Flourish by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  One of our kids’ favorite movies is the computer animated science fiction WALL-E. It is set in the year 2805 AD when the Earth has become a barren wasteland, overrun with trash from years and years of mass consumerism. A 5-year plan to clean up the planet is initiated while humans are somewhere in space in a fleet of star liners. Unfortunately, the plan fails and the countless WALL-Es (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class) are shutdown, except for one. For 700 years, this one last WALL-E is still going about his day trying to clean up until one day he finds a seedling plant. As you know, he also meets a probe named EVE (she was given that name for a reason). What is relevant for our message is that the tiny green plant was the sign that Earth had become habitable. In today’s message in our apologetic series, we will also learn how God strategically began with the creation of the plant life. Here are some questions: “If the sun was not created until Day 4, how could plants survive on Day 3?” “I’ve heard of the bionic leaf. Does it mean that we can make plants now?” Main point: God has made every blade of grass, every flower in the field, every fruit on the tree, and every bush and mighty oak in the forest. They all testify to his SAP – his sustenance, his artistry, and his promises towards us. Let’s not forget – Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness.

Genesis 1:11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, andthe fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so.

Context: After God created the waters and land on the third day of creation, he created the plant kingdom. Three things are mentioned: Grass (deshe), Plants (eshev), 3. Trees (ets). This does not mean that there are 3 different kinds of plants. The first (deshe) refers to vegetation generally. It emphasizes the lush greenery over a previously earthy land surrounded by water. The other 2 are the main classifications: plants that bear seeds outside and plants that bear fruits with seeds inside. The main reason for giving us plants is Genesis 1      29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Human beings (adults) require about 2000 food calories per day. That is about 8000 kJ (kilojoules). We need energy, especially from the sun. A plant produces about 100 calories per square meter of leaf surface facing the sun in one day. That is about 420 kJ. Plants are stationary and they can gain this energy. How about us? We gain that energy as we consume the plants that function as solar energy concentrators. God thought of everything! The phrase “according to its kind” is added to emphasize the “self-perpetuation” of the plant kingdom.

Can you imagine the change in the earth in just a matter of 3 days! At first, it was just plain black and white of the watery matrix. Then, comes the sky and the sea, which brings the blue color. Now, with the creation of the green plants, there is another color added to the spectrum. On day four, there will be the sun, which will bring yellow and orange. Finally, with the creation of the sea creatures and birds on day five and animals and humans on day six, there will be the red color and some of the variations. By day 7, there will be the entire spectrum of the rainbow colors – Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red. How beautiful!

Application: God is the only one who can bring color into our colorless world. The world has been trying to copy and steal this, but it belongs to him. He can do that in your life as well. It happens when you receive Christ as your Savior. Have you done that?

According to evolutionary theory, it could not be this simple (Roger Patterson listed the following development of plants according to evolution):

  • Plants began as green algae and went through many adaptations to go from water to land.
  • Fossil evidence for plants comes from 400 million years ago. By the way, there is not a single fossil series, transition from one form to another.
  • Symbiosis helped plants survive on land.
  • Initially, the forests were filled with giant ferns and cycads (thick and woody stem with large and hard leaves). These became our fossil fuels today.
  • Next came the seed plants, followed by vascular plants (fossils around 375 million years ago), and finally flowering plants (fossils around 130 million years ago).

The main problem has to do with the process of photosynthesis. Simply speaking, it is the process by which plants take in carbon dioxide and sunlight and through the process of photosynthesis give out glucose and oxygen. This not only gives the plants the food they need to survive, but also gives us the oxygen we need to breathe. Top scientists from top institutions with top credentials and top technology have been trying to replicate it with very meager results. I did some research on the latest in plant physiology. Here are two I want to share:

  1. According to the Harvard Gazette, Chemist Dan Nocera found a way to use sunlight to split water molecules and combine it with CO2 to make renewable fuel. This is known as the Bionic leaf. Hopefully this will help people in poorer parts of the world, but so much more still needs to be done. Thus far, the focus is on oxygen because the project was with the Office of Naval Research to help generate oxygen on the fly for divers. There are so many issues that still have to be addressed and it is far from ready.
  2. According to an article in the Heliyon, an open access science journal, Dr. Tanai Cardona from the Imperial College, London, claims by studying the enzymes involved in photosynthesis, instead of looking in ancient rocks and rock layers, that there must have been bacteria that evolved oxygenic photosynthesis and later evolved into anoxygenic photosynthesis. To have complex life-forms on earth, you need oxygen. God thought of everything. That’s why he made plants before he made animals and humans. Plants use photosynthesis (we will see that in a minute) to produce oxygen. According to the standard evolutionary theory, cyanobacteria developed the ability to do photosynthesis and produced oxygen about 2.3 billion years ago. This is based on some geochemical evidence. Don’t forget that, according to evolution, the earth is about 4.5 billion years old and earth’s atmosphere did not have any oxygen until 3 to 2.4 billion years ago. By the way, it was claimed that cyanobacteria evolved from green and purple bacteria which have only one photosystem compared to the two photosystems of cyanobacteria. What caused this evolution or replication? Never mind, there is no answer. Now it is claimed by Dr. Cardona that some ancient microbes came earlier, and it could have been as early as 3.4 billion years ago. The whole point is that if it its 3.4 billion years ago that oxygen was produced through these bacteria, then it’s only one billion years for photosynthesis to develop from the origin of the earth at 4.5 billion years. Also, life on earth began 3.7 billion years ago according to evolutionists. How does this impact their model? These gives barely 200-300 million years for all this to happen! By the way, originally his research showed that it was even longer than 4.5 billion years ago that photosynthesis began. So, he suggested that the process was faster in the beginning and then slowed down later since the earth had cooled down.

How complex is this process and God did this in less than half a day! Photosynthesis is probably the most important chemical reaction on earth, and it’s happening constantly everywhere since the beginning of time (from Jonathan Sarfati). On the surface, this is very simple, but, on closer examination, it is highly complex. The formula is six molecules of water plus six molecules of carbon dioxide produce one molecule of sugar plus six molecules of oxygen:

(6CO2 + 12H2O + Light Energy à C6H12O6 + 6O2 + 6H2O)

The most important part of the reaction is the breaking of the water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. Scientists refer to this as the OEC (Oxygen-evolving complex). This requires a lot of energy. Light in the form of photons does this, but it must be just right, not too much or too little. God designed this to occur inside the chloroplasts which contain the chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis. According to a system called Photosystem II, as the photon reaches the leaves, it is channeled through chlorophyll where it knocks out an electron from an atom and this electron helps convert sugars from CO2. Now the chlorophyll (P680) must replenish this lost electron. This is achieved through a catalytic core present in all plants and algae – Mn3CaO4-Mn. This provides the redox potential, stores the energy from the four photons, and maintains the water molecules in the right positions.

Again, how awesome is our God!

Ultimately, he gave us plants, trees, and fruits for greater reasons. Here are the main ones:

  1. It all started with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2        9 And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

  1. It represented the curse of sin.

Deuteronomy 21      22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.”

  1. It was on a tree that Jesus died

1 Peter 2:24who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”

  1. It is the tree of life that awaits us.

Revelation 22       1 “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations…14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”

Invitation: Can you see God’s promises in his creation? Have you ever asked Christ to be your Savior? Are you saved? Will you have access to the tree of life?

Landscape by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  How many of you have been to Grandfather Mountain? Our family has been there a number of times, and also our youth group and college and career group. It is almost 6000 feet high, the highest peak this side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It also has the mile high swinging bridge, the highest in America. You can see for miles from there. North Carolina is really blessed in that it has 4 geological regions: Outer coastal plain, Inner coastal plain, the Piedmont, and the Blue Ridge. Each region has its own landforms, soil, plants, and animals. We are in the Piedmont (foot of the mountains). Grandfather Mountain falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian chain. In today’s message, we will see how our landscape is connected to the Genesis account of creation in our series on apologetics titled “Contend.” The big questions are “how did these mountains and various landforms come to be?” “how’s all this connected to the Genesis account of creation?” Main point: The whole creation testifies to the handiwork of God. Even the earth, the mountains and the valleys, the plains and the plateaus, give testimony to God’s power and majesty. No wonder that when the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke his disciples for crying “Hosanna,” he replied, “if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

Genesis 1       9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Context: Last week, we briefly touched on this passage, and I brought up what is referred to as the transformation-from-water-model for the origin of the earth. According to this theory, much of the watery matrix remained water as we know today, and God caused the others “to be transformed into the basic elements and compounds such as silicon and carbon” and “separated these elements from the rest of the waters which resulted in the appearance of the dry land” (Kulikovsky). But, there’s more in that verse that we need to focus on. Listen again to verse 9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” Also, verse 10 “And God called the dryland Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas.” Remember: the details do matter. Both the words for “gather” (kawah) and for “appear” (raah) imply action. In other words, there may have been great movements that would have caused mountains to appear and the basins to open for the waters to go into. It may very well be that there was one supercontinent that was later broken apart. By the way, one year before Darwin came out with his “Origin of the Species,” a creation scientist by the name of Snider-Pellegrini proposed in 1858 that there was one land mass originally, and it was broken up into separate continents during Noah’s Flood. Later, Alfred Wegener (1880-1930) proposed a slow continental drift by showing how the continents fit together as a jigsaw puzzle and other evidence from rock formation and fossil records. Initially, it was not accepted, but, since then, it is proposed that plate tectonics may have caused this supercontinent Rodinia to break apart. I’m okay with plate tectonics, if were talking about Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, not Uniformitarian Plate Tectonics. We will see what that means later when we come to Noah’s Flood. Nevertheless, there are passages in the Bible that support some kind of movement on that third day when water was gathered and land appeared:

  • Job 38. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; 9 When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; 10 When I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; 11 When I said, “This far you may come, but no farther, And here your proud waves must stop!’
  • Psalm 104 5 You who laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever, 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At Your rebuke they fled; at the voice of Your thunder they hastened away. 8 They went up over the mountains; they went down into the valleys, to the place which You founded for them. 9 You have set a boundary that they may not pass over, that they may not return to cover the earth. 10 He sends the springs into the valleys; they flow among the hills. By the way, this was creation week, becausePsalm 104 goes on 11 “They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home; they sing among the branches. 13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works. 14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth.”

Keep in mind that all this is happened in one day. From the uniformitarian geological calculation millions of years of earth’s history is being compressed in one day or maybe even 6 days. In other words, the mountains and the valleys, the oceans and the rivers are being formed at infinitely rapid speed. It was all catastrophic! There was erosion, sedimentation, and deposition starting from creation week. There is no comparison to our time because this was such a unique period in earth’s history. That world is gone since the Flood – 2 Peter 3       5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.

We began with a glimpse of the Grandfather Mountain. How does all this tie in? (from Michael Oard and Andrew Snelling) The Appalachian Mountains go all the way from central Alabama to northeastward to Newfoundland, southeast Canada. The whole chain is about 1500 miles long and between 100 to 310 miles wide in places. If you go by the museum, it will tell you that the mountains are millions of years old because they have been eroded and smoothed out with time. Also, the Appalachian are mostly Paleozoic sedimentary rock. It is claimed that the Rocky Mountains are younger because they rise so high and are still jagged. But, as you saw in the video, the Appalachian Mountains, especially at Grandfather Mountain, are very jagged in places. Secular geologists attribute this to an uplift 8.5 million years ago. There are slow uplifts, known as epeirogeny and fast ones called orogeny. Christian geologists who are just as qualified also look at the data and they see that much of the erosion came after the Flood. They also believe, as I mentioned earlier, that there was a supercontinent that split apart at the Flood due to plate tectonics. These large chunks “moved around rapidly, smashing into each other before slowing down to a crawl in their current location” (Snelling). We’ll see all that when we come to Great Flood. The Appalachian is made from mostly sandstone, a sedimentary rock. This was changed under intense pressure when the continents collided. Some places this was more intense than others. You can see the impact from the continents colliding in the ridges all around. The lower level of rocks (bedrock) was metamorphosed because of the molten material from below that came up and hardened. This was during Creation Week. These were pushed up when the continents collided. This was during the Flood. You can see the lower level also because of this. Starting in Cherokee area, you can see the basement rocks, but further up, you can see the sandstone

From Dr. Snelling’s trip to the Smoky Mountains:

  1. Cades Cove

Cades Cove, the most popular destination in the park, is a beautiful valley with historic log cabins and barns. The valley floor consists of limestone formed during the Flood (which is now deeply weathered), one of the few locations Flood deposits are exposed. The surrounding hills are made of pre-Flood rocks (look for gray, coarse sandstone), pushed up when Africa rammed into North America during the Flood.

  1. Newfound Gap

Newfound Gap is the lowest opening through the Smoky Mountain chain. The open view offers the most spectacular mountain vistas in the park. Like most of the rocks in the park, the sandstones near the overlook belong to the Ocoee Supergroup, which existed before the Flood but got crumpled when continents collided.

  1. Clingman’s Dome

The highest point on the Appalachian Trail is 6,643 feet elevation. An observation tower provides 360-degree views of the rolling, forest-covered mountains formed during the Flood when continents collided. Look for gray rocks with coarse white grains around the parking lot and along the hiking path. They’re pre-Flood Thunderhead Sandstone, metamorphosed by the continental collision.

  1. Chimney Tops

Chimney Tops is named for its unique dual-humped peak, one of the few bare summits in the Smokies. These pre-Flood rocks were pushed up and metamorphosed during the Flood. As these rocks weathered over the centuries, this harder capstone (made of slate, not sandstone) remained.

Job 12       7 “But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 8 Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this.”

God’s handiwork is all around. He is present and he is not silent. Can you see him? Can you see his handiwork? Are you saved? He cares for you.

Groundwork by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: It was 4 years ago on August 21, 2017, when some of us drove all the way to Toccoa, Georgia, where Nicole and I went to college to witness the Total Solar Eclipse. As you witnessed in the video, it was amazing that we all began to shout spontaneously. Same thing was reported everywhere that people were gathered to watch this celestial event. What makes this so unique because the sun is 400 times larger than the moon and 400 times further away. If this wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have the same effect. The point is that human beings are fascinated with space. We want to know what’s out there and how it is connected to us. In our series on apologetics titled “CONTEND,” we come to the section that deals with space and its connection to earth. Some of the questions that lead me to deal with space were “Is the universe infinite?” “What about the canopy theory?” “Is there life in outer space?” Main point: The complexity and the immensity of the universe brings us to our knees and causes us to raise our hands in worship. It reminds us of how small we are and how big God is. No wonder the psalmist sings, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse shows His handiwork.”

Genesis 1       6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.

Context: There are 2 ways that some people have read the Genesis account of creation. Some think that it is simply a polemic against pagan gods surrounding the people of Israel. On the surface, this sounds good and even helps with some of the exegetical difficulties. Unfortunately, it also undermines the authority of God’s Word. People who believe this also claim that we shouldn’t get hung up on details. Instead, we should get the bigger picture that our God is superior to the other gods and not worry about things that are difficult to understand. Here’s the problem – if what we believe is not the truth and just a mythology, what right do we have to condemn someone else’s mythology? Others think that the creation account in Genesis is simply a reflection of the creation accounts of the ancient near eastern peoples. According to this view, no one knows what really happened and we shouldn’t press the point. Again, the problem here is that if we are unsure of what the Bible says, then what’s the use of believing anything. Here’s what we believe: The Bible gives us a clear and cogent account of how the world came to be. We must go above and beyond in trying to understand what it means. It is the only truth about our past, present, and future.

So, what does it mean? 6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” To start with, there is a translational issue here (from Sarfati and Danny Faulkner). The Hebrew word for “firmament” is “raqia,” and it is found 8 more times in the OT. What does “firmament” mean? The translators of the LXX used the Greek word “stereoma” to translate the Hebrew word “raqia.” The word “stereoma” means a crystalline structure, something hard and transparent. According to ancient Greeks, the earth was surrounded by a hard, crystalline, and transparent sphere with stars attached to it. When the Latin translator Jerome came to that passage, he chose to translate the Greek “stereoma” instead of the Hebrew “raqia” because he didn’t understand how to translate the latter. So, he called it “firmamentum.” Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the King James Version translators didn’t know what to do with “raqia” either and they simply transliterated Jerome’s firmamentum into the English “firmament.” What a mess!

Here’s the correct meaning: Expanse. It has the idea of something that has been expanded or stretched out. Sometimes, it even refers to beating or stamping out. So, contrary to what people think, “raqia” is not a cosmic dome but cosmic space that has been stretched out. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about this and sometimes uses the word “raqia” and other times the word “natah,” and even the words “matach” and “tapach.”

  • Job 9:8 “He alone spreads (natah) out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • Job 37:18 “With Him, have you spread (raqa) out the skies, strong as a cast metal mirror?
  • Psalm 104:2 “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch (natah) out the heavens like a curtain.
  • Isaiah 44:24 “I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches (natah) out the heavens all alone, who spreads (raqa) abroad the earth by Myself.”
  • Isaiah 48:13 “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out (taphach) the heavens.”

So, “raqia” has the idea of space or expansion. This makes sense in verse 7 “Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.” In other words, God made this “raqia” to separate the waters below from the waters above. One more thing – 8 “And God called the firmament Heaven.” In the OT, the word for heaven is “samayim,” which is found over 400 times. It shows up again in verse 9, 14, 15, and 17. This word refers to the space where God placed the luminaries (sun, moon, and stars) on Day 4 and the place where the birds fly “across the face of the expanse of the heavens” on Day 5. Here’s the point: The atmosphere and the outer space are both part of the “raqia.”

So, what happened on Day 2? God created a massive space between the watery matrix that will become earth and the remaining waters. Where did that water go? At one time, people proposed that there was a water canopy above the atmosphere, but it is no longer held to because of several problems (Robert Whitelaw and Walter Brown):

  • The Heat Problem – roast all life
  • The Light Problem – no sunlight or starlight for plants and seasons
  • The Pressure Problem – temp over 220 degrees F at the base
  • The Support Problem – if it collapsed at the Great Flood, that would be a long time
  • The Ultraviolet Problem – ultraviolet light would have destroyed the canopy

Better solution is that the “raqia” has separated the water which is now in some form at the edge of the universe. Psalm 148     1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! 2 Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! 3 Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! 4 Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 2 things that stand out: 1. There is an order – heavens, sun and moon, stars, and highest heavens. 2. This psalm was written after Noah’s flood. I’m not dogmatic about it, but this is where much scholarship is leaning – the expansion of the universe at a set time in the past. If this is true, this explains the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), which is that the universe appears to be bathed in a radiation field (Faulkner). This is a uniform coldness which is 3 K above absolute zero (– 459.67 F). It’s described to be like the heat from a rock lying in the sun all day. It comes towards the earth from all directions like a faint light. It is proposed that the water at the edge of the universe could be the cause of this radiation. The evolutionists talk about a big bang. According to the big bang theory, the universe started at a tiny, very very hot and dense point called singularity. It is claimed that after this rapid expansion, the heat has finally cooled down after 380,000 years after the big bang and dropped below 3000 K to form neutral atoms from electron and protons. This is how they account for the CMB. But their calculations don’t add up, especially with regards to the speed of light. We’ll come to this later. But, if God did this expansion faster than light (superluminally), it makes all the sense.

Let’s return to the text in verse 8 “…So the evening and the morning were the second day.” Notice: God does not declare this day to be good because good hasn’t come yet. 9Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. This is more than just water receding and earth coming in sight. This is known as transformation-from-water-model for the origin of the earth. How did that happen? Don’t think of this as your drinking water flowing from your tap! One scholar (Kulikovsky) has proposed,

Therefore, it may be that God (1) caused the earth’s watery foundation to be transformed into the basic elements and compounds such as silicon and carbon, and (2) separated these elements from the rest of the waters which resulted in the appearance of the dry land. In other words, the primeval earth comprised of the waters below the expanse—a large ball of water with similar dimensions as the earth today. Some of the waters were transformed into other compounds and were separated from the rest of the waters, which resulted in the formation of the dry land.

We have so much to understand! Nonetheless, 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Now God says, “it was good.”

If this were all there is to it, we would say that this is crazy and wacko. Turn to 2 Peter 3       4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

This is God’s world. He made it in his way, and he will destroy it in his way. The past is connected to the future. What matters is are you living in his world his way? Are you saved? Do you realize how infinitesimal you and I are? Does this lead you to worship?

Timeless by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  How many of you have watched the sci-fi movies “Back to the Future”? The first one came out in 1985 in which Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes back in time to 1955 to help his parents. The mastermind behind the time-machine was “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) who built a DeLorean Time Machine from the DMC DeLorean car. The whole premise of the movies was that one day we will be able to time travel. As you know, we’re in our series on apologetics titled “CONTEND” and we have decided to camp at Genesis for a while. The reason is because many of the questions in the questionnaire were regarding the creation and origin of our universe – “Who made God?” “Is God bound by time?” Will we be able to time travel?” “How do lights from stars that are billions of light years away reach the earth already?” In this message we will tackle the question of time. Main point: God is the author of time. He gave us the gift of time so we could live and enjoy his creation. God is timeless and unchangeable, but he chose to enter time and became like us to save us through his Son Jesus. One more thing – We are time bound. We don’t know the future. “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Context: By declaring “In the beginning God” and “In the beginning was the Word,” both Moses in the Old Testament and John in the New Testament declared that God existed before the creation of the world. In fact, he was the creator of the world. John even identified the exact person of the Triune God who was designated the task of creating – 2 “He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This truth was affirmed again by the New Testament authors in Colossians 1:16, 1 Corinthians 8:6, and Hebrews 1:2. So what does that mean for the questions on time? Here are 4 things we need to keep in mind regarding God, time, and us:

  1. God created time. On the first day, he created space, matter, and time (you could add energy to it if you like): 1. Space – up and down, left and right, and forward and backward; 2. Matter – Atoms made of protons, neutrons, and electrons; 3. Time – past, present, and future. We will focus on time for now. What is the definition of time? William Lane Craig, “Time is that dimension of reality whose moments are ordered by earlier/later than relations.” In other words, it is the succession of moments. Time has been a subject of great debate among scientists, especially in the past century. The matter revolves around 2 individuals: Isaac Newton (1643-1727) and Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Newton was a philosopher, physicist, mathematician, and astronomer. He was an important figure in the Scientific Revolution we talked about couple of weeks ago. Among many other things that he worked on, he claimed that time was absolute, meaning it was not depended on the observer. Time moved forward as a regular succession of moments. We call them seconds, minutes, hours, months, years, millennia, etc. Space was also fixed, and gravity was just a force that pulled together objects with mass. There was no connection to acceleration. That’s where we get the whole apple story, which may be a myth. On the other hand, Einstein (a physicist and scientist who immigrated to the United States when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933) challenged Newton’s view. We know his theory of special relativity, E = mc2, but the one on general relativity was far more impactful. According to this theory, Einstein claimed that gravity bends light. For this to happen and to be able to observe it, you need an object far bigger than the earth and with a source of light directly opposite to the observer. He said that this would happen on the 29th of May 1919, during an eclipse, when a star that was blocked by the sun would be seen because its light would bend in the sun’s gravitational force. It happened and photographs were taken. Einstein had overturned Newton’s laws of gravity. Unfortunately, this was also taken to mean that Einstein had overturned Newton’s God. Such was not the case at all. To the contrary, the spacetime theorems proved that the universe had a beginning point. Scientists like George Ellis, Stephen Hawking, and Roger Penrose demonstrated that. Others tried to find a loophole, but they ended up supporting the fact that the universe is not eternal. Its known as the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Singularity Theorem.

Why did I go into all this detail? Because this helps us understand the question of how light from stars that are billions of light years away have reached the earth already. By the way, just recently, scientists spotted light from behind a black hole that is 1800 million light years away! The black hole is about 10 million times larger than our sun!

Here’s the point: God is the author of time and after all these years, we are just scratching the surface in our understanding and all of it is in line with the Scriptures.  

  1. God is timeless (Paul Helm and Grudem).

This is the traditional view that God exists outside time. He has no beginning or end. For him to have a beginning would be to compromise the doctrine that God is unchangeable.

Isaiah 57:15 “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy…”

Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

Hebrews 1     10 (quoting from Psalm 102) “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; 12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.”

2 Timothy 1:9 (God) “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began”

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Connected to God’s timelessness and unchangeableness is God’s divine fullness and self-sufficiency. Because he is timeless and unchangeable, he is also omniscient. He knows all. Because we are time-bound and subject to change, we don’t know it all.

  1. God sees all time equally and interacts with us personally in time.

Psalm 90:4 “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.” He sees all things equally, but the past is still past to God. 2 Peter 3:8 “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Everything remains vivid to God.

Even though God stands outside time, he constantly interacts with his creation and us.

Matthew 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.” Song: “His eye is on the sparrow.”

Psalm 139      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…”

He is not some static, detached, and emotionless being to us. Throughout the history of the world, God has stepped into time to relate personally with us. He smiles, laughs, weeps, gets angry, changes his mind, and rejoices. How can he do that? Is he just pretending? He can do that because he is God. Just like a parent sits down to play with their child and interacts with all their feeling. Contrary to our emotions that come from good and bad experience, his emotions are part of his disposition and character.

Incarnation is the greatest event of God in time! Like a parent stepping into a dollhouse but becoming like the child. Galatians 4      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. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Can you sense the passionate interaction of God with us?

  1. We are time bound and will always be in time.

From the oldest book in the Bible – Job 14       1 “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. 2 He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue…5 Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with you; you have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.”

Don’t play God. Don’t say “no regrets,” “no care,” or “no fear.” You can say that only if God is with you. Ephesians 5      15 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Also, you and I will always exist in time, contrary to the song, “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more…” – Revelation 21     23 The 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. 24And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

Bottom line: You don’t have infinite time. Today is the day of salvation. Your time on earth may be over before you know it. There is a real eternity where time never ends, either in heaven or hell. Are you saved?

Discover by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: I remember like it was yesterday when I told my dad that God was calling me into full time ministry and his response was “No, you need to stick to what you were going to do.” The reason he said that was because he had come to me in my final year of high school, when I was studying for med school and possibly engineering, and told me that he wanted me to go to a Christian college for a couple of years before I went off into my field of study. I remember asking him why, especially because I was not going to be a pastor. He told me that he really wanted me to be grounded in my faith and that he was afraid that I might lose my way. I didn’t understand that at the time, but later I did. I was always very studious, and my father was afraid that if I went off into a scientific field without being solidly established in my biblical understanding that I may not remain in the faith. Looking back, I am truly grateful that he did what he did. I am also glad that I didn’t listen to him the second time or I wouldn’t be here! In our series on Apologetics titled CONTEND, we are shifting gears a little bit. So far, we were focused on Scriptural Authority compared to the books of other religions. Over the next few weeks, we will focus on the relationship between science and the Bible. When we did our survey, many questions were directed towards this topic – 1. Doesn’t science contradict the Bible? 2. Does Carbon Dating disprove the Bible? 3. Isn’t faith just a crutch for the weak? Main point: Modern Science was birthed in the cradle of Christianity as believers in the Western culture began to explore their world with the conviction that the Creator God was a God of order. They believed that the created world did not have to be feared or worshipped. Instead, it could be studied, and its power and resources harnessed for the betterment of humanity. Rejection of biblical truths will return us to the dark ages. True scientific discoveries do not endanger our faith but enhance it.

Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

Context: Before we pass judgment on Paul as being some close-minded hellfire and brimstone preacher from the backwoods, let’s back up to verse 14 “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.” Paul was very well trained in the knowledge and wisdom of the civilized people of the Greco-Roman world, those living in the city states of the inner Mediterranean world. At the same time, he was not some city snob, sipping his latte, and clueless about the outer world. He had been trained in their ways as well. Because of this, he felt that he was an “opheiletes” (debtor) to both groups and had an obligation to preach to both – 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” In other words, Paul is unashamed in his conviction that the gospel can save the civilized and the uncivilized. All they have to do is believe in the gospel of Christ and live. But there was a hurdle – God’s anger was hovering over them because of their “ungodliness” and “unrighteousness”. Those two words are not exactly synonymous. The first “asebeia” represents vertical lack of reverence for God, and the second “adikia” represents the horizontal lack of respect for his just order. Why? Because they are “katecho” (suppressing) the truth in their rejection of his just order. Pay attention now – 19 “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world (ktisis kosmou = creation of the universe) His invisible attributesare clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” In other words, both with observation of the created world and with their reasoning ability, they know God’s eternal power and deity. Nonetheless, they have chosen to reject him with some dire consequences.

Paul’s word to the Romans is a perfect description of our world today. With all the knowledge and advancement our world is experiencing, it is becoming increasingly hostile towards God, and we have no leg to stand on. Unfortunately, it is impacting our young people the most. They go off to secular colleges and universities and return without their faith or with many doubts and questions. Unfortunately, the church often fails to give adequate answers to their questions and all it takes is some trial and struggle in their life and they get blown away. How should we answer them? More specifically, how should we train our kids and students before they leave home so that no amount of scientific knowledge would shake their faith. Instead, it should make it stronger.

First, let’s clear up the myth:

Often it is claimed that organized church or Christianity has always tried to persecute science and scientists. Those who claim that usually bring up the story of Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church. They usually point to the period in the seventeenth century when the Western world experienced what is called a “Scientific Revolution.” We need to back up and truly understand this revolution was actually a part of a much larger revolution called the “Protestant Reformation.” Among many other incidents, it was led by a German monk named Martin Luther, who nailed what’s called his “95-Thesis” to the Wittenberg Door in 1517. A major point of this revolution was to bring the scriptures in the hands of the ordinary people. The Scientific Revolution simply extended that attitude towards all creation, the second sacred book. It was a break from the established authority of the Roman Catholic church, but not a break from the Bible or Christianity. Think for a moment, Francis Bacon (the major leader of the scientific revolution and the one who developed the scientific method) was also part of the translation of the KJV in 1611. In fact, we need to understand that modern science was birthed in the cradle of Christianity, and it began much before the Scientific Revolution. This is the period known as the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages. We often think of it as a world of close-minded superstitions. To the contrary, this is the period when modern science was actually born and grew. It was called “Natural Philosophy.” It was in monasteries and universities that were built by the Roman Catholic church that monks, operating from the premise that God is a God of order and that we can study the universe that he has created, learned rigorous experimentation and the connection between cause and effect (See James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution). This later became the foundation of science in the west.

Obviously, the question comes up – What about all the ancient philosophy from India or the great pyramids of Egypt or gunpowder in China? Stanley Jaki in his book The Origin of Science and the Science of Its Origin says:

“This historiography of science has still to face up honestly to the problem of why three great ancient cultures (China, India, and Egypt) display, independently of one another, a similar pattern vis-a-vis science. The pattern is the stillbirth of science in each of them in spite of the availability of talents, social organization, and peace—the standard explanatory devices furnished by all-knowing sociologies of science on which that historiography relies ever more heavily.”

Why did science not develop further in these cultures? According to scholars like Pierre Duhem, Stanley Jaki, and Robert Merton, it’s because these cultures could not truly grasp the fact that God made the universe, and it was orderly. The universe was subject to his order. It was not alive on its own. Human beings were God’s special creation and not just one of the animals. Also, time was not cyclical but linear. All these and more come straight from the Bible. Because the Bible was lacking in these cultures, science could get no further. Yes, the Chinese invented gunpower, but they could not take it further – What makes gunpowder work? How will it react with other chemicals? (See The Soul of Science by Pearcy and Thaxton).

So, what about Galileo? It is correct that in 1616 that the Roman Catholic church affirmed that the Copernican theory that the earth goes around the sun (heliocentrism) was false and heretical. About 16 years later, Galileo was charged with heresy and told to recant, which he supposedly did while gritting his teeth. This is also not true. In fact, the reigning theory was the Ptolemaic view (geocentrism), which was based on the Aristotelian physics. Barely 10 astronomers went along with Copernicus’ theory, which had no physics to back it up. Ever since Thomas Aquinas had backed up Aristotelian philosophy, the church was stuck with it. In other words, the church was defending Aristotelian science rather than opposing Galileo. Plus, he had an abrasive personality. He had tried to tell the theologians how to do their job! That was a big no no! Here’s the point: The church should never attach itself with any particular view of the world. It’s alright to learn and adapt, but don’t make it on the same level as the Bible.

Unfortunately, science was supposed to be an independent enterprise, but now it is again at the mercy of secular professors and avowed atheists. Now, if you question “science,” you are told that you are not a scientist. By the way, that is known as the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Another one that we have heard a lot lately – “Science tells us…” That is known as a “reification fallacy” where people assign personal qualities to an abstract idea. Science doesn’t tell us anything, but scientists can.

In the next few weeks, we will see the connection between the Bible and Science (Friar and Patterson):

  • Cosmology (We will focus on the first few chapters of Genesis for this and the following points)
  • Physics (Matter and Time)
  • Chemistry (Atoms and Molecules)
  • Biology (Cell structure and design in nature)
  • History (Adam and Eve, Noah’s Flood, Abraham and the people of God, the coming of Christ and his Resurrection)

What happens when we continue to reject the Creator God? 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24   Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Invitation: What do you believe? Are you saved? Do you know someone who is struggling in their faith? Are you praying for them?

Canon by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Last month, June 2021, an Italian artist named Salvatore Garau put up a sculptor at an auction titled “lo Sono,” meaning “I am.” He set the opening bid between $6000 to $9000. Only problem was that it was an invisible piece. According to Garau, “The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has a weight…Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us.” People laughed about it. Some put pictures online of their invisible pieces. Believe it or not, someone bought it for $18,300! Here’s where the story takes a turn. Couple of days ago, Tom Miller, a Florida-based performance artist, claimed that Garau stole his idea. Back in 2016, he had assembled an invisible piece titled “Nothing” over 5 days. Miller has hired an attorney. How does this connect with our message in our series titled “CONTEND?” Just because you believe it, it doesn’t make it right. Main point: The Bible is not one person’s imagination of truth and reality. It is a collection of God’s words through various individuals in various times and in various ways regarding one thing – the coming of his son. Jesus is God’s son who came as a real historical person in a real historical place and time to fulfill God’s promise of salvation for all humanity.

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;

Context: What a powerful declaration of the special revelation of God through the ages! If you remember the chart I have created, so far, we worked up. The Scriptures are authoritative because they were inspired by God and hence inerrant. They were inspired because they were the special revelation of God. Now, we need to work down. Because the scriptures were authoritative, they were affirmed as canonical by the church. The Old Testament canon was already set before the New Testament was written and the New Testament canon was affirmed by the church in due time. Of course, there are certain questions that have been raised regarding canonicity. Here are some questions that we received in our survey:

  • Why are there more books in certain Bibles?
  • Is there any value in the books that have not been included?
  • Isn’t the process of canonization similar to other religions?

In answering these questions, I want us to compare the biblical canon to the Buddhist canon. In other words, how do the Buddhist religious books compare to the Bible.

  1. Main Character:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

  • Buddha or Word of the Buddha
  • There was one – Siddhartha Gautama from Northern India in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. He was a prince. For various reasons, his father would not let him venture out of the palace. He did not know what suffering was. He was married and had a child. One day, at the age of 29, he asked his charioteer to take him for a ride. On the way, he was exposed to “Four Sights” – an old man, a sick man, and a funeral procession. In other words, he was exposed to suffering. The fourth sight was a Hindu sadhu who seemed very peaceful. He decided to become one and left his wife and son. This was the “Great Renunciation.” He went searching for the truth and even tried to scourge himself. Finally, at age 35, he sat under a pipal tree to meditate. All night, he fought against the evil tempter Mara. As a result, he experienced enlightenment and the path to the end of suffering.
  • This path begins with 4 Noble Truths: 1. Existence is suffering (dukkha) 2. Suffering is caused by desire (tanha). 3. Liberation (nirvana) from suffering and desire is possible. 4. The Eightfold path is the way to escape – right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Basically, they are morality, concentration, and wisdom.
  • After this he gained some disciples and began preaching his way to enlightenment.
  • Basically, his teachings were rooted in Hinduism, Jainism, and other ancient religions. There was a lot of focus on suffering, meditation, and following wise teachers. Karma was again important. The goal was to progress through the reincarnation cycles and escape to Nirvana. Unlike Hinduism, which focuses on coming back in the next life, Buddhism focuses on the continuation of pure karma from one life to another.
  • But, there were many other Buddhas. Their common teachings together are the buddhavacana or the word of the Buddha. This is the essence of the eternal Dharma or teachings.

B. Bible

  • From start to finish, the Bible is about Jesus. Listen again to Hebrews 1 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; 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…”
  • That’s why when Jesus began his ministry, he said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” After he rose from the grave, he met some of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
  1. Canon:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

  • There are 3 canons based on the three main traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Theravada (way of the elders) claims to be the earliest and closest to the early Buddhist community. It is found in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Kampuchea).
  • Mahayana began around the time of Christ and spread from India to China, Korea, and Japan. It claims to be superior to Theravada. Unlike the Indian focus on nirvana, the Chinese and Japanese focus was more on enlightenment.
  • The Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana came in the 7th century to Tibet, and it is found in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. It is more focused on Indian tantric practices. These include mudras (physical postures), mantras (magical phrases), calling on ghosts, demons, and territorial spirits. Their leader is the Dalai Lama, who is considered to be a reincarnation of the previous 13 Dalai Lamas and is believed to be connected to Buddha.
  • Based on the 3 traditions, there are 3 different canons:

#1. Theravada – Pali Canon which has the Tripitaka (3 baskets) containing Buddha’s teachings, monastic codes, and philosophical analysis. They were passed down orally and finally penned 400 years later and agreed upon 500 more years later. This is much larger than the Bible, 11 times. This is how the Ajanta and Ellora Caves came to be. They were places for monks to study, work, and meditate.

#2. Mahayana – It has the Pali canon and many more which it considers to be superior. It has about 100,000 pages in printed form. They are like libraries. This where the Lotus Sutra comes in, if you’ve heard of it.

#3. Tibetan – part of the Mahayana tradition and other texts.

  • Buddhism has also spread to the west. It is heavily influenced by Japanese Buddhism and a new kind of Buddhism is emerging. It is a buffet style Buddhism, which tinkers with Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, even Jodo (pure land) Buddhism.

B. Bible

  • Old Testament – 4 Canons (Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox)
  • Jewish – The traditional number of books is 24. Referred to as Mikra (that which is read) or Tanakh [T, N, K = Torah (instruction/law), Nevi’im (prophets), Kethuvim (writings)]
  • Protestant – The traditional number of the books is 39. It retains the order of the LXX but the text is based on the Hebrew Bible.
  • Roman Catholic – The traditional number of books is 49. It is based on the Alexandrian canon of the LXX. The order of books varies. It is based on current editions, such as the Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible. The appendix of the Latin Vulgate contains 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasseh.
  • Orthodox – The traditional number of the books is 53. It is based on larger versions of the LXX. “Orthodox” here refers to the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches (the Slavonic Bible being the traditional text). In Orthodox Bibles, 4 Maccabees and the Prayer of Manasseh-and in Slavonic, 3 Esdras are in an appendix.
  • The extra books found in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons are not part of the Jewish canon. According to Josephus, the 24 were it for the Jewish canon.
  • The Essenes from Qumran only cite from the Jewish canonical books and only wrote commentaries on them.
  • Philo (20BC – 40AD) the Jewish scholar only cites from the canonical books. So also, the NT authors stick to the canonical books. Jude quotes from 1 Enoch but it was not claimed to be canonical.
  • The extra books were added by the RC and Orthodox as important to certain Jewish people.
  • The New Testament canon of 27 books have remained the same throughout. The ones claimed recently are gnostic heretical books.
  1. Purpose (Adapted from Thane Hutcherson Ury)
A. Buddhist Religious Books B. Bible
1.    No personal god 1.    God wants us to know him.
2.    History is cyclical. No creation 2.    History is linear. Yes, creation
3.    Main problem is suffering 3.    Main problem is sin
4.    Salvation is from inside 4.    Salvation is from above
5.    Ultimate goal is Nirvana 5.    Ultimate goal is relationship with God
6.    It all happened under a tree 6.    It all happened on a tree
7.    No judgment 7.    Day appointed for judgment
8.    No life after death 8.    Eternal Life
9.    Be lamps to yourself 9.    Shine the light of Jesus
10.Without Buddha, still Buddhism 10.No Christianity without Christ

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, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. The writer then goes on to compare Jesus to the Torah, Moses, the Promised Land, the priests, Melchizedek, the sacrifices, and the covenant.

Invitation: Who would you rather trust? Someone who imagined or someone who has been promised and who came in definite time and place and fulfilled that promise? Are you saved? Do you know Jesus as your Savior and King?

Revelation by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  What if you were to find a brown paper sack with ten thousand dollars in ten- and twenty-dollar bills in the bushes where you parked your car? What if you go to visit a rich uncle who gives you a check for ten thousand dollars? What’s the similarity? They are both leave you with ten thousand dollars. What’s the difference? One could get you shot or land in jail and the other fills your heart with love and gratefulness for your uncle. What makes the difference? How did you come across it? In our series called “CONTEND,” we are spending the next few weeks on some of your questions regarding the Bible. Some of you asked, “Is the Qur’an for the Muslims what the Bible is for the Christians?” “Aren’t all religions basically saying the same things in their holy books?” Main point: Before we can understand and evaluate the Content of any holy book, we need to understand the form of its Revelation. In other words, before we can open and decide if a holy book is God’s word, we need to understand how it came to us. Unlike other holy books, biblical revelation testifies to God’s holiness, love, and grace towards fallen sinful human beings. It is his rescue manual to save us and draw us to himself.

Jeremiah 1:9 Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.” Jeremiah 30     1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 “Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.”

Context: Last week, we learned that “Authority is the basic theological issue into which discussions of biblical revelation, inspiration, and interpretation finally run” (J.I. Packer).

  • The Bible has to be obeyed (Application) because it is Authoritative.
  • Before you can properly apply, you have to correctly interpret it (Interpretation).
  • The Authority only extends to the Canonical books because they alone were recognized by the church.
  • They alone were recognized by the church as Canonical because they alone were Inspired.
  • Because they are Inspired, they are Inerrant.
  • They are Inspired and Inerrant because they were Revealed by God through the Holy Spirit to his people.

In today’s message, our focus is on REVELATION, especially Special Revelation. If you remember, we need more than General Revelation (Nature, History, Human Nature). We also need specific instructions regarding God’s plan of salvation. I briefly touched on how the 66 books of the Bible have information in them, which is Personal, Anthropic, and Analogical. Sometimes, it is historical acts (Abraham and Isaac; Babylonian exile), other times, it is divine speech (“The word of the Lord came to me…”), and then there is the major revelation – the incarnation of Jesus. Muslim apologists challenge the biblical claim of special revelation on 2 points:

  1. They claim that how the Qur’an was revealed is far superior to how the Bible was revealed.
  2. Moreover, they claim that the Bible is no longer God’s revelation because it has been corrupted by Jewish people and Christians.

Others even try to be dismissive and claim that they’re all the same.

To answer these charges, we need to compare the Events and the Content of the 2 revelations (Taken from Ida Glaser’s works and my dad’s many sermons):

  1. Event

A. Qur’an – It is claimed that it came to one man, a prophet named Muhammad from the age of 40 until his death, 23 years later. The account is found in the Hadith. They are reports of what Muhammad said or did. The Qur’an is interpreted through the Hadith which were collected 200-300 years after his death. The Qur’an is the Wahy, the pure revelation of God. It exists in heaven and everything else, including translations, is just interpretation or rendition. Ilham is God revealing his knowledge into the mind of the person. This is like the Biblical doctrine of inspiration. Under wahy, there is no such thing as the “original message” or “context” or the “true words” of the prophet Mohammed; the Qur’an is the word of God. There are debates about the Hadiths right now. Also, there are commentaries on the Qur’an. Since, there is no context, not much is left to interpret, only application. Also, there are differences and many don’t interact with each other. Nonetheless, listen to the Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari 1:3 –

The first revelation that was granted to the Messenger of God was the true vision of sleep, so that he never saw a vision but the truth of it shone forth like the bright gleam of dawn. Then solitude became dear to him and he used to seclude himself in the cave of Hira, where he would devote himself to Divine worship for several nights before coming back to his family. He would take provisions for this purpose, then he would return to Khadijah (first wife) and get some more provisions for a similar (period), until the Truth (Gabriel) came to him while he was in the cave of Hira. The Angel came to him and said, ‘Read’. He said, ‘I am not one of those who can read.’

And he continued ‘Then he (the Angel) took hold of me and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore, after which he let me go and said, ‘Read’. When I replied, ‘I am not one of those who can read’, he took hold of me and pressed me a second time so hard that I could not bear it anymore, then he let me go again and said, ‘Read’. I said,’ l am not one of those who can read’.

The Prophet continued: ‘Then he took hold of me and pressed me a third time, then he let me go and said, “Read in the name of thy Lord who creates―creates man from a clot. Read, and thy Lord is most Generous” (from Surah 96:1-3).

The Messenger of God returned with this (message), his heart trembling, and he went to Khadijah, daughter of Khuwailid and said, ‘Wrap me up, wrap me up’. So they wrapped him up until the awe had left him.

In al-Bukhari 1:2, we find more information regarding these events:

Aishah, the mother of the faithful reported that Harith ibn Hisham asked the Messenger of God, ‘O Messenger of God, how does the revelation come to thee?’ The Messenger of God said, ‘Sometimes it comes to me like the ringing of a bell, and that is the type which is the hardest on me; then he (the Angel) departs from me and I retain in memory from him what he said. At times the Angel comes to me in the likeness of a man and speaks to me and I retain in memory what he says.’ Aishah said: ‘And I saw him when revelation descended on him on a severely cold day; when it departed from him his forehead dripped with sweat.’

It is claimed that Muhammad’s illiteracy is the greatest proof of the miracle of the Qur’an, as it is the highest style of Arabic poetry. Also, only the Arabic Quran is authoritative. This is the language in which it was given, and the translations involve interpretation, which can be distorted. School kids are told to memorize the Quran in Arabic even in countries where Arabic is not the main language. Recitation of the Quran must be in Arabic. The original is in the heaven and was

B. Bible

  • The Bible was written by 40 independent writers.
  • It was written over a time span of 1500 years.
  • They wrote it in 3 different languages – Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
  • The writers lived in 3 different continents – Asia, Africa, and Europe – Moses wrote in the desert of Sinai, Daniel from exile in Babylon, and Ezra in the ruined city of Jerusalem, Paul wrote in a prison in Rome, and John on the island of Patmos.
  • They had 20 different occupations – kings, a general, at least 2 fishermen, a musician, a priest, a tax collector, a medical doctor, a judge – Moses was a shepherd, Solomon was a king, Matthew was a tax collector, Luke was a medical doctor, and Paul was a scholar/missionary/tentmaker.
  • It has a cast of 2,930 characters in 1,551 places.
  • Its message is expressed in all literary forms – poetry, prose, speech, lists, etc.
  • There were certain qualifications for prophets in the Old Testament.
  • It was written under many different circumstances – Joshua wrote while invading the land of Canaan, David wrote during a time of war, Jeremiah wrote at the sorrowful time of Israel’s downfall, Peter wrote while Israel was under Roman domination.
  1. Content:

A. Qur’an

  • Sometimes, it is a warning (Surah 18:4). Other times, it is a reminder (Surah 81:27). Yet other times, it is a guide and a witness (Surah 46:12).
  • No organization. It is claimed that the sections can be divided into Mecca, Medina, and Mecca. It is based on information from much later that is disputed.
  • No such thing as the Fall. Man is just forgetful and must be reminded.
  • Those who disregard or reject the Qur’an will face the judgment to come.
  • Ultimately, it is God’s law for man and submission is the way.
  • No mediation or sacrifice is needed. God is merciful.
  • Many times, it makes references to events from the Old and the New Testament. In fact, it needs the bible to make sense of many of the references regarding Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, Job, Jonah, Zechariah (father of John the Baptist), John the Baptist, and Jesus.
  • It even reprimands the Jewish people and the Christians for refusing to accept Muhammad as “the prophet like Moses,” “altogether lovely” from Song of Solomon, and the paraclete (another comforter). Sometimes, it refers to us as “the people of the Book” and misunderstand the Trinity! “O people of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion…so believe in Allah and His Apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah:” (Surah 4:171-172) “And when God said, “O Jesus son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind, “Take me and my mother as gods apart from God?” [Jesus son of Mary] said, “Glory be to Thee! It is not for me to utter that to which I have no right.” (Surah 5:116-118)

B. Bible

  • Mainly a narrative which implies a history and encounter between God and his people. Yes, there are plenty of commands/laws, but they are in a context.
  • Prayers are a two-way relationship.
  • Wisdom and truth are to help us live with God’s guidance.
  • Much emphasis on Jesus because it is the main point!
  • Human beings were made in the image of God with the ability to have a relationship with him. In fact, that is the goal of God for us.
  • We have fallen because of sin. We cannot reach God. He must reach down to us.
  • God is holy. He will punish sin. We cannot handle sin and hence, he must punish a suitable substitute. Only his Son could qualify. The central theme of the Bible is Jesus Christ – In the OT Christ is anticipated and in the NT he is realized.
  • There is just one message – Our problem is SIN and the answer is SALVATION through Jesus Christ.
  • This drama of redemption was communicated throughout the ages – Moses wrote as he led the people to the Promsied Land, Isaiah wrote to warn the people of Israel of God’s judgment against their sins, Zechariah wrote to encourage a disheartened Israel who returned from Babylonian exile, Paul wrote addressing problems in different Asian and European churches, and Matthew wrote to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. They are all written in the context of God’s relationship with human beings.
  • One great example is the story of Cain and Abel: “But recite unto them with truth the tale of the two sons of Adam, how they offered each a sacrifice, and it was accepted from the one of them and it was not accepted from the other. (The one) said: I will surely kill thee. (The other) answered: Allah accepts only from those who ward off (evil). Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee, lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Lo! I would rather thou should bear the punishment of the sin against me and thine own sin and become one of the owners of the fire. That is the reward of evil-doers. But (the other’s) mind imposed on him the killing of his brother, so he slew him and became one of the losers. Then Allah sent a raven scratching up the ground, to show him how to hide his brother’s naked corpse. He said: Woe unto me! Am I not able to be as this raven and so hide my brother’s naked corpse? And he became repentant. For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.” (Surah 5:27-32)

The source of the raven scratching the ground is Jewish commentary (midrash) about how Adam and Eve wondered what to do with their dead son. The context is to warn the older brothers (Jewish people and Christians) of being jealous of the younger brother (Muslims). How about the original context? Cain disregarded God’s requirement for sacrifice. God disapproved Cain’s offering. Cain got angry. God confronted Cain. In envy, he killed his brother. God saw it all. He confronted Cain. He denied his sin. God cursed him. Cain pleaded for mercy. God put a mark on him and said to him in “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” What a world of difference!

Let’s go back to the opening where Adam and Eve couldn’t look God in the face. All of scripture is simply God getting us to look him in the face, in the eye. Numbers 6:23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

2 Corinthians 4:6 “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 5.     17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

Invitation: Are you looking God in the face? How do you see the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments? Are you saved?

The Anatomy of Salvation by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE ANATOMY OF SALVATION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  This past week, our Clearview staff was on our annual retreat in Arizona. We do this every year as a time to plan for the summer and the upcoming year. It is much more than just a time to get away. Although, in light of how extremely busy this past year and a half was, it was great to see everyone spending time with their families. Those who are close to the team and are helping out in some ministry at Clearview, you know what I mean. While there, our team produced an 8-week bible study through Nehemiah on rebuilding lives and ministry, and also filmed at some incredible locations that you will see in the CONTEND series. In today’s message, we will answer a question that was asked in various forms: “Why do some people reject the gospel?” “Can someone believe even if they have some questions?” “Recently, I have heard of many big names that have renounced their faith. Why is that?” Main point: Salvation is God’s miraculous work of grace through Jesus Christ in the life of person. Nonetheless, there are certain observable factors that lead to the decision to receive Christ and remain in him. Our upbringing and the evidences we encounter in life determine our degree of belief in Christianity.

Acts 26     12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Context: This is the conversion account of the Apostle Paul before King Agrippa. It is found 2 other times in the book of Acts (Acts 9 and 22). It is such a radical testimony! One moment, Paul was persecuting Christians, and the next moment, he was one. Listen to his own description of his pre-conversion life – Acts 26      9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” Paul was a killer! Paul had a license to kill from the religious authorities. As he was on one of his evil missions, God knocked him to the ground with a bright light from heaven and a question, not in Greek or Aramaic, but Hebrew – “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Paul’s response was – “Who are You, Lord?” What would cause such a quick and radical change in him? It was much more than just a bright light and a mysterious voice. Those were simply to bring him to his senses. Paul gave us the clue in verse 4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” In other words, all the necessary ingredients for his salvation were there, Paul was going in the wrong direction. God simply had to turn his around.

The real question before us is – “What makes a person decide if they want to receive the gospel?” Often, it is believed that salvation is a mystery. God draws people by his grace and opens their eyes to the truth. It is truly a miracle. All that is absolutely true, but it is only one-sided. Lately, there has been more research in this field, especially from probability and decision theory. If you are a student of mathematics, you know what I am referring to. This is a very technical area. Although, I was a math and science teacher, I am not going to get into too much detail here. If you would like to know more, there are several important works that have been published lately that utilize Pascal’s Wager in calling people to believe in God. Pascal was scientist, mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and Catholic theologian who lived in 17th century France. He was brilliant. He was of frail health and died at the age of 39. Here’s my re-statement of the Wager, “We cannot come to the knowledge of God’s existence through reason alone. It’s wise to live as if God does exist because such a life has everything to gain and nothing to lose. If we live as if God exists, and He does indeed exist, we have gained heaven. If He doesn’t exist, we have lost nothing. To the contrary, if we live as though God does not exist and He really does exist, we have gained hell and punishment and have lost heaven. A rational person should live as though the Christian God exists and seek to believe in him.” Bottom line: it is rational to believe in God even with incomplete evidence. Although, some have criticized this wager through the centuries, several scholars (Jeff Jordan, Michael Rota, Thomas Morris, etc.) have attempted this approach, especially a Swedish mathematician, Ola Hössjer, professor at the Stockholm University, Sweden. He takes the Wager model and extends it so that the decision to become a Christian has 3 main ingredients: prior belief (a priori), evidence (a posteriori), and will. He uses Bayes’ Rule or Bayes Theorem to understand the probability of decisions. In other words, “our degree of belief in Christianity is the result of an inborn tendency to relate to God and the evidence we encounter in life.” By the way, Thomas Bayes (18th century statistician, philosopher, and non-conformist Presbyterian minister) who came up with his theorem to counter David Hume (English philosopher and skeptic) who claimed that the probability of people inaccurately claiming that they’d seen Jesus’ resurrection far outweighed the probability that the event had occurred in the first place. Jordana Cepelewicz summarizes Bayes’ simple explanation, “Consider a ball thrown onto a flat table behind your back. You can make a guess as to where it landed, but there’s no way to know for certain how accurate you were, at least not without looking. Then, he says, have a colleague throw another ball onto the table and tell you whether it landed to the right or left of the first ball. If it landed to the right, for example, the first ball is more likely to be on the left side of the table (such an assumption leaves more space to the ball’s right for the second ball to land). With each new ball your colleague throws, you can update your guess to better model the location of the original ball. In a similar fashion, Bayes thought, the various testimonials to Christ’s resurrection suggested the event couldn’t be discounted the way Hume asserted. By the way, according to Cepelewicz, Bayes theorem has been used to decode the German Enigma cipher, helped the United States Navy locate Soviet subs, enabled statisticians to determine the authorship of the Federalist Papers, and even unlock the secrets of the brain.

We don’t have time to look at all this in detail. Let’s just briefly look at the 3 main ingredients: prior belief, evidence, and will.

Prior Belief (a priori = before experience): Inborn conception of God (the desire to call on God and worship someone or something), inborn conception of first cause (the understanding that everything has a beginning/cause), inborn desire for meaning (the desire to do or be something), and inborn desire for love (we all want to love). Each of these can be encouraged or discouraged in a person, especially during the early years. That’s why we place such emphasis on children’s and youth ministries.

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Augustine – “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

Evidence (a posterior = after experience): Historical/Cultural (creativity and culture, misconduct of Christians, church history, religion and wars, other religions), Moral/Ethical (moral law, presence of evil), Scientific (design, bible and natural science, cause) Theological/Philosophical (fall of man, judgment and hell, truthfulness of the Bible, theodicy, Israel) and Personal (pain, suffering, miracles, personal testimony). When we hear about people renouncing their faith, one of these evidences is weak or faulty.

The combination of Prior Belief and Evidence leads to Rational Belief. Based on the individual, it depends on which one will be more important than others.

Will: Some need just a little rational belief; some only need some rational belief; and for some, strong rational belief is not enough.

Why was the response of the Paul immediate and heartfelt? He had plenty of prior belief and evidence. For him, the major evidence was not the light and the voice from heaven. It was the tremendous background he has in the scripture. The light and the voice simply stopped him in his tracks and turned him around.

Difference between my dad’s conversion and mine. It matters how you raise children. Current crisis is permanently marking them. How do you talk about church to them or sermons? Do you discipline and guide your kids?

Pascal said, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”

Invitation: What is holding you back? Do you know people who are lost? What do you think is holding them back? Have you prayed for the Holy Spirit would open their eyes and yours?

The Age of Paradoxes by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE AGE OF PARADOXES by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Everywhere you turn on social media, there are graduation pictures with parents and grandparents proud and excited to see their kids growing up and becoming successful. One thing that is relatively new with regards to the graduation attire are decorating the graduation caps. Here are some interesting ones that I came across: “Bye Buddy hope you find a job,” “This was nothing like high school musical,” “Did everyone see that? Because I will not be doing it again,” “Bye Mr. Anderson, I’m graduating, tardy or not,” “Thousands of years later,” “I don’t even go here,” “Last minute like everything else I did in high school,” “Ya’ll hiring?” and my favorite “I is smart.” The last one is sort of an oxymoron, a contradiction. On one hand, the student is claiming to be smart because he/she is graduating. On the other hand, the student should not be allowed to graduate since they don’t even know basic grammar. In this message on Graduation Sunday, I would like to speak on paradoxes, which are much more than just oxymorons or contradictions. I’ll explain the difference in a few moments. We are still in our series through 1 Peter and this message is directed towards our graduates, but it is for all of us. Main point: Ours is the Age of Paradoxes, much more than at any other time in history. Especially in the post 2020 world, we are smarter and dumber, united and divided, bold and fearful, and woke and wicked, all at the same time. It is vital that we adopt those paradoxes that please God and fulfill his purpose in his world. It is vital that we adapt to our new setting but still maintain our old convictions.

1 Peter 3:13 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?”

Context: Keep in mind that that Peter had just quoted from Psalm 34, David’s psalm at the cave of Adullam. The previous verse, 1 Peter 3:12, said, “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” Here David was teaching the distressed, indebted, and dissatisfied people how to be ready for the bad days when it seemed that the wicked were winning. Peter was also telling the Christians that God can see what the wicked are doing and he will protect them from any who would try to harm them for living righteously. The conjunction “and” is more of an inference “then.” What an assurance! But, listen to the very next verse – 14 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” It appears that Peter just used a paradox – “No harm will come to you if you follow God, but when harm comes to you because you follow God, don’t be afraid.” Paradox often gets confused with contradictions. There’s a difference: Contradiction: Out of two things, one is true, and the other is false. For e.g., living death or poor rich girl. Paradox: A statement that appears contradictory on the surface but can be true on further examination. I don’t have to suggest examples. We are living in the Age of Paradoxes and the culprit is the Internet, especially social media. Don’t misunderstand: The Internet has brought tremendous benefits to our world, but it has also created the Age of Paradoxes. Here’s how:

  1. We are Smarter and Dumber at the same time.

We are living in the Information Age. People from poor and remote corners of the world can access knowledge at just the click of a button. Unfortunately, the Internet is also filled with loads of false information, especially on social media, which was the root cause of much panic and fearmongering through the 2020 crisis.

  1. We are United and Divided at the same time

The world has become smaller, faster, and easier as communications, transactions, and even shopping have been revolutionized. Social media platforms have connected us with old friends and helped us make new ones. Unfortunately, the various social media platforms that were meant to connect us have also become weapons to attack one another. It’s easy to be a “keyboard warrior” and fire off a post or a tweet against someone you disagree with. If you really don’t like someone, you can cancel and shame them out of your tribe without giving them a chance to explain themselves or apologize.

  1. We are Bold and Afraid at the same time.

Researchers claim that in some areas self-esteem is on the rise, as young and old are unafraid to post their photos and videos online, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, people are afraid of being called out online for some action or lack thereof. Concurrently, many decisions of 2020 were, and still are, made out of fear of being shamed. Also, false information has also caused a lot of fear, as mentioned in the first point.

  1. We are Woke and Wicked at the same time.

“Woke” is the catchword for awareness regarding social justice and racism, especially on social media. Now, it’s everything from LGBTQ+, women’s rights, immigrants, and everyone who is disenfranchised. With as much self-proclaimed righteousness, wickedness is still on the rise. Pornography that takes advantage of women and children is on the rise like never before. Hate and bitterness hasn’t gotten any better. We are fooling ourselves into thinking that we are better because we are “woke.”

This is the world in which our post-2020 graduates are entering! Add to all these paradoxes, the political chaos of 2020 and 2021, the terrible violence and destruction of our major cities, the toxic cancel culture and censorship on social media, and the increasing attack on our Constitution and our values? As a result, we are now trillions of dollars in debts, divided as a people across racial, religious, and political lines, and facing an uncertain future. Things are no different across the globe – due to the shutdowns, people are struggling like never before, ISIS is back, Israel is under attack, and so much more. If our post-2020 graduates are to survive this Age of Paradoxes, they will have to seek a new set of paradoxes. They will have to learn to live the paradoxical life that Peter described in these verses. Listen again to 1 Peter 3 again – 13 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” On one hand, we have to live knowing that no harm will come to us if we live for God. On the other hand, we will have to accept the possibility that harm will come if we live for God. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be afraid. Peter was now quoting from Isaiah 8:12. This was the promise God had given to Isaiah the prophet when Judah had turned to Assyria for help instead of turning to God. In time, the southern kingdom was also gone forever. It took going into exile for them to learn what it means by literally “Their fear do not fear.” Initially, it was, “don’t fear what they fear,” and then it became, “don’t fear what they threaten you with.” In other words, “nothing will harm you, but if harm comes, don’t fear.” Even though the people of the southern kingdom failed to follow this paradox, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lived by this paradox in Babylon. They had to adapt to their new setting but still maintain their convictions:

  1. They complied but resisted every step of the way.

The complied when they were given Babylonian names, but they resisted when it came to eating unclean food. Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.” At the end of the 10 days, Daniel and the other three were 10 times in better shape than the others. You will also have to learn to comply and resist. I know that seems so contrary to our thinking, but, as a minority, if you don’t, you will lose your identity. In 2020, many of us only complied when we should have also resisted. In the post-2020 age, people will flock around those who can make sense out of the chaos, display a sense of discernment, and know when to comply and resist.

  1. They looked to the past but lived in the present.

A plan was hatched to trap Daniel. Everyone in the land was to pray to King Darius for the next 30 days. If not, the offender shall be cast into the den of lions, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians. What was Daniel’s response? Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” We quickly focus on prayer, but did you notice the direction of his prayer? Daniel did not forget where he came from. There has been an attempt for quite some time to rewrite our past as a nation and a people. I won’t say that everything in our nation’s past has been perfect, but let’s never forget the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation. You will have to go back and rediscover how we came about as a people. What did our founding fathers believe? Why did they think the way they did? Having said that, we are not to live in nostalgia. We are to live in the present.

  1. They worked as if it depended on them but prayed as if it depended on God.

Daniel 2     48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. Can you imagine the workload of these 4 young men! Can you imagine the burden of the entire Babylonian Empire on their shoulders!

Nowadays, people don’t want to work. I was at a restaurant the other day. They had a hiring sign as well as a table setup with flyers and applications. So, I talked to the person, and she said, “People come by and apply and then they are back on the unemployment list. They rather collect free money than work.” How long can we do that? As someone once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Nonetheless, repeatedly, it is claimed that Daniel prayed every step of the way. Daniel 9      20 “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, 21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.” Many are collapsing in our world right now. Prayer will help you resist temptation, maintain your integrity, and refocus your life. Daniel prayed even though he was thrown in the lion’s den.

  1. Ultimately, they were aware of the hopelessness but remained hopeful for the future.

Daniel 9      16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

In that prayer, you can sense both Daniel’s hopelessness in the present and his hopefulness for the future. Our best days as a nation and as a people are ahead of us. It will require repentance. It will require redemption through Jesus Christ. It will require you to live the life of paradoxes apart from the Internet and dedicated to Jesus Christ.

Post-2020 graduates, as you approach the new age of paradoxes, you will have to craft an identity that is distinct from your social media persona.

Ultimately, it comes down to the great paradox Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Do you know him? If you do, he will be with you no matter what age comes or goes.

The Good Life by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE GOOD LIFE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Do you know people who can’t win for losing? No matter how hard they try, they seem to get bested by their circumstances. I read about a man who was working on his motorcycle on his patio and his wife was in the kitchen. The man was racing the engine on the motorcycle when it accidentally slipped into gear. The man, still holding onto the handlebars, was dragged through the glass patio door along with the motorcycle—which got dumped onto the floor inside the house. The wife, hearing the crash, ran into the dining room and found her husband lying on the floor, cut and bleeding, the motorcycle lay next to him with the patio door shattered. The wife ran to the phone and called the ambulance. Because they lived on a fairly large hill, the wife had to go down several flights of long steps to the street, to direct the paramedics to her husband. After the ambulance arrived, they transported the husband to the hospital. The wife up righted the motorcycle and pushed it outside. Seeing that quite a bit of gas had been spilled on the floor, the wife got some paper towels, blotted up the gasoline, and threw the towels into the toilet. The husband was treated at the hospital and was released to come home. After arriving home, he looked at the shattered patio door and the damage done to his motorcycle, he became despondent. He went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and smoked a cigarette. Can you see the train coming? After finishing the cigarette—you guessed it—he flipped it between his legs into the toilet bowl. The wife, who was in the kitchen, heard a loud explosion followed by her husband’s screams. When she ran to the bathroom, she found her husband lying on the floor. His trousers had been blown away. He was suffering burns on the buttocks, the back of his legs and his groin. The wife again ran to the phone and called for an ambulance. The same ambulance crew was dispatched, and his wife went down to the street to meet them. The paramedics loaded the husband on the stretcher and began carrying him to the street. While they’re going down the stairs to the street, accompanied by the wife, one of the paramedics asked the wife, how the husband had burned himself. She told them, and the paramedics started laughing so hard that one of them tipped the stretcher and dumped the husband out. He fell down the remaining steps and broke his ankle. Some people can’t win for losing, can they! In our series on Psalm 34, we are going to focus on the second half of the psalm where David talked about “THE GOOD LIFE.” Here’s the main point: The Good Life is attainable for God’s people. In fact, God desires all his people to live the good life. He has given us the proper steps to having the good life, but it begins with the fear of the Lord and leads to the redemption of the soul.

11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 Who is the manwho desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?

Context: If you remember from last weekend, as David sat at the cave of Adullam, after escaping from Gath, God sent him his family, but he also sent him people who were distressed, indebted, and discontented. In that setting, David wrote Psalm 34, an acrostic psalm, where each verse begins with a Hebrew alphabet in order. What was so special about writing acrostically? Why would he go to such lengths to write something so intricate and challenging? If you remember what I quoted from the South African scholar (Gous) —”if they look beyond the immediate, there is an underlying order, namely God’s care. This order gives structure to their existence, like the alphabet gives structure to the poem.” In other words, David wanted the distressed, indebted, and discontented people to know that, on the surface, life may appear ho-hum and chaotic, but, below the surface, there was a divine order and structure to their existence. God was doing some deep work and there was a plan to everything that was happening.

Application: Is there a divine order and structure to your existence? Can you see life below the surface? Are you rooted and grounded in the solid truth of God’s Word?

Psalm 34 can be divided into 2 halves: First half, verses 1-10; Second half, verses 11-22. The first half is thanksgiving to God for his salvation, for his rescue. We focused on that last week. The second half is wisdom poetry on how to have the good life. By the way, first, we need to be rescued, then comes the good life.

Application: Have you been rescued? That’s why Jesus came. He is the great rescuer?

The second half of the “Good Life” is very important for us because that is the section that Peter quoted in his letter. If you remember, it was in the context of “being of one mind, having compassion for one another, loving as brothers, being tenderhearted, being courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but blessing, so you can inherit blessing.” Then, he quoted from the psalm we have been studying—“For ‘he who would love life and see good days…” Here’s the principle: The life of unity proceeds from the good life. In other words, people who get along have learned the secret of the good life. Show me people who have a bad life and usually contention and division are all around them. You cannot have the good life and still be at odds with people.

Application: Is there contention and division in your life? Are you living the good life?

Once again, verse 11 “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Keep in mind to whom David was writing this psalm – the distressed, indebted, and discontented people. A major reason they were in the situation they were in was because they lacked wisdom. He calls them “baniim,” which is not children but pupils or students. He was telling them that they had a lot to learn about wisdom. Why does he begin with the “fear of the Lord?” In fact, twice already, he has brought up the “fear of the Lord”—7 “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them…9Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.” The fear of the Lord was the basis upon which wisdom was built (Craigie and Tate). It was the proper attitude for the development of godly wisdom in a person’s life. Listen to how the Book of Proverbs talks about the fear of the Lord:

  • Proverbs 1:7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
  • Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
  • Proverbs 10:27 “The fear of the LORD prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.
  • Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”
  • Proverbs 19:23 “The fear of the LORD leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.”
  • Proverbs 22:4 “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.”

Here’s what David was telling the motley crew that gathered to him – “Fear God and you will have wisdom.” In other words, Put God first in your life and obey him and wisdom will come to you.

Application: Do you fear God? Is he first in your life? Do you obey him?

But, then he gave them practical steps to this wisdom in order to have the good life – 12 “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? In other words, do you want “the good life?”

13 “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”

  1. Watch your mouth.

The word for “keep” is “netzer.” One of its meaning is to watch or guard a vineyard. James 1:26 “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.” James even called it a fire from hell and a deadly poison.

14 “Depart from evil…”

  1. Avoid evil.

The word for “depart” is “sur,” which means to turn aside, turn away, go away, desert. Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

“…and do good…”

  1. Practice doing good. Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High…”Hebrews 13:16 “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” James 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

“…seek peace and pursue it.”

  1. Be a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Hebrews 12:14Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

  1. Be ready for the bad days. God has not promised that we won’t have any trouble in this life. Job 14:1 “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” 2 Timothy 3:12“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. 20 He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken. 21 Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. 22 The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

In other words, when bad days come, remember God’s faithfulness to the righteous and judgment on the wicked.

Invitation: Are you living the good life? Are you prepared for the bad days? Are contentions and divisions a constant part of your life? Have you been rescued? Are you saved?

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