Righteous Conduct by Dr. Abidan Shah

RIGHTEOUS CONDUCT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Many of us tend to idealize or remake our past. Parents do that with their kids. It usually begins with “When I was your age…” or “When I was growing up, we had to walk 10 miles to school. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways. With my fat kid brother on my back.” Couples do that too when they argue. One will try to make his/her upbringing far better than the other. This does not mean that we need to disown our past or all our past was horrible. But, by glorifying our past, we tend to make it look better than it really was. Sometimes, we even return to our old ways, which leads to bad conduct. As we return to our series in 1 Peter, we are going to learn how to have RIGHTEOUS CONDUCT from our new story in Christ. Main point: Righteous conduct requires discarding our old and false narratives and embracing our new and true narrative as found in the Scriptures. In other words, in order to live holy lives, we have to embrace who we are in God’s narrative of redemption through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:17 “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”

Context: In this verse, Peter was calling his readers to conduct themselves in the here and now in light of God’s judgment to come. If you remember, Peter was writing this letter to the pilgrims of the Dispersion (Jewish and Gentile background believers in Asia Minor) who were facing rejection by their own and societal discrimination by their neighbors. Peter was calling them to holy living by discarding their old family values and embracing their new family values. Listen to verse 14 “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Here “former lusts” refers to the old family values and old behaviors. In contrast, they were to choose holiness as their new calling. If that’s not enough, listen again to verse 17, “And if you call on the Father…” Here “the Father” is our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. 17 “…who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.” Now, notice carefully verse 18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers.” Here “your fathers” are the earthly fathers representing our past life and values. Peter was clearly drawing a distinction between the readers old family and the new family.

Principle: During trials, if we’re not careful, we will return to our default setting. Trials can cause us to revert back to our old ways, the old family values we grew up with.

Application: How did you face your trials in 2020? Were you more Christlike or more Devillike? Did you grow in holiness or did you slide towards sinfulness? Did you revert to the old lifestyle or the new life in Christ?

How do you stay in the new lifestyle? You have to embrace your new narrative of redemption through Jesus Christ. Peter gives us a new timeline between verses 13-21, that is past, present, and future (Joel Green):

  1. Before Time:

20 “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”

Before the foundation of the world: Jesus talked about this time in John 17:24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” Again, Paul talked about in Ephesians 1:4 “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Also, John said in Revelation 13:8 “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

In a world of nostalgia where the old is glorified, it doesn’t get any more glorified than this. The plan of salvation was not hatched after sin came into the world. It was already part of God’s plan before time began. It is much more than foresight. It implies the sovereign plan of God. The key here is “for you.” You may not have felt wanted or appreciated under the old plan, but you are wanted and appreciated under the new plan.

Application: Did you realize that you were in the heart of God before the foundation of the world?

  1. Time of Ignorance and Emptiness:

14 “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.”

Ignorance = not as much about lack of knowledge but about failure to grasp the character and purpose of God. It is a failure to align our lives with the purposes of God. This period was marked by “lusts” = epithumea, which refers to self-indulgence and evil cravings.

18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers.”

“Aimless” = “mataios” refers to worthless, useless, empty, vain life. Of course, we appreciate scientific, medical, and technological progress, there is not much gain that is left from the past. By the way, without Christianity and Judeo-Christian foundation, Western Civilization is nothing.

Application: How much do you value your past? Have you manufactured a fake past?

  1. End of the Ages/Last Times:

20 “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

“Last Times” = “eschaton ton chronon” refers to the end times. 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.” Acts 2:17 “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.”

Application: Did you know that we are living in the last days?

  1. Rescued and Restored Times:

18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

“Redeem” = “lutruo” meaning rescued and restored. The image is of slaves set free. It is taking us back to the Exodus event to the Passover. By participating in the Passover, the people were not only memorializing what took place on that night of the Exodus but they were also “actualizing identification with Israel’s salvation history.” Now, it is the precious blood of Christ that rescues and restores us. More importantly: we are not redeemed just from sin but also from our old behavior.

Application: Have you been rescued and restored?

  1. Exile/Temporary life:

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;

Time of your stay = “paroikias humon chronon,” which means “your exile life,” “temporary life,” or “foreigner life.” In every aspect of life – family, church, finances, work, social compassion, justice, integrity, neighborliness, etc. – we are to live in a way that demonstrates that we are different. Remember, that you have to give an account to your Heavenly Father who is also your judge. Before you talk about praying, examine your life to make sure that it is approved unto God. Make sure your fear is directed in the right direction – towards God.

Application: How are you living in every aspect of life? Are you aware that God will judge you for your daily actions? Do you examine before you pray? Is your fear directed in the right direction – towards God?

  1. Revelation of Jesus Christ:

13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“Revelation” = “apocalypses,” which refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion: What is your narrative? Where do you stand in God’s redemption story? Are you living in a way that he will be pleased when he returns? Trials are not an exemption to holy living. God demands holiness, especially in the midst of trials.

Are you saved?

Greater than Rulers by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER – THAN RULERS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How many of you have watched the old “Twilight Zone” TV show? I don’t know about you but, after a while, it starts to mess with your mind. One time, our kids were watching one episode after another and I had to tell them to stop! I felt like someone was always watching me or out to get to me. If there was one character in NT history who was always paranoid, it was King Herod. He constantly felt that he had to prove his kingship and that the world was out to get him. In our 3-week Christmas series titled “GREATER,” we are learning how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. Last week, we saw that Jesus was greater than Rome and Augustus Caesar. In this message, we will see that Jesus was greater than Herod, the paranoid king. Please find Matthew 2. Main point: Throughout history, people have tried to prove their significance and leave their legacy. Unfortunately, they’ve all failed. There is only one who is truly significant and whose legacy has no end. His name is Jesus. His coming was promised in the Scriptures, sought by the wise men, accompanied by celestial signs, and protected by the angels. He alone is the legitimate king, and he wants to bring his rule and legacy to your heart and mine.

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?’”

Context: Just like Luke 2 last week, this passage is also very familiar, especially during Christmas. Again, we usually rush past this to discuss the star or the wise men, and we miss something very important in the verses we just read. Listen again to verse 1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…” Of course, we know that Rome was in control of Palestine at the time, but it did so through local rulers. Herod was that local ruler, the client King, who ruled the region where Jesus was born. Herod’s policies made a big impact on the Christmas narrative.

A quick point here – It is vital that believers be involved in every level of government: local, state, and national.

So, who was Herod the King? Herod came from the Antipatrid family of Idumea, a region to the east and the south of the Dead Sea. Although, originally, they were descendants of Esau (brother of Jacob), now they were a mixture of Edomites, Jewish people, Arabs, Phoenicians, and Greeks. They had been forcibly converted to Judaism by a Jewish ruler named John Hyrcanus. In other words, they were a non-priestly, non-royal, and non-truly-Jewish family. That’s a lot of nons! Antipater I, Herod’s grandfather, had worked his way up and became the governor of Idumea. Herod’s father also followed in his footsteps and became even more successful. Sadly, some people were envious of his success and poisoned him. Now it was Herod’s turn. He was born with somewhat of a silver spoon in his mouth but he still had to work for every bit of what he had. He was hard working and had unending energy. As a strategos (military governor) of Galilee at the age of 25, he was not the type who just made his soldiers fight. He was unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat, a very good horseman, and even a good hunter.

How was his character? Overall, he was quite generous. When there was a drought, he used his own resources to help the people. He built up a strong military. He protected his people against bandits and tried to make his region safer and more peaceful. He was an amazing architect. He built forts, public buildings, streets, water systems, supported the Olympic games and on and on. According to Josephus, Herod’s most important achievement was the building of the temple in Jerusalem at his own expense. It took ten years to build. He doubled the foundation of Solomon’s temple and literally reshaped the layout of Jerusalem. Josephus tells us that the entire façade of the temple was covered with gold plates. When the sun rose, it was blinding to look at it! The upper parts were probably marble. He even took care to have the priests trained as masons and carpenters so that there would be no disruption of services. Furthermore, he made sure that no one family would control the priesthood. I can go on and on about the good he did. Yes, he did have a bad temper, but that’s minor compared to all the good that he did.

Did the people love him for all this? Not really. His people didn’t appreciate him. The Jewish people didn’t accept him because he wasn’t Jewish. His enemies tried to bring him to trial. The supporters of the opposition group tried to attack his family. He had to fight off the Parthians. He had to constantly keep Rome happy. He had to kill all the Hasmoneans (Jewish royalty) to ensure his rule. He even had his own brother-in-law – Aristobulus, the High Priest – killed. He had 300 of his military leaders killed. Yes, he was ruthless but it was all because he felt that they were a threat to his success.

Application: Do you know someone like that? He/she had to work hard all his/her lives. He had to deal with junk growing up. She had lowly upbringing. He didn’t have the best of family growing up. She made some bad choices. He tried to help people but he was not appreciated. Is that you? How do you handle those feelings of insignificance?

How was Herod’s love life? Herod’s family life was a mess, partly because he had ten wives and each of them wanted their son(s) to be the next king. His second wife deserves to mentioned in particular. He dismissed his first wife and son to marry Mariamme, a woman from a Hasmonean (prominent Jewish) family. Initially he did it to help his position, which it didn’t, but then he really loved her and had 5 children with her. She knew what he was like and she didn’t love him. Keep in mind that Herod had her brother killed. As Josephus the historian said, “her hatred of him was as great as was his love for her.” Then, Herod’s sister, Salome, started a rumor that Mariamme was cheating on him and he had her put on trial. He didn’t believe his sister but his sister kept pushing him with more and more lies. Finally, in a fit of rage, he had her killed. Then, he realized what he had done and began to grieve over her and even refused to believe that she was dead. He would often call for her. When he got sick, he took it as God’s judgment.

How was Herod as a father? He loved the two oldest sons he had with Mariamme and even sent them to Rome for their education, hoping to turn the kingdom over to them. When they returned they were arrogant and Herod couldn’t stand that. He even heard rumors that they wanted to avenge their mother’s death. After much back and forth, he had them strangled. Then he made a will (4th one to be exact) to give the kingdom to his son from his first wife but 5 days before he died he had him executed for plotting against him. Altogether, he changed his will 6 times before he died! By the way, I’m only dealing with the issues with his sons. I don’t have time to go into all the other family problems.

How was his end? In his final years Herod became terribly sick. Some scholars believe that he had syphilis. He had tried to get some relief in some healing baths near Jordan River but it didn’t help. When he realized that he was dying, he gave orders to his sister Salome to gather the prominent Jewish people at the hippodrome near Jericho and kill them when he died so people would actually cry when he was gone. He knew his own family wouldn’t cry for him. Thank goodness that after he died his sister did not follow the orders. I feel sorry for the guy. Don’t you?

Application: Do you know some people like that? They’ve had a bad home life. They’ve been let down in their marriage. They’ve tried to be good to their family but it never worked out. Their kids don’t appreciate them. They’ve made decisions that they can’t take back. They live in constant regret and guilt. Are you that person? You are trying to find significance in all the wrong places. You need Christ.

Did God forget Herod? No. In fact, he sent the gospel right to his doorstep. Matthew 2      1 “…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: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

  1. Unlike Herod who had to prove himself constantly, Jesus was clearly promised in the Scriptures.

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

  1. Unlike Herod’s wise men who failed to prepare him, Jesus was sought by the truly wise men.

Matt. 2:9   When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

  1. Unlike Herod’s failed attempt to build his legacy, Jesus’s coming was accompanied by celestial signs.

11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

  1. Unlike Herod who constantly lived in fear of being killed, Jesus was protected by angels.

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.”

This could have gone a whole different way. Herod could have found true significance. God didn’t hate Herod! He sent Jesus to be born 6 miles from where He lived. He sent magi from 430 miles to tell him about His birth. He even had all the chief and scribes at his disposal to tell him about the location of Jesus’ birth. Ultimately, it was his own wicked heart.

Application:  How is your heart this morning? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If you know Him, are you sharing Him with others? Are you willing to step out of your hiding and follow Him boldly? Where are you seeking significance?

Related by Dr. Abidan Shah

Related.jpg

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

Introduction: Relatives, family members, loved ones—We all have them. We love them. We would do anything for them. Having said that, they’re also the very people who drive us crazy, especially during the holiday season. Someone said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” In today’s message, we’re going to learn that even Jesus had to deal with a crazy earthly family. In fact, throughout his earthly ministry, they thought that he was out of his mind! He had to exercise great wisdom and grace in dealing with them. So also, we need wisdom and grace if we’re going to make it with our earthly family. Our message today is titled “RELATED.”

Mark 3    20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”  31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” 33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

Question: Jesus’ family thought that he was out of his mind. Can you imagine that! Do you have family members who think that you are out of your mind? How much do you let family dictate how you live your life? Do you have lost family members? Have you prayed for them to be saved? Are you saved?

Background: As many of you know, I have been pastoring for about 21 years. Through the years, people have come to me for all kinds of counselling. In my experience, one of the major issues that people struggle with in life is family relationships—How to deal with people we grew up with? How to get along with people who are connected to us for no other reason other than the providence of God! On one hand, our family can be a great source of blessing and comfort to us. They can give us a sense of belonging. They are a reminder that we are not alone in this world. They are people who know our past—good and bad—and still accept us. On the other hand, our family or a family member can also be a great source of consternation and pain to us. There are family members or a family member who for one reason or another have/has turned toxic towards us. They(he/she) use 2 weapons of mass destruction to make our lives miserable—blame and shame. Either way, the result is devastating! Even though Jesus came for the primary purpose to redeem us from our sin, he was not immune to the daily struggles of life. He too had a family that tried to use those 2 weapons of shame and blame against him. But, he dealt with them with wisdom and grace. In the next few minutes, we’re going to learn how to do the same.

Context: Let’s return to the passage we just read—Mark 3:20 “Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.” To understand what this means, we need to back up to Mark 3 starting in verse 7 But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. 9 So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. 11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. I would say that judging by all standards, Jesus’ ministry was extremely successful. Not only that but many people were being helped. Their lives were being transformed for the better. His ministry was so successful that he did not even have time to eat!

What was the response of his family? 21 But when His own people heard about this…” His own people were probably people from his hometown or even extended family members or leaders in the family from Nazareth. “…they went out to lay hold of Him…” They came to Capernaum to “krateo” = seize him! “…for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’” The Greek for “out of his mind” is one word “exhistemi.” It means “to be out of his senses,” “confused,” or “crazy.” In other words, his extended family was not in favor of his success. So, they came to drag him physically because he had gone crazy!

Application: Has that happened to you, maybe not physically but verbally and emotionally? You go out, work hard and smart, hoping to hear a “well done!” from your loved ones.” Instead, you get nothing. You put pictures on social media, hoping that family will like them but they ignore. You check it 100 times an hour! Take heart, Jesus had the same problem.

Why were they like that? Mark 6 gives us some clue—1 “Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ So hateful! Are you like that? So they were offended at Him.” The Greek word is “skandalizo,” which gives us our English word “scandal.” Their problem was SHAME.

Remember: Some people will never get over your past. Hometown heroes and heroines are few and far between. If they build you a statue in your honor, it may be after you are dead and gone. Word to the wise: Grow with the people in your life. Don’t think that people are still where they were when you first met them. They will appreciate you more if you meet them where they are today. They may even give you credit for their success.

4 But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” By the way, this was all a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 69:8 “I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children.” 5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.”

How do you handle “shame”? Know your true IDENTITY IN CHRIST—redeemed, forgiven, made new, child of God, more than a conqueror.

But it’s not over yet. Mark 3:31 “Then His brothers and His mother came…” Maybe the hometown crowd pressured them to. “…and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him.” Why standing outside? I don’t think this was because there was no room in the house. Listen to verse 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” If crowd was the problem, the word would not have reached him. By refusing to come in, they were refusing to endorse his success. They were communicating their displeasure with him for causing such a raucous. They were telling him that they were not impressed with his latest shenanigans! Their problem was BLAME.

What was Jesus’ response? 33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” This is very powerful: Jesus did not submit his ministry to his family’s approval. He stood his ground and refused to go out to meet them. He did not alter God’s VISION to please his earthly family.

Principle to remember: If you keep seeking the approval of those who don’t understand you, you will never complete the vision God has for your life. It’s great to have the blessing of your loved ones but ultimately, it’s God’s approval that counts.

If we were to end here, this would be “us against the world” sermon. This is not what Jesus did. He demonstrated GRACE towards his earthly family:

  1. To his Mother—John 19 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
  2. To his Brother—1 Corinthians 15 4 “…He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James…” James was the head of the Jerusalem church and the writer of the book of James. So also, Jude was another brother who wrote the short letter in the New Testament that bears his name.

Ultimately, our goal with our family should not be approval or validation. It should be salvation through Jesus Christ and a growing likeness to him. In the end, that’s all that will matter. When you are clear about your IDENTITY and VISION, refuse to succumb to SHAME and BLAME, and choose to show GRACE, you can overcome any family problems.

Invitation: Are you still hurt about what your family has done? Have you hurt someone in your family that you need to seek forgiveness from? When was the last time you prayed for them to be saved? When was the last time you encouraged them to walk with Christ? Are you saved?

 

MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 9, 2017)

Most Wonderful Time of the YearOne of my pet peeves is reading or listening to claims that many of our Christmas traditions are just pagan rituals that should be abandoned. Here are some facts on a few of them:

Are Christmas trees just some pagan ritual borrowed from the Scandinavians? While it is true that many cultures have worshipped certain trees, this was not the case for Christians. For them, trees were never sacred, just symbolic: Adam and Eve took the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; Abraham lived by the Oaks of Mamre where He built an altar to the Lord; The people of Israel were promised to become “Trees of Righteousness”; Jesus hung on a tree for our sins; and in Revelation we see the tree of life in the middle of the street of the Heavenly City. So, next time you see “O Tannenbaum” with lights, ornaments, and gifts, think of the many wonderful promises of God, especially the coming of Jesus to die on the wooden cross for us!

What does kissing under a mistletoe have to do with Christmas? In ancient times, mistletoe was considered a miracle plant. When everything was dead in the harsh winter, this rootless parasitic plant would still be flourishing. It symbolized life, hope, and fertility. Ancient Druids and Vikings thought this plant was so sacred that they would marry under it. When they became Christians, the mistletoe took on a deeper meaning. It reminded them of God’s power to bring life where there was death. Later on, in England, when a couple passed under the plant, they had to stop and kiss. If they did, God would bless them with an everlasting love. So, next time someone says, “Hey! You’re under a mistletoe!” Think about the undying love of God in Jesus Christ and oh yes, pucker up!

Do you know that house during Christmas that has everything lit up, even the doghouse! If you’re like me, you wonder how they pay their electric bill! Where did we get this tradition? Legend has it that Martin Luther, the German Reformer, was taking a walk through the woods one late December night when he saw the moonlight sparkling on the snow-covered branches of the evergreen trees. He was so struck by their beauty that he tried to recreate the sparkle by attaching candles to his Christmas tree. It reminded him of Jesus the light of the world. With the coming of electricity, people began to decorate even their homes and yards with light. So, when you drive by that over lit house, ask yourself, “Is Jesus shining brightly in my life?”

Every Christmas you hear complaints about how we have commercialized the birth of Jesus and how we’ve lost the true reason for the season. Ever wonder where the tradition of gift giving at Christmas comes from? Contrary to what you may think, it was not inspired by the magi. In fact, the Christian practice of giving gifts began with St. Nicholas, the pastor of Myra, who rode across Asia Minor distributing gifts to poor children. December 6th in the Western Church and December 19th in the Eastern Church became St. Nicholas’ Day – a day to give gifts to children – and in time this practice merged with December 25th. So, next time you go shopping, enjoy buying gifts for your loved ones but don’t forget to be generous to the less fortunate. After all, we were all undeserving but God graciously gave us the gift of Jesus.

Some people have a problem with Santa Claus. After all, how does some overweight old guy who lives at the North Pole with reindeers and elves fit into the Christmas story! Well, Santa Claus was actually St. Nicholas of Bari who lived in the fourth century. His parents died when he was young and Nicholas distributed all his wealth to the poor and became the pastor of Myra in modern day Turkey, as mentioned in the previous paragraph. He was known for his prayer life and his strong convictions regarding the deity of Jesus. But more than anything else, he became known for his generosity to the less fortunate, especially children. Stories about his kindness travelled everywhere and Nicholas became known as the giver of gifts in the name of Jesus. So, next time you see someone in a Santa costume, don’t frown but smile and remember to be generous like Ole’ St. Nick. Merry Christmas!

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on June 24, 2017)

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31)

Summer is here. Those who can are taking every opportunity to get away to the lake, beach, mountains, or some place other than home. But will they truly rest? Most don’t. Many complain on returning that they need a vacation to recuperate from their vacation! Then there are those who are staying home and getting caught up on all the unfinished projects. No rest for the weary. I confess that I fall into the latter category. I enjoy work! It energizes me. It bothers me to see able-bodied people being lazy.

So who is better? The ones who get away or the ones who keep going? Neither, because both are still failing to rest. Here’s why:

God’s idea of rest is to cease from labor. In the Book of Genesis he set the pattern for us. After creating the world and everything in it in six days, he rested on the seventh day, and even blessed and sanctified it as a Day of Rest. Of course, God didn’t need to rest. “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4) He did it to remind us that without adequate rest we will fail to function to the level of our abilities and even fall apart. As the old Greco-Roman saying goes, “If you keep your bow tightly strung at all times, it will quickly break, but if you let it rest, it will be ready to use whenever you need it.” True rest is complete cessation of work.

While it is obvious that those who stay home and keep working are failing to follow God’s mandate, it is not as apparent but many who are getting away are also just as guilty. The culprit is our world of hyper-connectivity. It’s no secret that technology has changed our world radically in the past decade or so, in some ways to our detriment. I’m not advocating abandoning our smart phones or deleting our social media accounts. We’re way past the exit ramp. What I am suggesting is taking breaks from our statuses and stories and allowing our minds to rest. Constantly checking and scrolling through updates is just disguised labor. Just like Jesus and his disciples were constantly bombarded by people coming and going, we too have people dropping in every moment, albeit behind a touch screen.

So, whether you get away or stay home, truly rest. If you’re on the beach or the lake, post pictures of how amazing it is to be you! But then put it away. Enjoy nature, God’s natural relaxant. Take the time to connect with the loved ones near you, especially the young. They’re not as addicted to social media as you may think. In the absence of genuine, fun, and meaningful interactions with the adults in their lives, they have defaulted to poor but enticing substitutes. I fear that if we don’t break our addiction, we’re headed towards a relationship precipice that will be much worse than Harry Chapin ever imagined in “Cat’s in the Cradle.”

By the way, don’t neglect the more essential spiritual rest which only Christ can provide, as he said – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Believing is Seeing by Pastor Abidan Shah

BELIEVING IS SEEING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

believing-is-seeingIntroduction: With the Christmas season here I’m preaching a short series titled – “BELIEVING IS SEEING.” During Christmas we are told to believe in the magic of Christmas, to see things with the eyes of a child and see fairy tales come to life. This series will show us that the real miracle of Christmas is Jesus. Once you believe in Him, He comes alive and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives.

John 5   39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life…45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Bridge: Have you ever said, “Seeing is Believing”? It means – “Before I can believe something I have to see it.” In other words, “Show me the proof/evidence and then I will believe or commit myself to that decision/action. Is that bad? Not really. To some extent, you do need to cautious before stepping out in the unknown. Imagine if people stepped out without first checking the traffic, financial investment, or medical procedures? It would be a disaster. But, when it comes to Jesus, believing comes before seeing. You have to receive Him by faith first that He is who He said He is and then you will begin to see how He is exactly everything He said He is.

Context: In the passage we will look at today, Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for refusing to believe in Him. They kept asking Him for more and more proof before placing their faith in Him. In fact, they were more interested in getting honor from each other than submitting to Him. They even took pride in the fact that they were studying Moses’ writings, the Torah. Jesus declared to them that if they believed in Him, they would realize that Moses’ writings are actually about Him. But before they could see that, they had to believe in Him. The reason they couldn’t is because they rejected Him.

Question: Are you having trouble seeing Jesus? You can see God. You can see Moses. You can see the Law/10 commandments. You can see David and Goliath. You can see Esther and God’s faithfulness. But Jesus…is hard to find. If you’re trying to see Him before believing in Him, let me save you the trouble because you can’t. Belief comes before sight. You have to receive Jesus by faith that He is who He said He is and then you will begin to see how He is exactly everything who He said He is. Are you saved? Once you are, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes and you will see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and in your life

Let’s walk through the passage and see how believing comes before seeing.

I. THE VAIN SEARCH

39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life…”

Background: In Judaism the Scriptures, especially the Torah, were considered to be the source of life. One of their main rabbis, Hillel, said, “the more study of the Law the more life.” He added – “If a man has gained a good name he has gained [somewhat] for himself” but “if he has gained for himself words of the Law he has gained for himself life in the world to come.” The Jewish religious leaders took pride in their study and knowledge of Scriptures. Jesus did not denounce or deride their study. He simply exposed their misunderstanding – “…and these are they which testify of Me.” Meaning: Yes, the Scriptures do tell you how to find eternal life but they point to Jesus as the source of eternal life. By the way, Jesus did not introduce this when He came. Those waiting on Him commonly believed this. John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Studying the Bible without Christ is no different than reading a cookbook and thinking that it will satisfy you. The Bible has the words of eternal life because it points to the one who is coming to bring us eternal life. His name is Jesus.

Application: If you’re seeking eternal life, do read the Bible but then come to the main subject of the Bible – Jesus. Some people study the Bible to find wisdom, others to find strength, and yet others to find peace. All that is fine but it is Jesus who is wisdom, strength, and peace. By the way, if you love bible studies without Christ, you will never be satisfied. After each lesson the question should be – “Now how does this bring me closer to Christ?” Are you searching in vain?

II. THE UNWILLING LIFE.

40 “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

Background: The Greek word for “not willing” is “ou thelete,” which is literally “you do not choose” or “you choose not to.” Meaning: This was not the “unwillingness of ignorance” but the “unwillingness of rejection.” They deliberately chose to reject Jesus.

What was keeping them from coming to Jesus? It was not serious questions from scriptures about the messianic prophecies or difficult passages. Jesus answered some of those already. For example, when Philip told Nathaniel – “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” he replied, 46 “…Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Meaning: Nathaniel was a sincere searcher. 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Meaning: Nathaniel was willing. He was waiting for someone to show him the way.

There are people who have all kinds of questions about creation, flood, miracles, problem of evil, problem of pain, salvation in other religions, etc. None of those are wrong as long as you are open to the outcome of giving your life to Jesus. But, if you’ve already made up your mind that you will not receive Christ for ulterior motives, then no amount of answers and bible studies will help you.

Application: What is your hang-up? Why are you unwilling to follow Jesus? Are you willing to be made willing?

III. THE SERIOUS CHARGE

Background: Just when you want to say – “Maybe…these people just didn’t understand who Jesus really was. Maybe…they needed a little more teaching and a little more time,” listen to how Jesus exposed them.

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. Meaning: These people were the opposite of God’s love kind of people. They had hate, anger, bitterness, and meanness in their hearts. Furthermore, 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. Meaning: Jesus said – “I’ve come with my Father’s authority” and they rejected Him but some others said – “I’ve come with my own authority” and they accepted them. In other words, they were willing to accept anyone but Jesus.

As a pastor, I come across people like that quite often. They are not lost people living in ignorance but lost people living in denial. Their meanness shines forth and their hatred cannot be covered up. They say one thing but they have something else in their hearts.

Now come some very sobering words in this passage44 “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” Meaning: Your unwilling heart is keeping you from believing in Me (Jesus).

45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.

How does Moses accuse them? The same Law that shows us our helplessness also reveals us our condemnation. You can either see the Law and look to the one who can redeem us by grace or we can ignore the Law and be crushed under its weight. John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Application: What is keeping you from turning to Christ? Can you see your condemnation? Are you willing to turn to the One who can bring you grace?

IV. THE LOGICAL STEP

46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Background: These are very deep words and we will study them in the upcoming week – “How did Moses write about Jesus even before He came into this world 2000 years ago?” For now – Here’s the simple understanding of that statement – “When you see yourself under the condemnation of the Law (10 commandments) and find yourself guilty, then next step is to fall helplessly before God. You have to admit to Him that you are guilty and that you cannot save yourself. You need His grace. At that moment, God will open your eyes and you will read Moses (Law/10 commandments) in a whole new light and see that Christ is all over the place.

The moment you are willing to believe, you will start seeing Christ.

My dad did and left Islam and gave His life to Christ.

Application: Are you willing to take the next logical step? Are you at the next logical step

Before the Manger: How Can a Baby Change My Life?

BEFORE THE MANGER – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

beforethemanger1Christmas is here. If you don’t believe that you weren’t out shopping this weekend! Today I’m starting a four-week series titled “BEFORE THE MANGER: HOW CAN A BABY CHANGE MY LIFE?” This message is titled: “ARE YOU READY TO FACE JESUS?”

John 17   1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Overall Background: There are as many as 650 different prayers in the Bible but none of them can match the depth and the height of the prayer we just read. It is prayed by Jesus Himself. In other words, we are being privy to a conversation between the Godhead, the Trinity! How amazing is that! What we are going to focus on today is what He says in verse 5 “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” It appears that Jesus is longing for something that He had to temporarily set aside when He came as a baby in a manger.

For e.g. Like the little boy who was wearing his nice pair of shoes. His dad asked him to help out in the yard. So he took off those nice shoes and put on his simple shoes. Once he was done, he asked his dad – “Can I please put on my nice shoes now?” Dad replied, “Sure son. Thank you.” I know the analogy breaks down because Jesus now has both His nice shoes and simple shoes on! The point is this – The reason many people don’t think much of Jesus is because they only see him in His simple shoes as a baby in a manger. They picture Him only as the carpenter’s son born in a sleepy little town of Bethlehem, surrounded by sheep and cattle, visited by some shepherds. They never contemplate Him in His nice shoes, in His glory before the world was. They never seem Him as the Lord of glory who created the world and who had no beginning. No wonder many people have a tough time declaring Jesus – Lord/Master/Boss of their lives.

Question: Have you ever met Christ in all His glory? Do you understand what He laid aside to come into this world and die on the cross for your sins and mine? If you know Him for who He really is, is He truly the Lord/Master/Boss in your life? Are you saved?

This morning very briefly we will try to catch a glimpse of the glory of Jesus before the world was. The goal is for you to bow before Him. There’s only one response. 3 things:

I. HE WAS BORN BUT HE ALWAYS WAS.

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Bethlehem 1

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 1 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Bethlehem 2

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 2 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Back in January of this year, Nicole and I went to Israel and we were able to go to Bethlehem into the Church of the Nativity. This is where tradition tells us was the place where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. Both of us touched the star that surrounds the bedrock on which the manger was set according to tradition. It was quite a moment to actually touch the ground where Jesus was placed when He was born into the world. At the same time, I had to remind myself that this was not the place where Jesus came to existence. He was there before the world was.

Bethlehem 3

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 3 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The Prophets prophesied about this. Listen to Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Listen to how John begins his gospelJohn 1   1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. But he doesn’t stop there. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. So also 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;

I can go on and on but the point is this – Jesus did not begin 2000 years ago. He always was! As God, He had no beginning. In fact, He created the world in which He entered.

Application: How do you see this baby in the manger? Do you understand that He made the world and you and me? Do you understand that He breathed life into you? In Acts 3:15 Peter chastises the people by saying that they killed Jesus the “the Prince of life.”

II. HE BECAME LIKE US BUT HE WAS ALWAYS LIKE THE FATHER. 

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself…”

Background: Repeatedly, Jesus talks about His relationship with the Father. Many people misunderstand this relationship. They think a Father-Son relationship means the Son has to be born to the Father. For example: When I say that I am the son of my father, it implies that I had a starting point. When I say that I am a father to my sons, it implies that I was responsible for bringing them into existence. But when the ancient people, especially the people of the Bible, used the phrase “son of,” they were not talking just about being a descendent or having a starting point but having family resemblance. I am related to my father and my sons are related to me. I am like him and they are like me. Jesus repeatedly explained this to the people: John 8:19 “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” John 10:30 “I and My Father are one.” John 14:9 “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Not only that but Father-Son relationship also implies inheritance. John 3:35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” John 16:15 “All things that the Father has are Mine.” Finally, the Father-Son relationship implies access. John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 15:23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.” Listen to how Paul puts it in 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…19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

Here’s the point: We think of God the Father as the powerful one who controls the entire universe and directs our lives. We forget that He has placed all things in the hands of His Son. The Son is in charge.

Application: How do you see Jesus? Do you see Him only as a helpless baby in a manger or do you see Him as the Son of God with full authority from the Father? Have you come to Him? Have you received Him as your Savior?

III. HE TOOK ON EARTHLY GLORY BUT HE ALWAYS HAD HIS DIVINE GLORY IN REACH.

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Background: While on earth Jesus temporarily veiled His glory. As Paul says in Philippians 2:7, Christ “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” This does not mean that He was “gloryless” on earth. Listen to 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.” Sure – Jesus set aside his divine glory but He took on a bondservant kind of glory while He was on earth: this glory was reflected when He had to lie in a manger because there was no room in the inn; this glory was reflected when He submitted himself to his parents at 12 years of age; this glory was reflected when He talked to an adulterous Samaritan woman; this glory was reflected when He healed the lepers. I can go on and on – Jesus was glorious because He was full of grace and truth. Having said that, Jesus had to veil/cover up His divine glory when He came into this world. It doesn’t mean that Christ gave up His deity. It only means that temporarily He held back His Heavenly glow.

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

What is this pre-incarnate glory? In the Old Testament it is known as the “shekinah” of God. In Exodus 13 Christ showed this glory to the people of Israel as the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. In Exodus 33 Moses wanted to see “God’s glory” but it was so bright that God had to shield him. In Isaiah 6:5 Isaiah saw this glory and cried, “Woe is me, for I am undone!…For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” Only once did Jesus reveal His pre-incarnate glory. It was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew 17 2 says, “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” Paul describes it in I Timothy 6:16 as an “unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see…” In the Book of Revelation when John saw this glory, he says in Revelation 1   14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. In Revelation 21:23 we read that the Heavenly City “had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.”

Listen carefully – Jesus’ pre-incarnate divine glory is more than just bright light. It is Jesus in all His power and authority. There’s only one response when you meet Him this way. It is submission. Hebrews 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Do you know this King of glory, Jesus Christ?

Illustration: Blaise Pascal was a brilliant French scientist, philosopher, mathematician, and inventor in the 17th century. At the age of 15, he was writing books and inventing theorems. At the age of 19, he developed a calculating machine, which was probably the first computer. He also made discoveries that led to the invention of the barometer, vacuum pump, air compressor, syringe, and the hydraulic press. With all this success he still became disillusioned with life. On the night of November 23rd, 1654 he picked up the Bible and began to read John 17. When he came to verse 3 – “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – it was as if a spark went off and the whole room was on fire. He wrote – “From about half past ten at night to about half an hour after midnight: FIRE.” In that very instant he was converted and became a Christian. When he died, they found this verse sewed into the lining of his coat. It touched him so much that he wanted it always close to his heart.

Question: You may not have a similar experience but are you converted? Have you received eternal life through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? He is coming again but Matthew 24:30 says, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

How to Enjoy the Holidays

HOW TO ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtoenjoytheholidaysToday I’m preaching a message titled, “How to enjoy the holidays?” Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas is not too far behind. If your family is like ours, starting now, the next 2 months are crazy busy and stressful. We can’t wait for January to get here. This should not be the way.

Philippians 4   4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Overall Background: The central theme of the book of Philippians is joy. Paul mentions it about 16 times. Sometimes it is either the noun “chara” that means joy and other times it is the verb “chairo” that means rejoice. Here are some examples:

  • 1:4 in every prayer of mine (I’m) making request for you all with joy,
  • 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded,
  • 3:3 rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
  • 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown,
  • 4:4   Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Caesarea

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 2

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 3

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The point is – Philippians is the letter to read if you want joy in your life. But there’s something more. Listen to Phil. 1:12  But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; Not sure if Paul is in Rome or Ephesus, or Caesarea. If Caesarea, then Nicole and I stood in the very room where Paul’s trial took place. Either way Paul is in prison writing a letter on joy! Here’s the point: Joy is not hinged on your circumstances.

Question: How is the joy level in your life? Here’s another question – would people around you call you a person of joy? Here’s a better question – do you bring joy or do you bring pain in the lives of people around you? Are you saved?

5 things we will learn from this passage about how to enjoy the holidays:

I. FIND JOY IN EVERYTHING. 

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Background: If you read this verse out of context, you will miss the reason why Paul stressed, “always” and repeated, “Rejoice.” Read the 2 prior verses – Phil. 4:2  I implore Euodia and in the church I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Meaning: There was a conflict between 2 women. Who were they? 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Meaning: These women loved the Lord and helped Paul in his ministry. For some reason, they were in a conflict and it was tearing the Philippian church apart. It was stealing their joy. Hence Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

Would you agree that life has many unexpected joy stealers? Relationship conflicts, health, finances, crime, morality, bad news, and the list goes on and on.

For e.g. As I was typing this message, all of a sudden the word file closed. It does that once in a while. Only problem – I hadn’t saved it in the past 5 minutes. It was frustrating because now I had to remember what I had written and retype. Such is life.

Here’s the bottom line: You have a choice. You can either choose to be hateful, painful, or sorrowful or you can choose to be joyful.

Application: What is your choice this holiday season? What joy killers are lurking in your life? Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because joy is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of joy and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

II. FOCUS ON BEING GENTLE.

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Background: The word for gentleness can also be translated “kindness” or “tolerance.” It has the idea of being willing to bend. Bending does not mean compromising. It means learning to get along. In other words, don’t be rude, hateful or impatient but be kind, gentle, and patient. What is your motivation? “The Lord is at hand.” In other words, Jesus is near you and watching your behavior. You better be nice.

Illustration: Remember that old joke – Children were lined up in the cafeteria for lunch. At the head of the table was a basket of apples with a note – “Take only one, God is watching.” Moving through the line, on the other end of the table was a tray of chocolate chip cookies. Some smart aleck wrote a note and put it next to the cookies – “Take all you want, God is busy watching the apples.”

Bottom line: God sees everything. He sees when were being judgmental rather than gentle. Live every moment as if God is watching you because He is.

Application: Are you a gentle person or are you a judgmental person? Beware of self-righteousness. Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because gentleness is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of gentleness and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

III. FIGHT ANXIETY WITH PRAYER. 

Be anxious for nothing,

Background: The Greek word for anxious is “merimnao.” It’s origin is from two Greek words – “merizo” = divide and “nous” = mind. In other words, anxiety is a mind divided. Another synonym for anxiety is worry, which comes from the German “würgen.” It means to strangle or to choke.

Listen to what Chuck Swindoll said about worry – “Stress and worry break us down. They are the unseen source of our headaches, backaches, heartaches, and belly aches. They produce everything from obesity to obscenity, from constipation to diarrhea, and from impatience to impotence. They give us knotted stomachs, sleepless nights, high blood pressure, low morale. They make our tempers short and our days long. They cause indigestion, irritation, chest pain, and muscle strain. “You do not get stomach ulcers from what you eat,” said one doctor. “You get ulcers from what is eating you.”

What’s the solution? It’s not enough to say – “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Listen to what Paul says Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Meaning: The antidote to worry is prayer. What will happen? 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Once again, an old illustration: Frederick Handley Page of England was one of the pioneers in the early days of aviation. The story is told of how once he was flying and he heard the sound of gnawing. It was a rat. This was before autopilot so he could not do anything. He knew one thing – rat is a rodent that is not bad for heights. He began to climb higher and higher until it stopped.

Anxiety is also a rodent that cannot live in the secret place of the Most High.

Application: How is your prayer life? Are you daily grateful for what God has already done for you? Are you making your requests known to God?

IV. FIX YOUR MIND ON WHAT’S POSITIVE.

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.

Some people think that Christian life is simply a list of don’ts, all negative. Christian life is also positive. We have to focus on what is good. You’ll become what you focus on.

For e.g. One time this lady came to me and complained about how she constantly had bad dreams. I told her to read her Bible and pray before she goes to bed tonight and see if it makes a difference. She thanked me and as she leaves she tells her friend – Can’t wait to watch “The Evil Dead” or some movie like that!

Then Paul adds in verse 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Meaning: If you need help finding positive things to focus on, copy me.

Application: What are you focusing on right now? Is it on Christ? Is it on the good that God has done in your life? Is it on the positive? Who are you copying?

V. FILL YOUR HEART WITH CHRIST.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I 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. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This is one of the most misunderstood and misquoted verses in the Bible. Paul is not saying – “With Christ I can take over the world.” He is saying – “With Christ I can face the ups and downs of life, the time of abundance and the time of hunger.

Illustration: Several years ago I was in Mexico on a mission trip. We were up in the Yucatan peninsula where they still didn’t even have electricity. The people lived in these tiny homes and had hardly anything. All day long we had activities for the kids and in the evening we had songs, movies, and message for all the people in the village. On the last day we had a final activity in the morning and we were going to leave after that. As we were breaking things down, I thought came to my mind – “Is this worth it? Yeah…we spent all that money and came, went somewhere we’ve never been, learned a new culture, grateful for all we have back home, gave these kids something to do for a week but is this worth it?” As the thought was still in my mind, a man approached me. I had seen him several times in the week. He had a wife and couple of little kids. He asked me something in Spanish, thinking I knew the language. I asked the translator to help. The man was asking for a Bible. Of course, we had bought a bunch from the church. I opened my bag and gave him some. No sooner had I done that, 3 more people asked me for one. By the time we left, all were given.

The point is – those people didn’t have much but they were not hungry for stuff. They were hungry for the truth.

When your heart is full of truth, you will be content no matter your circumstances.

Are you ready to face the holidays? Are you saved?

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