Envious Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENVIOUS MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: People often associate certain colors with certain moods, emotions, or attitudes. Red = Anger; Blue = Sadness/Peaceful; Yellow = Fear/Weakness; Gold = Greed/Rich; Purple = Pride/Royalty; Green = Envy. In our western society, we call Envy the Green-Eyed Monster because green is a color associated with sickness. Sometimes when people get sick their skin takes on a slightly yellow/green tinge. So also, when a person is infected with Envy, their demeanor/countenance takes on a sick appearance, if you know what I mean. Here’s the message in a nutshell: An envious mind will take your focus away from God and his goodness and leave you sick in your spirit with doubts and resentment. What you need is the mind of Christ. What you need is the replacing of your false assumptions with biblical truth and principles.

Philippians 1    14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

Question: Do you have an envious mind? Are you struggling with doubts and resentment? How do you feel when someone in your field or age group or social circle, even at church, starts advancing? Are you happy or are you resentful? Are you saved?

Premise: For the benefit of those who weren’t here last week, let me once again sketch for you how we work as human beings. Keep in mind that psychology is a very complex and highly nuanced subject but I’m making it simple for us to understand. In life, all of us have certain EXPECTATIONS. They can be our personal goals in life or how we expect things to turn out through circumstances. These expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. When expectations don’t turn out according to our assumptions, they lead to FRUSTRATIONS. These can be manifested as anxiety, guilt, and resentment. I gave you some examples last time from the subject of material success and marriage. Here’s another example from the subject of raising children. If you’re expectation is that “My child can do no wrong. He/she is perfect,” then you’re in for a lot of frustrations in life. Not only will they disappoint you but they will destroy their life as well. They will go through life thinking that they are the center of the universe and expect you to defend and bail them out. Where did this expectation come from? It came from false assumptions. Maybe it’s because you think that children have no sin nature and they don’t need to be disciplined or corrected. Maybe it’s because your parents were too harsh on you and you swore that you would never do that with your children. Maybe it’s because you are trying to copy the pattern of how your friends are raising their children. These assumptions can come from a myriad of places. What has to change are your assumptions. They have to be replaced by BIBLICAL TRUTHS. Replacing false assumptions with biblical truths is another way of saying “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When this happens, instead of expectations, you’ll have PROMISESand instead of frustrations, you’ll have FRUITS.

Context: Last week we learned that the Philippians had a fearful mind. Today we’re going to see that they also had an envious mind.Listen again to Philippians 1:14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” When word got out that Paul was reaching the praetorian guards in prison, other pastors and leaders became more courageous in sharing the gospel. Unfortunately, human nature is prone to sin and evil.Although some were preaching for the right reasons, some were for an ulterior motive. Listen to verse 15“Some indeed preach Christ even from envyand strife…”To begin with, don’t confuse Envy with Jealousy.“Jealousy” is “I have something that I will not share with you.” For e.g. a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend. “Envy”is “You have something that I wish I had and so I resent you for it.” Jealousy is possessive and Envy is resentful.

The Greek word that Paul uses for envy is the word “phthonos.” It is found only 10 times in the New Testament in various forms. First time in Matthew and Mark when Pilate asked the people “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas or Jesus?” It says in Mark 15:10“For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.” Pilate must have noticed their “evil eyes.” The chief priests were envious of Jesus because the people loved him and not them. It is a residue of our life before Christ – Titus 3:3 “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” We are to lay aside envy and grow in Christ – I Peter 2:1-2 “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

Paul identifies for us the source of this envy in some of the preachers and leaders: Listen to verse16“The former preach Christ from selfish ambition…” (There is a situation of verse inversion happening here in some versions that I don’t have time to get into but it does not change the meaning of the passage.)Some of the leaders were saying, “How come Paul is getting all this attention from prison? Are we any less than Paul? Are we not going through similar suffering? The other day some of the Roman soldiers roughed us up too.” Paul calls their behavior “erithea” = “selfish ambition” because they were more concerned about gaining notoriety rather than seeking lost souls. Furthermore, they were also trying to send word to Paul that they were winning more souls than him. 16“The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains.” This behavior represented their ungodly assumptions. What were Paul’s assumptions/biblical truths?18 “What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Wow!

Why did Paul go into all this detail about the brethren in the Lord who were preaching out of envy and selfish ambition? Because the same behavior was being displayed among the Philippian believers. Listen to Philippian 2     1Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, beingof one accord, of one mind. 3Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambitionor conceit…” It is the same word “erithea” that he used to describe the envious brethren. Apparently, the Philippians had the same assumptions. Paul was exposing their sin in a roundabout way.

Envy coming from selfish ambition has been around for a long time.

  • Lucifer became envious of God and wanted a share of the worship.
  • Eve envied God and wanted to have His knowledge.
  • Cainkilled his brother Abel because he envied his sacrifice.
  • Down through the ages, brothers have been envying each other –Esau envied Jacob. Joseph was envied by his brothers. Moses was envied by his brother and sister. David was envied by his brothers and later by Saul. 
  • Don’t think that only men get infected with envy.Rachel and Leah envied each other in the OT and Mary and Martha in the NT.Envy is an Equal Gender Employer.

Do you struggle with envy? How do you feel when a friend gets a better job or finds a relationship and you don’t? How do you feel when you see someone on a vacation having a great time and you’re stuck because of health, money, or work? You have children who seem average or sick but then there are other families that have healthy children and great performers. Then the big source of envy – HOW YOU LOOK. Why do I have a weight problem, height problem? I don’t like my nose, my chin, my eyes and on and on. We often feel like God is so unfair in giving looks. The only way you can handle envy is by replacing your false assumptions with biblical truths. Listen to Paul in Philippians 4   11“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Are you a victim of envy? One way God deals with envy is that He crucifies the one being envied. If I were God, I would crucify the one who is envying – right? Not really. As someone said, “He never makes the path of greater fruitfulness enviable.”When you have a problem with someone because of envy, God says “I will crucify that guy for you.” Cain– you have a problem with Abel, I will take him early in life; Ishmael– you have a problem with Isaac, I will take him up on Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him; Esau– you have a problem with Jacob, I will keep him running all his life; Joseph’s brothers– you have a problem with Joseph, I will have him sold into slavery; David’s brothers– you have a problem with David, I will keep him running from cave to cave hunted by Saul. Chief Priests– you have a problem with Jesus, I will crucify him. Don’t misunderstand: Through their pain and trials God blesses them even more but he removes every opportunity for you to envy that person.

How do you beat Envy? Become grateful to God. Become an encourager to others.

Are you saved?

Fearful Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you saved?

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

Exalted by Pastor Abidan Shah

EXALTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: It was raining that Sunday morning when little Timmy got home from church with his parents. Finally, it stopped raining and a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky. Timmy’s dad wanted to see if Timmy was paying attention at Sunday School so he asked him – “Son, who do you think made that rainbow?” Timmy replied, “God did and I also know which hand he used to make that rainbow.” Timmy’s dad wasn’t expecting that – “What do you mean that you know which hand God used?” Timmy answered, “It’s easy. God used his left hand to make that rainbow.” Dad was a little frustrated – “Son, there’s nothing in the Bible about that.” Timmy replied, “It’s easy. Because Jesus was sitting on his right hand!” In today’s message, we’re going to learn what that really means in our series called MIND (RE)SET from Philippians 2When we truly understand that Jesus, our Savior and King, is seated at the right hand of the Father, it does several things for us: It gives us a model for how humility is the key to exaltation; it gives us the courage to face any problem in this life; and it gives us a glimpse of what’s coming for us.Our message is titled “EXALTED.”

Philippians 2      5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question: What trial are you facing? Are you looking towards Jesus? You cannot recognize him until you meet him. Have you met him?

Context: Typically, when Christians focus on what Jesus has done for us, we tend to focus on his cross (crucifixion), his empty tomb (resurrection), his going up (ascension), and his second coming (parousia). There is a big gap in between his ascension and his second coming that we don’t know much about. Where is Jesus now and what is he doing?Romans 8:34gives us the answer “Whoishe who condemns? It isChrist who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”Still it remains a distant truth. In order to truly understand and believe this, we have to ask a third question: What is Jesus like right now (Identity)? Unless we answer his identity, we will struggle to understand his locality and activity.

What does this have to do with our series on Philippians 2?Listen again to verse9“Therefore God also has highly exalted Himand given Him the name which is above every name…” This gives us a major clue as to the questions regarding his identity. What does that mean that God the Father has highly exalted Jesus? Does that mean that God the Father gave a promotion to Jesus? Does that mean that God the Father gave special powers and authority to Jesus which he didn’t have before? To answer that, we have to ask a different question – “What changed in Jesus after he rose from the grave? Is he the same Jesus before the cross or is he different?”The answer is Yes and No. 

No, he is the same Jesus, yesterday, today, and forever. But, yes, there is a difference between Jesus before the cross and now after the resurrection.

  • After Jesus rose from the grave, we read Mary Magdalene crying at the tomb of Jesus. John even tells us in his gospel that two angels met her at the tomb and asked her why she was weeping and she told them that they had taken Jesus and she didn’t know where he was. Then, listen to John 20    14Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standingthere,and did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Someone might say that it was because of the sorrow and the trauma she had been through.
  • On the road to Emmaus, two disciples where travelling and talking about all that had happened in the past couple of days. Luke 24    15“So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.”Then Jesus explained to them from Scriptures all things concerning himself. Then they came to their destination and invited him to come in. Luke 24     30Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and brokeit,and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.Is it because he is not human anymore? Of course not. Later he ate with them and allowed them (Thomas) to touch him.
  • Again, in John’s gospel, the disciples led by Peter decide to go fishing and all night they catch nothing. John 21    4But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus asks them if they caught any fish and they reply no. Then, he instructs them to cast it on the right side of the boat and they catch so many that they are not able to draw in the net. What is their response? John 21:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put onhisouter garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. The others came to the land on their boat with the big haul and Jesus had breakfast waiting for them. Listen to verse 12“…Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are You?’—knowing that it was the Lord.”

Do you see a common element here? Jesus is showing himself to his disciples but they are not recognizing him immediately. It’s only after he communicates with them that they are realizing that it is him. There is a change in him that cannot be recognized just by their physical eyes. He has to make himself known to them for them to know who he really is. What exactly is this change? Listen again to verses 9“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Now, God the Father has officially declared that Jesus is also the focus of our worship. Of course, in the Old Testament, the people occasionally worshipped Jesus as the Angel of the Lord but it was never consistent or as clear. Now, it is consistent and clear. We still worship the Father but in Christ we are able to worship him even closer than ever before. The Father is not jealous or envious in this. He is actually glorified in seeing his Son being worshipped. But for this to happen, God has to reveal it to us.

Don’t think that this is just all ethereal talk. This has definite benefits: 

1. It gives us a model for how to live here and now.If he had to be humble before he was exalted, so do we. I Peter 5:6“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” James 4:10“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Matthew 23    11“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” God constantly reminds us of this.

2. It gives us the courage to face any problem in life. The same Jesus who saved you when you called upon him is now the Jesus who is seated at the right hand of the Father. Romans 8    33Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It isGod who justifies. 34Whoishe who condemns? It isChrist who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shalltribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. God constantly reveals this to us.

3. It gives us a glimpse of what’s coming for us. 1 Corinthians 15    47The first manwasof the earth, madeof dust; the second Manisthe Lord from heaven.48Aswasthe manof dust, so alsoarethosewho are madeof dust; and asisthe heavenlyMan,so alsoarethose who areheavenly.49And as we have borne the image of the manof dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenlyMan. Don’t think for a moment that you will become God. Here again Jesus helps us out. Back up to I Corinthians 15:28Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. God daily reminds us of this.

Is God revealing this to you about Jesus? Do you know Jesus?

Bondservant by Pastor Abidan Shah

BONDSERVANT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: March Madness is on. Each year the best basketball teams across the nation come together in an elimination-style bracket and play all the way to the Final Four and then the National Championship. There is a winner and a loser. There is also the Cinderella Team.What is a Cinderella in March Madness?A team that is not well-known but comes in and really shocks everyone. Last year it was UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), a number 16 seed that defeated number one Virginia Cavaliers. Also, Loyola University Chicago that went to the Final Four. As of now, this year it is UC Irvine and Murray State, Kentucky. Why Cinderella?According to the fairy tale, her step mother forced her into servitude and her step sisters belittled her but, in the end, she ended up marrying the prince. In today’s message we’re going to learn how Jesus choseto become a bondservant (he wasn’t forced into it) so that we could become prince and princesses in the family of God. He sacrificed so that we could be saved.Our message is titled BONDSERVANT.

Philippians 2      5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question: Do you understand what Jesus has done for you? He became a slave so that we could become sons and daughters of God. Do you know him? Are you saved?

Context: As you know, we’re in our series called MIND (RE)SET from Philippians 2. We are learning what it means to have the mind of Christ. In today’s message we’re going to focus on what it means to be a “bondservant.” Listen again to verse 7“but (Christ) made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men.” The word for “bondservant” is “doulos” in Greek. It means slave.Why did Paul say that Jesus came as a slave? To answer that question, we need to answer 2 other questions first:

Question 1. How was slavery back then?

  • Slavery was a normal part of every culture and society. Unfortunately, it was even among the main characters of the OT. Sarah gave her female slave Hagar to Abraham so she could have a child for him. So also, Rachel and Leah gave their female slaves to Jacob. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery. Slavery was a part of the culture in which they lived.Ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) from where Abraham came had slavery. Ancient Egypt had slavery. Later, the people of Israel were enslaved. Even Ancient Greece with their high ideals of democracy and freedom had slavery.
  • Ancient Rome was even worse. According to certain estimates, 80-90% of the inhabitants of Rome were slaves or of slave origin. By the way, slaves were not necessarily from Africa. They could be from Europe or Asia or neighboring kingdoms that had been conquered. Spartacus the slave who led the “Third Slave Rebellion” was of Germanic origin. After Rome crushed that rebellion, 6000 slaves were crucified. The conditions of the slaves depended on what they did. If they worked in the mines, it was horrible. If they worked in the homes, things were not as bad. Either way, at the end of the day, a slave was just a human property. Many endured beatings. Many could not participate in education. Even marriage was regulated by the owner. Children were born slaves. In the Western world, the slave trade of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is a very sad and shameful reality. The purchasing of West African people as chattel is indefensible. It’s when Christians with a conscience and courage spoke up that the slave trade was finally outlawed – first in England in 1807 but in continued till 1833. Men like William Wilberforce, William Pitt, John Newton, and George Whitfield. Even the writings of ex-slaves like Equiano and Cugoano finally began to be heard. In our own country, slavery continued until 1863 until the Emancipation Proclamation and then a bloody civil war. By the way, slavery still goes on to this day. Twenty-eight to thirty million are trapped in slavery – sex trafficking to forced labor, even in our own country. We have an episode coming on our radio show Carpe Manana this week.

Question 2. What did God say about slavery?

  • God did not endorse slavery but gave laws in the Old Testament books of ExodusLeviticus, and Deuteronomyon how slaves were to be treated.He even promised a day in the future when there will be no slavery.Joel 2     28“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. 29And also on Mymenservants and on Mymaidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
  • In the time of Jesus, slavery was still practiced and slaves were still just the bottom rung of society. Why didn’t Jesus speak out against slavery? Keep in mind that Jesus did not come to lead a rebellion. He came to save us by giving his life on the cross for our sins. But, he talked about it in his messages. He used it in his parables (Matthew 18:23-35; 21:33-41; 25:14-30). Why? Because there were probably slaves among the listeners. If he had led a rebellion, he would have gotten them killed or made their masters stop them from coming to him.

Question 3. Why did Paul say that Jesus came as slave?

  • Because Jesus truly came as a slave to his Father. He gave up his throne in glory. He gave up his rights and privileges. He emptied his godhead into his humanity. He always obeyed his Father. John 6    38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
  • Because Jesus truly came to serve and not to be served. Think about what slaves did and what Jesus did:
A Slave was responsible to cook Jesus fed the 5000 and the 4000
A Slave came when he was calledJesus was constantly going and helping people – Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus, 
A Slave was responsible to teach the children in the familyJesus preached and taught the multitudes
A Slave did the menial laborJesus washed the feet of his disciples
A Slave would have to go fight in battle for the ownerJesus died on the cross for our sins

Matthew 11    28 Come to Me, allyouwho labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yokeiseasy and My burden is light.”

In fact, think about the categories of our salvation – redemption, justification, and reconciliation. They are all connected to slavery.

  • Redemption – setting the slave free
  • Justification – complete freedom slave received
  • Reconciliation – a slave becoming an equal member of a free society

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

You can come to him – Because everyone knows who a slave was.Every society and culture had them.Because you could get no lower than a slave. No one can say that they couldn’t come to Jesus. 

True Esteem (Part Two) by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRUE ESTEEM (2) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you knew someone and they turned out to be a whole lot more? It’s happened to me many times but last year it happened when Nicole and I would go to this store where when we first started going there, two guys would wait on us. One was a very outgoing salesman and the other was kind of soft-spoken guy who hung around. Then there was a third guy there who was typically behind the counter with another salesman. We thought that the obviously the one behind the counter with the other salesman was the owner, the outgoing guy was the main salesman, and the quiet guy was just a trainee. One day the “trainee” wasn’t there and so we asked if he had quit. They said, “Oh no, he is the owner’s son!” Who we thought was the least important person there turned out to be the most important person!It changed the way we interacted with him the next time! So also, many people have a very limited and even misguided view of Jesus. But, when we truly see him for who he is, it changes the way we think about him, worship him, and obey him. This is the second part of our message titled “TRUE ESTEEM” in our series on Philippians 2:5-11.

Philippians 2      5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question: How do you see Jesus? If you and I are to have the mind of Christ, do you know what the mind of Christ is like? If you truly see him for who he is, it would change the way you think about him, worship him, and obey him. Do you know him?

Context: As you know, we are in our series called “MIND (RE)SET” where we are learning how to have the mind of Christ. The last message in this series was called “TRUE ESTEEM.” In this message we began to learn what the mind of Christ was all about. Listen again to Paul in verse 6“who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” Meaning:Even though Jesus had the same form as his Father (spirit, eternal, and glorious), he did not consider “equality with God something to grasp after.” In other words, Father, Son, and Spirit are coequal in essence but different in roles. The Father is in authority and initiated creation and redemption but it’s the Son who actively created and came to redeem with his life and the Holy Spirit encompasses everything and gives life and power to the creation and to every believer. The Son never tried to usurp, subvert, or sabotage the position of the Father. By the way, this was not just in the past. This is how it will be in eternity. 

Quick Application:This is also the pattern for us in our relationships at church, family, and marriage. We can have unity and harmony only if we understand that we can be equal in essence but have different roles and functions. (1 Corinthians 15:28)

Now let’s go a step further, a step deeper– “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men.” That verse has caused more controversies, schisms, and heresies than any other verse I know. What does that mean that Jesus came in the “likeness of men”? Some people believe that when Jesus was on earth that temporarily he stopped being God. They claim that as God he was an all-powerful spirit being but as man he became a weak and finite human being. But, that’s not what was said about him in Matthew1:23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His nameImmanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” Later Paul said in Colossians 2:9“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

So, what happened 2000 years ago? First, let me tell you what it does NOT mean:

1. It does not mean that God the Son came and took on a human body but kept a divine mind.That’s a heresy called Apollinarianism that the church condemned at the Council of Alexandria in AD 362 and Constantinople in AD 381. Hebrews 2:17“Therefore, in all thingsHe had to be made likeHisbrethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertainingto God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

2. It does not mean that there were 2 persons inside Christ, a human and a divine. That’s also a heresy called Nestorianism that the church also condemned. Jesus never gave any indication that he had a split personality. John 10:10 Ihave come that they may have life, and that they may haveitmore abundantly.”

3. It does not mean that Jesus was a combination of a human and divine nature into a new third kind of nature. This was also condemned by the church as a heresy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681. He had to be truly both at all times so he could represent us as man and earn our salvation as God.

So, what does it mean that Jesus became man? Listen again to verse “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men.” What I am about to go over is the traditional, historical, and biblical position held by the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches on the nature of Christ. We may disagree over other stuff like Baptism, Lord’s Supper, the role of Mary but not this. This is coming out of a Church Council that was held at Chalcedon from October 8 to November 1, AD 451. It also caused a schism between the churches in the east and the west.

1. Jesus is truly human in body and soul just like he was/is truly God in form (essence, nature, and substance).

For example: Driving a very expensive car down a muddy country road. Also, a king becoming a beggar. (From Bruce Ware, The Man Christ Jesus)

2. Jesus is two natures, one divine and the other human, and they are distinct with distinct wills.

On the one hand,Matthew 4    1“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.”On the other hand, Matthew 8    26But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

On the one hand, John 16:28“I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” On the other hand, Matthew 18:20“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

On the one hand, Luke 23:46And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ”Having said this, He breathed His last. On the other hand, John 10     17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

3. Jesus is one person not two. John 17:11“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You…”

4. The human nature was without sin. He became completely like us but he did not share our sinful nature. He was dying but not for his own sins. He was dying for our sins. In a sense, he was just like Adam. He was human without a human father. Where Adam failed when he was tempted, Jesus did not. The conditions of the fallen world are there but He stayed pure all the way to the cross.

Final question: Did God change? Was God more after the Incarnation? Revelation 13:8“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The Incarnation of Jesus is a Paradox, a Miracle that is greater than the Creation of the World and the Resurrection of Jesus!

2 Corinthians 8:9“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Invitation: Take time to think about what God has done for you! How amazing and awesome he is! How compassionate and gracious he is! Humble yourself before him. Be saved if you’re not.

Resolve by Pastor Abidan Shah

RESOLVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

ResolveIntroduction:  How many of ya’ll remember these slangs from back in the day? “Made in the shade,” “Greaser,” “Far out,” “Psyche,” “Cool Beans,” “Chill Pill,” “That’s Bad,” “Duh,” “Word,” “Bounce,” “Talk to the hand,” “Booyah,” “Not!” “Whatever,” “Sup,” “On fleek,” “Lit,” “Fam,” “Salty,” etc. Question: How did you feel when I read some of those slangs in the beginning? Did some of them take you back to your younger days? How many of ya’ll didn’t have a clue what the last 4 meant? Did you feel out of touch? Every generation has their own slangs. It’s their handprint on the timeline of history. But just because your handprint has passed, it does not mean that your time has passed. In fact, for a believer, your best time is right now. All it takes is your resolve to obey God and walk in his promises. That’s the title of our first message in 2019: RESOLVE.

Joshua 14      6Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him … 10… behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11As yet I am asstrong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strengthwasthen, so nowismy strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day;…”

Question: Can you hear the resolve in the words of this 85-year-old man? Can you see the determination in his eyes? Can you feel the confidence in his spirit? How is your resolve? Have you laid down your weapons? Have you become content to sit back and coast your way in your remaining years? This message is not just for those who are older but for all of us. Are you resolved to walk in the promises of God? Are you saved?

Context: In this message we will learn from Caleb how to stay strong and press on even though the odds might be against us. To do this, we will first go back 45 years, when Caleb was 40 years old. Then we will fast forward to the present when he is 85 years old.

FIRST, BACK UP 45 YEARS:Last weekend we learned how the Children of Israel wandered 38 years in the wilderness because they chose to disobey God’s command to move forward and possess the Promised Land. Twelve spies went into the land but 10 returned with a negative report: the people are bigger than us, the cities are fortified up to the heavens, and there are giants in the land. Only 2 returned with a positive report – Joshua and Caleb. Listen to Caleb’s words in Numbers 13:30Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” Was he being over confident? Was he being impulsive? Of course not. God had repeatedly proved that he was with them – the 10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the water, the Manna, the meat for 2.5 million people, the victory over the Amalekites, the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. How much more proof do you need!

Application: Are you still living in doubts? What is holding you back from following God?

What was the response of the people? “They’re like giants and we’re like grasshoppers.” Then they cried and complained against Moses and Aaron saying “If only we had died in Egypt! If only we had died in the wilderness! God has brought us here to kill us.” But here’s the worst part in Numbers 14:4So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.” How hateful! How ungrateful! How unfaithful!What’s worse is that the 10 spies brought down to 2.5 million people! By your words and actions, you can either encourage people to trust God or discourage them.

What is the response of the 2 faithful spies? Numbers 14:6“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who wereamong those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes.” They launched into repentance because they knew what was about to happen and they begged the people to trust the Lord and obey him. Listen to verse9“Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they areour bread; (eating bread = our problems will only make us stronger) their protection has departed from them, and the LORDiswith us. Do not fear them.” What’s the people’s response? 10“And all the congregation said to stone them with stones.”

Question: Where would you have stood? Keep in mind that these people were simply reenacting the drama of God’s people. Remember what Paul said in1 Corinthians 10:11“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition.…”This is how we act. One moment we are praising God for his blessings and the next we are blaming him for our choices.Are you easily moved by your circumstances? Whose report do you believe? God or unfaithful people? Are you a fear monger or a faith builder? Do you help people to step out and trust God or do you cause people to step back and doubt God?

You know what happened next – God cursed that generation (20 years old and above) to die in the wilderness. But not so for the 2 spies. Listen specifically to what God said about Caleb? Numbers 14:24 “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” I loved that phrase – “A different spirit.”

Question:  What kind of spirit do you have in you?

NOW, FAST FORWARD 45 YEARS:  Caleb was waiting for the last one to kick the bucket!  He comes to Joshua and says in Joshua 14:10“And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old.”Quick Point: Sometimes we are where we are because of someone else’s bad behavior. Unfortunately, that happens a lot. Nevertheless, we have a choice in how we respond and live our lives.

Application: You can either live in resentment and regret or you can remember and reflect upon the promises of God. What path have you taken? Have you allowed circumstances and failures of others make you bitter or better? Sometimes, people even join the crowd. “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

3 things we need to learn from Caleb:

  1. You are never too old to follow God’s promises.

11“As yet I am asstrong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strengthwasthen, so nowismy strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.”

Background: Sometimes people wrongly assume that people back then lived hundreds of years or their 80 is our 40. Not true. In the antediluvian age (before the deluge/flood), people did live hundreds of years (Adam – 930, Methuselah – 969). But after the flood, the age kept dropping. Listen to Moses’ psalm – Psalm 90:10“The days of our livesareseventy years; and if by reason of strengththey areeighty years, yet their boastisonly labor and sorrow; or it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” One ofDavid’s loyal friends was Barzillai the Gileadite. He was 80 and the Bible calls him a very aged man! David tries to persuade him to come and live with him in Jerusalem. Listen to his answer – 2 Samuel 19  34But Barzillai said to the king, “How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? 35I amtoday eighty years old. Can I discern between the good and bad? Can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any longer the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be a further burden to my lord the king?”David himselfis called the “aged king” at 70. All this to say that Caleb was not a spring chicken!

Application: Do you talk and act old? Why? What dream does God want you to revive?

  1. You are never too late to prove God’s power.

12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakimwerethere, and thatthe citiesweregreatandfortified. It may be that the LORDwill bewith me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.”

Background: Caleb could have asked for some fertile valley or the coast or some other sweet spot. Instead, he asks for the place where the giants lived, the cities were great and fortified. Several reasons: One, this was Hebron. Joshua 14:13“And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb….” After Lot chose the fertile land of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham chose to settle by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron. Somehow Caleb must have felt that this was a special ground. Second, this place was the reason that the hearts of the people had melted. Forty-five years later, Caleb wanted to prove that if God is with us, nothing is too difficult! He had a score to settle but he was not playing for self. He was playing for God.

Application: If today you resolve to prove yourself to your enemies, your family, and even yourself, you are playing the wrong game. Resolve to prove God and he will help you win!

  1. You are never too far to find God’s grace.

14“Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel.”

Background:Who are the Kenizzite? That’s not a Hebrew or even a West Semitic name. We find it mentioned in Genesis 15  18“ … the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19the Kenites, the Kenezzites,the Kadmonites,…” Somehow his family was grafted into God’s people! Isn’t God’s grace amazing? Are you saved?

Unstuck (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

UNSTUCK (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the Newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 29, 2018)

“The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey. . .’” (Deuteronomy 1:6-7a)

 “So you remained in Kadesh many days. . .”(Deuteronomy 1:46)

“. . . and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward . . .’”(Deuteronomy 2:1-3)

Human beings are prone to getting stuck in a rut. Sometimes, it’s because we’re afraid of facing the challenges waiting ahead. Other times, it’s because we get comfortable in our misery. Either way, we fail to move forward in life and we miss out on the many blessings that God has for us. It’s easier to blame or feel self-pity than to accept responsibility for our inactions. We would rather complain and compare than confront our complacency.

This is nothing new. The people of Israel were stuck for 40 years in the wilderness. First, it was at Mount Sinai for eleven months. Here they encountered God, received the gift of the law, saw the holiness of God, and built the Tabernacle. This was not a waste of time. But, instead of moving forward with renewed faith, they decided to camp there indefinitely. God had to push them out. They made their way to Kadesh Barnea from where they could see the Promised Land. God helped them to organize themselves through Moses. They had seen enough wonders to know that God was with them. Again, instead of moving forward in faith, they refused God’s command to take the land. God condemned that generation to die in the wilderness over the next 38 years. Only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb survived because they believed God. As if all this was not enough warning to the next generation, they too decided to skirt Mount Seir for many days! God had to tell them what he had told their parents and grandparents 40 years earlier – “Enough going in circles! Move forward!”

Here are some questions to consider: Are you stuck? Are you wasting time going in circles? What is it that’s keeping you from moving forward? Would you rather skirt the mountain in your life than step out in faith? Do you blame others for your indecisions? Is crying and complaining easier than climbing and conquering? These are tough questions but unless you answer them honestly, there will be no progress in your life.

The place to begin is not by self-determination and self-will or even clarifying your goals or your strategy. Begin by clarifying who God is and whether you know him. Many times, our lack of movement is directly proportional to the size of our God. People who serve a big God attempt big things in life. But, it’s not enough to believe in a big God. You also have to know his heart for you. The only way to come to him is by first coming to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.(John 14:6). If you don’t know Jesus, receive him today as Savior and King. If you do know him, it’s time to get unstuck from the rut and move forward!

Forward by Pastor Abidan Shah

FORWARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Forward

Introduction: Have any of y’all ever been lost and realized that you were going in circles? About 26 years ago, my parents were visiting and I was driving them from Georgia to Florida. This is back in the pre-GPS days. I remember coming to this little town that had a business and a bypass highway. I decided to take the bypass. But, for some reason, I kept going in circles. After the third time of coming to the same stop sign, my mom, who had never been here before, didn’t know our traffic signs or driving system, said to me, “I might be wrong but I think I’ve seen that building before.” I realized that I kept missing the last sign. What happens if you keep making all right turns or all left turns? You’ll end up at the same spot. Imagine doing that for over a year! The children of Israel did that! Many people do the same thing. For one reason or another, they keep making all right or all left turns in life and they wonder why they keep going in circles!In today’s message we will learn how to move forward in 2019.

Deut 1    46“So you remained in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you spentthere.”2    1“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. 2“And the LORD spoke to me, saying: 3“You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.”

Question: Are you moving forward in life or are you going in circles? How was 2018 for you? What are you hoping to accomplish in 2019? Are you saved? Without Christ in your life, you will keep skirting the mountain in 2019.

Context: One of the most amazing historical accounts in the Old Testament is the deliverance of the Children of Israel from Egypt and their journey to the Promised Land. It says in Exodus 2    23“. . . Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God. . . 24So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledgedthem.” They cried out to God and he remembered them and his covenant with them. God is a God who remembers his people. You may think that God has forgotten you but that’s not true. What did God do?He sent Mosesto set his people free. If you read the Book of Exodus, he used 10 plagues to break Pharaoh’s choke hold on the people and he reluctantly let them go.

But God was not all business.He knew the plight of his people.They had been slaves for many years. They were not hard-core, well-trained warriors. They were just brick layers who had been broken down under Pharaoh’s whip. He knew that they were not ready to fight against the Canaanites and possess the land. So, listen to Exodus 13    17Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them byway of the land of the Philistines, although that wasnear; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18So God led the people aroundbyway of the wilderness of the Red Sea. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He understands how much we can handle. Even if he puts more on you than you can handle, it is only to come alongside and help you handle what you can’t on your own. He wants to go along with you in the journey.

God made a way for them through the Red Sea and brought them down to Mount Sinai in the desert. On the way, they complained about being thirsty and God provided water for them, even out of a rock. They complained about not having bread and God provided manna from heaven for them. They fussed about not having meat and God sent them quail to eat. The Amalekites attacked them and God helped Joshua defeat them. Finally, they made it to Mount Sinai where the people encountered God. Moses was called up to the mountain where he met God to receive his commandments for the people. By the way, this is also the place where the people made the golden calf and God had to punish those who were responsible. Then, the people built the Tabernacle according to the plans that God had given to them.Here’s the point: God is so patient with us. He could destroy us forever but he is still willing to work with us even when we are undeserving.

What’s next? Instead of moving out and heading towards the Promised Land, the people decided to camp around Mount Sinai indefinitely! Deut 1      6“The LORD our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. 7Turn and take your journey, and go . . . 8See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’” Numbers 10 tells us that the cloud was taken up from the Tabernacle. You would think that they would beeager to move forward. Not true. Why? THEY STILL HAD THE SLAVE MINDSET TO CORRECT.

Application: God can save you but if you don’t allow the Holy Spirit to correct your slave mindset to sin through his Word, you will still live in bondage to old habits and old sins. Jesus said in John 10:36“if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

So the people finally moved after sitting around a mountain for almost 11 months and they came to Kadesh Barnea. Now they could see the Promised Land.Listen to Deut 1    20And I (Moses)said to you, “You have come to the mountains of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. 21Look, the LORD your God has set the land before you; go upandpossessit . . .do not fear or be discouraged.” What was their response? Instead of trusting God and moving forward they begged Moses to send spies first. God agreed but ten of the twelve spies brought back a negative report. They told them how the people were greater and taller and how the cities were fortified up to the heaven. Plus, there were giants in the land. Moses reminded them that God had carried them so far “as a man carries his son” but nothing mattered. The people had made up their minds. God was angry. He cursed them to die in the wilderness (20 years and above), except Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. He told them to go back into the dessert and he

What was their response? Okay, okay, we’re so sorry. We’ll do it. Listen to what happened next – Deut 1    42“And the LORD said to me, “Tell them, ‘Do not go up nor fight, for I amnot among you. . . 43So I spoke to you; yet you would not listen, but rebelled against the command of the LORD, and presumptuously went up into the mountain. 44And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah. 45Then you returned and wept before the LORD, but the LORD would not listen to your voice nor give ear to you. There’s a play on words here. This was supposed to be “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) To have honey, you need bees. God was going to take the stingers out of the bees for you but since you took God out, the bees still have their stingers. In other words, the blessing is still there but each time you get near, you get stung. What’s the result? Deut. 1:46“So you remained in Kadesh many days. . .” I did the math and that’s 13,880 days (38 years). Daniel Block called it a “classic understatement. A whole generation had to die in the wilderness. Why? THEY STILL HAD SINS TO CONFESS.Someone might say – “What does this have to do with me?” 1 Corinthians 10:11“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition. . .”

Application:If there is the sin of disobedience and disbelief in your life, you need to confess and repent. Repentance is more than just turn and return. It is a change of mind regarding sin. The Children of Israel were not truly sorry for their sins. They were only sorry that they got caught. Unless you truly confess your sin, you cannot move forward.

As if all this was not enough warning to the next generation, they too made the same mistake as their parents and grandparents. Listen to Deut 2:1“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days.”Mount Seir is in the land of Edom (modern day Jordan). Instead of moving forward, they circled that mountain for a while. WHY? THEY STILL HAD FEARS TO CONQUER.After all these years of wandering, they still had the fear that God was not with them. Listen to Deut 2    2“And the LORD spoke to me, saying: 3“You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.”God had to tell them what he had told their parents and grandparents 40 years earlier – “Enough going in circles! Move forward!”

Why do we go in circles instead of moving forward?Sometimes, we are still living with a slave mindset.It’s easier to blame or feel self-pity than to accept responsibility for our inactions. Sometimes, we still have sins that need to be confessed.It’s easier to sweep things under the rug than to face our sins and repent. Sometimes, we still have fears that need to be conquered. We’re afraid of facing the challenges waiting ahead. We would rather complain and compare than confront our doubts and complacency.

Here are some questions to consider: Are you stuck? Are you wasting time going in circles? What is it that’s keeping you from moving forward? Would you rather skirt the mountain in your life than step out in faith? Do you blame others for your indecisions? Is crying and complaining easier than climbing and conquering? These are tough questions but unless you answer them honestly, there will be no progress in your life.

The place to begin is not by self-determination and self-will or even clarifying your goals or your strategy. Begin by clarifying who God is and whether you know him.Many times, our lack of movement is directly proportional to the size of our God. People who serve a big God attempt big things in life. But, it’s not enough to believe in a big God. You also have to know his heart for you. The only way to come to him is by first coming to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.(John 14:6). If you don’t know Jesus, receive him today as Savior and King. If you do know him, it’s time to move forward!

Uncomfortable Obedience by Pastor Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2018)

Manger NativityIntroduction: Thank you once again for being here this evening. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, using our gifts in his service, and leading someone to Christ. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our comfort zones. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Matthew 1     18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a justman,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were in their teenage years or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Joseph today (next Christmas Eve, we may focus on Mary). He was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary was pregnant and it was not his child.What a shock. Furthermore, she was not claiming that she was raped. She was not admitting to any guilt. What a shame. What a scandal. What’s even worse is that the word on the street was that she was claiming to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Joseph must have gone through a range of emotions: Shock, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, and even hate.
  2. They were still in the betrothal period and he was not officially married to her. Even though she was his wife technically, he still had the option to walk away from her. He was not the bad guy in this. No one was blaming him. They knew him better. In fact, they were expecting him to divorce her. Not to do so would be admitting to personal guilt.

Joseph gets a visit from the Angel of the Lord telling him that what Mary is saying is true. Plus, he had to stick around and name that child. Joseph chose to obey God instead of his emotions, his culture, or his family and friends. What would you have done?

How could he do that? The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally.I John 5:3“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Joseph loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

(Re)Setting the Record Straight (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(RE)SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 17, 2018)

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

(Re)Setting the Record Straight“America was founded as a Christian nation!” My father-in-law made that remark to me over twenty years ago. I remember hearing the frustration in his voice and being puzzled by it. I told him that I thought every American believed that. How could they not? After all, this was “One Nation Under God.” He explained to me that there were people who believed that this was never a Christian nation. To the contrary, they claimed that it was birthed in greed and selfishness with the privileged few controlling the many through fear and oppression.

I decided to research for myself. Here’s what I found: Yes, America was founded on biblical values. But, no, that doesn’t mean that everyone who came across the ocean was a born-again Christian. There is a big difference between Christian values and individual Christian lives. The first is a worldview and the second is a transformed life through Jesus Christ. Examine the Constitution of the United States – 34% of all citations are from the Bible. The ideals of freedom of religion, natural rights, and equality were grounded in Christianity. It was repeatedly affirmed that God’s providence was behind the birth of our nation. But this does not mean that every person, even the signers, were always orthodox in their belief and perfect in their character. Here’s an illustration: Our refrigerator keeps the temperature cold which preserves the food. But, this doesn’t mean that everything inside is delicious. In fact, some foods may even get a freezer burn and be harmful. So also, the Christian values of America did not guarantee that every individual would be Christlike. As John Fea in his insightful book “Was America founded as a Christian Nation” remarked: “History is complex. Heroes sometimes do unheroic things. It is the responsibility of the historian to make every effort to explain the past in its fullness.”

Unfortunately, there is no such balance in recent rhetoric. It is adamantly claimed that “we need to set the record straight regarding our past.” Such allegations are a byproduct of the postmodern revision of history. It views the past as Hegel’s “historic dialectic,” wherein truth is relative and nothing more than an outcome of the struggle for dominance. All understanding of the past is viewed with suspicion. This is terribly misleading. Yes, revisionism is appropriate but only if more historical documents are discovered or new information sheds light on the existing documents. But, this has to be done very responsibly. If not, we are creating a false narrative to push an agenda. To claim that the First Amendment was a separation of church and state is a gross misunderstanding. It was a protection on other Christian groups from practicing their beliefs without repercussions from the state church. It was never meant to discard Christianity.

Furthermore, tearing down our nation’s Christian foundation is also very dangerous. It is like taking a sledge hammer to the foundation of your house and still expecting the walls and the roof to remain intact. It is impossible. The house will collapse. Those who want to revise our nation’s past are willing to take that chance. I suggest that they travel overseas and visit nations that did not have a strong biblical influence in their past. There is a marked difference in individual rights and dignity of the weak. In fact, it is punishable by death to even challenge their nation’s past. Having come from a nation not founded on Judeo-Christian values, I can testify that this nation was built on biblical values. To use the analogy of the refrigerator again: Don’t throw out a perfectly good refrigerator because some foods have gone bad.

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