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.

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?

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit Of Happiness by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Introduction: Elections are serious business but some time back I came across a bizarre and funny story. Back in 1967, Ecuador was holding its elections when a foot powder company ran an ad saying “Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies.” To make their ad more appealing, the company passed out flyers listing all the things Pulvapies would do if elected as Mayor. By the way, the flyer looked very much like the official ballot. Guess what happened on election day in the small town of Picoazà, Ecuador? People turned in their flyers at the election booths instead of their ballots! The foot powder won! Thank goodness they didn’t make it the Mayor! Election day is Tuesday and it’s no laughing matter. It’s important for all Christians to vote. Why?Not because the government can solve all our problems or bring God’s kingdom on earth but because the right government can protect our rights as Christians to live out our convictions and share our faith. If you know your history, the wrong government has always tried to silence and stamp out our faith. The lost world is never neutral or fair towards god’s people. Something else: Without Judeo-Christian values, governments will have no clear moral compass. My goal is not to get you to vote a certain party but to get you to vote your biblical convictions.

Daniel 6     3Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spiritwasin him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4So the governors and satraps sought to findsomecharge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he wasfaithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we finditagainst him concerning the law of his God.”

Question: Daniel was persecuted for his faith. Is your faith strong enough to be persecuted? Are you saved?

Context: We began a new series last weekend called “Thankful” and today’s message is about being thankful for our nation, thankful for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I chose the passage from Daniel because it teaches us the importance of standing up for our convictions. The Jewish people were living in exile in Babylon and Daniel was a high ranking official in the Medo-Persian empire. How high up was he? Daniel 6    1It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; What is a satrap? Darius I of Persia came up with the organization of satrapies or provinces for control and tax purposes. Each satrapy was to be ruled by satraps, which is the Old Persian word for “protector of the kingdom.” Usually, the satrap was a close relative of the king, someone he could trust. Darius appointed 120 satraps but Daniel was more than just a satrap.2and over these, three governors, of whom Danielwasone, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. So, three governors over the 120 satraps but Daniel was even more. 3Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spiritwasin him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. He was going to be in charge of the whole Persian empire! Wow!

Some people say that god’s people have no part in politics.

  • Some of the people who say that actually do mix politics and church but only when it suits their agenda and political party. But, if you say anything for your views, they immediately say, “Just preach the gospel. Don’t do politics.” Some even try to claim that you are violating the law. That’s not true. Since 1954, IRS has regulations that prohibit explicitly supporting a particular candidate by name but it allows us to teach on moral issues. That’s not illegal.
  • Some people claim that the gospel has nothing to do with politics. Such people fail to understand that the gospel is more than “I am saved and on my way to heaven.” It involves “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” The gospel is a change in lifestyle. What happens when two or more people begin to change their lifestyles, it begins to change the society in which they live.I John 3:8“…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Throughout the history of the world, god’s people have made their societies better by influencing the government (See Alvin Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World):

  • In the Roman Empire, Christians outlawed infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion (AD 374).
  • They outlawed the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators died (AD 404).
  • They instituted prison reforms by separating male and female prisoners (AD 361).
  • They abolished human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, the Lithuanians, and others.
  • They outlawed pedophilia.
  • They banned polygamy.
  • They outlawed the practice of burning alive widows in India (1829)
  • They began compulsory education for all children in European countries.
  • In the Roman Empire, Christians fought to abolish slavery.
  • In England, William Wilberforce helped abolish the slave trade and slavery itself in the British empire by 1840.
  • In our United States, there were Christians who supported slavery and that was wrong. But, a vast majority fought to abolish it. Two-thirds were Christian pastors.
  • I can go on and on but the point is that god’s people have made their societies better by influencing their governments. One such person was Daniel.

Time is short – the governors and satraps are threatened by Daniel and they decide to take him out. They asked Darius to sign a decree, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians that does not alter, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except King Darius shall be cast into the den of lions. What was Daniel’s response?Daniel 6:10“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” What an amazing political move! Daniel did not hide, apologize, or compromise. Instead, he openly challenged the decree.

Sadly, when Christians are confronted, they hide, apologize, or compromise. This confrontation is not necessarily about praying. It comes in other more sinister ways. At one time it was Christians have always been against Science. They would always bring up Galileo and how the church persecuted him. I don’t have time to go over the whole story. Many scientists were actually Christians. Then it was Christians have always been intolerant. I already gave you the list of things that Christians have fought for throughout history. Now there’s a new one – Christians need to learn the true history of the United States. This is a new one. It says that history has been created by the dominant group from the past and it needs to be straightened out. America was never founded on Christian values and that it was just greed and selfishness. How do you answer this?It all goes back to a German Philosopher by the name of Hegel who came up with the idea of the “historical dialectic.” He believed that history was always in a state of development. You can pick any time in history and see a group that is dominant and they agree on what they consider to be the truth. He called it “thesis.” This is usually challenged by a contradictory idea that is “antithesis.” This leads to a “synthesis.” Now this “synthesis” becomes the new “thesis.” There is no such thing as objective truth. Truth is relative. Hence, what you have learned is wrong and it’s time to set the record straight. We are living in the postmodern era. In the modern era, it was question everything. Now, it is “make history whatever you want it to be. If it’s real to you, then it doesn’t matter what I say.” But if you look at our history carefully, the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States are all based on the Bible. 52 out of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Christians. 34% of all citations in the Constitution came from the Bible.

Personal Illustration: Having come from a nation not founded on Judeo-Christian values, I can tell you that this nation was built on biblical values and it can stand only as long as it stands on biblical values.

Back to Daniel – The governors and satraps caught Daniel praying and ran to the king and accused him. The king tried to free Daniel but the ungodly men were not going to let him off that easily and finally he had to give the command to cast him into the lion’s den. All night he couldn’t sleep or eat and very early he ran to the den of lions crying loudly “Daniel, has your God saved you?” You know the rest of the account. The King had those men who accused Daniel and their families thrown into the den and they were destroyed.

Now listen to Daniel 6     25Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.26I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdommen musttremble and fear before the God of Daniel.For He isthe living God,And steadfast forever;His kingdomis the onewhich shall not be destroyed,And His dominionshall endureto the end.27         He delivers and rescues,And He works signs and wondersIn heaven and on earth,Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” What a revival!

Invitation: Are you praying for our nation? Will you cast your vote according to your biblical convictions? Are you saved?

Thankful for His Plan by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR HIS PLAN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

His PlanIntroduction: How many of you think that you come from a dysfunctional family? Raise your hand. Keep raising them and look around at all the people who are lying! All of us come from a dysfunctional family. Some of us cover it up better than others. If you think your family tree is lush, green, and fruitful, just remember that all our roots are shallow and infested with worms. Don’t forget that we all come from a crooked landscaper and an ambitious diva, Adam and Eve. In this message we’re going to meet a person who grew up in a really dysfunctional family but he overcame that and thrived. The secret was his deep faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Instead of becoming bitter and vengeful, he was thankful to God for his plan. You can be bitter or you can be thankful. It all depends on your view of God’s sovereignty and goodness.

Genesis 50    15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” 16So they sentmessengersto Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17“Thus you shall say to Joseph: ‘I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” ’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him…19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for amI in the place of God? 20But as for you, you meant evil against me; butGod meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it isthis day, to save many people alive.

Question: How do you see your life? Are you bitter or are you thankful? Are you a victim or a victor? Are you saved? Without Christ, you will live to avenge or prove yourself?

Context: For the next 4 weeks, we’ll be in a series called THANKFUL that will not only prepare us for the Thanksgiving Season but also give us a biblical perspective on life and problems. In today’s message, we will look at the life of Joseph, how he grew up in a dysfunctional family but God had a divine plan and instead of being bitter and vengeful, Joseph demonstrated a deep faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Let’s begin:

I. A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY 

Joseph came from a dysfunctional family no doubt but how dysfunctional?

  • Even before we begin with Joseph’s immediate family, there were some skeletons in the family closet in previous generations. Remember, great grandfather Abraham had a child through his wife Sarah’s maid servant, her lady-in-waiting, Hagar! Should have waited on God. Also, don’t forget that his dad Jacob had tricked his brother Esau and later his father Isaac and stolen the blessing from his brother Esau, which was rightfully his. But, when Esau found out, he was angry and vowed to kill his brother Jacob once their daddy died. This is a messed-up family.
  • How about Joseph’s immediate family? His father Jacob had to run for his life from Esau and go to Uncle Laban’s house who had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel and asked for her hand in marriage. After making him work for 7 years, Laban gave him Leah on the wedding night! What a horrible shock! After 7 more years he got Rachel. Now Jacob had two sister wives who were actually sisters and they hated each other. To make matters worse, the wives also offered him their own ladies in waiting to get more kids from him! I don’t have time to go through the details. Altogether Jacob had 12 sons but he favored his “choice” wife’s firstborn, Joseph and gave him a special coat. By the way, it was not a “coat of many colors.” In Hebrew it is a “coat that extended to the palms and the feet.” It was a ceremonial coat that implied authority and power. Jacob may have sensed that God had great things in store for Joseph. Maybe he was thinking that the promise may come through Joseph. How did brothers take this? 10 of them hate him. Listen to Genesis 37:4“But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.” Then Joseph made matters worse by sharing with them his dreams. Now they hated him even more.
  • You know the rest of what happened. Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers as they were moving the herd and when the brothers saw him coming, they decided to kill him. One of the brothers counselled them instead to thrown him in a pit. When he was gone, another brother, Judah, suggested selling him to a caravan of Midianite traders, who in turn sold him into slavery in Egypt and went home and lied to their father. What a mess!

Application:Are their skeletons in your family closet? Do you think that you are the only one who grew up in a dysfunctional family? Think again.

II. THE DIVINE PLAN 

Now Joseph is a slave in Egypt but pay attention to God’s divine plan in his life:

  • Genesis 39:1 “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there.” Think about it, he could’ve been sold into cheap labor to build one of the pyramids in the Valley of the Kings or work on one of the farms in the Nile Delta Valley. Instead, he is working for Pharaoh’s chief officer.
  • How is work going?Listen toGenesis 39 2“The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3And his master saw that the LORDwaswith him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand.”Meaning:Even though bad things have happened to Joseph, God has worked them together for good.
  • Life is never that simple.Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph but he rejects her advances which makes her mad and she has him thrown into prison. But, guess what kind of a prison? Genesis 39:20“Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisonerswere” Potiphar could’ve had Joseph’s head but he knew that he was innocent and that God was with him. So, he put him in a Federal Prison where he met high profile people and learned Egyptian politics. Genesis 39:21“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Every step of the way God was with Joseph and blessed him.
  • I don’t have time to go into all the details but through a turn of events, Joseph ended up interpreting Pharaoh’s dream that none of his magicians and wise men could interpret. Pharaoh was so impressed that he not only made him in charge of the famine problem but he also made him ruler over his house and his people. Not only that but he also gave Joseph his signet ring, clothed him in fine garments, put a gold chain around him and paraded him in his chariot crying before him – “Bow the knee.”Oh yes, he also gave him the daughter of priest of On as his wife.

Personal Story:The year was 1993 when I was waiting by the Pennsylvania turnpike at 2am waiting for a ride. It was cold and I was standing inside a telephone booth to stay warm. I had lost everything. I don’t have time to go into all the details. I remember praying and telling God that without him I was done. Look where God has brought me.

Application:Can you see God’s divine plan in your life? Can you see only the bad or can you see the divine hand of God guiding you?

III. A DEEP FAITH

Let’s fast forward 27 years. Joseph saved Egypt and the world through the horrible famine. His brothers came looking for food and eventually realized that Joseph is the second in command in Egypt. They repented and reconciled and brought their father Jacob to Egypt. They were a family again for the next 16 years and then Jacob died. The brothers became concerned that Joseph would take revenge for what they had done to him 39 years ago. They probably made up the story about their father saying on his deathbed “Please forgive your brothers for what they did to you.”

Human nature is tit for tat. It is bitter and vengeful. But what was Joseph’s response? Genesis 50    19 “…Do not be afraid, for amI in the place of God? 20But as for you, you meant evil against me; butGod meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it isthis day, to save many people alive.” Joseph saw what his brothers did to him from the lens of God’s sovereignty and goodness and he showed grace and mercy. He was actually thankful for what he went through.

Application:How do you see your past? Are you bitter and vengeful? Can you see God’s sovereignty and goodness in working “all things together for good,”as Paul says in Romans 8:28? Are you thankful? Are you saved?

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