The Hope-Bringer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE HOPE-BRINGER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

The Hope Producer

Introduction: What does the word hope mean to you? If you talk to a little kid at Christmas, it is “I hope Santa brings me a new pair of shoes.” If you talk to someone looking for a relationship, it is “I hope I find someone one day.” Both express a desire for a positive outcome in the future but there’s also a negative use of this word. If you are really late, you say “I hope we make it on time.” If you talk to someone at the end of his or her rope, it is “I’ve lost all hope.” Both are expecting a negative outcome in the future. The biblical idea of hope is much different. It is much more than a desire for a positive or the possibility of a negative outcome. Hope is the solid assurance of something good in the future. Everywhere Jesus went he aroused this hope in people. He was and is the Great Hope-Bringer.

Mark 5   22 And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet 23 and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” 24 So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him. 25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” 29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” 31 But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” 32 And He looked around to see her who had done this thing…34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” 35 While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. 39 When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” 40 And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43 But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

Question: On the surface these 2 miracles seem unrelated but if you noticed carefully, there’s a connection. The first one is a 12-year-old girl dying and then dies and the other is a woman suffering for 12 years with the loss of blood. 12 years is a long time! The length of time is given to tell us that both were facing hopelessness in their lives until they met Jesus. He brought hope, the solid assurance of something good in their future. Are you facing hopelessness today? Does it feel like its not going to get any better? Have you met Jesus? Are you saved? Have you truly committed your problem to him?

Context: Listen again to verse 22 “And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name.” Jairus was an “archisynagogos” meaning head of the Jewish synagogue. Synagogues were the local assemblies of the Jewish people, which began during the Babylonian exile. They were no longer in their homeland and the temple was destroyed, so wherever they lived, they would build these synagogues for worship, prayer, education, and social activities. Not only that, the synagogues also served as the courthouse and in some cases as a city administration building. In other words, the synagogues became a symbol of Jewish identity. One more thing, unlike the temple were only the priests and the Levites could officiate, the leadership of the synagogue was open to all Jewish people provided they were upstanding and Torah abiding individuals. Jairus was the head of the synagogue in Capernaum. We’ve been there. His role was to keep the congregation faithful to the Torah. This was a high position! According to the Talmud (the Oral law of the Jewish people), “Let a man sell all he has and marry the daughter of a scholar. If he does not find the daughter of a scholar, let him marry the daughter of one of the great men of the generation. If he does not find…let him marry the daughter of a head of the synagogue.” You can imagine how people looked up to him and how he had to maintain his image.

But listen to what he did – 22 And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet…” What would cause a person of such high position to fall on his face in public before some travelling preacher from Galilee? 23 and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” Maybe his wife begged him to do that. Maybe his friends advised him to do that. I tend to think that he was a good family man who truly loved his little girl. There was no answer in his position. There was no answer in his knowledge. There was no answer in his religious and ethnic identity. He was desperate and Jesus was his only hope.

Important Principle: Desperation is the first step towards hope. As long as the present is comfortable, there’s no reason to look for hope. Sometimes God has to bring us to the point of desperation where it’s him and no one else who can meet our need. Psalm 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”

Application: Are you in the day of trouble? Have you come to that place of desperation? Are you willing to submit all to him?

So Jesus agreed to go with him but there’s an interruption. Let me make a quick point here – On the road to hope there are pit stops. Don’t let that discourage you. Don’t give up. God has a plan and a purpose. 25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. According to Leviticus 15, if a woman has such a condition, she is unclean. Anything she sits on or lies upon is unclean. Anyone who touches such an unclean woman is also unclean. Leviticus 15:27 “Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.” You can imagine that this woman hasn’t been to the synagogue in years. Maybe she was taken to court by someone for polluting them and had to stand before Jairus. Who knows! What does she do? 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” What a risk! If caught she would be in so much trouble but she didn’t care. The reason she did this is because just like Jairus she was also desperate. Religion or no religion, both were desperate and willing to pay the price!

Application: Have you come to that place of desperation? Are you willing to touch him no matter the cost?

What was the result? Not only was she healed but also Jesus made a point to stop and recognize her. Why? Because he wanted people to know that he cared for those in the synagogue and for those who were barred from the synagogue. Hope has no boundaries.

While he is talking to this woman, he overhears people telling Jairus that his daughter is gone. Listen to Jesus’ response – 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” Now he does something very strange – 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. Why? Desperation may lead you to seek hope but only faith can make hope a reality. Unbelief or lack of faith destroys hope. Faith is the prerequisite to hope. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Do you need hope/rock solid assurance of something good? Are you desperate enough for it? What’s keeping you from placing your faith in Christ? Are you a hope giver or a hope taker?

Foundation: God’s Vision for Clearview by Pastor Abidan Shah

FOUNDATION: GOD’S VISION FOR CLEARVIEW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Foundation

Introduction: Last week was very exciting in the life of Clearview. After months and months of waiting, we got word from the building contractor that the concrete was going to be poured Wednesday morning at 4am. We decided to get here by 9 to film it but unfortunately it was all over by then. But imagine if the whole church would have shown up at 4am Wednesday morning. Imagine if I was dressed up in my suit and tie ready to preach. Imagine if Ryan was ready with his announcements and John was ready with his guitar. What if the moment they started pouring the concrete, the praise team starting leading the people in worship. What if we all stood on the side and had a church service the whole time with singing, preaching, and everything while the concrete was being poured! That would be odd, wouldn’t it! That’s exactly what happened 2500 years ago when God’s people returned from exile and laid the foundation of the temple.

Ezra 3   10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Before we begin this message, here are a couple of questions to consider: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Some of you are saying, “Oh, I see the new building coming,” or “I saw the plans on the way in this morning.” Folks, I’m referring to much more than brick and mortar. I’m referring to the building up of lives, marriages, families, young people, and communities. I’m referring to changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? Can you see that? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read from Ezra describes the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. You may remember when I preached a series on Nehemiah couple of years ago how in 587 or 586BC Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the walls of the city, and especially destroyed the ancient temple of Solomon. Not only that but he also dragged the Jewish people 700 miles away into exile to Babylon. They had no hope of ever returning back and there was nothing left to return back to. Everything was gloomy and hopeless. But God had promised them that in his timing he would bring them back and he did. In 539BC (about 50 years later) Cyrus the king of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire and set the people free to go back home to Jerusalem. Not only that but Cyrus even returned the items that had been taken out of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and placed in the temple of his gods. He also provided support and commanded the people to do the same for those who were going back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. How amazing that a pagan king would do that!

Here’s a principle worth remembering: No matter what is happening in the world, no matter who is in charge, God is still in control. He is still sovereign and he never abandons his people.

Personal Reflection: Eleven years ago in 2007 when we stepped out on faith from the old church building, little did we realize what was about to happen. We had no clue that the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s was about to hit our country and the world and here we were without a church building! But here’s something amazing – we didn’t miss a single service! God took care of us as a church! He knew what was going to happen and he was perfectly in control.

I love this quote from Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (now OMF): “Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.”

Application: Do you believe that God is faithful and that he’ll take care of you? Are you God’s work in God’s way? Can you see God’s hand upon Clearview?

Ezra 3   1 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem.

Background: About 50,000 returned in the first wave to Jerusalem and they were united in their mission and vision.

So also at Clearview, we’ve been united and we need to stay united. What is our motto at Clearview? “MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE.” What is our mission? “To lead all people into a life-changing, ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” What is our vision? If you’ve been to the new members’ class, you’ve seen our list. It includes – seeing marriages healed, homes transformed, young people following Christ, communities transformed, God’s people digging into his word and worshipping him in joy, and on and on.

2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.

Background: The first thing we see is that they built the altar. This was very important because the one thing they were unable to do in Babylon was offer any sacrifices. This was similar to what David had done when he had captured the same ground about 500 years earlier. He also built an altar to God. Why was this important? Because the altar was a reminder to God’s people that they could not get near to God without sacrifices.

So also at Clearview, we are centered upon the cross of Christ. We believe that without the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we cannot come near to God. Hebrews 13:10 reminds us that Jesus is our altar. What do we offer on him? 15 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Two things we offer on the altar of Jesus –our sacrifice of praise (worship) and the sacrifice of giving to God’s work and sharing with those in need.

3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. Meaning: In spite of the threats of the enemies around them, they kept on worshipping God. No better time for me to say than today – “Thank God that we live in this great nation where we have the freedom to worship according to the dictates of our conscience.

7 “They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.” Meaning: This was not all just talk but people actually supported the work financially. We will hear on that in just a moment. 8 Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites. All these names remind us that all of us have a part to play in the future of our church.

Then came the day for laying the foundation. As the builders got ready to lay the foundation of the temple, the priests and Levites lined up in their attire with their trumpets and their cymbals and they led the people of God in worship and praise. 11 “…Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.” Something else happened12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.” In other words, not everyone had the same reaction. Some wept and some shouted and people heard it!

Lot of things are happening at Clearview – Everyday I hear from someone how God is using this church to touch their lives. Friday, a man told me that God used Clearview to save his marriage. Another person told me that they wish they had found Clearview much earlier. A young person told me that he looks forward to get here. It’s his favorite place in the world! We have people who are tuning in to the services all over this community. We have people as far away as Arizona who watch us. The other day I called my parents and they told me that people tell them what I preached on that morning. As you know my messages are on my website. We have people who are coming from all over the world!

Let me re-ask the questions I asked in the opening: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Can you see how God is building up lives, marriages, families, young people, and our community? Can you see the changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Love is Liberating by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS LIBERATING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Love is LiberatingIntroduction:  If you keep up with politics, I’m sure you’ve heard of Congressman Sam Johnson from Plano, Texas. He has served in the House since 1991 and will be retiring next year. He is an Air Force Veteran and a POW in Vietnam for 7 years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” also known as “Hell’s Hole.” In recalling his experience, he said, “Starvation, isolation and torture were constant companions. There was no news from home, and the enemy worked hard to make us feel alone and forgotten.” He describes one of the torture treatments – “I could recall nothing from military survival training that explained the use of a meat hook suspended from the ceiling…During a routine torture session…the Vietnamese tied a prisoner’s hands and feet, then bound his hands to his ankles—sometimes behind the back, sometimes in front. The ropes were tightened to the point that you couldn’t breathe. Then, bowed or bent in half, the prisoner was hoisted up onto the hook to hang by ropes. Guards would return at intervals to tighten them until all feeling was gone, and the prisoner’s limbs turned purple and swelled to twice their normal size. This would go on for hours, sometimes even days on end.” The torture and malnutrition made Johnson stoop-shouldered and mangled his right arm, besides a cracked back and broken arm when his plane went down. After 42 months in a dark solitary cell with rats and filth, he was finally released and he remembers the sweet embrace of his wife Shirley and their three kids. He said, “I got through those hellish years by the grace and mercy of God.” Our final message in this series on love is titled, “LOVE IS LIBERATING.” There’s no true love in hate-filled, torture like environments. True love flourishes where there is true freedom.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: At the heart of all the problems in the Corinthian Church was the problem of love. They didn’t know how to love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to teach them how to love each other the way Christ loves us. In today’s message, you will see that Christ never exposes, never suspects, never discourages, and never threatens.

Question: How do you love people? Do you at times expose the weaknesses and failures of the ones you love? Do you constantly suspect and doubt the ones you love? Do you discourage and steal hope from the ones you love? Do you give up on or threaten the ones you love? Are you saved? Have you truly experienced the love of God in Christ?

Let’s look at the words in Greek: The first is “love bears all things.” The Greek word for bears is “stegei.” It comes from the noun “stegei,” which means “roof.” I’m sure the Corinthians knew what this word meant. Archaeologists have found evidence that by the 7th century BC the temples and houses in Corinth had started replacing thatched roofs with fired tiles. Why? Because thatched roofs were a huge fire hazard, especially in a growing city like Corinth. These tiles were heavy, weighing about 60 plus pounds but they were durable, long-lasting, and protective from the rain, sun, heat, snow, and cold. The word “stegei” took on the idea of covering, sheltering, protecting, keeping out, and keeping in. When Paul says, “love bears all,” he is really saying, “love always covers and never exposes.” Meaning: Love does not find pleasure in exposing others to harshness. Love does not get joy in watching the other person squirm in fear or shame. In the Corinthian culture, it might have been okay to expose your enemy but not in Christianity.

Application: Do you cover people or do you expose people? In the Greco-Roman world, sometimes when the renters would not pay on time, the landlords would remove the front door or even strip off the tiles from the roof. Does that sound familiar? Someone is bound to say, “Are you suggesting we hide someone’s sin?” No. I’m simply saying what Peter also said in I Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Even though Peter uses a different word for “cover” than roof, the idea is the same. Love does not get pleasure out of exposing the other person but wants to help them in their moment of weakness and shame.

The second statement: “Love believes all things.” The Greek word for “believes” is “pisteuei,” which has the idea of trust in others. Again, the Corinthian culture was very competitive and status seeking. They were constantly striving to get ahead of one another by whatever means necessary. You always had to watch your back. Unfortunately, this mindset of distrust and suspicion had also entered the church. Even Christians didn’t trust each other. When Paul tells them “loves believes all things,” he was really saying, “love does not live in the zone of perpetual suspicion but is willing to trust others. It is the foundation of all relationships.”

Illustration: When God called me into the ministry, I went to Nicole’s dad and he helped me with my decision. I asked him if he would also help me find a good seminary. He took me to one. On the way, he told me that one of his good friends was a pastor nearby and he wanted to come visit with us. That sounded fine to me. This man came and after they caught up, he turned to me and began telling me how terrible people were and how they would stab me in the back and how they could not be trusted. He spent the next hour or two emotionally vomiting. I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t naïve about church ministry. My dad was a pastor and still is. But I didn’t know how to take what he had just told me. After he left, Nicole’s dad said to me, “Don’t pay attention to anything he said. He must be going through some mess. Without trust, you cannot minister to people.”

Here’s the point: If you constantly operate as some kind of a KGB agent, always frisking people, always looking over your shoulder, always questioning their motives, you will never be able to love people. Your relationships will always be sporadic, seasonal, and short lived. By the way, get used to the idea that people will fail you. They will break your trust. If I may add, many times, people will rise or fall to the level of your expectations. If you keeping suspecting them, they will become suspicious. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, there’s no true love.

The third statement: “love hopes all things.” The Greek word for “hopes” is “elpidzei,” which has the idea of expectation and wish. People often confuse faith with hope. They are related but they are not the same. They are related in the sense that they are both looking to something that is invisible and unprovable. But they are different because just a few verses later Paul says in verse 13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” What is the difference between faith and hope? Faith is what you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is what you can’t see but you are looking for. If faith is the foundation that you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is the window through which you are looking for what you can’t see yet.

Illustration: In the past few years, the Robertson family from West Munroe, Louisiana has become a household name. You’ve heard of their show – “Duck Commander.” They came from very humble background through some very difficult times. In the book “Duck Commander Family,” Willie Robertson writes this in the prolog: “The dinner table is where I learned to follow my dreams. This is where Dad told us he was going to start Duck Commander, and where I told my family I was getting married and heading off to college. Our hopes and aspirations were never shot down, never debated, only encouraged. We might have been eating fried bologna at the time because that was all we could afford, but there was hope that one day we would be feasting on a big fat rib-eye steak.” Would you agree that they are loving family? Would you agree that their hope has become more than a reality?

Here’s the point: You can have all the covering and all the trust but if you don’t have hope, you will shrivel and die. When a marriage loses hope, when a friendship loses hope, when a church loses hope, when a community loses hope, when a nation loses hope, it is the beginning of the end of love.

Application: Are you a hope giver or are you a hope stealer? Do you open the windows to your loved ones’ dreams and goals or do you lock them up like Congressman Sam Johnson in a dark, hopeless prison cell?

The fourth and final statement: “love endures all things.” The Greek word for “endures” is “hupomenei,” which carries the idea of being patient, remaining, and enduring. In other words, “love does not give up, doesn’t run out when things get tough.” In a transient culture like the Corinthians, when things didn’t work out with one person, move on to the next. If it doesn’t work out again, move on to the next. You don’t have to take anyone’s mess. How do we know this? Think about the different groups in the Corinthian church. I Corinthians 1   12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? The Corinthians had moved from one group to another when things didn’t work out with one.

Let me clarify: There are times when you may have to cut relationships because of physical or mental/emotional abuse. Having said, we need to learn to bear with others and their faults and failures. Listen carefully: When you love somebody, be prepared to be hurt. Hurting people will hurt people. But if you drop them, they will never get the chance to heal. In your marriage, family, church family, community, neighborhood, and workplace, you will come across people that you have to be patient with.

Application: Are you willing to endure? Are you willing to look over their failures and hang-ups? Are you willing to cut others some slack?

How can you have this kind of love? First, understand how God loves you. Remember, you can substitute Christ for every time love is mentioned in this verse – “Christ bears all things, Christ believes all things, Christ hopes all things, Christ endures all things. Christ never fails.” Second, understand how to love people. Begin today by setting people free. Think of yourself as a prison warden with keys to 4 cells:

  • Cell #1 Exposure (Remember, love covers all. Let the inmates know that you will always cover them.)
  • Cell #2 Suspicion (Remember, love trusts others. Let the inmates know that you will never doubt them.)
  • Cell #3 Pessimism (Remember, love gives hope. Let the inmates know that you see a bright day in the future.)
  • Cell #4 Threats (Remember, love endures all. Let the inmates know that you will never give up on them.)

True love will being to flow when you set the captives free.

Are you free? Are people in your life free? Are you saved

“When All Seems Hopeless” (2) by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: This evening I want to preach a message I’ve preached before but not from the pulpit. I preached it in front of our fireplace last winter when we were snowed in and, if you remember, we came together on Facebook Live and Periscope. This sermon comes from one of my favorite passages from the Bible – Romans 15:13 and it’s called – “WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS.”

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Twice we come across the word “hope” in this verse. To me this passage has been a source of hope many times over and I’m praying that it will be for you as well.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily unwelcome companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have hope unless you have the Holy Spirit and you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Have you done that? Are you saved?

Let’s take this simple verse apart and examine each section. Once we’ve understood each part, we can put it back together and look at it as a whole. 4 key things in this verse:

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, God of love, and God of our salvation. But here we come across an attribute of God that we don’t hear about much but it is central to His character – “Hope.” Our God is also the god of Hope. When we are in a hopeless situation, He is the One who reminds us “Don’t give up. Keep pressing on. There is hope.” He points us to the door when we feel that there is no way out. He shows us the light at the end of the tunnel when all we can see is a dead-end.

But don’t misunderstand – Our God is not just the God who shows us the way or points us to the light. He is the also the One who actually makes the way for us and turns on the light for us at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

Think about Ruth – her husband died. She followed her mother-in-law back to the land of Judah. She was a Moabite woman, sworn enemies of the people of God. But God brought hope into her life. She married a man named Boaz and became the great-grandparents of King David. But there’s more – in time God grafted her into the family tree of Jesus Christ.

There’s something even greater than all this. God not only shows us hope and brings hope to us but He is the Ultimate Hope. In other words, He not only points us to the door and opens the door for us but He’s also the door. He not only points us to the light and turns on the light for us but He’s also the light.

How does He do that? In the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 10:9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Again, Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Then listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus is the Hope? What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Where do you need Jesus in your life? Someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.” Jesus our hope is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 times. It represents a sense of happiness that is not depended on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Jesus said in Matthew 5 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be all right in spite of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The point is this – Neither joy nor peace are contingent on our circumstances. Our God of hope sends us both because we need both to get to the desired end.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and all torn to pieces inside. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope overflows us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us both joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace. John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. Again, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “In believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course kind of life. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Some people are willing to do everything but have faith and belief. This keeps the promises of God from being activated in their lives. Alexander Maclaren gave a great illustration to bring out the importance of faith – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9   23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Are you willing to pray for faith?

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years or so He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looed like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Downtrodden) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters4Introduction: For the past 3 weeks we’ve been in our series through the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” In this 4th and final message we’re about to meet a man who had been sick for 38 years, desperately waiting for someone to help him find healing. By the time Jesus found him he had given up all hope.

John 5   5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

Bridge: Do you know someone who’s in a hopeless situation? Humanly speaking there is no way out for them physically, mentally, or emotionally. Maybe its because of some decision or choice they made earlier in their life or maybe its through no fault of their own. It doesn’t matter. When you think of hopelessness, your mind immediately goes towards this person and you say something like – “I feel so sorry for him or her…”

Context: In this message we will meet such an individual – a sick downtrodden person who had been in a debilitating situation for almost 4 decades and had lost all hope in life. You know by now that we have been looking at 4 individuals between the two bracket passages in the gospel of John – John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 & 41. In these passages Jesus describes the sinful and fickle nature of human beings and how He did not need their endorsement. He only came for their salvation. He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. I do need to point out that unlike the previous 3 encounters, this one has an unusual ending.

Question: Do you believe that there’s hope for the hopeless? Do you believe that Jesus has the power to bring life where there’s death? Do you know someone who has lost all hope in life? Are you that someone? Are you saved?

2 questions again. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your life.

I. WHO WAS THIS CRIPPLED MAN?

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. What was the purpose of this pool? Maybe it was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple. Either way, whether the sheep went by the pool or went into the pool, you can just imagine how filthy this area would’ve been. Upper class people would’ve avoided this pool but not Jesus.

Application: Sometimes you have to cross your personal boundaries and go into areas that may not be quite clean or up to your standards in order to reach people.

But there’s something special about this pool. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. What does that mean? 4 “For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” Some translations claim that this was not part of the earliest manuscripts. My research indicates that it should be included in the text. John is giving us a folk belief about the pool from that period. Personally, I think it was some kind of a hot spring or mineral bath that gave it some health benefits. In fact, after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, they turned into a healing sanctuary to the god Asclepius.

5 “Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.”

There’s enough in that statement to create a profile of this person:

  • How old was he? Sometimes people automatically assume that he was born this way and must be 38 years old. 38 years is how long this man had been sick. There’s nothing in the text that indicates that he was born this way. I think that he must’ve been an adult at the time of this permanent injury or sickness. We’re going to see in a moment that he had actually done something bad to cause his infirmity. If I were to guess his age, it would be somewhere in the late 50s to early 60s bracket.
  • What was his infirmity? It must’ve been some kind of a paralysis because he could not get himself into the pool fast enough. You can imagine the pain and the filth he was in.
  • What caused his infirmity? Maybe he got injured at work. Maybe someone hurt him. Based on Jesus’s final words to him, I think it may have been a very different reason. 14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” “Worse” indicates that his condition was a result of some sin. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. So it was not just the physical pain of the infirmity that he was dealing with. More than likely he was also dealing with a mental pain of the infirmity – lot of regret and shame over his bad past.
  • What was his condition when Jesus found him? “When Jesus saw him lying there…” Sometimes people assume that he was lying at the pool 38 years. There is nothing in the text that supports that. He may have been at the pool for 30 years or 3 years or 3 months. We don’t know for sure. One thing we do know is that he was all by himself. Listen again – “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Maybe his parents brought him there. Maybe his siblings brought him there. Maybe his wife and children brought him there. But, for some reason they had all left him to fend for himself. Why? Maybe they were embarrassed of him. May be that they had given up on him. Maybe they got tired of trying to help him. We can only conjecture but I picture him angry, bitter, and frustrated. Maybe like a prison inmate he had become institutionalized.

Do you know people like this? Something painful has happened in their life. Some kind of a trauma has happened in their life. Maybe they are even responsible for their predicament but now they are bitter, angry, and frustrated with life. They are all alone, cynical, and pessimistic.

Application: How do you treat such people? Do you show mercy to them? Are you compassionate to people around you? You never know what people are going through.

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?

6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” Jesus not only noticed him but also treated him with dignity. Not only that but Jesus saw the hopelessness in his eyes and offered him hope. Just like Jesus Christians should be hope carriers in this world. Listen to Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

What was the man’s response? 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” He did not answer the question he was asked. Jesus had not asked him – “So, how does all this work?” Here’s the point: Don’t expect lost people to immediately understand the meaning and the power of the gospel.

What was Jesus’ response? 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” The Bible does not say it but based on Jesus’s previous interactions, the man more than likely believed that Jesus was able to heal him. There’s something very important I need to point out: Can you hear the authority in Jesus’s words? If there’s one thing that is definitely lacking in the church and Christians today is authority. We have plenty of gimmicks and gadgets. We have plenty of books and knowledge. We just don’t have the boldness to say with Peter and John when they said to the lame man sitting by the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem in Acts 3:6 “…Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

What was the result? 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

Now there’s a twist to the narrative: And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! What was his answer? 11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.

Unlike the other miracle narratives, there’s another twist here14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” This man did not know Jesus but He believed in His miracle giving power. The Bible does not say that he got saved. Did he or did he not get saved? I believe that he did because he did not just run home or back to his old life. He went to the temple and Jesus came looking for him. Jesus being God knew this man’s past and warned him not to return to that life again. 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

Jesus had a higher purpose in His encounter with the crippled man. He not only wanted to heal this man physically, emotionally, and spiritually but He also wanted to expose the sinfulness and the hard heartedness of the religious leaders. The punch line of the account is not that the man believed but that the religious leaders didn’t believe. They did not care for the lost and the hurting.

Illustration: Sometime back a little boy was born. Six months before his birth his father died and then 6 years later his mother died. His paternal grandfather raised him for 2 years and then he also died. Now 8 years old, his uncle had custody of him. Between the years of 9 and 12, he travelled with his uncle on many business trips and had the opportunity to see many churches. He even met and talked to a pastor but never truly heard the gospel. Unfortunately, the state of the church at the time was very schismatic and sectarian. Christians were arguing and fussing about everything imaginable. In fact, later this boy got married and began having n ightmares, which he wrote down in a book. In the same book he also wrote about his misguided understanding of Christianity. He thought the Trinity was Father, Son, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. He even talked about how the Christians “vainly dispute.” (Sura 19:34) and how the “people have cut off their affair (of unity) between them, into sects: Each party rejoices in that which is with itself.” (Sura 23:53) Long story short – this boy was Mohammad. The religion he founded was Islam and the book he wrote was the Koran. What would have happened if those Christians and the pastors had focused on the pain of this boy and shared the gospel with him?

Are we bringing hope to the hopeless? Do you need hope through Jesus Christ?

Choices that Lead to Happy Endings by Pastor Abidan Shah

CHOICES THAT LEAD TO HAPPY ENDINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

choicesthatleadtohappyendings

Introduction: This is the final message in our series through the Sermon on the Mount. Many of y’all have shared with me how much these messages have impacted your life! No wonder it’s called the greatest sermon ever preached!

Matthew 7   13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Bridge: I don’t know if you’ve ever done this but a few months back I stopped by a gas station for gas. I pulled in at the pump, went in, stood in line, paid for the gas, walked out, got in my truck, and left. As I am driving I kept feeling like something wasn’t right. Then, it hit me! I forgot to get gas. Immediately I turned around and pulled in at the same pump. Thank goodness no one had come in behind me or it would’ve been “Merry Christmas!” for that person. Folks, that’s exactly what happens when you come to church, hear the Word of God, understand the Word of God, but when it comes time to apply the Word of God, you get up, walk out, and go back to your life! Howard Hendricks used to say and I’ve heard Rick Warren say it too – “Observation and Interpretation without Application is Abortion!”

Context: In Matthew 5-7 Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever – the 8 Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek…), the Salt and Light passage (You are the Salt of the Earth, You are the Light of the World), the 6 Antithesis (You’ve heard it said…but I say to you…), the importance of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father in Heaven…), the importance of marriage, how to deal with anxiety and worry, and the danger of judging others. After preaching a master sermon, in these final 15 verses Jesus laid out the application. The people had a choice to make – Choose Jesus and His Words and have a happy ending in life or reject Him and be on the Road to Destruction.

Question: You’ve heard many sermons and will hear many more. What choice have you made? Have you chosen to follow Jesus and His Words or have you chosen to live your life your way? Are you a doer of the Word or are you only a hearer of the Word? Is there a change in your life? Are you saved? If not, what is keeping you from it?

In this message, we will see the 4 choices Jesus gave to the people, 4 choices that lead to happy endings. Let the Holy Spirit make you a doer of the Word:

I. TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED. 

13 “Enter by the narrow gate…”

Background: Typically, this passage is interpreted as an invitation to salvation – “Come through the narrow gate and get saved!” That may be implied but it’s not the main focus of this section. Jesus wanted His listeners to understand that the life He offered was amazing and wonderful but it wasn’t easy and cheap. To live this kind of life, they would have to choose to do things differently – “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Meaning: Don’t think for a moment that the standards are lower for this kind of life – “You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t murder’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t be angry’…“You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t commit adultery’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t even look at a woman with lust’…You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I say to you, ‘love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’” In other words, Jesus was no charlatan – “Sign on the dotted line and all your problems will be gone forever.”

Christian life is not a convenient life. The gate is narrow, the road is difficult, and not everyone you know will join you. Having said that, it is worth it – 14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Illustration: “I have decided to follow Jesus” from the Nagas who were headhunters. “Though none go with me, still I will follow” was a tough line for them.

Application: Are you looking for easy Christianity? Are you looking for everyone to understand before you follow? Are you willing to pay the price?

II. GUARD YOURSELF AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS. 

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing…”

Background: It seems odd that Jesus would bring up the subject of false prophets in His application. Why did He think that it was critical to warn his listeners against them? Jesus raised the bar of righteousness for His listeners. He raised the standard of holiness. He did not promise a cheap and easy life. But, He was not a legalist. There’s a world of difference. Legalists are people who come with man-made lists and impose personal morality and rules. Unlike Jesus who came to set people free, these false prophets would come to bind people and enslave them in rules and regulations. They would use guilt and shame to control the masses. Jesus called them the “ravenous wolves.”

Illustration: Many times people come with some rule and regulation and personal morality and standard and they try to convince me to implement that at Clearview. I listen and filter it through the mesh of grace and mercy.

Grape vines

Grape vines

Yes – My Jesus has a “rod and a staff” but they comfort me. Your rod and staff beat people over the head.

Thistles

Thistles

What did Jesus do? He switched the analogy and gave them the litmus test for such false prophets. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Meaning: Look at their lives. See if their teachings are working in their own lives. Jesus was not implying that you have to wait the whole season until harvest time to figure out what the fruit is. “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” If it’s got thorns, then it’s not a grape vine. If it has prickles and spikes, then it’s not a fig tree. 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Here’s the point: Is their message changing their own life first? They are the test, not you. If they are not walking towards Christ, then stop following them. If they are not obeying Christ, then stop following them. If you don’t see Christ in them, then stop following them.

Application: Whom are you following? Is it Jesus or is it someone or something else? Are you drawing closer to Christ or further away from Him?

III. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE TO OBEDIENCE. 

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Background: Can you imagine the reaction in the crowd when Jesus said those words? 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” There’s Brother “Amen” and there’s Sister “Hallelujah.” There’s Mr “Praise God” and there’s Mrs “Bless Jesus.” They’re sitting right up close to Jesus. Every time Jesus pauses for a breath, they are ready to chime in with a spiritual anecdote. They are always ready to quote some bible verse. Even though they are addressing Him with the double vocative “Lord, Lord,” which is the LXX reference for “Yahweh,” the name for God, they don’t really mean that. Jesus can see their hearts and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him. They’re saying all that not to please Him but to impress Him. Because, if they truly believed that He was God, they would obey the “will of His Father in Heaven.” Jesus calls them out because pretend spirituality cannot substitute obedience.

But, there’s something else that cannot substitute obedience – 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ There’s Brother “Gift of prophecy.” There’s Sister “I know everything about the end times.” There’s Mr “Bind Satan.” There’s Mrs “Seen miracles everyday.” They’re also in the crowd and they’re always telling the same worn out, clichéd stories. They even add the phrase “in Jesus name” to legitimize their accounts. Jesus can see their hearts as well and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him either. They’re saying all that not to praise Him but to prove themselves to Him. What’s His reply? 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Jesus calls them out as well because spiritual activities cannot substitute obedience.

Application: What are you substituting for obedience? Spiritual lingo, Spiritual knowledge, or Spiritual experiences. What will Jesus say to you on the Day of Judgment – “I never knew you,” “Depart from Me” or “Well done good and faithful servant”?

IV. TRIALS PROVE US NOT DESTROY US.

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Background: In conclusion, Jesus gives a parable of two men who built homes, one on the rock and the other on the sand. The Rock represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus and obey Him. The Sand represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus but disobey Him. Both of them face a hurricane with rains, floods, and heavy winds. Trials are not selective. They come to all of us, to the saved and the unsaved. But what is the result? The house built on the rock stood but the house built on the sand fell and “great was its fall.” What is the point? Following Jesus will not exempt you from trials in life but it will prove your faith in trials.

In other words, your choices will lead to happy endings.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you taking the road less travelled? Are you guarding yourself against false teachers? Are you obeying Christ and His Word? Do you doubt His care in your life? “Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to Trust and Obey.”

Heaven Here and Now Part Two

HEAVEN HERE AND NOW – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

heavenhereandnow_2Introduction: This morning we are in part 2 of our series titled “Heaven Here and Now.” We are trying to understand what the resurrection of Jesus does for us now and not just some day in the distant future.

Philippians 3 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Overall Background: Last week we learned that we are already resurrected in Christ. We died with Him, we were buried with Him and we rose to walk in the newness of life with Him. All that is left for us to do is to start living the resurrected life, the life from above. This morning we will go one step further – We’re not waiting to go to heaven someday when we die. Heaven has already begun in us here and now. We are waiting for Jesus to come and not only transform this place into the new heavens and the new earth but also transform our body into the glorious body fit for the new world. Listen to verse 20 again – “For our citizenship is in heaven…” What is the tense? Present tense. It’s not our citizenship “will be” in heaven but it “is” in heaven. But listen carefully – “from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus is coming here to meet His citizens. And what will He do when He comes? 21 (He) will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” Some of us may die before He comes but then we are coming back down here with Him and also getting our transformed bodies.

Let me ask you: What do you believe about heaven? Is it just some place you’ll go some day when you die? Or, has heaven already begun for you? What you believe about heaven will change how you live on earth. Are you looking forward to the coming of Jesus? Are you looking forward to the transformation of your body? Are you saved? Are you a citizen of earth or citizen of heaven? Have you been resurrected?

3 questions we will ask in this message about Heaven Here and Now:

 I. ARE YOU GROWING IN CHRIST AND HIS RESURRECTION?

20 For our citizenship is in heaven…

Background: To understand what Paul is talking about here we need to understand the context in which he wrote those words. Let’s back up to Philippians 3 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Once again, just like in Colossians, false teachers had infiltrated the Philippian church. They were compelling them to go back under the Old Testament dietary laws, Sabbath rules, purification rituals, and circumcision. Paul calls them dogs, which is one of the worst things you could ever say to a Jewish person. He also calls them “evil workers,” not just “poor misguided folks.” Then Paul tells them 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Meaning: In Christ, all the requirements have been fulfilled. Look to Jesus and don’t return to old rules and traditions. Paul even lists his old credentials – 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews…a Pharisee; and a persecutor of the church. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. The word “loss” is a mistranslation. The word is “zemia” in Greek, which should be translated “damaging” or “disadvantageous.”

Question: What is damaging your spiritual growth? Man-made traditions? Old rituals? Listen – they are keeping you from worshipping God in the Spirit? They are killing your spiritual growth. They are keeping you from growing up.

Illustration: Until I was 4 ½ years old, I was still drinking from my milk bottle. We had many nurses in our church through the local Railway hospital. One of them saw me with my bottle and immediately got on to my mom and told her to take it away from me. It made me so mad! I glared at her throughout the service. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is trying to pry that milk bottle from some of your hands and it’s a fight!

Then Paul declares in 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss (disadvantageous, damaging,) for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. 9 “and be found in Him…” Having the “knowledge of Christ” is not information about Christ. It is another way of saying “I am one with Christ.” I died with Christ; I was buried with Christ; and I have risen to walk in the newness of life with Christ. If you look for me, guess where you’ll find me? In Christ! And, what do I look like in Christ? 9 “and be found in Him not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” Meaning: My life is now in Christ where I am covered in His righteousness. How do I know that? By faith. But Paul’s not done – 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” Meaning: I am not satisfied yet. I want to know what else the resurrection of Christ can do for me. Oh yes – there’s one more thing it will do. 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Meaning: I know the resurrection has brought me the invisible spiritual resurrection but I also want the visible physical resurrection.

I can hear some of y’all saying – “But that’s too deep! Take us back to the shallow end.” You need to go in the deep to learn how to swim. The reason many of y’all can’t swim is because for years you’ve been playing in ankle deep water. You come to the swimming pool every day and head straight to the kiddie section. It’s time you stepped into big pool. What if I drown? The Holy Spirit is the Lifeguard and the Bible is the floatation device. You’ll be all right.

Application: What is damaging your spiritual growth? Would Paul put you in the category with dogs and evil workers? Are you growing in the knowledge of Christ? Are you found in Christ? Are you looking forward to the resurrection to come?

II. ARE YOU PRESSING TOWARDS THE TOTAL TRANSFORMATION TO COME? 

11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

Background: Typically, these verses are quoted as an encouragement to keep moving forward in life. I have preached on it as well, especially on New Year’s Sunday – 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Although we can apply these verses in the context of leaving our past behind and moving forward to greener pastures ahead, there’s much more implied here. Paul is referring here to pressing forward to the resurrection from the dead, which is the physical transformation of the body. The upward call is the total resurrection of the body as well. What about those who have no interest in this transformation? Listen to Paul in 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. “Earthly things” here does not materialism. In the context, it means people who get stuck in man-made traditions, old rituals, dietary rules, circumcision, etc. To the contrary – 20 For our citizenship is in heaven…” Again, Paul does not say – “I can’t wait to get to heaven” or “Wonder, how will it be in heaven?” Instead, for all practical purposes, he is already a citizen of heaven, at least spiritually speaking. But something is missing – “…from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…” Paul reminds the Philippians that we are to look forward to the day when Jesus comes to complete the rest of the resurrection. In other words, Paul has his letter of heavenly citizenship but he wants to go through the swearing in ceremony too and become a full-fledged citizen of heaven.

Let me illustrate: When I began the process of my citizenship, I had to go through a lengthy process of paperwork and test on US History/Politics/Geography and then there was an interview. Finally, I received the document certifying that I had become a US citizen and they gave me a date for the swearing in ceremony. For all practical purposes I had all the rights and privileges of being an American citizen but I was still not declared an American citizen until I went to the swearing in ceremony. It was a very special day for me when I became a full-fledged citizen of these United States. Nicole was there. I remember walking out of the building with a little spring in my step.

Application: There are 3 kinds of people here today: First, are people who are content with playing with rituals and traditions. These are the evil workers. If that’s you, then you are lost. You need to get saved. Second, are people who are saved but they are simply satisfied with their spiritual resurrection? I love Jesus and I’m looking forward to going to heaven someday. Its time you realize there’s more. Third, are people who are spiritually resurrected in Christ but they are not satisfied. They are looking forward to the physical resurrection to come. Heaven is not some place far away. It has already begun. We are just waiting for our new clothes to arrive. Which one are you?

III. HOW ARE YOU LIVING NOW IN LIGHT OF THE FUTURE? 

So far all this is wonderful. I am spiritually resurrected in Christ and one day I will be physically resurrected as well. How awesome is our future! But here’s a deeper question – Does your future transformation transform how you live in the present?

  1. Stand firm in the truth. Phil 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
  2. Be a peacemaker and not a pot-stirrer. 4   2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel…”
  3. Rejoice in every situation. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
  4. Be gentle when people fail you. 4:5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
  5. Don’t panic, just pray. 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
  6. Focus on the good. 4   8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
  7. Be content. 4 11 “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Are you looking forward to the transformation coming? Has your future transformation transformed your present life? Are you a citizen of heaven? Are you saved?

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: Thank you so much to all of you are joining us via Facebook Live and Periscope! Thank you also to John, Elie, and the guys there for leading us in worship! I especially want to thank Kim Davis for giving me the idea to do this! And Donna Young as well! After the initial excitement, it was like – “Well, now I have to prepare a sermon!” This morning I want to preach a message I’ve never preached before. It’s on one of my favorite passages from the Bible from Romans 15:13 and the message is titled – “When All Seems Hopeless.” You can follow along on the screen behind me or go to my blog http://www.abidanshah.com and follow the entire message there.

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Twice you come across the word “hope” in this verse.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on your personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Are you saved?

Let’s take this verse apart and examine each section. Then when we understand each part, we will put it back together and look at the whole.

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, and God of our salvation. But here it is the “God of Hope.” It is one attribute of God that we don’t think about. God is the One who shows us life when there’s only death. He is the One who shows us the light at the end of the tunnel. But there’s more – He’s also the One who brings life when there’s only death and He is the One who turns on the Light at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

But let’s go even a step further – He is the Life and He is the Light. In other words, He not only sees the future and He not only brings out a good future but He is the good future.

Listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Listen to what someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.”

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 some times. It is a sense of happiness that is not dependent on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Matthew 5 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be alright. It is also independent of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and inside they are torn to pieces. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope fills us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace.

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “in believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Alexander Maclaren gives a great illustration – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looks like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

What’s Next For America?

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WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whatsnextforamericaThis being July the 4th weekend, I want to preach a message that I’ve preached before but from a different passage titled, “WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA?” Not a day goes by that people don’t call, text, or message me with the question – “What now?” “What do the recent decisions in America mean for Christians?” “Will we survive this new order?” “How does the future look like for our children and our grandchildren?”

Jeremiah 29:10-14 10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Background: The passage we just read comes from a very low point in the history of Israel. The people had forsaken God, gone after false idols, and then refused to repent. So God sent the Babylonians against them. In 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and drove the people of Judah 700 miles to the east across the desert to a land they had never seen. They were in exile, where everything was different – the landscape, the weather, the food, the customs, and definitely the people. They were homesick, discouraged, depressed, and feeling sorry for themselves. They just wanted to go home but that wasn’t an option. Psalm 137 1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song…4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song In a foreign land?” All they could do was reminisce and roll in self pity.

Application: Many in America are at this point – They are demoralized, discouraged, and disillusioned. They’ve become helpless and hopeless. What is God saying to us? The same thing He said to His people 2700 years ago – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: It’s not over for our nation. There is a future and a hope. Get up and trust in the Lord and seek Him. By the way, this message goes beyond just a national exile to personal exiles. Many of you are somewhere where you don’t want to be. Things have changed for you. They are not what you expected. What is God telling you? “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Trust in God. He still has your future in His hands. Your exile may be a blessing in disguise.

As these people in exile were crying and wanting to go home, two men showed up from Jerusalem with a letter from Jeremiah the prophet. I want us to walk through this letter now and see what God is saying to us. 3 things –

I. BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED. 

Jeremiah 29:4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused (Not Nebuchadnezzar or Gay Rights or Supreme Court) to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:

3 things you are to do:

  1. Verse 5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.

Meaning: Pull down your tents and make yourself homes. Buy some real estate, dig some foundations, and get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Learn to grow some Babylonian crops. In other words, get settled.

Application: There are many people who are still living out of boxes, still living in tents. They will not commit to the job/church/community that God has given them. They are always looking over the horizon to some better place. They are constantly saying, “I don’t like this place. I want to move here or there.” They have zero commitment to flourish where God has brought them. No wonder, they are constantly negative about their job/ church/community. Yes – things have changed in America but settled down.

  1. Verse 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

Meaning: Start working on your marriages. Learn the joys of a happy God centered marriage. Also, be fruitful and multiply. Have children and grandchildren. Increase your numbers. Teach your children to walk in the way of God.

Application: Part of the blame for where our world is today lies on the failure of American homes and marriages – Children growing up and seeing mom and dad hating each other or growing up in single parent situations or growing up where Father’s role was either lacking or usurped. The world desperately needs to see how biblical marriages are fun and fulfilling. This fall we’re having another “Art of Marriage” event. Sign up! But there’s another problem. Our numbers have dropped. People don’t want children. They are a burden. They cramp our style. They cost money. They are messy. They are trouble. The other side wants to have more and more children and then adopt some. But it’s not enough just to have children. It’s just as important to train them in the way of God. Also remember – not only do we need more physical children but also more spiritual children. Win people into the family of God. Expand our numbers.

  1. Verse 7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

Meaning: Actively seek to get involved in the welfare of our community and our nation. Become the Salt and Light. Part of the reason why we are in the mess we are is because we preached many sermons on how to find God’s purpose for our lives and failed to ask what is God’s purpose for our world. Pray for those around you – at work, neighborhood, and community. Then you will have peace in our own lives. Did it happen? Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and Nehemiah.

Application: How much are you seeking to get involved in our politics and government? How much do you actually pray for community and nation?

II. BEWARE OF THE FALSE PROPHETS OF CHEAP GRACE AND FALSE HOPES

Jeremiah 29:8-9 8For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.

Background: While Jeremiah was sent by God to deal first with the sin of the people and then offer them grace and hope, the false prophets were skipping over sin and going right to cheap grace and false hopes. They wanted to bypass God’s Holiness and go right to God’s Love. God says – “I have not sent them.” Jeremiah even identifies them in his letter—Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemiah and prophesies what will happen to them – The first two Nebuchadnezzar will slay them and roast them over fire and the last will be wiped out from the face of the earth.

Please remember – God is a god of love but He will not compromise His holiness. He hates sin. His wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Romans 1:18

Illustration: Recently – I’ve been amazed at how some people are reluctant to call homosexuality a sin. They do all kinds of hermeneutical gymnastics to show that it’s not as bad. The problem is that many on the other side are okay with grace but don’t judge me. God forbid if we offer them cheap grace.

Application: Are you playing some Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemaiahs in someone’s life? Do you go around excusing what God explicitly calls sin. It’s His Law and He is the Judge. You’ll have to answer to Him.

III. BABYLON IS GOD’S BLESSING IN DISGUISE

What will God do if the people start blooming where they are planted and stop listening to false hopes and false dreams to run back? Listen to Jeremiah 29 10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. Meaning: You will not remain a captive forever. I will bring you out of your land of captivity. But seventy years is a whole generation. You may or may not return but your children and grandchildren will.

I believe that unless Christ comes, our children and grandchildren will right our wrongs. They will fix what we have failed. It is imperative that we train them in the truth and guard them from the agenda of the world. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are after them. They should be our first priority.

Listen to verse 11“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;

That verse has stood as a source of comfort to many people, even many who are here this morning, through some very difficult times in their lives. When you allow God to do His work in your life, He will even take what appears to be hopeless and evil and replaces it with future and a hope.

What were the Ultimate Benefits of the Exile for the People of Israel? (J. B. Tidwell)

BEFORE EXILE AFTER EXILE
1.    The Jewish people were constantly trying to be like their neighbors 1.    The Jewish people became a separate people.
2.    They worshipped many gods. 2.    They gave up idolatry completely.
3.    They could care less about the Law. 3.    They began to dig into the Law.
4.    They had no interest in gathering for worship and study of the word. 4.    They established the synagogues in every town and city as a place of worship, prayer, praise, and study.
5.    Judaism was just a formal religion. 5.    Judaism became a personal religion.
6.    They could care less of winning souls. 6.    They became a missionary people to all the nations.
7.    They refused to repent of their sins. 7.    They learned the blessing of repentance.
8.    They could care less about the coming of the Messiah. 8.    God placed a longing in their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

 Our Babylons are God’s opportunity to bless us spiritually.

Listen to Eugene Peterson: “When the superfluous is stripped away we find the essential—and the essential is God. Normal life is full of distractions and irrelevancies. Then catastrophe: Dislocation. Exile. Illness. Accident. Job loss. Divorce. Death. The reality of our lives is rearranged without anyone consulting us or waiting for our permission. We are no longer at home….Exile reveals what really matters and frees us to pursue what really matters, which is to seek the Lord with all our hearts.”

God is still in America with us and He is just as much in charge now as before. He has allowed us to go into exile to do a deeper work in our lives. He wants us to repent and call upon Him and seek Him with all our heart. In the end, the exile is not against us but for us. There is a future and a hope for us. The place to begin is by asking – “Are you saved? Are you reaching the lost with the truth about sin and grace?

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