Bad Start, Good Finish by Pastor Abidan Shah

BAD START, GOOD FINISH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Bad Start Good Finish

Introduction: Does it matter how you start a race? If you ask Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, he’ll say, “Absolutely, it matters.” Back in 2011, he made a false start at the World Championships in South Korea and was disqualified. At the same time, Bolt confesses that he’s a poor starter. So, once the gun goes off, the first 30m is what he calls his “drive phase” where he puts his head down and drives himself forward. After that he goes into his “tall phase” where he gets as straight as possible. It’s time for top speed. At 50m, he glances left and right to see where he is in the race and at 60m he becomes a beast. He gives his everything. The last 15-20m of the race is his strongest. He checks one more time in the final 10m but at this point no one can catch him now. He knows that he’s won. Here’s the point: Yes, it matters how you start the race but no, the start doesn’t ultimately determine how you finish the race. You can have a good finish even with a bad start if you do certain things right along the way. That’s the title of the final message in our family series on the – “BAD START, GOOD FINISH.” In life and marriage it helps when you have a good start but it’s not everything. You may’ve had a bad start but you can still have a good finish if you do certain things right along the way.

Genesis 50   22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees. 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Question: For the past 9 weeks we’ve been studying the life of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. We’ve looked at their good decisions, their bad decisions, and the impact of those decisions on their later generations. In this final message, we’re going to see what things helped this family to finish well. There were so many negatives but what were the positives that gave them a good finish. But before we do that, here are some questions to consider: Do you think that you will finish well? Do you believe that your marriage will finish well? Do you believe that your kids will finish well? Or, do you believe that it’s too late? Do you live in regrets? Have you lost all hope for the future? Are you saved? When you receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and brings hope where there is hopelessness. If no hope, then either no Holy Spirit or he’s being quenched.

Context: The passage we just read is the final words to the Book of Genesis. We see Joseph lying on his deathbed giving his final instructions to his family. By the way, twice (verses 22 and 26) it tells us that Joseph was 110 years of age. Why? Because in the Egyptian culture and society, 110 years was considered to be the ideal age for a person to live. Joseph is the picture of a good finish. This is very important because Joseph’s good finish is symbolic of the good finish of the family of Abraham and Sarah. In this final message we’re going to see what helped them have a good finish:

  1. THEY HAD A CHAIN BREAKER.

If you remember the first message in this series, we looked at Terah, Abraham’s father. Terah was the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan…” Terah was the first chain breaker. He had to leave behind a comfortable and successful life, abandon his ancestral gods, and step out into the unknown.

For e.g. My father left Islam and became the chain breaker for us.

Application: Who has been the chain breaker in your life? A father, mother, grandparent, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. Sometimes, you have to be your own pioneer. There’s no one who has broken the chain in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. If you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the chain breaker and pioneer for your family.

  1. THEY FACED THEIR SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET.

In the second message we learnt about an embarrassing secret in the life of Abraham and Sarah. He had made a deal with his wife that everywhere they went she was to say that he was her brother. They did it in Egypt and if that weren’t enough, 25 years later, he did it again in Canaan. Listen to how the King of Gerar spoke to Abraham at 100 years of age. Genesis 20:10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?” Translation: “What’s wrong with you?” When confronted, he admitted that Sarah was his half-sister. Later, like father, like son, Isaac did the same with his wife Rebekah and claimed that she was his sister, which, by the way, was a lie. There were other incidents that were just as embarrassing like Sarah offering her maidservant Hagar to Abraham, Jacob ending up with two wives, Judah sleeping with his own daughter-in-law by mistake.

Here’s the principle: There are no perfect families. We all have some skeletons in our family closet. We all have some rotten fruits hanging somewhere on our family tree.

Application: What are you doing with your family skeleton? Are you pretending to be perfect? The more you try to hide your secret, the more it controls your life. Or, do you blame your skeleton for all your mistakes? Turn them over to God today.

  1. THEY REFUSED TO BE COATTAIL HANGERS.

In a message titled “Keeping Your Kids Out of Hell,” we met Lot, Abraham’s nephew. He attached himself to Abraham in Haran and followed him everywhere he went. He was the proverbial coattail hanger. When there was a conflict between Abraham’s herdsmen and his, Abraham gave him the option to pick which direction he wanted to go and he picked the plain of Jordan towards Sodom and Gomorrah because it reminded him of Egypt. This was more than the terrain. It was the culture he loved. What was the cost? He not only lost his testimony but also his family, including his wife, when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m sure you also remember the incident of how his daughters had him drunk and slept with him. Even if Abraham and Sarah’s family was not perfect, they were not coattail hangers. They were willing to stay in tents and wait on the city that had foundations. Hebrews 11 9 By faith he (Abraham) dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Application: Are you a coattail hanger? How do you make decisions in your life? Do you go after the exciting and the alluring or after those things that please God?

  1. THEY ACCEPTED THE ROAD OF BROKENNESS.

In a message titled “Facing Old Foes,” we saw how Jacob had to face his brother Esau after 20 years. If you remember, Esau didn’t care for his birthright and had sold it to Jacob who had stolen his rightful blessing from his father Isaac. God never condemned Jacob for that. Later Esau wanted it back but he couldn’t and his last words for Jacob in Genesis 27:41 were “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” On that fateful night before he came face to face with his brother, Jacob prayed and asked God to deliver him. Instead of giving him a good nights rest and strong arms or sending his angels to fight for him, the pre-incarnate Christ came down and wrestled him all night and when he realized that he couldn’t defeat him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it went out of joint. Now a sleep deprived, physically injured, and emotionally spent Jacob hobbled along towards his brother. Genesis 32:31 “Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.” How did Esau respond? God used Jacob’s brokenness to pour his grace upon him and move Esau’s heart to forgiveness.

Here’s the principle: Those weaknesses that we find to be a hindrance to our growth and prosperity are actually the thorns in the flesh that Paul talks about. They are opportunities for God to pour his grace upon us.

Application: How do you receive the painful events and incidents in your life? Do you realize that those things that you consider to be a hindrance are actually God’s blessings in disguise?

  1. THEY REFUSED TO LOSE HOPE.

So many other things happened in this family: Simeon and Levi killing the men of Shechem and stealing and enslaving the women and the children; Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery; Judah defrauding his own daughter-in-law and then being tricked by her into sleeping with her. But, this family did not lose hope in the promise that God had made to Abraham that in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed, that they are the carriers of the promise of salvation. Listen again to final words to his family – 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” Joseph’s end is not the end. It is the promise of a new beginning in the near future. They were words of hope. They were words full of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Invitation: Do you have this hope for yourself, for your family, for this church, for our community, for our nation, for this world? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you saved?

Parents Behaving Badly by Pastor Abidan Shah

PARENTS BEHAVING BADLY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Parents Behaving Badly

Introduction: I don’t know how your kids are but our kids love to hear stories about Nicole and I growing up. They love hearing about how mommy loved climbing trees and walking on top of the swing set instead of swinging on it. They love hearing stories of how dad tried joining the circus at five and ended up with a broken collarbone. Last week they were up laughing until midnight as we told them those stories from our childhood. I guess the thought of their parents acting crazy or getting in trouble brings comfort and joy to them! But what if those stories were still happening? What if Nicole was still walking on top of swings and I was still breaking collarbones trying to join the circus? That would not be funny anymore but embarrassing and painful, especially for the kids. Today’s message on the family is what to do about “PARENTS BEHAVING BADLY.”

Genesis 38   12   Now in the process of time…Judah’s wife, died…and (he) went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah…13 And it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil…and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah…15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. 16 Then he turned to her by the way…

Question: God has appointed parents to lead their children, to be a model for them. He has designed them to be emotionally more mature than their kids. He has called them to be the standard of morality and integrity for them. He has entrusted parents to be the spiritual guides for their children. Unfortunately, some parents are emotionally unstable, morally objectionable, and spiritually incapable. Sometimes they make decisions and do things that are embarrassing and distressing for the children. It reverses God’s hierarchy and design for the family. How are your parents? Do you look up to them or do you shake your head at them? Do you admire them or are you ashamed of them? Some of you may not need this message but others know very well what I am talking about and it is very painful for you. Do your parents know Christ as their Savior? Do you? This message will help you relate with parents behaving badly.

Context of the Message: In our series on the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis, we now come to the fourth generation, to Judah, one of the sons of Jacob. He did something unthinkable. He had sexual relations with his own daughter-in-law who tricked him by dressing up as a prostitute. What in the world is going on! First, why would a daughter-in-law trick her father-in-law in such a horrible way? Second, why would a grown man, coming from a family that loves God, go to a prostitute? To understand this, we have to back up to the opening verses of Genesis 38:1 “It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers…” If you’ve been keeping up with this series, we skipped over chapter 37 that gives us the account of Joseph and his brothers, how Joseph had his dreams and his brothers hated him for that and one day when they had the opportunity, they sold him into slavery. Who was the brother who suggested this? It was Judah. He probably did that to save his brother’s life. The other brothers were bent on killing Joseph. Selling him into slavery seemed to be a much better alternative. At least, Joseph would still be alive. But, can you imagine the guilt and the shame Judah had to live with? He could still hear the shrieks and the cries of Joseph as he was being dragged away by the Midianite traders. The first thought when he woke up and the last thought when he lay down to sleep was “I wonder if he’s still alive…” Every day he had to see the tear-stained face of his father Jacob and every time he was tempted to just confess to him, one of the brothers would shake his head at Judah – “You better not…” Judah was probably angry, depressed, and miserable. He did not want to see their faces anymore and instead of confessing, he packed up and moved away.

Principle: Judah moved away because he thought that a change in location was going to change everything. Out of sight, out of mind. People do that all the time and they fail to realize that they are still the common ingredients in all their problems. Unconfessed sin always brings only unending sorrow. Listen to David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 32   3 “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Secret guilt will only lead to ceaseless grief, regardless of your location. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Now, it happens with some that, though they are conscious of sin, they do not confess it; and what is the result? Why, it increases their misery. It is impossible that you should find peace while sin continues to gather in your soul. It is a festering wound…So long as a man continues silent before God, and does not own his sin, if the Lord really has begun to deal with him, he will have to suffer more and more from the pangs of conscience.”

Judah married a Canaanite girl in this new place. There is no love mentioned in this relationship. He met her, married her, had sexual relationship with her, and they had 3 children – Er, Onan, and Shelah. Just like his marriage, nothing is mentioned about his relationship with his children. In verse 6 he arranged a marriage for Er, his oldest one, with a girl named Tamar. Bottom line: Judah was living a ho-hum life…until his actions from his previous life began to catch up with his present life. Listen to verse 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him.” The Bible doesn’t say what he did but it must have been serious enough for God to kill him, something he hasn’t done since the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Nothing is said about how Judah felt about this. All it says is that he ordered his second son Onan to marry Tamar and have a child with her according to levirate marriage, where the brother-in-law marries the widow of his brother to keep the family name going (Levir in Latin means “brother-in-law). Onan married Tamar but secretly deceived her and refused to have a child with her. Listen to verse 10 “And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.” Wow! Why that serious? More than likely Onan didn’t want to give his brother any children. If he did, then he would lose his default inheritance. What he didn’t realize is that he was interfering with God’s plan of using the family of Abraham and Sarah to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. He was interfering with the gospel. I seriously doubt that in his guilt and shame Judah ever took the time to explain to his children the promise God had made to their family.

Question: How often do you talk to your children about the things of God? How often do you explain to them that the reason for your success is God’s hand upon you? How often do you challenge and encourage them to keep God first in their lives? Something else here – God was teaching Judah, “You took someone’s child. Now you’ll know what it means to lose a child.” Only sad part is that Tamar, the innocent bystander, was also suffering because of Judah’s sin from his previous life. Are your decisions bringing pain to some innocent person in your life?

Unfortunately, Judah did not learn his lesson. He continued his life of deception. He refused to let his third son Shelah marry Tamar for fear that he too might die. So he lied to Tamar and told her that once Shelah was older, he would marry her. Until then, she should go back to her parent’s house. He was thinking that with time she would forget or remarry someone back home and it’ll all be over. In the meantime, Judah’s wife also died. After grieving for her, he decided to go to Timnah at the sheep-shearing time. Tamar heard about it and embarked on a cruel scheme. We read this passage. She disguised herself as a prostitute, covered her face with a veil, and sat seductively at Enaim (lit. at the “opening of the eyes,” which could be the crossroads). Apparently, she knew her father-in-law very well. Sure enough he came by, saw her but didn’t recognize her. He made a proposition to her and she agreed for a young goat. As guarantee, he left his seal, cord, and staff with her. Here’s my question: What business did Judah have to go to a prostitute? He probably felt entitled to some good time. You can hear him say, “People don’t understand what I’ve been through. I just don’t care anymore. I’m not hurting anyone…”

Question: Do you use the same lines to indulge in sin? Do you feel entitled to sin because of all that you’ve been through? No matter what you’ve been through or what anyone has done to you, you are never entitled to sin.

Anyways, things are about to get complicated. Judah sent the young goat as he had promised but there was no prostitute. Judah didn’t care. “Let her keep it,” he said. But 3 months later, word got back to Judah that Tamar, his daughter-in-law, was pregnant. The cause was prostitution. Listen to his response: “Bring her out and let her be burned!”

Principle: Show me a person who is very legalistic and harsh about some sin and I’ll show you a person who is hiding a bigger similar dirty secret. The penalty for adultery later, according to the Mosaic Law, was death by stoning not burning. Reminds you of David when he stole Uriah’s wife and had him killed, doesn’t it? Don’t misunderstand, Moses, Jesus, and Paul were all hard against sin but it was always with a broken heart.

You know what happened next: Tamar sent word to her father-in-law that the man was the owner of the signet, the cord, and the staff. Judah immediately knew his guilt. He confessed. Long story short – Tamar had twins and the oldest one (Perez) became part of the genealogy of Christ. Matthew included this fact in his gospel to let people know that Mary was not the first one looked down upon in the birth of the Messiah. In other words, God worked all things together for good once again in his people’s life.

It is truly a sad sight when adults, especially parents behave badly. Here are some suggestions on what to do in those situations:

  • Know that they are just fallen human beings like yourself
  • Don’t put them on a pedestal nor fail to show them grace
  • Obey their godly teachings without following their ungodly examples
  • Remember that you are not to be blamed for your parents’ choices
  • Pray for them, especially if they do not know Christ

I Corinthians 6   9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

  • Trust that God will work all things together for good

Most importantly, be Christ-like and Christ-filled.

Resolving Family Conflict

RESOLVING FAMILY CONFLICT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Resolving Family Conflict

Introduction: Since we will be talking about conflict in the family, here are some funny memes that I’ve come across about the family:

  • “My family is temperamental, half temper and half mental.”
  • “Our family is just one tent away from a full blown circus.”
  • Mother to daughter – “You are going to be fine. You come from a strong line of lunatics.”
  • People: “Wow! Your family is nice.” Me: “Fools…You know nothing of the dark side.”
  • “My doctor asked if any members of my family suffered from insanity. I replied, ‘No, we all seem to enjoy it.’”
  • Every family has one weird relative. If you don’t know who it is, then it’s probably you.

There’s no drama like family drama. Having said that, family is still worth having. As you know, we’ve been studying the family of Abraham and Sarah through the Book of Genesis, looking at their good and bad decisions and the impact they had on later generations. This morning we come to the third generation, the family of Jacob and Rachel and Leah. We’re going to learn from them how to resolve family conflict.

Genesis 31   46 Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Galeed, 49 also Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. 50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!”

Question: Is there conflict in your family? Has some family member offended you? Has some family member been offended by you? Have things happened and words exchanged that have led to hurt feelings, anger, and broken relationships? Has the Holy Spirit been convicting your heart to make things right? Have you taken steps to reconcile? Are you saved? If you are, then do you know that as believers we have been given the ministry of reconciliation?

Context of the Message: If you remember from last time, Esau was angry with Jacob because, in his view, Jacob had cheated him off his birthright. Word began to spread that Esau was waiting for his father to die so he could kill his brother. When Rebecca, their mother, heard about it she called Jacob and listen to what she said to him – Genesis 27   43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. 44 And stay with him a few days, (Remember that, not few months or a year or 10 years, and definitely not 20 years!) until your brother’s fury turns away,” 45 “…then I will send and bring you from there.” The plan was for Jacob to stay only a few days with Uncle Laban. Why? Rebekah knew her brother. We’ll see what that means in a few moments. Let’s begin with reading what happened when Jacob got to uncle’s place.

Genesis 29   13 Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house…14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.”

Context: To a causal reader, this is no big deal – “Uncle is glad to see his nephew.” But there’s more intended here. To understand the true intent, you need to put on the glasses of Jewish or Hebrew humor every time there is an interaction between Uncle Laban and Nephew Jacob. They are constantly trying to one up on each other. Y’all remember the old cartoons “Spy versus Spy”? This is just like that.

Let’s read again – 14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” Translated: Poor nephew. You are in a safe place now. You are with Uncle Laban. Trust me. We’re family. I’ll take care of you. “And he stayed with him for a month.”

Principle: Extended stays usually end up in unnecessary strife. Love grows at a distance and it shrivels up close.

Now begins the Spy vs Spy Story:

It begins with Laban – Genesis 29:15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” If I were Jacob, my response to him would be “Am I working for you? Did I say, ‘I need a job.’” It’s sneaky what Laban is doing. He is restructuring the relationship from family to employee. He also knows that Jacob seems to be attracted to Rachel, his younger daughter. In a round about way he is trying to strike a deal with Jacob. He is trying to get Jacob to go to work for him.

Jacob is eager to strike a deal – Genesis 29   18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.” Jacob is in love. The average bride price was 30-40 shekels back then. Jacob was probably paid a shekel a month. He’s working for twice the amount required! 19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

Laban gets one up on JacobGenesis 29    22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob…25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. You would think a man would know if he had the wrong woman on the wedding night. Apparently not! Maybe it was the lack of any lights in the tent. Maybe she had a veil.

Listen to Jacob’s response – Genesis 29   25 “…And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?’” He’s upset! I would be too!

For e.g. When I was in seminary, many years ago, a family member sold us his car. In about a month or so, the antifreeze leaked out and the engines locked up. Needless to say, the car had to be totaled. Nicole remembers how mad I was with this person.

What is Laban’s response? Genesis 29   26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.” 28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. Laban is quite the wheeler and the dealer. He locks Jacob into a 14-year contract now. Apparently, he had no problem with men having multiple wives. This was not Jacob’s idea.

It’s been 14 years now. Jacob is tired of Uncle Laban. After Rachel had Joseph, he came to Laban and said in Genesis 30   25 “…Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.” 27 And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.” 28 Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” Jacob is not falling for it this time. 29 So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. 30 For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?” Meaning: It’s time for me to work for myself.

Now its Jacob’s turn to get back at Uncle Laban for tricking him with Rachel – Genesis 30   31 So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: 32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. Jacob makes a proposition to Laban. Let all the speckled and spotted animals be mine. In other words, all the abnormal ones are mine. You get to keep all the one-colored normal ones. Laban liked that. That’s about 20% of the one-colored Awassi fa-tailed sheep and black goats. He took the irregular abnormal ones of Jacob and left them with his sons. He let Jacob take care of the one-colored animals. Now, Jacob does something that is very odd and mysterious. He takes those one-colored normal animals of Laban and exposes them to shoots of various trees. Some call this ancient science and some call it genetic engineering. Either way, Jacob was pretty smart. Somehow he knew the difference between genotype and phenotype. Genotype is your genetic identity, your personal genome. It’s in you but we can’t see it. Phenotype is your actual physical features, your visible characteristics. It’s not hidden in you. You can actually see it. Jacob knew that even though the sheep and goats were all white on the surface, they still carried the genetic code for the speckled and spotted variety. According to the law of heredity, he crossed the heterozygotes among themselves and in turn he had more and more of his share than Laban’s. Smart guy! What’s the result? Genesis 30   42 But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. 43 Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

Six years later Laban got word of what Jacob had done to him. Needless to say, he’s mad! Jacob hears about and he calls the two sisters, his wives together and tells them in Genesis 31   6 “And you know that with all my might I have served your father. 7 Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.” Now listen to the response of Jacob’s wives, Laban’s daughters – Genesis 31   14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money. 16 For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children’s; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it.” I can imagine that Jacob is relieved that both Rachel and Leah are with him on the matter.

It’s not over yet. Genesis 31:19 “Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s.” Why??? Maybe she still believed in those false gods. Maybe it was to guaranty her inheritance. Maybe it was to give her right to be head of the family unit. Maybe they represented deceased ancestors. Honestly, who knows! Later it will have some horrible repercussion on the people of Israel. They will worship these gods…

Back to Laban – Three days later he hears about it. He pursues them. God warns him in a dream not to harm Jacob and his family. He finally catches up. Listen to what he says in Gen. 31:26   And Laban said to Jacob: “What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword? 27 Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? 28 And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing…30 “…why did you steal my gods?” Jacob tells him to kill the person who has his gods. Laban searches through Jacob’s tent, Leah’s tent, Rachel’s tent, the two maidservants tents, and nothing. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.” And he searched but did not find the household idols.

Listen to Jacob’s self-righteous response in Genesis 31   36 Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Jacob has no clue that Rachel, his lovely wife is the culprit! Then you know they built the altar and called it Mizpah.

What a mess! Let me give you a few suggestions in resolving family conflict.

  • Keep your sense of humor.
  • Lower your expectation.
  • Don’t allow bitterness to control your life.
  • Learn to get along.
  • Don’t let family come between you and God’s plan for your life.
  • Be Christlike in everything.

Are you saved? Is their strife in your family? How about doing what you can to reconcile? Are you letting your family keep you from following God?

Train Up a Child by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRAIN UP A CHILD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Train up a Child

Introduction: Potty training can be a nightmare. We have four kids and I’d rather not tell you which one was a nightmare. One of them we really thought was going to go through high school in pull-ups! Very stubborn! This one would find new ways to hide from us. I remember Nicole would be in tears. Thank goodness when they finally got it! The best day of my life, probably next to the day I got saved and got married! I’m sure you would agree that when it comes to our kids, potty training is just the beginning. They need life training. Today’s message in our series on the family is titled, “TRAIN UP A CHILD.”

Genesis 25   21 Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived…24 So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob…27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Question: Do you believe that children can be trained and should be trained? Do you believe what the Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it”? Are you doing all you can to train your children in the way they should go? Do you know the right way? Are you walking in the right way? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Are you saved?

Context of the Message: In this series, we’ve been studying the family of Abraham and Sarah through the Book of Genesis, looking at their good and bad decisions and the impact they had on the third, fourth, and even later generations. Now we come to the second generation, the family of Isaac and Rebecca. We’re going to learn from them not only how “to” train up a child but also how “not to” train up a child.

As we just read, Isaac prayed for his wife Rebekah to get pregnant and she did but then something began to happen. Listen to verse 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 And the LORD said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” What’s going on here? 2 things. First, God’s plan of salvation was in motion. Paul explains in Romans 9  11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” God had chosen the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring his plan of salvation into the world. Even in the womb, Jacob was positioning himself to be the dominant one, according to God’s sovereign will and purpose. Don’t misunderstand: This choice/election was not unto salvation but unto service to bring Jesus into this world. Now, if you think that is unfair, think about what the Hebrews, the people of Israel, and the Jewish people endured through the centuries because of God’s sovereign choice.

Second, some of the children’s personalities were being manifested even before they were born. Listen again to 25 “And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. The older one was red and hairy, kind of wild looking. The word for “hairy” in Hebrew is “sear.” So, he is named “Esau,” a wild man. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob.” The younger one came out clutching his brother’s heel, “aqeb,” and is named Jacob, a grasper. Here’s the point: Even before they were born, one was wild and the other was trying to be the leader and they couldn’t get along.

Principle: Kids don’t enter this world as a blank slate. They come with certain personality traits, some good and some not so good. Where do they get these personality traits? From God, of course, but also through the unique combinations from your family tree. For e.g. Have you ever seen one of your kids do something that reminded you of some family member who died even before they were born or someone who is living they’ve never met? One time Nicole noticed one of our kids walking around with their hands behind their back and she said – “Look! Who does that remind you of?!” Sure enough it reminded me of my dad and this child had never met my parents at that time!

Application: Kids have certain personality traits even before they come into this world, some good and some not. Get to know each of them individually. Once you see their bent, pray and seek God’s grace and wisdom to train them in the way they should go.

The rest of their personality traits come from the environment in which they live. Listen to Genesis 25:28 again, “And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” Many of us would agree that right there is one big way not to train up a child – “Don’t play favorites.” In psychology, the technical term is “differential parenting.” Unfortunately, parents do that a lot and I’m sure you would agree that it causes a lot of problems to the child who gets neglected. Why did Isaac favor Esau? The Bible says because he ate of his game. The English translation takes away the force of the original wording. In Hebrew the actual wording is “because game was in his mouth.” Meaning: The reason Isaac favored Esau was not because he was proud of his son’s hunting skills. Instead, Isaac must have been a hunter in his early days but now he could not get out there to track, kill, or clean the animal. Esau was a means to an end. Maybe Isaac is the reason Esau became a man of the field.

A Word to Parents: Nothing wrong with desiring your kids to be successful in academics, athletics, or business. But, don’t do it in order to live vicariously through them. Meaning: Your motives should not be to relive the glory days through your children. Your kids know that and so do people around you. It does more harm than good. By the way, it even negatively affects the kids you are favoring. Couple of years ago, the journal of Child Development had an article by Dr. Jennifer Jenkins, professor of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto, who researched hundreds of families and found that even the child who was favored struggled with uneasiness over the unfairness they witnessed in their parent. Some of them actually became quite antisocial. Favoritism is detrimental to the whole family, not just the neglected child.

Application: Have you been playing favorites with a child? If so, you need to seek the forgiveness of the neglected child. Have you been living vicariously through your children? You need to end that and seek God’s will for their lives. It may even be essential to seek the forgiveness of the child you have favored.

Why did Rebekah love Jacob? People have misunderstood what’s going on here. They think that each parent had picked their favorites. Isaac picked Esau and Rebekah picked Jacob. They tend to place both Isaac and Rebekah under the same guilt of “differential parenting.” Not true. If you read it properly, the Bible points the finger of guilt only towards Isaac and not towards Rebekah. If you notice, unlike a reason given for Isaac’s love for Esau, there’s no such reason given for Rebekah’s love for Jacob. Isaac is guilty not just for picking Esau to satisfy his taste buds but also for neglecting Jacob. Maybe Jacob was too soft and naïve for him. In other words, it’s not that Rebekah sided with Jacob but that she saw Jacob being neglected, saw his spiritual bent and gave him the spiritual encouragement he needed.

How do we know that Jacob had a spiritual bent? In the very next verse we hear of a very odd event. Genesis 25   29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. The Hebrew word for weary is actually “hayep” which could actually be translated “starving.” It’s a snickers commercial moment – “You are not you when you’re hungry.” 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” The actual wording in Hebrew is “Let me swallow, please, some of that red stuff, for I am starving.” Then it says, “Therefore his name was called Edom.” Again, the emphasis is on redness. In ancient times, red or reddish brown was considered to be heroic. The point is that Esau was geared towards earthly awards and approvals. Isaac should have done something about this but he didn’t. 31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” What was so special about his birthright? Whoever had the birthright would be part of God’s promise to Abraham of being a blessing to the world. Jacob wanted to be part of God’s plan of redemption through Jesus. 33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. By the way, this was only half of what Jacob needed to be part of God’s plan of redemption. He had the “bekora” but he also needed the “baraka,” the blessing. Later, Rebekah helped Jacob trick his father by wearing Esau’s clothes and covering his hands and necks with goat’s hair. The Bible never condemned Jacob for doing that. Why? Because Jacob had the heart for the birthright. If it were left up to Isaac, he would have blessed Esau and really complicated God’s plan of redemption.

What happened to Esau? Hebrews 12:17-18 “…Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.” Isaac is to be blamed for this.

Who is responsible to train your children? You are. Here are a couple of principles:

  • Understand your child’s bent
  • Don’t play favorites
  • Encourage those with a spiritual bent
  • Generate spiritual bent in those who don’t
  • Ultimately, lead your children to Christ

Illustration: On this Mother’s Day, I think of Susanna Wesley. She married an Anglican minister by the name of Samuel. They hardly got along on anything. He couldn’t manage their finances and they were constantly indebt. They had 19 children. Ten of them died in infancy. One was crippled and another couldn’t talk until the age of six. Susanna was sick a lot. Once Samuel was even locked up for the debt. Twice their home burned down. Some say that it was probably by church members who were angry with Samuel over his messages. She tried to spend two hours a day in prayer. This was very hard to do with all the kids. So she would pull her apron over her head and pray. The kids knew not to disturb her then. Two of her sons – John Wesley and Charles Wesley became the founders of the Methodist Church.

Are you training your kids in the way they should go? Are you walking in the way you should? Are you saved?

Keeping Your Kids Out of Hell by Pastor Abidan Shah

KEEPING YOUR KIDS OUT OF HELL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Keeping Your Kids Out of HellIntroduction: Two years ago I preached a revival at Mt. Olivet UMC in Manteo, same church where Andy Griffith was a member. After the last night of revival, I decided to head back home. The pastor of the church tried to talk me out of leaving because there was snow in the forecast but I thought that I could beat it. I bought a large cup of coffee. The boys were with me and I set them up with their movies. It would be 12-1 at night when we got home, no big deal. Five minutes into the trip I realized – Big deal! Sleet, heavy snow, and my truck started skidding on that icy bridge. I couldn’t see past 5 feet in front of me. The bad part was that I was on a 3-mile long narrow bridge called the Alligator River Bridge! I’m sure there’s a reason why they call it that! I was so angry at my self – “What were you thinking?! Why didn’t you listen?!” I remember telling the boys, “I am so sorry” and I asked them to start praying. We finally made it off the bridge but it got worse. Now I was on the most desolate stretch of Highway 64 with swampland on either side and I couldn’t pull over. Also, I remember seeing a sign coming in like “Don’t disturb or feed the bears.” Some of you might say – “Oh bears are usually hibernating in the winter.” Not if you run into them with a truck! Have you seen “Open Season”?! By the way, isn’t it amazing that when you really need cellphone, there’s no service. Finally, I was able to call the pastor and he was able to get in touch with one of his pastor friends in Columbia or this could have gone really badly. The point is this – the fault was with me, not my boys. I led them into a situation that could have ended very badly. As bad as that was, it is much worse when parents lead their children towards hell. Today’s sermon on the family is titled – “KEEPING YOUR KIDS OUT OF HELL.”

Genesis 19   12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! 13 For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law…and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.

Few questions: If you are a parent or a grandparent, how are you leading your children? Or how have you led your children? Are you serious about their eternal future? Are you doing all you can lead them to Christ? Do you know Christ as Savior? Are you saved?

As you know, we’re studying the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis and in this message we’re going to learn how they kept their kids out of hell. In order to get the right perspective, we’ll have to begin with Genesis 12:4 “So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him.” Lot was Abraham’s nephew. As I mentioned in the previous messages, I believe that Lot attached himself to Abraham in Haran, maybe because his own father had died earlier. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, unlike Abraham who got a call from God, there’s no mention of such a call in Lot’s life. This does not mean that he wasn’t saved. It only means that he was not ready to go further with God. But when he saw his uncle breaking camp, he decided to join the caravan. Everywhere Abraham went, Lot went with him and, every time God blessed Abraham, Lot managed to get in on the blessing. Bottom line: Lot was a coattail hanger. Who is a coattail hanger? This is a person who comes into your life and attaches himself or herself to you. They go where you go but they’re not where you are. They talk like you talk but they’re only copying you. They may even show some external improvements but they don’t have the same internal values and convictions. They simply hang on to your proverbial coattails.

Principle: Beware of coattail hangers. They have the potential to get you off course. You won’t see their true colors until you face some crisis together.

Question: Do you have a coattail hanger in your life? Are you a coattail hanger?

Let’s return to our account: Both Abraham and Lot’s livestock kept growing and there was a conflict between their herdsmen. So Abraham approached Lot and reminded him that they were family and there was no need to fight. Instead, he told Lot to pick the land he wanted first. Why did Abraham do that? Was it because he was a humble, peace loving, or generous man? It was much more than that. Listen to Hebrews 11   9 “By faith he (Abraham) dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents…10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Don’t misunderstand this. It does not mean that Abraham was a nomad, a Bedouin, who was content with wandering from place to place. It does not mean that Abraham was an idealist, who was looking for some magical city in the sky. What it means is that he wanted to be the citizen of a city of which God was the Founder and the Mayor. It means that he wanted to build his home and raise his children in a city whose vision and values were directed by God. Until he found that city, he was willing to live in tents. Again, please don’t misunderstand this. This does not mean that Abraham had the bumper sticker “Tent Life” on the backside of all his camels. What it means is that Abraham refused to submit to the sinful culture in which he lived.

Let me clarify: In this life, you’ll have to live in a city and buy or build a home. You will have to be involved in the world around you. You may have to send your kids to schools and colleges where you live. Nothing is wrong with that. Sometime people think that to follow God you need to get into communes or get into some time warp from 200-300 years ago. Not only is that odd but it goes directly against Jesus’ command to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We’re not to isolate ourselves from the world but to influence the world with the gospel. But there is a third category of people – they are those who instead of influencing the world get assimilated into the world. They are sucked into the temptations and lures of the world.

Question: Which one are you? Are you isolated from the world? Are you influencing the world? Are you assimilating or assimilated into the world?

Abraham was not an isolationist but an influencer but how about Lot? 10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan…” That statement reminds me of Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” So also 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” What did Lot see? 10 (He) saw all the plain of Jordan that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.” Keep in mind that much more than the foliage and terrain is in view here. When Lot had followed Abraham into Egypt, he was so impressed and dazzled by the land and the culture that he never got over it. He longed to be in a place like Egypt! 11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. What Lot didn’t realize is that by journeying towards Jordan he was exing himself out of God’s promise.

Principle: As a pastor for about 18 years I have seen people choose the greener grass, thinking that it would make them happy. They think it would be so much better for their children and their future. What they don’t realize is in the process they ex themselves out of God’s promise of protection and direction.

But that’s not the worst. 12 “…and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. I think Lot saw in Sodom what he had seen in Egypt. It was a perfect place to be except for one problem – 13 “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” What was so bad about Sodom? Later you will see that this city became synonymous with homosexuality. Sometimes people say that homosexuality is a sin like any other sin. What’s the big deal? It’s a big deal to God. Romans 1 warns us that it is the last step on the way down. It’s the point at which God finally gives people over to their debased minds to destroy themselves completely. Why? We are made in the image of God. We are a copy of God. For a man to say he is a woman or for a woman to say she is a man is to say that the copy is faulty which implies that the original is faulty.

What’s the result? By the next chapter Genesis 14:12 Lot has become a citizen of Sodom. In Genesis 18 & 19 we hear that God himself came down (the pre-incarnate Christ) with two of his angels. It’s time for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But because of Abraham’s pleading with God, He instructed his angels to go in and rescue Lot and his family from Sodom. It is so bad in Sodom that the men of the city even came to gang rape the angels. After striking those evil men with blindness, listen to what they told Lot in Genesis 19   12 “…Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! 13 For we will destroy this place…” What was the response? His son-in-laws laughed at him. They thought he was joking. Their wives (his daughters) probably laughed as well. As to sons, I believe that they were too far-gone. The only ones he could rescue were his wife and his two virgin (unmarried) daughters. Listen to verse 16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. I wish I could say, “then they lived happily ever after.” Lot begged the angels not to make him escape into the mountains but to stay in a small city nearby. But because he didn’t go far enough, he even lost his wife because she looked behind him and turned into a pillar of salt. Then you know how his daughters got him drunk and slept with him, giving birth to the Moabites and the Ammonites who were a thorn in the side of the people of God.

Principle: Many times people make decisions based on their material eyesight. They see something alluring and exciting and they go for it without any regard to what this would mean for the future of their marriage and children.

You want to keep your kids out of hell?

  • Stop being a coattail hanger
  • Lead them to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God
  • Do whatever you can to keep them from Sodom
  • Be warned that there will be a fight
  • Stop lingering and negotiating with God

I knew of a family growing up who did the very same thing and lost it all.

Are you saved? Are you doing all you can to keep your kids out of hell

Skeletons in the Family Closet by Pastor Abidan Shah

SKELETONS IN THE FAMILY CLOSET by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Skeletons in the Family ClosetIntroduction: Several years ago Nicole was really into doing her family history. She scoured the libraries, checked the Internet, and visited all the graveyards she could. She would stay up late at night, have all her notes scattered over the dining room table, and try to connect the genealogical dots. She made a lot of progress but then she hit a dead-end. It seemed as if after a certain point, some of the people just disappeared into thin air. She took all her notes down to her grandmother in South Georgia at Christmas. She told her about the problem she was running into. Her grandmother, who is still living, said with a smirk, “Have you ever thought that maybe the reason you cannot find them is because they didn’t want to be found!” By the way, her name is Granny Outlaw. I tell people that I have outlaws for in-laws! The point is “Everyone has some Skeletons in their Family Closet.” In this message we will learn how to deal with those embarrassing moments and situations in our family’s past.

Genesis 12   10   Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, “This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”

There are no perfect families. We all have some skeletons in our family closet. To use the metaphor of a family tree, we all have some rotten fruits hanging on our family tree. In this message we will learn how to deal with those skeletons and those rotten fruits.

Question: Do you have some family secrets? How are you handling them? Do you try to embellish them to make yourself look better? Do you blame all your failures on those shameful memories? Do you wear them as a badge of honor? Here’s a deeper question: If you are saved, do you realize that you are part of a whole new family? John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Does your life demonstrate your new family traits? Or are you still living with the old family habits and tendencies? Are you saved?

As you know, we are studying the family of Abraham and Sarah. They had some skeletons in their closet. Let’s start looking at them:

Skeleton #1 – Genesis 12:10-20 (We just read this passage.) There was a famine in the land of Canaan and so Abraham took Sarah his wife and headed down to Egypt. But before he entered Egypt, he had a talk with her. It began with “You are such a pretty woman!” Sound familiar, ladies? Translated: “I need a favor.” Here it comes. Hold on to your hats! “When the Egyptians notice you, they will say: ‘She is his wife.’ They will kill me but spare you. So, please say that you are my sister and it will be okay for me because of you and they won’t kill me.” Really?! Just in case you are wondering – This is the same Abraham who stepped out on faith to follow God to a land that he had never seen. By the way, they’re not some newly married couple. He’s 75 and she’s 65 years old!

Principle: Age does not equal maturity. You’re never too old to do something stupid. If I may add, God is not looking for perfect people, just those willing to be used by him.

Skeleton #2 – Genesis 20 It’s been 25 years since the Egypt incident. Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90 years old. You’d think that they have matured. 2 Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. God warned Abimelech in a dream that Sarah was Abraham’s wife and he’s a dead man. 10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What possessed you to do this?” Translated: What’s wrong with you? 11 And Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. 12 But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.” This just gets better and better! 13 “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your agreement that you should make with me: in every place, wherever we go, say about me, ‘He is my brother.’” So, you decided this 50 years ago and you haven’t revised it?!

Principle: Be careful of agreements that have been made out of fear and selfishness instead of prayer and faith. If I may add, a half-truth is still a full lie in the sight of God.

Skeleton #3 – Genesis 26 This time the spotlight shifts from Abraham to his son Isaac. Listen to verse 7 And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” because he thought, “lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.” Like father, like son! In a moment of fear and weakness, he resorts to his dad’s tactic of claiming that his wife is his sister. One little problem here, while Abraham and Sarah were half-brother and sister, Isaac and Rebecca were not. Isaac told an out and out lie.

Principle: Whatever you do in moderation, your children will do in excess.

Application: Do you have such an unflattering past in your family history? Are there some scandalous moments in your parents and grandparents life? Take hope. Even those as prominent as Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Rebekah messed up. If God can use them, he can use you too.

Now let’s go a little deeper. Why did Abraham and later Isaac really do what they did? We’ll have to play the detective here and look for the real motive behind the crime. I have a possible theory – Abraham did not lie just to save his skin. I believe that he misunderstood what God had told him in Genesis 12   1 “…Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” I wonder if Abraham mistakenly thought that God intended to bring his blessing into the world only through him. I wonder if he mistakenly thought that God’s plan only involved him and not Sarah. Hence, his plan was to protect himself, not because he was a coward but because he thought that he alone was crucial in God’s plan of redemption. He was trying to stay alive so that God’s plan would not fail.

Some of ya’ll are thinking that is too much. Have you read these 3 incidents carefully? God never condemned Abraham or Isaac for their actions. For e.g. When Cain killed his brother, God cursed him from the earth. (Genesis 4:10-11) When David committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband murdered, it says, “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” (II Samuel 11:27) I can give many more examples. The point is that in each of these incidents, God actually cursed and even punished the Egyptians and the Canaanites! In the first incident, Genesis 12:17 “the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” In the second incident, Genesis 20:18 “…the LORD had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” In the third incident, listen to Abimelech’s reaction in Genesis 26   10 “…What is this you have done to us? One of the people might soon have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us.” 11 So Abimelech charged all his people, saying, “He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” What’s more is that after each of these incidents, God blessed Abraham and Sarah and then Isaac and Rebecca with more than they had before they made their poor choices!

Principle: God sees the heart and he is far more gracious than we are. So should we.

Let me add: What neither Abraham nor Isaac realized until later is that in God’s sovereign plan, Sarah was just as crucial as him. This is why he kept rescuing her. By the way, Sarah misunderstood this as well. What did she do when she couldn’t provide a child for Abraham? She offered her own maidservant Hagar to her husband. We often look down on Sarah when in reality it was a tremendous sacrifice on her part. How many women would be willing to make that sacrifice for God’s plan of redemption?

Principle: In God’s plan none of us are expendable. We all have a part to play. Husbands – don’t underestimate what God has for your wife. Wives – Don’t underestimate what God can do through your husband. Parents – Your kids are not beyond hope. Kids – God is not through with your parents.

One more thing: Don’t use this as a justification for making more bad decisions. Think about the Egyptians and the Canaanites. God had called Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Because of what they did, they became a curse instead.

Principle: The ends don’t justify the means. Obedience is the only way to life.

Let me close by giving you the following suggestions in how to deal with the skeletons in your family closet:

  • Be honest. Be humble. Don’t forget where you came from. Stop bragging.
  • Don’t copy the wrong actions but accept the humanity of your parents and grandparents.
  • Don’t be too quick to judge. Only God sees the heart. Offer grace. Give them a break. You never know what they had to endure.
  • When you follow God, know that he will always work all things together for good.

I think about the genealogy of Christ in Matthew. 4 women are mentioned by name: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. The first one deceived her father-in-law into sleeping with her, the second was a Canaanite prostitute, the third was a Moabite (descendant of the incestual relationship between Lot and his daughter), and Bathsheba, married to a Hittite and then committed adultery with King David. If God can use that to bring his Son into this world, he can bring something good through any of our family.

Are you saved? Have you received God’s grace into your life?

Becoming a Chain Breaker by Pastor Abidan Shah

BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

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Introduction: Many years ago Nicole and I decided to take our 3 kids at the time to our old stomping grounds in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. There is a place there called Helen, kind of a tourist town, built like an Alpine village. The Chattahoochee River winds through the town and people can go tubing. It’s beautiful. We arrived that evening and went for a walk and saw the people floating around in ankle deep water. Nicole and I had done that before and we decided to take the kids tubing the next day. We didn’t pay attention to the weather but all night it rained and rained. The next day we got to the tubing place and it was no longer a lazy river but looked like some white water rapids. Against our better judgment we decided to go for it. Nicole kept Nicholas with her, I kept Abigail, and Rebecca was by herself. It wasn’t 30 seconds into the river that I realized that this was a huge mistake. The ankle-deep river was now about chest high in places and we were being hurled through as if we were on the Colorado River. I hung on to Rebecca’s tube until a big boulder knocked her out of my hands. Before I could react she had slipped a few meters and then a few yards away. People on the banks were watching us in shock. Rebecca went around a bend and I couldn’t see her anymore. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life. We could see slippers and tubes that were abandoned by people but we didn’t want to get out because Rebecca was somewhere out there. Finally, we got to the end and she was there waiting for us. The point is this – when I made the decision to go tubing, I never anticipated what would happen. In fact, after the first 10 minutes, I lost sight of our daughter. So also in life, we make decisions but we don’t realize the consequences that follow. Most of the time we will never see what may happen in the future. The series we’re starting today is called “THE FAMILY: SOME DO’S, SOME DON’T’S, AND SOME WHO KNOWS.” People have asked me to teach on marriage, family, and parenting and I’m always reluctant because there’s so much I don’t know. But I had to remind myself that it’s not about my opinion but about the Word of God. So, we will be studying the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. The advantage of this series is that we’ll be able to track the consequences of their good and bad decisions to the third, fourth, and even later generations. Today’s message is called “BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER.”

Genesis 12   1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”…5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan.

Question: Before we begin the first message, let me ask you a few questions. Do you feel that you have a good understanding regarding marriage, family, and parenting? How is your marriage? How is parenting working out for you? Where did you get your understanding on those subjects? Was it from a parent, grandparent, celebrity, friend, or church leader? Were those individuals truly successful in their marriage, family, and parenting? Do you have Christ in your life? Without him, you’ll never have what you truly need to be successful. Why don’t you invite him into your life right now?

In this first message we’re going to learn what it means to be a chain breaker. As we go further it’ll become clear what I am referring to.

  1. The first Chain Breaker.

When we thing about the beginning of the people of Israel, we only think about Abraham and Sarah but truly we need to go a few steps back and read the preceding verses. Listen to Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.” We mistakenly think that Abraham (Abram) was the first and only one to get the call to follow God out of the Ur of the Chaldeans. Not really. In fact, the first one to step out was Abraham’s father Terah.

Who was Terah? When we do a careful study of the genealogies in the Book of Genesis, we find that Terah is located at the end of the first age and the beginning of the second. The first age begins with Adam and Eve, goes through Noah and his three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), zooms in on the line of Shem, and ends with Terah in Genesis 11:24. The second age begins with Terah in verse 27 “This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” The point is this – Terah is the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. He was the first chain breaker. The Bible doesn’t talk about it but I can imagine the struggle he must have faced in leaving Ur. Archaeological evidence tells us that it was a large city. Being near the Persian Gulf, people from everywhere came there for business. Also, Ur was a center for moon worship. There is evidence to this day of a ziggurat dedicated to the god Nanna or Sin. He was the god of the cowherders, cattle breeders, and orchardmen. Basically, he was the god of fertility (keep that in mind), along with his consort or wife, Ningal, the goddess of reeds. Terah had to leave all this behind to follow God to Canaan.

Principle: When you see a successful person, don’t immediately give them all the credit. Look for whose shoulders they’re standing on. Someone had to step out and be the pioneer in their life. This is especially true in the Christian life. Remember Paul telling Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5 that he is filled with joy every time “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

For e.g. You’ve heard me give my dad’s testimony and how he was the pioneer to follow Christ in his family but this was also true in my mom’s side of the family. It was my grandmother’s dad (my great-grandfather) who practiced medicine back in the late 1800s-early 1900s. I remember my grandmother telling me that he was the first one to follow Christ through the work of some Reformed Presbyterian missionaries from England. He became a lay preacher. He was the pioneer on that side of the family.

Question: Who has been the chain breaker and pioneer in your life? A father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. It is their sacrifice that brought blessing into your life. Sometimes, there’s no one in the past that you can thank and you have to be your own pioneer. In my early years as a pastor I used to hear, “we used to go to church as a little kid.” Now, it is, “no, our family never went to church…”

Application: Are you the pioneer in your family? It’s not easy to do what you’re doing. No one has set any pattern for you. There’s no one to look up to in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. Just like the pioneers in our nation’s history, you have to make the tough sacrifices. But if you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the pioneer.

  1. The reason for the move.

Why did Terah decide to move out of Ur? We have no indication in the text that God called Terah the same way he called Abraham. Maybe it was because of the losses in his life. First, there’s no mention of his wife, which means she must have died in Ur. Second, verse 28 says, “And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.” We don’t have any details on Haran’s death but you can imagine what effect this must have made on Terah. Maybe this was a catalyst for him to move out of Ur.

Principle: All pioneers have to go through pain to move out of their comfort zone. God doesn’t cause the pain but he uses the pain to bring something good into our lives.

For e.g. Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States is one of my favorites. February 14th, 1884 was an awful day for him. He was in the NY state legislature trying to get a bill passed when he was called home. His mother had died due to typhoid fever. Few hours later, his wife of 4 years also died due to some kidney problems. She had just given birth to their daughter. Teddy Roosevelt left everything and went into the badlands for a couple of years and worked as a rancher and a local sheriff. When he returned, he was a different man who made a big impact in America and the world. Teddy Roosevelt came from a Christian home and he knew that God had used his pain to mature him.

Question: Have you been through pain in your life? You can do one of two things. Either you can sit and blame the people or situation that has brought pain into your life or you can ask God to use that pain in your to push you out of your comfort zone.

  1. The warning to the Chain Breaker.

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.

I don’t want to deal too much in speculation, hypothesis, and theory. I like to stick to the facts. But just for a brief moment, I wonder if God called Terah before he called Abraham. Terah obeyed but only partially. He could not move past the ancestral gods. Terah came out of the old country but the old country did not come out of Terah.

What was the result? Listen to what Stephen said in his sermon before the high priest in Acts 7   2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

While Terah staggered at his call, Abraham continued the journey with God. Unfortunately, he had to wait till Terah died. If I may add, because of his delay, Abraham was stuck with Lot, which was very costly. Also, it delayed the coming of Isaac and caused the birth of Ishmael, which was also very costly.

Principle: If you’re stuck in your ways and your ways are from the Bible, that’s great. But, if you’re stuck in your ways but your ways are not from the Bible, someone else may have to finish your journey.

In order to be a chain breaker:

  • Be willing to leave your comfort zone.
  • Be willing to let God use your pain for your growth.
  • Be careful about hanging on to old gods.
  • Be aware of who will be following you and what your disobedience may cost them.

For e.g. Nicole’s grandfather was a chain breaker on that side of the family.

For e.g. Kid who followed his dad to the bar by placing his little feet in the imprint of his dad’s feet in the snow.

Are you a Terah or an Abraham? Whom are you following? Do you see the significance of your disobedience? Are you still hanging on to the old gods? Are you saved?

Love is Calming by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS CALMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

love-is-calmingIntroduction:  This is the second message in our new series – “LOVE IS THE GREATEST.” As Valentine’s Day is approaching, we’re looking at what the Bible has to say about love. Again, please don’t misunderstand, the series is not just about romantic or marital love. It’s about love in general – in our families, church family, community, nation, and world.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Bridge: Kids have a way of saying things that make us laugh and think at the same time. A group of little kids were asked what they thought about love. Listen to what they said (This list has been floating on the internet for a long time):

  • “I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn’t supposed to be so painful.” — Manuel, age 8
  • “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy – age 6
  • “Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss” Emily – age 8
  • “During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8

In this series, we’re going to learn what true love is all about and how to show it.

Context: If you remember from last week, Corinth was the place to be in the ancient world. It sat on the crossroads between the north and the south and the east and the west, on the isthmus connecting Mainland Greece with Peloponnese. People from all over came there to make a life, to do business, or to watch the games. Paul purposefully chose to go there because plenty of lost people were there. After 18 months of working as a tent maker and preaching Christ, the Corinthian church was born. Paul moved on to other places but he began to hear that the church in Corinth was having problems. So, he wrote this letter to them not only to deal with their problems but to deal with a deeper problem – misunderstanding and lack of true love.

Question: Before we go any further, do you agree that at the root of a lot of our problems is a misunderstanding and lack of love? Do you understand what true love is really about? Are you truly a loving person? Will people around you say that you are a loving person? Are you saved? If not, today is the day to let God’s love into your hearts.

Today we’re going to look at the first description of love in verse “Love suffers long and is kind…” Before we start analyzing what the Greek word is for “suffers long” and “kind,” we need to step back and try to understand how words get their meanings. Many times people misunderstand what biblical words mean and they base their lives on some misinterpretation. I’ve seen it often and it’s very costly.

Here’s a very important statement: “Words have inherent meaning only to a certain extent. They get their true and full meaning from their context.”

Here’s a simple example, a silly example – think about the word “hotdog.” The context tells you that it’s not some hot canine. It’s a favorite American food.

Here’s an interesting example – think about the word “oversight.” “She had the oversight of that project.” It means she was looking over that project. It’s positive. “It was my oversight.” It means I missed something when I was going over it. It’s negative. Again, the context helps you understand the true meaning.

Here’s an extreme example – think about the word “set.” The Oxford English Dictionary gives 464 meanings for that word! Here’s just a few of them – the stage is set; I did a set of exercises; we had a setback; set it down over there; he’s set in his ways; get set go; we can go on and on. The context helps us to understand which use it is.

Here’s a cultural example – think about the word “smart.” Where I grew up, if someone was intelligent, you’d say – “He/she is really smart.” When we came to the NC, people would tell our children – “Now be smart.” I wanted to ask – “Why? Do they look dumb?”

The point is that words have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning by how they’re used in their context. Here’s another very important point – biblical words also have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning from the biblical context. In other words, many times, words in the Bible take on deeper and richer meaning than how they’re normally used outside the Bible.

Paul said to the Corinthians “Love suffers long and is kind…” To understand what “suffers long” and “kind” really mean, we have to go the biblical context. The Greek word for “suffers long” is “makrothumeo.” It comes from two Greek words “makros” = long and “thumos” = wrath or passionate longing. When you put those two together, it means “long wrath.” In English, you’ve heard of someone with a “short fuse.” It means someone who doesn’t take long to get angry or blow up. Long wrath is someone with a “long fuse,” someone who takes a long time to get angry or blow up. You may say – “Oh I get it. Love suffers long means love doesn’t get angry quickly.” True but there’s more to it.

For starters, this word was used many times to translate Hebrew words for patience in the Old Testament. (As a side note, prior to the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, it is found only once before!) Let me give a couple of examples: Proverbs 19:11 “The discretion of a man makes him (makrothumein) slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.” Meaning: A wise man does not get angry quickly and is willing to overlook someone’s fault. But there’s another use for it – Proverbs 25:15 “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, And a gentle tongue breaks a bone.” Meaning: If you want something done by a ruler, wait patiently for him to make up his mind. The point is “makrothumeo” has the idea of not getting angry but its more than that. It’s also about waiting patiently for someone to get to where they need to be.

This is especially true in how God relates with us. Listen to Exodus 34:6 “And the Lord passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” Here God is meeting Moses for the second time on Mount Sinai. The first time God gave him the Ten Commandments, the people had already built the golden calf for themselves and 3000 died because of that sin. God didn’t give up on His people but told Moses to get a second set of stone tablets so he could regive his law to them. Then God passed before Moses and declared that he was “makrothumia,” meaning “willing to work patiently with people who were not ready to follow him.” This same idea about God is presented in Proverbs 103   8 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.”

This same idea is found in the New Testament. When Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18 how many times he should forgive his brother, “up to seven times?” Jesus answered him “up to seventy times seven.” Then He gave the parable of a servant who owed a lot of money to his king. When it came time to pay he begged the king, “have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” The king had compassion on him and forgave his massive debt. But this man’s fellow servant owed him a fraction of the amount he owed to the king and he begged him with the same words, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you” but he wouldn’t and threw him into prison. When the king heard about it, he was angry. He caught the man and delivered him to the torturers until he would pay it all back. The point is, Jesus said, 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Meaning: If you’re unwilling to wait patiently on others like God waits patiently on you, then God will no longer wait patiently on you. The same idea is found in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The point is that the word “makrothumew” tells us not to be angry but wait patiently for others, just the way God does not destroy us in anger but waits patiently for us. Meaning: Yes, God is a god of wrath against sin but he’s not some cantankerous unreasonable old man – “Y’all better get your act together or I’m about to lose it and destroy all of you!” Instead, picture a loving father who patiently helps his little boy/girl ride the bike. The child falls again and again but the father does not get angry or give up but patiently helps him/her.

If all this isn’t enough to understand the true meaning of “makrothumeo,” Paul adds a word to it that is not found anywhere else. It is the word “chresteuomai.” It means “to show kindness.” It is connected to the word that Jesus used in Matthew 18 where He says, 28 “Come to Me, all you who 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 yoke is easy (chrestos) and My burden is light.” I can go on and on, but here’s the point – God could burn us in His anger but because He loves us, He waits patiently for us and shows kindness to us.

I can imagine that when Paul heard of the divisions, the pushing and shoving that was happening in the Corinthian church, his heart was broken. How could those who were filled with love of God act this way towards each other? How could those whose sins had been forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ hold grudges against each other? How could they be so impatient and unkind towards each other when God has been so patient and kind towards them? He tells them – “Love waits patiently and shows kindness.”

Question: How do you feel when someone waits patiently for you and shows kindness to you? I can tell you in the definition of the 8-year-old I read in the opening – “During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8 Why wasn’t she scared anymore? Her dad’s love was calming.

Here’s a test: How do people feel around you? Do they feel judged, stressed, and misunderstood? Or do they feel calm? Someone might say – “Does that mean that I should tolerate anything and everything?” Does God tolerate anything and everything you do? Absolutely not but he works with us to bring us where he wants us to be. You can sense the calm assurance of His presence in your life. By the way, generally speaking men and women show love in different ways. Men may not say all the sweet things that women are able to say. Here’s the test: Did you feel the calm sense of their presence in your life. That’s love.

Invitation: Is God’s calming love flowing through your life? Can you people around you sense that same love flowing through you? Is our church a place where people feel that calm love of God flowing through us?

Love is the Greatest by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS THE GREATEST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

love-is-the-greatestIntroduction:  We’re going to take a break from our regular series on the Life of Christ and go to I Corinthians 13 for the next few weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. It’s a series on love titled “LOVE IS THE GREATEST.” Don’t think that this series is only about romantic or marital love. It is about love in general in our family, church, and community.

I Corinthians 13    1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Bridge: Would you agree that the word “love” is probably the most used word in the world? Would you also agree that the word “love” is probably also the most abused and misunderstood word in the world? People love everything from hamburgers to hairstyles and spouses to spinach. We sing about love, write about love, and tell each other “I love you” or “I don’t love you.” The question is – “do we truly understand what love is?” In this series we’re going to learn what love really means and how to show it.

Question: Before we go any further, let’s have a heart to heart talk. Do you truly understand what it means to love? I’m not talking about just romantic or marital love but also loving people in our church and our community. Are you saved? If not, you are loving with a weak, inferior, and selfish love. It’s only when we receive Christ in our hearts as our Savior that the Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts.

In this message we’re laying out the groundwork for this series. 3 things to understand:

 I. THE CONTEXT OF CORINTH

Background: In the first century, there were three prominent cities in Greece. First was Athens, known for its great history, architecture, and ancient schools of learning. By the time of Paul, it was just a tourist town where people send their children to study. Second was Sparta, also known for its great history and military tradition. By the time of Paul, it was also just a tourist town known for its ancient battle stories. The third city was Corinth. Unlike Athens and Sparta, it was anything but ancient. Yes, it went back hundreds of years but it was more alive than ever during the time of Paul.

What made Corinth so unique? To begin with, it was its geographical location. It was sitting on the crossroads or intersection between the east and the west and the north and the south. It was sitting on the isthmus. What is an isthmus? It is a narrow strip land joining two large lands, with sea on either side. If you want to go north and south, you have to go across this isthmus. Also, on the east side, there was a harbor and on the west side, there was a harbor. They created a shortcut across this narrow strip of land called diolkos. It was a paved track, something like a railroad track. They would empty the ship of its cargo at one harbor and then drag the ship across the diolkos to the opposite harbor, reload the ship, and keep sailing. You say, “that’s crazy!” Because the journey around the Peloponnese was so dangerous due to the sudden heavy winds and jagged rocks, it was safer and cheaper to do that than to sail around and destroy the ship and lose all the cargo. Corinth was a major crossroad for trade in the ancient world.

Let me back up a little bit and say a word about the people who lived in this place. In 146 BC the Romans had destroyed Corinth because of their rebellion but in 44 BC Julius Caesar rebuilt this city and populated it with former slaves, army veterans, business people, and laborers. Yes, there were people there who were original Greeks but most probably were not. Picture in your mind, not only a major crossroad of the ancient world but also populated by people who had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Someone said that this was like San Francisco during the California gold rush! People were making money and moving up the social ladder.

By the way, what kind of people do you think were passing through this town? Sailors, merchants, troops. You can only imagine the immorality and debauchery that went on in this place. This was a place where people came if they wanted to have a good time. And as they say – “What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth!” Remember, when I told you to keep an eye on the big mountain behind me. It is called the “Acrocorinth.” By the time of Paul, the temple of Aphrodite was up there. Some say 1000 and some say 100 girls served as priestesses in the temple. This was nothing but religious cover for prostitution. Corinth had a high death rate due to infectious diseases. There’s something else, Corinth was also the location of the Isthmian Games. They were just like the Olympic Games but held every other year and Greeks from all over would come to watch and participate. You can imagine the crowds of people that would come to the city.

I find it amazing that Paul did not stay in Athens or go to Sparta? Instead, he went to Corinth. Why? This is where the people were. This is where lostness was at its max. This is where people were drawn to sexual lusts and selfish pride. This is where people needed to hear that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” This is where people needed to hear “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul came to Corinth sometime in March AD 50. Here he met a Christian couple, Aquila and Priscilla. He stayed with them and worked with them. What did they do? They were tentmakers. I find this very fascinating. Paul was literate and he could have easily got a job as a translator or a scribe. He could have earned good money working at the tax table by the docks or at one of the money lending shops. Instead, he chose tent-making. Why? Any common person coming into the town for a short business trip or to watch the Isthmian Games would need a tent. Guess what? They had to come to Aquila and Priscilla’s shop and who would they meet? The greatest evangelist who ever lived! Paul. I believe that many of them probably got saved at the tent shop! How amazing! And the church was born.

Application: Have you taken the time to look at our own community? Sometime we talk so bad about our community. Do you think God has placed you where you are for a reason? Are you sharing the love of God with your community?

II. THE CONDITION OF THE CHRISTIANS

Background: Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months, teaching them, and encouraging them. After the church was up and running, Paul put right leaders in place and left to go back towards Asia Minor and Jerusalem. Then two things happened: First, he began receiving letters from the church in Corinth, asking for guidance in certain matters. Second, he began hearing reports from people that the church in Corinth was having problems. People were divided. They were fighting with one another and they were even reverting back to their old sinful lifestyles.

What were some of the things that Paul was hearing? To answer that, you simply have to read between the lines of Paul’s letter:

I Corinthians 3   3 For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? The Corinthian church was splitting into groups.

I Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! Some of the Corinthians were turning against Paul and calling him a fool.

I Corinthians 5   1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!  Sexual immorality had entered into the church. What’s worse is that they had no problem with it! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.

I Corinthians 6   5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Some of them were dragging fellow believers into the court.

I Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. Some couples were no longer being sexually intimate. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

I Corinthians 11   20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? They had brought the social divisions of the world into the church, even into the communion service.

The Corinthians were acting spiritual but they had zero love. I Corinthians 13   1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Application: How is your spiritual walk? Is your life marked by love in your home, church, and community? Is your understanding of love shallow, weak, and incomplete like the Corinthians?

III. THE CONTENT OF LOVE

Now we come to the passage we will focus on in the next couple of weeks: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…” Paul was going back to the basics with the Corinthians and teaching them what true love looked like. These former freedmen, army veterans, business owners, sailors, shipyard foremen, common laborers, and even prostitutes were saved but their old way of life was seeping back into their new life.

Sometimes people say, “So and so must not be a Christian because I don’t see any love in them. If you are saved, you will be a loving person. Sometimes they even point to Romans 5:5 “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Listen carefully: Just because you’re saved and you have the love of God poured into your hearts does not mean that loving others will be automatic. If that were so, we wouldn’t need this passage. You need both. You need to be saved and have the Holy Spirit pour God’s love into your hearts. But because we have lived so long in a loveless world, we need to learn and then practice actions of love. Again, the Holy Spirit is there to help us. Without obedience, there will only be love within and selfishness, self-righteousness, pride, wrath, lust, and greed without.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you practicing love

Children That Bring Delight by Pastor Abidan Shah

CHILDREN THAT BRING DELIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Children That Bring Delight.jpgIntroduction: This is the fifth message in our series on the Trinity called “Battle of the Gods.” These messages are deep but they are teaching us that the doctrine of the Trinity is not some stale concept from some forgotten councils but it’s the key to many of our problems today. In today’s message we’ll learn what the Trinity has to say to both children and parents and the message is titled “CHILDREN THAT BRING DELIGHT.”

John 5   30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me…36 “…for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

the-collapse-of-parenting-by-leonard-sax

The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax

Bridge: Would you agree that children today are not like children 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago? In his recent book “The Collapse of Parenting,” noted family physician and psychologist Leonard Sax (By the way, I don’t agree with everything he writes.) talks about a six year old whose mother brought him because of a sore throat. When he told him that he would have to take a look at his throat, the mother asked the child’s permission – “Do you mind if the doctor looks at your throat for just a second, honey? Afterward we can go and get some ice cream.” Of course, the child told no and had to be restrained so the doctor could examine his throat. Sax says, “It’s not a question. It’s a sentence: ‘Open up and say, ‘Ahh.’ Parents are incapable of speaking to their children in a sentence that ends in a period. Every sentence ends in a question mark.”

What is happening to our children? Obedience has become optional or nonexistent. Parents are no longer authoritative or in charge. They are more like facilitators and advisors. Instead of teaching their child the difference between right and wrong, they are focused on making their children happy and boosting their self-esteem. Parents are afraid of being the bad guy. It’s not that they don’t spend time with their kids. They do but its not time having family meals or teaching about life. It’s time shuttling them from one extracurricular activity to the next. They are trying to give their children everything they didn’t have. If one of the parents tries to do what is right, the other plays interception and the one trying gives up. What parents don’t realize is that they are actually harming their children rather than helping them. Sadly, in some homes, the parent is more like the kid than the kid. Why would the kid obey? This happens in the projects as well as million dollar mansions. No wonder they seek the approval of their peers. Sax cites several researches to prove that this lack of parental authority is the cause of rise in obesity, anti-anxiety and ADD medications, disrespect (especially towards adults), why kids seem so fragile, and, if I may add, a sense of entitlement in the children. I don’t have time to analyze all the causes for this, which includes the breakdown of the marriage, mental and physical abuse, overdose of psychology, and lack of biblical truth. The point is this: Both children and parents in our culture desperately need help and the good news is – the answer is found in the triune God Himself. Just as Jesus brought delight to His Father, so also our children can bring delight to us when we follow Him.

Question: Has this hit a nerve for you? Has it struck a chord for you? Do you need God’s wisdom and guidance in your family? Are you open to God’s Word? Are you saved?

3 ingredients that help us raise “Children That Bring Delight”:

I. THE TRUE MODEL FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN

30 “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me…”

Background: Last weekend we learned that the Triune God created us in His image and designed us to reflect both equality and order in our marriage relationships. Just like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in essence but distinct in order, the husband and wife are also equal in essence but distinct in order. But there’s more. The Trinity is also the model for how parents and children ought to relate with each other in the family. Listen again to Jesus in verse 30 “…I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” Even though the Father and Son are equal in essence, the Father tells the Son what to do and He does it. Our earthly families were designed to reflect the order in the heavenly family. Paul laid this out for us in Colossians 3   17 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Meaning: Keep the Trinity in mind in everything you do. Now comes the application – 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” Meaning: The Trinity is not just the model for the husband-wife relationship but also for the parent-child relationship.

Now don’t misunderstand: The Father-Son relationship in the Trinity is not some detached spiritual order but God the Father actively loves God the Son and wants the best for Him. Listen to John 3:35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” Again, John 5:20 “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” Meaning: God the Father is not some detached and unemotional father to God the Son. He genuinely and actively loves the Son and wants to lift Him up in every way.

How about the Son? He does not grudgingly submit to the Father but He actually loves God the Father and wants to please Him. John 8:29 “…I always do those things that please Him.” Later He says in John 17 25 “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Meaning: I know what a wonderful and loving father you are and I want everyone to know that too.

Application: What would happen if parents, especially fathers, were just like God the Father, loving and yet firm with their children? What would happen if the children knew that they were truly loved and honored their parents, especially their fathers, by obeying promptly, completely, and cheerfully? Fathers, do you actively love your children and truly seek the best for them as God the Father did for His Son Jesus? Children, do you ever brag about your parents, especially your fathers, the way Jesus did?

II. THE TRUE ESTEEM OF OUR CHILDREN

31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true…”

Background: Keep in mind that the Jewish religious leaders were accusing Jesus of not only breaking the Sabbath but also making Himself equal to God the Father. When He says in verse 31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true,” He is bringing up the Jewish law that you needed two witnesses to prove that someone was guilty or not guilty and you cannot be your own witness. Jesus was stating the obvious – “I cannot be my own witness.” Here’s the point: We’re living in a culture in which people are constantly justifying themselves and their actions. Jesus (being perfect) refused to justify Himself. He refused to self-validate.

But there was someone else who could justify on His behalf – John the Baptist. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man…” Jesus is saying here – “John the Baptist is telling the truth about me but I don’t need his help in clearing up my reputation.” Earlier in John 2, John the writer of the Gospel said the same thing about Jesus – 24 “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” Jesus refused to take the validation of the good and the bad. Here’s the point: We’re living in a culture in which, other than self-approval, people are constantly looking for the approval of others. They are looking for others to justify and validate their actions. What do my friends say about me? How many likes did I get on Facebook or Instagram? How many people are looking at my stories on Snapchat? If my enemies don’t like me, that’s fine as long as my friends speak out for me.

Whose validation is Jesus interested in? 36 “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” Meaning: My obedience to my father is my validation. Wow! In other words, obedience to my father is the ultimate testimony of who I am. I did what my father told me to do and that proves that I am who I say I am.

What would happen if our children were so eager on obeying us rather than validating themselves or seeking the approval of their friends?

Application: Are you constantly trying to self-validate? Are you constantly trying to seek the validation of others? How much does obedience to your parents matter to you?

III. THE TRUE APPROVAL OF THE PARENT

37 “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me…”

Background: Twice during Jesus earthly ministry, the Father declared that He was pleased with His beloved Son. First time it was at Jesus’ baptism by John when He came up out of the water. Matthew 3  16 “…behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Second time it was at the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah came to talk with Him. Matthew 17:5 “…Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” Here’s the interesting thing – neither of those events are mentioned in John’s Gospel. Jesus was not talking about either of those. Listen to the rest of verse 37 “…You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” Meaning: The voice is not audible as much as internal. If you had the same father, you would have known His voice and recognized it. Obviously, we don’t belong to the same family. How do we know that? 38 “But you do not have His word abiding in you…” The only way you can hear His voice is if you have His word in you.

Young people – The reason your friends cannot see why you don’t party with them and do the things with them is because they don’t have the words of your parents in them. Parents – the approval is not sitting on the sideline yelling and screaming at your kids or threatening other parents. True approval is when your kid is faced with the wrong choice and hears your voice in His heart.

Invitation: Is Jesus the head of your family? Fathers and Mothers – are you walking with Christ? Children – Are you walking with Christ? Are you saved

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