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.

 

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

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

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 19, 2017)

It was a perfect end to a busy week. I had accomplished everything on my agenda, which is rare. Now it was time to head home and catch up on some well-needed family time. My face was smiling, my shoulders were relaxed, my mind was clear, my steps were unhurried, and I was humming Old Satch, “What a Wonderful World.” Then it happened. In a matter of seconds, the smile vanished, the shoulders became tense, the mind turned muddy, the swag was gone, and I think I began humming Old Hank, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” The family time was nothing like I had envisioned. If truth be told, it was a rather miserable weekend. You ask, “What brought such sudden and miserable change?” Well, I ran into a toxic person. You know the type who pushes you into Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, the fictional bog in which a person sinks under the weight of sin, guilt, shame, and discouragement. Have you ever been a victim of a toxic person? Let me share with you how to handle them:

First, recognize them for who they are. Toxic people come in all types. Dr. Travis Bradberry (double PhD in Clinical and Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence 2.0) identifies 10 kinds of toxic people: The Gossip, The Temperamental, The Victim, The Self-Absorbed, The Envious, The Manipulator, The Dementor, The Twisted, The Judgmental, and The Arrogant. Most of these designations are self-explanatory except for maybe the Dementor and the Twisted. The former are the kind who suck the life out of the room by their negativity and pessimism and the latter are out to hurt you, make you feel bad, or get something from you. Bradberry warns, “toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs…Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.”

Next, always be prepared to face toxic people. To think that we can avoid them completely is unrealistic and naïve. They might be in the family, neighborhood, workplace, or social organizations (even church!). Trying to ignore them or keep them at arm’s length will only aggravate the situation and attempting to mirror their behavior will only lead to disaster. Instead, learn their behavior patterns and establish the appropriate emotional boundaries in your mind. Don’t get smug like me and stumble into a bad weekend. Also, avoid any toxic song, show, movie, book, or event in your life. Such things only add unnecessary toxicity to your life.

What if the damage has been done? Many years ago I allowed a toxic person to steal my joy. It took a toll on my health, family, and spiritual life. God in his mercy sent a mature person into my life who immediately recognized my distress. He pointedly asked, “Do you want this toxin out of your system?” At first I pretended to be fine and then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride. This godly person told me that he too struggled with it and he found help in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” He said, “Start praying that God would bless this person who has been toxic in your life. Pray for the next 20 days for physical, spiritual, and financial blessing in their life. Be aware that the first time you pray that it will be impossible to mouth those words. Do it again the next day and you might feel sick to your stomach but don’t stop. Eventually, it will become easier and easier. Then, there will come a day when you will pray and actually find yourself praying sincerely as if for a friend. Somewhere towards the end of the 20 days, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you are free. The toxin has cleared out of your system.” Guess what! It actually worked!

Ultimately, sin is the toxin and only the grace of God through Jesus Christ can heal your life. Give it a try today.

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!

FUTURE AND HOPE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

FUTURE AND HOPE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 12, 2016)

future-and-hope“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)

Last month Americans all across the land proved with their ballots that they were dissatisfied with the direction of our country. What is being called “one of the greatest political shakeups in history” is a glimpse into the soul of the real USA. Americans have overwhelmingly declared that they do care about the economy, security, and morality of their country. They do want a better world for their children and grandchildren. Once again they are seeing a future and a hope. These are indeed exciting times in our nation’s history. Along with the other positive changes, here are some more that we cannot afford to ignore:

  1. Unite as Americans – It’s obvious that we are more divided as a nation today than we’ve ever been. Wicked forces have done everything they could to tear us apart along cash, class, and color lines. It is vital that we bring about a healing in our great nation. We will have to reach out to each other and show love and compassion. The world is watching to see if we are still the “United States.” The wise king Solomon wrote, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  2. Equip our next generation – It’s imperative that we train our kids in politics, economy, and morality just as much as we train them in sports, dance, and music. We cannot shelter them from the issues facing our nation and the world. Instead, we should prepare them to change the world for the better. If they are to continue the good changes that are coming, we will have to teach them to lead with wisdom and courage. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
  3. Prepare for a spiritual awakening – The recent shakeup proves once again that God is not through with our nation. When we study our nation’s history we notice that He sent the greatest spiritual revivals when things were really low. He loves to work in dire situations because it brings all the glory to Him. We cannot forget to give Him thanks for giving us a second chance. But that’s just the beginning. We will have to return to the promise in 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.”

Abraham Lincoln said, “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” The dream is still alive.

What’s Next For America?

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whatsnextforamericaThis being July the 4th weekend, I want to preach a message that I’ve preached before but from a different passage titled, “WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA?” Not a day goes by that people don’t call, text, or message me with the question – “What now?” “What do the recent decisions in America mean for Christians?” “Will we survive this new order?” “How does the future look like for our children and our grandchildren?”

Jeremiah 29:10-14 10 For 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. 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. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Background: The passage we just read comes from a very low point in the history of Israel. The people had forsaken God, gone after false idols, and then refused to repent. So God sent the Babylonians against them. In 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and drove the people of Judah 700 miles to the east across the desert to a land they had never seen. They were in exile, where everything was different – the landscape, the weather, the food, the customs, and definitely the people. They were homesick, discouraged, depressed, and feeling sorry for themselves. They just wanted to go home but that wasn’t an option. Psalm 137 1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song…4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song In a foreign land?” All they could do was reminisce and roll in self pity.

Application: Many in America are at this point – They are demoralized, discouraged, and disillusioned. They’ve become helpless and hopeless. What is God saying to us? The same thing He said to His people 2700 years ago – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: It’s not over for our nation. There is a future and a hope. Get up and trust in the Lord and seek Him. By the way, this message goes beyond just a national exile to personal exiles. Many of you are somewhere where you don’t want to be. Things have changed for you. They are not what you expected. What is God telling you? “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Trust in God. He still has your future in His hands. Your exile may be a blessing in disguise.

As these people in exile were crying and wanting to go home, two men showed up from Jerusalem with a letter from Jeremiah the prophet. I want us to walk through this letter now and see what God is saying to us. 3 things –

I. BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED. 

Jeremiah 29:4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused (Not Nebuchadnezzar or Gay Rights or Supreme Court) to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:

3 things you are to do:

  1. Verse 5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.

Meaning: Pull down your tents and make yourself homes. Buy some real estate, dig some foundations, and get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Learn to grow some Babylonian crops. In other words, get settled.

Application: There are many people who are still living out of boxes, still living in tents. They will not commit to the job/church/community that God has given them. They are always looking over the horizon to some better place. They are constantly saying, “I don’t like this place. I want to move here or there.” They have zero commitment to flourish where God has brought them. No wonder, they are constantly negative about their job/ church/community. Yes – things have changed in America but settled down.

  1. Verse 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: Start working on your marriages. Learn the joys of a happy God centered marriage. Also, be fruitful and multiply. Have children and grandchildren. Increase your numbers. Teach your children to walk in the way of God.

Application: Part of the blame for where our world is today lies on the failure of American homes and marriages – Children growing up and seeing mom and dad hating each other or growing up in single parent situations or growing up where Father’s role was either lacking or usurped. The world desperately needs to see how biblical marriages are fun and fulfilling. This fall we’re having another “Art of Marriage” event. Sign up! But there’s another problem. Our numbers have dropped. People don’t want children. They are a burden. They cramp our style. They cost money. They are messy. They are trouble. The other side wants to have more and more children and then adopt some. But it’s not enough just to have children. It’s just as important to train them in the way of God. Also remember – not only do we need more physical children but also more spiritual children. Win people into the family of God. Expand our numbers.

  1. Verse 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.

Meaning: Actively seek to get involved in the welfare of our community and our nation. Become the Salt and Light. Part of the reason why we are in the mess we are is because we preached many sermons on how to find God’s purpose for our lives and failed to ask what is God’s purpose for our world. Pray for those around you – at work, neighborhood, and community. Then you will have peace in our own lives. Did it happen? Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and Nehemiah.

Application: How much are you seeking to get involved in our politics and government? How much do you actually pray for community and nation?

II. BEWARE OF THE FALSE PROPHETS OF CHEAP GRACE AND FALSE HOPES

Jeremiah 29:8-9 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.

Background: While Jeremiah was sent by God to deal first with the sin of the people and then offer them grace and hope, the false prophets were skipping over sin and going right to cheap grace and false hopes. They wanted to bypass God’s Holiness and go right to God’s Love. God says – “I have not sent them.” Jeremiah even identifies them in his letter—Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemiah and prophesies what will happen to them – The first two Nebuchadnezzar will slay them and roast them over fire and the last will be wiped out from the face of the earth.

Please remember – God is a god of love but He will not compromise His holiness. He hates sin. His wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Romans 1:18

Illustration: Recently – I’ve been amazed at how some people are reluctant to call homosexuality a sin. They do all kinds of hermeneutical gymnastics to show that it’s not as bad. The problem is that many on the other side are okay with grace but don’t judge me. God forbid if we offer them cheap grace.

Application: Are you playing some Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemaiahs in someone’s life? Do you go around excusing what God explicitly calls sin. It’s His Law and He is the Judge. You’ll have to answer to Him.

III. BABYLON IS GOD’S BLESSING IN DISGUISE

What will God do if the people start blooming where they are planted and stop listening to false hopes and false dreams to run back? Listen to Jeremiah 29 10 For 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. Meaning: You will not remain a captive forever. I will bring you out of your land of captivity. But seventy years is a whole generation. You may or may not return but your children and grandchildren will.

I believe that unless Christ comes, our children and grandchildren will right our wrongs. They will fix what we have failed. It is imperative that we train them in the truth and guard them from the agenda of the world. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are after them. They should be our first priority.

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. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;

That verse has stood as a source of comfort to many people, even many who are here this morning, through some very difficult times in their lives. When you allow God to do His work in your life, He will even take what appears to be hopeless and evil and replaces it with future and a hope.

What were the Ultimate Benefits of the Exile for the People of Israel? (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 dig into 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 of 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 hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

 Our Babylons are God’s opportunity to bless us spiritually.

Listen to Eugene Peterson: “When the superfluous is stripped away we find the essential—and the essential is God. Normal life is full of distractions and irrelevancies. Then catastrophe: Dislocation. Exile. Illness. Accident. Job loss. Divorce. Death. The reality of our lives is rearranged without anyone consulting us or waiting for our permission. We are no longer at home….Exile reveals what really matters and frees us to pursue what really matters, which is to seek the Lord with all our hearts.”

God is still in America with us and He is just as much in charge now as before. He has allowed us to go into exile to do a deeper work in our lives. He wants us to repent and call upon Him and seek Him with all our heart. In the end, the exile is not against us but for us. There is a future and a hope for us. The place to begin is by asking – “Are you saved? Are you reaching the lost with the truth about sin and grace?

HIGH NOON (ARTICLE)

HIGH NOON by Abidan Paul Shah, Henderson, NC

(This article was published in the local newspaper The Daily Dispatch on 11/2/14)

HIGH NOONIn our home if “High Noon” is on TV then it doesn’t matter what else is on! It is one of my favorite westerns that the rest of the family also loves or…so they pretend! Gary Cooper plays Will Kane, marshal of Hadleyville, New Mexico territory, who decides to give up his lawman days and marry Amy Fowler, played by Grace Kelly. No sooner does he turn in his badge that word arrives that the outlaw Frank Miller, whom Kane had captured, has been set free on technicality. As Kane is getting ready to ride off with his new bride, Miller is coming on the noon train to get revenge. The townspeople beg Kane to leave town immediately and not look back. After all, he was no longer the marshal and it was no longer his problem. But Kane is not the type to run away. He turns back, reclaims his badge, and tries to recruit some help from the townspeople. Much to his surprise – one by one they begin to make excuses, hide behind their wives, question his motives, and some are no where to be found! In the end Kane has to fight Miller and his gang alone, with only his wife to help in the very end.

Why is this movie such an All Time Classic? Is it the Oscar-winning performance? Is it the real time cinematography? I think the real answer lies in the noble ideals in the storyline – justice, honor, duty, conviction, and courage – qualities that symbolize the American spirit. While the townspeople are scramming or rolling over and playing dead, the lone hero is willing to stand his ground. He even betrays signs of apprehension – a good reminder that standing for one’s convictions does not mean the absence of fear. Kane’s motives become clear in the final scene when the townspeople come out of hiding to congratulate and he does not say a word but throws the marshal’s star in the dirt and rides off with his wife. What a challenge for us to take our stand and not run from our convictions! Unfortunately, we are living in a time when people are retreating politically, economically, defensively, and morally, and the Frank Millers keep coming. Our generation needs some Kanes who will go against the flow and do what is right, even if they have to do it all alone.

But here’s a caution – As much as I love “High Noon,” I also see the potential for misunderstanding it. One – taking a stand doesn’t mean being stuck in our ways, being bull-headed, and unwilling to change. Such behavior is another name for cowardice. Neither does it mean to be hateful and arrogant. 2 Corinthians 10 reminds us that, “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” Our weapons should be truth, love, and faith. We should stand our ground on the truth of biblical convictions regarding life, morality, and patriotism but do it in an attitude of love and compassion. It’s no use blaming the politician, the judges, or the entertainment industry. It’s too late for that! It’s time to engage our culture for Christ in a manner that will change our course. We should have the faith that we can leave this world a better place – fiscally, defensively, morally, and spiritually – for our children and our grandchildren.

Someone might say – “We’ve gone too far to turn the tide.” My challenge for you is to study history. We’ve been here before. Every time a single individual (man or woman, boy or girl) took seriously Christ’s command to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, the day was saved.

WHERE IS GOD IN THIS CRAZY WORLD?

WHERE IS GOD IN THIS CRAZY WORLD? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Where is God in this crazy worldWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we’re in Luke 2 for our message titled – “WHERE IS GOD IN THIS CRAZY WORLD?” Lately, it seems as if our world is getting crazier everyday – ISIS terrorists, Ebola virus, high unemployment, and low morality. People are wondering – where is God in all this? Is He just sitting up there twiddling his thumbs? Has He lost control of the world He created? This morning we will look back 2000 years ago when Jesus was born into a world that was just as crazy. We will see that God is very much in control today as He was back then. His plan is always accomplished in heaven and on earth.

Luke 2 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Overall Background: I was talking to someone last week and this person said, “This world is getting crazier every day. I’m just ready for Jesus to come and get us out.” Two things wrong with that statement: First, to this person, this is the worst that this world has ever been. This morning’s message will teach us that it’s been worse before. Jesus’ coming for the church is not dependent on how bad the world gets. He can come any moment. Second, to this person, the world was like a building on fire that could collapse any moment, and God was like a rescue worker on the outside too afraid to go in. God is much more sovereign than that. Application: Have you wondered lately – where is God in this crazy world? Why doesn’t He just destroy the wicked? Why doesn’t He just end this world? I’m here to tell you that God is working powerfully in this crazy world but you won’t find Him if you look for Him in pomp, show, lights, and noise. He is working gently and powerfully in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Now, here’s a question – Is He working in your life? Have you welcomed Him in your life? If not, today is the day you can invite Him.

This morning we will first look at the crazy world in which Jesus was born and then we will see how God has been working in this world.

I. THE WORLD HAS ALWAYS BEEN CRAZY. Luke 2 1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου, ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. Who was Caesar Augustus? Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome when Jesus was born. His birth name was actually Octavius. He was the Assassination of Julius Caesar great nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, who was the dictator of Rome (48 BC – 44 BC, four years) until his enemies assassinated him on the Ides of March (March 15). Octavius took this as his opportunity to ascend to the throne. He wasn’t much of a soldier so he linked up with Mark Anthony and Marcus Lepidus and began avenging the death of Julius Caesar. He was brutal and did not spare any who stood up to him.

Octavius was very ambitious. He even had coins minted with Julius Caesar’s image on one side with the words “the God Julius” and his image on the other side with the words “Caesar, Son of a God.” He was not satisfied with being one of three and so he first got rid of Lepidus. Then, he defeated Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium, who committed suicide along with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. They knew what would happen if they fell into the hands of Octavius. Now, Octavius was the only man standing. He was powerful and cruel, to say the least. He established the Pretorian Guard – private bodyguards of 5000 soldiers. The Senate was afraid of him Augustus Divi Fand gave him power over the proconsuls and the armies. They even made him “Pontifex Maximus” or the chief priest of the state religion. Their own position was reduced to being just advisors.

But there’s more – remember when Octavius defeated Mark Anthony. There were provinces in Asia that had supported Mark Anthony. Now Octavius was in power and they were going to pay for that. Very quickly delegations came from city of Pergamum and the city of Nicaea informing him that they were going to make him a god and needed his permission to build temples in his name. Of course, Octavius said, “That’s okay. You don’t have to. But, if you insist….” Two years later, the senate even gave him the title we find in Luke 2:1 – Augustus, which means “great” as in god. He became Caesar Augustus, not only the Emperor of Rome but also a god who had been appointed by the will of the other gods. It was in his hands to bring the “pax Caesar Augustusdeorum” or the peace of the gods to the mortals on the earth. He was the incarnation of all the gods. He was the savior.

The people loved him. He expanded the Roman Empire, rebuilt temples and public buildings, reorganized the Senate, and brought opportunities to the people. He was so popular that Roman men even adopted his hairstyle. For the first time there was peace in the world, as long as you didn’t oppose Octavius. One scholar noted that never before in the history of the world was a man worshipped like Octavius – Caesar Augustus.

Some of you are saying – how come we’ve never heard of him? Have you ever looked at the calendar? The sixth month is named after the god Julius Caesar and the seventh month is named after Caesar Augustus – August.

Why did he want the world to be registered? Taxes. More money was needed to fund the growing army – 28 legions, each legion had over 5000 soldiers. More money was needed to fund Rome and fill the coffers of the god Augustus. But, there’s something more – Herod the king of Judea had made Octavius mad and this was his way of proving a point to Herod that he was the boss. Amazing isn’t it? Everybody’s life is turned upside just so an egomaniac can prove a point. So verse 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 2 Αὕτη ἡ ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου. 3 Καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν.

In short, Jesus was born in a world ruled by a cruel, egomaniac who thought he was god and didn’t think one bit about uprooting people and turning their lives upside down. This was the Crazy World – power, intimidation, cruelty, propaganda, brutality, show, dazzle, and everything demonic.

II. GOD ALWAYS ACCOMPLISHES HIS SOVEREIGN WILL.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 4 Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρέτ, εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν, εἰς πόλιν Δαυίδ, ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλέεμ, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυίδ, 5 ἀπογράψασθαι σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ μεμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ γυναικί, οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ. Joseph and Mary Bethlehem

Background: Caesar Augustus – claiming to be god, emperor of the world commanding everyone to go to their hometown – does not realize that he is just a pawn in the Master Plan of God. This was all part of the prophecy in Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

God is not unaware of all that is happening in the world. He knows everything and He works all things towards His divine purpose. Job 42 1 Then Job answered the LORD and said: 2 “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Daniel 2:20 “…Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. 21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings…”

Application: Are you afraid of what’s happening in this world? Are you discouraged by what you hear on the news? Just know that God is in complete control. Everything is falling into His divine purpose, whether in the world or in your life.

III. GOD ALWAYS COMES IN HUMILITY AND GRACE.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. Typically people think that Joseph and Mary just arrived Manger Nativityin Bethlehem and couldn’t find any room in the local motel. Not true. They were there for a few days before she went into labor. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 6 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ, ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν. 7 Καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.

The word for inn is “kataluma,” which is guestroom. Joseph and Mary were probably staying with some friends and couldn’t find any privacy and had to deliver Jesus in the family room. Unlike Caesar Augustus who was living in the lap of luxury, the King of Kings had to spend his first night where the animals were tied. God’s ways are not of pomp and show and lights and noise but humility and meekness. The world looks for a conquering hero on a white horse who would destroy the wicked. People are still looking for a leader who will step to the plate, with charisma and charm, and wrong the rights and fix all the craziness but God’s way hasn’t changed. God’s way is the way of the manger – the way of humility.

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

Background: Roman society was divided into many classes. You were born into your class and there’s nothing you could do to get out if it. Unlike Augustus who surrounded himself with powerful elites, God came to those who were the lowest. Shepherds were a smelly lot. They were dirty but they were on God’s mailing list.

Application: Do you think that you don’t deserve the grace of God? His grace is available to you.

IV. GOD’S WAY IS ALWAYS ONE PERSON TELLING ANOTHER.

shepherds nativity11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

That is still God’s Way – the angels told the shepherds, the shepherds came and saw, the shepherds went and told others, and the others marveled. Are you afraid of what’s happening in this world? Are wondering where God is in all this? He is perfectly in charge and His plan keeps moving. The real question is do you know Him as your Savior?

WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH

WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When you need the human touchWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels called – “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” This morning I’m preaching a message titled – “WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH.” Nicole often tells me the story of her little brother who was scared to go to sleep. Their dad told him that God was with him and angels were guarding him and he had nothing to be afraid of. He replied, “I know but I want someone I can touch.”

Luke 1   26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!…31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS…36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren…39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is very familiar, especially during Christmas season – The angel Gabriel comes to Mary with the news of Jesus and she is shocked but he comforts her and she happily submits. All that is true but when we step back and look at this account in its overall context, we find a greater truth just beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered. The account of Mary’s encounter with Gabriel is couched between the accounts of Zachariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. Luke 1:5-25 tells us how the angel Gabriel came to Zachariah and Elizabeth, a couple who was righteous and blameless before God. Then, Luke 1:26-38 is about how the angel Gabriel came to Mary and gave her the news that she will be with child whose name shall be Jesus. We just read it. Then, Luke 1:39-80 is about how Mary went and stayed with Zachariah and Elizabeth for three months until John was born. Meaning: Zachariah and Elizabeth were very important in Mary’s life and the birth of Jesus. For e.g. Like a sandwich that has meat between two pieces of bread, we have eaten the meat but left the bread. Oh, we got the meat – Jesus – but we missed the sandwich.

This morning, the point of the message is – God’s Providence, God’s Promises, and God’s Presence are vital for us to go through life but so are God’s People. God wants us to connect with godly people who will bring wisdom and encouragement in our life.

Application: Do you feel like you are doing your Bible Study and having your prayer time and even going to church but there’s still something missing? Are you connecting with godly people? Do you have spiritual connection with other believers? Some people say, “Oh I go to church.” Unless you have the right connector, you are going in vain. Jesus is the connector. Without Him our churches are nothing but a club or a hangout.

This morning we will see how along with God’s Providence, Promises, and Presence, we also need His People:

1. GOD’S PROVIDENCE

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

Background: In the 1800s many scholars denied the existence of Nazareth because there is no mention of it in the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, or Rabbinic writings. This all changed when archaeology revealed there was indeed a small town named Nazareth in Galilee. (Now there’s a reason why I’m dealing with this now and it will make sense a little later.) Nazareth was a very small village, probably just a caution light. As they say, if you blink, you would miss it. It had a population of 150-200. It was located in the hills of Lower Galilee and it was not a stop on any major route. When the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom, they did not even bother to mess with it. Who lived in this small town? Archaeologists found some inscriptions claiming that it was a settlement for Jewish priests in the third and fourth centuries BC. Hence, Mary was probably from a priestly, Aaronic lineage. And, how about the name Nazareth? It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” referring to the Messiah. Maybe, this small group of priests believed that the Messiah would come through them. Maybe, some of them had been connected to the lineage of David. How did other people think of them? Do you remember when Philip invited Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus? John 1 45 …“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This was Nazareth. But, God in His providence saw Nazareth and He sent His archangel Gabriel to Mary.

Application: This morning – you might be in a Nazareth. You feel small, insignificant, forgotten, and isolated. But not in the eyes of God – He sees you. He knows your every problem. He is aware of your every need. His providential care is upon you. God knows and He cares for you. He hasn’t abandoned you. Trust His providential hand.

2. GOD’S PROMISES

28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

Background: These people considered themselves to be the shoot of David. They thought they were the ones through whom the Messiah would come. But when it actually began to happen, fear came upon her.

Isn’t that how it is for us? We want God to use us, bless us but when He actually starts, we get scared. On second thoughts, “God – I don’t want to be used. Use someone else.”

The angel Gabriel starts reminding her of the promises of God – 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Isn’t it wonderful how the promises of God give us the courage to face life?!! Just when you think all hope is gone, the promises of God shine through like the bright sun on a dark cloudy day. For e.g. Adoniram Judson was a missionary to Burma. They hung him upside down for sharing Jesus. As human waste rolling down his back, someone asked – “So how does the future look?” He said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”

Application: What promises are you claiming in your life this morning? The scripture is filled with them. Unless you know Jesus as your Savior, these promises are nothing but words on a page. Get to know Him and then claim His promises for your life.

3. GOD’S PRESENCE

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” By the way, there’s a big difference between Mary’s doubt and Zachariah’s doubt. Remember, Zachariah said, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Mary was just a young girl and Zachariah was a priest before God. It’s one thing for a newborn Christian to say – “I don’t know how God can help me,” but it’s quite another for a church going, Bible toting, mature Christian to doubt God.

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

Background: Gabriel promised her that the Holy Spirit Presence would take care of her.

Do you know that as a Christian you are never alone? Jesus said in John 14 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

Application: Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life? The only way to have Him is through Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, then pray and ask His help in your life.

4. GOD’S PEOPLE

Mary in Nazareth36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” This is probably the most neglected verse in the Christmas narrative. Why did he do that? Was he just making small talk? No. In this small village of 150-200 people, it wouldn’t take long for people to figure out what’s happening and start talking. Can you imagine what they would do to Mary? Gabriel was telling her to leave and go to the godly couple Zachariah and Elizabeth. What happened when the angel left? 39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah…” This region was to the South of Jerusalem about 80-100 miles from Nazareth. It would have taken Mary about 3-4 days to get here. But she had to go.

Listen to what happens when she gets to Zachariah and Elizabeth’s home –

41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.Nazareth to the Hills of Judea

  • Godly people have the Holy Spirit controlling their lives. They are not led by their emotions, evil motives, and secret agendas.

42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

  • Godly people have a sense of spiritual discernment. This was no chitchat about the weather in Nazareth and how long it took.

43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

  • Godly people are constantly aware of God’s greater plan around them.

44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

  • Godly people are not ashamed to share what God is showing them.

Mary with Elizabeth45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

  • Godly people ignite and fan our faith in the promises of God. By the way, this is the first Beatitude in the Gospel.

Luke 1:56   And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

Mary stayed until John was born and then she headed home. She had a difficult road ahead of her but now she was prepared.

Application: Do you have such godly people in your life? I go to church will not cut it. It is knowing Jesus that joins us together. Do you know Him as your Savior?

%d bloggers like this: