Breakthrough by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  The building of the Transcontinental Railroad is one of the greatest construction marvels in our nation’s history. The Union Pacific built west from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific built east from Sacramento, California, with a little help from Western Pacific. Through mountains, valleys, rivers, and desert, they laid about 2000 miles of railroad tracks between 1863 to 1869, right in the middle of the Civil War! Now, what would have taken 5-6 months in a stage coach over treacherous conditions could now be done in less than a week in fairly restful conditions. So also, when God is with us, a difficult journey becomes a restful one. Here’s the point of today’s message: God allows us to come to impossible situations in our lives, not to discourage or demoralize us, but to call us to trust him and him alone. When we do that, he not only gives us breakthroughs but he also leads us to a life of rest. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.

Joshua 5     13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand.

Context: Last week, we saw that Joshua and Caleb had wholly followed God. While the other 10 spies had incited fear in the hearts of the people, they had tried to instill faith in them. Unfortunately, the people believed the evil report and God’s judgment came upon them. Over the next 40 years, the entire generation along with the 10 spies died in the wilderness. They never got to experience the rest that God had for them. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews describes it in Hebrews 3     16 “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” So, the people of Israel came out of slavery but they could never enter the Promised Land and experience God’s rest because of sin, disobedience, and unbelief. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.

Application: Is that you? Are sin, disobedience, and unbelief keeping you from experiencing God’s rest in your life?

Now it was time for the second generation to reenter the land. Moses was gone and Joshua was to lead them to possess the land. By the way, he was in his 80s and the second generation were the children of the first generation. I can only imagine the fear in his heart. On the eve before the battle of Jericho, he must have been by himself praying, asking God to help. Just then, he saw a man near him with a sword in his hand. Listen to 13 “…And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” 14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” This was a Theophany, maybe even a Christophany. 15 Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. In last week’s message titled Onward, we learned that “When we wholly follow God, he doesn’t let us face our battles alone. He not only shows up but he takes over.”

Application: Are you facing some impossible situation in your life? Instead of fearing and doubting, start following God fully. He will not only show up, but he will take over.

Listen to the next verse – Joshua 6:1 “Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in.” The Hebrew words for “securely shut up” is “sigereth misigereth.” That’s like a double reinforcement. It’s like saying that it was “shut down in itself.” We need to understand a little bit about how the city walls were during the Middle Bronze Period in the Southern Levant to appreciate that statement. I’ve been to Jericho. It is about 13 ½ miles Northeast of Jerusalem, about 6 miles north of the Dead Sea, and the Jordan River is to the east just a few miles away. In the past century, there have been 4 different excavations at the site. Although, it is tough to interpret the date because of the time that has passed from the time of Joshua, there has been much that has come to light. Let’s look at it from the outside in:

  • First, there was the Revetment wall at the foot of the earthen rampart to prevent soil erosion due to rain. It was built using Cyclopean Masonry (massive stones without mortar) and was about 2-10 meters tall and about 1-4 meters wide.
  • Second, there was the Earthen Rampart on which soldiers could be stationed.
  • Third, the Outer and the Lower Wall, which could be about 23 feet tall and as large as 50 feet tall, with each stone about 8-10 feet long.
  • Fourth, there were the Retaining Walls at specific points to make sure the various walls were stable.
  • Fifth, there was another Second Rampart inside that was quite wide and had houses, and maybe even barracks. This would be on an upward slope towards the inner and upper wall. It looked like a terrace. You could also call it a Glacis.
  • Sixth, the Inner and Upper Wall, that was about 4-5 feet wide, 30 feet tall, and could be about 50 feet high in places.
  • Inside were the people. Keep in mind that the people probably lived beyond the walls but they must have come in during the siege.

Jericho was shut down in itself. Is it any wonder that when the people came to the Promised Land, they said in Deuteronomy 1:28 “…Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven…”

Application: How tall are the walls in your life? What are you facing that seems impossible?

So, what is God’s plan? Joshua 6     2 And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” Scholars, historian and archaeologists have tried and tried to find ancient parallels to this ritual, but there is none.

Why did God make them go through this process before he gave them the breakthrough?

  1. He wanted them to get a good look at their problem and realize how impossible it was for them. Day after day they had to see the Revetment wall, the 2 Ramparts, the Retaining Walls, the Inner and Outer Walls. God was bringing them to the end of themselves.
  2. He wanted them to patiently obey, even if it didn’t make any sense. What if they had stopped after the first or even the sixth day?
  3. He wanted them to learn that they were not to battle like the world. Their weapons and their tactics were very different.

2 Corinthians 10     3 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

  1. He wanted them to understand his rest.

Hebrews 4     2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them…3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains that some mustenter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.

Invitation: Do you have his rest or are you still struggling? Only Jesus can give you rest.

Matthew 11     28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Are you saved? Do you have his rest? Have you been to Jesus? Only he can give you rest.

The Journey by Dr. Abidan Shah

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JOURNEY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  About 11 years ago, Nicole and I took our kids on a long journey across the country. We went to all the major Old West sites in Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. We even went to Monument Valley, Utah, in the Navajo Nation Reservation. This is one of those iconic places where a lot of the Old Westerns were filmed. We had a wonderful time! There was a hotel near the Park but it was very expensive and so I decided to drive a little further. This was Highway 163 with nothing on the left or the right and it was dark. To make matters worse, we hadn’t eaten any dinner, the kids were really hungry, and we were low on gas. Talk about being afraid. I remember praying that God would get us out of this. Everyone was turning on me. I felt a little of how Moses must have felt. Thirty miles later, we came to a place called Kayenta, where the Burger King was still open. What a relief! What we didn’t realize is that inside the restaurant was the world’s best exhibit to the Navajo Code Talkers from World War 2. There was a movie about them a few years. Plus, we also found a good place to stay overnight. Needless to say, I was really grateful! Main point: Life is a journey full of choices. Unfortunately, poor choices can lead to years of regret and pain. But, God can use even our failures to work all things together for good if we let him.

Deuteronomy 1:41 “Then you answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD; we will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’

Context: On the surface, these words seem to be words of repentance and renewal, very sincere and inspiring. Unfortunately, the context proves otherwise. Moses is recalling what took place at Kadesh Barnea in Numbers 13 & 14, where the people had rejected God’s command to go in and possess the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve spies had brought back a negative report that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey but the inhabitants were strong, the cities were fortified, and there were even giants there. What was the response of the people? They lifted up their voices and cried and wept all night! They complained against Moses and Aaron saying, Numbers 14     2 “…If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” They actually began to talk about picking a leader and going back to Egypt! How sad and shameful! When Joshua tried to persuade and motivate them, they wanted to stone them all! What was God’s response? He wanted to destroy them and make a new nation through Moses. I would’ve taken God up on it! Moses actually talked God out of killing his people Israel. He begged God to forgive them. God agreed and pardoned them, but he declared, Numbers 14     22 “because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers…” What is the next step? Verse 25 “…tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.” Why? 30 “…you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.”

  1. The Repercussion of disobedience

Principle: God’s forgiveness does not erase the consequences of sins in this life. Someone may say: “What’s the use of God’s forgiveness if there are still consequences?” To erase consequences would be to erase God’s standard of holiness. If God did that, he would no longer be God. Because of his forgiveness, you are no longer his enemy. Now, he is showing you mercy without compromising his holiness.

Application: Do you take sin seriously? Do you understand that you can be forgiven but there are still consequences in this life? Have you ever received Christ as your Savior? Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

  1. The Regrouping of false repentance

Instead of accepting God’s verdict, the people decide to bum rush their way into the Promised Land – Numbers 14: 40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!” Moses warned them not to go because God was not with them. Nevertheless, they rushed up the mountain. I love Moses’ recollection in Deuteronomy 1:44 “And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah.” There’s a play on words here. This was supposed to be “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) If they had gone in as obedient children, they would have gotten the honey. Since they still had the slave mentality, they went in but got the stinger.

Principle: We cannot speed up God’s work of sanctification in our lives. He will not give us what we are not ready to handle.

Application: Is there something that you have been asking God for and it has not been coming? Trust God that he knows you better than you know yourself. He will not give it to you before you are ready for it.

  1. The Rerouting of discipline

Deuteronomy 1:46 “So you remained in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you spent there.” Numbers 14:34 clarifies this – “According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.” We don’t know for sure how long they were at Kadesh Barnea, but they then moved south and started going in circles. Deuteronomy 2:1“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days.” Their entire time in the wilderness was 40 years, but it was about 38 years since the first entry and failure. I did some math and that’s about 13,880 days. One scholar (Daniel Block) called it a “classic understatement.”They could have done something about this: 1. They could have returned back to Egypt; 2. They could have dispersed as a people; 3. They could have gone back to foreign gods. Some did at times but not wholesale. Instead, they chose to stay as a people and take the discipline of God. They had to die one by one and their children had to do their funerals. Based on the census of Numbers 2 and 26, about 2 million of the people died in those 40 years!

Application: How do you handle the discipline of God? Hebrews 12     5 “…My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” People ask me – “How do I know when I am being disciplined?” Don’t think of discipline as punishment. For a believer, all our punishment was exhausted upon Christ. Discipline is when God uses trials and predicaments in life to bring us to trust and obey him more. We go through times of disappointment, unpleasant situations, relationship breakdowns, loss of peace and joy, sickness, and sometimes, even death. Don’t see them as punishment but as discipline. Even Moses had to endure discipline. He talks about it in Deuteronomy 1:37 “The LORD was also angry with me for your sakes, saying, “Even you shall not go in there.”

  1. The Reentry by God’s grace

Deuteronomy 2       2 “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: 3 ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.’”

The last of the older generation just died and it is time to move forward. By the way, the entire time has not been a waste. Some significant things have happened. God has laid out more of his plan for how the tabernacle and the sacrifices are to be laid out. Now, it was time to reenter the Promised Land, but this time, it was not from Kadesh Barnea but the east side of the Jordan River. They are to pass through the territories of the Edomites, Moabites, and the Ammonites. I don’t have time to go through all the details of this journey. Bottom line: they are to walk through respectfully and peacefully. God even took care of the giants beforehand in the territories that they were passing through. Various Amorite kings came against Israel but God routed them and gave his people their possessions. In the midst of all this, there is an episode where God’s people (the new generation) once again began to complain against God and Moses. So, God sent fiery serpents into the camp and many died. Listen to Numbers 21     7 “So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’” This was a pre-figure of the cross of Jesus. Listen to John 3    14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Why a snake! 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Finally, how I could forget Rahab, the madam from who protected the 2 spies that Joshua sent to check out Jericho. She was saved and became part of the genealogy of King David and Christ. Can we not declare with Paul in Romans 8:28 “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: How do you see your life’s journey? Which stage are you in? Repercussion, Regrouping, Rerouting, or Reentry. Are you saved? Is Christ in your journey?

Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press On by Dr. Abidan Shah

Press On

PRESS ON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invitation:

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

Single-Minded by Dr. Abidan Shah

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SINGLE-MINDED by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: How many of have ever heard or asked questions like—“What were you thinking?” “Did you not think?” “What was going through your mind?” “What possessed you to do that?” I remember a story that my parents often told about my brother when he was about 5 years old. He really wanted a slingshot, and so, they got him one; but, they told him to take it outside. It wasn’t 5 minutes before they heard a loud shatter. The beautiful new Fisher radio in the living room was in pieces. Through the slightly open screen door, they saw my brother standing in the driveway with the slingshot in his hand. They rushed outside to ask him, “Why did you do that?” His answer: “Because I had a clear shot.” In other words, his behavior did not have much reasoning behind it. That’s how many people think about why they do what they do. Here’s the message in a nutshell: We’ve often heard, “what you believe is how you behave.” That’s not exactly true. Unless the Holy Spirit has renewed your mind by what you believe, you will behave as you’ve always behaved. In other words, between belief and behavior, there is the becoming by the transformation of the mind through the Holy Spirit. We’re in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and our message is titled “SINGLE-MINDED.”

Philippians 2     1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

Question: Do your actions match your beliefs? Has your mind been renewed by the Holy Spirit? You cannot have this transformation until you are saved. Are you saved?

Context: If you remember from the past two messages, there had been some divisions among the Philippians. There some bad behavior going on. Listen to Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In other words, the last that Paul had heard, the Philippians were not standing fast in one spirit; they were not with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. We know that at least in the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche, two women who were helpful to Paul in the gospel. Not only this but verse 28-29 give us the indication that they were also facing some opposition from the outside that was causing some fears. So, what is his solution? Listen to Philippians 2:1 “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” Paul appeals to what they believe in general. But, now pay attention to Verse 2 “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” There is a Greek word that Paul uses repeatedly here—“phronema.” He uses that word about 11 times in 2 different forms. The only letter in which he uses phronema” more than in Philippians is Romans (about 17 times in 5 forms). What does that word mean? Before we look at the meaning of that word, always remember that “words get their ultimate meaning from their contexts.” Having said that, “phronema” means “mind,” “thought,” or “way of thinking.” As a verb, it means “to think,” “to judge,” or “to set one’s mind on.” Paul goes on to verse 3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Again, the word for mind is a derivative of “phronema,” which literally reads “humble-mindedness.” 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Meaning: If your mind has been renewed or reconfigured to humility, then think about others. If all this is still not enough to motivate you to get along, then verse 5 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Again, the form of the word “phronema” is here.

Principle: The point is that the remedy for your bad behavior is for the right beliefs to transform your mind.

Let’s pause here: If your behavior is not matching your belief, it’s because the becoming by the transformation of the mind through the Holy Spirit is not happening. In other words, between Belief and Behavior, there is the Becoming. This is not something novel. There is a much clearer example of this in Paul’s letter to the Romans. If you’ve studied Romans, you know that you can basically divide the letter into 2 halves: Romans 1-11 and Romans 12-16. The first half is theology and the second half is behavior. The first half (Romans 1-11) is about the depravity of human beings, the answer of the gospel, the problem of sin, death, and the law, and the place of ethnic Israel (the Jewish people) in God’s eternal plan of salvation. The second half (Romans 12-16) is about how to live in community, how to be good citizens, how to love our neighbor, how to prepare for the soon return of Jesus, and how to deal with the old traditions. What is important for our purpose is that right in the middle Paul writes Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The idea is that there should be a change of mind based on what you know is true so that you can behave differently than you did before. By the way, what is the mind? I preached a message on this last year. The Mind is made up of 7 ingredients in my opinion

  • Created by God to respond to him but damaged by sin until salvation.
  • Uniquely designed by the combination of our genetic ancestors, good and bad.
  • Softened towards God or hardened against him by our upbringing.
  • Redeemed by our acceptance of Christ or condemned by our rejection of him.
  • Renewed by our growth in Christ, his Word and Spirit, and godly fellowship.
  • Tarnished or transformed by how we handle the circumstances of life.
  • All the above under the grace and providence of God with the freedom to reject or obey him.

Here’s the principle: Theology does not automatically impact lifestyle. There has to be a transformation by the renewing of your mind through the Holy Spirit.

Illustration: I can say that I believe in gravity but if I don’t accept the basic definition of gravity that “whatever goes up must come down,” I will step off this stage expecting to fly and come crashing down. I can fly but only if I understand and use the principles of aerodynamics to counter gravity.

Question: Has there been a transformation by the renewing of your mind? This is where daily Bible reading, good Bible preaching and teaching comes in.

So, let’s quickly go back to Philippians 2:1. What are the right beliefs? Keep in mind that Paul is not getting into some deep theological truths here. He’s just appealing to what they believe in general:

  • “if there is any consolation in Christ” meaning “if being in Christ means anything to you.”
  • “if any comfort of love” meaning “if God’s love has comforted you.”
  • “if any fellowship of the Spirit” meaning “if you have experienced the blessing of being in the Holy Spirit together.”
  • “if any affection and mercy” meaning “if you have experienced God’s love and mercy in your life.”

If all this still does not help you submit to the transformation of your mind, then try the example of Jesus. What does his thinking look like? Philippians 2      6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (Better translation: “who being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to grasp after”) 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This example/worship should be transformational in your life.

What should this example/worship of Jesus cause you to do? Philippians 2:12“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Working out your salvation with fear and trembling means work for the full realization of your salvation in your life. It’s another way of saying “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” But, who is really doing the work? 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for Hisgood pleasure.

Main point: Confession does not become Conduct unless there is a Change in Cognition by the Holy Spirit.

Has this change of thinking happened through the Holy Spirit in your marriage, towards your loved ones, towards your church family, towards your neighbors, towards the lost around you?

Are you saved? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you submitted to his renewal of your mind? Is your behavior negating your beliefs?

Abundance by Dr. Shah

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ABUNDANCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you parents have ever given your kids money for lunch or a field trip and said, “Make sure you bring back the change”? Did you get your change back? If you did, please let me know your secret! In today’s message, we’re going to learn that our heavenly father also gives us all the money that we have in this life. But, unlike earthly parents, he doesn’t want just the change back. He wants us to make profit with it in building his kingdom. In fact, Jesus has promised that he is returning soon and when he does, he will require an account of what we did with his money. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we now come to the Parable of the Talents and the message is titled “ABUNDANCE.”

Matthew 25      14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, whocalled his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them… [the 1st & the 2nd received the commendation] 21 His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord…24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant…”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the first two servants who doubled what their Master had given to them or are you the one who hid what was given? When Jesus returns, will he say to you “Well done, good and faithful servant” or will he call you a “Wicked and Lazy Servant?” Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Talents is the 2nd of the 3 parables that Jesus gave in his famous Olivet Discourse. In these two chapters, Matthew 24 & 25, he explained to his disciples how things will be at the end of the age when he returns. Last weekend, we looked at the 1st parable, the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, five were wise and five were foolish. The wise were ready to meet the groom but the foolish didn’t have enough oil for their lamps when he came. At the last minute, they went looking for oil and the door was closed behind them and they couldn’t get back in. They begged to be let in but he answered, “I do not know you.” The message of the parable is that Christ is the bridegroom and we who believe in him are the wedding party. The groom has promised that he is coming but he hasn’t given us the exact time. We have to be prepared and watching. We cannot catch up at the last minute. Matthew 25:13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

Question: Do you believe that Jesus is coming again? We’re not talking about a vision or a dream or an allegory. Jesus is returning in a real physical body. Are you ready to meet him? Will you try to play catch up spiritually at the last minute? Will he know you?

Right after this parable of the Bridesmaids, Jesus gave the parable of the Talents. While the message of the 1st parable was “Be prepared. Jesus is coming back at a time when you’re least expecting,” the message of the 2nd parable was “Don’t just stand there. Use the money I have given you to build my kingdom and make profit.” So, Jesus told the story of a businessman entrepreneur who goes to a far country. But, before he leaves, he gives his three workers some money—5, 2, & 1 talents. Sometimes we just read that casually and don’t think about the vast amount of money that he gave each of them. A talent was about 60-90 pounds, depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). A talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. It would take him 16 years to earn one talent. So, how much for the one with 2 talents? It would be equivalent to what an average day worker in those days would earn over 32 years. And, how much for 5 talents? 32+32+16 = 80 years. In today’s economy, if someone was getting minimum wage of $7.25 per 40 hours for 52 weeks, it’s about $15,000. Now add that over 16 years and it’s about $240,000. Then, for 32 years for someone on minimum wage, it would be $480,000. Finally, for someone with minimum wage over 80 years, it would be close to $1.2M. The point is that this businessman gave away a lot of money!

What did his servants do? The first one doubled it to approximately $2.5M and the second also doubled it to about $1M. The Master was very happy and said to both—21Well done,good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” How about the third guy who got $240,000? Listen to his statement—24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’” Let’s think about his statement for a little bit. To start with, its not a wise thing to label your boss, especially calling him a “hard man”!The Greek word “skleros” can mean harsh, cruel, and merciless. He even came up with an analogy to describe him! Next, he blamed his own fear! He was trying to make himself look weak and oppressed! Poor me!

What was the boss’ response? He saw through it—26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant…” It’s the boss’ turn to label him. The Greek word for lazy is “okneros,” which is more than just “lazy.” It also implies hesitant and reluctant. But, let’s keep reading—“you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, (“trapezites”—Greek word for banker, money changer) and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.” Just when you would think that the boss would’ve said—“No harm done. I have my money back. At least you didn’t lose it. I guess I’ll have to invest it myself,” listen to verse 28 “So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”

What is the message? Jesus is the businessman entrepreneur who has to go away. This is his ascension. But before he goes, he gives all of us an incredible amount of money and resources that He wants us to use to build his kingdom.

Question: Did you know that the money you get paid and earn is given to you by God? You may say, “I go to work and put in my time. I built this business from nothing and made profit.” Who gave you the strength, the wisdom, the connections and the success? God did. You may ask, “How about people who don’t believe in Jesus?” Same answer. God is the one who helps them too but they don’t acknowledge him. They will also have to give an account one day. The question still remains: “What are you doing with God’s money?” Yes, you should work hard and work smart but your goal should be more than just being rich or comfortable or have the good life. Your goal should be to build his kingdom and spread his gospel.

Also, don’t just do the best you can. Make profit! Use the money God has given to you to expand his kingdom. Find creative ways to double the spread of the gospel. At Clearview, we are constantly looking for ways to double our outreach. Everything we do is to reach more than we did before. That’s why we did the #Iamtheneighbor project.

Well, I just don’t have the time or energy. I have too many bills to pay. Matthew 6     31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” When you start making him profit, he has a special eye towards you. Proverbs 10:22 “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” Psalm 127     1 “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It isvain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”

Well, I’m just not going to do any of this. Let’s go back to the parable one more time—28 “So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. In other words, if you don’t use God’s money for the purpose he is giving it to you, he will pass it on to someone else who will! But, wait, there’s more—30 “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

I don’t understand how it works but somehow your eternity is depended on how you spend your money down here.

Let’s get to the point—

  • What are you doing with the resources God has given to you? Are you using them to build God’s kingdom?
  • Are you using your money only on self-preservation and self-indulgence?
  • What will Jesus say to you when he returns? Are you making profit for his kingdom? Are you winning more and more souls for his kingdom?
  • Are you saved?

 

Double Honor (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

DOUBLE HONOR (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on October 6, 2018)

“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” (1Thessalonians 5:12-13)

Double HonorEach year, the month of October has been designated as the Pastor Appreciation Month. I know that may come as a surprise to some of you who thought that October was only about Halloween. Slide over Jason, Freddy, and Chucky! It’s time to make room for us good guys!

But seriously, pastors are among the most unappreciated individuals. Contrary to what people think, it’s not an easy job. Lifeway Research from 2015 listed the following statistics regarding pastors:

  • 84% say they’re on call 24 hours a day.
  • 80% expect conflict in their church.
  • 54% find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
  • 53% are often concerned about their family’s financial security.
  • 48% often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
  • 21% say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.

Both my wife and I grew up in a pastor’s home and we saw some of these challenges firsthand. We made up our minds that pastoral ministry was not for us. When God called me, we both struggled for a while. Although we love what we do today, it’s still quite challenging. We are very grateful for our church family that appreciates us and finds ways to encourage and support us and our children. It makes ministry a fun journey rather than a grudging duty.

Question: What is your church planning to do for your pastor and his family? Here’s a suggestion: Please don’t just give him a cheap picture frame with a Bible verse or some praying hands statue. Also, no more sending empty cards or gifting some used appliance that you don’t need (someone did that to us years ago). Give them some gift cards, so they can go out for a nice date. Maybe even send them for an overnight getaway all-expense paid. A healthy marriage will be far more beneficial to the church. And, don’t forget the kids! Do something nice for them as well. Any wonder why pastor’s kids go off the deep end? It’s probably due to the lack of encouragement from the church growing up.

Please don’t misunderstand. The office of a pastor is not a higher calling. It’s not superior to being a teacher, doctor, salesman, business owner, law enforcement, landscaper, truckdriver, waiter, secretary, homemaker, etc. I believe that every profession is a calling from God and equally important in the sight of God. Nonetheless, the pastor’s work helps every individual to be spiritually healthy in order to fulfill their various responsibilities. Doesn’t it deserve to be appreciated and encouraged?

A Mind To Work by Pastor Abidan Shah

A MIND TO WORK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonA Mind to Work

Introduction: Have you heard the expression “busy as a bee?” Do you know someone who is always “busy as a bee?” We get that expression from the worker honeybees who work nonstop, foraging nectar and pollen for their colony. Researchers have found that these hardworking bees don’t live very long. In fact, one biologist from the University of Illinois said, “The harder a bee forages, the shorter its lifespan is.” They literally work themselves to death. In the same hive, there are other bees who just sit around and do nothing. They are the slacker bees. They let the other bees do everything. In our human realm, we call this the “80-20 rule” or “the law of the vital few,” where 20% of people do all the work and the remaining 80% just sit back and watch. Unfortunately, the church is a prime example of this behavior. There are people who are working themselves to death and there are those who are sitting back and taking it easy. We’re more than a hive. We are a body where every member should have a mind to work.

Nehemiah 4     3Now Tobiah the Ammonitewasbeside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes upon it,he will break down their stone wall.” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked Youto anger before the builders. 6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height,for the people had a mind to work.

Question:  Do you have a mind to work? What is your contribution to what is happening here? Are you part of the body at Clearview? Are you saved?

Context: The Book of Nehemiah is one of my favorite books in the Old Testament. It’s about a man named Nehemiah, who was not priest or a prophet but just a lay person who answered God’s call to help his people. He left his high position in Persia and came to his ancestral homeland to help rebuild the walls around the city of Jerusalem. If you know history, in 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had destroyed the city of Jerusalem, the temple, and the city walls. Everything lay in ruins. But, fifty years later, as promised, God brought his people back from exile and commanded them to rebuild. They finished the temple by 516 BC but the city walls still lay in ruins a 100 years later. Many reasons for that – lack of right leadership, lack of motivation, lack of unity, opposition from the neighbors. The result was that there was no security, no stability, but hopelessness, apathy, and worst of all, a gradual loss of identity. By much prayer, Nehemiah rallied the people to begin the work but it wasn’t easy. In the face of incredible opposition and little skill and few resources, they finished the wall in only 52 days! It was an incredible feat! A major reason for that was as Nehemiah 4:6 says, “the people had a mind to work.”How do people get a mind to work?4 reasons:

1. CARING LEADERS

Before you think that I’m trying to beat on my own drum, remember, Nehemiah was not a priest or a prophet. He was a cup bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. That sounds like a bar tender but that’s a title for someone who was responsible for the life of the king. He was like a secret service agent but much more. Historians tell us that more than likely he was also the keeper of the signet and in charge of the administration of the accounts. He was a very influential person. Nehemiah also tells us that he was in the palace at Shushan. This was a gorgeous palace. The walls were decorated with bright colored enameled tiles. Carved on the walls were the images of the Immortal Guards, wearing colorful clothing decorated with tiny stars. Their bows, arrows, and spears were made out of gold and silver. When Alexander the Great marched into Shushan, he took 1200 tons of gold. Bottom Line: Nehemiah had it made.

Listen to what happens when he hears that his people back home were in trouble – Nehemiah 1    3And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the provincearethere in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalemisalso broken down, and its gatesare burned with fire.”4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mournedfor many days. . .” People don’t just join a cause. But, when they see leaders who actually care about them, they are inspired to work.

Application:Leaders, how do you see ministry? Is it a chore to work with children? Is it a chore to help out with the youth? Is it a burden to help with Kindle?

2. CONSTANT PRAYER

How did Nehemiah react when he heard the bad news back home? Other than weeping, listen to Nehemiah 1:4“. . .I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” When the king asked him what was wrong? Listen to Nehemiah 2:4“Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So I prayedto the God of heaven.” What happened when there was opposition from their neighbors? Instead of getting frustrated, he prayed – Nehemiah 4:4 “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity!” Instead of getting better, things actually got worse – Nehemiah 4    7“Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.” In other words, every step of the way, Nehemiah led the people to pray. No wonder the people did not give up. Prayer is the antidote to fear and apathy.

Application: Leaders, do you pray for the ministry? Awana leaders, do you pray for your teachers? Joy leaders, do you pray for your people?

3. UNWAVERING DETERMINATION

Nehemiah 2:19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”

Background: Just when you’d think that everyone would be happy about this, there was opposition. Who was Sanballat? Archaeologists tell us that he was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He was Nehemiah’s chief enemy. The wall was a threat to him. Listen to what he says in Nehemiah 4:2And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? (He mocked them physically.) Will they fortify themselves? (He mocked their military ability.) Will they offer sacrifices? (He mocked their faith) Will they complete it in a day? (He mocked their determination.) Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stonesthat are burned?” (He mocked their resources).Ridicule or mockery is Satan’s choice weapon to discourage and dishearten God’s people.Shakespearecalled ridicule “paper bullets of the brain.” Scottish PhilosopherThomas Carlyle once called ridicule “the language of the devil.” 3Now Tobiah the Ammonitewasbeside him…” Who was Tobiah? He was the governor of Ammon to the east of Jerusalem. He came from a family of very powerful Jewish aristocrats. He wasn’t happy either because the wall was also a threat to him.“And he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes upon it,he will break down their stone wall.’”Chuck Swindoll remarked – “Critics run with critics.” Who was Geshem?Some archaeological discoveries describe him as the governor of Dedan; others describe him as the king of Kedar. That being the case, Geshem controlled the eastern desert region of Syria, northern Arabia, Sinai, and northern Egypt. He was a very powerful ruler and he was afraid that rebuilding the wall and empowering the people would interfere with his lucrative trade in myrrh and frankincense, besides many other things.

Application: Have you ever had to deal with Satan’s mockery? I’ve had to. Sometimes he uses people who appear very close to you. You would think that it would be easy to brush it off but it’s not. Warren Wiersbe said, “Some people who can stand bravely when they are shot at will collapse when they are laughed at.”

4. FIGHTING FAITH

Nehemiah 4   14And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”20Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

Ultimately, we have to remember that we are fighting for our families and God is fighting for us. Translated: We are serving for our children and our grandchildren and God will take care of the problems.

Application:How do you see your role at Clearview? Is it “I got to teach Sunday School. I have to keep nursery. I have practice tonight. Is it Kindle again this week?” Or do you look at what you do as fighting for your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, and husbands? Do you see the mighty hand of God in the rebuilding of his kingdom?

Do you have the mind to work? Are you saved?

When Ministry Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN MINISTRY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whenministrygrowsIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series – NO BENCHWARMERS and this one is called – “WHEN MINISTRY GROWS.”

Nehemiah 4   6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. 7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

Bridge: How many of you would agree with the statement – “Anytime something good begins to happen, the Devil always shows up”? It is true in our personal lives, in our families, in our workplaces as a Christian, and even in our church.

Nehemiah - Gustave DoreContext: The Book of Nehemiah is a perfect example of this. The Jewish people led by Nehemiah were trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 587 BC, destroyed the Temple, and the city walls. In 539 BC God had brought the people back into the land and commanded them to rebuild. They rebuilt the temple by 516 BC but the city walls lay in ruins. A city without walls is a city without security, stability, and identity. So God sent a man by the name of Nehemiah in 445 BC to bring the people of Jerusalem and Judah together to rebuild the city walls. If you do the math, that’s almost 100 years after they were back to the land! It’s easy to tear down a work but it’s very hard to rebuild one. By much prayer, Nehemiah rallied the people to begin the work but it wasn’t long before the opposition showed up. In today’s message, we’re going to see what happens when ministry grows and opposition shows up.

Question: Are you part of God’s rebuilding project at Clearview? Are you even aware of what God is doing here at Clearview? Can you see how God is rebuilding lives, homes, marriages, young people and our community? Have you asked Him where He wants you to be in His building project? Are you saved? Are you a citizen of the Heavenly City?

4 things we will learn about what to do when a ministry grows and opposition comes:

I. EXPECT OPPOSITION.

Nehemiah 4:1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews.

Sanballat the HoroniteBackground: Literally it means – this man named Sanballat was hot and irritated when he saw the Jewish people rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and he began to mock and make fun of the people rebuilding the wall. Who was Sanballat? Archaeologists tell us that he was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He was Nehemiah’s chief enemy. The wall was a threat to him. So what does he do? He begins to ridicule the Jewish people. Ridicule or mockery is Satan’s choice weapon to discourage and dishearten God’s people. Shakespeare called ridicule “paper bullets of the brain.” Scottish Philosopher Thomas Carlyle once called ridicule “the language of the devil.”

Tobiah the AmmoniteWhat did Sanballat say? 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? (He mocked them physically.) Will they fortify themselves? (He mocked their construction knowledge.) Will they offer sacrifices? (He mocked their faith) Will they complete it in a day? (He mocked their determination.) Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” (He mocked their resources) 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him…” Who was Tobiah? He was the governor of Ammon to the east of Jerusalem. He came from a family of very powerful Jewish aristocrats. He wasn’t happy either because the wall was also a threat to him. “And he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.’” Chuck Swindoll remarked – “Critics run with critics.”

Application: Have you ever had to deal with Satan’s mockery? I’ve had to. Sometimes he uses people who appear very close to you. You would think that it would be easy to brush it off but its not. Warren Wiersbe said, “Some people who can stand bravely when they are shot at will collapse when they are laughed at.” Have you abandoned some God-given dreams because someone ridiculed you? Let the Holy Spirit help you refocus and get back to the task God has called you to. As a church, we have to be aware of Satan’s opposition. Be aware of his ridicule through some Sanballat or some Tobiah.

II. REMEMBER TO PRAY.

4 “Hear, O our God, for we are despised…”

Background: Nehemiah could have become angry; he could have argued with Sanballat and Tobiah; he could have believed them and given up. Instead, he did what he did when the work first began. He turned towards God. Listen to his prayer: 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5 Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He prayed what is known as an imprecatory prayer, where he prayed for God’s judgment upon the enemy. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t they have prayed like Jesus – “Father forgive them for they not know what they do”? Keep in mind that Nehemiah was not praying for personal vengeance. He was reminding God that the enemy had dishonored Him. They were provoking Him. Nehemiah knew that ultimately this was God’s work. And did prayer work? 6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

Application: At Clearview we believe strongly in the power of prayer. Every Sunday morning we have the Sunday Morning Prayer Zone where men pray for the service. Every Tuesday morning the ladies come together for a time of prayer. Wednesday evening before Bible study we have a time of prayer. Then this weekend, Friday noon to Saturday noon we will be having our prayer vigil. If you haven’t signed up, go by the welcome room and sign up. Men – we need you to sign up for the night hour so the women can come in and pray during the day hour. The only way we as a church still have “a mind to work” is because God keeps giving us the strength to persevere in the face of opposition.

III. GUARD THE MISSION. 

Nehemiah's enemies7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, Keep in mind that the Enemy never gives up. God is blessing Clearview. Lives are being transformed. Do you think the Enemy is happy? Absolutely not. Once he knows that we’re not going to respond to his ridicule, he will return with another weapon. 8 “and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.” Another of the Enemy’s choice weapons is confusion. He likes to come in and get the people all confused about their roles and the direction“I don’t know what I am doing…” “I don’t know where we are going…” What happens when people are confused about those two things? They turn on each other and before you know it the work is over.

What did Nehemiah and the Jewish people do? 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. Meaning: They prayed and actively began to guard the work against any confusion from the enemy. They were clear about who they were and what they were doing.

Today we had our first annual praise team retreat. The one thing they discussed more than anything else was the mission of Clearview. Do you know the mission of Clearview? Our mission is to “lead all people into a life-changing and ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Our slogan is “Making Christ Visible.”

Application: Do you guard yourself against the Enemy? Do you reject his attempt to bring confusion into our church family? Do you know what is the mission of our church? Do you know what your role is in the body?

IV. DIVIDE THE WORK.

Nehemiah guards vision10 Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” Who is Judah? It is another designation for the Jewish people. It was a way of saying that all the Jewish people began to lose their momentum. The task seemed too big. Plus, verse 11 And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” The Enemy is relentless, especially when people are tired.

Can this happen at church? Oh yes! The 20% gets tired and wants to quit. They start hearing a negative comment here and an attitude there and they want to give up. What was Nehemiah’s reaction to all this? 13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. Nehemiah is dividing up the work and every family is involved in doing their part. But, there’s something more – 14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” Nehemiah does not tell them to build the wall. He tells them to see the big picture. Fight for your loved ones.

Application: How do you see your role at Clearview? Is it “I got to teach Sunday School. I have to keep nursery. I have practice tonight. Is it Kindle again this week?” Or do you look at what you do as fighting for your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, and husbands?

16 So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. 17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Nehemiah continues to divide the work and guard the vision.

Application: Have you been praying and asking God where He wants you to work? The title of the series is “No Benchwarmers.” Are you a benchwarmer?

Just so we don’t walk away thinking that Nehemiah was a very skillful project manager, listen to these verses – 19 Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

In the end Nehemiah reminded them that God was going to give them victory. In the end God will work everything together for good at Clearview. Our best days are here and even better days are coming ahead.

Are you trusting God to fight for you? Do you know the Living and True God? Are you saved

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