Ascent by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Geico, the auto insurance company, is known for its funny ads. How many of ya’ll remember their cavemen ads back in 2004? They featured these Neanderthal-like cavemen who were trying to make it in a modern setting. The premise of their ad was that their website was “so easy, a caveman could do it.” This offended the cavemen who happen to be standing nearby. All joking aside, it is commonly assumed that human beings evolved from cavemen like the Neanderthals, Australopithecine, or Homo Erectus, or that we are similar to animals, especially apes. In our series on apologetics called “Contend,” we will answer some of the questions that were raised: Do humans and chimps share a common ancestor? Are human and chimp DNA very similar? Where do the Neanderthals fit in the Genesis account? Who were the cavemen? Here’s the main point: God has made us in his image. The image was never lost at the Fall, just marred. Through Jesus, we are restored and made new creations in the likeness of God. Evolution from ape-like creatures or “cavemen” is not only false, but it also devalues the image of God in us and seriously undermines the gospel.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Context: As you know, this was Day 6 of the creation week. God was about to create the final act of his creation. It would be unlike anything that he had made thus far. It would be the crown of his creation. Unlike the previous acts of creation, this was not just a “let there be…” Instead, listen again to verse 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Several important things here:

  • First, unlike the previous creations of matter, light, plants, celestial bodies, and animals, this one involved the entire godhead. Yes, all were involved so far, but this one was going to be special. In fact, this is also where we first meet the plurality of the godhead. Later, we will learn that God is “trinity” – Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Again, this implies that human beings are a special creation.
  • Second, unlike the previous creations, this one will be in the “image” and “likeness” of God himself. The Hebrew word for “image” is “tselem” and “likeness” is “demut.” Both imply that human beings will be similar but not identical to the original, that is God. Similar in that we will share the communicable attributes of God – love, justice, creativity, reason, grace, mercy, truth, relationality, and even holiness. Even these, we will not perfectly share with God. Nonetheless, not identical in the sense that we will not be like him – omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, sovereign, transcendent, unchanging, and self-existent. These and more attributes make God who he is.

Being “image bearers” brings some very important benefits:

  1. It makes us God’s representatives in the world, called to rule over his creation. 26“…let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
  2. It gives us special dignity above all other living creatures. Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God he made man.” Also, James 3 8 “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.”
  3. It allows us to have a special relationship with him, unlike anything the living creatures can ever experience. Of course, God is spirit, but when he appeared on earth, it was always in a human form and not any animal. So also, his angels appeared as humans. Ultimately, the plan of salvation was for us. Jesus is God becoming man.

I can go on and on, but I want to stop here and make a point that will help us answer the questions that were raised – Ever since the beginning of time, human beings have been either trying to exalt themselves to the level of God or devalue themselves to the animal world. For some reason, we cannot seem to accept the gift of “image bearers.” In the past couple of hundred years, this has expressed itself by either claiming that we have evolved from ape-like creatures or from “cavemen” over millions or hundreds of thousands of years. Let’s look at each of them:

  1. Evolution from Ape-like Creatures:

Although Charles Darwin did not talk about human evolution in the Origin of the Species, he talked about it 12 years later in his other book The Descent of Man. His arguments were based on anatomical, embryological, and behavioral evidence, not fossils. Until his death in 1882, no fossils for non-human or pre-human ancestors of human beings had been found. He blamed it on the lack of fossil research. Bottom line: Human and primate fossils are extremely rare (See David Menton and Marvin Lubenow). About 95% of all known fossils are marine invertebrates (don’t have a backbone/spine). About 4.7 % are algae and plants and 0.2 % are insects and other invertebrates. Finally, 0.1% are vertebrates and out of this a small fraction are primates (humans, apes, monkeys, and lemurs). Maybe about 6000 human individuals if counting single teeth and bones. Much more apes and monkeys in the fossils than humans.

Differences between Human and Ape skulls (Menton):

  • Small vs Large (1400cm3 vs 500cm3)
  • Sloped vs Vertical Face
  • Flat vs Curved Forehead
  • Flat vs Protruding Nasal Bones
  • Jaws and Teeth (humans have thick enamel)
  • Pelvis and legs (the gait is different to walk on two legs)
  • Carrying angle of the knee
  • Locking Knee
  • Foot Bones
  • Hand Bones (the thumb is the most distinguishable feature, longer in humans)

What about ape-men fossils? From combining bones of apes and humans (Piltdown Man in Natural History Museum in London with the skull of a human and jaw of an orangutan, with the teeth filed down. It was left there for 50 years.), claims that ape skeleton is human, and vice versa. Unfortunately, lots of pictures drawn by artists also misrepresent the facts. Now there’s a new category called “hominin,” which includes Ardipithecus, Australopithecus(Lucy), Paranthropus, and the genera Homo. Ardipithecus = Afar Ethiopian word “ardi” meaning “ground” and “pithekos” = Greek for “ape.” Australopithecus = Latin “australis” means “southern” and pithekos. Paranthropus = “par” beside and “Anthropos” man. They seem quite official sounding on the surface, but they are not. The Homo group leads us into the next category.

  1. Evolution from Cavemen:
  • Homo Habilis (Homo = Latin for man, “handyman,” 1.4-2.4 million years ago)
  • Homo Rudolfensis (1.9 million years)
  • Homo Erectus (Java Man and Peking Man, 1.9 million – 144,000 years ago)
  • Homo Heidelbergensis (found in 1908 near Heidelberg, Germany, 700,000-200,000)
  • Homo Neanderthalensis (from Neander Valley in Germany in 1856. Since then, about 500 are found in central and western Europe, the Carpathians, Balkans, Ukraine, Western Russia, and northern Asia, 400,000-40,000)
  • Homo Floresiensis (Flores, Indonesia, “hobbits,” maybe deformity)
  • Homo Sapiens (us about 200,000 years ago)

Basic differences: large brows in adults and wide nasal cavities.

3 contradictory evidences:

  • the DNA evidence shows that we are the same. Through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology, in 1993 onwards, they were able to study mitochondrial DNA. Savante Paabo, a Swedish biologist, has been able to map the genome of Neanderthals and has found that we are not only similar, but also, we have mixed. (Some are gone but many may still be around, but they are not inferior (Papua, New Guinea, Australian Aborigines, and Mamanwa, Philippines).
  • Fossil records shows close association and integration with modern humans.
  • Archaeological evidence shows that their behavior and thoughts are human.

How does evolution from apes or cavemen undermine the gospel?

  1. It undermines the Problem

Rom. 5:12   Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many…18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

  1. It undermines the Prescription

Ephesians 4      20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

  1. It undermines the Promise

1 Corinthians 15       45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

Invitation: Are you still part of Adam’s family? Jesus has come to bring you into the family of God. Are you saved?

Distinct by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It goes back to the Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brightness by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: It was on July 20, 1969, when two American astronauts Neill Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. This was part of the Space Race between the United States and USSR. After several attempts and setbacks, Apollo 11 took off from the Kennedy Space Center and travelled 240,000 miles in 76 hours as hundreds of millions of people were watching. Anybody remembers the words of Armstrong – “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The whole Apollo program cost about $24 billion dollars (That’s about $100 billion in today’s money) and incredible manpower. Even recently, the Solar Dynamics Observatory has been launching semi-autonomous spacecrafts into space to capture solar variability and its impact on the earth. It takes pictures and studies Sun’s magnetic field and energy. Then there is the Solar Orbiter, the joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA. Its goal is to figure out how the sun creates and controls the heliosphere, the outermost atmospheric layer of the sun. Finally, how many of you have heard of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Just yesterday, 4 non-astronauts returned to earth after 3 days in space. Wow! I can go on and on. Here’s the point: Ever since the beginning of time, human beings have been fascinated by space, especially the sun, the moon, and the stars. God has made them to give us light, signs, and seasons, and time. They testify to his benevolence and mercy, even towards those who reject him. They even remind us of the glorious resurrection coming for each of us.

Genesis 1       14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.

Context: We now come to Day 4 of Creation week. So far, God has created the earth from the watery matrix followed by space (atmosphere and outer space) and light. Then, he created land and separated the seas. After this, he created the plant life. Now, he turned his attention to the expanse above. He started by making two great lights (one is greater than the other) and the stars. Let’s focus on each of these for a moment (Sarfati):

  1. Greater Light to Rule the Day – SUN

Typically, those who don’t believe in creation, they like to say that the Sun is nothing special. It is just a star in the spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. Not true.

  • It is big. Its volume is over 1 million times that of the earth, which means over 1 million earths can fit inside the sun. (Compare it to the earth and then other stars.)
  • It is not too big or else it would swallow all the inner planets. By the way, it is a single star compared to the mostly multiple star systems.
  • It is bright. Its surface temperature is 10,000°F and its core temperature is 28,000,000°F. But, if it stopped shining, everything would start freezing in a few hours. The atmosphere would “condense, liquify, and freeze to entomb the entire Earth with a thirty-foot casing of solid air at the temperature of deep space, about 400 degrees Fahrenheit below zero” (Unruh).
  • It is not too bright like the blue-white supergiant Rigel which is about 120,000 brighter than the sun.
  • It is powerful. It is like a gigantic hydrogen bomb, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second.
  • It is an exceptionally stable star, despite the periodic flares. Some stars fluctuate between 10% to 150,000%. Also, the sunspot activity may be responsible for the climate change, if any, rather than the greenhouse gases. We will see this later.
  • It is in the right position in the Galaxy. If it were too near the inner galaxy, it would be exposed to supernovae (star explosion).
  • It is only about 6000 years old. If the earth was 4.5 billion years old, then the sun would be 25% brighter today than back then. Also, the earth would have been –3° C at that time. That was not the case.
  • It is white in color. It is all colors mixed but can be separated into a rainbow. “When the sun is low in the sky, at sunrise or sunset, it may appear red, orange, or yellow, because its outer (shorter wavelength) colors are scattered by the earth’s atmosphere and only the red, orange, or yellow get through the atmosphere for us to see” (Sarfati).
  1. Lesser Light to Rule the Night – Moon

Again, some people try to minimize the special nature of the moon by addressing the satellites of other planets as moons. That is not true. It refers to the earth’s natural satellite:

  • It has no light of its own. It is mostly because it is covered in basalt. This also helps it shine brightly.
  • Its diameter is 1/4th that of the earth. It is the perfect night light.
  • It orbits the earth once a month. Hence, we have the regular cycle of phases (new moon, first quarter, full moon, last/third quarter).
  • It keeps the oceans If you’ve been to the ocean, you know that the levels fall and rise twice a day. As the moon orbits the earth and the earth orbits the moon, the earth pulls on the moon and so does the moon pull on the earth. This is called differential force. It stretches both the earth and the moon along the imaginary line connecting the center of the two bodies. This results in high tides on both sides of the earth. It is not the moon’s gravity that is pulling the water. If that were the case, all our ponds, lakes, and bathtubs would also have water rising. Instead, the force is parallel to the surface and not very strong. But, when you multiply the force over a large body of water like the ocean, it is noticeable. The sun also causes tides but since it is far away, it is only half as powerful. Overall, tides keep the oceans shorelines clean and circulate oxygen and nutrients in shallow seas.

It is often claimed that the moon was formed by a chunk breaking off from the earth or it was captured by the earth’s gravitational pull as it was floating through the solar system or it came out of a dust cloud or it was the result of an impact on the earth. How foolish!

  1. STARS

We will go over this later in another message. Here, it will suffice to note that the estimate for the number of stars is somewhere about 1022. According to Sarfati, “the number is so vast that even using a computer that could count a trillion of these every second, it would take over 300 years to count this high.” The nearest one is 26 trillion miles away. If we go by light years, it is 4.3 light years away. Each one is unique.

Is it any wonder that human beings have been fascinated by the Sun, Moon, and Stars! Every ancient culture had some form of solar worship. The Egyptians referred to the sun as the god Khepri, Re, Atum, Aton, and Amon-Re. He was looked upon as the creator and judge who could see everything and knew everything. Among the Mesopotamians, the sun was the god Shamash, the god of justice. Similar worship is also found in the Ugaritic and Canaanite pantheons. In Sanskrit (Ancient Indian language), the Sun is referred to as “Mitra” or “Friend” to represent the warmth, the sustenance, and optimism its light brings to mankind. So also, the Aztecs, Chinese, Japanese, Persians, and Romans worshipped the sun. In fact, the Romans named each day of the week after their gods and matched them with the sun, moon, and five planets. This system was adapted by the Germanic people who substituted the Roman gods with their own. The Europeans worshipped Sól (Old Norse), which was known as Sun or Sunna in Old High German. Hence, the first day of the week is “Sunday,” literally “sun’s day.”

The Hebrews, the Children of Israel, and the Jewish people knew better. Right from Genesis, God had told his people that the sun, moon, and stars were his creation. He even did signs to prove that he was the Creator – Joshua ordered the sun and the moon to stay in the battle against the Amorites, and King Hezekiah got a sign of the sun going back ten degrees as a promise that God would heal him. Nonetheless, God’s people fell into the same trap as the pagan world. 2 Kings 23:5 Then he (Hilkiah the high priest on King Josiah’s command) removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the places all around Jerusalem, and those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven.” Because of worshipping these heavenly bodies, God’s judgment came upon them, and they were exiled. Later in the Gospels, Jesus (the Creator of the Trinity) also prophesied the future of his creation: Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

Bottom Line: Each of these heavenly bodies are not only unique, but they have their unique purpose and function.

1 Corinthians 15      12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?…In the early church, there were some who were beginning to doubt whether there was going to be a resurrection. Paul wrote to encourage and reason with them why this was a must. Let’s drop down to verse 38 where something very interesting and pertinent to our message is mentioned – 38But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. For starters, the giving of a new resurrected body is because of God’s goodness. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. It is appropriate and natural to us. There is nothing odd and weird here. 40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. It is a glorious body that cannot be compared with anything down here. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. Paul appeals to the analogy from creation. Even though the sun, moon, and stars are all celestial bodies, their glory (specialty, purpose, luster) is different. So also, our glory will be different now. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. If you want to see a pattern of what is coming for us, look to Jesus.

Malachi 4       1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.

Matthew 17      1 “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”

Revelation 1       14 “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”

Every time we step out and see the Sun in the daytime or the moon and the stars in the nighttime, they should remind us of the glory that is coming for us through Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we feel so worthless and pale considering our struggles and weaknesses. Look to the stars and remind yourself of the glory that is coming for you.

C. S. Lewis – “Each day we are becoming a creature of splendid glory or one of unthinkable horror” (Mere Christianity). “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our deal- ings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours” (The Weight of Glory)

Invitation: How do you see the creation in the sky? How do you see yourself? How do you see others? How do you see Jesus?

Flourish by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, how awesome is our God!

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

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

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

  1. It represented the curse of sin.

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

  1. It was on a tree that Jesus died

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

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

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

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

Groundwork by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  How many parents have told your kids not to let strangers into the house or even tell them that you are away when you’re gone? Nicole recounts a time when her parents were away, and this man knocked on their door in the evening. Her dad had helped him out sometime back at his office and he had somehow found out where he lived. Nicole told him that her parents were busy and could not come to the door. So, he went down the driveway and kept pacing up and down the sidewalk. Little while later, he came back to the door and before Nicole could get to it, her brother opened the door. The man asked for their dad again and he blurted out, “They’re not here.” Nicole quickly called a neighbor who lived around the corner and the man finally left. As you know, we are in our series on apologetics called CONTEND. In this message, we’re going to learn why it is essential to be discerning against those who come knocking on our door, claiming to be like us when they are doctrinally opposed to us. Main point: Doctrine is often looked upon as old fashioned, divisive, and boring. To the contrary, doctrine is essential to the gospel and impacts eternity. Doctrines have to be learned, defended, and reaffirmed, especially the first-rank ones. The Holy Spirit guides us in true doctrine.

2 John 7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”

Context: Very early in the life of the church, first-rank doctrines were under attack. What are first-rank or first level doctrines? Per Mohler and Ortlund (separate works), these are the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture. Of course, there was not a full-on attack against these doctrines in the earliest days, but the attack had begun. John the apostle referred to the attackers as a “deceiver” and an “antichrist.” Then he reminded the readers – 8 “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” In other words, the doctrines that have been worked out so carefully should not be cast aside so easily. Instead, verse 9 “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” Here we notice that the first-rank doctrines of the Trinity and Christology are being defended and reaffirmed. But wait, here comes a warning – 10 “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” What a strong indictment against those who deny these first-rank doctrines!

In this message I want to deal with 2 groups who are known for coming to our houses with their so called “gospel” – Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both claim Christianity and both claim the Bible as their book as well, but they allege that it has been corrupted. Also, both add their own literature to the Bible and claim that it is on the same level:

  • Mormon: The Book of Mormon, the Doctrines and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses: New World Translation and their Watchtower Bible and Tract Society with their 2 magazines – “Watchtower” and “Awake.”

In the chart that I have shared with you over the past few weeks, the challenge is again to the “Authority” of the Bible, primarily on that matter of the “Canon.” By the way, both of these movements are what scholars refer to as the “New Religious Movements (Terry Muck). They have cropped up in the past 200 years. Although many smaller movements can be named, these fall into the category of the “reinterpretation” or “recovery” of true Christianity. In other words, they claim Christianity as their roots, but they also claim that they are restoring Christianity to its true roots. How do we determine whether or not they are indeed true?

I. External-Verification (Historical Accuracy & Unity and Coherence):

A. Bible:

Historical Accuracy

  • To begin with, we have 100% of the text of the Old Testament and New Testament. This is done through a discipline called textual criticism. I have dedicated my life to the NT text.
  • Both the OT and NT make tons of references to lands and regions, kings and rulers, cities and towns, mountains and valleys, rivers and seas, buildings and monuments, events and dates, treaties and policies, customs and traditions, etc. We can verify each of them. I’ve been to Israel many times and seen many of these places – Tel Dan in the north to Elath in the south, Joppa in the west to the Dead Sea in the east. I’ve been to Greece and stood on Mars Hill where Paul preached. I can go on and on.
  • Most important verification is the Resurrection of Jesus. Something happened that turned those fearful disciples into bold martyrs. History was divided into 2 halves!

Unity and Coherence

  • Over 40 authors from different backgrounds, places, and historical situations.
  • Nonetheless, from the first book to the last, the message is about God’s salvation of humanity through his son Jesus Christ. I have talked about this endlessly.

2. Mormon Writings:

Historical Accuracy & Unity and Coherence

  • Although they believe the Bible, according to their Article of Faith 8, the Latter-Day Saints “believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” Also, in their History of the Church 4:461, it is claimed that Joseph Smith called it “the most correct of any book on earth.”
  • To begin with, who was Joseph Smith? It is claimed that it all began in 1820 when a 14-year-old boy in up-state New York prayed that God would show him which church to join from among the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. As he prayed in a nearby grove, an overpowering force bound his body and tongue, and thick darkness came upon him, so that he could not speak. Just when he thought that he was going to die, a pillar of fire came down from heaven and he saw the Father and the Son as separate men but just alike, standing before him. The Son told him not to join any church but wait on further revelation. Few years later, the angel Moroni appeared to him in 1823 and promised that he would find a book of gold plates, which he claimed to find in some nearby hill in 1827. The book was supposedly in “reformed Egyptian,” which no one knows what that language is, and the book of Mormon was published in 1830.
  • The story in the book is about the coming of the Hebrews to settle in the Americas. Apparently, their life between 6th century BC and 5th century AD are described in the book. There is no historical evidence for this. Also, it is claimed that Jesus came here to preach to them after his resurrection. Those who received became the Nephites and those who rejected became the Lamanites, who are supposedly the ancestors of the Native Americans. There were battles between the two groups and the Nephites were gone, but not before the plates of the recordings were buried by Moroni, the son of Mormon, the last Nephite general. Again, there is zero historical evidence for all this.
  • Overall, it is written in a pseudo-translation pretending to be written in the style of the King James Version.

3. Jehovah’s Witnesses literature:

Historical Accuracy & Unity and Coherence

  • Although they believe the Bible, they use their own translation, claiming that ours is corrupt. In fact, they believe that the Watchtower Society is “the one and only channel which the Lord has used in dispensing his truth continually since the beginning of the harvest period…” (April 1, 1919).
  • In the late 19th century, a young man in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania named Charles Taze Russell began a class called the “Millennial Dawn Bible Study.” He was a Presbyterian, but found the doctrines of predestination, eternal damnation, and the Trinity troublesome. He got some of his ideas from the Adventists and others who taught on prophecy, and he put them together in his literature which later became part of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
  • He claimed that Christ’s invisible “second presence” had happened in 1874 and the harvesting period had ended in 1878. The “end of the Gentiles” time would take place in 1914. That year came and went, but it was claimed that the invisible occurrence had happened, and Satan was thrown out of heaven. Now Jesus had begun his heavenly rule and starting in 1918, the 144,000 were in the heavenly kingdom. Russell died in 1916 and the leadership passed on to Joseph Franklin Rutherford. He was the one who “solved” the problem of the 144,000, by claiming that they are the “anointed ones” as opposed to the “great crowd” which represents all the Jehovah’s Witnesses (name chosen in 1931).
  • The writings of Russell and Rutherford are not used anymore. Instead, it’s the materials from the Watchtower Society. Who writes them? The leadership but anonymously since 1942.

You would think that the external verification would be enough to prove that the Bible alone is the true Word of God. Unfortunately, both groups claim in one way or another the witness of the Holy Spirit. This is not a problem for us. Instead, it is a must for believers. Because of our sinful minds and hearts, the Holy Spirit has to illumine and demonstrate the truth of God’s Word:

  • Illumination – show us the truth of God’s Word.
  • Demonstration – testify to us that it is the truth.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t give new evidence. He is the cause of faith not the reason.

1 John 4      1 “Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

II. Internal Witness of the Holy Spirit:

  1. Bible: We’ve obviously seen what the Holy Spirit has to say, especially about the Trinity and Christ.
  2. Mormon Writings:
  • Trinity is denied. Their trinity is 3 persons united in purpose not being. Instead, polytheism is affirmed since they claim that there are many gods in different parts of the universe.
  • The Heavenly Father was a man at one time who was created by a god, who was also created by another god. He passed through degrees of sanctification to become God. God was once a man like we are and that humans can become like God is now (Snow).
  • Jesus was a product of Heavenly Father and mother. They deny this but Satan was a spirit brother of Jesus through another wife of the Heavenly Father.
  • His sacrifice is not sufficient. Ordinances and covenants in the temple are necessary for godhood in the Celestial Kingdom.
  • Much more.

3. Jehovah’s Witnesses Literature:

  • Trinity is denied. Jehovah is the only god.
  • Jesus was created as Michael the Archangel. He became the Son at baptism. Hence, they read John 1:1 as “a god,” which is grammatically and theologically false. Also, the Holy Spirit is God’s active force.
  • Jesus died only for Adam’s sin, not for all of humanity.
  • No hell. Instead, paradise will be for a select few and the rest will be annihilated.

Invitation: Can you discern? Does doctrine matter? Is Christ your Savior and King? Is the Holy Spirit in you testifying to the truth?

Canon by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

Hebrews 1      1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

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

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

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

  1. Main Character:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

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

B. Bible

  • From start to finish, the Bible is about Jesus. Listen again to Hebrews 1 2 “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…”
  • That’s why when Jesus began his ministry, he said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” After he rose from the grave, he met some of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
  1. Canon:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

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

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

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

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

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

B. Bible

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

3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. The writer then goes on to compare Jesus to the Torah, Moses, the Promised Land, the priests, Melchizedek, the sacrifices, and the covenant.

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

The Age of Paradoxes by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. We are United and Divided at the same time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good Life by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Watch your mouth.

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

14 “Depart from evil…”

  1. Avoid evil.

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

“…and do good…”

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

“…seek peace and pursue it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Misstep by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Have you ever been startled? I was one time when I was working late night security and the big AC unit came on behind the gym and scared me to death. When people are deathly afraid, they stop thinking. I have seen ladies climb on top of dining tables to get away from a tiny mouse! In our series through 1 Peter, we have been going through a miniseries called ONE MIND where Peter is reminding the believers to be united and not give in to fear. Main point: Healthy fear keeps us in step, but unhealthy fear causes us to misstep. When we are faced with the unfamiliar, it can drive us to isolation and even temporarily block our ability to reason. In such moments, we need those who will breathe godly courage back into our lives.

1 Peter 3:10 “For ‘he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.’”

Context: In exhorting the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor to be of one mind and not turn against each other, Peter quoted from Psalm 34. As we have done throughout this series through 1 Peter, every time Peter quoted from the Old Testament, we went to that passage in the Old Testament and spend some time studying it. We’re going to do the same thing here. We’re going to spend some time in Psalm 34. This psalm begins with a short title that says, “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” At one time, scholars doubted these titles, but more and more now think that they are original. So, what is the context of Psalm 34? To understand the context of Psalm 34, we have to go to 1 Samuel 21    12 “Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.” What an unflattering picture of the giant killer, the anointed king, the man after God’s own heart, and the sweet psalmist of Israel! What would cause someone like David to act like this? Short answer, FEAR. To understand the long answer, we have to dig a little deeper, starting in chapters 17 through 20. In just 4 chapters, David had gone from being the most loved man in Israel to being the most wanted man in Israel:

  • Chapter 17 – David killed Goliath with a slingshot and saved the armies of Saul. Instantly, he was a hero in Israel; but this was no big deal for him since he had already killed a lion and a bear and rescued a lamb of his flock from its mouth.
  • Chapter 18 – David gained the favor of Saul who wouldn’t let him go back home. In fact, Jonathan, Saul’s son, and David became best friends. In time, David even began to lead the armies for Saul against the Philistines with great success, and the saying was, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Unfortunately, Saul began to eye David with envy. He even tried to have him married off to his daughter so he could control him. Sadly, God had left Saul, but he was with David. Saul knew that and he even tried to kill David with a spear.
  • Chapter 19 – Jonathan tried to convince his father that David was loyal to him, which helped for a little while but not for long.
  • Chapter 20 – Saul was once again after killing David. At first, Jonathan didn’t believe David, but he realized very quickly that it was true when his father even tried to kill him. This is where that incident took place where Jonathan and David made a covenant with each other in the field. It says in 1 Samuel 20:42 “Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’ ” So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.
  • For the first time, David must have felt truly isolated. So, he went to the man of God. 1 Samuel 21:1 “Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest.” Keep in mind that he was the great grandson of Eli the high priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, ‘Why are you alone, and no one is with you?’” The word for afraid in Hebrew is “charad,” which means to be terrified or trembling. Of course, he must have heard about the feud between Saul and David, but more is going on here. In 1 Samuel 2, God had pronounced a curse on the house of Eli because he would not discipline his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. 31 “Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever.” David must have looked like the grim reaper to Ahimelech.

Illustration: After my dad converted from Islam to Christianity, he went to a mainline church in his hometown and asked them to baptize him. They knew who he was. His father was the police commissioner. They asked him if it was because of a girl. When he gave his testimony, they refused to baptize him because of fear.

What was the impact on David? 1 Samuel 21:2 So David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ Important principle: When you are around someone who is full of fear, unless you are strong, it will jump on you.

Let me talk about fear for a moment. What is fear? Researchers are still unsure. Suomi and Harlow – Is it an emotional state? Is it a motivational force? Can it be perceived as a stimulus? Kahoe notes that it often gets confused with anger, anxiety, and phobia, but there is a difference: “Anger incites attack against a threatening object, fear incites withdrawal. Fear relates to an identifiable object or event; anxiety is interpreted as free-floating apprehension and probably incorporates other emotions with fear. Normal fear addresses a realistic danger, phobia a relatively persistent and irrational fear.”

Some research done on rhesus monkeys has helped us understand how fear works. By the way, I don’t believe that we are descended from monkeys. I believe that we are designed by the same creator. We can see some patterns regarding how fear works. Suomi and Harlow concluded that fear is both inherited and acquired. A certain amount of fear is actually good and healthy and it bonds us to our loved ones and “enhances an existing social relationship.” On the other hand, “too much exposure to fear stimuli too often can have undesirable consequences.”

What happens when someone has intense fear? It can sabotage his/her perception, thinking, and motor processes (From Kahoe). When a person is in a state of fear, they want to comprehend and escape at the same time. Their adrenalin starts rushing. Sometimes, overprediction can lead to phobias and panic attacks. In the short run, this can help you adapt to your surroundings, but, in the long run, it can lead to dysfunctions.

While David was talking to the priest and getting some bread from him, he noticed from the corner of his eye that one of Saul’s henchman was there, an Edomite named Doeg. Now things began to spiral downwards for him. 8 And David said to Ahimelech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” 9 So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.” 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. Now, he took the Enemy’s weapon and made the foolish choice to head to the Enemy’s territory. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. This was where he began to act like he had lost his mind. His performance was so convincing that Achish said to his servants – 14 “…Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

That’s how the Enemy works. When we allow him to infiltrate our mind, he turns the very words that once brought courage to us to bring fear into our lives. He humiliates us in the presence of all and makes us a laughing stock.

Application: Have you been infected by fear? Is the Enemy having a heyday with you?

What did David do? Like the Prodigal Son, he came to himself. 1 Samuel 22      1 “David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.” These were giant killers. One killed 300 at one time with a spear. Three of them crossed behind enemy line and brought water for David from Bethlehem. One killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day. The wrong companions had to go so the right companions could come to David.

How is this connected to 1 Peter? Peter wanted the believers in Asia Minor to be of one mind with each other. Together, they would be a mighty army for God.

Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 1 John 4     18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

Application: How do you handle fear? Who are you surrounded by? Are you saved?

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