Prayer: Practice by Dr. Abidan Shah

Prayer Practice update.jpg

As I have prepared both messages from this series, I have noticed a new depth in my prayer life. Last weekend, we examined the doctrine of prayer and how our prayers are motivated by our understanding of God’s providence. My prayer is that God will use this series to deepen our understanding of prayer and draw us closer to Him!

This weekend, we will be in the second part of our series on prayer. Once we understand the doctrine of prayer, it will impact the way we pray. Our practice of prayer shows others what we believe about God and His ability to work in our lives. The title of this weekend’s message is “PRAYER: PRACTICE.”

How is your prayer life? What sort of things are you praying about? Do you believe that how you pray shows others what you believe about God? Are you saved? Don’t miss the conclusion of our series on prayer this weekend!

Under God – Part Two by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God Part Two

UNDER GOD (2) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction:  This past week our family made a quick trip to the Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a very relaxing time. In some ways, it was like travelling back in time with horse drawn plows, horse buggies, and farm life. The best part for our children was playing with the farm animals at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. I think Nicole had just as much fun! On the way back, we stopped at the Gettysburg Battlefield, a place I had always wanted to visit. This was the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. In just 3 days (July 1-3, 1863), as many as 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers either died, were wounded, or went missing. The little town of Gettysburg had no idea that a chance encounter between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would forever change their lives. In a matter of just days, their peaceful farmland was turned into a bloody battlefield. Bodies were lying everywhere. Every home, church, and public building was turned into a hospital. The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves. Four months later, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. As I stood on that battlefield, I thought to myself how the people at the time must have felt when they saw the devastation of lives and land. They may have felt like the United States of America was history. They may have felt like our glory days were over. What many people don’t know is that 75 years later in 1938, about 1800 veterans of that same battle came together on that same battlefield. Some were now 90 years old. They shook hands and pledged allegiance to the same American flag. Here’s my point: No matter what is happening in our nation today, don’t lose heart. We are still “One Nation Under God” and our best days are ahead. We need to look to the sovereign God for healing and hope. This is the focus of the second part of our message titled “UNDER GOD.”

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

Context: If you remember from last week, Psalm 33 is connected to Psalm 32. This connection indicates that before we can talk about “Blessed is the nation,” we need to talk about “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In other words, before we can talk about how much we need God’s blessing as nation, we need to talk about how much we need God’s forgiveness as individual believers. Keep in mind that this is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. He did not write some cheap poetry, but he gave us what God desires from us. Once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, then we can see that God is our hiding place and we don’t have to live in fear. Instead, we are to look to him and follow his guiding eye. We can see that he loves righteousness and justice. Listen once again to Psalm 33    4 “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice…” In our nation today, people are calling for justice, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, we are not calling for righteousness, which is just as important. In fact, we want justice without righteousness. God demands both.

We need a change in perspective on God. For starters, we need to remember that God is not subject to us. He is a sovereign God. First, he is sovereign over his creation. 5 “…The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. (Land, Plants, and Animals) 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. (Sun, Moon, Stars, and Universe) 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. (Waters, Fish, Sea Creatures) 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. It’s one thing to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, but how about his sovereignty over nations and people? 10 “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.” First, the word for nation is “goy,” which has more of a political meaning. Second, the word for peoples is “am,” which has more of an ethnic meaning. In other words, whether it is an organized nation or an organized group, if they God against God’s sovereign will, he will “pur,” frustrate their plans, and he will “nu,” hinder and prevent them.

Question: Are we seeking to achieve our goals and our plans in this world? God will bring them to nothing. Instead, we have to accept verse 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

Now comes our focal verse—12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” There are 2 different decisions here: First, a nation has chosen God. Second, God has chosen the nation. You’ve heard me say this time and again. Our nation was built to be under God. Our Founding Fathers were not perfect people but they definitely believed that God was the source of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence begins with this preamble – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Our Constitution does not directly mention God but he is assumed and implied. The 2 documents had different goals but they both chose God as the source of blessing for our nation.

But, God also has to choose us as a nation. In my view, America has been a source of good throughout her brief history. Has everything been perfect? Of course not. Nonetheless, God has been guiding us with his eye. 13 “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.” We have to choose to see that? Have you heard of the “All-seeing eye” or the “Eye of Providence?” You can see it on the back of a $1 bill. It is on the top of a pyramid with 13 layers, representing the 13 original colonies. Over the capstone are the words “Annuit Coeptis,” which means “Favors Undertakings” or “God has favored our undertakings.”

God is not only omnipresent and omniscient, but he also actively shapes us. 15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. This is not just in a personal context but in a national context as well. 16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army. A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” God shaped the hearts of our Founding Fathers so they could design a nation like no other. God gave them the wisdom to design a nation that would not be under the tyranny of a monarch. We all know that the Revolutionary War was fought against the strong and coercive measures by King George of England against the colonies. Neither did the Founding Fathers want a nation under the tyranny of the multitude. They didn’t want to set up a democracy like the ancient Greeks. That was just majority rule. They didn’t want that. Can you imagine what it would be like if the majority in a society made decisions only for themselves and not for the minority? What if the majority wanted to enslave the minority? What could we do to make sure that the majority could be kept in check? The Founding Fathers were not only trying to prevent the tyranny of a king, but they were also trying to prevent the tyranny of the majority. They came up with 8 block and tackle measures to keep the majority in check (I’m getting most of this from Dinesh D’Souza’s recent book “The United States of Socialism”):

  1. A Written Constitution: Unlike England’s common law, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution, a supreme charter that would override the will of the majority. This would keep the government in check. This could be amended but the process is very difficult.
  2. The Bill of Rights: This was added to put a series of limitations on the government that begin with “Congress shall make no law”—
  • no law restricting speech, or the press, or the free exercise of religion
  • Citizens have the right to assemble, to bear arms, and enjoy the due process of the law, and to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure
  1. The Supreme Court: They can strike down those federal laws that go against the Constitution and protect the rights of the citizens against the majority.
  2. Representative Government: People elect leaders who represent them. If you don’t like your leaders, then elect others at the next term.
  3. Separation of Powers: Power is divided between 3 branches—
  • Legislative with elected officials in the House of Representatives and Senate, together forming the Congress. Their job is to make the laws;
  • Executive with the President of the United States who acts as the head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He implements and enforces the law by appointing heads of federal agencies and Cabinet;
  • Judiciary with power to arbitrate and resolve legal disputes. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  1. Federalism: Power is divided between the national government and state government.
  2. Checks and Balances: Congress makes laws but the President can veto them. To overturn a veto, it requires congressional supermajority. The President can enforce the laws but the congress and the judiciary branches provide oversight. The judges interpret the Constitution, but they are appointed by the President and confirmed the Senate.
  3. The Electoral College and the 2 branches of the legislature – the House and the Senate: The President, members of the Congress, and senators are elected by the people. However, the Electoral College makes sure that the bigger states with more people do not decide the presidency. Each state has 2 senators a piece but the smaller ones have fewer congressional representatives.

The point is that our Founding Fathers wanted to create a nation that would be fair to everyone. By God’s hand, they came up with an amazing system of checks and balances. They wanted to make sure that “might will not make right.” Our nation fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery. But, in each generation, our leaders knew that this would happen but the nation would go on because it was built on the right foundation. Lincoln acknowledged this in the Gettysburg Address (Video):

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

How much clearer can we get!

Let’s read the final words of the psalm—18 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. (In God We Trust.)22 Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

Are you praying for our nation? Are you hoping in his mercy on our nation? Are you saved?

Under God by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God

UNDER GOD by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Lately, I’ve heard a lot of “I can’t believe what’s happening in our country” and “We need a lot of prayers as a nation.” I agree—It is sad what’s happening in our nation and we do need a lot of prayers. But, sometimes, I also hear things like “America is a horrible nation” and “Other nations are so much better than us in this or that.” Once in a while, a Hollywood actor will also claim that he/she is leaving America. I want to ask them “How soon can you make that happen!” To be honest, most of these people won’t last 5 minutes out there! And, I’m not talking about living in some gated resort or on a movie set. Here’s my point: America is not a perfect nation. It has its faults. Having said that, I still believe that it is the greatest nation on earth. The secret of our success in the face of some incredible odds is that we were built on the foundation of “One Nation Under God.” It is up to us, the church, to fix our faults by God’s help and continue to be that “One Nation Under God.” That’s the title of our message today—UNDER GOD—from Psalm 33:12. Let’s turn there. By the way, this is part 1.

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” This verse is often invoked as the source of our Christian or godly heritage in America. It’s essence can be found in some very important places. First, it can be seen on our nation’s monuments, like the capstone on the Washington Monument has the words “Laus Deo,” which is Latin for “Praise be to God.” In the Capital Building, over the east doorway of the Senate Chamber are the words “Annuit coeptis,” which is Latin for “God has favored our undertakings.” The same statement is also found on the Great Seal of the United States. Then, the slogan “In God We Trust” is found over the south entrance of the Senate Chamber, in the House Chamber (Behind the President in the State of the Union address), and on our money. Then, our Pledge of Allegiance also carries the phrase “One Nation Under God.” All these examples show that Psalm 33:12 is a very important scripture for us as Christians in America. Even if the verse is not quoted, the idea is everywhere.

Personal Testimony: Having grown up in a country that was not built on this verse, I can attest that this nation is unlike any nation on the face of this planet.

Context: Before we start studying this verse to see how it applies to us as a nation today with all that’s going on, we need to back up and notice that this psalm does not have a title or a superscription like the other psalms around it. In other words, we don’t know for sure who wrote this psalm or why it was written. But, there is some evidence from early manuscripts from Qumran that this was probably a psalm of David. Then, why was this description omitted in the other manuscripts? Maybe, it was because Psalm 33 was seen as a continuation of Psalm 32. It was understood that they were connected. To understand that we need to notice the similarities between the last verse of Psalm 32 and the first verse ofPsalm 33. Listen carefully to Psalm 32:11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Now, listen carefully to how the very next psalm begins—Psalm 33:1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” Did you hear the similarities? In fact, in the Hebrew, the same exact word “ranen” is used for “shouting for joy,” “tsedek” for righteous, and “yasher” for upright.

What does all this mean for us? Before we can start talking about “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” in Psalm 33 we need to make sure we are in line with what Psalm 32 has to say. What is Psalm 32 saying? A Psalm of David. A Contemplation.”Meaning: David, the man after God’s own heart, has written these words. 1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Before we can talk about being blessed as a nation, we need to talk about the blessing of being forgiven. 2 “Blessed isthe man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”In just these 2 verses, three different words are used to designate evil: “Pesha” = rebellion against God; “Chatah” = sin, turning away from the true path; “Hawon” = distortion, absence of respect for God’s will. What is needed? Confession and Repentance. What happens if this is not done? 3 “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.” In recent days, we are seeing a lot of people talking and screaming, but we are not saying what needs to be said. What needs to come out of our mouths are words of repentance! 4 “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Can you feel the heaviness of sin?

Now begins his Confession and Repentance. 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. 6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him.”Notice: The command to pray is to the godly, the righteous. Maybe, the reference here is to Noah’s flood. If so, then we are to stand in the gap for others. We are to pray in confession and repentance for our collective sins:

  • removing prayer and Word of God from our schools;
  • legalizing abortion, the killing of unborn children;
  • redefining human sexuality, marriage, and family;
  • glorifying sex and violence through entertainment;
  • living self-centered and complacent lives;
  • embracing any and every view that is sent our way without checking with the Word of God.

We are facing the consequences of decades of these decisions.

Will we be okay? 7 “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Like Dad guiding me in how I should be at the dinner table with special guests.

9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.” It seems like we went from one pandemic to another, from a physical to a cultural pandemic. Could it be that God is using this time to harness and draw his people to himself? Are we being mule-headed and stubborn? 10 “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.” When proper confession and repentance happens, then comes verse 11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” The problem with us is that we want verse 11 without going through verses 1-10.

Question: Have your transgressions been forgiven? Have your sins been covered? Have you truly asked God what he is doing in your life and our nation through these pandemics?

Having gone through Psalm 32, we can now begin Psalm 33     1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” 2 Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. 4 For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; (tsedek and mishpath) The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

Next week we will look in detail on how the founding of our nation was based on the values that come from this book.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you forgiven? Have you repented of your sins? Are you praying for healing in our nation?

2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Abound by Dr. Abidan Shah

Abound

ABOUND by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction: One sign that a baby is becoming a toddler is that he/she will say, “I do it” when it comes to feeding, putting on their shoes, or other activities that they previously relied on the parents. It’s a good thing because it’s an indication that the child is growing up and becoming independent. It can also be a sad time for some young parents, but I tell them, “Don’t worry. It reverses when they become teenagers!” In our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we come to the often-quoted passage from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” People claim that as a life-verse. They wear T-shirts with that verse. Athletes even tattoo it on their arms. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that they are talking it out of context. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that when it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” it’s not talking about overcoming incredible odds or reaching ambitious goals. It’s a declaration of the Christian’s ability to thrive whether one is down or abound. Turn in your Bibles to Philippians 4:10 and our message is titled “ABOUND.”

Philippians 4:10 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.” What exactly was Paul saying here? To correctly understand this, we need to keep in mind the context of the Philippian church. Externally, they were facing persecution. Internally, they were at odds with each other. Fears without and fightings within. In the midst of all this mess, they had stopped supporting Paul’s ministry. How was he faring? Listen to his description of a similar situation in I Corinthians 4     11 “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands…” By the way, since he was incarcerated, he couldn’t even work! If he ran out of food, maybe a soldier had pity on him and gave him some scraps. If he was freezing, maybe he found some old rags that he used to keep himself warm. Only eternity will reveal how much Paul suffered for the gospel. Then, there was a knock on the door and there stood a man by the name of Epaphroditus from the church in Philippi. Listen to Philippians 4:18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” As Paul said in Philippians 4:10 “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly,” he began celebrating on receiving the help from the Philippians.

Was Paul desperate for help from the Philippians? 11 “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” The word for learned is “manthano.” Here, it has the idea of a disciple learning how to follow the master. He has learned how to come to the place of being “content” = “autarkeia.” Content is not about be satisfied with you have and don’t get a better phone or an upgraded boat. The way this word is used implies complete readiness to accept whatever God has in store.

What does this kind of life look like? Verse 12 “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” Abase = “tapeinos,” which implies having a lowly mind like that of Jesus. Abound = “perisseuo,” which meant to be full, beyond, exceed. “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” This time the word for learned is “myeo” which has the idea of learning how to grow spiritually. Now he says in verse 13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The secret to his contentment is that “he has the strength to deal with all situations through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” This is not about being 5 foot 3 and being able to dunk, unless you are Muggsy Bogues with a 44-inch vertical jump!

So, yes, Paul rejoiced greatly that the money had come, but, no, he wasn’t desperate.

Now, listen to Paul’s clarification: 14 “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” Did Paul depend on the Philippians for money? To answer that, we need to turn again to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians because here he gave us information on how ministries were to be supported. Listen to I Corinthians 9      7 “Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?9 For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain’…10…For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?…13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” In Judaism, every Jewish male was obligated to pay a half-shekel temple tax, along with the sacrifices. All this was used to support the priests, the Levites, and their families. 14 “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” In other words, those who work in the church are supported by the tithes and offerings of those who are benefitted by the church, just like in the Old Testament temple. Now, Paul did not take any money from the Corinthians because of their bad attitude towards him. Listen to 2 Corinthians 11     7“Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.” Nonetheless, Paul did not shortchange them. Listen to 2 Corinthians 12    14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you…15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls…” The only place Paul did not ease up with the Corinthians was the collection for the poor in Jerusalem. 2 Corinthians 9:7“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Some of you may be wondering, “Why is Pastor Shah talking about all this?” Sometimes, people wonder why we take up tithes and offerings. We are following the pattern set for us by Paul in God’s word. We take up money to support the operation of the church, pay the staff of the church, provide help for those who are struggling near and far, and help missionaries and church planters all over the world to share the gospel and help the needy. We are an exceptional church where people give generously and wholeheartedly. Having said that, not everyone gives and not everyone gives as much as they should. How about you?

Did Paul benefit from his relationship with the Philippians? 17 “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” Paul was saying that even though he needed the help and he was grateful for the gift, he was not depended on them for survival, nor was he trying to look for the gift. But, by sending their gift, the Philippians have pleased God and now have a share in Paul’s ministry. 18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” Paul described their gifts with the same words that he used to describe the sacrifice of Christ in Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Finally, verse 19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” In fact, Paul added, God will meet your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

What was Paul really trying to say here? Even though he was depended on them, he was not obligated to them. Even if they supported him financially, he was under God’s control not theirs. So also, people coming from a different church tradition think that since we pay the pastor or staff, he/they does/do what we tell him/them to do. Maybe even, he better do as we tell him to do. Sorry friend. You need to give because it is the right thing for you to do and it is good for you to do. You cannot control God’s ministers with money. If that happens, we will tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear.

Have you learned how to abound in Christ? It’s not about having things or not having things. It’s about being content in Christ. Is Christ enough for you?

Are you saved? Do you have Christ?

True Gains by Dr. Abidan Shah

True Gains.jpg

TRUE GAINS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Before the COVID-19 shutdown, our Clearview staff would meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at our local Y to workout. One of our codewords was “It’s time for some gains.” By that we meant, “It’s time for us to gain some muscles.” Some days, it was tough to get up early on a cold morning and drive to the gym. It was such a good feeling to sleep in, but, compared to the good feeling of working out, it was loss. By the way, one of us did a lot of looking in the mirror and admiring his gains but we’re not going to talk about that! So also, in the Christian life, we have to decide what really matters. What are the true gains in the Christian life? True Gains for a believer are knowing Christ and being found in him. Unfortunately, we substitute these gains for things that only lead to self-righteous pride and disunity. Our message today is titled “TRUE GAINS” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

Question: What things do you consider as gains in your life? What would you be willing to give up in order to gain Christ? Before you can gain Christ, you have to find Christ. Have you found Christ? Are you saved?

Context: So far, in this series on Philippians, we have learned that the Christians in Philippi were struggling with both internal and external problems. Internally, they were struggling with disunity in the body. Externally, they were facing persecution from their neighbors. This was very detrimental to their existence. Paul wrote this letter both to settle their disputes and to strengthen them. His answer to their situation was “have the mind of Christ.” Philippians 2:5, “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” In other words, if they were going to get along and survive the persecution, they needed a mind-renewal to match the mind of Christ. Developing a mind like the mind of Christ was another way of saying, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13). So, how should they behave if they’ve had this mind transformation, this working out of salvation? Here’s a checklist in Philippians 2    14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, (Do you do all things without complaining and disputing?) 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, (Have you become blameless and harmless?) children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Are you a child of God without fault, shining as lights in the world?) 16 holding fast the word of life, (Are you holding fast the word of life?) so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Are you giving others opportunity to rejoice in the day of Christ?)

But, Paul didn’t stop here. He went on to address the source of their conflicts. If there is a crack in the wall, we can keep patching it or we can find the problem and do some real fixing so the crack doesn’t come back. Paul wants to fix the problem under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not just for the Philippians but for all of us. Let’s look at how he does that, one verse at a time:

3     1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. It seems that Paul is about to end his letter, but wait! 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Between verses 1 and 2, there is a radical shift in tone. Scholars have debated this section to no end. Some have even said that there must be some other letter by Paul that got inserted here. I believe that this is one and the same letter. You have to read it in its rhetorical context. Remember, Paul was trained by the best of both Jewish and Greek worlds. What is the purpose for the shift in tone? Paul wants to deal with root problem of disunity among the Philippian Christians—Pride through self-righteousness. Paul doesn’t just come out and accuse them of pride and arrogance. That would be too much in your face or misjudging the wrong person, which we often do.

Instead, Paul lays out the example of those who demonstrate pride through self-righteousness: the Judaizers. These were people who were claiming to be Christians but still wanted to practice the Old Testament practices like circumcision. They contradicted and opposed Paul’s ministry, and they must have infiltrated the Philippian Church. Listen again to how he describes them in verse 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” The Greek word for dog “kuon” is the word from which we get our word “canine.” In Latin, it would be “Cave Canem” = “Beware/Watch for Dog.” Was Paul being hateful?Here Paul is using the word that was reserved for the Gentiles. Also, mutilation is the word “katatome.” Here again the word was used to describe those Gentiles who tried to practice circumcision (peritome) but they were only mutilating themselves. There was no covenant with God in their ritual. Unfortunately, the Judaizers had the same attitude even in the church towards those who were not circumcised. They would act uppity with them, as if they were privileged. What a sad thing to do? It could very well be that some of the people in the Philippian church had some Jewish background or they may have picked up some of these bad behaviors.

Principle: All pride is bad but spiritual pride is the most destructive. It is nauseating to the lost world; it demoralizes younger believers; and it angers God.

Listen to Paul’s response: 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

Application: Are you worshipping God in the Spirit? Are you rejoicing in Christ Jesus? Do you have confidence in the flesh? Is it about how long you’ve been in church? Is it about your spiritual pedigree? Is it about your Bible knowledge?

Paul now gives his own example: 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Instead of taking pride in any of this—7 But what things were gain (“kerdos”) to me, these I have counted loss (“zemia”) for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” The word for “rubbish” is “skubalon,” which refers to “unspeakable filth” or “dung.” Keep in mind: Paul did not say that these things are rubbish. But, compared to gaining Christ, they are rubbish.

What did Paul consider as his gains now? 3 things:

  1. His Justification (that event by which we are set or declared to be in right relation with God): 9 “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
  2. His Sanctification (that event that God is daily working in our lives to make us more like him): 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Grammatically, to know Christ is to experience the power of his resurrection and to join him in his sufferings.
  3. His Glorification (that event that God will one day welcome us into what he has prepared for us): 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Here are the true gains? Justification – saved from the penalty of sin; Sanctification – saved from the power of sin; and Glorification – saved from the presence of sin.

Invitation: How are your gains? What do you think of your justification, sanctification, and glorification? Are you saved?

 

 

Discern by Dr. Abidan Shah

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DISCERN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Most people are very discerning as to who they allow into their personal space. There was a time when you could hitchhike but not anymore. When we are at a stoplight, we make sure our doors are locked. At home, we make sure our doors are locked. If someone knocks, we look through the peep hole first and then there’s the screen door with a lock on it. Now, they even have video doorbell cameras with motion alerts and facial recognition! Unfortunately, the one place we are the least discerning is in the area of our mind, what we believe, in doctrine. We allow anyone and everyone to speak into our lives. This is so critical in the age of social media where everyone with a voice is an expert and they have access to us. The Bible commands us to be discerning against false teachers and their doctrines. Failure to do so is to become a participant in their evil works. Today’s message is a stand-alone message from 2 John titled “DISCERN.”

2 John 7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christas coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. 9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”

Question: Who are listening to that you shouldn’t? Who has access to your mind? Are you abiding in the doctrine of Christ? Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Context: 2 John, from which we just read, has only 200 Greek words, but it has much to say to us today. The writer, the apostle John, was warning the readers to be discerning as to who they let into their homes. Apparently, some so called “Christian teachers” were going from door to door preaching and teaching, but they did not share the same beliefs regarding the person and nature of Jesus Christ. John the elder was warning the Christians not to be gullible. Pay attention to what they are teaching. Recognize that they have an agenda, an ulterior motive. In fact, don’t even engage them. Refuse to let them inside your doors. Truth is vital. Truth is critical. Failure to stick to the truth is self-condemning. Guard your mind. Don’t overestimate your ability to recognize error.

Application: Do you guard your mind? Are you being misled, not just about the doctrine of Christ but other areas of Christian life? This is an important question in this era of social media. Are you letting anyone and everyone to speak into your life?

With that said, let’s get back to our message. To get at the seriousness of John’s warning to the readers against false teachers, we need to begin reading in verse 6 “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” Just like in our day and age, people have always had all kinds of definitions of love—Love is being there for someone no matter what. Love is mutual respect. Love is reaching our dreams together. There is some truth in all of them, but how does the Bible define love? Love is walking according to God’s commandments. In other words, love is obedience to the truth. If you say that you love God, then the question is—Are you obeying his truth? Failure or refusal to obey God is failure and refusal to love God. They go hand in hand. Verse 6 goes on to say, “…This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” What is “it?” The answer is found two verses earlier in verse 4 “I rejoiced greatly that I have foundsome of your children walking in truth…” So, listen again to verse 6, ““This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in the truth.” Here’s the point: Truth is not optional. Truth is essential. It is the verification of our love for God.

The question that follows is—“What is the truth?” We actually have to go to I Johnwhere John gives us the definition of truth in 3 points (Karen Jobes):

  1. The man Jesus is the Christ, God’s Anointed King.
  2. The Son of God has been incarnated as a human being.
  3. The death of the Son of God is the atonement for sin.

In other words, the truth that John is referring to is regarding the Identity of Jesus, Incarnation of Jesus, and the Atonement of Jesus—“Who he was, How he came, and What he did.”

Application: How seriously do you take this “truth?” Are you easily blown about by “every wind of doctrine?”

All this is not just chit chat. There is a serious situation at hand. Listen to verse 7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” In other words, truth about Jesus Christ is under attack. Which truth specifically? The truth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. “Come in the flesh” is much more than just how he was born, his incarnation; it also refers to his sacrificial death for the atonement of sin. Now, listen carefully to how he describes those who contradict this truth—“This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” People often ask me—“Do you think the Antichrist is alive today?” “Do you think that so and so is the Antichrist?” Listen carefully: The only person in the Bible who talks about the Antichrist by name is the apostle John and he only does that here and in I John. He doesn’t use that title in the Book of Revelation. What can we learn about the Antichrist from him? Listen to 1 John 2    18 “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” There are many antichrists and not just one. Maybe one big one in the end. Also, they’re not just in the future. They’re also here right now. 19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” They seem to be emerging out of the church. Their exiting is their unmasking. One more thing: 1 John 2    22 “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either…” In other words, the Antichrists deny the apostolic tradition regarding Christ.

Application: Do you know Christ? Are you connected to him? Are you listening to someone who could be Antichrist?

What is at stake in listening to the deceivers and Antichrists? 2 John 8 “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” What is the “full reward?” That phrase is found several times in the New Testament. Here’s the most helpful one in Revelation 22    12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. 14 Blessed arethose who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” The reward is eternal life itself! I know some will now wonder what that does to eternal security. I believe in it as well but this verse reminds as the truth is not something to play with if you want eternal life. If that’s not enough, here comes the next verse—9 “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” Before we look at this carefully, this is the center of this letter. The Greek word behind “abide” is “meno,” which can be translated as “continue,” “remain,” or “wait for.” This is not some novel idea. Jesus said the same thing in John 8:31   Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

So what action can you take? 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him.” Hospitality was a big deal in that culture and still is in that part of the world. John goes a step further to say that even a “hello” should not happen. 11 “for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”

Invitation: How seriously are you taking the truth about Christ? Are you walking in the truth? Are you remaining in the truth? Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Skillful by Dr. Abidan Shah

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SKILLFUL by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Last Friday evening at our Valentine’s banquet, I showed some pictures of people doing some foolish things and it drew a lot of laughs! Let’s look at them again. What is the problem in all those pictures? Sometimes people are using the wrong tools for the job, sometimes they have the right tools but they are locked up, sometimes they are being reckless in the face of hazardous materials, or sometimes they are overestimating their abilities or misjudging their obstacles. All of this reflects lack of skills and sense of discernment. So also, in life, people lack the right skills and a sense of discernment, and they make foolish and costly decisions. Skillful living comes when we turn to God for wisdom and guidance. More specifically, true wisdom is Christ. When he becomes our life, we begin to live skillfully. For the next few weeks, we will be in a brief series through Proverbs titled “SKILLFUL” (also the title of today’s message). The goal of this series is to help us live life skillfully.

Proverbs 3     5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Question: Who do you lean on for understanding in life? Self, friends, family, or God. Are you living your life skillfully? Is Christ truly at the center and focus of your life?

Background: When it comes to the Book of Proverbs, people typically have a low view of it compared to other books like Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any of the New Testament books. This is a huge mistake. In Jeremiah 18:18, we find an ancient saying that reveals to us the various ways that God spoke to His people. It goes like this—“… for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet…” The context of this passage is negative but the implication is still valid. It is this: God considers the counsel from the wise (proverbs) to be on the same level as the law from the priest and the word from the prophet. In other words, Law, Prophecy, and Wisdom are the 3 different ways that God spoke to his people. Proverbs are not secondary or optional. They are just as important for our spiritual growth. In fact, Billy Graham used to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs every day. He said that there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, one for every day of the month. I encourage you to do the same and get your children to read a chapter of Proverbs every day.

Back to the passage we just read—Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” Before we go any further, this goes completely contrary to what the world says—“Trust your heart.” Amazing how the Enemy has stolen some key words from this verse! As a result, we have made the heart the object rather than the means to the real object who is God. Trusting your own heart is like the guy who attached the safety harness to himself! But it’s worse than that—Jeremiah 17     9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart…” Jesus said inMatthew 15:19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Are you trusting your heart?

Let’s look at this verse carefully: The Hebrew word trust is “bethath,” which means “to lie helplessly, face down.” It is a picture of a servant patiently waiting on his master’s command. Trusting in the Lord is not “I’m hoping things will work out”, “I’m trying to hang in there,” “I’m trying to be strong or positive,” “I’ve been going to church and reading the Bible every day,” “It is what it is. I cannot control what happens. The man upstairs is in charge,” or “I’ve given up.” Trusting in the Lord is about developing a deep personal relationship with God.How do you develop a deep personal relationship with God? How do you develop a deep personal relationship with any person? Listening and Talking to them. Isn’t that what dating is all about? Same with God. You listen to his voice by reading his Word. You talk to him by praying to him. This does not happen automatically. You have to work at it and invest time in it. Unless you receive Jesus as your Savior and King, your relationship with God will only remain superficial.

The proverb emphasizes that this trust has to be “with all your heart.” There is no place for half-hearted, wishy-washy, quick waiting before God. In fact, if you are wise, you will wait on your face before God for as long as it takes. The longer you look at God through the eyes of faith, the more you will get to know him in a deeper and more personal way; you will begin to understand how he thinks and how he feels; and, you will begin to understand how much he loves and cares for you. Please don’t misunderstand: Waiting before God does not mean inactivity. It is not sitting there just staring at God. We’ll come to that in a moment. For now, just remember that “trusting in the Lord” means developing a deep personal relationship with him.

Application: Do you have a deep personal relationship with God?

Listen again, Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Unfortunately, instead of lying on our face before God, we tend to lean on our own understanding. What falls in this category of “understanding?” Our upbringing, our experiences, our education, our impulses, etc. You have to be willing to lay all of them aside if they don’t line up with the Word of God. In the Bible we see many examples of such “understandings”:

  • Abraham did this when there was a famine in the land and they had to flee to Egypt. In a moment of fear, he told Sarah to pretend to be his sister rather than his wife. What a colossal mistake. Pharaoh was about to take her to be his wife!
  • Joshua did this when he decided to send a measly two to three thousand men to go up and attack the city of Ai. In a moment of self-confidence over Jericho, he failed to consult the Lord if there was sin in the camp.
  • Peter did this when he decided to follow Jesus on the night he was betrayed and ended up denying him three times. In a moment of fake loyalty, he failed to obey his Master who had told him to watch and pray.

Let me give you some positive examples:

  • Job faced the worst trials anyone other than Christ faced and yet he said Job 13:15“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
  • Ruth refused to go back to her people and chose to follow Naomi to Israel.

Application: Are you trusting in the Lord with all your heart? Are you leaning on your own understanding and insights?

Now, verse 6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him…” The Hebrew word “yada” can be translated admit, confess, acknowledge, and recognize. In other words, in all your daily happenings give God credit for everything. Lift him up. Glorify him. Use every opportunity to magnify his name. It also means check to make sure that he is still with you. Don’t drop him and run ahead. Stay right behind him. No matter what that step is (a job, a date, a venture, an opportunity), say a simple quick prayer, “Your will be done God, not mine.”

Application: Do you do that? Do you constantly glorify God no matter what’s happening? Do you constantly glance up to make sure that he is still ahead of you and you haven’t wandered off? Do you pray “Your will be done, not mine” daily?

What is the promise if you do that? 6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” The actual word here is “yashar,” which means smooth, straight, and right. The idea is that God will help remove the obstacles from your path as you follow him. It does not mean that there will be no obstacles. Only that, he will remove them for you. Isn’t that awesome! Now you can live skillfully as you follow Christ.

Personal Illustration: My parents taught me growing up to always acknowledge God and to keep him first in everything. This did not make life easy. I had many obstacles in my life. I remember the Christmas of 1993 being stuck at an exit waiting for my brother to come get me. The weather is freezing cold. I wrapped myself inside a telephone booth to keep myself warm. I made a promise to God then and there that my life belongs to him from here on. It hasn’t been problem free but God has made the path clear for me. I give him the glory.

Invitation: What is your testimony? Is Christ the center of your life? Do you have a deep personal relationship with him? Do you acknowledge him in all your ways? Are you saved?

Related by Dr. Abidan Shah

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RELATED by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Relatives, family members, loved ones—We all have them. We love them. We would do anything for them. Having said that, they’re also the very people who drive us crazy, especially during the holiday season. Someone said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” In today’s message, we’re going to learn that even Jesus had to deal with a crazy earthly family. In fact, throughout his earthly ministry, they thought that he was out of his mind! He had to exercise great wisdom and grace in dealing with them. So also, we need wisdom and grace if we’re going to make it with our earthly family. Our message today is titled “RELATED.”

Mark 3    20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”  31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” 33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

Question: Jesus’ family thought that he was out of his mind. Can you imagine that! Do you have family members who think that you are out of your mind? How much do you let family dictate how you live your life? Do you have lost family members? Have you prayed for them to be saved? Are you saved?

Background: As many of you know, I have been pastoring for about 21 years. Through the years, people have come to me for all kinds of counselling. In my experience, one of the major issues that people struggle with in life is family relationships—How to deal with people we grew up with? How to get along with people who are connected to us for no other reason other than the providence of God! On one hand, our family can be a great source of blessing and comfort to us. They can give us a sense of belonging. They are a reminder that we are not alone in this world. They are people who know our past—good and bad—and still accept us. On the other hand, our family or a family member can also be a great source of consternation and pain to us. There are family members or a family member who for one reason or another have/has turned toxic towards us. They(he/she) use 2 weapons of mass destruction to make our lives miserable—blame and shame. Either way, the result is devastating! Even though Jesus came for the primary purpose to redeem us from our sin, he was not immune to the daily struggles of life. He too had a family that tried to use those 2 weapons of shame and blame against him. But, he dealt with them with wisdom and grace. In the next few minutes, we’re going to learn how to do the same.

Context: Let’s return to the passage we just read—Mark 3:20 “Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.” To understand what this means, we need to back up to Mark 3 starting in verse 7 But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. 9 So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. 11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. I would say that judging by all standards, Jesus’ ministry was extremely successful. Not only that but many people were being helped. Their lives were being transformed for the better. His ministry was so successful that he did not even have time to eat!

What was the response of his family? 21 But when His own people heard about this…” His own people were probably people from his hometown or even extended family members or leaders in the family from Nazareth. “…they went out to lay hold of Him…” They came to Capernaum to “krateo” = seize him! “…for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’” The Greek for “out of his mind” is one word “exhistemi.” It means “to be out of his senses,” “confused,” or “crazy.” In other words, his extended family was not in favor of his success. So, they came to drag him physically because he had gone crazy!

Application: Has that happened to you, maybe not physically but verbally and emotionally? You go out, work hard and smart, hoping to hear a “well done!” from your loved ones.” Instead, you get nothing. You put pictures on social media, hoping that family will like them but they ignore. You check it 100 times an hour! Take heart, Jesus had the same problem.

Why were they like that? Mark 6 gives us some clue—1 “Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ So hateful! Are you like that? So they were offended at Him.” The Greek word is “skandalizo,” which gives us our English word “scandal.” Their problem was SHAME.

Remember: Some people will never get over your past. Hometown heroes and heroines are few and far between. If they build you a statue in your honor, it may be after you are dead and gone. Word to the wise: Grow with the people in your life. Don’t think that people are still where they were when you first met them. They will appreciate you more if you meet them where they are today. They may even give you credit for their success.

4 But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” By the way, this was all a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 69:8 “I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children.” 5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.”

How do you handle “shame”? Know your true IDENTITY IN CHRIST—redeemed, forgiven, made new, child of God, more than a conqueror.

But it’s not over yet. Mark 3:31 “Then His brothers and His mother came…” Maybe the hometown crowd pressured them to. “…and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him.” Why standing outside? I don’t think this was because there was no room in the house. Listen to verse 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” If crowd was the problem, the word would not have reached him. By refusing to come in, they were refusing to endorse his success. They were communicating their displeasure with him for causing such a raucous. They were telling him that they were not impressed with his latest shenanigans! Their problem was BLAME.

What was Jesus’ response? 33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” This is very powerful: Jesus did not submit his ministry to his family’s approval. He stood his ground and refused to go out to meet them. He did not alter God’s VISION to please his earthly family.

Principle to remember: If you keep seeking the approval of those who don’t understand you, you will never complete the vision God has for your life. It’s great to have the blessing of your loved ones but ultimately, it’s God’s approval that counts.

If we were to end here, this would be “us against the world” sermon. This is not what Jesus did. He demonstrated GRACE towards his earthly family:

  1. To his Mother—John 19 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
  2. To his Brother—1 Corinthians 15 4 “…He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James…” James was the head of the Jerusalem church and the writer of the book of James. So also, Jude was another brother who wrote the short letter in the New Testament that bears his name.

Ultimately, our goal with our family should not be approval or validation. It should be salvation through Jesus Christ and a growing likeness to him. In the end, that’s all that will matter. When you are clear about your IDENTITY and VISION, refuse to succumb to SHAME and BLAME, and choose to show GRACE, you can overcome any family problems.

Invitation: Are you still hurt about what your family has done? Have you hurt someone in your family that you need to seek forgiveness from? When was the last time you prayed for them to be saved? When was the last time you encouraged them to walk with Christ? Are you saved?

 

Inheritance by Dr. Shah

Inheritance.jpg

INHERITANCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a sheep farm nearby. It was incredible! What got me was when the sheep saw their owner, they immediately went to him! Now, I was standing nearby but they kept eyeing me. It reminded me of what Jesus said in John 10:5 “the sheep will by no means follow a stranger…” Then the owner told me to step near and pet them. I did, and one by one they came near. What was most fascinating to me was how their owner knew each of them by name. To me they were all the same but he could tell the difference. Again, just like Jesus said in John 10:3 “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” So also, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows each of his sheep by name. You can pretend to be his sheep but there is a day of judgment coming when he will identify his own and the test will be acts of compassion done in his name. Those who belong to him will receive an inheritance but those who don’t will receive everlasting fire. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, and the message is titled “INHERITANCE.”

Matthew 25    31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feedYou, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Question: Which ones are you? Are you the sheep or are you the goat? Will you receive an inheritance or will you go into the everlasting fire? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is the 3rd of the 3 parables that Jesus gave in his famous Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 & 25. If you remember from the last weekend, it was the message Jesus preached on the Mount of Olives where he explained to his disciples how things will be at the end of the age when he returns.

  • The message of the 1st Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids was “Be prepared. Jesus is coming back at a time you’re least expecting.”
  • The message of the 2nd Parable of the Talents was “Don’t just stand there. Use the money God has given to you to build his kingdom and make profit.”
  • The message of the 3rd Parable of the Sheep and the Goats was Jesus is coming again but this time to judge and his judgment is not based on our confession but our compassion towards the least of these.

 So, let’s examine the parable of the Sheep and the Goats carefully. (By the way, this is not really a parable like the others. It is more like a brief analogy with a long explanation. Hence, we will focus a lot on the explanation than the story.) Listen again to Matthew 25:31“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” In other words, Jesus is coming again but this time it is not to be laid in the manger but to sit on the throne, the judgment seat.

First, let’s talk about the importance of judgment. Repeatedly, the Old Testament refers to God as the Judge. Genesis 18:25 “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Psalm 75:7 “But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” Isaiah 30:18 “For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Why is judgment so important to God? Because God’s judgment is the natural outflow of God’s holiness. Sin disrupts God’s holiness and judgment sets everything right. If you think that judgment is unnecessary, then you don’t understand the holiness of God nor the horribleness of sin. There is a connection between holiness and judgment. Listen to Isaiah 5:16 “But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God who is holy shall be hallowed in righteousness.” Also, Psalm 50     1 The Mighty One, God the LORD, has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. 3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: 5 “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6 Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge.”

Question: Do you believe there’s a judgment coming? Do you truly understand the holiness of God and the horribleness of sin?

What’s unique in this parable is that Jesus is given the role of the judge. Why? Because of the title “the Son of Man.” Listen again to Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” It is also found a chapter later in Matthew 26:64 Jesus said to him (high priest), “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” That designation “Son of Man” implies that, as prophesied in Daniel 7, Jesus came as a representative of God. Not only that but lest anyone say “You don’t understand what we go through,” he was also fully man. Who has given him this authority? John 5    26 “For as the Father… 27 … has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.”

What will this judgment be about? 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him…” Lot of discussion has been centered around those words. The Old Testament does talk about a “Judgment of the Nations.” Joel 3:2 “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.” So also, Isaiah 2     3 “…For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people…” Bottom line: God will deal with nations and peoples throughout history based on how they treated the people of Israel.

In the midst of this judgment, there will be a judgment of compassion. The sheep are put on the right side and the goats on the left. (By the way, this does not mean that sheep are better animals than goats. It’s just an analogy.) What is the basis of the positive judgment towards the sheep? Listen again to verse 34 “…Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” The sheep are confused because they don’t remember seeing Jesus hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. 40 And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Who are the least of these My brethren? Some think that they are Jewish people but their leadership was rejecting him. Others think that they are the disciples but he was speaking to them. Still others think that they might be Christians or even Christian missionaries. There were no “Christians” or “Christian missionaries” yet. There was one more group—the poor and the less fortunate. This made up the majority of the people who followed Jesus. This is where the context helps us. This is who Jesus had in mind. And, yes, many times, his own followers (believers) are poor and less fortunate even today.

How about those goats on the other side? Listen again to verse 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: Why? Because they didn’t show any acts of compassion. They refused to help those hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. In the process, they didn’t help Christ. 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

For e.g. Someone refused to help me during a snow storm a couple of years ago. They wouldn’t even let me park in their driveway.

Big Question: Doesn’t this contradict the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone? This is the old Paul vs James debate. Galatians 5    13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Ephesians 2     8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Another big question: Doesn’t this bring condemnation to believers? Yes, we can have assurance of salvation—I Corinthians 3:15 “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Don’t forget that this same Paul also said—2 Corinthians 5    10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” Ultimately, Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Invitation: Which group do you belong to? Are you saved or lost? Will you be able to stand on the day of judgment? How are your acts of compassion?

Treasure by Dr. Abidan Shah

Treasure

TREASURE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you would love to find some hidden treasure in your backyard? Ten years ago (2009) in England, Terry Herbert was metal detecting at a friend’s farm. He had been doing this for 18 years but this time the device actually started buzzing. It had located a small, glittering bit of metal which turned out to be a gold artifact. But that wasn’t it! Within minutes, his detector was buzzing all over the place. Terry had discovered an Anglo-Saxon treasure trove from 1,400 years ago. Archaeologists and museums started buzzing all over the place. After all was said and done, they found 4,600 pieces of gold and silver. It was declared a national treasure valued at four million pounds known as the Staffordshire Hoard. You can see it at the Birmingham Museum and the Stoke Museum in England. The big questions are— “Who owned that treasure? Why did he/she bury it?” No one knows! Here’s the point: Earthly treasures cannot be permanently owned. What you treasure today will belong to someone else’s tomorrow. The only treasure that you can permanently own is what you put into heaven’s bank, the kingdom of God. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the Parable of the Rich Farmer and the message is titled “TREASURE.”

Luke 12     16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are. Are you the rich farmer who trusted in his possessions? By the way, you don’t have to be wealthy to be rich. It’s not about your bank balance. It’s about how obsessed you are with it. Are you trusting in your riches? Are you saved? If tonight your soul is required of you, where will you go?

Preface: Unlike the previous parables, this parable of the rich farmer is somewhat troubling at first glance. If we’re truly honest, what’s wrong with what he did? Listen again to verse 16 “…The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.” What’s wrong with that? That sounds like a blessing! What farmer, business owner, or employee would not want their business or job to be blessed? 17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.” Is that wrong? Not really. He is a visionary. He is thinking ahead and taking the necessary steps to manage his growth. The alternative would be to sit back, do nothing, and lose everything. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ Is anything wrong with that? Once again, no. Isn’t that the reward of a well-planned life? Shouldn’t we all plan ahead so we can retire one day and have the necessary income when we can’t work like we could? It seems like this rich farmer, rather than being a villain, should be a model for all of us to follow! In order to understand the true intent of the parable, we need to look at the context in which Jesus gave it.

Context: To understand the context of this parable, we need to back up to verse 13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”Keep in mind that this parable was given during the Travel Narrative of Jesus in Luke. Remember Luke 9:51, when Jesus knew that the time had come for him to be ascended that he set his face to go to Jerusalem? It was a fulfillment of Isaiah 50:7 “…Therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed” and Ezekiel 3:9 “Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” Face like flint symbolized determination and resolve in the face of incredible trials. When Jesus knew that it was time for him to suffer and die the most awful death on the cross for the sins of the whole world, he didn’t hesitate or dilly-dally. Instead, his eyes became laser focused, his feet picked up speed, and his mind was locked on what was about to happen. Just then—“Jesus, my brother is not sharing…” Imagine a building is on fire and firefighters are rushing in to save lives. Just then someone stops them and say, “My cat is stuck on a tree. Can you help me first?” What was Jesus’ response? 14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” My translation: “Dude, do you really think that’s why I came?” 15And He [Jesus] said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” This is the context in which Jesus gave the parable of the rich farmer. It was not about being successful, planning ahead, or saving up for retirement. It was about covetousness. The desire to acquire more.

Application: Are you covetous? Are possessions controlling your life? Nothing wrong with having things and new things but are you more concerned about material things than about the things of God?

Back to the parable: The rich man has a conversation with himself (soliloquy)—19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ He doesn’t get a chance to answer back because God interjects! 20But God said to him, “Fool!” Why did God call him a “fool”? The word for fool is “aphron,” the same word found in the LXX at Psalm 14:1 “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” This rich farmer probably went to the synagogue and did the ritual sacrifices but he was an atheist at heart. More than that, he was a selfish atheist.

Application: Is that you? Are you an atheist at heart and a selfish one?

20 But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” Sometime back I was teaching a Wednesday evening Bible study and my phone kept ringing. I kept ignoring it until Nicole came by and told me that it was the fire department. There had been a horrible wreck on southbound I-85 and an entire family was killed up near Wise area. Long story short, I got there and prayed for the firefighters before they had to remove the bodies. The saddest part was to watch them remove the things of the people one by one. There was the wife’s cell phone, the little girl’s backpack, someone’s shirt, etc. They were putting them on the side of the highway. Just a little while ago, it belonged to someone but it no longer had an owner. Same will happen to your stuff one day. Listen to the next verse 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” The word for treasure is “thesaurus” from which we get our English word “Thesaurus.” A thesaurus is a dictionary that stores words. The problem was not with his success, planning ahead, or saving up for retirement. The problem was that this rich farmer was only living for self with no regard to God. He was an atheist at heart. He was storing up only for himself.

Application: Is that you? Are you only living for self? Where does God fit in your life?

Now, if Jesus would have ended here, the message would have been “Don’t live for self. Put God first,” but it doesn’t end here. Listen to verse 22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.” By the way, this is very similar to Matthew 6 where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. It could be that Jesus repeated portions of that sermon here. Once again, verse 22 “…Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.” Jesus was not telling his disciples, “Don’t plan your lives.” He was simply telling them, “Don’t be overcome by “merimnaw.” It’s a Greek word for “worry” that’s much more than daily care. It is “paralyzing anxiety.” Question: Are you living under paralyzing anxiety about money, relationship, health, future, etc.? Jesus reminds them that they are not animals. 23 “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” Animals live only for their daily necessities, minus clothing. We human beings were created for things far greater. We were created in the image of God with the ability to relate with Him and help build his kingdom in this world. Jesus appeals to nature to prove his point. 24 “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them.” Ravens were considered to be unclean birds. The point is that God cares for them too! “Of how much more value are you than the birds?” 25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? By the way, one of the best antidotes for anxiety and worry is nature. We turn to TV, shopping, or playing golf. All those things are fine but that’s just substituting one activity for another. Spending time in nature will do that for you more than anything else but the point is that we have far more value than animals and plants.

Jesus continues in verse 29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. 32 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In other words, work on building God’s kingdom and he will take care of your needs.

So, how do you build God’s kingdom? Study the Bible more? Pray more? Serve in church more? Win the lost more? None of these things are wrong and we should be doing them but that’s not what Jesus meant when He told us to seek his kingdom. Listen to verse 33 “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, don’t hoard but help others in need. This is what #iamtheneighbor project is all about!

Invitation: Are you living for self? Are you hoarding? What if your soul is required tonight? Are you saved?

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