Upbringing by Pastor Abidan Shah

UPBRINGING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Yesterday, Ryan and Elizabeth had a mini-golf tournament at Adventure Island for all the students and their dads. We had a great time. I couldn’t help noticing how much kids took after their dads – active dads, active kids; quiet dads, quiet kids; competitive dads, competitive kids – not sure if the kids or the dads would admit to that. One thing was for sure, kids need their fathers.Our culture thinks that fathers are just an accessory (cell phone case, fancy purse, or limited-edition hat) but God has appointed fathers to be the primary influence in every child’s life. Today’s message titled “UBBRINGING” will help us see that.

1 Corinthians 4      15“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yetyou donothavemany fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.”

Question: Fathers, you are to be the Instructors, Models, and Protectors to your children. Have you lived up to and are you living up to the calling God gave you as a dad? Children, of all ages, have you been grateful for what your fathers have done for you? For some, this may be a tough message.Either you were not the father you were supposed to be or you broke your father’s heart. Ask God to forgive you and give you his grace. Are you saved? John 1:12“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Context: In light of Father’s Day, today’s message is a little different than how I typically preach.I want to dwell on the father-son relationship between Paul and Timothy.In I Corinthians 4:17, Paul refers to Timothy as “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord.” If you’ve studied the Bible, you know that Timothy was not Paul’s biological son. In Acts 16Luke gives us some background on who Timothy was. Listen to verse “Then he (Paul)came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, theson of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his fatherwasGreek.” Apparently, Timothy was the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek man. The way Luke phrases that statement, Timothy’s father never converted to Judaism. Intermarriage between Jewish people and Gentiles was not as problematic to the Rabbis as long as the Gentile person converted to Judaism. The requirements for conversion were still quite high. But, if there was no conversion, it was strictly prohibited. According to the Book of Jubilees (a Jewish writing from that period), “And if there is a man in Israel who wishes to give his daughter or his sister to any man who is from the seed of gentiles, let him surely die … because he has caused shame in Israel.”(Jub 30:7) You can imagine what kind of a life Timothy must have had. Probably, his mother’s side of people did not accept him because his father was Greek and his father’s side of people did not accept him because his mother was Jewish. Then, it was probably on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14)that Timothy’s grandmother and mother got saved, and even Timothy. Paul mentions them in 2 Timothy 1:5“when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” Paul doesn’t say a word about Timothy’s father which means he never got saved and maybe even cut off all relations with Timothy and his mother.

The gospel can be very costly. Accepting Jesus as our Savior and King may lead to a loss of relationship with family. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 10     37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.38And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

Illustration: My own father lost his family when he became a Christian. Its mind blowing!

Let’s return to Acts 16      2“He (Timothy)was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he tookhimand circumcised him…” Scholars have long debated this action by Paul. He had fought hard against circumcision as a requirement for the Gentiles. He even refused to let Titus, who was also Greek, from having to be circumcised. He says it clearly in Galatians 5     2“Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing….6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” In fact, Paul was on a mission to take the news of the Jerusalem Council’s decision to the churches that circumcision was not necessary in order to be saved. Why then did he get Timothy circumcised? Listen to the rest of Acts 16:3 “And he tookhimand circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.” This was not about circumcision but about sonship. In a symbolic way, Paul was claiming Timothy as his son. Other than Luke, Paul had Timothy as his closest companion in ministry. Except for his letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus, he mentions Timothy in all his letters. 

Illustration: Going back to my own dad, he was symbolically adopted by a missionary scholar by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander. He was a Hebrew and Greek scholar who translated the Bible into Marathi. 

Application: Did God bring some godly men into your life? Are you such a father figure to someone who didn’t have one? Nicole’s dad was such a father figure in my life.

Paul filled this role of a father in Timothy’s life. We see this clearly in the 2 letters he wrote to him. 1 and 2 Timothy are referred to as the Pastoral letters. I like to call them the Parental letters. Let’s look at just a few of his statements to Timothy in his 2 letters to him. This should teach us how we need to fulfill our calling as a father or a father figure to the children God has biologically or spiritually given to us.

1. Confidence – 1 Timothy 1:18“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.”

2. Church – 1 Timothy 3:15“…I writeso that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

3. Self-respect – 1 Timothy 4     12“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

4. Communication – 1 Timothy 5      1“Do not rebuke an older man, but exhorthimas a father, younger men as brothers, 2older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.”

5. Flee Sin and Chase Righteousness – 1 Timothy 6     11“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…”

6. Relationship with Christ – 2 Timothy 2:1“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

7. Endurance – 2 Timothy 2      3“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of thislife, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.”

8. Focused – 2 Timothy 2     23But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25in humility correcting those who are in opposition…”

9. Avoid bad company – 2 Timothy 3     1“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”

10. Example – 2 Timothy 3     10“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out ofthemall the Lord delivered me. 12Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

Here’s one more that tells us how protective Paul was over Timothy.

11. Protector –1 Corinthians 16:10“And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I alsodo. 11Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren.”

Invitation:Have you been the father you were called to be? Are you being the father God has called you to be? Have you been grateful to the father (biological or spiritual) that God placed in your life? Is God your Heavenly Father? Its only through Christ that he can be.

Divisive Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

DIVISIVE MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: One of my favorite episodes on the Andy Griffith Show is the one where Andy plays the marriage counsellor. Fred Boone and his wife Jennie are some of the nicest people in Mayberry but they have one problem – they can’t get along with each other. They fight all the time. When they run out of words, they start throwing dishes at each other. Andy feels like he can help them out. So, he tries to teach them how to speak lovingly to each other, hoping that in time it’ll become a habit. It actually works but then something happens. Fred and Jennie begin fighting with everybody else in town. That’s when Andy and Barney realize that it is so much better to let them fight with each other, if they want to have peace in Mayberry. Do you know people like that? They are always fighting with someone. For them, its normal to be at odds with someone. They have a divisive mind. Unfortunately, such people are also in the church. Today’s message will help us deal with a divisive mind and exchange it for the mind of Christ.

Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Question: Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know what it means to be of one mind with others? Are you saved? Do you have the mind of Christ?

Context: Many of you have shared with me how much the sketch of the volcano and the plant has helped you. So, here it is once again. All of us have certain EXPECTATIONSin life. These Expectations represent our goals in life and how we expect life to turn out through the good times and the bad. These Expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. These Assumptions come from how our mind has been built by God through our parents, through our upbringing, and through the circumstances in life. What happens when our Expectations don’t turn out according to our Assumptions? We have FRUSTRATIONS. These are usually manifested as Anxiety, Guilt, and Resentment. In the past two sermons I gave you some illustrations from wanting success in life, marriage, and child-raising. Here’s another one from being hurt in life. If your Expectation is that the world owes you for the pain you have suffered in your past, you are in for a lot of Frustrations in life. This false Expectation is based on the false Assumption that life is perfect, that human beings are inherently good, that hurts can be rectified in this life, and that if you are hurt, you are entitled to special privileges. That’s not true. You have to abandon the volcano model for the tree planted by rivers of water. Instead of Assumptions, you have to seek after BIBLICAL TRUTHSi.e. THE MIND OF CHRIST. Instead of Expectations, you have to trust in the PROMISES OF GOD. Then, instead of Frustrations, you will have FRUITS. You will have to believe in the fallenness of human beings, the reality of sin, the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the importance of forgiveness.

Now back to our message on the Divisive Mind – Listen again to Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” In order to understand why Paul said those words, we need to take this passage apart and look at it a section at a time. To start with, Paul implores the Philippians – “Fulfill my joyby being likeminded.”The word for joy is “chara” which Paul uses 5 times in various forms in this letter:

  • In Philippians 1:4Paul prays for the Philippians with joy.
  • In Philippians 1:25Paul wants to continue with them for their“progress and joyof faith.”
  • Of course, here in Philippians 2:2 Paul wants them to fulfill his joyby being like-minded.”
  • In Philippians 2:29Paul wants them to receive Epaphroditus, one of his companions in ministry, with joy
  • In Philippians 4:1 Paul calls the Philippians his “joyand crown.”

I don’t have time to look at the related word “chairo” meaning rejoice, which is found about 7 times in various forms. The most famous one being Philippians 4:4Rejoicein the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Why is Paul so obsessed with joy and rejoice in his letter to the Philippians?

Before we answer that question, what is the meaning of this word “joy” and even “rejoice?” Of course, we can go to the Lexicons and the Greek dictionaries but the best way to discover the true meaning is by looking at the context in which those words are used in the Bible. Here is what I have found: Joy is a feeling of deep happiness based on biblical truths.What does this “deep happiness” feel like? C.S. Lewis, in his book Surprised by Joy,describes it as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” What Lewis is saying is that true joy never runs out or reaches its goal but keeps multiplying. Furthermore, it is not depended on our circumstances.

Back to our question – Why did Paul use the words “joy” and “rejoice” so many times in his letter to the Philippians? Listen again to Philippians 2:2Fulfillmy joy…” Fulfill implies that at the moment Paul’s joy was incomplete. It had depleted. It was leaking. What caused it to leak? “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” Just in case the Philippians were to misunderstand what Paul meant, he clarified it in 3 different ways – “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Talk about being emphatic! Why did Paul restate this in 4 ways? Because the Philippians were either divided or on their way to being divided. 

Listen very carefully – Nothing will deplete your joy in the Christian life faster than division in your life, your marriage, your family, and your church.

Where do divisions come from? 3“Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”Divisions come from selfish ambitions, conceit (excessive pride), sense of superiority (especially spiritual superiority, legalism), and self-interest. If a person has grown up in an environment marred by arguments and fights because of these negative qualities, it becomes a normal “Assumption” for them to live in contention with those around them. It is an unhealthy, evil, and destructive normal. It takes one divisive person to start something and before you know it, the whole body is infected with a spirit of division. 

How do you counteract such a divisive mind?Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:14-15“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…”Philippians 4:8“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” What do you do when someone brings negative divisive junk to you? Here’s an example from the Old Testament worth considering – David and Jonathan were best friends even though Saul (Jonathan’s father) hated him. After Saul’s house collapsed and David became the King over Israel, David wanted to do something nice for his old friend Jonathan. He asked if there was anyone left and a servant of Saul by the name of Ziba informed him that Jonathan had a son by the name of Mephibosheth who was lame in his feet. David had him brought and told him not to fear and that he will give him all the inheritance of his grandfather Saul. Wow! Then he told Ziba that he is to serve Mephibosheth the way he served Saul. All sounds great. Jump ahead to Absalom’s rebellion against David, his father. David had to run for his life and Mephibosheth could not accompany him because of his handicap and sent Ziba to help David fight against Absalom. Ziba met David and told David that he has come to help even though his master Mephibosheth has pledged his allegiance to Absalom. David told Ziba that in that case, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is now his. The battle is over, Absalom dies and David is victorious. Mephibosheth comes to congratulate David and David asks him why he did not go with him. He replied that he couldn’t because of his handicap and that Ziba had lied to him.What did David do next? Did he put Ziba on trial? Did he return Mephibosheth his property? No. He said in 2 Samuel 19:29“You and Ziba divide the land.” Why? Even though Ziba had lied, David’s mind was now contaminated against Mephibosheth and he could never trust him again. Factually he knew that Mephibosheth was good but emotionally he couldn’t trust him anymore. This is what happens when you allow a divisive person to speak into your life.

What needs to happen is that your assumptions have to be replaced by biblical truths. Philippians 2:1“Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” So much I could say about each – Salvation through Jesus, love for one another, Holy Spirit binding us in him and actively showing affection and mercy is need to deal with a divisive mind, whether yours or someone else’s.

Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know someone who does? Pray for them. Are you saved?

Envious Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENVIOUS MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: People often associate certain colors with certain moods, emotions, or attitudes. Red = Anger; Blue = Sadness/Peaceful; Yellow = Fear/Weakness; Gold = Greed/Rich; Purple = Pride/Royalty; Green = Envy. In our western society, we call Envy the Green-Eyed Monster because green is a color associated with sickness. Sometimes when people get sick their skin takes on a slightly yellow/green tinge. So also, when a person is infected with Envy, their demeanor/countenance takes on a sick appearance, if you know what I mean. Here’s the message in a nutshell: An envious mind will take your focus away from God and his goodness and leave you sick in your spirit with doubts and resentment. What you need is the mind of Christ. What you need is the replacing of your false assumptions with biblical truth and principles.

Philippians 1    14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

Question: Do you have an envious mind? Are you struggling with doubts and resentment? How do you feel when someone in your field or age group or social circle, even at church, starts advancing? Are you happy or are you resentful? Are you saved?

Premise: For the benefit of those who weren’t here last week, let me once again sketch for you how we work as human beings. Keep in mind that psychology is a very complex and highly nuanced subject but I’m making it simple for us to understand. 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 to FRUSTRATIONS. These can be manifested as anxiety, guilt, and resentment. I gave you some examples last time from the subject of material success and marriage. Here’s another example from the subject of raising children. If you’re expectation is that “My child can do no wrong. He/she is perfect,” then you’re in for a lot of frustrations in life. Not only will they disappoint you but they will destroy their life as well. They will go through life thinking that they are the center of the universe and expect you to defend and bail them out. Where did this expectation come from? It came from false assumptions. Maybe it’s because you think that children have no sin nature and they don’t need to be disciplined or corrected. Maybe it’s because your parents were too harsh on you and you swore that you would never do that with your children. Maybe it’s because you are trying to copy the pattern of how your friends are raising their children. These assumptions can come from a myriad of places. What has to change are your 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, you’ll have PROMISESand instead of frustrations, you’ll have FRUITS.

Context: Last week we learned that the Philippians had a fearful mind. Today we’re going to see that they also had an envious mind.Listen again to Philippians 1:14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” When word got out that Paul was reaching the praetorian guards in prison, other pastors and leaders became more courageous in sharing the gospel. Unfortunately, human nature is prone to sin and evil.Although some were preaching for the right reasons, some were for an ulterior motive. Listen to verse 15“Some indeed preach Christ even from envyand strife…”To begin with, don’t confuse Envy with Jealousy.“Jealousy” is “I have something that I will not share with you.” For e.g. a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend. “Envy”is “You have something that I wish I had and so I resent you for it.” Jealousy is possessive and Envy is resentful.

The Greek word that Paul uses for envy is the word “phthonos.” It is found only 10 times in the New Testament in various forms. First time in Matthew and Mark when Pilate asked the people “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas or Jesus?” It says in Mark 15:10“For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.” Pilate must have noticed their “evil eyes.” The chief priests were envious of Jesus because the people loved him and not them. It is a residue of our life before Christ – Titus 3:3 “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” We are to lay aside envy and grow in Christ – I Peter 2:1-2 “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

Paul identifies for us the source of this envy in some of the preachers and leaders: Listen to verse16“The former preach Christ from selfish ambition…” (There is a situation of verse inversion happening here in some versions that I don’t have time to get into but it does not change the meaning of the passage.)Some of the leaders were saying, “How come Paul is getting all this attention from prison? Are we any less than Paul? Are we not going through similar suffering? The other day some of the Roman soldiers roughed us up too.” Paul calls their behavior “erithea” = “selfish ambition” because they were more concerned about gaining notoriety rather than seeking lost souls. Furthermore, they were also trying to send word to Paul that they were winning more souls than him. 16“The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains.” This behavior represented their ungodly assumptions. What were Paul’s assumptions/biblical truths?18 “What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Wow!

Why did Paul go into all this detail about the brethren in the Lord who were preaching out of envy and selfish ambition? Because the same behavior was being displayed among the Philippian believers. Listen to Philippian 2     1Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, beingof one accord, of one mind. 3Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambitionor conceit…” It is the same word “erithea” that he used to describe the envious brethren. Apparently, the Philippians had the same assumptions. Paul was exposing their sin in a roundabout way.

Envy coming from selfish ambition has been around for a long time.

  • Lucifer became envious of God and wanted a share of the worship.
  • Eve envied God and wanted to have His knowledge.
  • Cainkilled his brother Abel because he envied his sacrifice.
  • Down through the ages, brothers have been envying each other –Esau envied Jacob. Joseph was envied by his brothers. Moses was envied by his brother and sister. David was envied by his brothers and later by Saul. 
  • Don’t think that only men get infected with envy.Rachel and Leah envied each other in the OT and Mary and Martha in the NT.Envy is an Equal Gender Employer.

Do you struggle with envy? How do you feel when a friend gets a better job or finds a relationship and you don’t? How do you feel when you see someone on a vacation having a great time and you’re stuck because of health, money, or work? You have children who seem average or sick but then there are other families that have healthy children and great performers. Then the big source of envy – HOW YOU LOOK. Why do I have a weight problem, height problem? I don’t like my nose, my chin, my eyes and on and on. We often feel like God is so unfair in giving looks. The only way you can handle envy is by replacing your false assumptions with biblical truths. Listen to Paul in Philippians 4   11“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Are you a victim of envy? One way God deals with envy is that He crucifies the one being envied. If I were God, I would crucify the one who is envying – right? Not really. As someone said, “He never makes the path of greater fruitfulness enviable.”When you have a problem with someone because of envy, God says “I will crucify that guy for you.” Cain– you have a problem with Abel, I will take him early in life; Ishmael– you have a problem with Isaac, I will take him up on Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him; Esau– you have a problem with Jacob, I will keep him running all his life; Joseph’s brothers– you have a problem with Joseph, I will have him sold into slavery; David’s brothers– you have a problem with David, I will keep him running from cave to cave hunted by Saul. Chief Priests– you have a problem with Jesus, I will crucify him. Don’t misunderstand: Through their pain and trials God blesses them even more but he removes every opportunity for you to envy that person.

How do you beat Envy? Become grateful to God. Become an encourager to others.

Are you saved?

Yield by Pastor Abidan Shah

YIELD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: When the kids were little, they would try to help me around the yard and fix things in the house. I am talking about very little! I remember this one time one of them was trying to help me dig in the flower bed with a shovel. She was way too small to hold the shovel and way too weak to push it in the ground. But every time I said, “let me help you.” She’d say, “No. I do it.” Finally, somehow, I convinced her to let me help her and sure enough it was much easier. So also, in the Christian life, many Christians have the “I do it” mindset. I can change my life. I can live for God. I can serve God. I can please God. It works for a little while and then they quickly realize that they can’t change on their own or live for God. In fact, they end up making a big mess and get discouraged and disillusioned. Christian life is learning to yield to God and his work in our lives. Don’t misunderstand. Yielding does not mean being neutral. It is cooperating with God in transforming our mind.We’re in our series called MIND (RE)SET from Philippians 2and our message today is titled YIELD.

Philippians 2      5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question: How is your Christian life? Is it filled with disappointments and failures? Are you ready to cooperate with God? Are you saved? Do you have the mind of Christ?

Context:  Listen again to verse 5“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” You may not be aware of it but there has been a big debate over this simple verse in the past 50 years. Is Paul calling us to imitate Christ or is he calling us to celebrate Christ? If you think it is imitation, think for a moment – can you truly imitate Christ in this passage?Can you truly humble yourself like Jesus did? Can you truly become obedient to the point of death? Then, there is a bigger question – Will God really exalt you like he exalted Jesus? Does that mean that your enemies will bow before you? Will he give you a new name like Jesus? Absolutely not! To the contrary, some scholars have claimed that this is simply a celebration of Christ and that it is “kerygmatic” not “exemplary.” That’s where the idea of Philippians 2:5-11being a hymn comes from. It is very important that we understand what Paul really meant here because it makes a profound difference in how we see God’s work in our lives. I want to give you 3 words that will help you:

1. Possess – If you are saved, you already possess the mind of Christ.

Let’s back up for a moment: The Mind is the immaterial part of us and the Body is the material. Both are equally important. Both are equally affected by sin. Both are redeemed by the work of Jesus. The redemption has already begun and will be completed one day in the future. Since this passage is focused on the Mind, I want to set the Body aside for the moment. What makes up our mind? God made our mind. It is a product of the genetic combination of our parents/grandparents. Hence, it displays their characteristics in how we think, feel, and behave. It also brings through them our sin nature, coming all the way from our first parents Adam and Eve. Our mind is also shaped by our worldview, how we grew up. Finally, it is shaped and reshaped by our circumstances and the choices we make. We accumulate certain assumptions in life, good and bad. They can be about money, success, sex, people, self, past, future, etc.

What happens when we get saved? God gives us a new mind. Ephesians 4:23-24 “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Does that mean that we are walking around with 2 different minds trying to choose between them? The new is not like a new computer without any problems. It is actually the mind of Christ. Listen to I Corinthians 2:16“For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”The Mind of Christ is the mindset of Christ, his disposition and character. Paul tells us in the verses leading up to verse 16 what it’s like:

  1. It is given to us by the Holy Spirit– 10“But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.”
  2. It can only be received by those who are saved14“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
  3. It gives us spiritual discernment– 15“But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.”

Application:If you are saved, then you have the spiritual mind. Listen carefully: If you think of the mind of Christ as something external that you have to create or aspire to or imitate, it will never happen. You will fail and fail miserably. If you are lost, you only have the natural mind. Do you have the mind of Christ?

2. Passive – Your role in appropriating and imitating the mind of Christ is passive.

Listen again to verse 5“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When I was studying that verse in the original Greek, I noticed that a wide range of Greek manuscripts use the word “phroneistho” instead of “phroneite.” The first is present passive imperative third person singular and the second is present active imperative second person plural. I believe that the present passive is better represented and fits the context and theology better. The translation is not “have this mind among you” or “think this way” or “set your mind.” It is “let yourself so think” or “let this be thought in you” or “let this mind be in you.”In other words, cooperate with God in having the mind of Christ. Go back to the beginning of this letter – 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.”The “good work” that Paul is referring to verse is God’s work of salvation and the “day of Jesus Christ” is the day when he will return for us. Again, Philippians 1:11“being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Does a tree stress and struggle over bearing fruit? Of course not. If the conditions are right, the tree cannot help but bear fruit. Then, after having gone before the passage, we need to read after Philippians 2:11. Listen to verse 12“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who works in you both to will and to do forHisgood pleasure.”

Application:Are you cooperating with God? Are you allowing him to make the mind of Christ real in you? It’s an A-B-C process:

  • ACKNOWLEDGE that there is a transformation that has taken place. Romans 12:2“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
  • BEWARE of old thoughts. Colossians 3:2“Set your mindon things above, not on things on the earth.” 2 Corinthians 10:5casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivityto the obedience of Christ,
  • COMMIT to the renewal of the mind. Colossians 3     9“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10and have put on the newmanwho is renewed in knowledgeaccording to the image of Him who created him.”

3. Plural – The Mind of Christ is not developed in isolation but in community.

5Let this mind be in you (you all) which was also in Christ Jesus

Invitation:Do you have the mind of Christ? Are you cooperating with God in his work in your life? It is in community that the mind is shaped? Are you involved? Are you saved?

Discipleship: Restoration by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – RESTORATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Restoration

Introduction: Have you ever observed how ants help other ants? Once a worker ant finds food, it makes its way back home leaving behind a pheromone trail (chemical scent) that helps the other ants find their way to the food. In some varieties of ants, if a warrior ant gets injured in battle against an enemy, like the termites, the other ants will carry him back home. Now compare this with crabs. Throw a bunch of crabs in a bucket and you don’t need a lid to keep them in. If one tries to climb out, the others will pull him back in. Ants pull each other up. Crabs pull each other down. What does this have to do with our series on discipleship? In the Christian life, we don’t need people who will pull us down. We need people who will pull us up. We need others to encourage, guide, and pray for us when we lose our way. It’s called accountability. Unfortunately, most Christians act more like crabs than ants. Today’s sermon titled “Restoration” is going to help us understand true accountability.

Galatians 6    1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you whoarespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For each one shall bear his own load.”

Question: Who is holding you accountable? Who do you have in your life who is spiritually mature enough to restore you in a spirit of gentleness? Are you pulling others up or down? Have you ever asked Christ to pull you out of sin? Are you saved?

Context:  As I’ve said before, it’s been awesome for me to see the response to this series on discipleship. Some have already started their Inner Circles and some are getting ready to start. Typically, most people have no problem with most of what I have been explaining.

  • for Witness – yes, it’s important to have a testimony and share your faith.
  • for Togetherness – yes, it’s important to go to church and hear the Word and join in Sunday School and small groups.
  • for Established in the Word – yes, it’s important to get in the Bible.
  • for Reproducing Disciples – yes, it’s important to “Go and make disciples.”

The one that people struggle with is A for Accountability – no, I don’t want to share my business with anyone. Most are okay with coming to church and being part of the congregation. Some are even okay with going to Sunday School and Small Groups (Circles at Clearview) and getting into community. But, Inner Circles tend to intimidate some people. Actually, I’m surprised how well the concept of inner circles has been received by most people. But, if you are one of those who are intimidated by that concept, I’m going to try to clear up some misunderstandings about it in this message. Having said that, please don’t talk down about it. Pray for those who want to do it. What may look to you like an ugly, uncomfortable vest may be a lifejacket for someone else. You may not be drowning but they are. Please don’t talk them out of putting on the life-preserver.

I’ve already preached a message on how Jesus valued accountability, how he sent them out in pairs (two by two) and how the early church followed the same pattern. In the brief time we have today, I don’t want to convince you again of the importance of accountability. I simply want to clear up some misunderstandings by explaining how accountability works in the Inner Circle. Basically three:

1. Don’t confuse Sunday School and Small Groups with Inner Circles. They’re wonderful and very essential for developing T for Togetherness. You get to know each other, share in each other’s joys and sorrows, and learn the Bible. But, the real test is “are they making disciples?” The answers is “No.” Disciples who make disciples is the goal.

2. Don’t confuse One-on-one mentoring with Inner Circles. Jesus met with people one on one. He met with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman by themselves. He even had a deep conversation with Peter after he rose from the grave. These were times of great spiritual benefit to these individuals. Some like the Samaritan woman even got saved through it and maybe Nicodemus too. I’ve met many times with people one on one and it’s great. But, there are some limitations to one on one meetings. In other words, there are some important benefits to meeting in a group. Listen again to Ecclesiastes 4 9Twoarebetter than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. . . 12Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” In other words, if two is good, three is even better.” Why is an Inner Circle better?  8 Reasons (I’m getting these from Robby Gallaty):

i. Avoid the ping pong match. How are you? Good. Did you have a good week? Yep. .

ii. One on one is difficult to reproduce. The mentee never feels equal to the mentor.

iii. A group of two tends to become a counselling session. Instead of a time of spiritual growth, it becomes a problem solving, therapy session.

iv. A group of three to five has built-in accountability. If one fails to do the assignment, the others are good motivators to challenge and encourage.

v. A multiplication strategy is exponentially faster than an addition strategy. Keith Philipps in his 1981 book “The Making of a Disciple” presented a chart comparing discipleship with evangelism. If one person were to reach one person every day for the next 16 years (he actually calculated for 32 years), that would be 5,840 people. Now if a person would disciple one person a year for the next 16 years, that would be 65,536 people. Then, Greg Ogden in his 2016 book “Transforming Discipleship” expounded it even further. If we went by the Inner Circle Model, in 16 years, that would be 43,046,721 people. I know that all these figures are ideal world assumptions. But, unless we go this way, there’s no way that we will win our community and our world for Christ.

vi. A one-on-one group can be intimidating. It is very hard for people to talk about their personal lives and struggle one on one, especially men.

vii. You grow as a group. Christian life is not an individual sport. It is a team sport. The boys and I have been watching the World Cup Soccer tournament. It’s amazing to see the reaction when a player makes a goal. The whole team comes running and jumps on him! So also, in discipleship, we grow as a team.

viii. Jesus discipled in groups. I’ve repeated this time and time again with how Jesus worked with the disciples and the Inner Circle with Peter, James, and John.

3. Don’t confuse biblical correction with control and condemnation. A major reason that many people are reluctant to join an accountability group or the Inner Circle is because they think that now they have to give an account of everything they do to someone. They assume that they are inadvertently turning over their freedom to someone else. This is just not true. Here’s a great illustration:Most of us have a lead foot. We like to drive a little above the speed limit. What happens when you see a police, sheriff, or state trooper car? We slow down and check our speedometer. Why do we do that? Is it because we don’t want to cause a wreck or break the law. I doubt it. We don’t want to get stopped, get a ticket, have to go to court, and have our insurance go up. The police car forces us to stay within the law. What if we didn’t have any police cars. Would we still do what is right? Maybe some of us but most won’t. Accountability is like that police car. It forces us to stay away from sin. Galatians 6 1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The goal is not control or condemnation but biblical correction or restoration.It is not pushing your personal convictions on others. Robby Gallaty said – “Accountability must be couched in grace. Avoid narcissistic, self-improvement regimens that turn grace into law.” Listen to verse2“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”

Illustration: John Bradford was a pastor, a reformer, and later became a martyr. Tradition has it that when he would see convicts being taken to be executed that he would say under his breath “there but for the grace of God go I.” In other words, “the only difference between that convict and myself is the grace of God.” If all of us can believe that we are only 1 or 2 steps away from that man or that woman behind bars, what a difference it would make in how we treat people. Paul said in I Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am. . .”

Invitation: Do you pull people up or down? Have you been pulled up by the grace of God in Jesus Christ?

Unlike Us by Pastor Abidan Shah

UNLIKE US by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Unlike UsIntroduction:  Do you remember that old joke? A teacher asked her kindergarteners to draw a picture of someone very important. All the kids began drawing a picture of mom, dad, or some famous person in history. After 15-20 minutes, the teacher noticed that all the kids were done except this one boy who was still working very intently in the back. Curious, she asked him, “Who are you drawing?” Without even looking up, he replied, “God!” The teacher was startled. She went up to him and asked, “How can you draw God? No one knows what he looks like.” He replied, “They will when I get through!” All of us are guilty of doing that. We try to draw God after our own image and understanding. Today’s message will teach us that “God is unlike us. Instead of trying to make him like us, we are to become like him.” The message is titled “UNLIKE US.”

Psalm 50    15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? 18 When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. 19 You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.”

Question: “You thought that I was altogether like you.” Is that what you’re doing? Have you created God in your own image? What sin are you justifying by claiming that God does it too? Are you saved? Have you conformed to image of his Son?

Context: In my devotion time I’ve been reading through the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. As you know, the Book of Psalms was the song book of the children of Israel, later known as the Jewish people. It played a very important role in their worship and daily life. It reminded them of something very important that many Christians fail to understand – It’s not enough to know the truth, affirm the truth, clarify the truth, defend the truth, and share the truth. You also have to take the time to delight in the truth. The Psalms are meant to help us delight in the truth. C.S. Lewis in his book titled Reflections on the Psalms wrote, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” That’s beautiful!

The psalm we are looking at today (Psalm 50) begins with the heading “The Song of Asaph.” Who was Asaph? I Chronicles 6 tells us that he was a worship leader of one of the groups of temple singers established by King David. He was the worship leader when the ark was brought back to Jerusalem. He was again in charge of the music when the ark was brought to the temple built by Solomon. Later there was a musical school named after him that continued centuries after his death. What I am trying to say is that Asaph was no ordinary one hit wonder. He was a worship leader with great depth and legacy. Something else that needs to be mentioned before we look at this psalm in depth – The placement of this psalm at this place in the Book of Psalms is not by chance. It has been strategically placed here to prepare us to read Psalm 51 which is a prayer of repentance by David when Nathan the prophet confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah.

With that in mind, let’s begin – 1 “The Mighty One, God the Lord, has spoken…” If you rush past the opening words, you will miss the significance of the titles for God. In Hebrew it reads “El Elohim Yahweh.” Three different names for God are mentioned here. El – the Mighty God in whom are all the attributes and power of godhead. Elohim – the Creator God who made everything. Yahweh – the Merciful God who reveals himself to us and sets us free. He redeemed the people in Exodus and met them at Sinai.

Application: Is this the God you pray to? Is this the God you worship and sing to? The All-Powerful Creator God Who Alone is Our Redeemer.

One more important description needs to be included here – 1 “…and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. 3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: 5 “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6 Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge. Selah (Lift up/exalt) The All-Powerful Creator God Who Alone is Our Redeemer is also the Great Judge of all the earth.

Application: Are you ready to meet this God? Are you going to lift up and exalt his right to judge or are you going to argue and defend your case?

What does this God have to say? First, he will speak to the righteous among his people – 7 “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God! 8 I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, Which are continually before Me. 9 I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. 13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats? 14 Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. In other words, I don’t need you to go out there and get me meat so I won’t be hungry. The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.”

Application: We are easily swayed by favors people do for us. You cannot sway God. Remember what I said earlier that this psalm has been placed here for a reason. Listen to what David says in Psalm 51   16 “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.” And what’s the reward for those who offer to the sacrifices from a clean heart? 15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Here’s the privilege of obeying God.

But now listen to what God says to the Wicked Righteous – 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? In other words, how do you receive God’s truth when you encounter it in your devotion time, in a message, in a Sunday School lesson, on the radio, or in a Christian literature? How do you receive the Word when it is given to you by a godly friend? Do you hate it and cast it aside? How did David receive God’s Word through Nathan? 2 Samuel 12:13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” In other words, he repented.

What happens when you don’t repent? God goes into detail – 18 “When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. 19 You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. How many sins are mentioned here? Stealing, Adultery, Accomplice/Association, Evil Speaking, Lying, Gossip, Smear, Slander. What did God do about it? 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent…” Just because God does not immediately deal with your sin does not mean that he approves it. Silence is not approval. When we are silent, we are approving. When God is silent, he is extending mercy. But here comes the worst one – 21 “…You thought that I was altogether like you…” This is the sin of misrepresenting God because it suits your purpose and your love for your pet sin.

Application: Do you twist the Bible to justify your behavior, your sin? The worst thing you can do to any person is misrepresent him/her. Yet, people do that to God to justify their sinful action and lives.

What is the consequence? 21 “…But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.” If you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit will not let you off easily. He will convict you and expose to you the error of your ways. What if you still don’t change? 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:” Now it’s no longer private but public exposure. The old principle is true – “You cover your sin and God will uncover it. You uncover your sin and God will cover it.”

Here’s the solution – 23 “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” What will you do? True praise cannot come from a contaminated, sin-filled heart. Furthermore, it’s not enough to say with David Psalm 51    3 “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,” you also have to say with him 7 “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. 9            Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Are you ready to repent? Are you saved?

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?

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