Word Perfect by Dr. Abidan Shah

WORD PERFECT

WORD PERFECT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Words are important, especially in an election year. Pop quiz. Who said these words? “Fourscore and seven years ago” – Lincoln. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” – FDR. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” – Kennedy. “Read my lips – no new taxes” – Bush Sr. “I didn’t inhale” – Clinton. Last week, we learned from Solomon in the Old Testament that words are incredibly powerful. They can be used to give life or cause death. In today’s message, we will go to James in the New Testament to learn how to have perfect words. Here’s the main point: How we use our words is a direct reflection of what is in our hearts. Hateful words come from a hate-filled heart. Christful words come from a Christ-filled heart. It’s only when we are jostled in life through trials that we reveal what is truly inside our hearts. Today’s message is called “WORD PERFECT” from James 3:1-12.

As you know, James is probably the most practical and down to earth book in the New Testament, if not the whole Bible. In this section, he deals with the incredible power in our words and how to keep them in check.

James 3:1 “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers…”

Apparently, as the infant church was growing, many were seeking to be teachers of the growing Christian tradition. Maybe, it was on such basis as – “I lived next door to someone who knew Peter” or “Jesus came to me in a special dream” or “I have the gift of teaching.” Such self-proclaimed teachers were probably the source of division, infighting, and hateful speech in the early church. Hence, James was warning them not to be so eager to become a rabbi. Why? “…knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” Did you know that pastors, Sunday school teachers, and Bible study leaders will give a special account on the day of judgment? People ask me “Is it easier for you to preach, now that you have been preaching for all these years?” My answer: “It is actually harder because I know now what is at stake—people’s lives, marriages, and future destinies!”

Now, James addresses everyone, not just teachers, regarding their words. 3 things:

I. Our Words Control Our Actions.

2 “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” There are 2 ways to see this statement:

  1. If you can control your mouth, which is so unruly and uncontrollable, you can definitely control the less unruly members of your body. Think about it – Which is easier to do? Lie or murder. Lie, of course. But, if I can keep myself from lying, then there is a good chance that I can also keep myself from murdering somebody. If you are a liar, you are one step closer to being a murderer.
  2. Your mouth controls your body. That sounds strange, but think about it—Things don’t just happen. There’s always a progression. We might conceive an action in our minds but the thought is first expressed in our words. Words are the first building blocks to action. Things move from our mind to our words to our actions. I think this may very well be what James had in mind because of the 2 illustrations he gives:
  • A horse and its bridle: 3 “Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.” A Horse can weigh on an average a 1000 pounds or more, but a 100-pound girl can control the horse because she has the reins which control the bit in the horse’s mouth.
  • A ship and its rudder: 4 “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”

Here’s the point: If you don’t like where you are headed, change the way you talk. Some people have a self-denigrating and self-deprecating talk. If you say, “I am just a loser. I am so stupid. I am an idiot,” you are living up to your words. We shape our words and then our words shape us. Many of us are speaking our world into existence!

Sometimes, it’s not our own words, we are living up to the words of someone else in our life. Sometime back I was listening to a message by someone who ministers to prisoners. He said: it does not fail when he asks them to raise their hands if they ever heard their father say: “Boy, someday you will end up in prison.” Almost all the hands go up. The direction of their life was set by the words of their father. As a pastor, I have to be careful who I let speak into my life, especially before preaching.

As a pastor, I can predict with a high level of accuracy which way you are headed by the words you use:

  • Pitiful words – headed towards depression;
  • Angry words – headed towards violence;
  • Boastful/prideful words – headed towards a fall;
  • Adulterous/flirtatious words – headed towards an affair. Listen to David in Psalms 34  12 “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”

This is not pop psychology. This is God’s Word. Pop psychology stole this concept from God’s Word!

Application: Which way are you headed? Are you dissatisfied with where your life is going? Better Question: What are you saying? What words are ringing in your ears?

II. Our Words Can Cause a Chain Reaction.

5 “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.” A better translation: A tongue is small but it boasts of big destructions.

Again, James gives us 2 illustrations to prove his point:

  • Forest Fire: 5 “…See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” Thousands of acres are destroyed due to one tiny spark. 6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” The tongue can start a forest fire from hell.
  • Deadly Poison: 7 “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue…” James takes us to the circus with elephants, horses, lions and tigers. He takes us to Sea World with Dolphins and Killer Whales. All of these can be tamed but not the tongue. “…It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” The King Cobra in India can with one tiny bite send a person into convulsions within minutes and die. Listen to David in Psalm 140 1“Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men, 2 Who plan evil things in their hearts; They continually gather together for 3 They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips.”

What’s the point? Just like a tiny spark can cause a forest fire unexpectedly and one tiny bite can kill a full-grown person, the tongue is small but it can cause big damage.

For e.g. Imagine a Mr. Kindle (Remember – “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”). One Monday morning, Mr. Kindle was running a little behind for his 9 am meeting. So, he checked his rearview mirror and gently stepped on the gas. “5 miles over is alright.” He looked at his watch again and decided to make it 10 and then 15 miles over the speed limit. Unbeknownst to him, a policeman at the intersection clocked him at 20 miles over the speed limit, pulled him over, and gave him a tongue lashing and a ticket to go with it. Mr. Kindle was furious – “Look at this cop giving me a ticket instead of catching some real criminal out there!” Now Mr. Kindle was really late. He marched into the office, yelling for his secretary Mrs. Henderson – “Where are the files that I told you to have ready for the meeting?” Mrs. Henderson – “You told me not to worry about them and that you would print them yourself.” Mr. Kindle – “Stop making excuses and get me those files. Don’t think that I cannot replace you!” Mrs. Henderson is now furious. She stomps back to her office mumbling, “How dare he talk to me that way!” As she is turning on her computer, she notices the new temp Karen looking at her phone. “Karen!” she yells, “We did not hire you to play on your phone. Get busy or go home.” Karen is now furious – “How dare Mrs. Henderson talk to me like that. I was simply trying to access Google docs to help her out! Fine! She can find it herself!” Karen takes an early lunch, still fuming over the morning’s happenings. Just then, young Nick comes by her window to take her order. This is his first week on the job. He is nervous. He is still learning. He forgets to greet her. Karen says to herself – “Look at the kind of kids they hire these days. When I was working, we had standards.” She gets her order and as she is driving off, she notices that her fries are missing. She’s had enough. She stomps back to the window – “I need to see your manager and I need to seem him now!” The manager comes over – “This young man was extremely rude to me and he purposely messed up my order! If you don’t do something about it, I will call corporate!” Reluctantly, the manager sends Nick home for the day. Nick is now mad – “That is so unfair! I didn’t do anything wrong!” He screeches to a halt in his driveway. Just then his dog Spot comes to greet him, as always, but this time, Nick is in no mood for that – “Leave me alone, you dumb dog!” – and he kicks at him. What he doesn’t see is that as Spot jumps back to avoid the kick, he turns over the charcoal grill from last night. Even though Nick’s dad had checked to make sure that there was no live coal, one smoldering ember rolls into the patch of dry grass behind the house. That evening, hundreds of acres of woods were on fire. Question: Who started the fire? Spot, Nick, or Mr. Kindle? Mr. Kindle!

Do you see how our words can cause a chain reaction? Are you a verbal arsonist? If you think that all this is just pop psychology (the human potential movement), this is where that stops but the Word of God keeps going.

III. Our Words Convey What is Inside.

9 “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” Something interesting here: James has shifted the terminology from word to tongue to mouth. Why mouth? Maybe because Jesus used that word. Matthew 12:34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 15:11 “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” The point is that this is no secondary injunction. Jesus commanded this!

What is the problem? 11 “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” The problem lies in the heart. Our words are a good indicator of what is in our hearts. Both Jesus and James explained the Freudian slip centuries before Freud.

The Content of the Old Well: Sin Nature, Upbringing, Bad Examples, Bad Experiences, Daily Barrage from the World, Flesh, and the Devil.

The Content of the New Well: New Creation through Christ, Feeding on the Word, Godly Fellowship, Rejection of Worldly Values, New Habits.

For e.g.  Someone said this:

  • Show me a harsh tongue and I will show you an angry heart.
  • Show me a negative tongue and I will show you a fearful heart.
  • Show me an overactive tongue and I will show you an unsettled heart.
  • Show me a boastful tongue and I will show you an insecure heart.
  • Show me a filthy tongue and I will show you an impure heart.
  • Show me a critical tongue and I will show you a bitter heart.
  • Show me someone who says “hell” all the time and I will show you what’s inside.

Invitation: Has your heart been transformed by salvation through Jesus? Are you saved? How much do you care about the words that come from your lips? The work has to begin here (heart) and then here (mouth). It begins with humility, acknowledgment and repentance. Just like Isaiah we need God’s touch on our lips.

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?

(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.

Life Between Posts (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

LIFE BETWEEN POSTS (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 7, 2018)

IMG_2578You’re scrolling through your favorite social media and you see the perfect picture with perfect smiles and perfect clothes with a perfect background. To top it all off, its accompanied by a perfect caption, including hashtags like #lovinglife #love #loveus #happiness #sohappy #perfectday #forever #natural – What do all these hashtags and the posts and pictures that accompany them have in common? They are deceiving. They only give a partial, wishful, and concocted glimpse of life. I wish people would also add these hashtags to their posts and pictures– #pleasethinkImhappy #pretendwithmethatallisfine #IwishIfeltlikethispicture #Iwishwecouldalwaysbethishappy #justhadafight #abouttohaveafight #tookme20triestogetthispicture.

Unfortunately, many of us buy into and perpetuate the lies communicated by those pictures and posts with their unrealistic hashtags. I have seen young people fall into depression because they felt that others were having a great time and they were doomed to a life of misery and loneliness. They don’t stop to consider that those pictures were re-taken twenty times! I have seen marriages fall apart because one partner felt that they were not as happy as others and that the grass was greener somewhere else. They don’t realize that the grass is always greener by the septic tank! I have known people who refused to get help because they thought a few likes on social media would solve their problems. They don’t understand that hearts on a screen can never fix the heart of their problems.

Am I suggesting that we stop posting happy pictures and take on a morose view of life? Absolutely not. It’s perfectly fine to share our joys with others. Social media is a wonderful tool to keep up with family and friends. But, please don’t confuse a perfectly angled selfie with a perfectly aligned life. Be discerning. Here’s a reality check from the oldest book in the Bible – “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1) Before you envy someone else’s perfect life, remember that even Jesus – the perfect Son of God – had a few bad days. Imagine all your besties deserting you and letting you die for crimes you didn’t commit! Ironically, we call it “Good Friday.”

Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves – What causes us to crave this approval and admiration of others? Why is it that we want others to think that our life is so flawless? Where did this desire to cover up our blemishes and failures come from? It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve who tried to cover up their sin by using fig leaves. Refusing to face up to our problems and pretending that all is fine is an old family trait. Just like our first parents, we also hide in our proverbial gardens instead of confessing our sin before God and seeking his help and forgiveness through Jesus. Thinking that someone else has it better than us also runs in the family. Cain was envious of his brother Abel because he saw that God approved his brother’s offering. Instead of changing his ways, he killed Abel.

Here are a couple of questions to consider before you post that perfect picture with the perfect quote: What is your true motivation for posting? Who are you trying to impress? Will this uplift someone or bring them down? If you are posing with someone, do they really believe that about you? Does that person feel used? What is the real issue that you are avoiding? How does God feel about your post? Jesus rebuked those who rejected him, saying, “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)

True life is what happens between posts. #Lifebetweenposts – there’s a hashtag that should go viral!

Out of the Graveyard by Pastor Abidan Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

out-of-the-graveyard-2Introduction: This is the first weekend of the New Year and I want to preach a message titled “OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD.” Hopefully, it will awaken us to come out of the graveyard of excuses and inspire us to step out into the New Year with Christ.

Luke 9 57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

Bridge: This is the time of the year when people everywhere make New Year’s resolutions to change their lives, to break some bad habits, and even to start some good ones. According to some surveys, about 70% of the resolutions are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions of growing in Christ and following Him. Another year comes and another year goes and still there’s no progress. Today’s message is going to help us come out of the graveyard of excuses and step out into the New Year with Christ.

Context: The passage we just read took place during the early part of Jesus’ ministry. Multitudes of people were flocking to Him. It seemed like the movement was growing by leaps and bounds. Just then Jesus had an encounter with three different individuals. Each had a desire to follow Him but unfortunately had second thoughts and went back to the graveyard of excuses. Sadly, not much has changed. Even today people begin with a resolve to follow Christ but for one reason or another, they go back to their old lives. They refuse to leave the graveyard of comfort, obligations, and approval.

Question: Are you buried somewhere in the graveyard of excuses? What resolutions have you made for 2017? Sometimes people say – “I just don’t make any resolutions anymore. They don’t work for me anyways.” To me, it’s like saying – “I just don’t have any destinations anymore. They don’t work for me anyways. I just get in my car and drive!” That’s ridiculous. The problem is not with the resolutions as much as it is with the list of excuses we make. By the way, before you can leave the graveyard of excuses in following Christ, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death. Are you saved?

3 common graves in the graveyard of excuses:

#1. GRAVE OF COMFORT 

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Background: At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple but Jesus knew his real intention. Apparently, he was approaching Jesus as a rabbi. Matthew even tells us that he addressed Jesus as “Teacher.” In those days, and even in some settings today, a rabbi would gather around him a set of young followers. Their job was simply to take care of their master’s needs. It was a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices and obligations. Yes, they had to follow the rabbi wherever he went but all their basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter were taken care of.

Jesus knew what this young man was thinking. It would’ve been very easy for him to say – “Alright. Come on. Just do what everyone is doing.” Instead, he abruptly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Please don’t misunderstand this. This was not a call to give up your Sleep Number bed or your Tempur-Pedic pillow for Jesus. This was not a call to renounce all the material comforts of life and choose to wander around and live under a tree like some hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble right now. What Jesus was asking this young man was – Do you really understand what it means to follow me? To follow me, you have to live an uncomfortable life where–

  • It may be comfortable to tolerate some old sin in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
  • It may be comfortable to hang on to some old habit in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
  • It may be comfortable to hold on to some grudge against someone in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
  • It may be comfortable to live by some old dreams and desires in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.

I can go on and on. What Jesus was telling this young man was – “Following me will not be comfortable. It may get lonely, painful, tough, and disappointing but here’s the promise – I’ll be with you.”

Even today, people want to follow Jesus as long as it is comfortable. They want an easy life with minimal changes, responsibilities, and sacrifices. They want to go forward with God only if they don’t have to give up anything. They want to go deep in their walk only if they don’t have to do too much digging. They want to sacrifice only if someone else is footing the bill. By the way, they’re the first ones to check out when things get tough.

Application: Do you really know what it means to follow Christ? Are you willing to take the uncomfortable way? Again, this was not a call to give up all the comforts of life and all the finer things of life. You can have all the comforts of life and finer things of life but the comforts of life and the finer things of life cannot have you. How much are you willing to sacrifice?

#2. GRAVE OF OBLIGATIONS 

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

Background: At first reading that sounds like a strange request! Is the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! Not really. What the man was really saying was that “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I can follow you.” This man was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down. Right now I have too much on my plate. Once I can take care of all that, then I’m set to follow Jesus.” By the way, this was a delusion because things would never settle down for him. What would happen after this man buried his father? Now they’d have to divide up the inheritance. He may be responsible to make sure that everyone gets his or her fair share. It’s rare that siblings ever get along in such matters. Someone would be bound to claim “unfair.” Now he would have to smooth out any hurt feelings. Who knows but the matter might end up in a court of law. That would be the end of it.

Jesus recognized his excuse. So listen to his response – 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How unthinkable?!! Was Jesus actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. It is always about taking care of those who are helpless. But in this situation, the man’s obligation was going to keep him from going forward with Christ. The answer was very clear – “Let the dead bury their own dead.” What does that mean? Jesus was being rhetorical. He was telling the man to stop focusing on every trivial or essential concern of life and to follow Him.

Here’s the point: Life has a way of keeping us obligated, especially if we’re looking for excuses. If there’s not one obligation, there will be another:

  • After the children grow up
  • After they get done with college
  • After they get married
  • After the grandkids start school. It never ends!

Application: Are you waiting for things to settle down in your life? What excuses comes to your mind when you think about going forward with God? What noble obligation is keeping you from following Christ?

#3. GRAVE OF ONE LAST GLANCE

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

Background: Again, on first reading, this sounds like a reasonable request – “Let me go and tell bye to my family and friends. How can that be so bad? At least they’ll know where I am.” Don’t misunderstand. This was not about bidding farewell to loved ones. It was about taking that one last glance. What’s so bad about that? The world is full of people who took that one last glance like Lot’s wife. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what she saw. All it says is that she turned into a pillar of salt. She was petrified forever. Even today people turn into a pillar of salt with that one last glance. What do they see?

  • Some see Pain; things that have wounded them deeply and they feel they can’t leave until they heal.
  • Some see Regrets; things they wish they had done differently and they feel they can’t leave until they fix them.
  • Some see Failure; places where they messed up in life and they feel their past would repeat again.
  • Some even see Disappointed Faces; people in their life that are hurt because they’re following Christ and they feel they can’t leave them.

Luke 14   26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

Matthew 10   34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

What advice did Jesus give to this man? 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus used an imagery from farming to make a very important point. Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church shared with me how when he used to plow with a mule, he was told to keep his eye on a point in front and not look back. When he kept his eyes forward on the mark, he had straight lines behind but if he were to look back at the lines, then the lines would be crooked.

Invitation: Are you looking back instead of going forward? Is Jesus your goal or do you keep looking back? Are you ready to come out of the graveyard of excuses?

  • Instead of the grave of comfort, “deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Christ.”
  • Instead of the grave of obligation, “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of you.”
  • Instead of the grave of one last glance, “run the race, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”

Are you saved

A TALE OF TWO PRIORITIES (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

A TALE OF TWO PRIORITIES Article by Abidan Paul Shah

 

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on September 17, 2016)

a-tale-of-two-priorities“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” – Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)

We are living in an age similar to the one Dickens described in his novel. On the one hand, we are the prosperous citizens of the Information Age, rolling in the luxuries of the knowledge boom. On the other hand, we are the penniless inmates of the Ignorance Asylum, rotting in the filth of foolish decisions. We are constantly looking down at our gadgets for tips and tricks when we should be looking up to the One who holds all truth. We are searching Google for answers when we should be seeking the Bible for wisdom. We are chatting on Facebook with strangers few states away when we should be talking face-to-face with loved ones a few steps away. We are giving our children all that we never had when we should be giving them all that they really need. We are talking about changing the world while we are chafing at the miseries of those down the street. We are content with wearing wristbands when we should be wearing work gloves. We are holding up signs of love and equality on the sidewalks when we have hate and intolerance hidden inside.

(Wow! Not sure where all those rhymes came from! Dickens would dig it if he could! J)

The point of this article is not to demonstrate my rhyming skills, which seem to have vanished as randomly as they came to me…Neither am I trying to advocate some kind of a primitive lifestyle, away from all the distractions of the Internet or social media. We’ve driven too far down the technology ramp to backup. All I am proposing is that we return to the two priorities Jesus gave when someone asked Him “Which is the great commandment in the law?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Please don’t misunderstand those words. Jesus was not suggesting that we stick God and people on the top of our already crazy busy life. That would never work. Sooner or later we would push both of them off or supersede them with the mundane or the urgent. Instead, imagine your life as a circle with God as its center and everything flowing out of Him. He is no longer just someone we glance at once or twice a week but our entire life becomes an outworking of His love and truth. In the process we not only love Him with everything we have but His love radiates through us to those around us. Our friends and family feel it and so do our enemies. We begin to make wise decisions that are motivated by God’s love rather than our impulse or others’ incitement.

In short, a God centered life brings to us the best of times in spite of the worst of times.

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