HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on October 14, 2017)

How to handle toxic people - Abidan ShahMy last article, “How To Handle Toxic People,” drew more responses than any of my pervious articles! Evidently, it touched a nerve and God used it to meet a real need. Thank you for all the words of appreciation! Some of you raised a question that I feel the answer may benefit others as well – “Daily we go through minor toxic encounters that leave us feeling upset to one degree or another. Does that mean that for each of those incidents we have to go through the same process of praying for 20 days until we are free of the toxin?” Of course not. Toxic people and minor toxic encounters are two different things. The first are individuals who perpetually cause us to feel miserable and the second are chance happenings that inject just enough toxin in us to ruin our spirit. Although the latter are not as harmful as the former, don’t assume that they are completely harmless. If left untreated, those emotional fender-benders can cause us to ruin others’ spirits as well. Let me explain below.

Imagine several scenarios: a kid at the drive-thru messes up your order; someone cuts you off on the freeway; someone fails to thank you for your hard work on some project; and you wave at a friend who doesn’t wave back with the same energy. Or, how about the big one: You put a post on Facebook that you think should go viral and only 3 people like it…What do you do next? Each of those encounters have the potential to initiate an unhealthy conversation within you. For the kid at the drive-thru: “Kids these days are so disrespectful.” For the person who cut you off: “I hope he/she gets caught.” For the friend who didn’t seem that excited to see you: “I’m looking the other way next time.” For those who failed to appreciate your hard work: “I am not appreciated.” And yes, for Facebook, one of those: “If you are my true friend, you’ll comment below and repost.” Such negative self-talk will surely ruin your attitude and keep you from living up to your potential. Unfortunately, such unhealthy conversations don’t stay locked inside for long. Sooner or later they spill over on to the unsuspecting individuals in your lives. In other words, your quest for justice will not rest until someone is convicted, sentenced, or punished. Since you cannot prosecute the original perpetrators, you will substitute those innocent, weak, and docile individuals in your life. Your kids, your husband, your wife, your church family, your neighbor, and your best friend will pay for a crime they did not commit.

What is the solution? First, recognize when your spiritual equilibrium has been disturbed. In other words, acknowledge the gnawing feeling that some wrong may have been committed against you. Second, immediately take charge of your internal conversation. 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us that we should be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” A runaway thought is like a runaway train. There will be casualties. Third, refrain from judging the motives of others. 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” Ultimately, only God knows the true intents of each human heart. Fourth, pray for that individual. Nothing will neutralize hate and anger faster than sincere prayer. Follow the example of our Savior: Luke 23:34 “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Don’t misunderstand. There may be situations where more than prayer is called for but there’s a big difference between restitution and retaliation. Fifth, practice the lost art of the unsent angry letter. Abraham Lincoln would often write his “hot letter” but postpone sending it until he had cooled down. He never sent most of them.

 

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah 

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 19, 2017)

It was a perfect end to a busy week. I had accomplished everything on my agenda, which is rare. Now it was time to head home and catch up on some well-needed family time. My face was smiling, my shoulders were relaxed, my mind was clear, my steps were unhurried, and I was humming Old Satch, “What a Wonderful World.” Then it happened. In a matter of seconds, the smile vanished, the shoulders became tense, the mind turned muddy, the swag was gone, and I think I began humming Old Hank, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” The family time was nothing like I had envisioned. If truth be told, it was a rather miserable weekend. You ask, “What brought such sudden and miserable change?” Well, I ran into a toxic person. You know the type who pushes you into Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, the fictional bog in which a person sinks under the weight of sin, guilt, shame, and discouragement. Have you ever been a victim of a toxic person? Let me share with you how to handle them:

First, recognize them for who they are. Toxic people come in all types. Dr. Travis Bradberry (double PhD in Clinical and Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence 2.0) identifies 10 kinds of toxic people: The Gossip, The Temperamental, The Victim, The Self-Absorbed, The Envious, The Manipulator, The Dementor, The Twisted, The Judgmental, and The Arrogant. Most of these designations are self-explanatory except for maybe the Dementor and the Twisted. The former are the kind who suck the life out of the room by their negativity and pessimism and the latter are out to hurt you, make you feel bad, or get something from you. Bradberry warns, “toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs…Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.”

Next, always be prepared to face toxic people. To think that we can avoid them completely is unrealistic and naïve. They might be in the family, neighborhood, workplace, or social organizations (even church!). Trying to ignore them or keep them at arm’s length will only aggravate the situation and attempting to mirror their behavior will only lead to disaster. Instead, learn their behavior patterns and establish the appropriate emotional boundaries in your mind. Don’t get smug like me and stumble into a bad weekend. Also, avoid any toxic song, show, movie, book, or event in your life. Such things only add unnecessary toxicity to your life.

What if the damage has been done? Many years ago I allowed a toxic person to steal my joy. It took a toll on my health, family, and spiritual life. God in his mercy sent a mature person into my life who immediately recognized my distress. He pointedly asked, “Do you want this toxin out of your system?” At first I pretended to be fine and then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride. This godly person told me that he too struggled with it and he found help in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” He said, “Start praying that God would bless this person who has been toxic in your life. Pray for the next 20 days for physical, spiritual, and financial blessing in their life. Be aware that the first time you pray that it will be impossible to mouth those words. Do it again the next day and you might feel sick to your stomach but don’t stop. Eventually, it will become easier and easier. Then, there will come a day when you will pray and actually find yourself praying sincerely as if for a friend. Somewhere towards the end of the 20 days, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you are free. The toxin has cleared out of your system.” Guess what! It actually worked!

Ultimately, sin is the toxin and only the grace of God through Jesus Christ can heal your life. Give it a try today.

Looking for Grace and Truth by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOOKING FOR GRACE AND TRUTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

looking-for-grace-and-truthIntroduction: This weekend I am preaching the second message in our Christmas series “Believing is Seeing.” It’s about believing in Jesus and once you do that, He comes alive and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives. Today’s message is titled – “LOOKING FOR GRACE AND TRUTH.”

John 1   14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Bridge: When we travel long distance, the kids love to play the “I Spy” game. I spy something blue or I spy something starting with the letter S. It’s amazing once someone declares what we should be looking for, how everyone starts seeing that object everywhere. In this series we are looking for Jesus in the writings of Moses.

Context: If you remember from last weekend’s message, Jesus told His opponents “Moses wrote about Me.” The question is – how and where did Moses mention Jesus? The clue is found in John 1:14 “…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And again in verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Every time Jesus before He was born is mentioned, grace and truth are mentioned. Here’s the point – If you want to find Jesus in the writings of Moses, you have to start looking at every place where “grace and truth” come together. In other words, you have to play the “I spy” game and start looking for grace and truth and you will see Jesus.

Question: Do you need grace and truth in your life? Grace is God’s compassion in your life. Truth is God’s unadulterated fact about you. You need both to make it in life. You can’t have one without the other. Which one do you need more right now? Grace or Truth. Are you saved? The truth is that you are a sinner condemned to die and grace is what’s going to save you.

In this message we will go all the way back to Genesis 3 where we find the first mention of grace and truth:

I. THE GRACE OF GOD IN CREATION

Genesis 1   26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Background: This was unilateral decision by God. The counsel was within the Godhead – Father, Son, and Spirit. God did not need to create us. He wanted to create us.

Psalm 8   1 “O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!…3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him…”

By the way, this is not just about Adam and Eve but about each of us – We are the creation of God’s grace.

And who created us? Jesus! Listen to these verses:

John 1   1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him…”

Colossians 1   16 “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

Ephesians 3   8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ…”

Hebrews 1   1 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…”

Application: How do you see yourself? How do you see your success? It is all by God’s grace.

II. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SUBTLETY OF SIN

Genesis 2   16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Background: Why did God give us restrictions? To show us our limitations; to remind us that we are not masters of our own destiny; to keep us responsible to the One who created us.

We don’t know how long their obedience lasted but one day they had a visit.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

At this point, the man should have stepped up and intervened but he didn’t. Instead, he allowed his wife to be deceived by this crafty being.

Genesis 3   4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Did you see how Satan twisted the words of God? He still does that.

Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

That is the truth about sin – it is appealing to the appetite, to the senses, and to our pride. Not much has changed. Listen to 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Application: Do you understand the truth about sin? Do you see how Jesus has laid out the standard of obedience for us? Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

III. THE GRACE OF GOD IN COMING FOR US

Genesis 3   8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

Background: If I were God, I would have sent my destroying angel to annihilate and obliterate the creation, especially Adam and Eve. Either start over or go back to how things were. God could see the future as He can see the future now. Why deal with these fallen human beings and what they will do for ages to come? Why give Satan any more opportunity to wreak havoc in the world? Instead, God came down. More specifically, Jesus came down. How do we know that? 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Isn’t that amazing that when man and woman fell into sin, it was Jesus who came down in grace?

Titus 2   11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Titus 3   4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

I can go on and on but the point is simple – The triune godhead reached down to us in grace through Jesus Christ.

Application: How do you see Christ? Can you see His grace towards us in not only creating us but also coming to us in grace when we sinned?

IV. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SERIOUSNESS OF SIN

Genesis 3   16   To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

Background: I don’t think I can add any more to the fact that God will not ignore sin or gloss over sin. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”

Application: Do you think the preaching against sin is harsh? If you read the Bible carefully, it’s not harsh enough! How do you see sin in your life? Do you understand how high is God’s standard of holiness?

V. THE GRACE OF GOD IN MAKING A WAY

Genesis 3   14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

Background: Think about who is saying these words? It is Jesus. Who is He saying these words about? Himself! He is prophesying His own death and the plan of redemption. That is grace, isn’t it? Romans 5   15 “…For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many…17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)…21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Invitation: Have you received the grace of God in Jesus? Have you first received the truth about sin? Both come from Jesus because He is grace and truth.

Loving the Unlovables – Part Two

LOVING THE UNLOVABLES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
unlovables2

Introduction: This morning we are in part 2 of our message – “Loving the Unlovables.” It’s easy to love people who love us. It’s easy to love people who are just like us. But, it’s very difficult to love people who hate us and want to hurt us. If I may say it, it’s impossible to love them without the love of Christ in our hearts.

Matthew 5   43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is the crescendo of the Sermon on the Mount. R.T. Kendall, a famous Bible teacher and one time pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, said (I’m paraphrasing), “If the Sermon on the Mount is the Swiss Alps (beautiful and majestic mountain ranges in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and France) of the Bible, then the passage we just read is the Matterhorn or the highest peak in the Swiss Alps.” The other passages are important but this one is the most difficult of all. Listen again to verse 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies…” It goes totally against our visceral nature, our natural human tendency. Let me repeat what I said earlier – “It’s easy to love people who love us, but it’s very hard to love people, be kind to people, do good to people who do not love us or hate us, or even want to hurt us. Our natural inclination is to payback, to fire back, or to return hate for hate.”

Question: Who comes to your mind right now? Is there someone in your life who is difficult to love? Do they seem to bring out the worst in you? Do you wish that if this person were not in your life, it would be so much better? Again, please don’t misunderstand – this passage is not about bombing terrorist hideouts and fighting back when someone threatens your life, family, or country. This passage is about loving people who are difficult to love. The Holy Spirit has brought you here for a reason. Are you saved? If not, you are an enemy of God. Christ came to reconcile you.

3 questions we will try to answer from this passage on how to love the unlovables:

I. WHO CAN BE OUR ENEMY?

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies…”

Background: First, who is our neighbor? According to Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Neighbor was anyone who was part of the family of Israel. You were obligated to love them. Enemy was anyone who was not part of the family of Israel. They were outside your blood family or religious family. In other words, you’re not going to see them at family reunions or church service. You are connected to them because of some obligation or need or some situation. You may see them at work, neighborhood, or community but other than that you have no bond with them.

Let me clarify – not everyone who is not blood family or church family is necessarily our enemy. There are people we come across with daily that we get along with. Here’s a positive example: In our flight from New York to Tel Aviv, we got stuck because of the snow. When you are around the same group of people in the same situation for an extended period of time, you develop a bond. I sat next to an orthodox Jewish man and we talked and laughed and got along well. It was positive. But here’s a negative example: On our way back from New York to RDU, our flight was delayed about 7 hours because of the snow. Finally, when we got on board, the airhostess had a very bad attitude. She had a scowl on her face and she snapped at everything and everyone. If I’m not wrong she even called me a name under her breath. She was the enemy. I had no obligation to her. I didn’t want anything from her. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane and get away from her and even report her.

By the way, on a scale of 1 to 10, that’s a 2. But, the enemy could be much worse. A 10 is someone who wants to kill you. Hopefully none of us have any 10s in our lives! When Jesus said those words I can almost visualize hands going up – “Do you mean that I have to love these Romans who desecrate our holy ground, who kill our people, who control our lives?” “Do you mean that I need to love these filthy Samaritans who harassed our ancestors, who don’t believe like we believe?” “Do you mean that I need to love these immoral tax collectors and prostitutes who corrupt our culture, who have no regard for God?” You can almost visualize the crowd thinning out. “I can’t do that. That’s too much. No one can do that.”

Question: Who comes to mind right now? Who do you wish was not in your life? Is it a neighbor, co-worker, someone you came across at the grocery store. Is it because you come from a different cultural, geographical, political, or theological background? Is it because you have different skin pigmentation? Is it because they are envious over your looks? Is it because they are envious over why you keep getting blessed and they don’t? “Why do you have a better life, better education, better job, better home, or a better car? Why does it always work out for you and not for them?” Let me flip that around – Whose enemy are you? Who considers you as a thorn in their side? Both situations are just as sinful – to have an enemy or to be an enemy.

II. HOW SHOULD GOD’S CHILDREN RESPOND TO OUR ENEMIES?

44 But I say to you, love your enemies…

Background: How do people typically respond to their enemies? Our basic response to our enemies is to retreat – just get away from them. Just like I felt towards that airhostess. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane. Sometimes people just try to repress it. Or sometimes it is retaliation. We want to give them exactly what they give us. If they curse us, we want to curse them back. If they hate us, we want to hate them back. If they spitefully use us and persecute us, we want to do the same to them. Sometimes we even apologize but it is false reconciliation. I like to call it “disguised retaliation.” You apologize to someone but add something like this – “I’m sorry for whatever I did to you.” It’s another way of saying – “You are being over sensitive.” Or, like this man who sent me an email – “I just want to tell you that I have forgiven you for all the hurt you caused me.” Then he threw in a couple of verses, preaching to me. The problem is that this man was still angry over a decision I had to make against him. He was still retaliating. I was still his enemy and he was paying me back. The only time you ever say “I forgive you” to someone is if they need to hear that from you.

So how should we respond to our enemies? Listen to what Jesus said – 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”

In other words, you cannot ignore them, avoid them, argue with them, gossip against them, or use disguised retaliation against them. You show real, genuine, godly love towards your enemy by blessing them instead of cursing them, doing good to them instead of hating them, and praying for them instead of spitefully using and persecuting them. That’s easier said than done!

Who is your model? Your Father in heaven! Listen to verse 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Meaning: God is not just a holy God but He’s also gracious. We are to be like Him.

Application: How do you respond to your enemies? Ironically, I was on this passage when this airhostess was being rude. The Holy Spirit convicted me and reminded me to put this into practice. It was hard. First, I had to pray for her. Next, He told me to speak to her on the way out.

III. WHY DOES IT MATTER HOW WE RESPOND TO OUR ENEMIES? 

48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Background: The Greek word for perfect is “teleios.” Some people argue for sinless perfection but that’s not the meaning here. In fact, James 3:2 counters this very well – “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” In other words, “We all sin but if anyone can avoid sinning by words, he is a perfect man.” The meaning of the word “teleios” is also mature. What Jesus is saying is that when you begin to love your enemies instead of hating them, bless them instead of cursing them, and pray for them instead of paying them back, you will be like your Father in heaven and be more spiritually mature.

The airhostess was being immature but it was up to me to prove my pedigree. Will I be just like her or will I be truly spiritually mature and prove that God is my Father. The plane landed and the Holy Spirit told me once again to speak to her. So I turned around with a genuine smile and asked her if she’ll be able to make it home. She replied – “I can’t. This one-day trip has turned into a five-day trip. Now, I’m looking for someone to watch my kids.” I wished her well. Thank goodness for this passage or I was planning on reporting her. I’ve been praying for her ever since.

Sometimes things are not that easy. Some years back an individual broke my trust and went on a rampage against me, talked trash about me, and just hurt me. For a long while I was carrying this heavy load. It affected my personal life and spiritual life. One day I was talking to a friend of mine and he told me if I want to be set free from this. I said – “Of course I do.” Then pray for him. “Of course I do. I pray that God will convict him and lead him to repentance and all that.” He said that’s not what he was talking about. “Pray that God will bless him.” It’ll be hard but that’s the only answer. I tried it and guess what it worked! It took 3-4 weeks.

This is what Jesus did on the cross. He prayed Luke 24:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” G. Campbell Morgan once remarked that he expects to see in heaven the very men who nailed Jesus to the cross. After all, Jesus prayed for their forgiveness.

Invitation: Whom do you need to pray for today? Could it be that you are blessed because your enemy has actually prayed for you? Are you saved?

When Someone Offends You

WHEN SOMEONE OFFENDS YOU by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whensomeoneoffendsyouIntroduction: This weekend we are back in our series on the Sermon on the Mount. Many of y’all have told me how much you’ve missed this series! I have too. For those of you who may not know – about a year and a half ago we began a series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels. Many people have a very limited knowledge of the life of Jesus. We know a little about His birth, a couple of His sayings, a few of His miracles, and snippets about His death and resurrection but beyond that Jesus remains a mystery. We need to know Jesus. He is the very foundation of our faith! So far we’ve only reached halfway through the Sermon on the Mount. We do take breaks during special holidays. But, you can do the math – maybe in 4-5 years we may get through all the parables and miracles! Today’s message is from Matthew 5 titled – “When Someone Offends You.”

Matthew 5   38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is the 5th antithesis that Jesus gave in His Sermon on the Mount – “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” In the previous 4 antitheses (go back and listen or watch them), Jesus told His listeners that He did not come to destroy the Law or abrogate the Law but to fulfill the Law and go beyond the Law. He came to raise the bar of righteousness. In others words, Jesus was saying, “Following Me will not absolve, exempt, or release you from obeying God’s commandments. In fact, it’s going to be tougher. The standards will be higher.”

Turn the other cheek

Turn the other cheek

Today’s message is a tough one. John Stott called it “the most admired and the most resented part” of the Sermon on the Mount. Listen again – 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. I don’t know about you but immediately I think of ISIS or the terrorists or some armed robber or rapist or child molester. Is Jesus telling us to sit back and let evil people run over us? Does being a Christian means being a coward, a wimp, or a pushover? Absolutely not. This passage is not about bombing terrorist hideouts and fighting back when someone threatens your life and family. This passage is about how you respond when someone offends you and tries to take advantage of your kindness.

Question: Are you a “tit for tat” kind of person? Have you ever held a grudge against someone for offending you or taking advantage of your kindness? Do you like to say things like – “You don’t know who you’re messing with”? Are you a Spirit-led person or a self-led person? Because without the Holy Spirit you cannot do this. Are you saved?

Jesus gives 4 scenarios on how to respond when someone offends us. Let the Holy Spirit begin to soften your hearts and make you more and more like Christ.

I. WHEN SOMEONE HUMILIATES YOU

39 “…But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

Background: Some people have tried to argue – “if someone were to slap you on the right cheek, it meant that they were more than likely using their right hand. This means that they were slapping you with the back of their hand. This was considered far more insulting.” There is some truth to that in the Mishnah (Jewish Oral Tradition) where it prescribes that if someone slapped you they would have to pay 200 zuz but if they slapped you with the back of their hand, they must pay 400 zuz. But I don’t think Jesus was trying to make it this complicated. The real point of this scenario is the insult of being slapped. Your face is you. It is very personal. Slapping someone’s face is slapping his or her identity. I think that being slapped is worse than being punched. Sure the punch may hurt far more but a slap in the face is an attack on your personhood. It is humiliating. That’s where we get the phrase – “slap in the face.”

The normal human response to insult is to insult back. You may have heard of Churchill and Lady Astor. They were always at each other. One time Lady Astor called Churchill “disgustingly drunk.” To which he replied – “Tomorrow morning I’ll be sober but you’ll still be ugly.” Another time – Lady Astor told Churchill – “If I was married to you, I would poison your tea.” To which he replied – “If I was married to you, I would drink it.” Most insults are not that witty and funny. They are quite painful and incite anger.

What Jesus is telling His disciples is this – “When someone insults you, don’t return insult for insult. If you do, then you are stooping to their level. Turn the other cheek.” This does not mean stick around and get some more insults or refuse to speak up. It simply means – refuse to insult back. There is far more dignity and strength in standing tall in the face of humiliation. By the way, Jesus didn’t just preach this. He also practiced it. In John 18 the high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine but Jesus told him to ask those who had heard Him. At the point in verse 22 “…one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?”

Application: How do you handle insults? Do you give tit for tat? Do you turn things over to God or do you stoop down to the level of their offender?

II. WHEN SOMEONE IS HEARTLESS TO YOU 

40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.

Chiton

Chiton

Himation

Himation

Background: If you think the last one was tough, this one is tougher. First of all, the tunic or “khiton” was an individual’s inner garment. It was a long or short-sleeved shirt that extended to the knees or ankles. The cloak or “himation,” on the other hand, was the outer garment. It was much more visible and very essential to keep you presentable and warm. In fact, according to the Old Testament, the coat could not be kept as a pledge overnight. In this scenario, someone is so mean that they would even take the very clothes off your back! What kind of a person would do something like this? Obviously, someone who is very inconsiderate! In this situation you can counter sue them for their inner garment and even win. Now they would be left naked.

Don’t misunderstand – This is not about clothes and there are times that you have to go to court and sue to retrieve what is rightfully yours. What Jesus is telling us here is – “Don’t return meanness for meanness. In fact, show them grace and mercy.” By the way, Jesus didn’t just preach this. He also practiced it. Matthew 27:35 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”

Application: How do you handle inconsiderate people? Do you counter-attack or do you take it God? Many of us never give God the chance to show grace in our lives. Listen to Exodus 22 26 If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. 27 For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious. Are you missing out on God’s grace in your life? 

III. WHEN SOMEONE IS HATEFUL TO YOU

41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.

Background: According to Roman law, the troops could order their Jewish subjects people to carry their luggage or supplies for them. If you remember, Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus because He couldn’t do it because of loss of blood. They could even seize their animals for personal use, sometimes never to return. The Roman soldiers often abused this right. Sometimes even the Roman rulers and the Senate had to reprimand their troops for abusing the locals. The reason they felt they could do this is because they looked down upon the Jewish people. Jesus definitely had this situation in mind. The word “mile” is a Latin tern for “one thousand paces.”

What Jesus is telling His listeners is – “He is mistreating you because he thinks he is better than you. Don’t stop at the first mile. Ask him if he needs help with the second mile.” Wow! By the way, Jesus didn’t just preach this. He also practiced it. On the night when Jesus was betrayed, Judas brought a great multitude with swords and clubs to the Garden of Gethsemane. At that point Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. Listen to what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 26 52 “Put your sword in its place… 53 …do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? Then He healed Him.

Application: How do you deal with people who are condescending to you? How do you take it when someone talks down to you? Do you try to talk down to them or do you give your case over to God?

IV. WHEN SOMEONE HUSTLES YOU

42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Background: I think this is the toughest one. No one likes a fraud. No one likes to be deceived. I don’t think Jesus is telling us to encourage bad behaviour and bad habits. In this verse the person He has in mind is probably one who makes his living by begging from others. They can’t manage their finances. They can’t control their bad habits. They live off the generosity of others. Jesus tells us to give it and don’t turn away when they want to borrow from you.

This does not mean you need to hand your car keys to a drunk or your house keys to a thief or your bank account to some con. What it does mean is that when someone comes to you asking for a few bucks to buy a sandwich, don’t launch into a federal investigation. When someone says – “Can I borrow a few bucks to meet some need?” – don’t make them sign on the dotted line.

This whole section is under the heading – “You are the Salt of the Earth. You are the Light of the World.” This means that the only way this world will remain livable is when Christians refuse to get offended and show grace to those who are least deserving. The idea of gentlemen and gentle ladies is a Christian concept. In a world full of revenge, pay backs, and get even, only Christianity has the answer.

Definition of a Gentleman by Robert E. Lee – The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.”

Only through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit we can have such an attitude. Listen to I Peter 2 21 “…because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;

Are you saved?

THE DIFFERENCE THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKES IN OUR LIVES

January 10-11, 2015

The Difference the Holy Spirit Makes
This weekend we will be hearing a message titled “THE DIFFERENCE THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKES IN OUR LIVES.”

We often hear message after message about how we should do this and not do that. This Sunday we are shaking things up a little bit. You will be hearing brief testimonies about what happens when the Holy Spirit gets hold of a person’s life. This does not mean that we never falter. Each of the men who will be sharing will be quick to remind you that they are not speaking because they have mastered the art of the Christian life. Instead,it’s only by the grace of God that they are standing.

This is one message that you cannot afford to miss, especially men. In America today we desperately need men to stand up and be counted as leaders and followers of Jesus Christ.

Don’t miss this message. Invite your friends and family to come along.Pastor Shah…………..

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Two Gifts Worth Opening

 This morning in our series on the Life of Christ we come to John 1 for our message titled – “TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS.” All of us at some point have received a gift from a loved one that has been a let down and a disappointment. We were hoping for this but we got this.

John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read John tells us twice about two gifts that were given in Jesus. Listen again to verse 14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Now listen also to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Twice the two gifts that came in Jesus are mentioned – Grace and Truth.

But now here’s an important question: When John says in verse 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,” is he just talking about himself and the first disciples and the early church? Were the gifts of grace and truth just for those among whom He dwelt physically? Too bad for us who were not born in the first century. Wish you could’ve seen Jesus. You would’ve received grace and truth. The answer to that is earlier in verse 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.” Meaning: In the context, the gifts are for everyone who has ever received Jesus as Savior and has become a child of God. If that wasn’t clear, John makes it clear in verse 16“of his fullness we have all received.” “All” even includes some who will receive Jesus this Sunday morning. Your gifts are waiting for you to open!

Application: Question to those who claim to be Christians – “Have you opened your gifts?” Of course, I’m not talking about what’s sitting under the tree. I’m talking about the gifts of grace and truth. “Are you helping others open their gifts?” Question to those who’ve never received Jesus – “Do you realize the wonderful gifts God has wrapped for you in Jesus?” My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will make these gifts so appealing that you will not wait even a single moment but tear into them!

Let’s open these gifts –

 1. PREPARATION FOR THE GIFTS

Listen to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

What was the Law of Moses? The Law (nomoj) in this context refers to all the rules and regulations in the Pentateuch that God had given to his people Israel through Moses.

Why did God give the Law? Initially, he gave the law to temporarily protect his people from the Canaanites. In Genesis 15, it talks about the Moses by Gustave Dore“iniquity of the Amorites.” He gave His Law so that Israel would not become like its neighbors (Galatians 3:19). If you want to know what the Canaanites were like, just read the Old Testament law backwards. But there was another reason why God gave the law. It was to help them realize that they could never live up to God’s standards. The law was a measuring stick. The people were to stand against the measuring stick of the law and every time they did they realized they were still far from God’s standard of holiness. They needed help. The law was never the final destination. It was only a reminder of how sinful they really were and how much they needed a mediator. That’s why every law came with some sacrifice when broken. Some animal had to pay the price because the people couldn’t keep the law.

Paul says the same things but he takes it a step further – Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. Romans 7:8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. I Corinthians 15:56 “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” What is Paul saying in these verses? Not only is the law a temporary protector and a measuring stick but it’s also an instigator to sin.

For e.g. Put up a sign that says “Fresh Paint Do Not Touch.” What do people do?

For e.g. Imagine a glass filled with dirty water. If that water has been sitting still for some time, it appears clean until you stir it. Now what happens? It shows all the dirt.

Don’t misunderstand – Laws are good for society. They keep people in check. But they cannot change people.

In other words, the law was a good thing but also a house arrest, a nice prison. It was also a constant reminder of our inability to reach God. It was a Pot stirrer. In all, the law only brought a constant feeling of inadequacy, guilt, burden, and frustration.

What did the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees, do? They failed to understand the real intent of the law – temporary protection, measuring stick, and stirring of more sin. Instead, they pretended to keep the law with integrity. They compared their righteousness with each other and became self-righteous. They made many more laws of their own with plenty of exceptions and exclusions. This only brought hypocrisy.

Someone might say – okay, the Law for the Jewish people. How about the non-Jewish people? Even though we’re not Jewish, we have the law of our conscience. Romans 2:12 says, “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.” This has the same effect as a Law of Moses. It also brings condemnation, guilt, burden, frustration, and hypocrisy.

Application: Are you trusting in the Old Testament Law (10 Commandments) or in the law of your conscience or in the law of society to justify you before God? It will only result in guilt, burden, and frustration. It will never save you nor set you free.

2. PRESENTATION OF THE GIFTS 

17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Background: John shows a contrast between the giving of the law and the coming of Jesus Christ. Grace and Truth came with Jesus.

woman-caught-in-adulteryWhat is Grace? In Greek the word is carij. It is found 155 times in the New Testament of which hundred are in Paul’s writings, some in Peter’s writings, and just 30 in the Gospels, mostly in Luke’s writings but never in Matthew or Mark. In fact, grace in John is used only four times and just in these four verses. Why is grace not mentioned more than that? Listen carefully – the reason the idea of grace did not have to be mentioned is because Jesus is Grace. Listen to verse 14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” To see Jesus in his glory is to see Grace. We try to define grace with trite phrases like “unmerited favor” and “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” All those are fine but if you want to define grace, define Jesus. He was perfect and yet he received imperfect sinners. He was God’s Son and yet He became like us. He committed no sin and he laid down his life for our sins. That’s grace.

What is Truth? The word alhqeia for truth is used 100 times in the New Testament and, in contrast to grace, more than half of them are found in John’s writings. While Grace has to be lived out, truth has to be spoken. Jesus told the truth – about God, about sin, about righteousness, about the cross, about heaven and hell, and so on.

PhariseesHow did the Jewish people respond to Jesus being the truth? They accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath and other laws. He told them the truth about their hypocrisy in keeping the law. Listen to John 5 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” He told them the truth about the real condition of their hearts. Listen to John 8 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Then He declared without hesitation, qualifications, or apology in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Then they said – “Let’s kill Him.”

Application: Do you want to be set free? Come to Jesus. Only he has the grace to forgive you unconditionally and only he has to truth to set you free completely. Grace is not just an idea and truth is not just a fact. Grace and truth are one person and His name is Jesus.

3. POURING OVER OF THE GIFTS

So far we have seen that the law prepared us for the gifts of grace and truth and Jesus presented Himself as the gifts of grace and truth but that’s not the end. In fact, that’s just the beginning.

16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Background: I went to look up the meaning of that phrase “grace for grace” carin anti carin and this is what a key reference book said – “the precise sense of the phrase is uncertain.” I want to say, “Thanks a lot!” So what does it mean? Let’s look again to verse 14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. As the Son of God, Jesus is full of everything the father is. To receive of his fullness is to be connected to everything that God is.

Some of you are thinking – “Yep, that’s interesting. What does that have to do with me.” Don’t miss this. It has profound significance to our Christian life. Some people think that once you are saved by the grace and truth of Jesus that now you need to go back and keep the law, maybe not the Old Testament law but just have a list of rules as a Christian. What would Paul say to that? Galatians 2:21 “…if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” In fact, if you do that, it will actually produce the opposite effect! Listen to Galatians 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

What is the solution? Verse 16 “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” Here’s what it means – in Jesus Christ you have everything given to you. You have God Himself. Stay connected to Him. Keep looking to Him. Keep obeying Him. Keep trusting Him. And He will make Grace abound in your life. Grace upon grace for your daily Christian life. It’s not a list you need. It’s Jesus you need. And who helps you – the Holy Spirit.

Listen again to Paul in Romans 5:21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Meaning: Where sin once controlled us, now grace controls us.

Application: Are you ready to open your gifts this morning? Grace and Truth in Jesus

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL CHILD

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL CHILD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

RAISING JESUS (1)This is our last message in our miniseries RAISING JESUS. This morning we will look at the childhood years of Jesus in Luke 2 to answer “WHAT MAKES A SUCCESFUL CHILD.” All of us as parents want our children to be successful. Never met a parent thus far who said – “I want my child to grow up and be a total failure.”

Luke 2 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Overall Background: The passage we just read marks the end of the information regarding the childhood years of Jesus. Have you ever wondered why the Bible doesn’t tell us more? Why are there no accounts of his interaction with his siblings, with his neighbors, and with people in His town or synagogue? Some of the Apocryphal Gospels/Gnostic Gospels have tried to fill in the blanks between age 12 and age 30 but they’re nothing but foolish myths and legends. Why did God choose to keep silent about the growing up years of Jesus? This is my guess – typically, the Bible doesn’t talk much about the childhood years of any of its characters. Once in a while we hear of a boy Joseph who had a dream of his future or a girl Miriam who watched over her baby brother Moses or a boy David who killed Goliath but those are rare instances. Why not more? Because the childhood years are transitional and preparatory years. Like a fruit on a tree that is not ripe, children are not ripe until they reach adulthood. To focus on this period as the end in itself is to miss the fruit. These are still “work in progress” years and as such very critical. What you do now with them determines their course later.

Application: May I ask you – Are you taking seriously these years in your child’s life? Are you raising them to be successful? Are you raising them in the fear of God? As a church are we doing all we can to reach children? Are we leading them to know Jesus as their Savior? Do we know Jesus as our Savior?

This morning in verse 52 we will see two major things that make a successful child.

 I. A PATIENT PARENT

51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them,

Background: The temple incident in the previous verses was quite traumatic in the lives of Joseph and Mary. It was traumatic not just because Jesus was lost for three days but when they found Him, He was sitting in the midst of the leaders and discussing theology. When they confronted Him, He rebuked them saying – “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

What is a parent to do in a situation like that? Mary could have become overprotective and start hovering over Him. Instead, listen to what it says in verse 51, “but His mother kept all these things in her heart.” Meaning: Not only did she not go overboard with Him but neither did she try to label Him. She could have said about Jesus – “He is so absent-minded” or “He is such a daydreamer” or “He is just in His own world” or even “He is so selfish.” She didn’t jump to any conclusions. Mary’s strongest quality was that she pondered. She “kept all these things in her heart.”

There are powerful lessons here – sometimes parents and teachers make judgments regarding children that don’t need to be made – “He is a troublemaker” “She is going to cause a lot of grief.” Too early for that! You have no idea what that child may end up becoming. Sometimes parents and teachers tend to give up on children – “He won’t amount to much.” “She has no potential.”

Application: What are you thinking in your heart for your children? Do you have any hope for them? Do you have any vision for their lives? Do you pray for them?

Let me also add – Sometimes we’re too quick to label somebody else’s child. Sometimes we tend to think that our children are perfect. Here’s what I say – People are not telling you what your child is doing. Their child keeps getting caught but yours keeps slipping through. Their child will straighten out but yours will keep going down the wrong path.

For e.g. I remember to this day this man who got on to me at church. I was wrong but the way he did it was quite hateful. “You’re a pastor’s kid and that’s how you act?” At the time I didn’t even understand that concept. When I did, it bothered me, even to this day.

We know that Mary kept these things in her heart but how about other people? Do you think it’s possible that people talked about Jesus as a child? Matthew 18 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Almost want to say – “Whoa! Did someone touch a nerve?” You can almost hear Jesus’ anger coming through.

Application: Do you keep things in your heart for your children? Do you hope for the best for them and pray for them? Do you keep things in your heart for other children? Do you hope for the best for them and pray for them?

II. A MERCIFUL AND TRUTHFUL CHILD

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature,

Background: Now we know what it means to grow in wisdom. It comes from the “fear of the Lord.” Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Then the word stature h`likia in this context means maturity. And what else happened? Jesus increased “in favor with God and men.”

This is a very interesting phrase – “in favor with God and men.” What does that mean? To understand it, we have to turn to the Book of Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Background: In Proverbs Solomon wrote 10 letters to his son Rehoboam. What we just read comes from the 3rd letter. He is telling his son how to have favor with God and people.

By the way – isn’t that what you and I want for our children? We want heaven to bless them and earth to honor them. How much more balanced can you get? God looks at them with favor and people look at them with favor.

Solomon tells Rehoboam how to have this double favor:

Let not mercy and truth forsake you;” – mercy = kindness which is actually “help to the needy” and truth = faithfulness which is actually “being trustworthy.” These two qualities stand in stark contrast to the selfishness and unfaithfulness of the wicked sons and daughter.

For e.g. When I think of someone who is selfish and untrustworthy, I think of Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He is heartless, cold, apathetic, and downright evil man.

THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN BEING WISE AND BEING CUNNING

“Bind them around your neck” = make them a necklace. “Write them on the tablet of your heart”= make it your identity. When people see you they know who you are.

Application: What kind of a reputation do you have? Some people think that wisdom means being smart and cunning and cheating people of their last dollar. Far from that.

What is the result? 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Two other time we find this mentioned in the Bible: One is in the book of Samuel. The sons of Eli were stealing from the Lord and from the people. As the people were bringing their sacrifices to the temple, these men were taking advantage of their father’s position. Eli tried to get on to them in I Samuel 2:25 “If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.” In the very next verse it says 26 And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men. The boy Samuel later became an important prophet in Israel who helped unite the kingdom and institute the office of king. He also became the prophet who anointed David as king.

Do you want your children to have favor with God and people? They need mercy and truth. In other words, they need kindness and faithfulness.

The similar phrase is heard again in the book of Acts. Acts 2 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The secret of our church’s success is mercy and truth.

We want our children to be loved and appreciated by people. We like to hear that they are being admired and adored. Unfortunately, some of our ideas actually cause them to be resented. We think favor comes when they are best at everything or win a lot of trophies or be in every activity. Instead what they need are eyes, mouth, hands, feet, heart, and mind full of mercy and truth. The place to begin is by teaching to have mercy and truth.

How can we have mercy and truth? The place to begin is not by trying to be merciful and truthful. It will not last. Instead, receive Jesus as your Savior. It will bring His nature into your life. Now Jesus lives through you. Whatever He is, now you are. It is natural and lasting. At times you may slip but repent and return to your first love.

So the real question is do your children know Jesus as their Savior. That will bring mercy and truth in their lives and in turn bring favor with God and men. Another important question is do you know Jesus as your Savior. This will bring mercy and truth into your life.

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 4

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whose in your family treeWe are in our miniseries through the genealogy of Jesus called “WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE?” So far we have seen the first three “not so illustrious” characters in the lineage of Jesus – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. Now we come to the fourth one – Bathsheba. All of us have failed at some point in our lives or we have fallen victim to someone else’s failure. This message will help us realize that no matter what – God’s grace is available to all of us.

Matthew 1:5-7, 15-16 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa….15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

Overall Background: Most commentators and preachers who deal with the incident involving Bathsheba focus mostly on David – his sin, repentance, and restoration. What we will see today is the rest of the story from Bathsheba’s angle. By the way, I’m not the first person to attempt this. Many writers, painters, and preachers over the centuries have tried to do that, even Hollywood. Most of it is fanciful imagination, not based on historical evidence. Nothing terribly wrong about that but for our message we will focus only on what is actually written in the Bible about Bathsheba.

Here’s the gist of the message – Sometimes through no fault of your own, you share the consequence of someone else’s sin. Sometimes you have to play a role in someone else’s drama of life. But if you let God step in, He will use even this to bring grace in your life.

Application: This morning there are people here who are in a situation not of their choosing. If you could, you would never get involved in that situation. It is what it is. Either you can spend your whole life in “what if” or you can let God step in. If you do, He will work all things together for good in your life. If you don’t know Him, today is the day.

 4 things we will learn about Bathsheba’s life from the Word of God.

1. HER GODLY LIFE

2 Samuel 11 1 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. (We can say much about David here – He should have been out there on the battlefield leading his men.)

“An empty mind is a Devil’s workshop.” If you are in a situation where you have a lot of free time on your hands, you are a prime candidate for trouble. Either you are getting into trouble or you are looking to start trouble. As a pastor, when someone comes to me with a complaint about a situation or a person, I evaluate what they are saying based on how busy they are. Leaders at Clearview – “Don’t listen to people who are idle.” They just might be Satan’s tools. But there are also people who are not that busy but they refuse to fall into Satan’s hands. They let God use them and they bring encouragement wherever they go. Which one are you?

David's PalaceBut we will move on because this message is not about David but Bathsheba. 2 “Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house.” Archaeology has shown that David’s palace was taller than any surrounding building. So he could look down at an angle on other rooftops or courtyards. “And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.” Even though David had a good vantage point to see what was happening in the city, for him to see woman bathing clearly and that she was beautiful to behold, she had to be near enough. Meaning – This woman’s house was near to David’s palace. In those days, only people of importance lived near the palace. The further away from the palace, the less important you were. Apparently, the woman came from an important family.

3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam…” Who was Eliam? It sounds like David was supposed to know this person. In 2 Samuel 23 we have a list of David’s mighty men. One of them killed 800 men by himself; another killed 300 men; and yet another had killed a lion inside a snow filled pit. This was an elite fighting force. Listen to verse 34 “…Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite.” Bathsheba’s father was part of David’s elite fighting force.

There’s more – Who was Ahithophel the Gilonite? 2 Samuel 15:12 Then Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor…” Bathsheba’s grandfather was one of David’s advisors. How good of an advisor was he? 2 Samuel 16:23 Now the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God. Meaning: When Ahithophel spoke, it was as if God spoke.

Bathsheba was not some riffraff. She came from a good home.

Application: Do you come from a good home with godly parents and grandparents? Thank God for that! But you’re not immune to trouble. As long as you live in this sinful world, trouble will find you. 1 Pet. 4:12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” In fact, it seems that those who grow up in good Christian homes seem to have a lot of trouble. The enemy is after you. Don’t give up. Trust God that He will work all things for good.

Let me also talk to those who did not grow up in good homes and family situation. Don’t look with longing eyes at those who did. You never know what they had to go through. Eliam had to run from Saul and live in caves with David.

2. HER SHAMEFUL LIFE

3 “…And someone said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’”

Who was Uriah the Hittite? Remember the list of David’s elite fighting force in 2 Samuel 23, where Eliam, Bathsheba’s father was mentioned, listen to verse 39 “and Uriah the Hittite.” So, father-in-law and son-in-law worked together.

Hattusha MapWho was a Hittite? Up until recently, skeptics scholars doubted the existence of the Hittite people. Some scholars claimed that the Bible had created these mythological people and that there was no archaeological evidence for any people known as the Hittites. Then in the past couple of hundred years, artifacts began showing up about 100 miles east of Ankara – which is the capital of Turkey – with information about a people of the land of Hatti. In 1906, an archaeologist by the name of Hugo Winckler excavated over 10,000 clay tablets of the royal Hittite Library. Once again, the Bible stands true.

But the history of Hittite people is somewhat complex. There were Hittites living in the land when Abraham came to Canaan. In fact, he bought a plot of land to bury Sarah from Ephron the Hittite. Later God promised Joshua in Joshua 1:4 that he would give them “all the land of the Hittites.”

Was Uriah part of the Hittites who lived in the North in Asia Minor or was he part of the Hittites in the South who lived in Canaan? Not sure. One Hattushathing we know for sure. He was a follower of the Living and True God. The name Uriah means – “Yahweh is my Light.” This is not just some Semitic name. It is a testimony of someone who has come to know the Living God.

I’ve heard people say – “Bathsheba probably tricked David into lusting after her and she was just as much to be blamed.” We can have a lot of ideas and imaginations, but if you stick with the facts – from start to finish David was the culprit. Not a single time does it say that Bathsheba tricked David. Instead, 2 Samuel 11:4 “Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house.” It was nothing more than sheer intimidation.

David – the sweet psalmist of Israel; the shepherd king, and a man after God’s own heart. Now, he was just an adulterer.

Application: Have you been disappointed by people you thought you could trust? Give them to the Lord.

3. HER PAINFUL LIFE

5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” 

You know what followed – David brought Uriah back from the battlefield and was all nice to him and tried to send him home to Bathsheba. Uriah did not go home. Then, he tried to get him drunk and again tried to send him home to Bathsheba. Uriah did not go home. Finally, David sent a letter with Uriah to Joab ordering his execution. Sure enough, in an act of treachery, Uriah was killed along with some other men on the frontlines.

When Bathsheba heard about this – she mourned for him. (2 Samuel 11:26)

Again, this message is not on David. But just a word or two – No one is immune to sin. Sometimes people are disappointed when famous Christians fall into sin as if they were above temptations. In fact, that’s when temptations get more intense. Alan Redpath wrote, “The higher the pinnacle of blessing, authority, and publicity he has attained by grace, the deeper and more staggering can be his collapse.” In other words, the taller the tree, the bigger the sound it makes when it hits the ground.

How about David? 2 Samuel 11:27a And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. As far as David was concerned, it was all good. But 2 Samuel 11:27b “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”

You know the rest – God sent Nathan to confront David and according to God’s judgment, the child died. For the second time, Bathsheba had to mourn again because it says in 2 Samuel 12:24 “Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife…”

Something else happened – Remember, Bathsheba’s grandfather Ahithophel. When Absalom, David’s son, led a revolt/mutiny against his own father, Ahithophel decided to side with Absalom. 2 Samuel 15:31 Then someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” Any wonder?!! As far as he was concerned, David had destroyed the marriage of his granddaughter and killed her husband. He gave some horrible advice to Absalom that had nothing do with God. It was to go and rape David’s concubines. Then he gave more advice on how to trap David. But 2 Samuel 17:14 For the LORD had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom. Absalom refused to listen to Ahithophel. How did Ahithophel take all this? 2 Samuel 17:23  “Now when Ahithophel saw that his advice was not followed, he saddled a donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died…”

Again, I bet Bathsheba more than likely mourned for her grandfather.

How tragic! Sin has a snowball effect. As it rolls down the hill, it just gets bigger and bigger and until it bursts.

Application: Never forget that none of us sins in isolation. Our sins have an impact for generations to come.

4. HER GRACEFILLED LIFE

Is that it? 2 Samuel 12:24 “So she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. Now the LORD loved him.”

Application: Maybe you have been a victim of similar pain. God is with you. He is willing to show you His grace. He is willing to work all things together for good. Have you turned everything to Him? Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? -3

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 3 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whose in your family treeFor the past two Sundays we met 2 “unusual characters” in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, women who had a questionable past. This morning, we meet the third woman who was at the rock bottom in every way but she too found grace in the sight of God and was grafted into the family tree of Jesus. The message – God has always been a God of grace, not just towards His chosen people but also to all people.

Matthew 1:1-6 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: 2   Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.

Overall Background: Four women, four questionable lives but one family tree, that of Jesus Christ. Why did Matthew do that? Why did he insert the names of women who had an embarrassing and questionable past? He wanted us to know that God is a God of grace. He is a God who loves to forgive and reconcile and restore and bless all who are willing to come to Him. He is the God of all peoples. He doesn’t play favorites but He loves to show His favor to any who want it!

So far we met Tamar – a Canaanite widow who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her. She had twins and one of them became the ancestor of Jesus. Then we met Rahab – a Canaanite prostitute who helped God’s people and after Jericho was destroyed, she also became part of the lineage of Jesus. In fact, she became the princess of Judah. Now we meet the third woman – Ruth, a woman who was at rock bottom and nadir of life in every way but she also found grace in the eyes of God.

Application: This morning, you may feel that you are at that rock bottom place in your life. I’m here to tell you that God is with you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t abandoned you. In fact, He wants to bless you. Look to Him in complete faith and give it all to Him. He will not fail you. If you don’t know Jesus, then you are not just at a rock bottom place but you are headed to a bottomless pit. You need to be saved today.

3 things we will understand about Ruth:

 1. RUTH – ROCK BOTTOM GENEALOGICALLY

Ruth 1:1a   Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land.

Background: The time of the judges was a very difficult time in the life of the people of Israel. There was no king, there was no leader and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. So you can imagine the lawlessness, crime, and moral chaos all over the land. On top of that – there was a famine in the land.

Ruth 1:1b And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. Here we meet a family living 5 miles southwest of Jerusalem in the city of Bethlehem. Ironically, Bethlehem is literally “the place of food/bread” but it had no food. So the man (Elimelech) took his wife (Naomi) and their two sons and went 50 miles Southeast into Moabite country. This was no ordinary decision – moving to Moab was probably the last desperate resort of an Israelite.

Who were the Moabites? We meet them in Genesis 19. You remember how God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because ofRuth Moab and Judah Abraham’s intervention, Lot and his wife and two daughters were allowed to escape Sodom. Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his two daughters fled into the mountains where they had no prospect of finding any husbands. So they came up with a wicked scheme to get Lot drunk and have an incestuous relationship with him. The older one had a child and his name was Moab. This was the genesis of the Moabites. How tragic and embarassing!

For e.g. Many years ago I was talking to this young man who had been through prison and had a long record. He had couple of kids that he hadn’t seen in years. Then, he was looking for a job but he couldn’t get one because of his record. So one day I sat with him and very piously I began to tell him all things that he needed to straighten out in his life. Little did I expect what I was about to hear – He began by telling me that he wasn’t sure who his dad was. I said to him – “There are a lot of people who don’t know who their dad was but they made it anyways.” Then he said to me – “I’ve heard through family that it was my own grandfather who raped my mom. You know how that makes me feel. Why did God allow that?”

Folks – We live in a messed up world. Things like this are the product of sin in this world. God allowed it because of the free will of human beings.

So you can imagine how the Moabites felt about themselves. But, there’s more – the Moabites hated the people of Israel. Probably because Uncle Abraham’s descendants knew the real story of Lot’s descendants. When the people of Israel were in the wilderness, the Moabites refused to help them and actively tried to harass them. Several times they had invaded Israel. So what did God say about this? Deuteronomy 23:3, 6      3 “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever…6 You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever.

Ruth 1:4 Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth.

Ruth’s family tree began with incest. Ruth’s ancestors hated the people of God. Ruth and her people were forbidden to come into the assembly of God.

Application: You cannot choose your past. Some of you born into situations that was out of your control. You can either waste your time looking back or you can like Paul say – Philippians 3:13 “…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.” You can only choose the present and the future.

2. RUTH – ROCK BOTTOM CIRCUMSTANTIALLY 

5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died…”

Background: Not sure why this happened – maybe some sickness – both the sons died and Ruth and Orpah were widowed. It was quite common in the ancient world where women survived men. There used to a large number of widows in many period in ancient times. Being a widow was a very tough situation. Unless you had a good family or a lot of money, it was over for you.

Since there was nothing left for Naomi in Moab and she had heard that things were better in Judah, she decided to head back. So in verse 8 Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” And after many tears, Orpah went back but not Ruth. Listen to her famous words, sometimes read during weddings: Ruth 1:16 “…Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”

Wow! What would cause a Moabite widow to say this to her mother-in-law who could not do anything for her?

People often say to me – “Times are tough. We don’t know what we’re going to do.” People have always lived in tough times. It’s called life. Job 14:1 “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” How you handle tough times makes the difference. Some people just run at the sight of trouble. They miss God’s purpose for their life. Other people just grit their teeth and bear trouble. They too miss God’s purpose for their life. Then there are those people who submit to God and His will in trouble. They are the ones who thrive because God works all things together for good.

For some reason, Ruth understood that principle, even though she was probably lost. By the way, that was her Pre-Cross, Old Testament Sinner’s Prayer. Can you find a better sinner’s prayer than this – For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” We need to make that the Sinner’s Prayer but say it to Jesus not Naomi.

Application: How are you handling your circumstances? Are you running off like Orpah or are you submitting to God like Ruth?

3. RUTH – ROCK BOTTOM PROVIDENTIALLY

Background: Naomi and Ruth finally make it to Bethlehem. Naomi was probably thinking – “We left Bethlehem and moved to Moab. No wonder God punished me by taking my husband and my two sons. Now I have a Moabite daughter-in-law who won’t take no for an answer. I don’t know how these people will treat us.” She’s fearing the worst but listen to what happens – Ruth 1:19 “And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’”

God had already prepared the hearts of the people.

Ruth 2:1 There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. 2 So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.

God had already prepared a wealthy man in Elimelech’s family who could be a source of help.

Ruth 2:8   Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”

God had already prepared the heart of Boaz to be kind to Ruth.

Per Naomi’s advice, she approached Boaz and offers herself as a bride, not knowing what would happen. Ruth 3:10 Then he said, “Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich.

Again, God had already prepared the heart of Boaz who received her advance gladly.

Ruth 4:9-10 9 And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. 10 Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife…

Once again by the providential hand of God, a widowed Moabite woman became the wife of the wealthiest man in town. What a picture of the grace of God!

Application: You can either spend your whole life crying over why you’ve had problems in your life or you can, like Ruth, leave behind your past and trust God with your future. He will take you from your rock bottom and raise you to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Do you know Him?

 

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