Debt by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEBT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Someone said, “There are 3 kinds of people in this world: the have’s, the have-not’s, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-have’s.”I think most of us are in that last group. To be honest, debt is not all that bad. It’s debt collection that is bad. Having to payback what you owe is not that fun. I found some memes online that I thought were really funny: “Run for your life, the debt collectors are coming”; “I will find you and I will get my money”; and “I paid off all my debts and now no one calls me.” Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is not as much about debt as it’s about debt collection. Of course, by that we are referring to our sin debt and by cancellation of that debt we are referring to forgiveness of sin. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Unless you understand how God has cancelled your sin debt towards him through his son Jesus, you will never truly understand how to cancel the sin debt of others towards you.

Matthew 18     23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and tookhimby the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. Can you see yourself in this story? Are you the servant who was forgiven a big debt but went out and took his fellow servant by the throat for a small debt? Have you ever experienced the forgiveness of sins? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is very basic and clear on the surface but it’s very baffling and complicated when studied in depth. Think about it for a moment: 

  • Why is Sin described as a debt? Does God loan us a certain amount of holiness?
  • What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us?
  • Why is it so hard for us cancel the debt of others to us?
  • Is it really that we cannot cancel a single sin debt or is it more the fear that if we let this one go, more will follow, it will happen again?
  • Can I be saved if I refuse to pardon the sin debt of others towards me?

There is no way that we can answer all those questions in the next 20 minutes. That’s why this is will be a multi-part message. We will take on a couple of those questions today and the rest next time. (A word to the wise – “Don’t miss these messages. They have the potential to change your life and relationships.) So, let’s begin:

Question #1 Why is Sin described as a debt? The common mistake people make in studying this parable is that they quickly jump over the word “debt” and start talking about “sin.” Of course, this parable is about sin (our sin towards God and others sin towards us), but we cannot truly understand the force of this parable until we understand the significance of debt in that society. To understand this, let’s back up and look at the context of this parable in Matthew 18     21Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” We’ve all heard what that implies. Jesus was not saying 70 X 7 = 490. He was saying unlimitedtimes. All that is true but there’s a reason why Jesus used the number 7 and not 3, 5, or 10. Because 7 in the Old Testament is the number of fulfilment. It is the number of Sabbath. It is very significant when it comes to debt.Listen to Deuteronomy 15     1“At the end of everyseven years you shall grant a releaseof debts.2And this isthe form of the release: Every creditor who has lentanythingto his neighbor shall releaseit;he shall not requireitof his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’S release.” Not only that but even debt slaves were set free. Leviticus 25     8“And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenthdayof the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement…10And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout allthe land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 17Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for Iamthe LORD your God. 19Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety… So when Jesus said to Peter, “not just seven times but seventy times seven,” his listeners knew that he was hinting at the Year of Jubilees.But something else–23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.Not just the land of Israel. Exodus 19:5“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earthisMine.” In other words, it doesn’t matter who has the title, God owns it all.

To us, it doesn’t seem like a big deal but to those people it was nothing short of a revolution.Why? Because the Pharisees had created a system called “prozbul.” According to this system, the debt collector could give someone’s debt over to the court. This way it was no longer an “individual” holding the debt but a court and did not have to be forgiven in the seventh year. Now the creditors could lend in the sixth year and know that their money would be safe and the borrower could borrow money to do their work. On the surface, this seemed like a win-win, but can you imagine what this did to those in big debt. They could never get out of debt. The debt would keep mounting until it would be a foreclosure or slavery. Think about Jesus’ parable for a moment. How much did the servant owe the king? Ten thousand talents. A talent was about 60-90 pounds depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). So, 10,000 talents would be about 225 tons. Let’s say a talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. 10,000 talents would be 60 million denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. Herod’s annual salary was 900 talents. It would take Herod 10 years to pay back as long as he didn’t spend at all. How long will it take for the servant to pay back 60 million denarii? It’s impossible.

When Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he talked in terms that the average person could understand. In the Lord’s Prayer inMatthew 6:12“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Also, remember the parable of the Two Debtors, one owed 500 and the other only 50. Both were forgiven and Jesus asked “Which one would love more?” You can imagine how this must have impacted the people–“That person has been holding the lien on my property for the past 200 years. I wonder what he will do now.” Here’s a reminder:  Are you generous towards those who are less fortunate? I believe in Capitalism but Generous Capitalism. At Clearview we have many very generous people. How about you?

Now we understand the gravity of why Jesus talked in terms of debt but the question still remains – “How is sin a debt against God?” In the Bible, sin is defined by metaphors:

  • Sometimes it is a burden (bear your iniquities – Lev 20:20) and Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden.
  • Sometimes it is a stain (sin be like scarlet – Isaiah 1:18) and it has to be washed (Eph. 5:26).
  • Sometimes it is slavery (Egypt as house of bondage) and it has to be set free (Romans 6:18)
  • And some other metaphors

Sometimes it is also described as a debt. Lev. 5:1“If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and isa witness, whether he has seen or knownof the matter—if he does not tellit,he bears guilt.” It has the idea of assuming a debt. This idea became very prominent after the children went into Babylonian Exile. They had lost their land. Don’t misunderstand: They didn’t lose it to the Babylonians but to God.Remember, God had told them “the land is mine” and “the whole earth is mine.” They were in debt because of sin. They were in the land but it was God’s land. They still had a debt to pay which was impossible to pay. The prophets repeatedly talked in the language of earning your wages.Jeremiah 31:11For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.” Zechariah 9:12“Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare thatI will restore double to you.” Why did Jesus come? He came to pay a debt that we owe to God that we can never repay. Matthew 20:28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus went about offering forgiveness of sins to all those who came to him. He undermined the authority of the temple priests and messed up the nice system of financial security of the Pharisees and the religious leaders. No wonder they hated him. 

Listen to how Paul describes our salvation inColossians 2     13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Invitation: There are no bargain pardons. God himself had to pay our debt of sins by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins. Have you received his pardon? Do you understand how everything you have is his? Are you holding someone’s lien in your hand? Are you saved?

Desperate by Pastor Abidan Shah

DESPERATE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: It’s amazing how God lines up our activities at Clearview. He knew that this weekend Curt Mulhollen will be called home and so he set up our 24-hour prayer vigil during the time that he was dying. Also, as many of you know, Curt was very active with our Men’s Monthly Breakfast. It happens(ed) to be this Sunday morning. Then, today’s sermon in our series on the parables of Jesus is on prayer. This week many of us prayed in desperation to God for Curt. Our message today is titled “DESPERATE” and it will teach us how to come to God in our time of need and trust him to answer what’s best. We will be looking at 2 parables by Jesus on prayer. There are similarities and there are differences but the main point is the same –God eagerly hears the prayers of desperation by his children. We as believers should eagerly seek and expect the help of our Heavenly Father and trust him that he will answer in his way and his timing. 

Parable #1 – Luke 11     5And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessnesshe will rise and give him as many as he needs…13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much morewill yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Parable #2 – Luke 18      1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ” 6Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7And shall God notavenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?

Question:  Do you have a desperate need in your life today? Are you praying to God for it? Even more so, are you expecting an answer from God? Is he your Heavenly Father? Have you prayed to receive Christ as your Savior?

Context:Both these parables are known as the “how much more” parables. They each tell a story and then draw a contrast between the antiheroes and God. People mistakenly think that these parables are about persistence in prayer. We need to persist in prayer but that’s not the point of these parables. The point is that God will do so much more for us compared to the antiheroes who scornfully and grudgingly did so much less. It’ll make more sense as we look at them side by side:

Parable #1Parable #2
SettingFriendship
Friend goes to a friend at midnight to borrow 3 loaves of bread for another friend who is visiting.
Court System
A widow repeatedly badgers a judge to get justice for herself.
AntiheroSleeping Friend
 
“Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you?”
 
This is understandable because houses back then were basically a one-room affair. Imagine waking up your children, especially babies.
Unjust Judge
 
“who did not fear God nor regard man.”
 
This is also sort of understandable because judges have to be unbiased. At the same time, this judge did not even fear God, which means that he was totally heartless.
OffenseInhospitality
 
Don’t misunderstand. The charge of inhospitality is not against the friend who was asleep. It is against the friend who asked for bread. The clue hinges on the meaning of the Greek word “anaideia” – “yet because of his “anaideia”he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” Typically, translators have translated this word as “persistence” or “importunity” (annoying persistence). It almost makes the friend who is asking seem noble for coming in the middle of the night and waking up his neighbor friend. Scholars have rightly concluded that its true meaning is “shamelessness.” One more thing: It’s not “shameless persistence.” This word is always negative. The sleeping friend gave the bread because of the shamelessness of his friend. What does that mean? We will see next.
Delayed Justice
 
Don’t misunderstand: The charge against the judge is not about justice but about delay in justice. Listen to 3“…she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while.” Why was he delaying? Maybe he was looking for a bribe. Or maybe he was in cahoots with the adversary. Either way, the story leaves us believing that he wasn’t right.
ResponseOut of Contempt
 
8I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessness
he will rise and give him as many as he needs…”

 
The friend ends up giving bread but not because of friendship. He gives it out of contempt, disgust, and scorn over his lack of hospitality and common courtesy!Apparently, this friend who asked for bread knew that his friend was coming but he did not plan ahead. His shamelessness is not in waking people up at night but in failing to be a good host in planning ahead for his visiting friend.
Out of Annoyance
 
5“…because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ”
 
The judge ends up giving justice but not because of justice. He gives it out of annoyance, irritation, and exasperation over her constant badgering and pestering!
PointUnlike the Sleeping Friend who gave out of contempt, God is our loving Heavenly Father – Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much morewill yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”Unlike the Unjust Judge who gave a verdict out of annoyance, God is our loving Heavenly Father – Luke 18:7And shall God notavenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”

How do you pray? How do you see your Heavenly Father? Do you doubt his love and mercy? Do you think he looks down on you when you ask in desperation? Does he give so you would stop pestering him? Absolutely not! 

He is a loving father. He wants you to come and ask what’s on your heart. He wants you to believe that he will answer. He will not call you shamelessness. He will not call you a pest. He wants you to seek and eagerly expect the best from your Heavenly Father. 

Are you doubting his best? Listen to Luke 11:9  “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asksfor a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Are you losing heart? Listen to Luke 18      1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…8I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.

God’s answer may not always be what we ask. It will be better than what we ask and it will come at a time we do not expect. Trust him.

Are you saved? That’s the prayer he is waiting to hear from you. Ask Jesus to save you today.

Fearful Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you saved?

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

Vicious Cycle by Pastor Abidan Shah

VICIOUS CYCLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Have you ever made the same mistake twice or thrice or more times? Have you ever found yourself saying – “I knew better.” I love spaghetti but spaghetti and white shirts are magnets. It seems like every time I eat spaghetti I am wearing a white shirt and it’s a matter of time before there’s a red spot on my shirt. It’s a vicious cycle. That is very very trivial compared to what is happening in our country. We are about to make the same mistake that other ancient cultures that were very advanced for their time also made and they suffered total extinction. We are talking about the issue of abortion. We think that it’s no big deal but we are about to repeat a very vicious cycle of self-destruction. The message is called “VICIOUS CYCLE.”

Deuteronomy 12     29“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

Question: Are you aware of the debate that is taking place in our country today regarding late term abortion? New York passed a bill that would allow abortion after the 24thweek and as late as the 40thweek. By the way, there were eight other states that already had no gestational limits – Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington DC. According to the CDC, only 1.3% of the abortions are after 21 weeks. How many is that? If there were 638,169 abortions per year recently, that’s about 8000 late term abortions in a year in America. It’s right there with gun related murders and yet abortion is okay but guns are not. Last week, many of you saw the video of delegate in Virginia introducing a similar bill in the House of Delegates. Where do you stand? What do you think about life? It’s an issue that affects all of us. Do you have eternal life? Are you saved?Pray: Holy Spirit – give us biblical convictions. Help us to stand for the innocent, especially those who don’t have a voice. Save the lost.

Context: As many of you know that we went to Israel in January. When I was planning the tour, I purposely chose to include some Middle Bronze cities. Middle Bronze is the period between 1800-1550. This is the time period immediately following the time of Abraham and before the coming of Moses. This was very important to me because they represented the time period before the people of Israel entered Egypt. So, we went to 6 cities that came from that era – Megiddo, Hazor, Tel Dan, Beth Shan, Jericho, and Jerusalem. We wrongly think that the Canaanites or the Amorites who lived in the land that God promised to the children of Israel were just a bunch of savages. We only focus on the part of the people of Israel getting scared of the people in the land and suffering from the “grasshopper syndrome.” What we fail to realize is that they had every reason to be afraid of them. What do we know about the Middle Bronze Canaanite Cities?

1. Around the start of the Middle Bronze period, the city life was revived in the land of Canaan. For some reason, these cities began to grow and advance. They build large fortifications around their cities. They built walls that were as large as 50 feet tall, with each stone about 8-10 feet long. But they were very smart. They would build the outer walls and then build a man-made mountain followed by another wall. They built the walls in such a way that the Mesopotamian battering rams were useless against them. This was all psychological warfare. It was meant to discourage the enemy and make them feel emotionally defeated. Did it work?Deuteronomy 1:28“…Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, ‘The peoplearegreater and taller than we; the citiesaregreat and fortified up to heaven…”

2. They had some advanced water storage facilities. When an enemy would surround a city, they would first try to cut off the water supply. So, the Canaanites dug deep into the ground to find water through springs. They built cisterns to collect rain water. They even had underground drainage system. We saw similar structures in Megiddo, Hazor, and Jerusalem. They had superior hydraulic engineering that are still a work of marvel. 

3. How about farming? They knew how to plant wheat, barley, and fruits like olives, grapes, pomegranates, and everything you can imagine. They knew how to store food. They also knew how to raise sheep, cattle, camels, and all kinds of farm animals.

4. When it came to pottery, they had learned how to turn clay on a wheel. Now they could mass produce pottery. Museums have some incredibly pieces of pottery.

5. Something much more incredible happened. They learned how to make bronze. They learned how to alloy copper and tin with 90% copper and 10% tin. Now weapons could be shaped better. They could be made sharper and sturdier. (Pics of spear blades)

6. They were also known for their export business. With Egypt – grain, olive oil, cattle, timber, copper, etc. They even learned how to make glass. We find glass beads.

7. Finally, they created the ancestor of our alphabet. They didn’t want the Egyptian hieroglyph or the Mesopotamian cuneiform. They came up with 22 signs for each sound. Later the Phoenicians, the descendants of the Canaanites/Amorites standardized them. 

What’s the point of all this?The Canaanites or the Amorites were a very advanced people. They were at the height of their power, technological advance, and prosperity. Nonetheless, their time was up.Archaeologists still don’t have any solid answer why they collapsed. Was it drought? Was the threat of Egypt too much to bear?

Leviticus 20     1Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who givesanyof his descendants to Molech…” Meaning:  He was a Canaanite god to whom the people offered their children as a sacrifice in the Valley of Hinnom, to the South of Jerusalem. Archaeologists/guides will tell you that they did not find any bones of children in this area. But, the descendants of the Canaanites/Amorites were the Phoenicians who later established a colony in Carthage, North Africa (Tunisia) who practiced child sacrifice. We can learn about the Canaanites from them:

  • Cleitarchus, a Greek historian of Alexander the Great, wrote: “Out of reverence for Kronos, the Phoenicians, and especially the Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity if they are especially eager to gain success.” 
  • Siculus, a Greek historian, wrote – “There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.”
  • Plutarch, a Greek writer, added that “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”
  • There are tophets, burial sites for the urns with markers. One such says that the parents sacrificed a defective child with the hopes of getting a healthy one. Isn’t that the same with amniocentesis if congenital abnormalities are suspected? 

Let’s come back to Leviticus 20    2 “…‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who givesanyof his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has givensomeof his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. 4And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he givessomeof his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, 5then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.”

Deuteronomy 12     29“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess…” Meaning: The Middle Bronze Cities of Canaan were under God’s judgment and he was going to use the Children of Israel to destroy them. Instead, they got scared of their height and their city walls. Listen again to what God said to them –30take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” Child sacrifice was a major sin against God. That’s why God destroyed them and wanted the land cleansed. Now you cannot find any trace of the Canaanites. If I were building a church building on a piece of property and adjacent to that property, there used to be some cult site. What’s the first thing that I would do? I would clean up the place. Later Josiah cleansed that valley as well.

Same thing with the Phoenicians: People tried to claim that all this was just propaganda by their enemies. Dr. Josephine Quinn (Oxford University) said in 2014 – “Perhaps the reason the people who established Carthage and its neighbours left their original home of Phoenicia – modern-day Lebanon – was because others there disapproved of their unusual religious practice.

Will we go down the way of the Canaanites, the Amorites, and the Pheonicans?

Psalm 139     13For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfullyandwonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And thatmy soul knows very well. 15My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, Andskillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there werenone of them.

What do you believe about the baby inside the womb? They are not a hindrance but our example to come to Christ.

 Matthew 19    13Then little children were brought to Him that He might putHishands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Are you saved? Are you willing to come to Christ as a little child?

We’re going to see the importance of handling this issue and how we as believers should respond when faced with the topic of abortion. The title of this weekend’s message is “VICIOUS CYCLE.” Have we, like so many around us, fallen into the vicious cycle of sin? How do you view the issue of abortion? Are you saved?

Thankful for His Plan by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

I. A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY 

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

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

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

II. THE DIVINE PLAN 

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

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

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

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

III. A DEEP FAITH

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

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

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

Counting the Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COUNTING THE COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

COUNTING THE COSTIntroduction: Have you ever heard the expression “counting the cost?” It means to evaluate whether or not something is worth doing. Last Monday I had to “count the cost” when we went with our Converge College and Career Group to a water park. They have this ride there called the “Daredevil Drop.” It’s a 76-foot foot tall water slide. I saw it as Nicole and I were going down the “Lazy River.” Something inside me said, “Won’t that be cool if you could do that and let Nicole video it! Imagine how much fun that would be! Imagine how many likes you could get on Facebook and Instagram! Imagine how many more people would come to Clearview just to see the Daredevil preacher!” So, we went and stood at the base and I watched people slide down, even kids. I counted the cost and it wasn’t worth it! I chickened out. I couldn’t give up my fear. So also, when it comes to our salvation, we have to count the cost. We have to ask ourselves, “What all am I willing to give up in order to be saved?” Please don’t misunderstand. Giving up doesn’t save us. Salvation from start to finish is the work of God. It’s only by grace through faith in the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb that we are saved. But, being willing to give up everything reveals whether or not we understand the gospel. It demonstrates how sincere and how committed we are to follow Christ our king.

 Mark 10   17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” . . . 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” . . . 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

Question: Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Are you willing to give up all in order to follow Christ? What is keeping you from following Christ? Are you saved?

Context: This series on the gospel has been impactful on so many levels. It has opened our eyes to the true meaning of the gospel. It has confronted our complacency and tolerance for sin in our lives. It has challenged us to live out the faith that we claim to have. And, more than anything, it has demanded from us unconditional allegiance to our Savior and King Jesus. In this message, we’re going to meet a young man who came to Jesus with all the right intentions but he walked away from eternal life because he was unwilling to give up everything he had. 3 things that we will learn from this passage:

I. JESUS DID NOT IMMEDIATELY LEAD HIM IN THE SINNER’S PRAYER.

Mark 10    17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”18So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No oneisgood but One, that is,God.”

Did you notice that Jesus did not immediately lead him in the Sinner’s Prayer? He was not ready for it. He was under conviction but he was not ready to make a commitment to Christ. For starters, he had a wrong understanding of Jesus. Jesus was much more than just a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh, the Promised One, who had come to give his life for our sins. There are people who have prayed a prayer but never got saved because they didn’t know who they were praying to or what they were praying for.

By the way, the problem is not with the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Some people don’t like that term. I had a person say to me, “There is no Sinner’s Prayer in the Bible.” I asked him if he knew that the word “Trinity” is never found in the Bible and Jesus never used the word “grace” in the gospels. The real issue is what are we saying in the Sinner’s Prayer and do we mean it.If someone thinks that just repeating a prayer is going to save them, then they are greatly mistaken. But, if someone truly repents and acknowledges that Christ is the only way to salvation, then the next step is to pray to God. What does it say in Romans 10  9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Who do you confess to? Ultimately, to God. So, you have to talk to God and tell him that you believe. What is talking to God? Prayer. What happens when you truly pray and confess? Romans 10:13For“whoever calls on the name of the LORDshall be saved.”

Bottom Line: Jesus did not immediately lead the young man in some rote prayer. He challenged his understanding of the gospel. He challenged his understanding of himself. Jesus was much more than a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh.

Application:How were you saved? Was it just a rote mechanical prayer or did you truly understand the gospel that Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again to save us from our sins? Have you ever prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King?

II. JESUS CLEARLY LAID OUT THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP.  

 19You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,’ “Do not murder,’ “Do not steal,’ “Do not bear false witness,’ “Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”20And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

At first glance, it seems that Jesus was telling this young man that by keeping the Ten Commandments, he could have eternal life! Was Jesus calling him to works salvation? Absolutely not. Paul declares very clearly in Galatians 2:21“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousnesscomesthrough the law, then Christ died in vain.”So, why did Jesus say this? Some have argued that Jesus was trying to get the young man to see the hopelessness and emptiness of keeping the Law. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the context that tells us that Jesus or the young man acknowledged that. Others have argued that Jesus was trying to get him to reject his works righteousness first. Unfortunately, Jesus did just the opposite. 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” That’s not taking away “works righteousness,” that’s adding more “works righteousness!”

Why did Jesus bring up the 10 commandments and then tell him to sell everything and take up his cross and follow him? This young man knew that eternal life was not in keeping the Law but he was looking for an eternal life that was cheap and easy. He wanted to have the stamp of salvation and still carry on his old lifestyle. He wanted to get his certificate of the kingdom and still not obey the king. Jesus knew his heart and what he was saying to him was that “Yes, I will pay for your salvation. It’s free to you but following me will never be cheap and easy. There will be a cost to discipleship.”

Listen carefully:It cost Jesus his life to buy your pardon. If you follow him, it may cost you your life as well.” Don’t misunderstand: You don’t have to go sell everything and give to the poor before you can be saved but you be better be if your king tells you too.

Application:Have you counted the cost of discipleship? What are you willing to give up for your Savior and your King?

III. JESUS REVEALED THE SECRET TO FOLLOWING HIM. 

Mark 10   22But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

By the way, have you noticed that 3 different expressions were used for salvation?

  • The young man asked,“what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
  • Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
  • The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?

This means that the account was not just for the rich young ruler but all of us.

Now, what was Jesus’ response to his disciples?  27“. . . With menit isimpossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”If only that young man had done what Peter did when Jesus found him, this account would have a different ending. Remember, Peter had not caught anything all night and Jesus told him to launch out into the deep and drop their nets. He obeyed and there were so many fish that the net was breaking. Then it says in Luke 5:8When Simon Peter sawit,he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”Then Jesus said to Peter, 10“. . . Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” It was the Holy Spirit who enabled Peter and the rest (Andrew, James, and John) to forsake all and follow Christ.

Invitation: The question is not “Are you ableto follow Christ but are you willingto follow Christ?” If you are willing, he will do the rest. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you willing?

Foundation: God’s Vision for Clearview by Pastor Abidan Shah

FOUNDATION: GOD’S VISION FOR CLEARVIEW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Foundation

Introduction: Last week was very exciting in the life of Clearview. After months and months of waiting, we got word from the building contractor that the concrete was going to be poured Wednesday morning at 4am. We decided to get here by 9 to film it but unfortunately it was all over by then. But imagine if the whole church would have shown up at 4am Wednesday morning. Imagine if I was dressed up in my suit and tie ready to preach. Imagine if Ryan was ready with his announcements and John was ready with his guitar. What if the moment they started pouring the concrete, the praise team starting leading the people in worship. What if we all stood on the side and had a church service the whole time with singing, preaching, and everything while the concrete was being poured! That would be odd, wouldn’t it! That’s exactly what happened 2500 years ago when God’s people returned from exile and laid the foundation of the temple.

Ezra 3   10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Before we begin this message, here are a couple of questions to consider: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Some of you are saying, “Oh, I see the new building coming,” or “I saw the plans on the way in this morning.” Folks, I’m referring to much more than brick and mortar. I’m referring to the building up of lives, marriages, families, young people, and communities. I’m referring to changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? Can you see that? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read from Ezra describes the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. You may remember when I preached a series on Nehemiah couple of years ago how in 587 or 586BC Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the walls of the city, and especially destroyed the ancient temple of Solomon. Not only that but he also dragged the Jewish people 700 miles away into exile to Babylon. They had no hope of ever returning back and there was nothing left to return back to. Everything was gloomy and hopeless. But God had promised them that in his timing he would bring them back and he did. In 539BC (about 50 years later) Cyrus the king of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire and set the people free to go back home to Jerusalem. Not only that but Cyrus even returned the items that had been taken out of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and placed in the temple of his gods. He also provided support and commanded the people to do the same for those who were going back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. How amazing that a pagan king would do that!

Here’s a principle worth remembering: No matter what is happening in the world, no matter who is in charge, God is still in control. He is still sovereign and he never abandons his people.

Personal Reflection: Eleven years ago in 2007 when we stepped out on faith from the old church building, little did we realize what was about to happen. We had no clue that the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s was about to hit our country and the world and here we were without a church building! But here’s something amazing – we didn’t miss a single service! God took care of us as a church! He knew what was going to happen and he was perfectly in control.

I love this quote from Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (now OMF): “Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.”

Application: Do you believe that God is faithful and that he’ll take care of you? Are you God’s work in God’s way? Can you see God’s hand upon Clearview?

Ezra 3   1 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem.

Background: About 50,000 returned in the first wave to Jerusalem and they were united in their mission and vision.

So also at Clearview, we’ve been united and we need to stay united. What is our motto at Clearview? “MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE.” What is our mission? “To lead all people into a life-changing, ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” What is our vision? If you’ve been to the new members’ class, you’ve seen our list. It includes – seeing marriages healed, homes transformed, young people following Christ, communities transformed, God’s people digging into his word and worshipping him in joy, and on and on.

2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.

Background: The first thing we see is that they built the altar. This was very important because the one thing they were unable to do in Babylon was offer any sacrifices. This was similar to what David had done when he had captured the same ground about 500 years earlier. He also built an altar to God. Why was this important? Because the altar was a reminder to God’s people that they could not get near to God without sacrifices.

So also at Clearview, we are centered upon the cross of Christ. We believe that without the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we cannot come near to God. Hebrews 13:10 reminds us that Jesus is our altar. What do we offer on him? 15 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Two things we offer on the altar of Jesus –our sacrifice of praise (worship) and the sacrifice of giving to God’s work and sharing with those in need.

3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. Meaning: In spite of the threats of the enemies around them, they kept on worshipping God. No better time for me to say than today – “Thank God that we live in this great nation where we have the freedom to worship according to the dictates of our conscience.

7 “They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.” Meaning: This was not all just talk but people actually supported the work financially. We will hear on that in just a moment. 8 Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites. All these names remind us that all of us have a part to play in the future of our church.

Then came the day for laying the foundation. As the builders got ready to lay the foundation of the temple, the priests and Levites lined up in their attire with their trumpets and their cymbals and they led the people of God in worship and praise. 11 “…Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.” Something else happened12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.” In other words, not everyone had the same reaction. Some wept and some shouted and people heard it!

Lot of things are happening at Clearview – Everyday I hear from someone how God is using this church to touch their lives. Friday, a man told me that God used Clearview to save his marriage. Another person told me that they wish they had found Clearview much earlier. A young person told me that he looks forward to get here. It’s his favorite place in the world! We have people who are tuning in to the services all over this community. We have people as far away as Arizona who watch us. The other day I called my parents and they told me that people tell them what I preached on that morning. As you know my messages are on my website. We have people who are coming from all over the world!

Let me re-ask the questions I asked in the opening: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Can you see how God is building up lives, marriages, families, young people, and our community? Can you see the changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 7, 2017)

bef00a78-d76b-461a-be58-7037520c4569This is the time of the year when many people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to some surveys, about 70% are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions like growing in Christ, reading the Bible, praying, serving in church, etc. Another year comes and goes and there’s zero progress. In Luke 9 Jesus met three such individuals who were buried in the graveyard of excuses. Let’s see if we can learn something from their encounters:

  1. Grave of Comfort – Verse 57 “…Someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple willing to follow Jesus anywhere. In actuality, he was a young man looking to tag along Rabbi Jesus for a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices. Jesus knew his heart and bluntly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not calling him to give up his Sleep Number bed or his Tempur-Pedic pillow and wander around and live under some tree like a hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble. Instead, Jesus was telling him – “To follow me, you have to choose the uncomfortable life. Previously, it was comfortable to tolerate some old sin, habit, grudge, behavior, or desire in your life but following me will require giving them up. How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
  2. Grave of Obligations – Verse 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” What a strange request! Was the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! No. What the man was really saying was “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I will follow you.” He was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s heart too and responded trenchantly – 60 “…Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How could Jesus be so harsh?! Was he actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Again, don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. But in this situation, the man was using his obligations to keep him from obeying God. Jesus was telling him – “Life will never settle down. There will always be another obligation. Follow me now or never.”
  3. Grave of One Last Glance – Verse 61 “…Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’” This sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? – “At least my loved ones deserve to know that I’m leaving.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s real intention. He wanted to take that one last look to make sure that this was a right decision. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who took that fatal glance and like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What do they see? Some see pain and feel they can’t leave until they’ve healed; some see regrets and feel they can’t leave until they’ve fixed things; some see failures and feel their past would repeat again; and some even see the disappointed faces of their loved ones and feel they can’t let them down. Jesus warned him – 62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church told me that when he used to plow with a mule, he would find a fixed point in front and keep his eyes on it. When he looked straight ahead, he had straight rows behind him but if he turned back, he was all over the place. If your spiritual life is all over the place, it’s time to look ahead to Jesus.

By the way, before you can leave your grave of excuses to follow Jesus, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death by asking him to be your Savior. Happy Resurrection!

FUTURE AND HOPE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

FUTURE AND HOPE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 12, 2016)

future-and-hope“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Last month Americans all across the land proved with their ballots that they were dissatisfied with the direction of our country. What is being called “one of the greatest political shakeups in history” is a glimpse into the soul of the real USA. Americans have overwhelmingly declared that they do care about the economy, security, and morality of their country. They do want a better world for their children and grandchildren. Once again they are seeing a future and a hope. These are indeed exciting times in our nation’s history. Along with the other positive changes, here are some more that we cannot afford to ignore:

  1. Unite as Americans – It’s obvious that we are more divided as a nation today than we’ve ever been. Wicked forces have done everything they could to tear us apart along cash, class, and color lines. It is vital that we bring about a healing in our great nation. We will have to reach out to each other and show love and compassion. The world is watching to see if we are still the “United States.” The wise king Solomon wrote, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  2. Equip our next generation – It’s imperative that we train our kids in politics, economy, and morality just as much as we train them in sports, dance, and music. We cannot shelter them from the issues facing our nation and the world. Instead, we should prepare them to change the world for the better. If they are to continue the good changes that are coming, we will have to teach them to lead with wisdom and courage. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
  3. Prepare for a spiritual awakening – The recent shakeup proves once again that God is not through with our nation. When we study our nation’s history we notice that He sent the greatest spiritual revivals when things were really low. He loves to work in dire situations because it brings all the glory to Him. We cannot forget to give Him thanks for giving us a second chance. But that’s just the beginning. We will have to return to the promise in 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.”

Abraham Lincoln said, “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” The dream is still alive.

When God’s Will is Done by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD’S WILL IS DONE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whengodswillisdoneIntroduction: We’re in the 4th message in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father.” This morning we will focus on the next line – “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and the message is titled – “When God’s Will is Done.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: The hardest thing for me this week was coming up with a title for this message. I tried everything from – “How to find God’s will for your life” to “When God guides your life” to “What is God’s plan for your life” but the more I studied this passage, the more I realized that this petition is not about finding God’s will for our personal lives. It’s about submitting to God’s grand will for the entire world. It’s about telling God, “I am setting aside my prayer for guidance and direction in my life and I want to embrace your sovereign will to redeem and restore this world through Jesus Christ.” Now someone may say – “I guess our life doesn’t matter.” To the contrary, when we pray this way, God is not only pleased with us but in His grand will He reveals His place for us. But first the midpoint of the circle of life has to shift from us to God. It’s not you in the center waiting for God to guide you but God in the center carrying out His will and showing you where you fit in.

Question: What concerns you more? God’s will for your life or God’s grand will period. Many of us are praying – “God, show me your will for my life” when we should be praying – “God, carry out your will in this world. Do what you have determined to do. I want to be with you. Not that you need me but I need you.” When we pray this way, not only do we discover God’s will for us but we pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Application: Are you seeking for God’s will for your life? Are you waiting for God to reveal His perfect plan for your life? Maybe it’s time to rephrase your prayers – “Not my will but thine be done.” Are you saved? I Timothy 2:4 tells us that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That’s God’s first will for your life.

3 things we will understand about “God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.”

I. WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD? 

Background: To understand it, we need to ask the same question we did in the last message about the “kingdom of God” – “What did it mean to Jesus’ audience when He mentioned “God’s Will?” If they knew their Old Testament, they knew several things–

  • God has a secret will and a revealed will. Although William Perkins, a Puritan theologian, gave these designations much later in the 16th century, they are still valid. Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
  • God’s secret will includes God’s hidden decrees by which He governs His universe. It is His plan for how He will complete what He promised to Adam and Eve, began with Abraham, through His people Israel, by His Son Jesus, and into the New Heavens and the New Earth. Sometimes God even lets us in on some of His secrets through prophecies in the Bible but most of the times He chooses to keep them hidden from us. Isaiah 46 9 “…I am God, and there is none like Me, 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.’” Daniel 4:35 …He (God) does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”
  • God’s revealed will includes God’s clear commands for our moral behavior in life. It is His precept for how we should live. God clearly reveals them to us through His Word. Deuteronomy 30   11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

Both these wills are important and they go hand in hand – If you remember in Genesis when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, what was God’s revealed will for them? They should love him, forgive him, and not hurt him. They disobeyed God’s revealed/moral will. But later on what happens? God raised Joseph to become the second in command in Egypt. Then there was a great famine in the land and his brothers came to Egypt looking for grain. When they found out his true identity, they were scared for their lives but do you remember what Joseph said to them? Genesis 50:20 “…as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to…save many people alive.” There you see God’s secret will in action.

Application: Are you obeying God’s moral and revealed will in your life? Are you living your life in a way that pleases God? Are you trusting God’s hidden and all-powerful will in your life? Are you resting in the fact that God will work all things together for good? When we begin to understand the depth and power of God’s will (both secret and revealed), we lose all fear and anxiety in this life.

II. WHICH WILL IS MENTIONED HERE? 

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Background: What did Jesus mean when He gave this petition? Did He mean the secret will or did He mean the revealed will? Was Jesus referring to God’s perfect will for the world or was He referring to God’s moral expectation of me? There is a big difference. If it is His secret will, then we are saying – “God, do what you need to do to accomplish Your purpose in this world.” If it is His reveled will, then we are saying – “God, help me to do what I need to do to obey your commands in Your Word.” As much as I would like to say it’s both or focus on God’s revealed and moral will, the real focus is God’s secret will. If you remember, the first 3 petitions are in the 3rd person and divine passive. This means that “Your will be done” is not a request to God but just a humble declaration. What we are saying is “God, may your secret will be done in Your world. We surrender ourselves to your divine purpose.” By the way, we find this same petition in the Kaddish (Ancient Jewish Prayer) – “Exalted and sanctified is God’s great name in the world which He has created according to His will, and may He establish His kingdom in your lifetime.” Meaning: Not only has God in His sovereign will created this world and glorified His name but, one day soon, in His sovereign will, He will also establish His kingdom among us. All of that is part of His secret will for His world.

But before we move on, listen again to the whole petition – “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What does that mean – “on earth as it is in heaven”? Some people misunderstand this. I did too. They think that what Jesus is saying here is that – “In heaven God’s will is always and perfectly done but that’s not the case on earth. People rebel against God and refuse to obey His commands and follow His plans. So we are asking God to try to do on earth what He’s always able to do in heaven.” That’s problematic. It assumes that somehow God is not in control over what’s happening in this world. I think about what’s happening in our world and in our own nation today. Think about this whole HB2 mess that’s going on. I’ve wondered in my heart – what is God up to? He does not approve this. Why is He allowing this? Is it beyond His control? Is it just man’s free will running its course? Listen carefully – Yes, human beings have a free will to choose God and His way or rebel against it. Having said that, every moment and in every situation, God is in perfect control over this earth and not a single thing is going on without His permission. Do you believe that? Listen to–

  • Proverbs 16:4 “The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.”
  • Psalm 37   12 The wicked plots against the just, And gnashes at him with his teeth. 13 The Lord laughs at him, For He sees that his day is coming.
  • Psalm 2   1 Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The LORD shall hold them in derision.

When we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, it is not with a tone of defeat and despair. It is with the rock solid assurance that God is perfectly in control of what’s going on and He will work His perfect secret will in His own way and time. We have total faith that God is in control and His purpose will prevail.

Application: Does it frustrate you as to what is happening in our world today? Do you get fearful for your children and your grandchildren? Trust God and know that He is perfectly in control. His plan is not for a moment in jeopardy. He is still on His throne. We may not be able to see His secret will but we can trust Him to be in control.

III. HOW CAN WE FIND GOD’S WILL FOR OUR LIVES?

I’m always amazed and amused as how people decide what is God’s will for their lives! They base it on coincidences, feelings, dreams, conversations, etc. I’m not suggesting that God cannot speak through these things. Let me repeat what I said earlier – first the midpoint of the circle of life has to shift from us to God. It’s not you in the center waiting for God to show you His will but God in the center carrying out His grand will and showing you where you fit in. In other words, when we approach God and say to Him – “‘May your will be done on earth and heaven’ – I am here to trust you and obey you. I am unworthy of anything. I am just grateful that you have saved me. I want to do whatever pleases you.” When we pray such a prayer of submission, God in His sovereign grace turns the box of jigsaw puzzle over and shows us the whole picture and then gives us our tiny piece and says “I’ll help you finish your part of the puzzle.” The Jewish people were not praying for some special individualized prayers. They were simply praying that God will do what He had already begun and what He was intending to complete in His time.

It all comes down to the song – “Trust and Obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” Stop looking for signs and things to line up. What if they don’t line up tomorrow?! Then what?! Instead, Trust His secret will and obey His revealed will. Trust that He has the whole world in His hands and Obey whatever He has called you to do.

Are you saved? Are you trusting and obeying

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