Thankful for Our Church Family by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR OUR CHURCH FAMILY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Thankful for Our Church Family

Introduction: One of my fondest memories as a kid growing up was having family meals with the whole family. I especially remember those meals when we were having my favorite dish or dessert, my mom, dad, and grandma would give me an extra spoon from their plate. It was their way of saying – “We know how much you love this! So, we are willing to sacrifice so you can enjoy yourself and we can watch your joy!” It built a feeling of love and assurance in me. Amazingly, I’ve found myself doing the same with our kids when they were young. If we had a special meal or some ice cream the kids really liked (we’re not talking about vegetables), I would take some from my plate and put it on theirs and watch their faces light up. I am so grateful for my family. It taught me so much.Family is where we learn how to love others and live with others. The church is also a family where we also learn how to love others and live with others. But it goes beyond: Our earthly family is temporal but our spiritual family is eternal and we are constantly adding more people to the dinner table. This is very hard for people to grasp in a world that is antisocial and self-centered. God has given us the church for a reason. Are you thankful for the church?

Colossians 3    12Therefore, astheelect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you alsomust do.14But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Question: Do you see it as optional and burdensome or do you see it as essential or beneficial? Have you entered the church family through Christ? Are you saved?

Context:We’re in our series called “Thankful.” With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, the goal of the series is to prepare our hearts to have the right perspective at this time of the year. Today we’re going to talk about being thankful for our church family. Paul in his letter to the Colossians talks about some essential values of a church family. When I see that list, I realize that we have much to be thankful for our church family. 3 things to be exact:

I. GODLY RELATIONSHIPS

Colossians 3    12Therefore, astheelect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;

Background:The key phrase here is “the elect of God.” Who are the elect of God? Keep in mind that this passage is not about the doctrine of election and predestination and all that. In the context, it is simply the adjective “eklektos,” which means “choice,” “excellent,” or “pure.” The idea behind it is that of a special people. The church is a special people of God, holy and beloved. Being this kind of a people, we are to have certain family values. What are they?

  1. Greek word is “splanchna,” which refers to our vital organs like “heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.” These were considered to be the source of our emotions. The word implies mercy from within.
  2. Greek word is “oiktirmos,” which has the idea of compassion with lamentation. Together, “splanchna” and “oiktirmos” have the idea of a deep gut level compassion for others that cannot be put into words. A family has a bond that is inexpressible.
  3. Greek word is “Chrestotes,” which has the idea of kindness. It’s the opposite of harshness. It is “always alive and active and breaks out spontaneously in the life of the person who is led by Christ.” (NIDNTTE)
  4. Greek word is “Tapenophrosune,” which means a deep sense of humility. It is the word that Jesus used to describe himself in Matthew 11   28“Come to Me, allyouwho labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” In other words, people should find rest through you.
  5. Greek word is “Prautes,” which means gentleness. But, it is the gentleness that comes from God. It is the fruit of the Spirit.
  6. Greek word is “Makrothumia,” which is more than just patience. It is something that God does in us that helps us meet people with a generous and self-giving spirit.

13“bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…”

  1. Greek word is “Anechomai,” which means “to put up with.” It means don’t say or do what comes to your mind. It is also reciprocal in the context.
  2. Greek word is “Charizomai,” which comes from another Greek word “charis,” which is grace. It means to show grace and to forgive each other. Rest of verse 13“…if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you alsomust do.” 14“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

Application: I am thankful for this church family for its godly relationships. It is not perfect by any means but it is one where I see these Christian graces at work. If you come with the spirit of “giving someone a piece of your mind,”“straightening people out,” or “putting someone in their place,” you are missing out on what this church family is about. Are you truly thankful?

II. WORD AND WORSHIP

16“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…”

Background: What is the Word of Christ? Is it the words that Christ preached while he was on the earth? I believe it is really the word “about” Christ, the entire Bible. For those of us who are living on this side of the canon, it is both the Old and the New Testament. One of our core values at Clearview is that “We are a Bible believing church that believes in the importance of sound doctrine and the need for a scriptural foundation for our daily life and church.” The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.”That’s why we emphasize biblical preaching. There are times that I have to put aside meetings and even certain ministries if I feel that the message needs some extra time. After every message, I ask myself certain questions:

  • Did this message come from the Bible, from its immediate and overall context?
  • Is it clear enough to understand and apply?
  • Does it magnify Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross?
  • Does it draw the lost to salvation?
  • Does it call the saved to obedience?

16“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another”– Here “teaching” is the systematic explanation of truth and “admonishing” is “strong encouragement” to follow what you have learned. It also involves correction. This happens through Sunday School, Wednesday Evening Bible Studies, Circle Groups, and Inner Circles. This is available for adults, youth, and kids. This is a must for us to live in this world.

“teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” – We are now talking about worship here. 3 titles are given:

  • Psalms – the Greek word is “psalmois” which comes from the Greek word “psallo,” which means “to pluck the strings.” They are songs of praise with a beat. They can be from the Old Testament but many were also composed.
  • Hymns – the Greek word is “humnos” which originally was even used by Homer to mean poetry that was recited or sung. It means to sing about someone or something. It’s not just a reference to Protestant church songs from the 1600s. I love the old hymns but we shouldn’t stop there. Every generation should write more hymns.
  • Spiritual Songs – the Greek word is “ode” or “ade” that’s where we get our English word adoration. This includes songs that reinforce our beliefs and draw us close to God.

“singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”– This tells us the attitude we should have in worship.

Application:I am thankful for this church family for its heart for the Word and Worship. It is not perfect by any means but I see the focus and the balance. If you come angry because your music is not being played, you will miss out. Are you truly thankful for the worship of this church?

III. SELFLESS MINISTRY

17Andwhateveryou do in word or deed, doall in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Background:This is a doing and serving church. We are to meet the needs inside and outside. We are to go across town and across the globe to meet the needs in Jesus’ name and with thanks to God the Father through him.

Invitation:Are you doing that? Are you serving Christ? Are you doing it thankfully or grudgingly? Are you saved?

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.

Dedication by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEDICATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson Dedication

Introduction: How do you gift something to someone when it already belongs to them? I remember as a little boy wrapping things up around the house and giving it to my parents on their birthday. I would wrap up a flashlight and give it to my dad on his birthday. I would wrap up a pen and give it to my mom on her birthday. By the way, that was when I was very young. They would act all happy and excited to get a gift from me but later I realized that it wasn’t really a gift because it already belonged to them. In this service we are dedicating this new sanctuary to God but, in reality, it already belongs to him. So, what are we doing? We are really dedicating ourselves to God. We are committing ourselves to using this place to worship God, to magnify his son, to allow the Holy Spirit to work freely, to preach the truth, to encourage and edify one another, to reach the lost, and to be a lighthouse in our community and our world for Jesus Christ. The dedication is not of brick and mortar but of hearts and lives.

2 Chronicles 6    41“Now therefore, Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness. 42“O LORD God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; Remember the mercies of Your servant David.” 2 Chronicles 7  1When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house. 3When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying:“For He isgood, For His mercyenduresforever.”

Question:  They saw the fire and the glory and they fell on their faces before God. When was the last time you fell on your face before God? When was the last time you dedicated yourself to God? Are you saved?

Context:  The passage we just read comes from a very high point in the history of God’s people. After years of delaying and deferring, they finally got around to building the temple in Jerusalem. It came from a deep conviction in King David’s heart. 1 Chronicles 17:1“Now it came to pass, when David was dwelling in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORDisunder tent curtains.’” This is powerful to me because it tells you why David was a man after God’s own heart. He saw what many couldn’t see that there was no single place for God’s people to worship him. Even though David’s desire was noble, God knew the future and he told him that he was not going to build the house but his son will. Later we hear from David himself in 2 Chronicles 22    8but the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “You. . . shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. God saw what would happen with Bathsheba and Uriah her husband.9Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest. . .” Remember that. “. . . His name shall be Solomon. . . 10He shall build a house for My name.”Ultimately, God had one greater than Solomon in mind. (Matthew 12:42)

When we see paintings of the temple in Jerusalem, it’s not Solomon’s temple that we are looking at but Herod’s temple. Herod’s temple was beautiful! It was actually more than twice the size of Solomon’s temple. It was very impressive but no match for Solomon’s temple for many reasons. For starters, Herod’s temple was elaborate but Solomon’s temple was ornate. I don’t have time to go into all the details but listen to this – 1 Chronicles 22   14“Indeed I have taken much trouble to prepare for the house of the LORD one hundred thousand talents of gold (3,000 tons; rough calculation – $128 billion)and one million talents of silver (30,000 tons; rough calculation – $14 billion), and bronze and iron beyond measure, for it is so abundant. I have prepared timber and stone also, and you may add to them.15Moreover there areworkmen with you in abundance: woodsmen and stonecutters, and all types of skillful men for every kind of work.16Of gold and silver and bronze and ironthere isno limit. . .”Keep in mind that the temple, even though smaller than Herod’s, was roughly 40 ft wide, 130 ft long, and 50 ft tall. That’s a lot of walls to overlay with gold and silver.

For the cedar and the stones for the temple, Solomon gave Hiram, king of Tyre, twenty cities in Northern Galilee! He in turn also sent his best craftsman. There were 2 bronze pillars in the front entrance. One called “Jachin” meaning “God establishes” and the other called “Boaz” meaning “In God is strength.” Inside the temple, the walls are covered with precious stones and beautiful imagery of floral patterns and cherubs. All the sacred objects inside – candelabrum, tables, lamps, etc. – are all made of precious metals and wood. They did not spare anything in building the temple of God.

Here’s the point: The church is not a temple. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Neither is the building the church but it’s the place where the church meets. Having said that, it’s a shame when you see a church building in shambles and people living in mansions. Something is truly wrong. It’s a reflection of the spiritual lives of the people who attend that church. It tells how much they truly care about the things of God. How much do you care about the things of God? Do you give the best or what’s left over?

I want us to focus for the next few moments on Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple. 2 Chronicles 6    12Then Solomonstood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and. . . knelt down on his knees before all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven).” So also, when we come into this place, we are to humble ourselves and come with open arms.

14and he said: “LORD God of Israel, there isno God in heaven or on earth like You, who keepYourcovenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. 15You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; So also, when we come into this place, we are to come in faith and take hold of God’s promises.

22 “If anyone sins against his neighbor, and is forced to take an oath, and comesandtakes an oath before Your altar in this temple, 23then hear from heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, bringing retribution on the wicked by bringing his way on his own head, and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.” So also, we need to come knowing that God sees and knows everything.

24“Or if Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and return and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this temple, 25then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to them and their fathers.So also, we need to come repenting before God.

28“When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sicknessthere is;29whatever prayer, whatever supplication is madeby anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: 30then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men), So also, we need to come seeking help from God in times of trouble.

2Chr. 6:32  “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple; 33then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as doYour people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name. So also, we need to realize that this place is for all people.

41“Now therefore, Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness. 42“O LORD God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; Remember the mercies of Your servant David.” What Solomon saw through a telescope, we see clearly. Jesus is the ultimate Son of David, chosen King of Israel, whose kingdom shall have no end. We are now the priests and the holy nation before God. We are to rejoice in goodness.

Ephesians 2   19 “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Are you part of the temple of God? Are you saved?

Life Between Posts (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

LIFE BETWEEN POSTS (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 7, 2018)

IMG_2578You’re scrolling through your favorite social media and you see the perfect picture with perfect smiles and perfect clothes with a perfect background. To top it all off, its accompanied by a perfect caption, including hashtags like #lovinglife #love #loveus #happiness #sohappy #perfectday #forever #natural – What do all these hashtags and the posts and pictures that accompany them have in common? They are deceiving. They only give a partial, wishful, and concocted glimpse of life. I wish people would also add these hashtags to their posts and pictures– #pleasethinkImhappy #pretendwithmethatallisfine #IwishIfeltlikethispicture #Iwishwecouldalwaysbethishappy #justhadafight #abouttohaveafight #tookme20triestogetthispicture.

Unfortunately, many of us buy into and perpetuate the lies communicated by those pictures and posts with their unrealistic hashtags. I have seen young people fall into depression because they felt that others were having a great time and they were doomed to a life of misery and loneliness. They don’t stop to consider that those pictures were re-taken twenty times! I have seen marriages fall apart because one partner felt that they were not as happy as others and that the grass was greener somewhere else. They don’t realize that the grass is always greener by the septic tank! I have known people who refused to get help because they thought a few likes on social media would solve their problems. They don’t understand that hearts on a screen can never fix the heart of their problems.

Am I suggesting that we stop posting happy pictures and take on a morose view of life? Absolutely not. It’s perfectly fine to share our joys with others. Social media is a wonderful tool to keep up with family and friends. But, please don’t confuse a perfectly angled selfie with a perfectly aligned life. Be discerning. Here’s a reality check from the oldest book in the Bible – “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1) Before you envy someone else’s perfect life, remember that even Jesus – the perfect Son of God – had a few bad days. Imagine all your besties deserting you and letting you die for crimes you didn’t commit! Ironically, we call it “Good Friday.”

Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves – What causes us to crave this approval and admiration of others? Why is it that we want others to think that our life is so flawless? Where did this desire to cover up our blemishes and failures come from? It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve who tried to cover up their sin by using fig leaves. Refusing to face up to our problems and pretending that all is fine is an old family trait. Just like our first parents, we also hide in our proverbial gardens instead of confessing our sin before God and seeking his help and forgiveness through Jesus. Thinking that someone else has it better than us also runs in the family. Cain was envious of his brother Abel because he saw that God approved his brother’s offering. Instead of changing his ways, he killed Abel.

Here are a couple of questions to consider before you post that perfect picture with the perfect quote: What is your true motivation for posting? Who are you trying to impress? Will this uplift someone or bring them down? If you are posing with someone, do they really believe that about you? Does that person feel used? What is the real issue that you are avoiding? How does God feel about your post? Jesus rebuked those who rejected him, saying, “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)

True life is what happens between posts. #Lifebetweenposts – there’s a hashtag that should go viral!

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.

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