Prayer: Practice by Dr. Abidan Shah

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PRAYER – PRACTICE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of y’all have ever said, “Lord, have mercy?” If you grew up in the south, I’m sure you have either said that or heard that at some point. It sounds like a prayer but, in reality, it’s more of a stress relief or an exclamation of happiness, surprise, or anger. It’s like the other one – “Lord, help me.” It’s not a real prayer. Unfortunately, many of us pray, but it’s not a real prayer. Here’s the main point of today’s message: Just because we begin with “Dear God” and end with “Amen,” it does not mean that we are really praying. Prayer is a conversation with the living true God, our heavenly father, which requires sharing our needs and results in the confirmation that God has heard and will answer what’s best for us. Last weekend, we focused on the doctrine of prayer. Today, our focus is on the practice of prayer, the mechanics of prayer.

Matthew 6      5 “And when you pray…”

Before we go any further, notice that Jesus did not say “if you pray” but “when you pray.” God assumes that we will pray to Him regularly. God expects us to pray to him. Prayer is our daily dialogue with God in which we ask Him for our needs and receive from him the answers. Since the beginning of time, men and women in the Bible have prayed daily. Even Jesus had a daily time of prayer. Mark 1:35 says, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” It’s like the song “What a friend we have in Jesus,” where it says, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer”

Application: Do you come to God in prayer? What comes first? Plans or Prayers. Are you bearing needless pain?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered certain important guidelines for prayer:

  1. Avoid prayer as a show.

6      5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets…”

Context: After the Jewish people had returned from their exile, they were serious about religion. So, the priests and the scribes created an elaborate ritual of prayer and liturgy. Their daily prayer was a long list of 19 petitions known as the “Shemoneh Esreh,” each starting with the statement “Blessed are You, O Lord” and ended with the statement “The whole world is full of His mercy.” You had to pray this prayer standing up. Hence, the daily prayer is also called “Amidah.” You had to pray facing the “Aron Kodesh,” the ark that houses the Torah scrolls. Observant Jewish people begin by taking 3 steps backwards and then 3 steps forwards. The steps backwards symbolize moving away from the material world and the steps forwards symbolize approaching the King of Kings. During the prayer there is a certain way of bowing – Barukh Atha Adonai. Make sure to come back up when you say Adonai. Then when you say Kadosh, you have to get on your tippy toes about 3 times, with each time rising a little taller. Again, not everyone follows this. There are many variations. When it’s over, you bow to the left, then to the right, and then to the front and say – “He who makes peace in the heavens, may He make peace for us and all Israel, and let us say, Amen.” Then, you had to do the same stuff after the prayer – take 3 steps backwards and 3 steps forwards.

Some of the people would be on their way to the synagogue and be running late. So, they would stop in the street corner and start their Amidah. Keep in mind that the Jewish people were not expected to pray in the streets but some would do it anyways. It was forbidden to interrupt anyone praying the Amidah unless it was a safety issue or you had to go. You can use your imagination how the showy hypocrites would jab the listeners in their prayers – Looking at the shopkeepers – “God, we have sinned with greed!” Looking at the prostitute – “God, we have sinned with adultery.” Looking at the young people – “God, our young generation is so foolish, immature, and ungodly.” Jesus knew their hearts and confronted their hypocrisy. Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not saying, “Don’t pray in public.” Instead, he was saying – “Don’t pretend to pray in public.” 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place;and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” One antidote for hypocrisy in public prayer is private prayer. Public prayer is like the edifice, the visible part of a building, and private prayer is the foundation

Application: Do you pray for a show? Are you pretending to be more spiritual than you really are? How is your private prayer life?

  1. Avoid vain repetitions.

7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do…”

Background: The word for “vain repetitions” is a Greek word battalogew, which is a very unique word. It is not found anywhere else in the New Testament or in ancient Greek literature or the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). It was a description of the worship of heathens. Listen to what Jesus said about it in verse 7 “…For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them…” We may not be heathens but it is not much different than what we do even today. We mumble unnecessary words in prayer that add nothing to our conversation with God. Sometimes, we even use “magical formulas” like “Plead the blood of Jesus” or “In Jesus Name.” Other times we repeat the Lord’s Prayer or the Doxology or the Apostles Creed. I’m not suggesting that any of this is sinful or wrong but the point is this – “Do we really mean what we say in prayer?” 8“…For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Here’s the whole point – Prayer is family talk. It is a loving conversation between a father and a child. You cannot fake it.

Application: How do you see God when you pray? Can you see Him as your Father?

  1. Approach God as your Heavenly Father.

9 “In this manner, therefore, pray…”

Along with Psalm 23, Jeremiah 29:11, John 3:16, Romans 8:28, and a few others, the passage we are about to read is one of the most well-known passages of the Bible. It is the Lord’s Prayer or the Pater Noster or sometimes even known as the Disciple’s Prayer. It is found twice in the Gospels – one here in Matthew 6 and a shorter version in Luke 11. It could be that Jesus taught the same prayer several times or it could be that Luke placed it at a different point in his gospel, as he often does. What is interesting about Luke’s version of the prayer is that he gives us the context in which Jesus gave this model prayer. Listen to Luke 11:1 “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, thatone of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’”What is very interesting to me is that the disciples did not ask Jesus – “teach us to preach” or “teach us to evangelize” or “teach us to do a miracle” but “teach us to pray.” Why? Because they witnessed how important prayer was to Jesus.

9 “…Our Father in heaven” = God is our Abba Father—Creator, Superior, and Redeemer.

“…Hallowed be Your name.” = God’s names are His character and His work in our lives. He will hallow his name. But, how about in my own life?

10 “Your kingdom come…” = It is the sovereign eternal rule of God over His world. It begins in our hearts when we are saved and will be completed when Christ returns.

“…Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” = God has a revealed will (what God expects) and a secret will (what is God up to). Here the prayer is for the secret will.

We’ve come to the midpoint in the Lord’s Prayer and, so far, we have looked at the first 3 lines known as the “Thou Petitions” – “Hallowed be thy name,” “Thy kingdom come,” and Thy will be done.” Now we will look at the next 3 lines known as the “We Petitions” – “Give us this day our daily bread,” “Forgive us our debts,” and “Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from the evil one.”

11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” = Daily we should come to God as a little child looks to his/her parent for sustenance. But, the bread is not just physical but also spiritual.

12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” = This is probably the hardest line in the Lord’s Prayer, if not the whole Bible. E.M. Bounds said “A heart all love, a heart that holds even its enemies in loving contemplation and prayerful concern, a heart from which all bitterness, revenge, and envy are purged—how rare! Yet this is the only condition of mind and heart in which a man can expect to command the power of prayer.”

13 “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one…” = Even though God allows us to go through trials to purify and humble us, he wants us to come to Him as a child to his/her father and plead for “mercy and grace to help in time of need.”

“…For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” = He is the rightful owner, now and forever. He can change circumstances, now and forever. He gets the glory now and forever.

Invitation: How is your prayer life? Is it a show? Is it filled with vain repetitions? Is it a child coming to his/her father? Have you said the sinner’s prayer? Have you prayed to ask Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

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PRAYER – DOCTRINE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Kids have some very interesting prayers! I found a few online:

  • Dear God, If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set. Raphael
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Larry
  • Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. Joyce
  • Dear God, Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. Peter
  • God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. Love, Chris.
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. Sam

Unlike kids, who pray with a childlike faith and innocence, adults have a complex and sometimes even an unbelieving attitude towards prayer. Today we begin a 2-part series on prayer: first, we will focus on doctrine, and then, on practice. Here’s the main point of the first message on the doctrine of prayer: Our prayers reflect our understanding of God’s providence. In other words, our understanding of how much God is in control and how much free will we have will directly impact how and how much we pray.

1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Background: The Greek word for confidence is “parresia,” which can be translated as openness, confidence, boldness, and frankness. This is the kind of spirit we should have when we come to God in prayer.

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for my dad. We were not a perfect family, but we were a praying family. From an early age, I remember watching my mom, my dad, and my grandma pray. In church, I remember listening to adults pray, just like we do here. We even had home prayer meetings twice a week. We had 2 different language services (still do) and we would meet at different people’s homes each week to pray; Wednesday evening was people of the Hindi language service and Thursday would be of the English language service. As a little boy, I remember praying all the time—for a baby sister, for a new bike, for new shoes, for good grades in school, for being able to win a race with the other boys. I believed in prayer. But then, it happened. When, I can’t pinpoint the time, but I began to become more “realistic” and “grownup” about what I asked in my prayers. I began to lose the childlike faith and innocence in my prayers. I still prayed, but it wasn’t the same. I believe I have just described the prayer life of most of you here.

Why do we experience such a shift in our prayer life? Short answer: We grow up and face real life. We go through suffering and loss. Our hopes get dashed. Our prayers remain unanswered. We even come face-to-face with evil. Now, there is a change in our view of God and our prayers. It’s like the child who has a toy doctor kit and one day he gets a little cut. Instead of using the instruments (thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure kit) in the box, mom and dad take him/her to a real doctor or nurse who have real instruments. That’s when the child realizes that the instruments are simply toys. They are just pretend. Now, the child does play with the kit but it’s only pretend.

Long answer: Real life jars our view of God’s providence, and, with that, our prayers change as well. Let’s begin with defining the word “Providence.” For starters, that word is not found in the Bible but the concept is everywhere. Basically, it is the answer to how much is God in control of the world he has created and how much can we influence him. When we begin to seriously deal with the matter of God’s providence, a lot of complex and deep questions rise up. I don’t have time to deal with all of them here. There are some wonderful books out there like “Providence and Prayer” by Terrance Tiessen. Here, I just want to bring out a few of the major ones (they are interconnected): Is God timeless or is he bound by time just as we are? Because if he is in the same boat as we are, then, how can he really be prepared for what is coming around the corner? Does God know the future? How much does he know? If he does know the future, why doesn’t he do something about bad things? Does God allow evil to exist? Is he helpless to combat evil? Is he allowing evil to bring about something good? How about when it brings a lot of pain? Do I have any free will? Can people interfere with the plan of God? Does God change his mind? Bottom line: Does prayer change things?

If such questions about God’s providence are not answered, our prayer life will suffer.

Here’s how the proper view of the providence of God can help our prayer life:

  1. God’s providential control is comprehensive, detailed, capable, loving, and best.

There is much about the providence of God in creation in the Book of Psalms and Job. But, here is a classic passage from Matthew 6     26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 10     29 “…And not one of them (sparrows) falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Miracles are also part of his equation, but they are rare.When they don’t happen, we have to trust his perfect plan.

  1. People act freely within God’s overall will.

The best way to understand that is to imagine a road trip growing up. Mom and dad will get to the destination but it’s up to us as to how we will enjoy the trip. When it comes to humans, his sovereign will is always done, even if his moral will may be rejected. God’s purpose was to bring the people into the Promised Land. This was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah one day. Nonetheless, they all had a choice in how they would live in the land.Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Even evil has been allowed to exist temporarily but the boundary is set, as in Job. In his divine wisdom and care, he allows it. Through his foreknowledge, God already knows what we or evil will do, but everything is always within his reach and control. Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

  1. God works in us to bring us in partnership with his will and he uses prayers as a major means.

This happens through scripture, prayer, (personal and corporate) and fellowship with other believers. 1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Moses prayed for God’s people and miracles happened. The early church prayed and circumstances changed. Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Jesus wanted his disciples to participate in prayer. John 16      23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This applies to our personal lives as well because we are connected to his comprehensive plan. James 4:2 “…Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” Can we change the mind of God? In his perfect wisdom and plan, he has even allowed for that. His overall plan is always intact, but it does impact the immediate plan of God.

  1. Providence, Prayer, and everything else are ultimately connected to our salvation through Jesus Christ.

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: What do you believe about prayer? Does God answer? Can he answer? Have you prayed to invite Jesus into your life to be your Savior and King?

Adopted Father by Dr. Abidan Shah

Adopted Father

ADOPTED FATHER by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  When Nicole and I first met, she told me that if we were going to keep dating that I had to meet her father. A few weeks after, she informed me that her dad was coming to college to have lunch with her and that she really wanted me to meet him. Well, I did go by the cafeteria and peeked through the window and saw this rather big and tall man sitting next to Nicole. I chickened out. Later that day, she asked me why I hadn’t shown up. I gave some lame excuse. Then, with a far more serious tone she told me that if we were going to go further that I had to meet her father. Long story short, I met him, and with just one handshake, I knew that this man loved me even though he had never met me. I had a wonderful father growing up and still do, but without the influence of Jerry Shedd, I wouldn’t be here today. He became my adopted father. He demonstrated what God does in our lives when we get saved—he adopts us into his family through Jesus Christ. Main point: Adoption is that process where after God declares us righteous through Jesus Christ that he welcomes us into his family as his sons and daughters. He lays down his gavel as our judge and comes around to embrace us as our adopted father. Now, he wants us to go out and do the same to those who need an adopted father. That’s the title of our message on this Father’s Day Weekend.

1 Corinthians 4     14 “I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do nothave many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

A major benefit of our salvation through Jesus Christ is the gift of adoption into God’s family. If there’s one writer in the Bible who understood the importance of the doctrine of adoption (huiothesia), it was the apostle Paul. 3 things he brings out about it:

  1. Adoption was no afterthought doctrine. Listen to Ephesians 1  4 “just as He (God) chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” In other words, before God made the heavens and the earth, he chose to adopt us as sons and daughters. He was not satisfied in just making us pardoned sinners or reconciled friends; he wanted us to be family.
  2. Adoption was not free. It cost God something. Galatians 4 4 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters).” For Peter and John, adoption came through rebirth (being born again); but, for Paul, it came through a change in status, our justification after being redeemed from under the law.
  3. Adoption brought tremendous benefits. Galatians 4 6 “And because you are sons (and daughters), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
  4. Adoption has the promise of more benefits to come. Romans 8:23 “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

Adoption brings great assurance to us as believers that we are not just pardoned sinners or reconciled friends; we are family, and nothing and no one can separate us.

Question:  How do you see yourself in your relationship with God? Is he your judge, your boss, or is he your father?

One more thing: Adoption also brings a new sense of responsibility towards others. Listen again to Paul’s words in I Corinthians 4     15 “…for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.”

Background:  Acts 16:1 tells us that Timothy was “the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.” The way Luke phrases that statement, Timothy’s father never converted to Judaism. Intermarriage between Jewish people and Gentiles was not as problematic as long as the Gentile person converted to Judaism. The requirements for conversion were quite high. If there was no conversion, it was strictly prohibited. You can imagine what Timothy must have endured. Probably, his mother’s people did not accept him because his father was Greek and his father’s side did not accept him because his mother was Jewish. Keep in mind that Timothy did have a father but society and circumstances must have made that role very difficult. Then, it was probably on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) that Timothy’s grandmother, mother, and Timothy himself got saved—2 Timothy 1:5 “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.” Paul doesn’t mention Timothy’s father which may suggest that he never got saved and maybe even cut off all relations with Timothy and his mother. Paul must have felt compassion towards Timothy and decided to take on the role of an adopted father in his life. Repeatedly, Paul referred to Timothy as his son—1 Timothy 1:18 “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy”; 2 Timothy 2:1 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul was protective over him, telling him in 1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” He encouraged him in 1 Timothy 6:12 to “Fight the good fight of faith…” He even warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:2-5 to avoid those who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal…” Paul’s understanding of the doctrine of adoption motivated him to adopt Timothy as his beloved and faithful son in the Lord.

By the way, the position of adopted father is nothing new. Repeatedly, we find that relationship in the Bible, even if the title is not used:

  1. Abraham adopted Lot after his father Haran died and took him along to the Promised Land. This cost him dearly because he had to rescue him and then had to give into Lot’s demand for the more fertile plain of Jordan. Ultimately, he even bargained with God for Lot and his family when God came down to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
  2. Jethro adopted Moses when he fled from Pharaoh and came to Midian. Exodus 2 21 Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. Later, he even helped Moses divide up the work of judging the people of Israel.
  3. Moses adopted Joshua and groomed him to be the next leader of God’s people.
  4. Eli adopted Samuel and taught him how to discern the voice of God. He knew that the sun was setting on his ministry and his own sons were unworthy of the task. Instead of being jealous, he groomed Samuel in his task.
  5. Samuel adopted Saul to groom him to be the next king of Israel. Unfortunately, he was too mule headed to get it.
  6. Samuel adopted David and he did everything that Saul failed to do.
  7. Elijah adopted Elisha. Elisha expressly refers to Elijah as “father” in 2 Kings 2 9“…Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” 10 So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” 11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more…13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him…”
  8. Joseph adopted Jesus after the angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. He was willing to sacrifice his reputation and comforts in order to adopt Jesus as his son.

If only more men and women will see younger men and women as sons and daughters in the faith! Once we understand the doctrine of adoption in our lives, we have a responsibility to see others who are younger in the faith as God sees us. You don’t have to become overbearing, but you can come alongside respectfully, wisely, and lovingly guide a younger person or a younger believer in their faith journey. Unfortunately, I have heard many times when an older person discouraged a younger person.

Personal Example: When my own father became a Christian, his biological father disowned him and God sent an American missionary by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander to be his adopted father. He was instrumental in sending him to seminary and became a mentor to him in life and ministry. My father was so impacted by Dr. Schelander that he named his firstborn after him. Dr. Schelander even touched my life as he was the only grandfather I ever knew.

Although, I am focusing only adopted fathers, women have also played the role of adopted mothers (Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses, Naomi adopted Ruth).

Invitation: Have you been the father you were called to be? Have you been grateful to the father (biological or adopted) that God has placed in your life? Is God calling you to be an adopted father to someone who doesn’t have one? Is God your Heavenly Father? Through Christ you can become a child of God.

John 1     12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

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?

Press On by Dr. Abidan Shah

Press On

PRESS ON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: As many of you may know, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo had to be postponed to next year because of the COVID-19 crisis. One of my favorite events is the 100-meters dash, where you see the fastest man or woman on earth. My favorite athlete in that event is Jesse Owens. He represented the United States at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, where he was not just competing against other athletes but against Hitler’s Nazi ideology. What many people don’t realize is that he grew up in a devout Christian home. When he was five years of age, he had a fibrous tumor on his chest. Since his parents were just poor sharecroppers, they could not afford any medical care. So, his mother, Emma, took a sharp kitchen knife, sterilized it, and removed a golf ball size tumor from his chest. You can only imagine the pain he must have felt. The bleeding continued for days and little Jesse Owens remembers his dad, Henry, praying for him, “Oh, Lord Jesus, ‘Please, please, hear me. I know you hear everything, but this saving means everything. She’ll die if he dies — and if she dies, Lord, we’ll all die — all of us.’” Within minutes the bleeding stopped. God answered his prayers. But, listen to Jesse Owens philosophy on running. He was told to run as if the track were on fire. He said, “I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up.” I cannot think of a better philosophy for living the Christian life – “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”That’s the title of our message today – PRESS ON – in our series on Paul’s letters to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     12 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Question: How are you running the Christian race? Will you win the gold medal? We are not competing against each other but against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Who is winning? You cannot be in the race unless you are saved. Are you saved?

Context: Athletics or competitive sports were a big part of Greco-Roman life. Altogether there were 4 Panhellenic games: Olympic (Olympia), Isthmian (Corinth), Pythian (Delphi), and Nemean (Peloponnesian region). There were also some lesser games. More than likely, Paul went to the Isthmian games because he was in Corinth planting the church the years those games were held there in AD 49 and 51. That’s why he was in tent-making because spectators came from everywhere and needed some shelter during the games. What a perfect opportunity for Paul to share the gospel!

How did the people see these games? We have historical evidence that the Greeks, Romans, Jewish people, and many other ethnic groups came to these events. Although most of the games were for males and attended only by males, there were other games for females as well. These events were not just athletic events, they were also religious events where there were sacrifices to certain deities on the opening and closing days. The athletes even believed that the gods themselves helped them to win. The games were a display of excellence (“arete”), both external (beauty) and internal (goodness). These two aspects are what made someone a good citizen. They thought that an athlete was made into the ideal citizen in the gym through education and practice. Then, the citizens came together in the “agon” or gathering to observe these ideals. The idea was “if a person looked good, then he was a good person.” What about injuries? A mangled ear, broken nose, scars, and intense exhaustion was a sign of endurance through difficulties that led to a superior character.

What would the athletes get for winning the competition? They would get the “stephanos” or foliage crown (wreaths made out of olive, wild celery, or pine), but there were also cash rewards. Depending on how great their achievements, there would also be statues, monuments, and inscriptions. What if you were to lose? In many cases, this was a disgrace. One Stoic philosopher wrote, “In the Olympic Games you cannot just be beaten and depart, but first of all, you will be disgraced not only before the people of Athens or Sparta or Nikopolis but before the whole world. In the second place, if you withdraw without sufficient reason you will be whipped. And this whipping comes after your training which involves thirst and broiling heat and swallowing handfuls of sand.”

Did Paul take interest in those games? We don’t know for sure but he used a lot of athletic imagery in his letters. More than any other sport, he made mention of the “foot race” or “trecho,” from which we get our English word “trek.” These races took place inside a 600 feet enclosure known as the “stadios,” from which we get our English word “stadium.” Nicole and I have been on the race track in Olympia. It was unreal to stand there knowing that athletes had ran there for thousands of years! There were 3 kinds of foot races: first, the “stadion,” which was a dash from the starting line “balbis” to the “terma” (finish line), about 200 meters long; second, the “diaulos,” which was a dash from one side to the other and back, about 400 meters long; and the “dolichos,” which was 24 lengths of the stadium, about 5 miles long. He mentions this race about 3-4 times in his letter to the Philippians. Nicole and I have been to Philippi, Greece. Although, there was no stadium there, there is evidence that people had interest in athletics in Philippi. By the second century AD, a “palaestra” was built there next to the agora. Participating in the games and attending them were probably seen as a mark of preserving their Hellenic/Greek identity.

With all this in mind, let’s walk quickly through Philippians 3:12 onwards:

If you remember from last weekend, Paul counted all his achievements (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) as loss (zemeia), actually unspeakable filth (skubalon) compared to gaining Christ. Now, through Christ, he has justification, sanctification, and glorification.

Now, Paul turns to the athletic imagery of a runner.

Philippians 3     12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, (dioko = move rapidly and decisively towards an objective) that I may lay hold of (katalambano = grasp) that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind (past achievements and crowns) and reaching forward (epekteinomai = stretching forward) to those things which are ahead,

14 I press (dioko) toward the goal (skopos) for the prize (brabeion) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

17 Brethren, join in following my example (symmimetai, from which we get mimic but this is in a group context), and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 whose end (telos) is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

20 For our citizenship (politeuma = citizenship) is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” The church is the “agon” in which the “arete” is achieved.

21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown (stephanos), so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

I said in the opening: “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”

Invitation:

  • How are you running the race?
  • Are you too busy fussing about useless things?
  • Are you distracted from the race?
  • Are you following the wrong athletes?
  • Are you reaching forward to the crown?
  • Are you helping others reach forward to the crown?
  • Are you in the race? Are you saved?

Single-Minded by Dr. Abidan Shah

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SINGLE-MINDED by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: How many of have ever heard or asked questions like—“What were you thinking?” “Did you not think?” “What was going through your mind?” “What possessed you to do that?” I remember a story that my parents often told about my brother when he was about 5 years old. He really wanted a slingshot, and so, they got him one; but, they told him to take it outside. It wasn’t 5 minutes before they heard a loud shatter. The beautiful new Fisher radio in the living room was in pieces. Through the slightly open screen door, they saw my brother standing in the driveway with the slingshot in his hand. They rushed outside to ask him, “Why did you do that?” His answer: “Because I had a clear shot.” In other words, his behavior did not have much reasoning behind it. That’s how many people think about why they do what they do. Here’s the message in a nutshell: We’ve often heard, “what you believe is how you behave.” That’s not exactly true. Unless the Holy Spirit has renewed your mind by what you believe, you will behave as you’ve always behaved. In other words, between belief and behavior, there is the becoming by the transformation of the mind through the Holy Spirit. We’re in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and our message is titled “SINGLE-MINDED.”

Philippians 2     1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

Question: Do your actions match your beliefs? Has your mind been renewed by the Holy Spirit? You cannot have this transformation until you are saved. Are you saved?

Context: If you remember from the past two messages, there had been some divisions among the Philippians. There some bad behavior going on. Listen to Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In other words, the last that Paul had heard, the Philippians were not standing fast in one spirit; they were not with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. We know that at least in the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche, two women who were helpful to Paul in the gospel. Not only this but verse 28-29 give us the indication that they were also facing some opposition from the outside that was causing some fears. So, what is his solution? Listen to Philippians 2:1 “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” Paul appeals to what they believe in general. But, now pay attention to Verse 2 “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” There is a Greek word that Paul uses repeatedly here—“phronema.” He uses that word about 11 times in 2 different forms. The only letter in which he uses phronema” more than in Philippians is Romans (about 17 times in 5 forms). What does that word mean? Before we look at the meaning of that word, always remember that “words get their ultimate meaning from their contexts.” Having said that, “phronema” means “mind,” “thought,” or “way of thinking.” As a verb, it means “to think,” “to judge,” or “to set one’s mind on.” Paul goes on to verse 3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Again, the word for mind is a derivative of “phronema,” which literally reads “humble-mindedness.” 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Meaning: If your mind has been renewed or reconfigured to humility, then think about others. If all this is still not enough to motivate you to get along, then verse 5 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Again, the form of the word “phronema” is here.

Principle: The point is that the remedy for your bad behavior is for the right beliefs to transform your mind.

Let’s pause here: If your behavior is not matching your belief, it’s because the becoming by the transformation of the mind through the Holy Spirit is not happening. In other words, between Belief and Behavior, there is the Becoming. This is not something novel. There is a much clearer example of this in Paul’s letter to the Romans. If you’ve studied Romans, you know that you can basically divide the letter into 2 halves: Romans 1-11 and Romans 12-16. The first half is theology and the second half is behavior. The first half (Romans 1-11) is about the depravity of human beings, the answer of the gospel, the problem of sin, death, and the law, and the place of ethnic Israel (the Jewish people) in God’s eternal plan of salvation. The second half (Romans 12-16) is about how to live in community, how to be good citizens, how to love our neighbor, how to prepare for the soon return of Jesus, and how to deal with the old traditions. What is important for our purpose is that right in the middle Paul writes Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The idea is that there should be a change of mind based on what you know is true so that you can behave differently than you did before. By the way, what is the mind? I preached a message on this last year. The Mind is made up of 7 ingredients in my opinion

  • Created by God to respond to him but damaged by sin until salvation.
  • Uniquely designed by the combination of our genetic ancestors, good and bad.
  • Softened towards God or hardened against him by our upbringing.
  • Redeemed by our acceptance of Christ or condemned by our rejection of him.
  • Renewed by our growth in Christ, his Word and Spirit, and godly fellowship.
  • Tarnished or transformed by how we handle the circumstances of life.
  • All the above under the grace and providence of God with the freedom to reject or obey him.

Here’s the principle: Theology does not automatically impact lifestyle. There has to be a transformation by the renewing of your mind through the Holy Spirit.

Illustration: I can say that I believe in gravity but if I don’t accept the basic definition of gravity that “whatever goes up must come down,” I will step off this stage expecting to fly and come crashing down. I can fly but only if I understand and use the principles of aerodynamics to counter gravity.

Question: Has there been a transformation by the renewing of your mind? This is where daily Bible reading, good Bible preaching and teaching comes in.

So, let’s quickly go back to Philippians 2:1. What are the right beliefs? Keep in mind that Paul is not getting into some deep theological truths here. He’s just appealing to what they believe in general:

  • “if there is any consolation in Christ” meaning “if being in Christ means anything to you.”
  • “if any comfort of love” meaning “if God’s love has comforted you.”
  • “if any fellowship of the Spirit” meaning “if you have experienced the blessing of being in the Holy Spirit together.”
  • “if any affection and mercy” meaning “if you have experienced God’s love and mercy in your life.”

If all this still does not help you submit to the transformation of your mind, then try the example of Jesus. What does his thinking look like? Philippians 2      6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (Better translation: “who being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to grasp after”) 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This example/worship should be transformational in your life.

What should this example/worship of Jesus cause you to do? Philippians 2:12“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Working out your salvation with fear and trembling means work for the full realization of your salvation in your life. It’s another way of saying “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” But, who is really doing the work? 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for Hisgood pleasure.

Main point: Confession does not become Conduct unless there is a Change in Cognition by the Holy Spirit.

Has this change of thinking happened through the Holy Spirit in your marriage, towards your loved ones, towards your church family, towards your neighbors, towards the lost around you?

Are you saved? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you submitted to his renewal of your mind? Is your behavior negating your beliefs?

Gospel-Centric by Dr. Abidan Shah

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GOSPEL-CENTRIC by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Do you know someone who is really into something like a hobby, sport, or some cause? They talk about it all the time. They want you to get excited about it just as much as they are. I knew someone like that when we lived back in Georgia about 25 years ago. Nicole and I were friends with this couple from her dad’s church. The man was an A-grade mechanic and was also big into Nascar. He would talk to me about it all the time about the size of the engines, the pistons, the tire pressure, and on and on. Even though I didn’t know a thing about Nascar, before long I was talking about Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Ernie Irwin, and Dale Earnhardt (No. 3). I was coming home after church and actually watching the races! Once we moved, I sort of stayed into it and then I lost interest. So also, with the gospel, there are people who are so consumed with the gospel that they can’t help but talk about it all the time. They love sharing the gospel. They are gospel-centric. When you are around such people, you become just like them. You also become gospel-centric. That’s the title of our message today in our new series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians titled “COMMUNITY.”

Philippians 1     3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…7 “… both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace…12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” 4:15 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.

Question: Paul’s ministry was gospel-centric. He wanted the Philippians to make their church gospel-centric as well. How much is your life gospel-centric? Do you think our church is gospel-centric enough? Do you know the gospel? Are you saved?

Context: If you grew up in church, you probably heard the word “gospel” at some point. How important is this word “gospel”? You may have heard it before or maybe from me that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell,” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good, of course, but “spell” means story or news. So, Gospel = Good News. But, in today’s message, we are going deeper and looking at the Greek word behind gospel—“euangelion.” It is found several hundred times in various forms in the New Testament, about 84 times in Paul’s letters, and about 9 times in his letter to the Philippians. For starters, it was not invented by Paul or by the other New Testament writers. Neither was it borrowed from the Greco-Roman world, even though it was used to refer to good news like the birth of the emperor and special decrees by him, and sacrifices were offered to the gods when the “euangelion” of victory came to them. This helps our understanding of the word but the New Testament writers had a different source for “euangelion.” It was the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 40-66, where it talks about the coming of the Messiah. Listen to Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings (Here, the Greek word for “good tidings” in the LXX is “euangelizo” from “euangelion”) to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” The gospel was rooted in the Scriptures as the promise of the coming Messiah. The world was in bad news but good news was in its way!

When Jesus came, he saw his ministry as a fulfillment of this prophecy. At the start of his ministry, he went into the synagogue and read Isaiah 61, and declared “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 6:21). Then, he went everywhere preaching the gospel of the kingdom and doing the things listed in Isaiah 61. When John the Baptizer doubted Jesus’ ministry, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 in Matthew 11     5 “The blind see and thelame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” When the gospel writers wrote about the ministry of Jesus, they also used the same word “euangelion” to refer to his coming— Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This continued in the early church where the book of Acts repeatedly used the word “euangelion” to refer to the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection. Both Peter and Paul referred to themselves as preachers/ministers of the gospel: Acts 15:7 “…And…Peter…said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe”; Acts 20:24 “…nor do I (Paul) count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

The point I am making here is that the Old Testament writers, Jesus, gospel writers, the early church, and the pillars of the church (Peter and Paul) were all gospel-centric. Their main focus was bringing the good news to the world that was under bad news.

Question: Are you gospel-centric? Is our church gospel-centric?

Let’s get back to Philippians: In what ways was Paul gospel-centric to the Philippians? He uses the word “euangelion” 9 times in this letter. Let’s quickly look at them:

Philippians 1    3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

  1. The gospel binds us in fellowship.

Philippians 1:7 “just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.”

  1. The gospel opens opportunities for God’s grace.

Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

  1. The gospel takes precedence over trials.

Philippians 1     15 “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

  1. The gospel neutralizes bitter envy.

Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

  1. The gospel demands a certain conduct.

Philippians 2    21 “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.”

  1. The gospel proves selflessness.

Philippians 4     2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

  1. The gospel increases our value.

Phil. 4:15 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.

  1. The gospel offers opportunities to partner.

Question: Is the gospel the glue that holds our fellowship together? Does the gospel take precedence over our personal trials? Are you living up to the conduct worthy of the gospel? Are you partnering with others in sharing the gospel?

Here’s the final question: What is the content of the gospel? Paul actually gives us the content of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15    1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved…3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (Meaning: Paul is not the manufacturer of the gospel) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (There’s the bad news) 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (There’s the good news) 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren…” (There’s the proof of the good news)

Question: Do you understand this gospel? Do you believe this gospel? Are you on the gospel of train? Or, have you lost your train of thought and are stranded with some poor substitutes?

Herald by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: People everywhere are living in the grip of fear and hopelessness, even believers. It’s no different than how that small group of disciples must have felt after Jesus, their Master, had been unjustly tried and then brutally crucified right before their eyes. This was now the third day since he had been laid in a tomb. Little did they know that they were about to become the first heralds of the resurrected king. Here’s the gist of our message: Fear and hopelessness will keep you from becoming a herald of the resurrected king. Love is the only vaccine that will cure fear and faith is the only key that will unlock the door of hopelessness. This is our final message of our series titled HOSANNA and it’s called HERALD.

Luke 24     1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certainother women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowedtheir faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” 8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Question: Are you living in the grip of fear? Have you been plagued by hopelessness? Have you checked the level of God’s love in your heart lately? Are you plugged into his truth? Do you know Jesus? He loves you and he is the Truth. Are you saved?

Context: In order to truly understand how the disciples were feeling after the crucifixion of Jesus, we need to backup to Luke 23    44 “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” All this was so incredible, so bizarre, and so mind blowing, that people knew right away that something really bad had just been done. Luke tells us several things:

  • The Roman centurion said, “Certainly this was a righteous man!”
  • The whole crowd that was there began to beat their breasts and started leaving. It was a sign of mourning.
  • How about those who followed Jesus? Luke 23:49 “But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”
  • Some were probably shell-shocked – “I can’t believe it.”
  • Some were probably angry – “Those hypocrites killed him.”
  • Some were probably afraid – “I think they’ll come after us.”
  • Some were probably blaming each other – “Where’s the mighty Peter?”
  • Some were probably weeping. Those tears kept rolling down their face.

Now the question – “Who is going to get him down? We can’t just let him hang there. It’s Sabbath and that would make it 3 days before we can get his body. But, who’s going to do it?” No volunteers. They were afraid. The disciples and the followers were so gripped with fear that 2 men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had to come to their rescue. They were wealthy prominent men, members of the Sanhedrin who had a soft spot for Jesus. They had to pull some strings with Pilate to make it happen. Where were the big strong manly men? Luke 23     55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils…” The men were nowhere to be found.

Principle: Fear can be paralyzing. Fear is a choice weapon of the enemy and if I may add, “he’s using it very well in our nation.” Listen to what it says in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Application: With this crisis facing our nation and the world, we need to exercise caution, follow the guidelines, but we don’t need to live in fear. That’s what the world wants us to do. If we’re truly honest, that’s where many of us are. How about you?

Luke 24:1 “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certainother women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.” What made them leave the comfort of their homes and step outside? One word, LOVE. It was their love for their Master that enabled them to brave the authorities, the religious leaders, and any danger lurking in the early hours of the morning. How many ladies would agree to going into a graveyard in the early morning while it’s still dark? We’re not even talking about worrying about religious authorities who killed your leader.

Principle: Love will overcome fear. When you love someone, you’ll do anything for them. But there’s more, listen to 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”You ask, “I don’t get it. How can love drive out fear?” Keep in mind that this promise is given to us in the context of our relationship with God. God is the biggest source of fear. But, when his love is in our hearts, then we know that we don’t have to fear him. If we don’t have to fear him, there is no one or nothing else that’s worthy of our fear.

Application: Are you living in fear? It’s only the love of God in your heart and your love for God that will drive it from you. The reason we fear this, that, and the other is because we don’t fear God enough or love him enough.

Now, as we read in the opening, the women came to the tomb with spices in their hands. The first thing they noticed was that the stone had been rolled away and the body was missing. Then 2 angels stood by them in shining garments. Of course, they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth. Listen again to what the angels said to the women in Luke 24     5 “…Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” What was their response? 8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. What a change! They believed and went from being hopeless to becoming heralds of the resurrected king.

But, listen to their response? 11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. Fear was still gripping them but their real problem was unbelief.

Principle: If you have a faith problem, the words of the Bible will feel to you like an idle tale. You will live in hopelessness.

But one person’s response was different. 12 “But Peter…” In the past 24 hours, there were a lot of “But Peters!”

  • Luke 22:54   Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance.
  • Luke 22:58   And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”
  • Luke 22:56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.” 57 But he (Peter) denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”
  • Luke 22:58 And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”
  • Luke 22:59   Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” This one didn’t stop there. Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Back to Luke 24: 12 “But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” He was willing to believe and hope came in.

Invitation: Are you living in hopelessness? Let’s recap: Fear and hopelessness will keep you from becoming a herald of the resurrected king. Love is the only vaccine that will cure fear and faith is the only key that will unlock the door of hopelessness. Do you know the resurrected king? Are you his herald?

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