The Age of Paradoxes by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. We are United and Divided at the same time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faithfulness by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: If there is one refrain or chorus that we have all said or heard again and again, it is “what a crazy year 2020 has been!” None of us ever imagined in our wildest dreams or nightmares that this year would turn out this way. Although, this year was quite serious and sad in many ways, people found humor in it as well. Check out some of the memes that people sent me – “T-shirt with the year in review stars – ‘Very bad, would not recommend,’” “picture of a knight in his armor with the caption ‘me being prepared for 2020’ and the next picture with an arrow through the eye slit,” “a bunch of porta potties on fire with the caption ‘if 2020 was a scented candle,’” and this one with “Sorry folks, the world is closed.” As I was praying about what is it that God would want us to remember at the close of this crazy year, he directed my attention to Psalm 66. Here’s the main point: If we look at our trials only through the lens of our personal story, we will become fearful and hopeless. Instead, we have to look at our trials through the lens of our collective story; then we see that we have faced worse situations before and God has been faithful. The foundation of our faith is not our own experiences but the collective experience of God’s people in the Scriptures. If he was faithful then, he will be faithful now and in the future. I can pray to him in confidence and know that he will answer the prayer of the clean heart.

Psalm 66       1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 2 Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.”

Context: Many of us treat the psalms as second-class literature compared to the narratives, prophecies, gospels and epistles. This is false. The psalms are equally Scripture. They are theology that sings. Once we decode the symbolism and the literary structure, they have some deep theology that is not found anywhere else in Scripture.

To start with, the psalm we just read (Psalm 66) can be divided into 2 halves: Verses 1-12 and verses 13-20. The first half is focused on corporate worship and the second half is focused on personal worship. In other words, first, we hear the chorus of the whole community singing and then we hear the voice of the individual worshipper. The first half lays the foundation for the second half. Without the corporate worship, there would be no individual worship.

First half – The choir calls all believers to praise God for his wonderful works. Listen again – 1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!” In the context, I would say that “all the earth” is referring only to the “God-fearing Israelites” or only to “all the believers of the earth.” After all, how can the lost world shout joyfully to the living God? Also, 2 “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.” Again, how can the lost world sing out the honor of God’s name and how can they make his praise glorious? Romans 3:23 is clear, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moving on to verse 3 “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power your enemies shall submit themselves to You.’” Every human being is an enemy of God until he/she meets Jesus Christ.Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Also,Colossians 1      21 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” Once we receive Christ as our Savior, we can join the throng of those who sing praises to God’s name. 4 “All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah

Application: Have you been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? Are you singing praises to God?

Now the choir invites all believers to take a trip down memory lane – 5 “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. 6 He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot…” Here the choir of God’s people are singing about the exodus from Egypt of their ancestors, particularly the time when the people of Israel found themselves hemmed between the Red Sea before them and the chariots of Pharaoh behind them. Remember, after the final plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh allowed the people to leave Egypt. As this massive crowd of 3 million began their journey, the land of Egypt was a wreck and the Egyptians were scared. The people of Israel had to walk right past the fortresses on Egypt’s eastern borders. There were soldiers and chariots in these fortresses with plenty of hatred and anger towards the people of Israel. Even though they were large in number, these former slaves (less than 24 hours) were no match for trained angry soldiers in chariots. God led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. Just then Pharaoh changed his mind and decided to pursue the people of Israel with a couple of thousand chariots with soldiers. What a horrible tactical decision!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses – Exodus 14     10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Listen to Moses’s response in Exodus 14     13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then, God commanded Moses to stretch his rod over the Red Sea to divide so the people could go on dry land. God sent a strong east wind that divided the sea and made dry land for them. Now, listen carefully to what happened next – Exodus 14    19 “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” As the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground, listen to what the Angel of the Lord did 24 “Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians.” This Angel of the Lord and pillar of the cloud was the pre-incarnate Christ who guarded God’s people until they were safely on the other side. Then God gave the command and the sea came back and drowned the entire Egyptian army.

Let’s return again to Psalm 66:6 “He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.There is a shift in the “person” from third to second. There is something very subtle here which is very substantial for our faith. The singers/congregation were not there at the Red Sea. Their ancestors were there. Nonetheless, they were there in the sense of the confessional statements (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). In theological terms, this is known as the “actualizing identification with Israel’s salvation history.” It means that by faith we are part of the whole story of God’s people. In other words, even though I wasn’t there physically, I was there spiritually and I saw the faithfulness of God in my life. We do that as Christians through the Communion – 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

The choir/congregation continues – 7 “He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah 8 Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, 9 Who keeps our soul among the living, And does not allow our feet to be moved.” This is the key verse of this psalm. God has preserved our feet from slipping into the netherworld. This does not mean that people have not died in 2020 of various causes, but God has our times in his hands and none have left this world outside of his time. 10 For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. 11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. 12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Everything from the exodus experience is now personal.

Application: What is your faith story? The Bible is our faith story. We have been through worse. If God brought us through fire and water, he will bring us through 2020. Can you sing that? Can you shout that? Do you understand now why we need community? We understand those who cannot be with us because of health concerns. That’s why we go above and beyond to make sure that we have the best online experience possible for those who cannot attend in person. To stop assembling is to take away our faith story. We have to remind each other of it.

Second Half – The individual proclaims his personal thanksgiving to God and promises to keep his vows. Listen – 13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows.” There is a shift in the “person” from second to first. The choir goes silent now and all eyes are turned towards the individual as he makes remembers the promises that he had made to God through the trials. 14 Which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah Many different kinds of sacrifices are in view here.

Applications: What promises did you make to God in 2020? You say, “I didn’t make any promises.” So, you just asked God to get you through? Get you through for what? Why should God give you another year? If were truly honest, many of us got through but our faith disintegrated. Many have destroyed the faith of others.

Listen to the conclusion of the psalm – 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. 19 Butcertainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” There is confidence in our prayers when our heart is clean before God.

Application: Is your heart clean before God?

Conclusion:

  • We need both descriptive praise and declarative praise.
  • We need to go back and then we can talk about the now.
  • We need both the community and the individual.
  • We need both worship and thanksgiving.
  • We need hearts that are clean if we want our prayers to be heard.

Can you see God’s faithfulness in the past and the present? Are you saved?

Resolve by Pastor Abidan Shah

RESOLVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

ResolveIntroduction:  How many of ya’ll remember these slangs from back in the day? “Made in the shade,” “Greaser,” “Far out,” “Psyche,” “Cool Beans,” “Chill Pill,” “That’s Bad,” “Duh,” “Word,” “Bounce,” “Talk to the hand,” “Booyah,” “Not!” “Whatever,” “Sup,” “On fleek,” “Lit,” “Fam,” “Salty,” etc. Question: How did you feel when I read some of those slangs in the beginning? Did some of them take you back to your younger days? How many of ya’ll didn’t have a clue what the last 4 meant? Did you feel out of touch? Every generation has their own slangs. It’s their handprint on the timeline of history. But just because your handprint has passed, it does not mean that your time has passed. In fact, for a believer, your best time is right now. All it takes is your resolve to obey God and walk in his promises. That’s the title of our first message in 2019: RESOLVE.

Joshua 14      6Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him … 10… behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11As yet I am asstrong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strengthwasthen, so nowismy strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day;…”

Question: Can you hear the resolve in the words of this 85-year-old man? Can you see the determination in his eyes? Can you feel the confidence in his spirit? How is your resolve? Have you laid down your weapons? Have you become content to sit back and coast your way in your remaining years? This message is not just for those who are older but for all of us. Are you resolved to walk in the promises of God? Are you saved?

Context: In this message we will learn from Caleb how to stay strong and press on even though the odds might be against us. To do this, we will first go back 45 years, when Caleb was 40 years old. Then we will fast forward to the present when he is 85 years old.

FIRST, BACK UP 45 YEARS:Last weekend we learned how the Children of Israel wandered 38 years in the wilderness because they chose to disobey God’s command to move forward and possess the Promised Land. Twelve spies went into the land but 10 returned with a negative report: the people are bigger than us, the cities are fortified up to the heavens, and there are giants in the land. Only 2 returned with a positive report – Joshua and Caleb. Listen to Caleb’s words in Numbers 13:30Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” Was he being over confident? Was he being impulsive? Of course not. God had repeatedly proved that he was with them – the 10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the water, the Manna, the meat for 2.5 million people, the victory over the Amalekites, the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. How much more proof do you need!

Application: Are you still living in doubts? What is holding you back from following God?

What was the response of the people? “They’re like giants and we’re like grasshoppers.” Then they cried and complained against Moses and Aaron saying “If only we had died in Egypt! If only we had died in the wilderness! God has brought us here to kill us.” But here’s the worst part in Numbers 14:4So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.” How hateful! How ungrateful! How unfaithful!What’s worse is that the 10 spies brought down to 2.5 million people! By your words and actions, you can either encourage people to trust God or discourage them.

What is the response of the 2 faithful spies? Numbers 14:6“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who wereamong those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes.” They launched into repentance because they knew what was about to happen and they begged the people to trust the Lord and obey him. Listen to verse9“Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they areour bread; (eating bread = our problems will only make us stronger) their protection has departed from them, and the LORDiswith us. Do not fear them.” What’s the people’s response? 10“And all the congregation said to stone them with stones.”

Question: Where would you have stood? Keep in mind that these people were simply reenacting the drama of God’s people. Remember what Paul said in1 Corinthians 10:11“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition.…”This is how we act. One moment we are praising God for his blessings and the next we are blaming him for our choices.Are you easily moved by your circumstances? Whose report do you believe? God or unfaithful people? Are you a fear monger or a faith builder? Do you help people to step out and trust God or do you cause people to step back and doubt God?

You know what happened next – God cursed that generation (20 years old and above) to die in the wilderness. But not so for the 2 spies. Listen specifically to what God said about Caleb? Numbers 14:24 “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” I loved that phrase – “A different spirit.”

Question:  What kind of spirit do you have in you?

NOW, FAST FORWARD 45 YEARS:  Caleb was waiting for the last one to kick the bucket!  He comes to Joshua and says in Joshua 14:10“And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old.”Quick Point: Sometimes we are where we are because of someone else’s bad behavior. Unfortunately, that happens a lot. Nevertheless, we have a choice in how we respond and live our lives.

Application: You can either live in resentment and regret or you can remember and reflect upon the promises of God. What path have you taken? Have you allowed circumstances and failures of others make you bitter or better? Sometimes, people even join the crowd. “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

3 things we need to learn from Caleb:

  1. You are never too old to follow God’s promises.

11“As yet I am asstrong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strengthwasthen, so nowismy strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.”

Background: Sometimes people wrongly assume that people back then lived hundreds of years or their 80 is our 40. Not true. In the antediluvian age (before the deluge/flood), people did live hundreds of years (Adam – 930, Methuselah – 969). But after the flood, the age kept dropping. Listen to Moses’ psalm – Psalm 90:10“The days of our livesareseventy years; and if by reason of strengththey areeighty years, yet their boastisonly labor and sorrow; or it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” One ofDavid’s loyal friends was Barzillai the Gileadite. He was 80 and the Bible calls him a very aged man! David tries to persuade him to come and live with him in Jerusalem. Listen to his answer – 2 Samuel 19  34But Barzillai said to the king, “How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? 35I amtoday eighty years old. Can I discern between the good and bad? Can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any longer the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be a further burden to my lord the king?”David himselfis called the “aged king” at 70. All this to say that Caleb was not a spring chicken!

Application: Do you talk and act old? Why? What dream does God want you to revive?

  1. You are never too late to prove God’s power.

12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakimwerethere, and thatthe citiesweregreatandfortified. It may be that the LORDwill bewith me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.”

Background: Caleb could have asked for some fertile valley or the coast or some other sweet spot. Instead, he asks for the place where the giants lived, the cities were great and fortified. Several reasons: One, this was Hebron. Joshua 14:13“And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb….” After Lot chose the fertile land of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham chose to settle by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron. Somehow Caleb must have felt that this was a special ground. Second, this place was the reason that the hearts of the people had melted. Forty-five years later, Caleb wanted to prove that if God is with us, nothing is too difficult! He had a score to settle but he was not playing for self. He was playing for God.

Application: If today you resolve to prove yourself to your enemies, your family, and even yourself, you are playing the wrong game. Resolve to prove God and he will help you win!

  1. You are never too far to find God’s grace.

14“Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel.”

Background:Who are the Kenizzite? That’s not a Hebrew or even a West Semitic name. We find it mentioned in Genesis 15  18“ … the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19the Kenites, the Kenezzites,the Kadmonites,…” Somehow his family was grafted into God’s people! Isn’t God’s grace amazing? Are you saved?

Unstuck (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

UNSTUCK (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 7, 2017)

bef00a78-d76b-461a-be58-7037520c4569This is the time of the year when many people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to some surveys, about 70% are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions like growing in Christ, reading the Bible, praying, serving in church, etc. Another year comes and goes and there’s zero progress. In Luke 9 Jesus met three such individuals who were buried in the graveyard of excuses. Let’s see if we can learn something from their encounters:

  1. Grave of Comfort – Verse 57 “…Someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple willing to follow Jesus anywhere. In actuality, he was a young man looking to tag along Rabbi Jesus for a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices. Jesus knew his heart and bluntly 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.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not calling him to give up his Sleep Number bed or his Tempur-Pedic pillow and wander around and live under some tree like a hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble. Instead, Jesus was telling him – “To follow me, you have to choose the uncomfortable life. Previously, it was comfortable to tolerate some old sin, habit, grudge, behavior, or desire in your life but following me will require giving them up. How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
  2. Grave of Obligations – Verse 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” What a strange request! Was the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! No. What the man was really saying was “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I will follow you.” He was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s heart too and responded trenchantly – 60 “…Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How could Jesus be so harsh?! Was he actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Again, don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. But in this situation, the man was using his obligations to keep him from obeying God. Jesus was telling him – “Life will never settle down. There will always be another obligation. Follow me now or never.”
  3. Grave of One Last Glance – Verse 61 “…Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’” This sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? – “At least my loved ones deserve to know that I’m leaving.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s real intention. He wanted to take that one last look to make sure that this was a right decision. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who took that fatal glance and like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What do they see? Some see pain and feel they can’t leave until they’ve healed; some see regrets and feel they can’t leave until they’ve fixed things; some see failures and feel their past would repeat again; and some even see the disappointed faces of their loved ones and feel they can’t let them down. Jesus warned him – 62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church told me that when he used to plow with a mule, he would find a fixed point in front and keep his eyes on it. When he looked straight ahead, he had straight rows behind him but if he turned back, he was all over the place. If your spiritual life is all over the place, it’s time to look ahead to Jesus.

By the way, before you can leave your grave of excuses to follow Jesus, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death by asking him to be your Savior. Happy Resurrection!

ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING

ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

One New Years Resolution Worth Keeping

We’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Luke 3 for our message titled, “ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING.” According to a recent research, here are the popular New Year’s Resolutions in 2015 – 10. Get More Sleep; 9. Volunteer; 8. Travel; 7. Floss; 6. Save Money; 5. Reach Goals; 4. Learn a Language; 3. Go Green; 2. Quit Smoking or Drinking; 1. Lose Weight. There’s one that I have a feeling is not on anyone’s list but it holds the key to all the rest: True Repentance.

Luke 3   7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Overall Background: The Word of God came to John in the wilderness. If you remember, it was not just a geographical wilderness but also political, moral, and spiritual wilderness. God hadn’t spoken to His people in 400 years and suddenly there was a voice crying in the wilderness. This voice was a lone voice, a simple voice, and a voice full of holy conviction. And people began to come. Matthew tells us in chapter 3, verse 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. That’s powerful! What’s even more powerful is what these people did! They confessed their sins – they repented.

Unfortunately, repentance is a foreign word in American Christianity today. We talk about how to find God’s will and how to have our best life and how to be happy but repentance – no time for that. But this is where it starts. The closer you draw to God, the more you begin to see your sinfulness and the need for repentance.

Application: May I ask you – Are you tired of sin ruling your life? Is it the sin of a habit/addiction? Is it the sin of an attitude – selfishness, anger, control, or insecurity? Is it the sin of lack of discipline – food, time management, or thoughts? You say you are saved – is there a difference between you and those who are lost? Then, there’s one solution – Repentance. Here’s an important question – Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? If not, then you need Conversion not Confession.

This morning let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the truth about Repentance so this could really be your best year ever. 3 things we will see in this passage:

 I. SIN MAKES US AN ENEMY OF GOD.

7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

John the Baptist - crowdBackground: Good gracious! Why did John say something like that? Isn’t that what he wanted? Weren’t people (some Pharisees and Sadducees) responding to the voice crying in the wilderness? If it we’re me, I would’ve put together a welcome packet with all the ministries for every need in your family. I would’ve organized a welcome committee with the friendliest people to serve as ushers. Instead, he calls them “sons of snakes.” Because vipers throughout the Old Testament refer to God’s enemies. Imbedded in here is a powerful principle – Sin puts us at enmity with God. When you and I come to God (lost or saved), we are immediately confronted by God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Psalm 5:4 “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You.” Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you.” The closer to get to the light, the more you see the dirt in your life.

At the moment you are confronted, if you raise up your hands and say – “Guilty as charged. I need Jesus,” it’s good. At that point John 3:16 goes into action – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But if you come with anything other than the blood of Christ to cover you, now the wrath of God is upon you. Listen to verse 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ Meaning: Don’t trust in your pedigree. Don’t trust in your church membership. Don’t trust in the fact that you came. These people were sincere. None of that can save you from God’s wrath. Keep listening to verse 8 “…For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Application: How do you see yourself in light of God’s holiness? As a lost person, do you think God will excuse you based on some good you’ve done? As a saved person, you know God and that’s good but are you bearing good fruit or is there sin in your life? Do you realize how much God abhors our sin? These are very important questions. Unless you get this right, no amount of resolutions and promises will make the year blessed.

II. SIN DESTROYS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS.

10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

John the Baptist - Tax CollectorsIf you noticed, each of these commands has to do with their relationship with fellow human beings. Let’s look at each of them for a moment:

  1. The first one – “People – If you have 2 coats and see someone who is cold, share.” Sin has a way of making us insensitive to others. Nothing wrong with wearing well and eating well but there’s something wrong when our brother/sister is cold and hungry. Sin makes us care for our own comfort and well-being. Now, don’t immediately run out and start clothing the homeless and feeding the hungry. Start with your own home. Wives – are you known as a selfish person? Husband – are you known as a self-centered person who always gets what he wants?
  2. The second one – “Tax Collectors – Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” Sin has a way of making us greedy for a little bit more. Nothing wrong with making a profit and doing better in life but there’s something wrong when we care more about stuff than people. Sin makes us dissatisfied no matter how much we have. Sin creates a bottomless pit in our heart. In fact, we are even willing to throw our husband, wife, and children down the bottomless pit of greed.
  3. The third one – “Soldiers – Don’t intimidate or false accuse anyone.” Sin makes us a bully and do whatever it takes (lie and cheat) to get our way. Bullying happens not just on the school playground but also in the home. Words are said and threats are used that have no business in Christian homes. The past is held over the head and the future is used as a threat rather than something to look forward to.

Bottom line: Sin is not just a subject for theologs. Sin is not just the quirk of some Ole Timey preacher. Sin is not just the junk on TV put out by Hollywood. Sin is with us everyday and it affects our relationship with our loved ones, neighbors, and co-workers. Instead of avoiding the subject, it needs to be preached more! It is the problem.

For e.g. We make resolutions to lose weight. Why do we eat more? It’s all right to eat because you’re hungry or the food tastes good but its not all right as an emotional need. Why do our emotions go out of whack? Because of our relationships.

Application: Have you realized how real sin is in your life? Do you see how much it corrupts your daily relationships? Do you see that you can’t go forward and make resolutions and set goals unless you deal with sin? Are you willing to deal with sin?

III. SIN NEEDS A SAVIOR.

15 Now as the people were in expectation,

Background: What were they expecting? After all, they’ve been baptized, they’ve been confronted with their sin, and they’ve been told what to do and not to do. What more is there? Listen to the next line – “and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not.” They were still expecting the Christ! Why? Because the Christ was going to do something more for them. Listen to verse 16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. What exactly is John saying? He is drawing a line of demarcation between himself and Jesus. The people were starting to look at John as their hope. But John quickly put an end to that. Sometimes people start looking at pastors and teachers with adoration. Don’t get me wrong, there should be respect but don’t worship the man.

What will this Mightier One do? Listen to last line of verse 16 “…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” What does that mean? What is the difference between the baptism with water and the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire? They had been saved from the wrath to come but they had not been set free from the power of sin. By receiving Jesus as your Savior, you don’t have to face the penalty of sin but unless you truly appropriate what Jesus did for you, you will still be in bondage to the power of sin. That’s why some Christians keep going back to old habits and old attitudes and old sins and old hang-ups. They are going to heaven but it’s like hell all the way there. They’re still selfish, self-centered, greedy, intimidating, liars, and cheats. They feel guilty for their behavior and feel condemned. They make promises to do better but go back to the old ways.

So what’s the solution? Baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. Paul explains to us a little bit more in Romans 8 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Being baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire means that now I am under the command and leadership of the Holy Spirit. He is in charge over me. In order to sin I have to get permission from Him. I daily submit myself to Him and He leads me in right way. Listen to Romans 8:6 “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

And he also brings fire. What does that do? 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” For the lost, the fire is hell but for the saved person, the fire is a purifier. It refines us and cleanses us. It is just like the fire at the landfill versus the fire at the silversmith.

Illustration: Charles Wesley’s hymn illustrates this well –

O for a thousand tongues to sing,

My great Redeemer’s praise,

The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace!

…………

He breaks the power of canceled sin,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean,

His blood availed for me.

Are you saved? Has the power of canceled sin broken in your life through the Holy Spirit?

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