Distinct by Dr. Abidan Shah

DISTINCT by Dr. Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Hugh Lofting was an English author and a soldier in the British Army during World War 1. Instead of writing to his children about the horrors of the war, he decided to write to them imaginative letters which later became the inspiration of the children’s novels “Doctor Dolittle. I doubt many here have read the books, but I am sure you may have seen the movies. In fact, just last year another one came out. As you know, the interesting thing about Dr. Dolittle is that he can talk to animals, which takes him into all kinds of adventures. If only animals could talk, they could tell us so much about how they got here and how God takes care of them! In today’s message we will learn a little but about how God designed the animals – on the land, in the air, and in the waters. Questions: “Is there a pattern to life?” Is natural selection unbiblical?” “Aren’t similarities in forms evidence of common origin?” “What is Baraminology?” Main point: The Biblical account of the creation of animals testifies to the creative genius and power of God. The animals are a reminder of the providential care of God, the effects of sin, and the coming glorious redemption through Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1      24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Context: Now we come to the sixth day of creation when God created the land creatures and then the first man and woman. In this message, we will not focus on Adam and Eve, just the animals – those created to be in the water and in the air on day four and those created to be on the land on day five. There is a special phrase that is attached at the end of each of these creative acts, even to the plants. It is found about 10 times between Genesis 1:11-25 – “laminah”

  • 11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind,
  • 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind.
  • 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind.

The Hebrew word “min” means “kind.” “Kind” is not “species,” as we use the term today. We need to back up and understand where the current taxonomy comes from. It comes from a Swedish creationist named Carl Linnaeus in 1700s (Bodie Hodge). He gave the following classification:

Kingdom > Phylum > Class > Order > Family > Genus > Species.

He did not use the Bible but simply the available knowledge and observation. Now, secular scientists have added a couple of more categories in this classification:

Domain > Kingdom > Phylum > Subphylum > Class > Cohort Order > Suborder > Infraorder > Superfamily > Family > Genus > Species.

Again, the Bible does not mean “species” only when it used the word “min.” It can also include “genus,” “family,” and “order.” The point is this – when the Bible uses the word “min” or “kind,” it is referring to the “original” created kinds.

How do we determine which animals belong to which kind? This is where the discipline of “Baraminology” comes in. The word “baramin” was coined by a biologist named Frank Marsh. It’s a combination of 2 Hebrew words: “bara” means “created” and “min” means “kind.” Hence, “baramin” = “created according to its kind.” Instead of focusing only on “similarities in appearance, behavior and distribution and the ability to interbreed and produce fertile offspring” (Garner and Todd Wise), Marsh considered many different species to be in the same species. According to modern science wolves, coyotes, jackals, dingoes, and house dogs would be different species. Marsh said that they were all one baramin. He placed special emphasis on the ability of the species to make hybrid offspring. For example: the group of birds under Anatidae that include ducks, geese, and swans. Altogether, “there are about 146 species and 126 of them are connected directly or indirectly through hybridization” (Garner). This is not always the best test. How do we classify extinct animals just based on fossil records? How about bacteria, that don’t reproduce sexually? Sometimes, some animals may have lost the ability to interbreed, but they still belong to the same “kind.” This is where scientists Kurt Wise has proposed “baraminology” to argue that it’s not just similarities but also differences that decide on the proper “original kind.”

When all this is properly classified, how does the “tree of life” look? The tree of life is an evolutionary concept, where everything is connected. It is assumed that young earth creationists believe in the lawn of life with the fixity of species. To the contrary, we believe that it is more like the “orchard of life,” where every group is distinct (Kurt Wise). They had tremendous potential to bring forth many new species and varieties. This took place after the flood. People often wonder how all those millions of species got inside the ark. There were not millions of species but good number of kinds with the capacity to diversify. For example (Garner): There was one cat family that gave us lions, tigers, leopards, pumas, lynxes, and regular cats. There was one camel family that gave rise to the Old-World camels (dromedary and Bactrian) and the new world camels (llama, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuna). So also, horses. It is after the flood that a rapid development of the various kinds of species took place. The animals headed to Noah’s ark probably looked similar to our present animals but different.

In God’s providence, they had all the necessary DNA to reproduce and adapt to their new surroundings. Todd Wood, creation biologist, calls it “the AGEing process.” It has been known for some time that some parts of the DNA are able to make copies and move around. They can be harmful, almost like parasites. Wood thinks that they were not harmful originally – “Altruistic Genetic Elements” = they were good genes designed by God to produce diversity. Unfortunately, they don’t serve that purpose today. Ultimately, all these kinds went through the process of adaptation, natural selection, and biological change quickly into all kinds of species that we know today. Here’s a simplistic example: Maybe the first dog kind had medium length fur with one gene of long hair and one short. When two of these interbreed, there will be short fur dogs, medium fur dogs, and long fur dogs. If the climate is cold, the long will survive. If hot, the short will survive.  Doesn’t this sound like modern evolution? No (Garner).

  • Unlike evolutionary theory which goes back to a single ancestor, God made everything according to its kind.
  • Unlike evolutionary theory which trusts natural processes, God designed the organisms to change.
  • Unlike evolutionary theory which looks to random mutations, God placed in the organisms the potential for variety.
  • Unlike evolutionary theory which gives rise to new kinds, God allows speciation to work only within its kind.

People often mistakenly think that Charles Darwin came up with the idea of Natural Selection. That’s not true. It was actually a creationist named Edward Blyth. He wrote about it 22 years before Darwin published his Origin of the Species in 1859.

Why are there so many similarities? There may be similarities between the duck, duckbill dinosaur, and the platypus, but this does not mean that they came from the same ancestor. It tells us 3 things (Garner):

  1. Necessary for creation to function
  2. Perfect design for multiple uses
  3. Same Designer

Still some questions: What about Embryonic similarity? What about Vestigial Organs? What about Defense and Attack Structures? Same designer, but not necessary the same ancestor. Many uses that we don’t know yet.

It goes back to the Fall

Genesis 3.     14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field…” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…”

God cares about the animals and has been providentially guiding them.

Psalm 104      10 He sends the springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. 14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle… 16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap, The cedars of Lebanon which He planted, 17 Where the birds make their nests; The stork has her home in the fir trees. 18 The high hills are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers…21 The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God…25 This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great. 26 There the ships sail about; There is that Leviathan Which You have made to play there. 27 These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season. 28 What You give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good. 29 You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 10     29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will…31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God will bring redemption even to them in our coming glory.

Romans 8.     20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Invitation: Do you understand what the Fall has done to us? Do you understand the providential grace of God? Do you understand the redemptive grace of God? Are you saved?

New Beginning by Dr. Abidan Shah

NEW BEGINNING by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: We’ve had quite a few babies at Clearview in 2020. Each of them is special and beautiful. In a world full of chaos and ugliness, a baby can quickly bring a smile to your face. Babies are a reminder that God is not through with our world. But, it’s not easy to have a baby. They are completely helpless and dependent on others. They cannot do anything to support their life. Someone else has to feed and change them. When Nicole’s dad was a pastor, he had a sign over their church nursery, “We shall not all asleep, but we shall all be changed” from 1 Corinthians 15:51. In our series on 1 Peter, we come to chapter 2 where Peter talks about a new beginning like a newborn baby. Main point: During times of trials, fear can cause us to take refuge in our old nature and act the fool. Instead, we should cast aside the old, take on the mind of a newborn, and be totally dependent on the gracious care of God.

1 Peter 2       1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

Context: Once again, we need to remember that Peter was writing to Jewish and Gentile background believers in northern Asia Minor who were facing rejection from their own and social discrimination from their neighbors because of their faith in Christ. Peter knew that times of trials and stress can bring out the best or the worst in a person. Just think about how he reacted on the night Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. First, he struck at the high priest servant and cut off his ear. Jesus had to stop and heal him. Then, he followed Jesus at a distance and ended up denying him 3 times with cursings! These believers in Asia Minor were no different. Pressure was bringing out the worst in them. Listen to the list of things that Peter told them to lay aside in verse 1—“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.” The concept of “laying aside” means “to get rid of” or “to strip away” from the Greek word “apotithemi” = apo (away from) and tithemi (set). This command is found several times in the New Testament: Romans 13:12 “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” Colossians 3:8 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth”; James 1:21 “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”; Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Principle: It’s alright to pray for God’s help in turning the channel of sin, but the remote is in your hands.

What is it that Peter wanted them to cast aside or get rid of specifically?

  • “kakia,” which is badness, wickedness, doing harm to others;
  • “dolos,” which is deceit, falsifying information, basically lying;
  • “hupokrisis,” which is play acting, pretending, just a show;
  • “phthonos,” which is envy = wanting what someone else has; and,
  • “katalalos,” which is evil speaking, slander, backstabbing.

Application: In your trials, have these old habits and behaviors raised their ugly heads in your life? These are the tools of the Enemy and they have no place in a believer’s life. Pray right now and ask God to give you the strength to cast them aside.

Next verse 2 “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word…” Here’s a very important principle: If you don’t replace what has been cast aside with what is good and beneficial, those old things will return and often with a vengeance. Jesus explained this best in Luke 11      24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” It is the old Aristotelian principle from physics – “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

Application: Resolutions to stop harmful things have to be balanced with resolutions to start helpful and holy things. Have you done that?

But there’s so much more here in the next 2 verses: 2 “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord isgracious.” There are 4 things here, first 2 are easily understood but the last 2 needs some deeper study.

  1. Attitude – “as newborn babes” means helpless, completely dependent, single minded.
  2. Purpose – “that you may grow thereby” means spiritual growth and maturity.
  3. Content – “desire the pure milk of the word”
  4. Motivation – 3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is”

3. Content – Typically, people have interpreted the statement “desire the pure milk of the word” to be “get into the Bible,” “listen to biblical preaching,” and “join a small group bible study.” None of that is wrong but that is not what Peter had in mind. The word he used in the Greek is “logikon gala.” If he had said “gala logou” from logos, then it’s the milk of the word. The word “logikon is not “logos.” What does the word “logikon” mean? It means “rational” or “reasonable.” Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (logikein latreian). In this context, it means “to desire the appropriate milk.” In other words, Christians should seek after and desire what is proper and appropriate for them as believers. In every situation, there is a proper and an improper for us as believers – as 1 Peter 1:2 “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” We are to choose that which is proper for us as believers. If you don’t, you will behave inappropriately, especially during trials.

Application: Have you acted properly during times of trials? Did your actions match your confession?

4. Motivation – 3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” Here, Peter is quoting from Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Someone might say that this seems like a common statement. Does it have to be from Psalm 34? In 1 Peter 3:10-12, Peter quotes a larger section from Psalm 34. In fact, according to a scholar (Bornemann), there are 7 quotations and 70 allusions to Psalm 34 in 1 Peter. I think that is a little exaggerated. Nonetheless, if we’re going to understand the depth of what Peter really meant in this letter, we have to understand Psalm 34 a little better.

Psalm 34 “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” At one time, scholars doubted these titles, but more and more think that they are original. What is the context of Psalm 34? This incident took place after Jonathan confirmed David’s fear that Saul wanted to kill him. If you remember, David and Jonathan made a covenant with each other, and David fled for his life. He came to Ahimelech the priest and got some bread from him, but one of Saul’s spies saw him there. Now, David was afraid. He needed some weapons. The sword of Goliath was there in the Tabernacle. The priest offered it to David and he took it! But, then he did something completely foolish. He fled to Achish, king of Gath, king of the Philistines. Of course, they recognized him – 1 Samuel 21    12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

Psalm 34        1 “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. 4 I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried out, and the LORD heardhim, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. 8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessedis the man who trusts in Him! 9 Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. 10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing. 11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” The rest we will see when we come to I Peter 3.

During times of trials, fear can cause us to take refuge in our old nature and act the fool. Instead, we should cast aside the old, take on the mind of a newborn, and be totally dependent on the gracious care of God.

By the way, there is something deeper here – 3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord isgracious.” The word for gracious is “Chrestos,” which is just one vowel away from “Christos.” What Peter was telling those believers in Asia Minor who were going through a difficult time was not to fear and act the fool. Instead, crave Christ and his life.

Invitation: How much do you desire Christ? Have you acted the fool? Do you know Christ as your Savior and King? Are you saved?

Greater than Religion by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER THAN RELIGION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Throughout the world, people have all kinds of traditions when it comes to Christmas. In Norway, they hide their brooms on Christmas Eve, because, according to tradition, witches are out on Christmas eve. In South Africa, children look forward to fried caterpillars or Christmas caterpillars on Christmas day. In India, where I grew up, we sang Christmas carols all night from door to door of every church member. To miss someone’s home was a big insult. They would wait for us with food, sweets, coffee, and tea. By the way, the same morning was Christmas day and we had church service at 9 am. It was tough because some of us were half asleep. All these traditions are good but sometimes traditions can overshadow the truth and we end up with religion and religious leaders. In our Christmas series titled GREATER, we’ve seen how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. In this message, we will see that Jesus was even greater than all the religious power brokers of the world. Find John 1:19. Main point: Jesus did not come to fit into our religious traditions. He came to bring us into a relationship with God. Jesus came to tear down the curtain in the Holy of Holies from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

Matthew 2      1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

Context: If you remember, last week, this was the same passage we used for the message, but our focus was on King Herod. We are using it again because it gives us the third power broker of the ancient world – the Religious Authorities. Next to Rome and Herod, they were in charge. Just like Herod was connected and subjected to Rome and Augustus Caesar, the Religious Authorities were also connected and subjected to Herod. In fact, they were also connected and subjected to Rome, as we will see later on.

In the passage, the Religious Authorities appear to be at Herod’s beck and call4“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” They knew better than to reject his summons. After all, he was the king. He controlled the appointment of the high priests. He expanded and built the temple in Jerusalem. He maintained peace in the region. He kept a buffer between them and the Romans. Of course, they lined up on the double. Were they aware of the answer? 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Amazingly, they even gave the right answer. What was Herod’s response? 7 “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.” Why didn’t Herod order the chief priests and scribes to go with the wise men? Why didn’t they go on their own initiative? One of 2 reasons:

  • They didn’t believe this was going to happen. It was just a myth to them.
  • They didn’t want it to happen. It was too costly and risky for them.

By their refusal to act, they were going to cancel the first Christmas! They would rather stay with their traditions and rituals than to go after the real thing.

Application: I find it very interesting how people are willing to shut down Christmas or redefine Christmas or see Christmas differently this year. What annoys me the most is when people try to use spiritual lingo to cover up their fear. How many of you have heard of the term “cancel culture”? It is when a person does or says something controversial and they are immediately cancelled. This happens on social media a lot. People turn against someone and they cancel them. 2000 years ago, people tried to cancel Christmas. They failed. They are trying it again and, unfortunately, believers are going along.

Who were these Religious authorities? In the passage it says “chief priests and the scribes of the people,” but altogether there were 4 major groups with some subgroups: Priests and Levites, Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes:

  1. Who were the Priests and Levites? As you know from the Old Testament, priests belonged to the tribe of Levi and had to be descendants of Aaron. Along with the Levites, they were the “ritual specialists and mediators between God and people” (Kugler). While the priests were responsible for running the temple and carrying out the sacrifices, the Levites handled the music and the supervision and management of the temple activities. Under Moses’ supervision and Aaron’s leadership, the standards were extremely high regarding holiness. Exodus 28 36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE Lord. 37 And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban. 38 So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.” Unfortunately, through the centuries, the priesthood in Israel had continued a downward spiral. In 174 BC, a man by the name of Jason had bribed Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, to become the high priest. Three years later, a man by the name of Menelaus, who was not even a Levite, also bribed his way to the position. After that, the Hasmoneans family of priests controlled the position. The Levites were no different. Does this mean that every priest and Levite was corrupt? There were a few like Zechariah and Elizabeth who were truly righteous, but, it seems that those from Jerusalem proper were corrupt. Remember, the parable of the Good Samaritan. The antagonists in the story were the priests and the Levites.
  2. Who were the Sadducees? The first time we hear about the Sadducees is under John Hyrcanus (135-104 BC). The Sadducees claimed to be the “righteous ones,” going all the way back to Zadok, the righteous high priest. In reality, the Sadducees were mostly from the aristocracy and despised by the common people. Under Alexander Jannaeus (103-76BC), 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Sadducees. Then in 37 BC, with the coming of Herod the great, the high priesthood became a political appointment under Rome’s supervision with the Sadducees in charge of all the temple activities. They were not necessarily all priests or attached to the temple. The chief priests and the high priests came from the Sadducees. This was the reason why some Jewish people actually built a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt and some left to form the Dead Sea community at Qumran. In short, the people went to the temple but inside they knew it was in corrupt hands. What did the Sadducees believe?No resurrection, angel, or spirit. They did not accept the oral law or the law of the sages, as the Pharisees. They had their own traditions regarding the Torah. They placed more emphasis on the books that focused on the temple. The came testing him with the question about the resurrection of the 7 brothers married to the same woman. Matthew 32:22 “…God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” They didn’t want Jesus. He was a threat to the establishment.
  3. Who were the Pharisees? They were mostly a lay movement of people who were trying to live a pious life. They believed in the right doctrines. They advocated a simple lifestyle. They were popular with the common people because they would help them keep the law. They focused on “Table Fellowship” – they called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Every household was held responsible. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. This does not mean that they rejected the priesthood or the temple. Their meals were exclusive and hierarchical because they believed that what you put inside of you matters and who you have around matters. They couldn’t get over Jesus’ eating habits and association with sinners.

Unfortunately, they constantly butted heads with Jesus. They were frustrated that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. They were frustrated that Jesus did not keep all their trivial Sabbath laws. They wanted Jesus to give them a sign. They accused him of being demon possessed. Jesus did not let up on them. He told his disciples in Matthew 5:20 “…unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He called them “Blind Guides,” “Hypocrites,” and “White-washed tombs.”

Attached to the Pharisees was a subgroup known as the scribes. Jesus often addressed them together.

  1. Who were the Scribes? They interpreted and taught the Law to the people. They were closely connected to the temple in Jerusalem and, in the smaller villages, they held positions of authority. They were envious of Jesus’ knowledge of the bible and popularity with the people. They considered themselves to be experts in the law/Old Testament. Listen to how Jesus dealt with them in Mark 12 38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” He pronounced woes upon them along with the Pharisees – Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. The Priests and the Levites were corrupt.
  2. The Sadducees were protecting the status quo.
  3. The Pharisees were about self-righteousness.
  4. The Scribes were busy showing off their knowledge.

In this world Jesus came not to fit into the religious categories and traditions but to tear down the curtain from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

1 Peter 1     18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Invitation: Do you have religion or do you have a relationship with Christ? He came not to fit into our traditions. He came to clean it up. Are you saved?

Greater than Rulers by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

Matthew 2     1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?’”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did God forget Herod? No. In fact, he sent the gospel right to his doorstep. Matthew 2      1 “…behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.”

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

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

Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

Prayer Doctrine.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press On by Dr. Abidan Shah

Press On

PRESS ON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invitation:

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

Prodigal by Pastor Abidan Shah

PRODIGAL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Has anyone here ever been lost? Thank goodness we’re living in the age of GPS technology. How did we survive before that! What is worse than getting lost? Its losing someone, especially a child. Have you ever lost your kids? If I’m not wrong, we have lost all of them at least once. One of them we locked in the church, twice! It’s a horrible feeling! There’s a kind of lostness that no GPS can fix and its nothing to laugh about. It is spiritual lostness. It is much more than just losing your way or being temporarily out of sight. It is rushing headlong away from God and towards the eternal chasm. It’s only through Jesus Christ that we can be found or saved before it’s too late. Our message today is titled “PRODIGAL” in our series on the parables of Jesus.

Luke 15     11Then He (Jesus)said: “A certain man had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to hisfather, “Father, give me the portion of goods that fallsto me.’ So he divided to themhislivelihood. 13And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave himanything.17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ 20“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and putiton him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals onhisfeet. 23And bring the fatted calf here and killit,and let us eat and be merry; 24for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

Question:  Parables are like mirrors. They expose to us who we are. Who are you in this parable? Are you the lost son? Are you one of the onlookers? Are you seeking the lost? Are you rejoicing over their salvation? If you’re lost, do you hear the Savior calling your name? Take the hand of Jesus and be saved today. 

Context: The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most popular parables of Jesus. It’s up there with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Many artists, especially the old Dutch Masters and Baroque painters, loved painting the scene of the Prodigal Son. The story is so simple and so true to life that we cannot help but be moved by it.Unfortunately, this parable is often misunderstood. To understand the true intent of this parable, we need to ask the question – “Why did Jesus give the Parable of the Prodigal Son?” To answer that, we have to understand the context in which Jesus gave this story. We have to back up to Luke 15and verse 1Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’ 3So He spoke this parable to them…” The reason for the parable was the Pharisees’ complaint against Jesus’ eating habits – his frequent dining with tax collectors and sinners (prostitutes, soldiers, business owners, and gentiles). 

Why did the Pharisees have a problem with Jesus’ dinner company? Do you remember when we talked about the “Table Fellowship” of the Pharisees? They called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. They believed that what you put inside you is what makes you holy or unholy before God. Not only that but who you eat with is also very important. Here’s a case in point – Luke 11    37And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. 38When the Pharisee sawit,he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.Listen to Jesus’ response: 39Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. 40Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 42“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone…” What was the response? Now Jesus had 2 groups of people around him: the haters and the fans. The Pharisees hated him even more and the lost people loved him even more! In this tense context, Jesus gave this parable!By the way, it’s not “parables” plural but “parable” singular. It has 2 short stories and one long one:

#1 Lost Sheep – Luke 15      4“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? Don’t read more into it than is intended. The imagery is of a helpless lost sheep. The shepherd knows that if he doesn’t go after the sheep, it is a matter of time before it is killed or seriously hurt. So also, we are to seek after the tax collectors and sinners as helpless lost sheep. 5And when he has foundit,he laysiton his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls togetherhisfriends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. What’s the point? You should be happy to see the tax collectors and sinners around Jesus!

#2 Lost Coin – Luke 15      8“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she findsit?Again, don’t read more into it than is intended. The imagery is of a valuable coin. The word for coin is “drachma” which was like a “denarius,” one day’s pay for a laborer. This meant a lot for a common woman in those days. So also, we are to seek after the tax collectors and sinners as invaluable coins to be retrieved. 9And when she has foundit,she calls herfriends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” What’s the point? You should be happy to see the tax collectors and sinners repenting before God!

#3 Lost Son –The father had 2 sons: the older who responsibly served his father and the younger one who did everything opposite:

  • To start with, he was rude and ungrateful – 11“Father, give me the portion of goods that fallsto me.”
  • Next, he was immoral and self-indulgent– 13“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
  • He was alsoirresponsible – 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
  • He was degenerate and shameless– 15Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave himanything. The Mishnah and the Talmud had forbidden raising pigs. The point is that just like the prodigal son the tax collectors had joined the Romans in fleecing their own people.
  • He finally wakes up and realizes what has happened. He comes with a preplanned confession– 18“…Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”

What was the Father’s response? 20 “…But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”While the son is still giving his confession speech, the father orders the best robe, the family ring, the sandals, and a big feast with a fatted calf.

The story is not over. Here comes the real point of the story. The older son is in the field and hears what the noise and finds out what has happened. What was his response?28“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29So he answered and said to hisfather, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.”Who is really disrespectful and ungrateful now? The older son! He knows better. The Pharisees and scribes should have known better but they were disrespecting Jesus.

What was the father’s response? 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.Again, don’t read more into it than is intended. It does not mean that the Pharisees and the scribes were saved.32It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” 

Invitation:How many Christians and churches need to hear this parable today! We are so quick to look down on our culture and the depravity around us that we fail to see the lost as the helpless sheep, the invaluable coin, and the unworthy son.

Jesus did not compromise with sinners or condemned them. Instead, he converted them. How about us? Are you the lost sheep, the lost coin, or the lost son or daughter? Come today and be saved.

Training by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRAINING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Training

Introduction:  I appreciate our basketball coaches. It’s amusing to watch them, especially when the kids are not doing what they’re supposed to. A psychology professor asked his students, “What do you call someone who one-minute walks back and forth screaming at the top of his lungs, and the next sits in a chair crying uncontrollably?” Someone in the back answered, “A basketball coach.” So also, in life, there are many parents who walk back and forth on the sidelines screaming one minute, crying the next, and wondering why their children are doing what they’re doing in the game of life. Hopefully, today’s message titled “TRAINING” will help us. The basic premise of the message is this – “God has ordained parents to be the primary coaches in a child’s life. How you (parents) train your children is how they play the game of life.” Please don’t misunderstand – the goal of this message is not to cause you more pain if your children are not where they need to be. Instead, it’s to help you understand them and pray for them better. Also, I am not preaching as an expert but as a fellow coach in the game of child-rearing.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.”

Question: “You cannot show the way unless you know the way.” Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” The true way of life is Jesus. Do you know him?

Context: Before we dive into this message, there are 2 things I want to clarify:

  1. Some people think that proverbs are not promises. They’re just general observations, common sense tips, or practical suggestions for everyday life. I disagree. Solomon begins this book by pointing out in Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Then 13 more times throughout the book that phrase “fear of the Lord” is found. There are many proverbs in the world and some may even sound like the ones in the Bible but the reason those in the Bible are in the Bible is because God chose them as his Word. They are God’s truth that have stood the test of time. They are promises.
  2. Some people claim that the traditional understanding of Proverbs 22:6 is incorrect. In recent years, it has been claimed this proverb and it’s not about a child’s moral and spiritual upbringing. I have studied this proverb in Hebrew and in its context, it is exactly what it has always meant. Basically, there are 4 parts to this simple proverb:

1. Child – “Train up a child.” The Hebrew word is “nahar,” which can mean anywhere from an unborn child to a young man. However, in this context, the emphasis is on training early. Psychologists and educators are divided over the age at which a child’s behavior is set (4, 7, or 18 years). Children to me are like sweet gum trees. The longer you let them go, the more nuisance they cause. You can try to cut them down but not before you break a few blades and even chop off your own hands. The sooner you begin with your children, the better are your chances to train them in the right way.

2. The Way – “Train up a child in the way” Repeatedly, in Proverbs, Solomon talks about 2 ways – God’s Way and the Sinful Way. The first one comes from the Bible, and the second one comes from the world. The first one leads to blessings and the second one leads to destruction. Listen to these proverbs — 1:15 “My son, do not walk in the way with them (sinful men), Keep your foot from their path.” 3:31 “Do not envy the oppressor, And choose none of his ways.” 4:11 “I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths.” 10:29 “The way of the Lord is strength for the upright…” 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” 23:19 “Hear, my son, and be wise; and guide your heart in the way.” Parents – You have been ordained by God to lead your children in the right way, God’s way, the way of truth. Most parents misunderstand what this means. They look at a child’s life like a pie with each slice representing a key aspect of their lives – education, athletics, music, relationships, career, and faith. Unfortunately, in time, the other slices take over the faith slice. Here’s a better way – faith is the dough of the pie which then gets divided into the athletic slice, education slice, music slice, relationships slice, and career slice. The Way is not a balanced life with a dash of God. It is the heart, the center, from which everything flows out. It is a lifestyle. Your child is not a good student, a good athlete, a good musician, and, oh yes, a good Christian. Instead, your child is a Christian who is a good student, a good athlete, a good musician, etc. Training the child in the way is leading your child in lifestyle, a mindset, a worldview that is godly.

3. Training – The Hebrew word is “chanok,” which is a rare word found only 4 times in the Old Testament. It refers to the dedication of a building. Just like a house is dedicated to living, a temple is dedicated to worshipping, and an altar is dedicated to sacrificing, the child is also dedicated by the parents to walking in the right way. But unlike an inanimate building, the child grows and has a personality, feelings, will, desires, and temptations. That’s why a child has to be dedicated daily, which is another word for training. Deuteronomy 6 gives us a good model for how to do this dedication/training – 6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Here are some points:

  • Training is not a one-time event but a 24/7 job. Cannot train if you’re always gone.
  • Training is not accidental but intentional. Seek every opportunity, especially meals.
  • Training is not authoritarian but empathetic. Their world and struggles are tougher.
  • Training is not irrational but logical. Don’t say “Stop asking dumb questions.”
  • Training is not cherry picked but balanced. Not just the bad. Give Law and Grace.
  • Training is not harsh but firm. Age appropriate discipline. Spanking vs losing things.
  • Training is not disheartened but patient. Tell it, tell it again, and keep telling them.
  • Training is not just taught but caught. Not “do as I say, not as I do.” It’s not enough to drop your kids off at church. You have to go as well. You have to receive Christ as your Savior as well.

4. Promise – “and when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.” Now comes the tough question – “Why do children depart even when the parent has trained the child from the early age in the right Way?” There’s a lot of misunderstanding here. There are actually 2 kinds of departing:

Losing Their Way Rebelling Against Your Way
Behavior: Pushing the limits, Peer pressure, Experimenting, Lust, Secretive Behavior: Anger, Hate, Bitterness, Pain, Unforgiveness
Source: Lures of the World, Deceitfulness of Life, Wrong Crowd, Freedom Source: Hypocrisy, Legalism, Harshness in Parents, Church, and Religious Institutions
Attitude towards Parents, Church, & Authority: Shame, Conviction, Avoidance Attitude towards Parents, Church, & Authority: Disrespect, Belligerence, Anger
Example: Solomon – from David’s adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah murdered, death of a newborn. Became the wisest man, wrote Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes but had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He did not rebel but lost his way. Secret – David’s repentance in Psalm 51. Example: Absalom – 3rd son of David through Maacah (8 wives, adulterous), killed his brother Amnon who had raped his sister and David didn’t do anything, set himself as judge, David had to flee, mourned his death but never reconciled. No Psalm 51.
Return: They’ll be back! Hang on to the Promise. Return: Chance are low because of their impression of the Way.

Note: There is another group that I need to bring up. They are neither “Losing Their Way” nor are they “Rebelling Against Your Way.” They are just “Confused About Your New Way.” Where you were spiritually when you were raising them is not where you are spiritually today. You raised them with a dash of spirituality, a dose of Christianity. You took them to a church where faith was dead, lukewarm, ritualistic, and full of doublespeak. Now you are in a church where your faith is focused upon Christ, grounded in the Word, led by the Spirit, and full of spiritual fire. Your kids are wondering – “What happened to mom and dad? Did they join a cult!” What is needed is for them to catch up with Your New Way.

What do you do for these 3 groups?

  • “Losing Their Way” – Show Love and Forgiveness, Be Patient, and Pray that they will Return to Christ Soon
  • “Rebelling Against Your Way” – Ask God’s forgiveness, Ask Your Children’s Forgiveness, and Pray that they will Meet Christ
  • “Confused About Your New Way” – Invite them to get to know your New Way but be Patient with them, Pray that God will use your example to show them Christ.

Invitation: Do you know the Way? Again, in John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Here’s what happens when you receive Jesus as your Savior – I Corinthians 1:30 “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

Have you lost your way? Prodigal Son – “Give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” Journeyed to a far country, wasted everything, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you”, When he was still a great way off, his father was waiting!

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