the other manuscripts? Maybe, it was because Psalm 33 was seen as a continuation of Psalm 32. It was understood that they were connected. To understand that we need to notice the similarities between the last verse of Psalm 32 and the first verse ofPsalm 33. Listen carefully to Psalm 32:11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Now, listen carefully to how the very next psalm begins—Psalm 33:1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” Did you hear the similarities? In fact, in the Hebrew, the same exact word “ranen” is used for “shouting for joy,” “tsedek” for righteous, and “yasher” for upright.

What does all this mean for us? Before we can start talking about “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” in Psalm 33 we need to make sure we are in line with what Psalm 32 has to say. What is Psalm 32 saying? A Psalm of David. A Contemplation.”Meaning: David, the man after God’s own heart, has written these words. 1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Before we can talk about being blessed as a nation, we need to talk about the blessing of being forgiven. 2 “Blessed isthe man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”In just these 2 verses, three different words are used to designate evil: “Pesha” = rebellion against God; “Chatah” = sin, turning away from the true path; “Hawon” = distortion, absence of respect for God’s will. What is needed? Confession and Repentance. What happens if this is not done? 3 “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.” In recent days, we are seeing a lot of people talking and screaming, but we are not saying what needs to be said. What needs to come out of our mouths are words of repentance! 4 “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Can you feel the heaviness of sin?

Now begins his Confession and Repentance. 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. 6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him.”Notice: The command to pray is to the godly, the righteous. Maybe, the reference here is to Noah’s flood. If so, then we are to stand in the gap for others. We are to pray in confession and repentance for our collective sins:

  • removing prayer and Word of God from our schools;
  • legalizing abortion, the killing of unborn children;
  • redefining human sexuality, marriage, and family;
  • glorifying sex and violence through entertainment;
  • living self-centered and complacent lives;
  • embracing any and every view that is sent our way without checking with the Word of God.

We are facing the consequences of decades of these decisions.

Will we be okay? 7 “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Like Dad guiding me in how I should be at the dinner table with special guests.

9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.” It seems like we went from one pandemic to another, from a physical to a cultural pandemic. Could it be that God is using this time to harness and draw his people to himself? Are we being mule-headed and stubborn? 10 “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.” When proper confession and repentance happens, then comes verse 11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” The problem with us is that we want verse 11 without going through verses 1-10.

Question: Have your transgressions been forgiven? Have your sins been covered? Have you truly asked God what he is doing in your life and our nation through these pandemics?

Having gone through Psalm 32, we can now begin Psalm 33     1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” 2 Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. 4 For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; (tsedek and mishpath) The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

Next week we will look in detail on how the founding of our nation was based on the values that come from this book.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you forgiven? Have you repented of your sins? Are you praying for healing in our nation?

2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Abound by Dr. Abidan Shah

Abound

ABOUND by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction: One sign that a baby is becoming a toddler is that he/she will say, “I do it” when it comes to feeding, putting on their shoes, or other activities that they previously relied on the parents. It’s a good thing because it’s an indication that the child is growing up and becoming independent. It can also be a sad time for some young parents, but I tell them, “Don’t worry. It reverses when they become teenagers!” In our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we come to the often-quoted passage from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” People claim that as a life-verse. They wear T-shirts with that verse. Athletes even tattoo it on their arms. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that they are talking it out of context. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that when it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” it’s not talking about overcoming incredible odds or reaching ambitious goals. It’s a declaration of the Christian’s ability to thrive whether one is down or abound. Turn in your Bibles to Philippians 4:10 and our message is titled “ABOUND.”

Philippians 4:10 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.” What exactly was Paul saying here? To correctly understand this, we need to keep in mind the context of the Philippian church. Externally, they were facing persecution. Internally, they were at odds with each other. Fears without and fightings within. In the midst of all this mess, they had stopped supporting Paul’s ministry. How was he faring? Listen to his description of a similar situation in I Corinthians 4     11 “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands…” By the way, since he was incarcerated, he couldn’t even work! If he ran out of food, maybe a soldier had pity on him and gave him some scraps. If he was freezing, maybe he found some old rags that he used to keep himself warm. Only eternity will reveal how much Paul suffered for the gospel. Then, there was a knock on the door and there stood a man by the name of Epaphroditus from the church in Philippi. Listen to Philippians 4:18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” As Paul said in Philippians 4:10 “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly,” he began celebrating on receiving the help from the Philippians.

Was Paul desperate for help from the Philippians? 11 “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” The word for learned is “manthano.” Here, it has the idea of a disciple learning how to follow the master. He has learned how to come to the place of being “content” = “autarkeia.” Content is not about be satisfied with you have and don’t get a better phone or an upgraded boat. The way this word is used implies complete readiness to accept whatever God has in store.

What does this kind of life look like? Verse 12 “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” Abase = “tapeinos,” which implies having a lowly mind like that of Jesus. Abound = “perisseuo,” which meant to be full, beyond, exceed. “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” This time the word for learned is “myeo” which has the idea of learning how to grow spiritually. Now he says in verse 13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The secret to his contentment is that “he has the strength to deal with all situations through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” This is not about being 5 foot 3 and being able to dunk, unless you are Muggsy Bogues with a 44-inch vertical jump!

So, yes, Paul rejoiced greatly that the money had come, but, no, he wasn’t desperate.

Now, listen to Paul’s clarification: 14 “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” Did Paul depend on the Philippians for money? To answer that, we need to turn again to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians because here he gave us information on how ministries were to be supported. Listen to I Corinthians 9      7 “Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?9 For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain’…10…For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?…13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” In Judaism, every Jewish male was obligated to pay a half-shekel temple tax, along with the sacrifices. All this was used to support the priests, the Levites, and their families. 14 “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” In other words, those who work in the church are supported by the tithes and offerings of those who are benefitted by the church, just like in the Old Testament temple. Now, Paul did not take any money from the Corinthians because of their bad attitude towards him. Listen to 2 Corinthians 11     7“Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.” Nonetheless, Paul did not shortchange them. Listen to 2 Corinthians 12    14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you…15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls…” The only place Paul did not ease up with the Corinthians was the collection for the poor in Jerusalem. 2 Corinthians 9:7“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Some of you may be wondering, “Why is Pastor Shah talking about all this?” Sometimes, people wonder why we take up tithes and offerings. We are following the pattern set for us by Paul in God’s word. We take up money to support the operation of the church, pay the staff of the church, provide help for those who are struggling near and far, and help missionaries and church planters all over the world to share the gospel and help the needy. We are an exceptional church where people give generously and wholeheartedly. Having said that, not everyone gives and not everyone gives as much as they should. How about you?

Did Paul benefit from his relationship with the Philippians? 17 “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” Paul was saying that even though he needed the help and he was grateful for the gift, he was not depended on them for survival, nor was he trying to look for the gift. But, by sending their gift, the Philippians have pleased God and now have a share in Paul’s ministry. 18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” Paul described their gifts with the same words that he used to describe the sacrifice of Christ in Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Finally, verse 19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” In fact, Paul added, God will meet your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

What was Paul really trying to say here? Even though he was depended on them, he was not obligated to them. Even if they supported him financially, he was under God’s control not theirs. So also, people coming from a different church tradition think that since we pay the pastor or staff, he/they does/do what we tell him/them to do. Maybe even, he better do as we tell him to do. Sorry friend. You need to give because it is the right thing for you to do and it is good for you to do. You cannot control God’s ministers with money. If that happens, we will tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear.

Have you learned how to abound in Christ? It’s not about having things or not having things. It’s about being content in Christ. Is Christ enough for you?

Are you saved? Do you have Christ?

Desperate by Pastor Abidan Shah

DESPERATE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: It’s amazing how God lines up our activities at Clearview. He knew that this weekend Curt Mulhollen will be called home and so he set up our 24-hour prayer vigil during the time that he was dying. Also, as many of you know, Curt was very active with our Men’s Monthly Breakfast. It happens(ed) to be this Sunday morning. Then, today’s sermon in our series on the parables of Jesus is on prayer. This week many of us prayed in desperation to God for Curt. Our message today is titled “DESPERATE” and it will teach us how to come to God in our time of need and trust him to answer what’s best. We will be looking at 2 parables by Jesus on prayer. There are similarities and there are differences but the main point is the same –God eagerly hears the prayers of desperation by his children. We as believers should eagerly seek and expect the help of our Heavenly Father and trust him that he will answer in his way and his timing. 

Parable #1 – Luke 11     5And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessnesshe will rise and give him as many as he needs…13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much morewill yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Parable #2 – Luke 18      1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ” 6Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7And shall God notavenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?

Question:  Do you have a desperate need in your life today? Are you praying to God for it? Even more so, are you expecting an answer from God? Is he your Heavenly Father? Have you prayed to receive Christ as your Savior?

Context:Both these parables are known as the “how much more” parables. They each tell a story and then draw a contrast between the antiheroes and God. People mistakenly think that these parables are about persistence in prayer. We need to persist in prayer but that’s not the point of these parables. The point is that God will do so much more for us compared to the antiheroes who scornfully and grudgingly did so much less. It’ll make more sense as we look at them side by side:

Parable #1Parable #2
SettingFriendship
Friend goes to a friend at midnight to borrow 3 loaves of bread for another friend who is visiting.
Court System
A widow repeatedly badgers a judge to get justice for herself.
AntiheroSleeping Friend
 
“Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you?”
 
This is understandable because houses back then were basically a one-room affair. Imagine waking up your children, especially babies.
Unjust Judge
 
“who did not fear God nor regard man.”
 
This is also sort of understandable because judges have to be unbiased. At the same time, this judge did not even fear God, which means that he was totally heartless.
OffenseInhospitality
 
Don’t misunderstand. The charge of inhospitality is not against the friend who was asleep. It is against the friend who asked for bread. The clue hinges on the meaning of the Greek word “anaideia” – “yet because of his “anaideia”he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” Typically, translators have translated this word as “persistence” or “importunity” (annoying persistence). It almost makes the friend who is asking seem noble for coming in the middle of the night and waking up his neighbor friend. Scholars have rightly concluded that its true meaning is “shamelessness.” One more thing: It’s not “shameless persistence.” This word is always negative. The sleeping friend gave the bread because of the shamelessness of his friend. What does that mean? We will see next.
Delayed Justice
 
Don’t misunderstand: The charge against the judge is not about justice but about delay in justice. Listen to 3“…she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while.” Why was he delaying? Maybe he was looking for a bribe. Or maybe he was in cahoots with the adversary. Either way, the story leaves us believing that he wasn’t right.
ResponseOut of Contempt
 
8I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessness
he will rise and give him as many as he needs…”

 
The friend ends up giving bread but not because of friendship. He gives it out of contempt, disgust, and scorn over his lack of hospitality and common courtesy!Apparently, this friend who asked for bread knew that his friend was coming but he did not plan ahead. His shamelessness is not in waking people up at night but in failing to be a good host in planning ahead for his visiting friend.
Out of Annoyance
 
5“…because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ”
 
The judge ends up giving justice but not because of justice. He gives it out of annoyance, irritation, and exasperation over her constant badgering and pestering!
PointUnlike the Sleeping Friend who gave out of contempt, God is our loving Heavenly Father – Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much morewill yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”Unlike the Unjust Judge who gave a verdict out of annoyance, God is our loving Heavenly Father – Luke 18:7And shall God notavenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”

How do you pray? How do you see your Heavenly Father? Do you doubt his love and mercy? Do you think he looks down on you when you ask in desperation? Does he give so you would stop pestering him? Absolutely not! 

He is a loving father. He wants you to come and ask what’s on your heart. He wants you to believe that he will answer. He will not call you shamelessness. He will not call you a pest. He wants you to seek and eagerly expect the best from your Heavenly Father. 

Are you doubting his best? Listen to Luke 11:9  “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asksfor a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Are you losing heart? Listen to Luke 18      1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…8I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.

God’s answer may not always be what we ask. It will be better than what we ask and it will come at a time we do not expect. Trust him.

Are you saved? That’s the prayer he is waiting to hear from you. Ask Jesus to save you today.

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.

 

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