Under God – Part Two by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God Part Two

UNDER GOD (2) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction:  This past week our family made a quick trip to the Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a very relaxing time. In some ways, it was like travelling back in time with horse drawn plows, horse buggies, and farm life. The best part for our children was playing with the farm animals at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. I think Nicole had just as much fun! On the way back, we stopped at the Gettysburg Battlefield, a place I had always wanted to visit. This was the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. In just 3 days (July 1-3, 1863), as many as 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers either died, were wounded, or went missing. The little town of Gettysburg had no idea that a chance encounter between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would forever change their lives. In a matter of just days, their peaceful farmland was turned into a bloody battlefield. Bodies were lying everywhere. Every home, church, and public building was turned into a hospital. The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves. Four months later, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. As I stood on that battlefield, I thought to myself how the people at the time must have felt when they saw the devastation of lives and land. They may have felt like the United States of America was history. They may have felt like our glory days were over. What many people don’t know is that 75 years later in 1938, about 1800 veterans of that same battle came together on that same battlefield. Some were now 90 years old. They shook hands and pledged allegiance to the same American flag. Here’s my point: No matter what is happening in our nation today, don’t lose heart. We are still “One Nation Under God” and our best days are ahead. We need to look to the sovereign God for healing and hope. This is the focus of the second part of our message titled “UNDER GOD.”

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”

Context: If you remember from last week, Psalm 33 is connected to Psalm 32. This connection indicates that before we can talk about “Blessed is the nation,” we need to talk about “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In other words, before we can talk about how much we need God’s blessing as nation, we need to talk about how much we need God’s forgiveness as individual believers. Keep in mind that this is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. He did not write some cheap poetry, but he gave us what God desires from us. Once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, then we can see that God is our hiding place and we don’t have to live in fear. Instead, we are to look to him and follow his guiding eye. We can see that he loves righteousness and justice. Listen once again to Psalm 33    4 “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice…” In our nation today, people are calling for justice, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, we are not calling for righteousness, which is just as important. In fact, we want justice without righteousness. God demands both.

We need a change in perspective on God. For starters, we need to remember that God is not subject to us. He is a sovereign God. First, he is sovereign over his creation. 5 “…The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. (Land, Plants, and Animals) 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. (Sun, Moon, Stars, and Universe) 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. (Waters, Fish, Sea Creatures) 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. It’s one thing to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, but how about his sovereignty over nations and people? 10 “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.” First, the word for nation is “goy,” which has more of a political meaning. Second, the word for peoples is “am,” which has more of an ethnic meaning. In other words, whether it is an organized nation or an organized group, if they God against God’s sovereign will, he will “pur,” frustrate their plans, and he will “nu,” hinder and prevent them.

Question: Are we seeking to achieve our goals and our plans in this world? God will bring them to nothing. Instead, we have to accept verse 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

Now comes our focal verse—12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” There are 2 different decisions here: First, a nation has chosen God. Second, God has chosen the nation. You’ve heard me say this time and again. Our nation was built to be under God. Our Founding Fathers were not perfect people but they definitely believed that God was the source of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence begins with this preamble – “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.” Our Constitution does not directly mention God but he is assumed and implied. The 2 documents had different goals but they both chose God as the source of blessing for our nation.

But, God also has to choose us as a nation. In my view, America has been a source of good throughout her brief history. Has everything been perfect? Of course not. Nonetheless, God has been guiding us with his eye. 13 “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.” We have to choose to see that? Have you heard of the “All-seeing eye” or the “Eye of Providence?” You can see it on the back of a $1 bill. It is on the top of a pyramid with 13 layers, representing the 13 original colonies. Over the capstone are the words “Annuit Coeptis,” which means “Favors Undertakings” or “God has favored our undertakings.”

God is not only omnipresent and omniscient, but he also actively shapes us. 15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. This is not just in a personal context but in a national context as well. 16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army. A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” God shaped the hearts of our Founding Fathers so they could design a nation like no other. God gave them the wisdom to design a nation that would not be under the tyranny of a monarch. We all know that the Revolutionary War was fought against the strong and coercive measures by King George of England against the colonies. Neither did the Founding Fathers want a nation under the tyranny of the multitude. They didn’t want to set up a democracy like the ancient Greeks. That was just majority rule. They didn’t want that. Can you imagine what it would be like if the majority in a society made decisions only for themselves and not for the minority? What if the majority wanted to enslave the minority? What could we do to make sure that the majority could be kept in check? The Founding Fathers were not only trying to prevent the tyranny of a king, but they were also trying to prevent the tyranny of the majority. They came up with 8 block and tackle measures to keep the majority in check (I’m getting most of this from Dinesh D’Souza’s recent book “The United States of Socialism”):

  1. A Written Constitution: Unlike England’s common law, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution, a supreme charter that would override the will of the majority. This would keep the government in check. This could be amended but the process is very difficult.
  2. The Bill of Rights: This was added to put a series of limitations on the government that begin with “Congress shall make no law”—
  • no law restricting speech, or the press, or the free exercise of religion
  • Citizens have the right to assemble, to bear arms, and enjoy the due process of the law, and to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure
  1. The Supreme Court: They can strike down those federal laws that go against the Constitution and protect the rights of the citizens against the majority.
  2. Representative Government: People elect leaders who represent them. If you don’t like your leaders, then elect others at the next term.
  3. Separation of Powers: Power is divided between 3 branches—
  • Legislative with elected officials in the House of Representatives and Senate, together forming the Congress. Their job is to make the laws;
  • Executive with the President of the United States who acts as the head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He implements and enforces the law by appointing heads of federal agencies and Cabinet;
  • Judiciary with power to arbitrate and resolve legal disputes. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  1. Federalism: Power is divided between the national government and state government.
  2. Checks and Balances: Congress makes laws but the President can veto them. To overturn a veto, it requires congressional supermajority. The President can enforce the laws but the congress and the judiciary branches provide oversight. The judges interpret the Constitution, but they are appointed by the President and confirmed the Senate.
  3. The Electoral College and the 2 branches of the legislature – the House and the Senate: The President, members of the Congress, and senators are elected by the people. However, the Electoral College makes sure that the bigger states with more people do not decide the presidency. Each state has 2 senators a piece but the smaller ones have fewer congressional representatives.

The point is that our Founding Fathers wanted to create a nation that would be fair to everyone. By God’s hand, they came up with an amazing system of checks and balances. They wanted to make sure that “might will not make right.” Our nation fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery. But, in each generation, our leaders knew that this would happen but the nation would go on because it was built on the right foundation. Lincoln acknowledged this in the Gettysburg Address (Video):

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

How much clearer can we get!

Let’s read the final words of the psalm—18 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. (In God We Trust.)22 Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

Are you praying for our nation? Are you hoping in his mercy on our nation? Are you saved?

Under God by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God

UNDER GOD by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Lately, I’ve heard a lot of “I can’t believe what’s happening in our country” and “We need a lot of prayers as a nation.” I agree—It is sad what’s happening in our nation and we do need a lot of prayers. But, sometimes, I also hear things like “America is a horrible nation” and “Other nations are so much better than us in this or that.” Once in a while, a Hollywood actor will also claim that he/she is leaving America. I want to ask them “How soon can you make that happen!” To be honest, most of these people won’t last 5 minutes out there! And, I’m not talking about living in some gated resort or on a movie set. Here’s my point: America is not a perfect nation. It has its faults. Having said that, I still believe that it is the greatest nation on earth. The secret of our success in the face of some incredible odds is that we were built on the foundation of “One Nation Under God.” It is up to us, the church, to fix our faults by God’s help and continue to be that “One Nation Under God.” That’s the title of our message today—UNDER GOD—from Psalm 33:12. Let’s turn there. By the way, this is part 1.

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” This verse is often invoked as the source of our Christian or godly heritage in America. It’s essence can be found in some very important places. First, it can be seen on our nation’s monuments, like the capstone on the Washington Monument has the words “Laus Deo,” which is Latin for “Praise be to God.” In the Capital Building, over the east doorway of the Senate Chamber are the words “Annuit coeptis,” which is Latin for “God has favored our undertakings.” The same statement is also found on the Great Seal of the United States. Then, the slogan “In God We Trust” is found over the south entrance of the Senate Chamber, in the House Chamber (Behind the President in the State of the Union address), and on our money. Then, our Pledge of Allegiance also carries the phrase “One Nation Under God.” All these examples show that Psalm 33:12 is a very important scripture for us as Christians in America. Even if the verse is not quoted, the idea is everywhere.

Personal Testimony: Having grown up in a country that was not built on this verse, I can attest that this nation is unlike any nation on the face of this planet.

Context: Before we start studying this verse to see how it applies to us as a nation today with all that’s going on, we need to back up and notice that this psalm does not have a title or a superscription like the other psalms around it. In other words, we don’t know for sure who wrote this psalm or why it was written. But, there is some evidence from early manuscripts from Qumran that this was probably a psalm of David. Then, why was this description omitted in the other manuscripts? Maybe, it was because Psalm 33 was seen as a continuation of Psalm 32. It was understood that they were connected. To understand that we need to notice the similarities between the last verse of Psalm 32 and the first verse ofPsalm 33. Listen carefully to Psalm 32:11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Now, listen carefully to how the very next psalm begins—Psalm 33:1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” Did you hear the similarities? In fact, in the Hebrew, the same exact word “ranen” is used for “shouting for joy,” “tsedek” for righteous, and “yasher” for upright.

What does all this mean for us? Before we can start talking about “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” in Psalm 33 we need to make sure we are in line with what Psalm 32 has to say. What is Psalm 32 saying? A Psalm of David. A Contemplation.”Meaning: David, the man after God’s own heart, has written these words. 1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Before we can talk about being blessed as a nation, we need to talk about the blessing of being forgiven. 2 “Blessed isthe man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”In just these 2 verses, three different words are used to designate evil: “Pesha” = rebellion against God; “Chatah” = sin, turning away from the true path; “Hawon” = distortion, absence of respect for God’s will. What is needed? Confession and Repentance. What happens if this is not done? 3 “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.” In recent days, we are seeing a lot of people talking and screaming, but we are not saying what needs to be said. What needs to come out of our mouths are words of repentance! 4 “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Can you feel the heaviness of sin?

Now begins his Confession and Repentance. 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. 6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him.”Notice: The command to pray is to the godly, the righteous. Maybe, the reference here is to Noah’s flood. If so, then we are to stand in the gap for others. We are to pray in confession and repentance for our collective sins:

  • removing prayer and Word of God from our schools;
  • legalizing abortion, the killing of unborn children;
  • redefining human sexuality, marriage, and family;
  • glorifying sex and violence through entertainment;
  • living self-centered and complacent lives;
  • embracing any and every view that is sent our way without checking with the Word of God.

We are facing the consequences of decades of these decisions.

Will we be okay? 7 “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Like Dad guiding me in how I should be at the dinner table with special guests.

9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.” It seems like we went from one pandemic to another, from a physical to a cultural pandemic. Could it be that God is using this time to harness and draw his people to himself? Are we being mule-headed and stubborn? 10 “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.” When proper confession and repentance happens, then comes verse 11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” The problem with us is that we want verse 11 without going through verses 1-10.

Question: Have your transgressions been forgiven? Have your sins been covered? Have you truly asked God what he is doing in your life and our nation through these pandemics?

Having gone through Psalm 32, we can now begin Psalm 33     1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” 2 Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. 4 For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; (tsedek and mishpath) The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

Next week we will look in detail on how the founding of our nation was based on the values that come from this book.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you forgiven? Have you repented of your sins? Are you praying for healing in our nation?

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.”

Marvelous by Dr. Abidan Shah

Marvelous.jpg

MARVELOUS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Recently, I was on Twitter when a statement caught my eye. I didn’t know the person making the statement but based on his profile, it seemed that he believed like I did about biblical/ethical/moral values. He said (I am paraphrasing), “Why does Abortion always have to become the main issue? There are other issues that are just as critical.” When I read that, I was like, “Maybe, we don’t agree as much as I thought we did, or, maybe, you’ve lost your moral compass, if you ever had one.” As I was about to dismiss that statement as an anomaly, I saw another one just like it! This one said (again, I’m paraphrasing)—“Abortion is used as the trump card (no pun intended) to get voters to abandon all other issues and vote a certain way.” Again, based on this person’s profile, I would have assumed that we would’ve had similar values. Here’s the heart of the message: Abortion is not about politics. Abortion is not about rights. Abortion is not about science and technology or health and quality of life. Abortion is ultimately about God. With that in mind, our message today is titled “MARVELOUS.”

Psalm 139    13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and thatmy soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Question: Do you believe that you have been fearfully and wonderfully made by God? Do you believe that human life is marvelous? Do you have eternal life? Are you saved?

Background: Many of you may not realize but today is the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday or Weekend. Forty-Seven years ago, on January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in all 50 states. It’s popularly known as Roe v. Wade. On January 9, 1989, President Reagan issued a proclamation designating that day as the first Sanctity of Human Life Day. Since then, every third Sunday (weekend) in January is recognized by churches all across our country as a day to give special emphasis to God’s gift of life, to remember the lives lost due to abortion, and to commit ourselves to speaking out for human life at every stage. Today’s message is again a little different than how I typically preach but it’s one that we need to hear, especially the younger generation. The further we get away from our biblical foundation, the harder it is for people, even some Christians, to understand the importance of certain convictions like the value of the unborn child.

With that in mind, let’s go back to the psalm we just read, Psalm 139. It is known as a psalm of David. As you know, David was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). So, here in Psalm 139, David gives us God’s heart on the unborn child. I want you to notice especially the language he uses to describe God’s creation process of the unborn child. It is beyond beautiful! Shakespeare, Milton, and Elliot have nothing on him! Listen again to verse 13 “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” I don’t have time to pause at every single word and look at its meaning from Hebrew, just the important ones. For starters, David doesn’t say “my parents formed my inward parts” or “the coming together of the sperm and the egg formed me.” He says, “God, you formed me.” Listen carefully: A married couple can come together in love or two strangers can hook up in lust, the forming of life is God’s work. Bringing life inside the mother’s womb can only be done by the life-giver. He holds the copyright on life. “You covered me in my mother’s womb.” David uses a very special word to describe this process, “sakhed,” which is not really “cover.” It should actually be translated “weave.” David is depicting God as the grand weaver who actually knits every child carefully inside the mother’s womb. In other words, God is intricately involved in the development of every child in every womb ever since the beginning of time!

14 “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” The Hebrew word for “marvelous” is “palah,” which can be translated as “surpassing,” “extraordinary,” “beyond one’s power to do,” “wonderful,” and “marvelous.” David is praising God for his marvelous work in creating life. 15 “My frame (skeletal structure) was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret…” The Hebrew word for “secret” is “sether,” which means the “hiding place” or “secret place.” The point here is not a hideout but a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend. “And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” The Hebrew word for “skillfully wrought” is “rekhem,” which means “using different colors, textures, and patterns to make a special cloth. In other words, God makes every child unique and beautiful in his/her own way, even if there are disabilities. The disabilities are not because he failed but because we live in a broken world. His work is still perfect!

Finally, verse 16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.” The Hebrew word for “substance” is “golem,” which means the embryo. It has the idea of an “unfinished vessel.”“And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there werenone of them.” In other words, even before a child is born, even before they are in an embryonic form, all their days, not necessarily their individual decisions but all God’s providential acts designed for that life, are written out in God’s chronicles.

So, what do we gather from Psalm 139?

  • God holds the copyright on every life.
  • God makes every life intricately and lovingly.
  • God’s marvelous work should cause us to praise him.
  • God supervises the entire developmental process of every life.
  • God marvelous work in bringing life can never be fully understood.
  • God makes every child unique and beautiful, even if there are disabilities.
  • God records beforehand his providential acts for every life even before birth.

Abortion goes against this entire list. People may say – Abortion is about a women’s right to choose; it’s about population control; or it’s about the quality of life. No matter how people support abortion, it ultimately contradicts everything about God because it is philosophically based on an anti-God premise. To understand this, we have to look at the roots of the American Abortion Movement. Margaret Sanger, the first president of Planned Parenthood, which provides the most abortion in the world, wrote a book titled “Pivot of Civilization.” If you want to know about the roots of this movement, here are just a few examples:

  • Regarding the poor, blind, deaf, mute, and those intellectually disabled: “When we learn further that the total number of inmates in public and private institutions in the State of New York—in alms-houses, reformatories, schools for the blind, deaf and mute, in insane asylums, in homes for the feeble-minded and epileptic—amounts practically to less than sixty-five thousand, an insignificant number compared to the total population, our eyes should be opened to the terrific cost to the community of this dead weight of human waste.”
  • Regarding the poor and disabled people: It sees that the most responsible and most intelligent members of society are the less fertile; that the feeble-minded are the more fertile. Herein lies the unbalance, the great biological menace to the future of civilization. Are we heading to biological destruction, toward the gradual but certain attack upon the stocks of intelligence and racial health by the sinister forces of the hordes of irresponsibility and imbecility?”
  • In her magazine, Birth Control Review, an article was published by Dr. Ernst Rudin, a Nazi doctor in the Eugenics movement advocating racial hygiene among the Germans. There were other articles advocating ethnic cleansing of American Gypsies and Defective Families. Sanger openly praised Hitler’s policy of racial cleansing and Hitler admired her work. Such racial science fit perfectly with Hitler’s agenda of cleansing the society of the weak and disabled, then moving on to those ethnicities that were unwanted, starting with the gypsies and ending with six million Jewish people being sent to the gas chambers.
  • In the 1930s, Sanger began the “Negro Project.” It started with handing out contraception and then culminated in promoting abortion to control the race.

I can go on and on. The point is not that everyone who is pro-abortion is cruel and racist. What it does mean is that the philosophy behind abortion is one that denigrates and devalues human life, especially the weak, the poor, the disabled, and the minorities. All this is ultimately about claiming that it is my right to decide what happens. As I said, “Abortion is ultimately about God” because–

  • Abortion tries to steal God’s copyright on life.
  • Abortion reduces life to just a biochemical process.
  • Abortion seeks to praise only self.
  • Abortion denies the beauty of the developmental process.
  • Abortion understands life only through personal and collective convenience.
  • Abortion rejects the uniqueness of every child.
  • Abortion destroys God’s chronicles of every life. It brutally murders the child before they even have a chance to live out the days fashioned for them.

What does all this mean for us as believers, as the church? Do we believe that life is God’s gift? Do we believe that he gets to first and the final say on life? Jesus came to die even for the unborn. To terminate that pregnancy, is to terminate the opportunity from that life to receive Christ and live out the days fashioned for him/her by God.

Invitation: Today is the day to repent if you have believed wrongly. Today is the day to pray for our nation and for the unborn. Today is the day to give our lives to Christ.

Righteous Nation by Pastor Abidan Shah

RIGHTEOUS NATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Many nations are known for that one thing or two that that they do really well. What comes to your mind when you think of Switzerland? Swiss army knives or swiss cheese. Egypt? Pyramids. Brazil? Amazon jungle. China? Population. Maybe India too. Afghanistan? War. Botswana? Safari or Diamonds. Italy? Food. How about our own nation, the United States? Freedom and Opportunity. Do you know of any nation that is known for “Righteousness?” Unfortunately, no. From God’s perspective, righteousness is the secret to success as a nation. The timeline of history is littered with nations and peoples that have ceased to be, not because of famine, earthquake, pollution, or deforestation, but, because of unrighteousness.

Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sinisa reproach to anypeople.”

Question: Are we an unrighteousness nation? Are we doing all we can to make our nation a righteous nation? Will our children and grandchildren thank us or curse us for how we are leaving this nation? Righteousness comes through Christ. Are you saved?

Context:The passage we just read comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Sometimes people treat this book as second class compared to Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Daniel, or any of the New Testament books. I’ve even heard people say something like – “The proverbs are not the promises of God but just general truths or observations about life.” Listen to Jeremiah 18:18 “… for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet…” In the context, this statement was being used negatively against Jeremiah but it gives us the breakdown of the word of God. We know what the law and prophecy are but what is the counsel of the wise? Again, God says in Ezekiel 7:26“Then they will seek a vision from a prophet; but the law will perish from the priest, and counsel from the elders.”Counsels are the proverbs, wise sayings. A proverb is a short saying that teaches us how to deal with practical, every day, ordinary issues in life. Someone said that the proverbs in the Bible are designed by God to fit into out mental pockets as we go through our day to day life.In his lifetime, Solomon spoke about 3000 proverbs. In this book we have only about 800 of them. He wrote most of them and collected the rest. Don’t read them as the wisdom of Solomon. Read them as the wisdom of Christ.Paul says in I Corinthians 1:24“to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”Colossians 2:3“in whom (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Each of these proverbs is coming through the treasury of Jesus.

Back to our scripture today – Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sinisa reproach to anypeople.” Let’s take apart that statement and look at the meaning of each word carefully:

1. Righteousness – (tsedek) It refers to our subjection to the divine universal order of things that has existed since creation and will continue till the end of time. It pertains to every aspect of life – relationships, family, children, nature, government, commerce, justice, war, etc. It is not just “certain acts” but a “pattern of life” that is given by God, required by God, and guaranteed by God. I can give you tons of references, but here’s just onePsalm 45     6Your throne, O God, isforever and ever; A scepter of righteousnessisthe scepter of Your kingdom. You loverighteousnessand hate wickedness.” It is the recognition that God is in charge and we are to do things his way. But, it’s more than just an obligation. It comes from a willing heart. One very important reminder: It’s not popular with the world. To practice it, you have to be willing to go against the flow.

The opposite of righteousness is Sin. It’s the word “chatha” which literally means “miss the mark” or “fall short.” It means missing God’s standard of righteousness.

2. Exalts – (rwm) It has many different uses but in the present context, it means success, prosperity, goodness, and longevity. We find the same word used in Psalm 27:6where David says, “And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me.”

The opposite of righteousness is Reproach. It’s the word “Chesed” which can mean kindness or shame. The idea behind it is “eager desire.” It represents “active shame.” Several times it is used in the context of being killed because of a heinous sin.

Here’s the principle: Nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies that choose to live by God’s standards of righteousness will be blessed materially, physically, educationally, culturally, and perpetually. Those who choose to sin against God will find themselves in intense shame and utter oblivion.

Let’s put this to the test. Have there been nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies who chose to disobey God’s standards?

1. Nations before the Flood: Genesis 6     5Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of manwasgreat in the earth, and thatevery intent of the thoughts of his heartwasonly evil continually. 6And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Everyone on the face of the earth were destroyed except for those who were on the ark – Noah and his family and two of every kind of animals. God gave the rainbow as a sign that he will not destroy the whole earth by water again. Now it is used as a symbol of a promiscuous lifestyle! 

2. Sodom and Gomorrah: Genesis 13     10“And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it waswell watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar…13But the men of Sodomwereexceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” As you know, God himself came (pre-incarnate Christ) with two of his angels. God stood with Abraham while the angels went into Sodom to rescue Lot and his family before the destruction. Genesis 19      4Now before they laid down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know themcarnally.”Lot even tried to offer his two daughters but they wouldn’t have it. 24Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. 25So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

3. Egypt: God sent Moses to Egypt to rescue his people from slavery. Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let them go. God sent 10 plagues against Egypt – The Nile River turned into blood. This was followed by the plagues of the frogs, lice, death of the livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness over the land. Then came the final plague – the death of the first born, both humans and animals. Exodus 12:12“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I amthe LORD.” Can you imagine the apocalyptic look of the land of Egypt? If this weren’t enough, God drowned the entire Egyptian army with their horses and chariots into the Red Sea.

4. Babylon: God had raised up Nebuchadnezzar to discipline his people Judah. He had taken them into exile. After his death, his son Belshazzar took the throne. Daniel 5      1Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. 2While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had beenin Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had beenin Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. As this is going on, the fingers of a man’s hand appear opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the king’s palace and start writing. He was shaken up (literally) that his hip joints came loose and his knees knocked against each other. Daniel was called and he interpreted the writing “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” Mene: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it. Tekel: You have been weighed and found wanting. Upharsin: Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. That very night he was killed and Cyrus entered Babylon as the new king. 

5. Greece, Herod, Rome, European Nations, and others: The pattern is the same. When Nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies choose to live by God’s standards of righteousness, they are blessed materially, physically, educationally, culturally, and perpetually. When they choose to sin against God and defy his commandments, they find themselves in intense shame and utter oblivion.

Where are we as a nation? Are we choosing righteousness? It’s easy to blame Washington, Holly Wood, or Media but if we ourselves are unwilling to live by God’s standard of righteousness, what’s the difference? 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.”

Invitation: Are you living by God’s righteousness? Are you willing to stand up in the face of opposition? Are you willing to share the gospel? Are you willing to show compassion to those around you, especially the unfortunate? Are you saved?

(Re)Setting the Record Straight (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(RE)SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 17, 2018)

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

(Re)Setting the Record Straight“America was founded as a Christian nation!” My father-in-law made that remark to me over twenty years ago. I remember hearing the frustration in his voice and being puzzled by it. I told him that I thought every American believed that. How could they not? After all, this was “One Nation Under God.” He explained to me that there were people who believed that this was never a Christian nation. To the contrary, they claimed that it was birthed in greed and selfishness with the privileged few controlling the many through fear and oppression.

I decided to research for myself. Here’s what I found: Yes, America was founded on biblical values. But, no, that doesn’t mean that everyone who came across the ocean was a born-again Christian. There is a big difference between Christian values and individual Christian lives. The first is a worldview and the second is a transformed life through Jesus Christ. Examine the Constitution of the United States – 34% of all citations are from the Bible. The ideals of freedom of religion, natural rights, and equality were grounded in Christianity. It was repeatedly affirmed that God’s providence was behind the birth of our nation. But this does not mean that every person, even the signers, were always orthodox in their belief and perfect in their character. Here’s an illustration: Our refrigerator keeps the temperature cold which preserves the food. But, this doesn’t mean that everything inside is delicious. In fact, some foods may even get a freezer burn and be harmful. So also, the Christian values of America did not guarantee that every individual would be Christlike. As John Fea in his insightful book “Was America founded as a Christian Nation” remarked: “History is complex. Heroes sometimes do unheroic things. It is the responsibility of the historian to make every effort to explain the past in its fullness.”

Unfortunately, there is no such balance in recent rhetoric. It is adamantly claimed that “we need to set the record straight regarding our past.” Such allegations are a byproduct of the postmodern revision of history. It views the past as Hegel’s “historic dialectic,” wherein truth is relative and nothing more than an outcome of the struggle for dominance. All understanding of the past is viewed with suspicion. This is terribly misleading. Yes, revisionism is appropriate but only if more historical documents are discovered or new information sheds light on the existing documents. But, this has to be done very responsibly. If not, we are creating a false narrative to push an agenda. To claim that the First Amendment was a separation of church and state is a gross misunderstanding. It was a protection on other Christian groups from practicing their beliefs without repercussions from the state church. It was never meant to discard Christianity.

Furthermore, tearing down our nation’s Christian foundation is also very dangerous. It is like taking a sledge hammer to the foundation of your house and still expecting the walls and the roof to remain intact. It is impossible. The house will collapse. Those who want to revise our nation’s past are willing to take that chance. I suggest that they travel overseas and visit nations that did not have a strong biblical influence in their past. There is a marked difference in individual rights and dignity of the weak. In fact, it is punishable by death to even challenge their nation’s past. Having come from a nation not founded on Judeo-Christian values, I can testify that this nation was built on biblical values. To use the analogy of the refrigerator again: Don’t throw out a perfectly good refrigerator because some foods have gone bad.

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.

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