FUTURE AND HOPE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

FUTURE AND HOPE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 12, 2016)

future-and-hope“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Last month Americans all across the land proved with their ballots that they were dissatisfied with the direction of our country. What is being called “one of the greatest political shakeups in history” is a glimpse into the soul of the real USA. Americans have overwhelmingly declared that they do care about the economy, security, and morality of their country. They do want a better world for their children and grandchildren. Once again they are seeing a future and a hope. These are indeed exciting times in our nation’s history. Along with the other positive changes, here are some more that we cannot afford to ignore:

  1. Unite as Americans – It’s obvious that we are more divided as a nation today than we’ve ever been. Wicked forces have done everything they could to tear us apart along cash, class, and color lines. It is vital that we bring about a healing in our great nation. We will have to reach out to each other and show love and compassion. The world is watching to see if we are still the “United States.” The wise king Solomon wrote, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  2. Equip our next generation – It’s imperative that we train our kids in politics, economy, and morality just as much as we train them in sports, dance, and music. We cannot shelter them from the issues facing our nation and the world. Instead, we should prepare them to change the world for the better. If they are to continue the good changes that are coming, we will have to teach them to lead with wisdom and courage. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
  3. Prepare for a spiritual awakening – The recent shakeup proves once again that God is not through with our nation. When we study our nation’s history we notice that He sent the greatest spiritual revivals when things were really low. He loves to work in dire situations because it brings all the glory to Him. We cannot forget to give Him thanks for giving us a second chance. But that’s just the beginning. We will have to return to the promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Abraham Lincoln said, “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” The dream is still alive.

AMERICA TOMORROW (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

AMERICA TOMORROW Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 23, 2016)

America Tomorrow by Abidan Shah“What’s going on in this world?! What’re we gonna do?!” I was greeted with those words as I made my way to the church office. I knew this person was referring to the recent headlines – “police officers murdered,” “terrorist attackin France,” “military coup in Turkey,” etc. I casually responded – “It seems like people have gone crazy…I guess we just need to pray more…” As I closed my office door behind me, those words began to ring louder and louder in my mind – “What’re we gonna do? What’re we gonna do?!” Just then a quote popped into my head that I read years ago – “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

What can good people do in a world gone mad? Of course we need to pray but it’s time we did more than just pray:

  1. It’s time that Christians step outside the four walls of their churches and take a lead in marching for peace and unity. The chaos and destruction in our nation and world is evidence that the followers of the Prince of Peace have abandoned their posts. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We resemble our Heavenly Father the most when we spread harmony in our world.
  2. It’s time we recognize that there are elements in our country and outside who are taking great delight in seeing us turn on each other. They want to see our law enforcement weak and the discontented angrier so that they can take advantage of the situation. Unless we recognize this threat and make efforts to unite, we will fall right into the enemy’s hands. As Benjamin Franklin famously remarked (although variously attributed to others), “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
  3. It’s time we stand with our law enforcement officials. Of course there will always be some bad apples but, as a whole, most of our law enforcement are good men and women who want to keep us safe. They deserve our support and encouragement. To make them weak is to throw the gates open to evil men.
  4. It’s time we look beyond a person’s skin pigmentation and offer respect and understanding to each other. No amount of slogan throwing will solve our divisions. If one segment of our American population feels that they have been negatively stereotyped and mistreated, then we should find ways to reach out in brotherly love and help change the situation. There will be no end to the present crisis unless a genuine attempt is made to understand and heal.
  5. It’s time we recognize that leadership matters. Part of the reason we’re in the mess we are collectively, financially, defensively, and spiritually is because of leadership. Stop looking for a perfect candidate and support the leader who will best represent biblical values. Vote for the leader who will believe in American exceptionalism and will make us a force for good once again.

Does America have a tomorrow? As long as the good people are willing to do something in God’s strength, the future is brighter than ever.

Salt and Light: The Myth of a Secular Nation

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here or watch the video here.

SALT AND LIGHT: THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

saltandlightWe are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we come to Matthew 5 to what Augustine called the “De Sermone Domini in Monte” = Sermon on the Mount – the passage in which Jesus gave the Beatitudes, the Six Antithesis, the Lord’s Prayer, the Golden Rule, and other important principles of the Christian life. With that in mind, today we will begin a long miniseries titled, “SALT AND LIGHT – THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION.” There is something in this series that is very vital for our personal lives, our families, our church, our community, and our nation.

Matthew 5:13-14 (Click to watch video of reading by the Mount of Beatitudes)   13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: You may not know but the Sermon on the Mount has been discussed and debated ever since it was first written. As early as the first century we know of a document called the Didache that tells us that the early church struggled with how to obey such high standards that Jesus gave to His disciples and to the multitudes. People throughout the centuries have questioned if it was even possible to apply these rules and could it be that they were meant for another time and another place. Some people claimed that this passage was only meant for those who lived before the cross and that Jesus did not expect them to obey them but was just showing them how God’s standard of holiness was too high and how much they needed His grace in their lives. Others claimed that the list of righteousness and holy living has nothing to do with the past or the present but with the future millennial kingdom. In other words, there has to be an ideal environment for this high standard to be achieved.

So what do we do with the Sermon on the Mount? Do we just skip over it? I believe that the Sermon on the Mount is for every Christian of every generation. When you truly study this passage in its context you realize that Jesus did not give this sermon just to make us feel helpless before the holiness of God or to make us feel hopeful for some future Kingdom of God. He meant this sermon to be obeyed by all believers of all ages. There are some powerful truths embedded in these verses – truths that will change the way we live the Christian life, truths that will bless our homes and our families, truths that will change the way we function as a church, truths that will transform our community, and truths that will change the direction of our nation.

The Sermon on the Mount is a kind of Christian life that not only brings personal blessings but it also transforms the world around us. It’s not a life that runs from the world or a life that compromises with the world but a life that seasons and brightens the world around us. Daily I come across people who are either fed up with the world or fearful of the world. The Sermon on the Mount challenges us to live in such a way that the world sees our good works and glorifies our Father in heaven.

Application: Do you think we need this kind of a Christian life? Do you think our community needs this kind of a life? Do you think our nation needs God’s blessing? Are you being the salt and light in this world? Let’s ask a deeper question – are you saved?

This morning we won’t look at just one passage but several passages from the Sermon on the Mount. We will set the foundation for the rest of the series. If we get this message, we will get the rest of the series. 3 things stand out in this Sermon:

I. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF ISOLATION FROM THE WORLD. 

Matthew 5 1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them…

Background: Some people think that this proves that Jesus did not want the multitudes. “He saw the multitudes and went up the mountain with His disciples.” Not true. Let’s go to the end of the sermon in 7 28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 8:1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. This was not a private lesson just for the disciples.

How did the multitudes find Him? Let’s go to the verses immediately preceding the sermon on the Mount – Matthew 4 23 And Jesus went King of Kings Sermon on the Mountabout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people…25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

Bottom line: The multitudes did not find Jesus. He went and found them. One of the problems in our churches is that we are either running from the multitudes or we are waiting for them to find us. We like to talk about how bad the world is and how far we have come and how things are not what they used to be. Sometimes we’re doing everything we can to keep the world out. Make no mistake – we need to stay away from worldliness but not stay away from people. There’s a big difference. Jesus was not worldly but He loved people. He went out and met the needs of the people and then people followed him.

This does not mean that He was naïve about the multitudes. What kind of people were in the multitudes? Matthew 4:24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, (What do sick people do? They moan and groan and complain.) and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Do you think some of them fussed with each other? Do you think some were greedy, lustful, critical, and demanding? Of course! Ministry is messy. Jesus did not consider the crowd to be a burden. Sometimes we tend to think that the crowd is a burden. You’ll hear things like – “We got too many people here now.” “I don’t know every body anymore.” “It’s hard to keep up.” “I liked it when it was small.” Jesus loves this! It’s for the people that He came.

If Christianity is going to survive in America, it will have to go to the multitudes and that will be messy but that’s all right. God has not called us to isolation. He wants us out there seeking and saving that which was lost.

For e.g. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, learned from George Whitfield that if change were to come in England, they would have to go outside the church to fields and the docks and the markets. At first Wesley didn’t like it. He was too traditional. But on April 1, 1739 Wesley preached to a group gathered on Nicholas Street. Guess which passage? The Sermon on the Mount! He was chastised by church leaders but listen to what he wrote in his journal on July 11, 1739: “Permit me to speak plainly…God in Scripture commands me, according to my power, to instruct the ignorant, reform the wicked, confirm the virtuous. Man forbids me to do this in another’s parish; that is, in effect, to do it at all, seeing I have now no parish of my own, nor probably ever shall. Whom then shall I hear, God or man? “I look upon all the world as my parish…” England was riddled with immorality, skepticism, atheism, and the coming of Wesley saved it. He went to the people. We’re looking for new ways to grow our churches. Maybe we need to try the Jesus way!

Application: What do you think about the multitudes? Do you run from them? Do you spend your time criticizing them? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and save them? If not, step out of the way and let others do it.

II. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD 

2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Background: Just when you think that Jesus would laugh over sin, He raises the bar. Sometimes we think that in order to win the world we have to become like the world. Nothing is further from the truth. In the weeks ahead I’ll be preaching on each of these beatitudes. Let me just tell you – the Standard is high, very high!

Here’s more – 4 Blessed are those who mourn, (Some were complaining) For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, (Some were proud) For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, (Some were hungering for the things of this world) For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, (Some were bitter and hateful) For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, (Some had hidden sins) For they shall see God.

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If we want God’s blessing in our lives, it has to be the way of holiness and righteousness. We can’t go around that. In fact in Matthew 5:20 Jesus says to them, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees and the scribes at a high standard but Jesus said – “Your standard better be higher then theirs if you want to get to heaven.” Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Nothing destroys our testimony before the world than hypocrisy and hidden sin.

Application: How is your sin life right now? Is there hate in your heart? Is there anger in your life? Is there unforgiveness towards someone? Is there lust? Is there greed? Are you having trouble seeing God? Could it be because “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

III. A LIFE OF BLESSING AND RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT TRANSFORMS THE WORLD.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

Background: Just when you think Jesus is only interested in our personal spiritual lives He makes a statement that I feel is one of the greatest passages in the entire Bible. Salt seasons our food. It makes it worth eating. But if the salt loses its flavor then it is worthless for the food. It has to be thrown away. People just walk over it.

Christianity is being trampled upon in America. It’s because Christians have lost their flavor.

Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

For e.g. As you know, Nicole and I went to Israel in January. One thing that really got me were the ultra Orthodox. They reminded me of the Pharisees and the scribes, maybe not in every aspect but regarding tradition. These people wear black robes, black hats, and black shoes. They have long sideburns and they’re constantly doing their Torah reading and mumbling their prayers. They are an oddity. They’re different. They’re strange. They’re judgmental. I asked our guides about them and both of them had some not so nice things to say. Both our guides were Jewish but secular Jewish.

I thought about our churches in America and Christians in America. In some ways, we have become an oddity. We have become different and strange. By that I’m not saying that we are different as in God’s people different but different as in old, outdated, harmless, naïve, flavorless, and “matter of time before they’re extinct people.”

Jesus went on to say in verse 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt. He notes that “Christianity and Christian influence on the government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; outlawing pedophilia; granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy in the Western world; prohibiting the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advancing the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlawing slave trade and slavery.

I’m amazed at how some Christians have been backing away from the public square when we should be the ones taking the public square. The reason we have the freedom we do and the blessings we do is because this nation was founded to be the salt in the light of the world. The reason we are compassionate towards people, animals, the less fortunate, the ones who are sidelined, and abused is because of Christianity. We have been beneficiaries of someone else’s faithfulness. Much has changed. Either we are hiding our light or we have a false light or we have no light.

When you and I begin to live the way Christians were meant to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the life of Christ in us, with the word of God on our lips and in our hearts, we become the salt and the light of the world. Do you want to know why the world and America and our community is in such a mess? Stop blaming Hollywood. Stop blaming the politicians. Stop blaming the atheists and the sexually immoral. They’re just living by their nature. Start looking in the mirror. If our Christian lives were what they were supposed to be, this world would be a better place. If we were teaching our children how to live the blessed life, they would be the change makers in our society today.

It’s not too late. Today’s the day to begin. First, if you are not saved, you need to get saved right now. Let’s go a step further – what are you doing right now to impact our community? What are you doing to make this 30-mile radius the best place on earth? Are you praying for our nation? Are you getting involved in politics? It’s not enough to preach the gospel. It’s also important to impact the culture. This is not just so we can keep preaching but also so that our society will remain civil, kind, compassionate, and blessed.

By the way, what did Jesus say in the Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Meaning: The very first thing that we are to pray for after glorifying God is for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS

TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUSWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all 4 gospels and this morning we are in Matthew chapter 2 for our message titled – “TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS.” Each year, the first couple of Sundays in November are designated as a day of prayer for the persecuted church all over the world. We in America take so much for granted but there are people all over the world who cannot do what you are doing right now – hold your Bible, pray, and meet as a church.

Matthew 2 19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Arabic N 1Context – Back on July 19 of this year when people in America were deciding whether to go to the beach or to the mountains, something quite different was happening in the city of Mosul, Iraq and the surrounding areas near Nineveh. Christians were being given an ultimatum – leave the city or pay the tax (Jizya) or die by the sword. The very next day ISIS terrorists went around the city of Mosul and spray-painted the Arabic Arabic N 2letter N – looks like a smiley face with one eye – on the homes of every Assyrian Christian. It was just like when the Nazis marked the homes and businesses of the Jewish people with the Star of David. Why did they do that? The Arabic word for Christian is Nasrani and this was their way of marking the Christians. What did these Assyrian Christians do next? They began to change their profile pictures to the Arabic letter N. They began to make T-shirts with the Arabic letter N. They began to protest all over the world. Very soon even Arabic N 3Christians who were not Assyrians began changing their profile pictures to the Arabic N. I’m sure you saw that but probably didn’t know what was going on. Sadly, it did not stop the ISIS terrorists from killing Christians in northern Iraq and northern Syria. Men, women, and even children were brutally beheaded.

What does all this have to do with the passage we just read? Go back to verse 23 “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” In his earthly ministry, Jesus was called a Nazarene and His disciples were known as the followers of the Assyrian Christians Arabic N protestNazarene. When Paul was being accused before Governor Felix in Acts 24, listen to what they said in verse 5 “For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” In fact, through the centuries Nazarene became the designation for Christians, especially in the Middle East. Nasrani is just the Arabic form of Nazarene. When the terrorists spray-painted N on the doors, they were declaring war against all the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

Christians in America have blinders on. We think – “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s tragic but it’s not my problem. After all, what can I do? It’s for the politicians and the armed forces. In the process more and more of our brothers and sisters are being killed everyday. In the process we are losing the battle on the home front. In the process we are failing in the mission God has given us.

Application: Do we care about what’s happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world? What are we doing to ensure that what is happening in Mosul and Iraq and Syria and for that matter in Iran, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Kazakhstan won’t happen again? There’s a greater question – what are we doing to make sure that it will not happen in our own country? Are you a Christian? Then you are a Nazarene, follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Is there enough evidence for those terrorists to spray paint your house with an N? Do you know the cost for following Jesus of Nazareth?

This morning we will look at this passage and we will also look at what we need to do as followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

 I. GENERATIONAL HATE

19 Now when Herod was dead…

Background: Herod tried to kill the baby Jesus and in the process massacred every male child in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts 2 years old and younger. He died with hate in his heart. As you heard previously, he killed his own son just 5 days before his death. If I can make an important statement – “How you live is how you die.” If you don’t live a righteous life, don’t expect a righteous death. If you don’t live a Christ honoring life, don’t expect a Christ honoring death.

For e.g. Nicole’s dad was a caring pastor. I learned a lot from him. The last time I saw him, he said to me – “Call so and so (a very famous pastor). He is my good friend. Tell him I told you to. He’ll take care of you. I’m sorry I may not be able to help.” I never had to. God had other plans.

For e.g. I was on a hospital visitation one time and people were crying, this man was hooked up to all these machines but still alive enough to talk to his family. He was cursing, didn’t care I was there. His main concern – “get the lawnmower out of the rain.”

After Herod’s death, when Joseph thought that it was safe to head back, listen to verse 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.

Background: What’s the deal with Archelaus? After Herod died, his kingdom was divided between three of his sons – Judea/Samaria went to Archelaus; Galilee and Perea (east of the Jordan) went to Antipas; and the northern part of Herod’s kingdom went to Philip. Archelaus was just as unpopular as his father plus he didn’t have any political savvy and the people hated him. In fact, he began his reign by killing 3000 people who had gathered to celebrate Passover. Even Herod didn’t do something that drastic!

Let me make another statement – “what you as parents do in moderation, your children will do in excess.” If you have been mean, bitter, cantankerous, envious, angry, and busybody, your children will supersede you and every one of them. If you have denied Christ, your children will persecute others for claiming Christ. What’s happening in the Middle East is a product of generational disobedience.

Let me add another statement – “you don’t have to follow in the bad footsteps of your parents.” By the grace of God, you can break the chain. By the help of the Holy Spirit, you can chart a different course. There is no such thing as a generational curse.

For e.g. My father was a Muslim who became a Christian. He lost it all but he paid the price and today I’m serving Jesus Christ. He broke the generational cycle.

Application: Are you walking with Christ? Do your children and grandchildren see you walking with God? Are you breaking the cycle of generational hate for God. My job as a pastor is to help train you and especially your children and your grandchildren to make sure that Christians don’t become a minority in America. My desire is to see them capture politics and every important position that will chart the course of our nation. When Christianity leads, every person regardless of color and religion, has freedom. Are we doing enough? Are you doing enough?

 II. GENTLE KING

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth…

Background: Instead of going to Judea in the South, Joseph took Mary and the infant Jesus to Galilee in the north, to the town of Nazareth. It was a very small village with a population of 150 – 200 people. Like we would say today – “if you blink, you’ll miss it.”

But Matthew adds something else in verse 23 “…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” We have a problem – you can read the entire Old Testament and you will never find the prophecy “he shall be called a Nazarene.” Do you remember when Philip invited Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus? John 1 45 …“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Meaning: That worthless place?!! If it was in the Old Testament, Nathaniel would’ve said, “Oh really.”

Even though the prophets never used the name “Nazarene,” there was always the understanding that the Messiah would be GENTLE NOT FORCEFUL. Hence, He would be unrecognized, ridiculed, and rejected.

Zechariah 9:9 “…Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Psalm 22 6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me…”

Psalm 69 4 Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, Being my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it… 20 “…I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none…”

Isaiah 53 2 “…He has no form or comeliness; (from Old English ‘cymlic’ that means lovely or beautiful) And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

For e.g. When my father told his father that he was following Jesus Christ, he reminded him of the great family heritage we had – generation of rulers and kings and conquerors. Then he told him – “This Jesus was just a beggar. If you follow Him, you will end up a beggar and it will be up to me to receive you back or not.”

The world is offended at the Gentle King. Why did He not come with all the pomp and show? He came as the gentle Lamb of God to give His life for us. Hence some people have hated Him.

Application: What is your response to this Gentle King? Pride, Ridicule, Anger, or Humble submission.

III. GENUINE POWER

In the Book of Acts, the name “Jesus of Nazareth” was name of power.

In Preaching – Acts 2:22   “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—

In Miracles – Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

In Saving Souls – Acts 22 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 So I answered, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’

This is the name that will save our world and our nation and our community today.

HIGH NOON (ARTICLE)

HIGH NOON by Abidan Paul Shah, Henderson, NC

(This article was published in the local newspaper The Daily Dispatch on 11/2/14)

HIGH NOONIn our home if “High Noon” is on TV then it doesn’t matter what else is on! It is one of my favorite westerns that the rest of the family also loves or…so they pretend! Gary Cooper plays Will Kane, marshal of Hadleyville, New Mexico territory, who decides to give up his lawman days and marry Amy Fowler, played by Grace Kelly. No sooner does he turn in his badge that word arrives that the outlaw Frank Miller, whom Kane had captured, has been set free on technicality. As Kane is getting ready to ride off with his new bride, Miller is coming on the noon train to get revenge. The townspeople beg Kane to leave town immediately and not look back. After all, he was no longer the marshal and it was no longer his problem. But Kane is not the type to run away. He turns back, reclaims his badge, and tries to recruit some help from the townspeople. Much to his surprise – one by one they begin to make excuses, hide behind their wives, question his motives, and some are no where to be found! In the end Kane has to fight Miller and his gang alone, with only his wife to help in the very end.

Why is this movie such an All Time Classic? Is it the Oscar-winning performance? Is it the real time cinematography? I think the real answer lies in the noble ideals in the storyline – justice, honor, duty, conviction, and courage – qualities that symbolize the American spirit. While the townspeople are scramming or rolling over and playing dead, the lone hero is willing to stand his ground. He even betrays signs of apprehension – a good reminder that standing for one’s convictions does not mean the absence of fear. Kane’s motives become clear in the final scene when the townspeople come out of hiding to congratulate and he does not say a word but throws the marshal’s star in the dirt and rides off with his wife. What a challenge for us to take our stand and not run from our convictions! Unfortunately, we are living in a time when people are retreating politically, economically, defensively, and morally, and the Frank Millers keep coming. Our generation needs some Kanes who will go against the flow and do what is right, even if they have to do it all alone.

But here’s a caution – As much as I love “High Noon,” I also see the potential for misunderstanding it. One – taking a stand doesn’t mean being stuck in our ways, being bull-headed, and unwilling to change. Such behavior is another name for cowardice. Neither does it mean to be hateful and arrogant. 2 Corinthians 10 reminds us that, “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” Our weapons should be truth, love, and faith. We should stand our ground on the truth of biblical convictions regarding life, morality, and patriotism but do it in an attitude of love and compassion. It’s no use blaming the politician, the judges, or the entertainment industry. It’s too late for that! It’s time to engage our culture for Christ in a manner that will change our course. We should have the faith that we can leave this world a better place – fiscally, defensively, morally, and spiritually – for our children and our grandchildren.

Someone might say – “We’ve gone too far to turn the tide.” My challenge for you is to study history. We’ve been here before. Every time a single individual (man or woman, boy or girl) took seriously Christ’s command to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, the day was saved.

CHANGE OR DIE: A HUMBLE PLEA TO FELLOW CHURCHES (Article)

CHANGE OR DIE: A HUMBLE PLEA TO FELLOW CHURCHES (Article) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

(Published in the Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 18, 2014)

I’ve never been more conflicted about writing an article than this one. After much prayer and consultation with my lovely wife, I felt that I must write what God has laid on my heart.

Sometime back I did an online search of church buildings for sale. What I found was shocking! There were hundreds upon hundreds of church buildings – big and small, old and new – for sale all over the United States. The tragedy is no different even here. Not a day goes by that I don’t meet someone who laments – “People don’t come to church like they used to.” “If things don’t change, it’s a matter of time before we lock the doors for the last time.” Frankly, they’re right! The average church in America has fewer than 30 people on a given Sunday morning, most of them being senior adults. It won’t be long before they too will be on the real estate market.

When people ask me – “What can we do to get more young people in our church?” My answer to them is—“Change or Die.” Here are the 4 C’s that I suggest:

1. Convictions: Every church that wants to come alive must have solid convictions on key doctrines. If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then this article is not for you. If you have trouble with Jesus being the Only Way, Truth, and Life, then we’re not on the same page. If you think the Bible has errors, then there is no faith worth contending for. A church without convictions is like a ship without a rudder. It will float around until the supplies run out or the big storm hits.

2. Concern: Do you think the church is a hotel for saints or hospital for sinners? If you think the former, then you will care about your comfort and your pleasure. If you believe that the church is here to seek and to save that which was lost, then you will do whatever it takes to win every man, woman, boy, and girl to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we shouldn’t care about the needs of those in the body. It simply means that our focus should be outward. No person should be too different, no music too sacred, and no clothing too spiritual. Here’s a test: Ask yourself – Are my children and my grandchildren in church with me? Are they glad they came to the house of God? If the answer is negative, its high time you do whatever it takes to get them. If they don’t live nearby, reach others and God will send someone to reach your family, wherever they are.

3. Think Differently: You noticed that I didn’t start with a C. Aren’t we all creatures of habit! We hate change. We like things to be predictable. Now, I’m not suggesting that we tear down every tradition. As Proverbs 22:28 reminds us, “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” But we do need to set aside senseless traditions. Think about Jesus Christ – He honored His Holy Father and the Scriptures but He rejected the traditions of the scribes and the Pharisees. If you will allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in your church, He will open new opportunities and avenues for ministry that you never imagined! Rest assured that He will not bring confusion but always magnify Jesus Christ. It’s time you tip your hat to the past and roll up your sleeves to the future.

4. Commitment: Nothing happens overnight. Like that old saying – it takes 25 miles to turn a battleship around. But, if the pastor is committed to staying and the people are prayerfully willing to follow his leadership, then that church will rise from the ashes. There is incredible power in a church that loves one another and is united in vision. Oh, before I forget, let me warn you – Be prepared to be criticized, ostracized, and stigmatized. People will question your motives and doubt your ability but have faith. As Jesus promised, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

May all who come behind us find us faithful.

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN (PART 2)

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Christian_CitizenThis morning is our second message in our miniseries through Romans 13, titled, “The Christian Citizen.” Sadly, most Americans are ignorant and naïve on matters concerning government, politics, and economy. More sadly, these subjects are never addressed from the pulpit. But praise God – the Word of God does address all these issues.

Rom 13:1-5 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Overall Background:  In the passage we just read, Paul is instructing the church in Roman and all of us on taxes. You’ve heard that adage – “There are 2 things in life you can count on: Death and Taxes.” If I may add – At least death comes only once but taxes come every year! And, guess what – Its tax time! The Bible has a lot to say on this subject. It not only teaches us spiritual wisdom but also daily wisdom. It not only inspires us to keep our eyes on the heavenly city but also instructs us on how to live in the earthly city. It not only teaches us to how to organize the House of God but also instructs us on how to organize our government and politics. If we would only turn to the Bible – The Manufacturer’s Instructional Manual – we would be so much better off. So this morning we will drop anchor at Romans 13:6-7 but also catch some important principles on this subject from throughout Scripture.

With that said, there are two questions we will answer in this message:

I. WHY DO WE PAY TAXES?

Listen to verse 6 “For because of this you also pay taxes, Because of what “this” do we pay taxes? The answer to that is given in the previous verses.

#1.The rulers protect us against foreign and domestic threats. Romans 13:3 “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.” Our rulers should put fear in the hearts of those who seek to do us harm. They are there to punish those who infringe upon our life, liberty, and property, and gain restitution for the victims. Let me add – there is more to protection than just physical harm. They’re also there to protect and take care of those who are really in need. They’re also there to oversee environment protection, patent protection, product safety, fair business transactions, transportation systems, and other interests that protect and enhance our standard of living. Hence we pay them taxes to be our protectors in all this.

#2.They are there to praise those who do good. Romans 13:3 says, “Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” The rulers should reward the honest, hardworking, and good people. Hence we pay taxes to them.

Our Declaration of Independence clearly states: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.”

Let me clarify: It’s not the government’s job to create jobs. (Check out my article on this subject titled – “CREATING JOBS IS TOP PRIORITY” – ANOTHER POLITICAL JARGON.” “Employers create jobs not Government. When there is a demand for a product, employers put up a “now hiring” sign. This is backwards with the Government-created jobs program. It puts up a “now hiring” sign and then looks for some artificial demand to justify it. Recently, there has been growing talks of targeted stimulus towards infrastructure repairs, clean energy, and education. Where will the Government find money to pay these new employees? Unlike the private sector employer who withdraws from his savings to pay his employees, the Government digs into our wallet when it is time to write the paycheck. When the money runs out, the only available option is to raise the taxes on the “rich” (a.k.a. the private sector employers). What is the natural recourse for these employers? Cut backs. In the final analysis, the Government destroys jobs rather than creates them. Furthermore, Government-created jobs have no clear accountability or bottom line. Projects can drag on for decades with an endless supply of taxpayer dollars.”

As Reagan remarked on several occasions, “The most dangerous words in the English language were: ‘Hi, I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.”

II. HOW MUCH TAXES SHOULD WE PAY?

7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

So how much taxes are due? Here are some key questions (See Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem):

1.    Should we lower taxes or raise taxes? Think about Bill who earned $80,000 and has to pay 25% in taxes. That’s about $20,000 in taxes. Now if the tax rate is lowered to 20%, then he has to pay only $16,000 in taxes. What’s he going to do with the $4000 extra dollars? Bill can go on a vacation and pay for gas, hotel room, and food. Or, he can use that money to start another business. Next year Bill could be earning $110,000. If he continues to pay 20% taxes, then he owes $22,000 in taxes. That’s $2000 more to the government than last year. He may even hire Mike to be his assistant and have to pay him. Now another person has a job. Overall, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

What would happen if we raise Bill’s taxes to 30% instead? Now he has to pay $24000 in taxes. That’s $4000 less dollars to spend. Do you think Bill will go on a vacation? Of course not. Do you think Bill will invest money or try to hang on to it? Hang on to it. Do you think he will worker harder at his job? Why should he? After all, Uncle Sam is going to take more money from him!

2.  Do the rich pay their fair share? (From my article “CORPORATE JET OWNERS – SWATTING POLITICAL JARGON” in 2011) “According to the SOI (Statistics of Income) tax stats available on the IRS website, the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans paid 38.02 percent of the total income tax. If you still think that it’s not enough, here is one statistic that will blow your mind. The top 50 percent of the taxpayers pay 97% of the total income tax. This means that half of all Americans pay only 3% of the revenue! Do we still think that these wealthy “fat cats” are not paying their fair share? In fact, they are the small business owners who are the heart of American business. Seems to me that they are being penalized enough already.

…We need to stop thinking of economy as a zero sum game. This idea assumes that the economy is a fixed pie where the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. Think of a hard working and law-abiding farmer. He sweats all day under the hot sun. He hires laborers and pays them their fair wages. After the harvest, he sells his produce and gains a profit. Who did he rob? Or, how about the athlete who works hard and stays clean? Who did he rob to get that contract? Or, that talented girl who makes it big in the music industry through hard work and focus. Who did she rob?”

As long as you legally earn what you have, you should be allowed to enjoy the wealth.

Luke 19: 16-19  16 Then came the first, saying, “Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ 17 And he said to him, “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, “Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ 19 Likewise he said to him, “You also be over five cities.’

3.  Isn’t it better to raise taxes on corporations? Think for a moment – if you raise taxes on corporations, what are they going to do? They will raise the prices of their goods and services. If corporate tax goes up by 5%, the cost of products goes up by 5%. What’s more? The marginal corporate tax rate in America is 35%. Many of the Asian countries and European countries are dropping the rate so they can attract more companies overseas. We are loosing American jobs as one company after another closes to move overseas. We need more foreign investment here.

4.  Is it fair to have a progressive tax rate? This means that the higher you earn, the higher your tax rate. Let me clarify – this does not mean that if you make $10000 at 25%, you’ll pay $2500 and if you make $100000 at 25%, you’ll pay $25000. That would be nice! The more you climb the tax bracket, the higher your tax rate becomes. As a single person, if your income is not over $9,075, then 10% of the taxable income. If its over $9,075 but less than $36,900, then 10% on the $9,075 and then 15% over the excess. Then the rates keep climbing. Now if you get exemptions at lower levels of income, you may end up not paying any but getting more back in refund. How about for those on the higher level? They only end up paying more.

How was it in the Old Testament? 10% of their income to the Lord and then census tax of half a shekel.

5.  Are there other taxes? Yes! Capital Gains tax – tax on the increased value of something purchased as an investment – rental property. If a person is already paying income tax, should they also pay this? No. How about Death or Estate Tax – tax on a person’s estate after the person dies. Did not the person pay taxes while living? Then why should they be taxed again?

6.  Should everyone who earns have to pay? Yes. How about people who make very little and are trying to survive. Of course, provisions should be made for them. Jesus’ parents brought two young pigeons to be sacrificed. Why not a lamb? Because in Leviticus 12:8 it said, “And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”

It makes a difference when each American feels responsible for our nation.

Conclusion: It may seem – There’s no way people in America will ever see all this. Here’s how they can:

1. We begin to change.

2. We begin to take a stand.

GIve to Caesar3. We give God the best. Matthew 22:15-22  15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.  16And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.  17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20   And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21   They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

4. We reach people with the gospel – the only way to have a good and honest and just and hardworking citizen is by leading him/her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Christian_CitizenFor the next couple of weeks we will be in Romans 13 for a miniseries, titled, “The Christian Citizen.” Sometime back I was riding with a couple of guys and we began to discuss the role of Christians in government and politics. I was not prepared for all the negatives I heard – “Christians should stay out of politics.” “We’re not of this world.” “It doesn’t really matter how you vote.” “We need to only focus on the gospel” “This world will soon burn up anyways.” Needless to say, it was very disheartening for me. This morning let’s see what God’s Word has to teach on this subject.

Romans 13:1-5   1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

The passage we just read has puzzled scholars for a long time. Why did Paul include chapter 13 in his letter? All of chapter 12 deals with our interaction with fellow Christians. All of chapter 14 and beyond again deals with our interaction with fellow Christians. But chapter 13 in the middle focuses on our interaction with the government and rulers and authorities. It appears to be out of place. But the more you study it you realize that Paul through the Holy Spirit had a very good reason for this.

Paul has been teaching us a lot about love and forgiveness and showing hospitality and not taking vengeance and not being overcome by evil but overcoming evil with good. All these values and principles are wonderful for our individual lives and personal relationships but when it comes to society in general, we need certain rules and boundaries and obligations and consequences. Without them our society will fall apart. Furthermore, you can have all the rules, boundaries, obligations, and consequences but if you don’t have godly rulers and authorities and government to enforce them then it will not work.

This message is vital for us living in this great nation in 2014. Let me ask you:

–       Would you agree that we are living in a time when people have lost faith in government and have for a while?

–       Would you agree that it does make a difference who is in authority?

–       Would you agree that majority of our young people have no clue about the issues that are taking place?

–       Would you agree that we are loosing our cherished freedoms because we haven’t spoken out as we should have?

Paul is teaching the Christians in Rome what it means to be good Christian Citizens.

3 important points we will see in this passage:

I. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD SEEK GOD’S WILL IN THIS WORLD.

Before we jump in to Romans 13, we need to backup to Romans 12:2 for a moment. That is the verse that sets the tone for the entire application section. It says, “And do not be conformed to this world (age). Meaning: The people of this world have their set of beliefs and values. Don’t let them squeeze you into their mold. Instead, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Meaning: Let there be an individual mind transformation. What next? “that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God – the GAP Test. Meaning: As you resist this world and are being transformed in your mind, go out and prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Most of us only think of God’s will in our personal context – work, relationships, health, etc. But the passage does not limit God’s will to only our personal lives. It also extends into the world.

God has a will for our world. Do you remember how Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6? “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Meaning: In heaven God’s will is always done. Our prayer is that God’s will would also be done on earth. That means that God’s will is not always done on earth. Some people like to say – “God’s will is always done.” That’s not true. If it were so, Jesus would not have asked His disciples to pray for it. Let me ask you a question – “Is it God’s will for babies to be aborted?” “Is it God’s will for people to loose their jobs?” “Is it God’s will for the institution of the family to be torn down?” “Is it God’s will for someone to rob you and get away?” Of Course Not!

When our mind is renewed, we will not only prove God’s will in our personal lives but we will also prove it in our community, our nation, and our world. We will become a Catalyst for proving God’s will on the earth. No wonder Paul put Romans 13 right in the middle. He is telling us “Don’t run from the world but go into the world and help prove the will of God for the world.”

What will this world look like then? Good and Acceptable and Perfect.

Declaration of IndependenceOur Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

Application: Do you think the world around you is good, acceptable, and perfect? Do you think our neighborhood is good, acceptable, and perfect? Is our nation and our government doing what is good, acceptable, and perfect will of God? Don’t blame the community, government, and the world for it. Let’s look into the mirror. The reason we are in a mess is because we as Christians have failed to make a difference.

Are you willing to take the blame for failing to prove God’s will in our community, our nation, and our world?

II. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE THAT GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL AUTHORITY.

1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Meaning: God is the source of all authority and order and He has placed every ruler in that position.

This was perfectly demonstrated in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. This King was ruthless and had taken the Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar DreamJewish people into exile. What Nebuchadnezzar did not know was that God had chosen him for that. (Jeremiah 27:6-7) Through Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego he had come to know the living and true God. He had acknowledged that there was no other God than the god of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But one day, he was walking in his royal palace and in pride he said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” 31 While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!  32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” The Bible says that very hour God’s word was fulfilled.

At the end of the 7 years, Nebuchadnezzar repented and he was restored and he made a commitment to always follow the King of heaven.

Another example comes from the New Testament when Jesus stood before Pilate as the chief priests and the scribes kept instigating the crowd to crucify Him. Jesus stood silent and Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:10-11 In other words, Jesus was saying, “You’re trying to help me? You are powerless. I gave you that scepter.”

Paul goes on to say in verse 2, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. At this time, Christians were not a majority. They were a growing minority where the governing authorities were pagan. Paul is instructing the Christians to submit to those in authority since God is the real person in authority.

What does that mean for us who live in America in 2014?

–       We need to make sure we elect people in authority who will represent God the best.

–       We need to respect all those in authority and teach our children to do the same.

–       We need to pray for all those in authority and encourage them whether local, state, or national.

III. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD SUBMIT AS UNTO THE LORD.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.

Background: Paul explains here that submission to authority is based on certain assumptions. The rulers are not to be a terror to good works. Their purpose is to encourage the good and punish the bad.

Eisenhower at Ohrdruf Concentration CampFor e.g. Immediately our mind goes to someone like Adolph Hitler who not only killed six million Jewish people but he also massacred other nationalities and even his own people.

Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  Hitler was a terror to the good people and raised the evil in power.

4 For he is God’s minister to you for good.

Paul uses the title God’s Minister to describe the person in governing authority.

Application: When you elect somebody are you looking for someone who comes the closest to being God’s Minister?

But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Meaning: There is something called evil. The ruler, whether born again Christian or not, can recognize that its evil, wrong, bad for society, and bad for our future.

5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

Application: When you elect somebody, will it be good for your conscience to obey them? Do what they believe line up with the Word of God?

Government, Politics, and Authorities have a major role to play in our spiritual life.

How seriously do we take that? Every time I hear someone say, I don’t care about politics, I don’t pick parties, I don’t vote, I think how ignorant and how reckless and how spiritually immature.

Christians should be involved in the political process because conscience is at stake.

I. As Christian Citizens, we should Seek God’s Will in this World. 2. As Christian Citizens, we should recognize that God is the Source of all Authority. 3. As Christian Citizens, we should evaluate our Authorities based on God’s Standards.

Application: Are you praying for our local authorities, state authorities, and national authorities? Are you seeking to glorify God in being a good citizen? Are you a citizen of the heavenly city?

THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE

THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

THANKSGIVING - AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFEThis is Thanksgiving week and so this morning I am preaching a message from Romans 1, titled – “THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE.” Recently, I asked some people, “What things are uniquely American?” I got all kinds of answers – baseball, BBQ, jazz music, blue jeans, and many more. Yet, there is one thing that tops them all. It is “Thanksgiving.”

Rom. 1:18-25  18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Overall Background:  Thanksgiving is a uniquely American phenomenon. There’s nothing like it in any other part of the world. You see harvest festivals and moon festivals but it’s nothing like Thanksgiving in America. You ask – “What’s the difference?” Thanksgiving in America is not about the harvest. It’s not just the celebration by the farmers in America. Everybody from NASA scientists to construction workers to schoolteachers to hospital nurses celebrate Thanksgiving. This coming week, as many as 40 million Americans will travel on or before Thanksgiving Day in order to be with our family and friends.

  • We will sit together, no matter if we get along or not.
  • We will laugh or cry and eat till we pop. We try to tell ourselves that after Thanksgiving we will go back on our diet.
  • Many of us will bow our heads in thanks for the blessings of loved ones, health, job, freedom, and life itself.

Why is Thanksgiving so important in America? Let me first give you some reasons that people think it’s important but they are not the real reasons.

Don't Taste Me Bro!

#1.Let’s throw out the obvious one – Americans hate turkeys. Not true. Let me make a quick point here. It’s all right to eat meat. Some people think that it was not until after the Fall or after the Flood that God gave us permission to eat meat. Not true. In the very first chapter of Genesis, God gave them to us for food. He told Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:29 that He had given every herb and every tree for food. In the very next verse (30), He adds that every beast of the earth, every bird of the air, and every thing that creeps on the earth (and earlier He also mentions fish of the sea) are also for food. It helps when you read it in the original language. If you remember, Abel was a shepherd, who brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. Meaning – Right from the beginning, people understood what was the best meat. When God came to visit Abraham, He ate meat. While it’s wonderful to love animals and have them as pets, it’s not wrong to have them for food, just as it’s wonderful to have a potted plant and then eat salad.

If you don’t eat meat, that’s fine. Just don’t think that it’s nobler to abstain from meat.

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe#2.Some people think that it is because the pilgrims celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” with the Indians and thus set the tradition for generations to come. Not true. It is quite possible that the pilgrims might have celebrated some form of harvest festival with the Native Americans; but the evidence regarding that event comes from barely few fragments, which are not very clear about any grand thanksgiving celebration. Later writers and painters have embellished much of what we have come to think of the “First Thanksgiving.” They are not strong enough motivators for us to take red-eye flights or drive in the dead of night to avoid getting stuck in thanksgiving traffic.

#3.Some people even think that it is because our government has instituted “Thanksgiving Day.” Not really again. It is true that President Washington issued a proclamation that November 26, 1789 be celebrated as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.” It is also true that President Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the National day of Thanksgiving and later the Congress passed a law ensuring the celebration of the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day every year. Nevertheless, our moms and grandmas don’t slave over a hot stove for three days in order to comply with some government mandate. It’s not because it’s a National Holiday. After all, most of us Americans don’t take kindly to state sponsored religion.

#4.So, what is the real reason? Is it the food? Is it the family? Is it the urge for us to shop till we drop on “Black Friday?” I don’t think so.

While there is some truth in all of them, I think the reason is much deeper. The real reason we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving is because deep in our psyche we know that all we are and all we have is from above. Somehow we know that we don’t deserve this. Somehow we know that God is the source of all our blessings. Somehow we know that God in His goodness either carried us to the finish line or moved the finish line a little closer for us. Somehow God has brought us through difficult times as a nation and continues to guide us. Somehow we know that there is a divine hand that is guiding our lives and our nation – what Ravi Zacharias calls the “Grand Weaver.”

Let me clarify:

–       This does not mean that every person sitting around the dinner table will be choking back tears of gratitude.

–       This does not mean that every person who is grateful will have the same level of gratefulness.

–       This does not mean that people in other parts of the world are unappreciative and ungrateful.

–       This does not mean that other people don’t recognize some sovereign deity.

–       This does not mean that every American is a Christian.

–       This does not mean that God is okay with our sin and immorality.

What it does mean is that Americans, as a people, recognize that God has been good and gracious towards us, even though we don’t deserve it. That makes God happy. It pleases Him when we are thankful to Him.

Let’s look at Romans 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Background: Some people read that passage and immediately think that every sinner is under the wrath of God. Listen again to that verse – The wrath of God is over all those who suppress (hinder, block, hold down) the truth of God. They know better but they do it anyways. Now don’t get me wrong—we are all born “dead in trespasses and sins.” We are all hell bound. We are all sinners with a sin nature.

David says in Psalms 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Paul says in Romans 5:19 “. . . by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners . . .” Every person who comes into this world comes with a sin nature. Every sinner has a judgment waiting for him/her. Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”

But the wrath of God is something much more. Romans 1:18 is not just about any sinner. It’s about the boastful, arrogant, defiant sinner, who shakes his/her fist towards heaven. Listen to verse 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

God has given us enough reasons to know that He is there and He made it all and all that we have is a gift from Him.

–       Human Beings have been looking at the Sky for centuries and know that someone made them and put them there. Night Sky1One of the French revolutionaries boasted to a peasant, “We are going to pull down all that reminds you of God.” To which the peasant replied, “Then, you better pull down the stars.”

–       Human Beings have been looking at the Earth for centuries: perfect distance from the sun; any closer and it would be too hot; any further and it would be too cold. Any closer and all the water would boil away; any further and all water will freeze. Any smaller and oxygen will leave and we would have no atmosphere; any larger and poisonous chemicals will stay in our atmosphere. God made it just right.

–       Human Beings have been looking at the beautiful creation around them for centuries—the beautiful trees and flowers; beautiful animals and birds and sea creatures.

–       Human Beings have been looking at each other for centuries. How complex and beautiful are human beings. Our human heart beats 100,000 times a day. That comes to about 2,500 million times over 70 years. It pumps enough blood in a lifetime to fill the Empire State building. The heart is a maintenance-free pump that can function throughout life without replacing any parts.

Normal Rockwell Thanksgiving

We as Americans have recognized this and we also know that the reason we stand as a nation is by the grace of God:

–       Our National motto is “In God We Trust.”

–       The 4th stanza of the Star Spangled Banner says: “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

–       The 4th stanza of My Country ‘Tis of Thee says: “Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.”

–       Our Pledge of Allegiance still says that we are “One Nation Under God.”

Why do I bring all this up? Because as long as we are grateful to the Almighty God for all our blessings, there is still hope for us as a nation. As long as the Spirit of Gratitude towards God abides in us, the Spirit of God abides upon us.

What happens to the people that refuse to acknowledge God? Listen to verse 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,  23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,  25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

When people ask me if America’s glory days are over, I remind them to keep their eyes on Thanksgiving Day. As long as Thanksgiving remains a part of the American way of life, we are still a “shining city upon a hill.”

Application: Are you thankful for the blessing of living in this nation? Are you thankful? For your blessings (material, health, family)?

For e.g. Sometime back I was sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. Suddenly, the door leading to the inside opened and I heard this heavy breathing. I saw a social worker or home healthcare nurse, holding this young man by the arm and leading him. Even though he was walking on his own, he could not control his movements/motor skills. I jumped up and opened the door leading out of the waiting room into the hallway. As I walked back to my seat, the lady sitting next to Nicole and me said – “We have so much to be thankful for. We take so much for granted.”

There is something much greater than material and physical blessings. It is the blessing of hope, forgiveness, and peace through Jesus Christ.

IF THE FOUNDATIONS ARE DESTROYED (Article)

IF THE FOUNDATIONS ARE DESTROYED (Article in the Local Newspaper) by Abidan Paul Shah

“If the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”  – Psalm 11:3

We are living in a time when old values and beliefs are under attack. We are being told that there is a new world coming, whether we like it or not. We are being advised to abandon all hope of ever returning to the old. In fact, they are warning us that the new order has no place for us and it would be safer for us to seek refuge in some remote hideaway. This is a time very similar to when David wrote the opening words of Psalm 11.

1 In the Lord I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain? 2 For look! The wicked bend their bow,
they make ready their arrow on the string,
that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. 3 If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”

We do not know the exact setting of this psalm. Maybe David wrote it in his earlier life when he was dodging King Saul. Maybe he wrote it when he was battling against the Philistines. Or maybe he wrote it as he was fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom. No matter what prompted David to write this psalm, one thing is for sure – they are words full of hopelessness and fear. They are a call to retreat; they are a signal to fall back and withdraw; they remind us of the words we are hearing today.

Keep in mind that these are not David’s words. He is quoting the counsel of his so-called friends. How did David respond to them? He rejected their advice and, instead, chose to look up. What did he see? 4 The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men. 5 The Lord tests the righteous,
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. 6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals;
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. 7 For the Lord is righteous,
He loves righteousness;
His countenance beholds the upright.

WOW! What a change in scenery! While down on earth everything was in despair, up in heaven everything was in control! God was not for a moment disheveled by the happenings on earth. As the famous preacher Robert G. Lee would say, “God is not a bewildered bellhop running up and down the corridors of the hotel He created trying to find His key!” In fact, His purposes were moving just fine—for the righteous, it was a time for testing; for the wicked, it was a time for judgment. David did not have run but simply rest in the promise that God loved Him and had His eyes upon him.

In America, we are seeing an attack against many of our foundations – Bible, prayer, Judeo-Christian values, family, liberty, etc. Psalm 11 calls us to look up and see that God still has His hand upon our nation. We are to examine our hearts and see if there is any wickedness in us. We are to step out of our hiding place and be the salt and light in our community. We are to rebuild our families and marriages according to biblical standards. We are to labor until every boy, girl, man, and woman finds peace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

“From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.”

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