Unstuck (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

UNSTUCK (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the Newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 29, 2018)

“The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey. . .’” (Deuteronomy 1:6-7a)

 “So you remained in Kadesh many days. . .”(Deuteronomy 1:46)

“. . . and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward . . .’”(Deuteronomy 2:1-3)

Human beings are prone to getting stuck in a rut. Sometimes, it’s because we’re afraid of facing the challenges waiting ahead. Other times, it’s because we get comfortable in our misery. Either way, we fail to move forward in life and we miss out on the many blessings that God has for us. It’s easier to blame or feel self-pity than to accept responsibility for our inactions. We would rather complain and compare than confront our complacency.

This is nothing new. The people of Israel were stuck for 40 years in the wilderness. First, it was at Mount Sinai for eleven months. Here they encountered God, received the gift of the law, saw the holiness of God, and built the Tabernacle. This was not a waste of time. But, instead of moving forward with renewed faith, they decided to camp there indefinitely. God had to push them out. They made their way to Kadesh Barnea from where they could see the Promised Land. God helped them to organize themselves through Moses. They had seen enough wonders to know that God was with them. Again, instead of moving forward in faith, they refused God’s command to take the land. God condemned that generation to die in the wilderness over the next 38 years. Only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb survived because they believed God. As if all this was not enough warning to the next generation, they too decided to skirt Mount Seir for many days! God had to tell them what he had told their parents and grandparents 40 years earlier – “Enough going in circles! Move forward!”

Here are some questions to consider: Are you stuck? Are you wasting time going in circles? What is it that’s keeping you from moving forward? Would you rather skirt the mountain in your life than step out in faith? Do you blame others for your indecisions? Is crying and complaining easier than climbing and conquering? These are tough questions but unless you answer them honestly, there will be no progress in your life.

The place to begin is not by self-determination and self-will or even clarifying your goals or your strategy. Begin by clarifying who God is and whether you know him. Many times, our lack of movement is directly proportional to the size of our God. People who serve a big God attempt big things in life. But, it’s not enough to believe in a big God. You also have to know his heart for you. The only way to come to him is by first coming to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.(John 14:6). If you don’t know Jesus, receive him today as Savior and King. If you do know him, it’s time to get unstuck from the rut and move forward!

Uncomfortable Obedience by Pastor Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2018)

Manger NativityIntroduction: Thank you once again for being here this evening. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, using our gifts in his service, and leading someone to Christ. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our comfort zones. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Matthew 1     18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a justman,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were in their teenage years or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Joseph today (next Christmas Eve, we may focus on Mary). He was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary was pregnant and it was not his child.What a shock. Furthermore, she was not claiming that she was raped. She was not admitting to any guilt. What a shame. What a scandal. What’s even worse is that the word on the street was that she was claiming to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Joseph must have gone through a range of emotions: Shock, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, and even hate.
  2. They were still in the betrothal period and he was not officially married to her. Even though she was his wife technically, he still had the option to walk away from her. He was not the bad guy in this. No one was blaming him. They knew him better. In fact, they were expecting him to divorce her. Not to do so would be admitting to personal guilt.

Joseph gets a visit from the Angel of the Lord telling him that what Mary is saying is true. Plus, he had to stick around and name that child. Joseph chose to obey God instead of his emotions, his culture, or his family and friends. What would you have done?

How could he do that? The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally.I John 5:3“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Joseph loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

Counting the Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COUNTING THE COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

COUNTING THE COSTIntroduction: Have you ever heard the expression “counting the cost?” It means to evaluate whether or not something is worth doing. Last Monday I had to “count the cost” when we went with our Converge College and Career Group to a water park. They have this ride there called the “Daredevil Drop.” It’s a 76-foot foot tall water slide. I saw it as Nicole and I were going down the “Lazy River.” Something inside me said, “Won’t that be cool if you could do that and let Nicole video it! Imagine how much fun that would be! Imagine how many likes you could get on Facebook and Instagram! Imagine how many more people would come to Clearview just to see the Daredevil preacher!” So, we went and stood at the base and I watched people slide down, even kids. I counted the cost and it wasn’t worth it! I chickened out. I couldn’t give up my fear. So also, when it comes to our salvation, we have to count the cost. We have to ask ourselves, “What all am I willing to give up in order to be saved?” Please don’t misunderstand. Giving up doesn’t save us. Salvation from start to finish is the work of God. It’s only by grace through faith in the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb that we are saved. But, being willing to give up everything reveals whether or not we understand the gospel. It demonstrates how sincere and how committed we are to follow Christ our king.

 Mark 10   17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” . . . 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” . . . 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

Question: Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Are you willing to give up all in order to follow Christ? What is keeping you from following Christ? Are you saved?

Context: This series on the gospel has been impactful on so many levels. It has opened our eyes to the true meaning of the gospel. It has confronted our complacency and tolerance for sin in our lives. It has challenged us to live out the faith that we claim to have. And, more than anything, it has demanded from us unconditional allegiance to our Savior and King Jesus. In this message, we’re going to meet a young man who came to Jesus with all the right intentions but he walked away from eternal life because he was unwilling to give up everything he had. 3 things that we will learn from this passage:

I. JESUS DID NOT IMMEDIATELY LEAD HIM IN THE SINNER’S PRAYER.

Mark 10    17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”18So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No oneisgood but One, that is,God.”

Did you notice that Jesus did not immediately lead him in the Sinner’s Prayer? He was not ready for it. He was under conviction but he was not ready to make a commitment to Christ. For starters, he had a wrong understanding of Jesus. Jesus was much more than just a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh, the Promised One, who had come to give his life for our sins. There are people who have prayed a prayer but never got saved because they didn’t know who they were praying to or what they were praying for.

By the way, the problem is not with the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Some people don’t like that term. I had a person say to me, “There is no Sinner’s Prayer in the Bible.” I asked him if he knew that the word “Trinity” is never found in the Bible and Jesus never used the word “grace” in the gospels. The real issue is what are we saying in the Sinner’s Prayer and do we mean it.If someone thinks that just repeating a prayer is going to save them, then they are greatly mistaken. But, if someone truly repents and acknowledges that Christ is the only way to salvation, then the next step is to pray to God. What does it say in Romans 10  9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Who do you confess to? Ultimately, to God. So, you have to talk to God and tell him that you believe. What is talking to God? Prayer. What happens when you truly pray and confess? Romans 10:13For“whoever calls on the name of the LORDshall be saved.”

Bottom Line: Jesus did not immediately lead the young man in some rote prayer. He challenged his understanding of the gospel. He challenged his understanding of himself. Jesus was much more than a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh.

Application:How were you saved? Was it just a rote mechanical prayer or did you truly understand the gospel that Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again to save us from our sins? Have you ever prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King?

II. JESUS CLEARLY LAID OUT THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP.  

 19You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,’ “Do not murder,’ “Do not steal,’ “Do not bear false witness,’ “Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”20And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

At first glance, it seems that Jesus was telling this young man that by keeping the Ten Commandments, he could have eternal life! Was Jesus calling him to works salvation? Absolutely not. Paul declares very clearly in Galatians 2:21“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousnesscomesthrough the law, then Christ died in vain.”So, why did Jesus say this? Some have argued that Jesus was trying to get the young man to see the hopelessness and emptiness of keeping the Law. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the context that tells us that Jesus or the young man acknowledged that. Others have argued that Jesus was trying to get him to reject his works righteousness first. Unfortunately, Jesus did just the opposite. 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” That’s not taking away “works righteousness,” that’s adding more “works righteousness!”

Why did Jesus bring up the 10 commandments and then tell him to sell everything and take up his cross and follow him? This young man knew that eternal life was not in keeping the Law but he was looking for an eternal life that was cheap and easy. He wanted to have the stamp of salvation and still carry on his old lifestyle. He wanted to get his certificate of the kingdom and still not obey the king. Jesus knew his heart and what he was saying to him was that “Yes, I will pay for your salvation. It’s free to you but following me will never be cheap and easy. There will be a cost to discipleship.”

Listen carefully:It cost Jesus his life to buy your pardon. If you follow him, it may cost you your life as well.” Don’t misunderstand: You don’t have to go sell everything and give to the poor before you can be saved but you be better be if your king tells you too.

Application:Have you counted the cost of discipleship? What are you willing to give up for your Savior and your King?

III. JESUS REVEALED THE SECRET TO FOLLOWING HIM. 

Mark 10   22But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

By the way, have you noticed that 3 different expressions were used for salvation?

  • The young man asked,“what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
  • Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
  • The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?

This means that the account was not just for the rich young ruler but all of us.

Now, what was Jesus’ response to his disciples?  27“. . . With menit isimpossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”If only that young man had done what Peter did when Jesus found him, this account would have a different ending. Remember, Peter had not caught anything all night and Jesus told him to launch out into the deep and drop their nets. He obeyed and there were so many fish that the net was breaking. Then it says in Luke 5:8When Simon Peter sawit,he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”Then Jesus said to Peter, 10“. . . Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” It was the Holy Spirit who enabled Peter and the rest (Andrew, James, and John) to forsake all and follow Christ.

Invitation: The question is not “Are you ableto follow Christ but are you willingto follow Christ?” If you are willing, he will do the rest. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you willing?

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