Prayer: Practice by Dr. Abidan Shah

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As I have prepared both messages from this series, I have noticed a new depth in my prayer life. Last weekend, we examined the doctrine of prayer and how our prayers are motivated by our understanding of God’s providence. My prayer is that God will use this series to deepen our understanding of prayer and draw us closer to Him!

This weekend, we will be in the second part of our series on prayer. Once we understand the doctrine of prayer, it will impact the way we pray. Our practice of prayer shows others what we believe about God and His ability to work in our lives. The title of this weekend’s message is “PRAYER: PRACTICE.”

How is your prayer life? What sort of things are you praying about? Do you believe that how you pray shows others what you believe about God? Are you saved? Don’t miss the conclusion of our series on prayer this weekend!

Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

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PRAYER – DOCTRINE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Kids have some very interesting prayers! I found a few online:

  • Dear God, If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set. Raphael
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Larry
  • Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. Joyce
  • Dear God, Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. Peter
  • God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. Love, Chris.
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. Sam

Unlike kids, who pray with a childlike faith and innocence, adults have a complex and sometimes even an unbelieving attitude towards prayer. Today we begin a 2-part series on prayer: first, we will focus on doctrine, and then, on practice. Here’s the main point of the first message on the doctrine of prayer: Our prayers reflect our understanding of God’s providence. In other words, our understanding of how much God is in control and how much free will we have will directly impact how and how much we pray.

1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Background: The Greek word for confidence is “parresia,” which can be translated as openness, confidence, boldness, and frankness. This is the kind of spirit we should have when we come to God in prayer.

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for my dad. We were not a perfect family, but we were a praying family. From an early age, I remember watching my mom, my dad, and my grandma pray. In church, I remember listening to adults pray, just like we do here. We even had home prayer meetings twice a week. We had 2 different language services (still do) and we would meet at different people’s homes each week to pray; Wednesday evening was people of the Hindi language service and Thursday would be of the English language service. As a little boy, I remember praying all the time—for a baby sister, for a new bike, for new shoes, for good grades in school, for being able to win a race with the other boys. I believed in prayer. But then, it happened. When, I can’t pinpoint the time, but I began to become more “realistic” and “grownup” about what I asked in my prayers. I began to lose the childlike faith and innocence in my prayers. I still prayed, but it wasn’t the same. I believe I have just described the prayer life of most of you here.

Why do we experience such a shift in our prayer life? Short answer: We grow up and face real life. We go through suffering and loss. Our hopes get dashed. Our prayers remain unanswered. We even come face-to-face with evil. Now, there is a change in our view of God and our prayers. It’s like the child who has a toy doctor kit and one day he gets a little cut. Instead of using the instruments (thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure kit) in the box, mom and dad take him/her to a real doctor or nurse who have real instruments. That’s when the child realizes that the instruments are simply toys. They are just pretend. Now, the child does play with the kit but it’s only pretend.

Long answer: Real life jars our view of God’s providence, and, with that, our prayers change as well. Let’s begin with defining the word “Providence.” For starters, that word is not found in the Bible but the concept is everywhere. Basically, it is the answer to how much is God in control of the world he has created and how much can we influence him. When we begin to seriously deal with the matter of God’s providence, a lot of complex and deep questions rise up. I don’t have time to deal with all of them here. There are some wonderful books out there like “Providence and Prayer” by Terrance Tiessen. Here, I just want to bring out a few of the major ones (they are interconnected): Is God timeless or is he bound by time just as we are? Because if he is in the same boat as we are, then, how can he really be prepared for what is coming around the corner? Does God know the future? How much does he know? If he does know the future, why doesn’t he do something about bad things? Does God allow evil to exist? Is he helpless to combat evil? Is he allowing evil to bring about something good? How about when it brings a lot of pain? Do I have any free will? Can people interfere with the plan of God? Does God change his mind? Bottom line: Does prayer change things?

If such questions about God’s providence are not answered, our prayer life will suffer.

Here’s how the proper view of the providence of God can help our prayer life:

  1. God’s providential control is comprehensive, detailed, capable, loving, and best.

There is much about the providence of God in creation in the Book of Psalms and Job. But, here is a classic passage from Matthew 6     26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 10     29 “…And not one of them (sparrows) falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Miracles are also part of his equation, but they are rare.When they don’t happen, we have to trust his perfect plan.

  1. People act freely within God’s overall will.

The best way to understand that is to imagine a road trip growing up. Mom and dad will get to the destination but it’s up to us as to how we will enjoy the trip. When it comes to humans, his sovereign will is always done, even if his moral will may be rejected. God’s purpose was to bring the people into the Promised Land. This was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah one day. Nonetheless, they all had a choice in how they would live in the land.Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Even evil has been allowed to exist temporarily but the boundary is set, as in Job. In his divine wisdom and care, he allows it. Through his foreknowledge, God already knows what we or evil will do, but everything is always within his reach and control. Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

  1. God works in us to bring us in partnership with his will and he uses prayers as a major means.

This happens through scripture, prayer, (personal and corporate) and fellowship with other believers. 1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Moses prayed for God’s people and miracles happened. The early church prayed and circumstances changed. Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Jesus wanted his disciples to participate in prayer. John 16      23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This applies to our personal lives as well because we are connected to his comprehensive plan. James 4:2 “…Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” Can we change the mind of God? In his perfect wisdom and plan, he has even allowed for that. His overall plan is always intact, but it does impact the immediate plan of God.

  1. Providence, Prayer, and everything else are ultimately connected to our salvation through Jesus Christ.

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: What do you believe about prayer? Does God answer? Can he answer? Have you prayed to invite Jesus into your life to be your Savior and King?

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?

Abound by Dr. Abidan Shah

Abound

ABOUND by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction: One sign that a baby is becoming a toddler is that he/she will say, “I do it” when it comes to feeding, putting on their shoes, or other activities that they previously relied on the parents. It’s a good thing because it’s an indication that the child is growing up and becoming independent. It can also be a sad time for some young parents, but I tell them, “Don’t worry. It reverses when they become teenagers!” In our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we come to the often-quoted passage from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” People claim that as a life-verse. They wear T-shirts with that verse. Athletes even tattoo it on their arms. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that they are talking it out of context. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that when it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” it’s not talking about overcoming incredible odds or reaching ambitious goals. It’s a declaration of the Christian’s ability to thrive whether one is down or abound. Turn in your Bibles to Philippians 4:10 and our message is titled “ABOUND.”

Philippians 4:10 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.” What exactly was Paul saying here? To correctly understand this, we need to keep in mind the context of the Philippian church. Externally, they were facing persecution. Internally, they were at odds with each other. Fears without and fightings within. In the midst of all this mess, they had stopped supporting Paul’s ministry. How was he faring? Listen to his description of a similar situation in I Corinthians 4     11 “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands…” By the way, since he was incarcerated, he couldn’t even work! If he ran out of food, maybe a soldier had pity on him and gave him some scraps. If he was freezing, maybe he found some old rags that he used to keep himself warm. Only eternity will reveal how much Paul suffered for the gospel. Then, there was a knock on the door and there stood a man by the name of Epaphroditus from the church in Philippi. Listen to Philippians 4:18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” As Paul said in Philippians 4:10 “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly,” he began celebrating on receiving the help from the Philippians.

Was Paul desperate for help from the Philippians? 11 “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” The word for learned is “manthano.” Here, it has the idea of a disciple learning how to follow the master. He has learned how to come to the place of being “content” = “autarkeia.” Content is not about be satisfied with you have and don’t get a better phone or an upgraded boat. The way this word is used implies complete readiness to accept whatever God has in store.

What does this kind of life look like? Verse 12 “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” Abase = “tapeinos,” which implies having a lowly mind like that of Jesus. Abound = “perisseuo,” which meant to be full, beyond, exceed. “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” This time the word for learned is “myeo” which has the idea of learning how to grow spiritually. Now he says in verse 13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The secret to his contentment is that “he has the strength to deal with all situations through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” This is not about being 5 foot 3 and being able to dunk, unless you are Muggsy Bogues with a 44-inch vertical jump!

So, yes, Paul rejoiced greatly that the money had come, but, no, he wasn’t desperate.

Now, listen to Paul’s clarification: 14 “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” Did Paul depend on the Philippians for money? To answer that, we need to turn again to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians because here he gave us information on how ministries were to be supported. Listen to I Corinthians 9      7 “Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?9 For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain’…10…For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?…13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” In Judaism, every Jewish male was obligated to pay a half-shekel temple tax, along with the sacrifices. All this was used to support the priests, the Levites, and their families. 14 “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” In other words, those who work in the church are supported by the tithes and offerings of those who are benefitted by the church, just like in the Old Testament temple. Now, Paul did not take any money from the Corinthians because of their bad attitude towards him. Listen to 2 Corinthians 11     7“Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.” Nonetheless, Paul did not shortchange them. Listen to 2 Corinthians 12    14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you…15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls…” The only place Paul did not ease up with the Corinthians was the collection for the poor in Jerusalem. 2 Corinthians 9:7“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Some of you may be wondering, “Why is Pastor Shah talking about all this?” Sometimes, people wonder why we take up tithes and offerings. We are following the pattern set for us by Paul in God’s word. We take up money to support the operation of the church, pay the staff of the church, provide help for those who are struggling near and far, and help missionaries and church planters all over the world to share the gospel and help the needy. We are an exceptional church where people give generously and wholeheartedly. Having said that, not everyone gives and not everyone gives as much as they should. How about you?

Did Paul benefit from his relationship with the Philippians? 17 “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” Paul was saying that even though he needed the help and he was grateful for the gift, he was not depended on them for survival, nor was he trying to look for the gift. But, by sending their gift, the Philippians have pleased God and now have a share in Paul’s ministry. 18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” Paul described their gifts with the same words that he used to describe the sacrifice of Christ in Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Finally, verse 19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” In fact, Paul added, God will meet your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

What was Paul really trying to say here? Even though he was depended on them, he was not obligated to them. Even if they supported him financially, he was under God’s control not theirs. So also, people coming from a different church tradition think that since we pay the pastor or staff, he/they does/do what we tell him/them to do. Maybe even, he better do as we tell him to do. Sorry friend. You need to give because it is the right thing for you to do and it is good for you to do. You cannot control God’s ministers with money. If that happens, we will tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear.

Have you learned how to abound in Christ? It’s not about having things or not having things. It’s about being content in Christ. Is Christ enough for you?

Are you saved? Do you have Christ?

True Gains by Dr. Abidan Shah

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TRUE GAINS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Before the COVID-19 shutdown, our Clearview staff would meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at our local Y to workout. One of our codewords was “It’s time for some gains.” By that we meant, “It’s time for us to gain some muscles.” Some days, it was tough to get up early on a cold morning and drive to the gym. It was such a good feeling to sleep in, but, compared to the good feeling of working out, it was loss. By the way, one of us did a lot of looking in the mirror and admiring his gains but we’re not going to talk about that! So also, in the Christian life, we have to decide what really matters. What are the true gains in the Christian life? True Gains for a believer are knowing Christ and being found in him. Unfortunately, we substitute these gains for things that only lead to self-righteous pride and disunity. Our message today is titled “TRUE GAINS” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

Question: What things do you consider as gains in your life? What would you be willing to give up in order to gain Christ? Before you can gain Christ, you have to find Christ. Have you found Christ? Are you saved?

Context: So far, in this series on Philippians, we have learned that the Christians in Philippi were struggling with both internal and external problems. Internally, they were struggling with disunity in the body. Externally, they were facing persecution from their neighbors. This was very detrimental to their existence. Paul wrote this letter both to settle their disputes and to strengthen them. His answer to their situation was “have the mind of Christ.” Philippians 2:5, “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” In other words, if they were going to get along and survive the persecution, they needed a mind-renewal to match the mind of Christ. Developing a mind like the mind of Christ was another way of saying, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13). So, how should they behave if they’ve had this mind transformation, this working out of salvation? Here’s a checklist in Philippians 2    14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, (Do you do all things without complaining and disputing?) 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, (Have you become blameless and harmless?) children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Are you a child of God without fault, shining as lights in the world?) 16 holding fast the word of life, (Are you holding fast the word of life?) so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Are you giving others opportunity to rejoice in the day of Christ?)

But, Paul didn’t stop here. He went on to address the source of their conflicts. If there is a crack in the wall, we can keep patching it or we can find the problem and do some real fixing so the crack doesn’t come back. Paul wants to fix the problem under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not just for the Philippians but for all of us. Let’s look at how he does that, one verse at a time:

3     1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. It seems that Paul is about to end his letter, but wait! 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Between verses 1 and 2, there is a radical shift in tone. Scholars have debated this section to no end. Some have even said that there must be some other letter by Paul that got inserted here. I believe that this is one and the same letter. You have to read it in its rhetorical context. Remember, Paul was trained by the best of both Jewish and Greek worlds. What is the purpose for the shift in tone? Paul wants to deal with root problem of disunity among the Philippian Christians—Pride through self-righteousness. Paul doesn’t just come out and accuse them of pride and arrogance. That would be too much in your face or misjudging the wrong person, which we often do.

Instead, Paul lays out the example of those who demonstrate pride through self-righteousness: the Judaizers. These were people who were claiming to be Christians but still wanted to practice the Old Testament practices like circumcision. They contradicted and opposed Paul’s ministry, and they must have infiltrated the Philippian Church. Listen again to how he describes them in verse 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” The Greek word for dog “kuon” is the word from which we get our word “canine.” In Latin, it would be “Cave Canem” = “Beware/Watch for Dog.” Was Paul being hateful?Here Paul is using the word that was reserved for the Gentiles. Also, mutilation is the word “katatome.” Here again the word was used to describe those Gentiles who tried to practice circumcision (peritome) but they were only mutilating themselves. There was no covenant with God in their ritual. Unfortunately, the Judaizers had the same attitude even in the church towards those who were not circumcised. They would act uppity with them, as if they were privileged. What a sad thing to do? It could very well be that some of the people in the Philippian church had some Jewish background or they may have picked up some of these bad behaviors.

Principle: All pride is bad but spiritual pride is the most destructive. It is nauseating to the lost world; it demoralizes younger believers; and it angers God.

Listen to Paul’s response: 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

Application: Are you worshipping God in the Spirit? Are you rejoicing in Christ Jesus? Do you have confidence in the flesh? Is it about how long you’ve been in church? Is it about your spiritual pedigree? Is it about your Bible knowledge?

Paul now gives his own example: 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Instead of taking pride in any of this—7 But what things were gain (“kerdos”) to me, these I have counted loss (“zemia”) for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” The word for “rubbish” is “skubalon,” which refers to “unspeakable filth” or “dung.” Keep in mind: Paul did not say that these things are rubbish. But, compared to gaining Christ, they are rubbish.

What did Paul consider as his gains now? 3 things:

  1. His Justification (that event by which we are set or declared to be in right relation with God): 9 “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
  2. His Sanctification (that event that God is daily working in our lives to make us more like him): 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Grammatically, to know Christ is to experience the power of his resurrection and to join him in his sufferings.
  3. His Glorification (that event that God will one day welcome us into what he has prepared for us): 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Here are the true gains? Justification – saved from the penalty of sin; Sanctification – saved from the power of sin; and Glorification – saved from the presence of sin.

Invitation: How are your gains? What do you think of your justification, sanctification, and glorification? Are you saved?

 

 

Gospel-Centric by Dr. Abidan Shah

Gospel Centric.jpg

GOSPEL-CENTRIC by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Do you know someone who is really into something like a hobby, sport, or some cause? They talk about it all the time. They want you to get excited about it just as much as they are. I knew someone like that when we lived back in Georgia about 25 years ago. Nicole and I were friends with this couple from her dad’s church. The man was an A-grade mechanic and was also big into Nascar. He would talk to me about it all the time about the size of the engines, the pistons, the tire pressure, and on and on. Even though I didn’t know a thing about Nascar, before long I was talking about Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Ernie Irwin, and Dale Earnhardt (No. 3). I was coming home after church and actually watching the races! Once we moved, I sort of stayed into it and then I lost interest. So also, with the gospel, there are people who are so consumed with the gospel that they can’t help but talk about it all the time. They love sharing the gospel. They are gospel-centric. When you are around such people, you become just like them. You also become gospel-centric. That’s the title of our message today in our new series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians titled “COMMUNITY.”

Philippians 1     3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…7 “… both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace…12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

Question: Paul’s ministry was gospel-centric. He wanted the Philippians to make their church gospel-centric as well. How much is your life gospel-centric? Do you think our church is gospel-centric enough? Do you know the gospel? Are you saved?

Context: If you grew up in church, you probably heard the word “gospel” at some point. How important is this word “gospel”? You may have heard it before or maybe from me that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell,” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good, of course, but “spell” means story or news. So, Gospel = Good News. But, in today’s message, we are going deeper and looking at the Greek word behind gospel—“euangelion.” It is found several hundred times in various forms in the New Testament, about 84 times in Paul’s letters, and about 9 times in his letter to the Philippians. For starters, it was not invented by Paul or by the other New Testament writers. Neither was it borrowed from the Greco-Roman world, even though it was used to refer to good news like the birth of the emperor and special decrees by him, and sacrifices were offered to the gods when the “euangelion” of victory came to them. This helps our understanding of the word but the New Testament writers had a different source for “euangelion.” It was the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 40-66, where it talks about the coming of the Messiah. Listen to Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings (Here, the Greek word for “good tidings” in the LXX is “euangelizo” from “euangelion”) to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” The gospel was rooted in the Scriptures as the promise of the coming Messiah. The world was in bad news but good news was in its way!

When Jesus came, he saw his ministry as a fulfillment of this prophecy. At the start of his ministry, he went into the synagogue and read Isaiah 61, and declared “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 6:21). Then, he went everywhere preaching the gospel of the kingdom and doing the things listed in Isaiah 61. When John the Baptizer doubted Jesus’ ministry, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 in Matthew 11     5 “The blind see and thelame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” When the gospel writers wrote about the ministry of Jesus, they also used the same word “euangelion” to refer to his coming— Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This continued in the early church where the book of Acts repeatedly used the word “euangelion” to refer to the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection. Both Peter and Paul referred to themselves as preachers/ministers of the gospel: Acts 15:7 “…And…Peter…said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe”; Acts 20:24 “…nor do I (Paul) count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

The point I am making here is that the Old Testament writers, Jesus, gospel writers, the early church, and the pillars of the church (Peter and Paul) were all gospel-centric. Their main focus was bringing the good news to the world that was under bad news.

Question: Are you gospel-centric? Is our church gospel-centric?

Let’s get back to Philippians: In what ways was Paul gospel-centric to the Philippians? He uses the word “euangelion” 9 times in this letter. Let’s quickly look at them:

Philippians 1    3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

  1. The gospel binds us in fellowship.

Philippians 1:7 “just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.”

  1. The gospel opens opportunities for God’s grace.

Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

  1. The gospel takes precedence over trials.

Philippians 1     15 “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

  1. The gospel neutralizes bitter envy.

Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

  1. The gospel demands a certain conduct.

Philippians 2    21 “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.”

  1. The gospel proves selflessness.

Philippians 4     2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

  1. The gospel increases our value.

Phil. 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

  1. The gospel offers opportunities to partner.

Question: Is the gospel the glue that holds our fellowship together? Does the gospel take precedence over our personal trials? Are you living up to the conduct worthy of the gospel? Are you partnering with others in sharing the gospel?

Here’s the final question: What is the content of the gospel? Paul actually gives us the content of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15    1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved…3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (Meaning: Paul is not the manufacturer of the gospel) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (There’s the bad news) 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (There’s the good news) 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren…” (There’s the proof of the good news)

Question: Do you understand this gospel? Do you believe this gospel? Are you on the gospel of train? Or, have you lost your train of thought and are stranded with some poor substitutes?

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on June 24, 2017)

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31)

Summer is here. Those who can are taking every opportunity to get away to the lake, beach, mountains, or some place other than home. But will they truly rest? Most don’t. Many complain on returning that they need a vacation to recuperate from their vacation! Then there are those who are staying home and getting caught up on all the unfinished projects. No rest for the weary. I confess that I fall into the latter category. I enjoy work! It energizes me. It bothers me to see able-bodied people being lazy.

So who is better? The ones who get away or the ones who keep going? Neither, because both are still failing to rest. Here’s why:

God’s idea of rest is to cease from labor. In the Book of Genesis he set the pattern for us. After creating the world and everything in it in six days, he rested on the seventh day, and even blessed and sanctified it as a Day of Rest. Of course, God didn’t need to rest. “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4) He did it to remind us that without adequate rest we will fail to function to the level of our abilities and even fall apart. As the old Greco-Roman saying goes, “If you keep your bow tightly strung at all times, it will quickly break, but if you let it rest, it will be ready to use whenever you need it.” True rest is complete cessation of work.

While it is obvious that those who stay home and keep working are failing to follow God’s mandate, it is not as apparent but many who are getting away are also just as guilty. The culprit is our world of hyper-connectivity. It’s no secret that technology has changed our world radically in the past decade or so, in some ways to our detriment. I’m not advocating abandoning our smart phones or deleting our social media accounts. We’re way past the exit ramp. What I am suggesting is taking breaks from our statuses and stories and allowing our minds to rest. Constantly checking and scrolling through updates is just disguised labor. Just like Jesus and his disciples were constantly bombarded by people coming and going, we too have people dropping in every moment, albeit behind a touch screen.

So, whether you get away or stay home, truly rest. If you’re on the beach or the lake, post pictures of how amazing it is to be you! But then put it away. Enjoy nature, God’s natural relaxant. Take the time to connect with the loved ones near you, especially the young. They’re not as addicted to social media as you may think. In the absence of genuine, fun, and meaningful interactions with the adults in their lives, they have defaulted to poor but enticing substitutes. I fear that if we don’t break our addiction, we’re headed towards a relationship precipice that will be much worse than Harry Chapin ever imagined in “Cat’s in the Cradle.”

By the way, don’t neglect the more essential spiritual rest which only Christ can provide, as he said – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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