Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press On by Dr. Abidan Shah

Press On

PRESS ON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you remember from last weekend, Paul counted all his achievements (5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless) as loss (zemeia), actually unspeakable filth (skubalon) compared to gaining Christ. Now, through Christ, he has justification, sanctification, and glorification.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invitation:

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

Marvelous by Dr. Abidan Shah

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MARVELOUS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Recently, I was on Twitter when a statement caught my eye. I didn’t know the person making the statement but based on his profile, it seemed that he believed like I did about biblical/ethical/moral values. He said (I am paraphrasing), “Why does Abortion always have to become the main issue? There are other issues that are just as critical.” When I read that, I was like, “Maybe, we don’t agree as much as I thought we did, or, maybe, you’ve lost your moral compass, if you ever had one.” As I was about to dismiss that statement as an anomaly, I saw another one just like it! This one said (again, I’m paraphrasing)—“Abortion is used as the trump card (no pun intended) to get voters to abandon all other issues and vote a certain way.” Again, based on this person’s profile, I would have assumed that we would’ve had similar values. Here’s the heart of the message: Abortion is not about politics. Abortion is not about rights. Abortion is not about science and technology or health and quality of life. Abortion is ultimately about God. With that in mind, our message today is titled “MARVELOUS.”

Psalm 139    13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and thatmy soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Question: Do you believe that you have been fearfully and wonderfully made by God? Do you believe that human life is marvelous? Do you have eternal life? Are you saved?

Background: Many of you may not realize but today is the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday or Weekend. Forty-Seven years ago, on January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in all 50 states. It’s popularly known as Roe v. Wade. On January 9, 1989, President Reagan issued a proclamation designating that day as the first Sanctity of Human Life Day. Since then, every third Sunday (weekend) in January is recognized by churches all across our country as a day to give special emphasis to God’s gift of life, to remember the lives lost due to abortion, and to commit ourselves to speaking out for human life at every stage. Today’s message is again a little different than how I typically preach but it’s one that we need to hear, especially the younger generation. The further we get away from our biblical foundation, the harder it is for people, even some Christians, to understand the importance of certain convictions like the value of the unborn child.

With that in mind, let’s go back to the psalm we just read, Psalm 139. It is known as a psalm of David. As you know, David was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). So, here in Psalm 139, David gives us God’s heart on the unborn child. I want you to notice especially the language he uses to describe God’s creation process of the unborn child. It is beyond beautiful! Shakespeare, Milton, and Elliot have nothing on him! Listen again to verse 13 “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” I don’t have time to pause at every single word and look at its meaning from Hebrew, just the important ones. For starters, David doesn’t say “my parents formed my inward parts” or “the coming together of the sperm and the egg formed me.” He says, “God, you formed me.” Listen carefully: A married couple can come together in love or two strangers can hook up in lust, the forming of life is God’s work. Bringing life inside the mother’s womb can only be done by the life-giver. He holds the copyright on life. “You covered me in my mother’s womb.” David uses a very special word to describe this process, “sakhed,” which is not really “cover.” It should actually be translated “weave.” David is depicting God as the grand weaver who actually knits every child carefully inside the mother’s womb. In other words, God is intricately involved in the development of every child in every womb ever since the beginning of time!

14 “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” The Hebrew word for “marvelous” is “palah,” which can be translated as “surpassing,” “extraordinary,” “beyond one’s power to do,” “wonderful,” and “marvelous.” David is praising God for his marvelous work in creating life. 15 “My frame (skeletal structure) was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret…” The Hebrew word for “secret” is “sether,” which means the “hiding place” or “secret place.” The point here is not a hideout but a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend. “And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” The Hebrew word for “skillfully wrought” is “rekhem,” which means “using different colors, textures, and patterns to make a special cloth. In other words, God makes every child unique and beautiful in his/her own way, even if there are disabilities. The disabilities are not because he failed but because we live in a broken world. His work is still perfect!

Finally, verse 16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.” The Hebrew word for “substance” is “golem,” which means the embryo. It has the idea of an “unfinished vessel.”“And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there werenone of them.” In other words, even before a child is born, even before they are in an embryonic form, all their days, not necessarily their individual decisions but all God’s providential acts designed for that life, are written out in God’s chronicles.

So, what do we gather from Psalm 139?

  • God holds the copyright on every life.
  • God makes every life intricately and lovingly.
  • God’s marvelous work should cause us to praise him.
  • God supervises the entire developmental process of every life.
  • God marvelous work in bringing life can never be fully understood.
  • God makes every child unique and beautiful, even if there are disabilities.
  • God records beforehand his providential acts for every life even before birth.

Abortion goes against this entire list. People may say – Abortion is about a women’s right to choose; it’s about population control; or it’s about the quality of life. No matter how people support abortion, it ultimately contradicts everything about God because it is philosophically based on an anti-God premise. To understand this, we have to look at the roots of the American Abortion Movement. Margaret Sanger, the first president of Planned Parenthood, which provides the most abortion in the world, wrote a book titled “Pivot of Civilization.” If you want to know about the roots of this movement, here are just a few examples:

  • Regarding the poor, blind, deaf, mute, and those intellectually disabled: “When we learn further that the total number of inmates in public and private institutions in the State of New York—in alms-houses, reformatories, schools for the blind, deaf and mute, in insane asylums, in homes for the feeble-minded and epileptic—amounts practically to less than sixty-five thousand, an insignificant number compared to the total population, our eyes should be opened to the terrific cost to the community of this dead weight of human waste.”
  • Regarding the poor and disabled people: It sees that the most responsible and most intelligent members of society are the less fertile; that the feeble-minded are the more fertile. Herein lies the unbalance, the great biological menace to the future of civilization. Are we heading to biological destruction, toward the gradual but certain attack upon the stocks of intelligence and racial health by the sinister forces of the hordes of irresponsibility and imbecility?”
  • In her magazine, Birth Control Review, an article was published by Dr. Ernst Rudin, a Nazi doctor in the Eugenics movement advocating racial hygiene among the Germans. There were other articles advocating ethnic cleansing of American Gypsies and Defective Families. Sanger openly praised Hitler’s policy of racial cleansing and Hitler admired her work. Such racial science fit perfectly with Hitler’s agenda of cleansing the society of the weak and disabled, then moving on to those ethnicities that were unwanted, starting with the gypsies and ending with six million Jewish people being sent to the gas chambers.
  • In the 1930s, Sanger began the “Negro Project.” It started with handing out contraception and then culminated in promoting abortion to control the race.

I can go on and on. The point is not that everyone who is pro-abortion is cruel and racist. What it does mean is that the philosophy behind abortion is one that denigrates and devalues human life, especially the weak, the poor, the disabled, and the minorities. All this is ultimately about claiming that it is my right to decide what happens. As I said, “Abortion is ultimately about God” because–

  • Abortion tries to steal God’s copyright on life.
  • Abortion reduces life to just a biochemical process.
  • Abortion seeks to praise only self.
  • Abortion denies the beauty of the developmental process.
  • Abortion understands life only through personal and collective convenience.
  • Abortion rejects the uniqueness of every child.
  • Abortion destroys God’s chronicles of every life. It brutally murders the child before they even have a chance to live out the days fashioned for them.

What does all this mean for us as believers, as the church? Do we believe that life is God’s gift? Do we believe that he gets to first and the final say on life? Jesus came to die even for the unborn. To terminate that pregnancy, is to terminate the opportunity from that life to receive Christ and live out the days fashioned for him/her by God.

Invitation: Today is the day to repent if you have believed wrongly. Today is the day to pray for our nation and for the unborn. Today is the day to give our lives to Christ.

Unrest by Dr. Abidan Shah

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This weekend, our message will take a look at the events that have happened in recent days and how we ought to approach them from a biblical perspective. In today’s world, we are bombarded by so much information, it is difficult to discern what is true and what is not. In order to think rightly about the world and the events around us, we must approach them from biblical and historical perspective.

In this message, we will look at the current crisis through the lens of history and Scripture. We will examine the nation of Iran throughout history. Regardless of what we might have heard, this message will help us understand the current situation in light of past events and the Word of God. The title of this weekend’s message is “UNREST.”

What are your thoughts on the current crisis? Do you believe that God’s Word can help us think rightly about culture? Are you saved? Invite your friends and family to worship this weekend. This is a message that none of us can afford to miss!

Christmas Mythbusters by Dr. Abidan Shah

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CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Couple of weeks ago, I was at a used book store in Raleigh when 2 ladies walked in. I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation, not that I was eavesdropping. They were just so loud and obnoxious! Then, one of them belted out to the cashier—“Hey, did you know that Jesus was not born on December 25th? That day was actually a Roman festival honoring the Greek god Saturn. The church leaders adapted it to keep their people from going back to old pagan holidays.” I wanted to step in and say “Hey, that’s baloney!” but I knew that wouldn’t be good. Please listen carefully: The church did not create Christmas from some pagan holiday. December 25th did not become the birthday of Jesus through some church council decision. Instead, it was passed down through the earliest tradition as the day the Savior of the World was born. In fact, ever since the beginning of time, it was the “most important event” on God’s calendar. Today’s message is different than what I typically preach but it’s one we need to hear, especially our children and grandchildren who are bombarded with anti-Christmas statements this time of the year. It is titled “CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS.”

Galatians 4     3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Question: What do you believe about Christmas? Do you believe that it’s just a myth or do you believe that it’s the “fullness of time” when God sent his Son to save you? Have you received the adoption as sons and daughters of the King?

Foreword: We’re living in what’s known as the “Information Age.” Sometimes, it’s also referred as the Computer Age or the Digital Age. Never in the history of the world did so many people have so much access to so much information. In the past, if we wanted to know about a subject, we had to go to the library or a book store. But, now it’s at our fingertips! Any time any place we can access any information! In some ways, that’s a blessing, but, in some ways, that’s also a curse. People, even Christians, read something on the internet and immediately think that they are getting the truth on a matter. Please listen: Just because something is on the web, it does not mean that it is true. Also, reading a couple of blogs and watching a couple of YouTube videos does not make you an expert on a subject.

Having said that, there is a myth on the internet, which has been around much longer than the internet, that claims that December 25th was actually a pagan holiday that the church adopted as the birthday of Jesus to keep Christians from participating in their old pagan holidays. This began somewhere around the 4th century after Constantine converted to Christianity. Is this true or false? False! Sometimes even Christians say this without realizing the inherent danger. When we say that December 25th as the birthday of Jesus is a myth, the logical questions that follows is “Is anything else about Jesus a myth? Was he really the Son of God? Did he really die and rise again? Is he really the Savior of the world? Did he even come?”

To start with, there are 2 different lines of arguments in support of this myth, sometimes even used by Christians:

  1. The History of Religions View: This view goes back to the 1600s. According to this theory, in AD 274, the Roman Emperor Aurelian built a temple in honor of the Sun God, Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun). He did this because he had won some victories in battle and he wanted to honor the patron god of soldiers. He even instituted some special games in the god’s honor. Guess what date this was? December 25th. Furthermore, this was also the time of the Saturnalia, which ran from December 17th-23rd, in honor of the Roman God Saturn who was the god of wealth and agriculture. This was all based around the winter solstice. In the Northern hemisphere, this is around December 21-22, when the earth is at its maximum tilt away from the sun. The day is short and symbolized the death and re-birth of the sun. It was a time of great feasting, parties, gambling, and gift-giving. Christian leaders under hijacked these pagan festivals and Christianized them.

Listen carefully: There is zero evidence in early history from pagan or Christian writers that the church leaders did this. Instead, we find in historical documents statements that affirm that, according to tradition, Christmas was celebrated in Rome from the very beginning. Furthermore, parts of the world that were not directly impacted by Rome were also celebrating Christmas around the same time period. I can go on and on. In my opinion, the Roman emperor could have instituted his festival to counter the Christians celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25th.

  1. The Calculation View: This view goes back to the late 1800s. According to this theory, the December 25th day was calculated by the church leaders from the date of the annunciation (when Gabriel came to Mary) and the Conception of Jesus. These dates were then taken from the date when Jesus was crucified. This is all based on some rabbinic tradition that all the great prophets of Israel died on the same day as they were born (Integral Age). So, supposedly the early church leaders figured out that Jesus died on March 25th and then they calculated from there 9th months. That’s how they got December 25th. This is the biggest mess because here we’re not talking about the annunciation but the conception. So, what is it? Who knows! By the way, I don’t have time to get into some of the calendar issues, except to say that some of the later calendars are not very accurate. So, we are trying to recreate a date based on a faulty calendar! Again, there is no shred of evidence that the early church actually did this kind of math to figure out the birthday of Jesus!

So, is December 25th the actual date of Jesus’ birth? To start with, I cannot give you all the evidence in the next 10 minutes. I’m going to give you just two from the Gospels:

#1. Matthew 2    1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet…” Let me stop there. When did Herod die?Josephus (Jewish Historian) tells us of an incident before the death of Herod. He had set up a Roman eagle above the gate of the temple in Jerusalem. This was a slap in the face of the Jewish people. Herod was getting sicker by the day and some of the Rabbis called on the young men to tear down the eagle from the gate. They did but got caught. Herod sent them to Jericho along with the rabbis and ordered that they be burned alive. The date of the execution was January 10, 1 BC. But, he’s getting worse. Then he decides to head out of town to the mineral springs beyond Jordan in the middle of February, 1 BC. Now, we have a statement by an ancient writer by the name of Macrobius. He recorded some witty sayings of the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. Here’s one—“On hearing that the son of Herod, king of the Jews, had been slain when Herod ordered that all boys in Syria under the age of two be killed, Augustus said, “It’s better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” This was a play on words from “hoos” (pig) to huios” (son). We have the date when Herod had his son Antipater executed. Herod died just 5 days after his son’s execution. This would place his death on April 8, 1 BC. But, let’s stop here for a moment: When did Herod have boys 2-year-old and younger killed. Matthew 2:16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” So, the wise men probably saw Herod before he left for the mineral springs in the middle of February. Where does this put the birth of Jesus? Exactly where we have always believed around December 25th.

#2. Luke 1    5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. This is referred to as the priestly course. King David had divided the priests into 24 courses to set up a calendar when they could serve. This is complicated but it puts Zacharias’ service around September 5-11, 3 BC. According to tradition, John was conceived around September 22nd, 3 BC. What does John the Baptizer’s birth have to do with Jesus’s birth? Luke 1    26 “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” Can you count 6 months from September? March, 2 BC. That’s when Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Can you count 9 months from March? December.

Then there are other silly arguments that the shepherds could not have been watching their flocks by night in the winter. According to the Mishnah, the sheep around Bethlehem were outside all year. This was especially true of the Passover Sheep which had to be outside for thirty days before Passover. This would be in February, the coldest and wettest month of the year. December would not be a problem.

What’s the point of all this? Listen again—Galatians 4     3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

God sent his Son and that’s a fact. What will you do about it? Have you received him as your Savior and King? Are you adopted in God’s family?

Produce by Pastor Abidan Shah

Produce

PRODUCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  As many of you know, this was a very busy week for me. I had to give the oral defense for my PhD dissertation. It’s an exam that you have to take before you can officially get your doctorate. I had passed my dissertation already but I was very nervous about this exam because it determines whether or not you really know your stuff and deserve the title of “doctor.” I was so nervous that I asked David to drive me to Wake Forest. By the way, that morning, the entire staff and their families showed up at the house to pray with me. It really meant a lot to me! After 2 hours of sitting in the hot seat answering questions, I was told that I had passed the exam. Needless to say, I was very happy and relieved. Listen carefully:Christian life doesn’t end at “I’m saved and when I die, I’m going to heaven.” If you’re saved, you’re facing an exam where God the examiner is coming around to see whether or not you are producing fruits worthy of repentance. Fruit bearing is the natural outflow of salvation. By the way, these fruits are not what you might think. They are acts of mercy. And, one more thing, your clock is ticking. Are you producing fruits worthy of repentance? That’s the title of our message today—PRODUCE—in our series on the parables of Jesus.

Luke 13      6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are. Are you a fig tree that is bearing fruit or one that is barren? Do you know that your clock is ticking? You may have 3 years left or you may have 3 hours left. Are you saved? Are you bearing fruit?

Background: Compared to the parables of the Wheat and the Tares, the Prodigal Son, or the Good Samaritan, today’s parable of the barren fig tree is not as popular. But, it is a very important parable. It is a continuation of last week’s message on the parable of the Good Samaritan. In fact, this parable was given on the same journey that Jesus embarked on in Luke 9:51. If you remember last weekend’s message, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to be ascended and he started making his way towards Jerusalem. As he is making this one-way trip, he sends his disciples out into the fields that are white unto harvest and they return with joy saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (Luke 10:17) In other words, lives are being transformed and demonic strongholds are being broken. Jesus praises God and blesses his disciples because they are participating in building God’s kingdom and they are seeing and hearing the things of eternal life. Then, a certain lawyer wanting to get in on the action tests him saying, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him what is in the law. He replies, “Love God and Love Neighbor.” Jesus tells him to go do that. Then seeking to justify himself, he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. The message of the parable is “Don’t ask ‘who is my neighbor?’ but instead ask, ‘who needs a neighbor?’” If you remember from last week—“A True Neighbor is someone who shows Mercy. Mercy is the distinguishing mark of those who have Eternal Life. If you want to know whether or not you have Eternal Life, ask yourself ‘Are you a Good Neighbor?’” Don’t just have pity, put some money behind it.

Application: By the way, I am so encouraged to see and hear the testimonies from so many of you of how you have used your $100 cross! Wow! Many of you are still praying for God to send the right person in your path who needs your gift. That’s wonderful. I am glad to hear that you are getting it! It’s not enough just to have pity. You have to put some money behind it. Unfortunately, not everyone will get it.

Not everyone got it when Jesus told the people to show mercy and put some money behind it. Luke 11    53 “And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, 54 lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.” In other words, they missed his message of mercy completely! Instead, they were trying to cross-examine him! Listen to Jesus’ warning to them— Luke 12    40 “…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect… 42 “…Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to givethem their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45 But if that servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 “…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required…56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” In other words, Jesus was saying “I’m teaching you the importance of Mercy and you are trying to cross-examine me? What you don’t realize is that I’m the Examiner and your exam has begun!”

Human beings are masters of deflection. We call that “changing the subject.” Listen toLuke 13     1 “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” We don’t have any historical record outside of the Bible regarding this incident but this is very much like Pilate. He was a very cruel man. In fact, once he was even ordered back to Rome to stand trial for a similar act that he did against the Samaritans. What was the reason for this discussion? Who knows! We love discussing current affairs. We love making small talk. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all otherGalileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Jesus gave them another useless small talk to bring them back to his main point.

Application: Do you like to deflect what the Holy Spirit is telling you? Do you like to make small talk? Do you like to joke about the message or discuss something useless to ease the pressure of conviction? God knows your heart.

At this point, Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree. Listen again, Luke 13    6 “…A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. By the way, the fig tree was a symbol for Israel but it still applies to all of us. 7Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ Here’s where people make a big mistake—they think that fruits worthy of repentance are stop sinning, start going to church, don’t do drugs, don’t cheat, don’t lie, etc. Like the adage – “I don’t drink. I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls who do.” That may be true but this is not what’s implied here. To find its true meaning, we have to back up to Luke 3where John the Baptist used the same imagery—7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Now listen very carefully—10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” Fruits worthy of repentance are acts of mercy!

Application: Are you a merciful person?

Let’s go back to the parable one more time—7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Invitation: You are living on borrowed time. Will you show mercy and put money behind it? Mercy is not the requirement for salvation. It is the verification of salvation. Have you received God’s Mercy through the death of Jesus on the cross? Are you saved?

Vicious Cycle (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

VICIOUS CYCLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the Newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 9, 2019)

“The Bible will come alive for you! It will be a life-changing trip!” I could tell that my mentor really wanted me to go on a tour of Israel. Few years later, we took him up on it. Since then, my wife and I have visited the Holy Land several times and it is truly everything and more than you can imagine! In our last tour in January, along with the usual sites (Galilee, Jordan River, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, etc.), we visited six Middle Bronze Canaanite cities in Israel (Megiddo, Hazor, Tel Dan, Beth Shan, Jericho, and Jerusalem). In the chronology of the Levant, the Middle Bronze period is between 1800BC-1550BC. Although scholars disagree over the precise terminology, this is the time period when the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was occupied by the Canaanites and the Amorites. These were the cities that God told Moses to lead the people of Israel to go in and possess. 

Typically, we think that the reason God wanted to drive the Canaanites out of the land is because they were primitive savages. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s what we found:

1. They were master builders. In order to protect their cities, they first built massive free-standing walls (some places 50 ft tall) around the city. This was followed by a massive embankment with crowning walls. All this was psychological warfare to discourage an invading army from wasting their time.

2. They understood hydraulics and built massive water storage facilities, underground drainage, and irrigation lines.

3. They were very good farmers, pottery makers, and metal workers. They learned how to make bronze by alloying copper with tin. Now they had weapons that could be shaped and sharpened. They even had an export business with Egypt.

4. They created the ancestor of our English alphabet. Unlike the Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Mesopotamian cuneiform, their descendants (the Phoenicians) standardized the 22 signs for each sound that we use to this today.

Nonetheless, as advanced and prosperous as these people were, something was not right with them. Deuteronomy 12:29-31“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them…for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”In other words, they practiced every kind of perversion imaginable but worst of all, they sacrificed their babies to their god Molech! Although literary evidence from Canaan is scant, there is plenty regarding the Phoenicians, the Canaanites who established a colony in North Africa. Siculus, a Greek historian, wrote – “There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.”Plutarch, another Greek writer, added that “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.” Historians and archaeologists would deny these accounts claiming that it wasn’t possible for such an advanced culture to do something so heinous. In 2014, Dr. Josephine Quinn of Oxford University along with a team of scholars confirmed these accounts as absolutely true based on further research.

Here’s the point: God wiped out the Canaanites because they chose to kill their children. What do you think God thinks of America today? Over 638,000 are being killed each year. Will we repeat the vicious cycle and face God’s wrath or will we speak out for the innocent and the voiceless? It is much more than a political issue. Jesus said “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

(Re)Setting the Record Straight (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(RE)SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 17, 2018)

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

(Re)Setting the Record Straight“America was founded as a Christian nation!” My father-in-law made that remark to me over twenty years ago. I remember hearing the frustration in his voice and being puzzled by it. I told him that I thought every American believed that. How could they not? After all, this was “One Nation Under God.” He explained to me that there were people who believed that this was never a Christian nation. To the contrary, they claimed that it was birthed in greed and selfishness with the privileged few controlling the many through fear and oppression.

I decided to research for myself. Here’s what I found: Yes, America was founded on biblical values. But, no, that doesn’t mean that everyone who came across the ocean was a born-again Christian. There is a big difference between Christian values and individual Christian lives. The first is a worldview and the second is a transformed life through Jesus Christ. Examine the Constitution of the United States – 34% of all citations are from the Bible. The ideals of freedom of religion, natural rights, and equality were grounded in Christianity. It was repeatedly affirmed that God’s providence was behind the birth of our nation. But this does not mean that every person, even the signers, were always orthodox in their belief and perfect in their character. Here’s an illustration: Our refrigerator keeps the temperature cold which preserves the food. But, this doesn’t mean that everything inside is delicious. In fact, some foods may even get a freezer burn and be harmful. So also, the Christian values of America did not guarantee that every individual would be Christlike. As John Fea in his insightful book “Was America founded as a Christian Nation” remarked: “History is complex. Heroes sometimes do unheroic things. It is the responsibility of the historian to make every effort to explain the past in its fullness.”

Unfortunately, there is no such balance in recent rhetoric. It is adamantly claimed that “we need to set the record straight regarding our past.” Such allegations are a byproduct of the postmodern revision of history. It views the past as Hegel’s “historic dialectic,” wherein truth is relative and nothing more than an outcome of the struggle for dominance. All understanding of the past is viewed with suspicion. This is terribly misleading. Yes, revisionism is appropriate but only if more historical documents are discovered or new information sheds light on the existing documents. But, this has to be done very responsibly. If not, we are creating a false narrative to push an agenda. To claim that the First Amendment was a separation of church and state is a gross misunderstanding. It was a protection on other Christian groups from practicing their beliefs without repercussions from the state church. It was never meant to discard Christianity.

Furthermore, tearing down our nation’s Christian foundation is also very dangerous. It is like taking a sledge hammer to the foundation of your house and still expecting the walls and the roof to remain intact. It is impossible. The house will collapse. Those who want to revise our nation’s past are willing to take that chance. I suggest that they travel overseas and visit nations that did not have a strong biblical influence in their past. There is a marked difference in individual rights and dignity of the weak. In fact, it is punishable by death to even challenge their nation’s past. Having come from a nation not founded on Judeo-Christian values, I can testify that this nation was built on biblical values. To use the analogy of the refrigerator again: Don’t throw out a perfectly good refrigerator because some foods have gone bad.

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