WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: Thank you so much to all of you are joining us via Facebook Live and Periscope! Thank you also to John, Elie, and the guys there for leading us in worship! I especially want to thank Kim Davis for giving me the idea to do this! And Donna Young as well! After the initial excitement, it was like – “Well, now I have to prepare a sermon!” This morning I want to preach a message I’ve never preached before. It’s on one of my favorite passages from the Bible from Romans 15:13 and the message is titled – “When All Seems Hopeless.” You can follow along on the screen behind me or go to my blog www.abidanshah.com and follow the entire message there.

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Twice you come across the word “hope” in this verse.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on your personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Are you saved?

Let’s take this verse apart and examine each section. Then when we understand each part, we will put it back together and look at the whole.

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, and God of our salvation. But here it is the “God of Hope.” It is one attribute of God that we don’t think about. God is the One who shows us life when there’s only death. He is the One who shows us the light at the end of the tunnel. But there’s more – He’s also the One who brings life when there’s only death and He is the One who turns on the Light at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

But let’s go even a step further – He is the Life and He is the Light. In other words, He not only sees the future and He not only brings out a good future but He is the good future.

Listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Listen to what someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.”

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 some times. It is a sense of happiness that is not dependent on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Matthew 5 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be alright. It is also independent of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and inside they are torn to pieces. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope fills us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace.

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “in believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Alexander Maclaren gives a great illustration – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looks like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

WHEN GOOD THINGS START HAPPENING

WHEN GOOD THINGS START HAPPENING by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

When Good Things Start HappeningAfter almost two years, we have come to the end of our series on the Book of Romans. If you did not get a chance to be with us, you can listen to the messages on our website or through podcast. This morning we are in Romans chapter 16 for our last message titled, “WHEN GOOD THINGS START HAPPENING.” Anytime things begin to move forward in your life, home, work, or church, be careful. Don’t get caught up in the success syndrome. Don’t be naïve or complacent. You’re about to get hit. This is the time that you need to be most on guard.

Romans 16:17-20  17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.  19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.  20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Overall Background: If I were writing the book of Romans, I would have chosen a different ending. I would’ve either summarized the main points or ended with a memorable quote or even left the readers with some wonderful promise. But Paul didn’t do any of that. Instead, he ended the letter with a grim warning. Listen to verse 17 “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”

What an anticlimactic way of ending an otherwise glorious letter. Paul went from talking about spiritual things to dealing with earthly, sensual, demonic behavior. Why did Paul do that? Paul knew that the church in Rome was doing great. Listen to verse 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. Meaning: I know that good things are happening in your church. You seemed to have reached the mountaintop. You are no longer in the valley. That is good but now don’t get complacent. Now you are in the place of high visibility. Now you are a target. Now you are walking around with a big bulls eye on your back. As long as you were obscure, walking in the valley, you were safe. But now you are exposed. This is not the time for the victory dance. In fact, this is the time to be on guard more than ever.

Application: God has been doing some amazing things at Clearview. We are somewhere near the mountaintop. I don’t think we have reached the top yet. There are much greater things on the way. But did you know that right now we are the most vulnerable. This is the time when the Enemy wants to sneak in. This is not the time to lay down our guard and rest. This is the time to be more careful than ever.

By the way, it is the same principle in our personal lives. We are more vulnerable when we are near the mountaintop. I was talking to someone the other day about a leader who was just on the up and up. Nothing could have prepared me for what I heard. He had lost his work, lost his marriage, and lost his family. It’s what Rick Warren calls the “Lesson of the whale: When you get to the top and start to blow, that’s when you get harpooned.”

Lets see how Gods Word helps us to guard ourselves as a church and also in our individual lives.

I. REJECT THOSE WHO BRING DISTRACTIONS.

17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned,

Background: Paul begs them to be careful about those who try to bring distractions in the church – distractions from the message of the cross; distractions from the focus on Jesus Christ; distractions from reaching people with the gospel. How do they do that? They come in with some strange doctrine. They start with some unnecessary conflict. They incite some petty debate. “How many angels can dance on the point of a needle?” “Whether our hair and nails will grow after the Resurrection?” Paul warns them to reject all such debates and stick to the teachings “which you learned.”

What are the teachings? Teachings are what Paul has been talking about. God is holy. Human beings are sinful. Jesus came into this world as promised by God since the beginning of time. He died on the cross for the sins of every single person. All we have to do is look to Him and trust His sacrifice on the cross as our only plan of salvation. Now the Holy Spirit has come to dwell inside of us. We are to reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. There is a literal heaven and a literal hell. Jesus is coming once again for His bride the church. He can come any moment. I can go on and on. But those are the teachings that you have learned.

What Paul is saying here is look out for people who come with a different belief than what you have learned from God’s Word. They usually come in by stealth. They appear spiritual and godly and pious but they’re really not. They are dangerous. They like prominence, power, and position. They are looking for some kind of controversy. They love to prey on the simple minded. They love to find some point of contention and before long they start brewing trouble. Before you know it the church is divided and confused. As Phil Hoskins said yesterday, “You can’t fish and fight at the same time.”

For e.g. We had a guy like that in our church back home. He had taken some correspondence classes and wanted his own class. My dad was young in ministry and he gave it to him. Before long he was contradicting what my dad was preaching. When the leaders removed him from the position, he decided to start a church in his home. He began to invite people from church to attend his house church. Sadly, he pulled many naïve families into his web.

How should we treat these people? 17…note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

Background: Paul through the Holy Spirit does not tell the Roman Christians to learn to get along. He does not say, “live and let live.” To the contrary, he says, “When such people come to you, shun them.” Don’t associate with them. This is very hard for some Christians to do. We are afraid to hurt feelings.

Listen carefully – we’ve had some come through these doors as well. Some of the leaders may know that I had to apply Romans 16:17. It was not fun. Some People did not understand. They thought Pastor Shah is jealous or he is mean or he is harsh or a dozen other reasons.

Application: Clearview – we are at a critical point in our church’s life. Be careful of these troublemakers. Let me apply it to your individual lives – there are some people who are coming into your life right now whose intentions are not very clean. Either win them to Jesus or cut ties.

II. REMEMBER THE COMMAND OF OUR MASTER JESUS CHRIST. 

18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

Background: Right there is the crux of the matter. “Serve our Lord Jesus Christ.” First, let’s look at the title “Lord.” It is a confusing word for a lot of people. It is the Greek word “kurios” – a translation of the Old Testament Hebrew word “Yahweh.” What does it mean? It means master, supreme authority, king, owner.

How about Jesus? Jesus – is again a confusing word. It comes from the Hebrew word “Joshua” meaning Yahweh saves. Meaning: This master, supreme authority, king, owner is also God who saves or rescues.

How about Christ? This again is a confusing word. It’s the Greek word for Messiah – the Promised One, the Anointed One.

So the meaning of Lord Jesus Christ means God who came to save us as promised by Him from the beginning.

What is the purpose of the church? It’s not to get wrapped up in petty arguments but serve this God. Serving Him means doing what He wants to do. What did Jesus come to do? Luke 4:17-19  17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” What did He tell his disciples in the end? Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Do you know what the slogan of Clearview is “MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE.” Our mission is “to lead all people to a life changing and ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Application: That’s what we are called to do as a church and as an individual. It is very easy to loose this focus. My purpose as a pastor is to constantly remind you of this.

III. RECOGNIZE THE ENEMY BEHIND THE SCENES.

 

20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Background: What Paul is really saying here is that behind all these distractions and compromise, there is a shadowy figure. He is Satan.

I am hesitant to preach this passage. Pray for me. I’ve heard too many Christians torn to pieces, too many churches destroyed because they decided to take on Satan in their own strength and power. They say things like – “Let’s stomp on the Devil.” “Let’s chase the Devil.”

You do not challenge the enemy in your own strength and power. Listen again – 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.

For e.g. A Church in a 30-mile radius decided to declare war against the Devil. Today it doesn’t exist.

Jude 8-9  8  Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.  9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

Acts 19:11   Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul,  12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.  13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. 15   And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” 16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

I am not telling you to fear – 1 John 4:4 “…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

Fast and Pray and be clean and close to Jesus.

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 2

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Marks of an Encouraging ChurchIn this message we will come face-to-face with many different characters from the early church. They were flesh and blood human beings just like us. But, they were worthy enough to be mentioned in the Bible because they were a great source of encouragement to Paul and to each other. Our generation can definitely learn from these personalities were about to encounter in this passage.

Romans 16:1-5   1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,  2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,  4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.  5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.  7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

Overall Background:  Most people, when they come to Romans 16, just skip past the names mentioned by Paul and their description along with it. To them, they are no different than the genealogies that are found in the Old and the New Testaments, just some names that are hard to pronounce. Who cares? Let’s get to the good part. But as one scholar noted, “for those few who are especially interested in the socioeconomic composition of the early church, it is a gold mine.” (Douglas Moo) Meaning: If we want to know what the early church looked like, study these names and their descriptions. In these 16 verses, we come face-to-face with 26 Christians who lived 2000 years ago. These were common people with common problems. They probably had the same struggles we do, same weaknesses we have, and same trials we face. But, there were three things that qualified them to be included in the Bible – first, they knew Jesus Christ as their Savior; second, they were a great source of great encouragement to each other; and three, they were in the business of ministry – reaching people for the kingdom.

We need to hear this message today – many of us have such a distorted view of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be a member of a church, what it means to serve God as a body. This message teaches us what our church should look like. It teaches that what our focus should be. It teaches us how everyone has something to offer in the church. Let this message be a mirror for you this morning.

Without further due, let’s meet these Christians. There are 7 different personalities.

I. MEET PHOEBE – A SERVANT

1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,

Background: Keep in mind that Phoebe was not from Rome. She was coming to Rome and Paul was writing this letter as a commendation, asking the Roman Christians to help her. For starters, Phoebe was probably a Gentile believer. Her name Phoebe comes from Greek mythology – the goddess of prophecy, who held the oracle at Delphi. We don’t know how she got saved but she did. Paul knew her from Cenchrea. He probably met her when he was in Corinth for 18 months and Cenchrea was was only 8 miles from Corinth. Maybe Paul started the church in Cenchrea and led her to the Lord. We don’t know that for sure. What we do know about her is her reputation. Paul calls her a “servant.” He does not use that term lightly. Several times he used it to refer to himself:

Ephesians 3:7 “…I became a servant according to the gift of the grace of God.”

Colossians 1:25 “…I became a servant according to the stewardship from God…”

He encourages Timothy in 1Timothy 4:6 to be “a good servant of Jesus Christ.”

In Romans 15:8 he even refers to Jesus as a “servant to the circumcision for the truth of God.”

The word servant is not an ordinary title in Paul’s vocabulary. It was someone who gave their life for others. Can you picture Phoebe? If someone is sick, she is the first to bake a casserole or a pie. If there is a fellowship dinner, you can count on Phoebe to cook, to clean, and to wash the dishes. If there is need for helpers in a class or at an outreach ministry, Phoebe will gladly volunteer.

Listen to what else Paul says about her in verse 2 “…receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, (What a great complement! Treat her like you would treat the saints – Moses, David, Peter, James, and the other) and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.” What is amazing to me is that Paul is putting his own credentials on the line for this woman!

Application: What is your reputation? Servant or Helper. Or is it selfish, troublemaker, or gossip. Would someone like Paul put his credentials on the line for you? Praise God for the servants. Our church has many care-givers who work behind the scenes.

II. MEET AQUILA AND PRISCILLA – RISK TAKERS

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,

Background: Who were these two? They were a husband-wife missionary team. Paul first met them at Corinth. At that time, they had to leave their home in Rome because the Roman Emperor Claudius had kicked out the Jewish people from the city. They were also tent makers like Paul. They were fellow workers who helped Paul in Corinth and later in Ephesus. They were instrumental in discipling Apollos. They did not do that publicly or proudly but Acts 18:26 notes that “they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” What a beautiful picture of spiritual maturity!

But there’s more – verse 4 who risked their own necks for my life. Meaning: They were not just great Bible teachers and discipleship leaders. They were risk-takers. They were willing to put their lives at risk so that the gospel would go forward. Nothing significant is ever done without a certain amount of risk. Most Christians say “Give me some proof” or “Give me some guarantee.” Clint Eastwood – “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” Most churches are like a toaster. You go in fluffy and come out jammed or burnt.

Will Rogers – “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”

Paul goes on to say, “to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.  5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

Application: What is your reputation? Firm as a pillar, hard as a rock, favorite song is “I shall not be moved.” Are you the safe player? Or, are you a risk taker?

III. MEET EPAENETUS – SAMPLE

Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.

Background: Some people say “firstfruits” means that Epaenetus was Paul’s “first convert in Acahaia. Could be. But then Paul could have said “first convert.” He specifically uses the term “firstfruits” to refer to Epaenetus. What are “firstfruits?” Before the Israelites harvested the crops, they were supposed to bring a sample to the priest as an offering to the Lord. It was a sample of the greater, fuller harvest to come.

For e.g. When we go to the mall and then go by the food court – they offer you samples. “If you like this, you can have more.”

Epaenetus was a constant reminder of the greater harvest still to come. New converts are a must in every church. They are a reminder that more harvest can come.  tweet this button A church with no firstfruits is a dying, defeated, and discouraging church.

Vance Havner – “We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.”

How is our reputation? Do we have firstfruits? Do we welcome firstfruits? Is this a place where firstfruits are seen as a sign of more to come?

IV. MEET MARY, ANDRONICUS, AND JUNIA – FAITHFUL PARTNERS

6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.

Background: The Greek word for “labor” is considered by some scholars to be a designation for early missionary enterprise. People like Mary have been in the trenches for a long time. The emphasis is on “much.”

Again verse 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

The emphasis there is on “before me.” There were people like Andronicus and Junia who were tried and true fellow Christians in the church. You can count on them. It’s great to have new people but it’s also beautiful to be around people who have been there through the thick and thin. They don’t bail out, back out, jump ship, walk out, “take their toys and go home.” I tell people who threaten to take their toys and go home, “Your replacement is already in the wings.”

Application: Is this your reputation? Tried and true, consistent, faithful, and trustworthy, dependable, reliable.

V. MEET AMPLIAS, URBANUS, STACHYS, APELLES – VALUABLE

8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.  9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved.  10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ.

Background: Not much is said about them, just a word on each. Based on their names, more than likely they were either slaves or freedmen. But Paul found it necessary to greet them because they were valuable. Like the description of Apelles – “approved in Christ.” Meaning = they were people who proved their value in time.

There are people in church that are very valuable. If they did not show up, something would be missing. From greeters, to audio-visual, to kitchen, to nursery, they make a difference.

Application: May I ask you a question? – When you miss a Sunday or a Wednesday or another event, are you missed? Or do things go on as usual? People say – “If I knew what to do, I would get involved.” Start showing up. Start reading the bulletin, monthly newsletter, and weekly newsletter. Ask to volunteer. Get started somewhere. It may not be the end ministry but it’s a step in the door. You don’t have to preach, sing, or teach but there’s something you can do that makes all this work.

VI. MEET FAMILIES OF ARISTOBULUS, HERODION, AND NARCISSUS – INFLUENTIAL

10…Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.

Background: Many scholars have held that this Aristobulus was none other than the grandson of Herod the Great and brother of Herod Agrippa of Judea. This is a very wealthy and influential family. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Meaning: This person was also connected to the family of Herod. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Narcissus was a wealthy and powerful freedman under Emperor Claudius.

Bottom Line – There were wealthy, resourceful, influential people in the church. The church is not just a place for the poor and the downtrodden but also for the wealthy.

Application: Are you using your resources for the Kingdom of God? Are you being a good steward of what God has given to you?

VII. MEET THE REST – SAINTS

I’m going to read the names even though we will not examine them in detail, like the rest. They deserve to be mentioned.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord.  13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.  14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them.  15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

The word that Paul uses in the end to designate all of them is “Saints.” He doesn’t call them laypeople, church folks, or church members but saints, meaning set apart ones.

Invitation:

–       What do you see in the mirror?

–       Did you see yourself in one of those categories?

–       Do you see yourself at all?

If you don’t see yourself, it’s because you are not in Him. You need to be saved.

Maybe, you do see yourself but all you see is someone sitting on the sidelines. You walk in and walk out, no contribution, no ministry, and no service. It’s time to get up and get involved. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in what He wants you to do.

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 1

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Marks of an Encouraging ChurchThis morning’s message is part one of a two-part miniseries titled “MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH.” Many churches promise the right hand of fellowship but what you end up getting is the right knee of fellowship.

Romans 14:10-13  10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.  13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

Overall Background:  We have come to the final pages of Paul’s letter to the Romans. He began this letter with doctrine and then transitioned into application but he is not through. There’s something else on his heart. Just like a father writing to his children on his deathbed, Paul’s last words are not just fillers but I think they are some of the most important words in the letter. Paul through the Holy Spirit is reminded the Christians to be steadfast in unity and love towards each other. A church can be orthodox, gifted, and financially stable, but without love, it will fall apart. tweet this button

Both the OT and the NT emphasize unity and love among God’s people:

–       David wrote in Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

–       II Chronicles 30:12 “…the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.”

–       Jesus told his disciples in John 13:34-34   34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

–       Jesus prayed for His disciples – John 17:21 “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. The proof of the incarnation of Jesus is unity!

Sadly, many churches are straight in doctrine, loaded in gifts and talents, and abundant in financial resources but have failed in love. By our lack of unity and love we are destroying our witness and failing the Great Commission.

This morning we will learn 4 important marks of an encouraging church:

I. NONJUDGMENTAL OVER PERSONAL CONVICTIONS

Romans 14:1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. There are some things over which the Bible is clear and straightforward. Then there are some things where the Bible leaves room for interpretation. There we shouldn’t get into heated debates. Augustine once said – “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Sadly in many churches the nonessentials become the focus.

Background: Among the Roman Christians, there were 2 groups of people: those who were ‘weak in faith’ and those who were ‘strong in faith.’ The weak were those Jewish Christians who felt that they had to refrain from certain foods and observe certain days out of loyalty to the Law of Moses. There were 2 questions that divided them – First, should we eat meat? Romans 14:2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Isn’t that amazing that most church conflicts happen over food?!! “Who brought the food? Who didn’t bring the food? Who got in line first? Who stayed around and helped clean up?

Second, should we celebrate the Jewish holy days? Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Again, isn’t that amazing that not much has changed today?!! What day is sacred? Sunday or Saturday. My answer – Everyday!

How should we respond to these differences? Recognize that there is a difference between biblical convictions and personal convictions. Romans 14:3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.  4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. Meaning: I’m not called to sit in judgment over your convictions and you are not called to sit in judgment over my convictions. Keep in mind – this is not regarding sin. Paul covered that already when he said in Romans 13:13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

For e.g. Some people think that social media like Facebook and Twitter are of the Devil. That’s your personal conviction. Just like when radio first came, some people opposed it saying, “Satan is the prince of the power of the air.”

Romans 14:10 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

II. NON-OFFENSIVE TOWARDS THOSE WHO STRUGGLE.

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

Background: Just because you are entitled to live by your personal convictions or the lack thereof, you are still obligated to be sensitive to those who are weaker. Don’t put a stumbling block and cause your brother or sister to fall.

Romans 14:14-18  14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.  15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.  16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;

I often hear – I can do this because the Bible doesn’t say anything against it or I can do this because David did this or Jesus did that. We can argue ad infinitum and it doesn’t matter. Is it going to make you son or daughter stumble in their spiritual life? Is going to make a weak brother/sister fall in their spiritual growth? Then you are obligated to stop.

Someone might say – “Well, that’s his or her problem. I am not responsible for their actions and choices.” The last time someone said that was in Genesis 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Romans 14:17-18  17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Paul is talking to those with personal convictions – don’t put others in a bind by your personal convictions because of your preferences. It’s not about food and drink anyways.

18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

Bottom Line: Christian life is not about my rights. It is about my obligations.

III. BUILDING ONE ANOTHER LIKE JESUS

Rom. 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 

Background: The word for edify is the Greek word ‘oikadomei’ which is literally ‘building something.’ Meaning: We are God’s co-laborers in building each other spiritually.

Now, Paul is talking to both the ‘weak in faith’ and ‘strong in faith.’ Romans 14:20-21  20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.

Romans 15:1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.  3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”

Meaning: Our example in all this is Jesus Himself. Just like He gave His life for His sheep, we are to lay down our lives for each other.

Application: Whose example are you emulating this morning? It should be Jesus.

What will be the result? Romans 15:5-6  5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,  6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”

IV. FILLED WITH HOPE BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hope means something better is on the way. Don’t get caught up in the here and now but realize that we are simply passing through. Only the Holy Spirit can help us see that.

Do you have Him? Through Jesus as your Savior you can.

Does He have you? Let Him control your life completely.

Does our church have Him? We have constantly pray for that.

TIMEOUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE – 2

TIME OUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

timeoutThis morning we are in part two of our two-part series through Romans 13 titled, “TIMEOUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE.” Just like in a game when the players begin to lose their momentum, the coach calls a timeout to talk to his players, so also in the game of life, the Holy Spirit calls a timeout to talk to us: He reminds us about the game plan He has for us. He warns us about the time that is remaining in the game. He corrects the mistakes that need to be corrected. Finally, He gives us the right focus to get back in the game and win it.

Romans 13:11-14  11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.  14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is inspiring, to say the least. Paul through the Holy Spirit challenges us to wake up out of our complacency and start living the Christian life. He warns us that it is “high time,” meaning you are not only asleep but you have overslept. “The night is far spent and the day has dawned.” But before we can jump back in the game, He also corrects some of our common mistakes or distractions in the game of life.

Application: This morning there are many people here who started well, they conquered incredible odds, and they even made some tremendous progress, but then something happened and they got distracted and lost their focus. Instead of winning the game, they are sitting on the sideline, looking back to the glory days. This morning the Holy Spirit wants you to acknowledge your distractions, make the necessary changes, and get back in the game. For those who haven’t been distracted, this message is a reminder to avoid these distractions and help others do the same. But, more than that, God wants us to set our minds on the right goal.

3 distractions to avoid in the game of life:

I. UNRESTRAINED CELEBRATIONS

13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness

Sadly, we lose the force of the passage because of words that have almost become archaic. So let’s look at each of those words carefully.

Background: The word for revelry is the Greek word “komois” and the word for drunkenness is “methais.” Komois was the name of the Greek god Comus who according to Greek mythology was the son and cupbearer of the God Bacchus – the god of wine and partying. Comus was the god of all night celebrations. He represented anarchy and chaos. Usually you see him depicted as a young man who is at the point of unconsciousness from drinking so much. He has a wreath of flowers on his head and a torch that he’s about to drop from his hands.

During his festivals, people came out into the streets at night with loud music and singing and drinking and vulgarity and sensuality and sexuality. This was a night when everything goes. Men and women would exchange clothes. This was a night of unrestrained celebration. I tell people – sometimes we think that we have invented wild and crazy and that’s not true. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Paul warns the Christian not to get involved in these “unrestrained celebrations.” In Galatians 5 he gives the same warning19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness…21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It’s all right to go to a Fourth of July Celebration and have a great time. Go to the Fair and have a great time. But when you start going places where there is drinking and vulgarity and sensuality and sexuality, just know that now you are on the Devil’s playground, where he sets the rules or the lack thereof. Don’t even watch it on TV.

Peter also agrees with Paul in I Peter 4:3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.  4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.

II. UNBRIDLED SEXUAL PERVERSION

13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust,

Background: Again, two words are used – the first one refers to natural sexual behavior. But it is not referring to the sex between a husband and wife. It is referring to premarital or extramarital sex. The world says, “as long as a man and a woman love each other, it doesn’t matter what they do in the privacy of their home or car. We’re not in the 1800s. Everybody is doing it.” Or, if it’s about their children – “They won’t listen anyways. All you can do is tell them to use protection. At least my boy is not with another boy or my girl is not with another girl.” Wrong! God calls it sin. That is lewdness.

The second one refers to all manner of unnatural sexual behavior. This is referring to everything from homosexuality to bestiality. We’re living in a time when even some Christians try to condone this sinful lifestyle. There is a strong effort in our nation to destroy marriage. It doesn’t matter what Federal Judge from wherever has to say, the Great Judge calls it a sin. We’re not called to make fun of those living in that sinful lifestyle. We’re not called to condemn people living in that lifestyle. We’re called to love them but still call “sin” sin.

Listen to Paul in Ephesians 4:17   17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,  18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;  19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Sex in marriage is wonderful and beautiful and a gift from God. Sex outside of marriage whether it is premarital or extramarital or unnatural, it is sin.

Application: Do you go places where this is going on? Are you around people who exemplify this kind of behavior? Are you watching shows and movies and Internet where you are filling your eyes and the eyes of your children with this junk? Are you too curious for your won bad?

III. UNEDIFYING DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR

13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

Background: Here the word strife means trying to get one’s own way in an argument. It wants to possess something, no matter whom it belongs to. It is self-indulgent. It brings an atmosphere of constant tension and dissension.

The second word for envy is the Greek word “zelos.” It really refers to jealousy. It means you have something that you refuse to share with others.

Strife and envy/jealousy have a way of destroying fellowship in the body. They have a way of distracting us from the game of life.

What is the outcome? James 3:16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

Application: Do you go places that glorify this kind of behavior? Do you watch movies and shows that show this kind of behavior? Do you hang around people who live this kind of lifestyle?

3 Distractions to Avoid: 1. Unrestrained Celebrations. 2. Unbridled Sexual Perversion 3. Unedifying Destructive Behavior.

It’s not enough just to avoid sin. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” Meaning: You cannot go through life with a list of “I don’ts.”

1 Attitude to Embrace:

IV. REPRESENT CHRIST IN EVERY WAY.

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,

Background: This simple sentence is the theme of the entire book of Romans. It means to put on His jersey. It means to look like Him. It means that in everything I think, look, walk, and talk like Jesus. I put on His eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet, heart, and mind. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” means that when people see me, they see Jesus. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” means that when people see me, they see Jesus. tweet this button But, there’s more – When I see myself, I see Jesus.

What else? And make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Meaning: Don’t let any part of you show the ugliness of sin and flesh.

How does all this work? Let each part of you look like Jesus Christ. He has complete and total authority over my mouth, eyes, ears, hands, feet, mind, and heart. I have to get permission from Him to do anything. When I do things His way, people see Jesus. When I do things my way, people see me. I am sinful, evil, worldly, selfish, carnal, and empty. He is selfless, kind, loving, patient, caring, gentle and humble.

If I am saved, I belong to Him. I have to do it His way. I Corinthians 6:20 helps us with this: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

When I choose to go my way, I fail and do not represent Him.

Are you saved? Without being saved, you cannot put on Christ.

TIMEOUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE – 1

TIME OUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

timeoutThis morning we begin a two-part series through Romans 13 titled, “TIMEOUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE.” When a team starts doing poorly, the coach calls a timeout to talk to his players – to remind them of the game plan, to warn them of the time remaining, to correct their mistakes, and to encourage them to get back in the game. So also in life we need a timeout.

Romans 13:11-14  11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.  14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Overall Background: The passage before us if one of the most inspiring passages in the Bible. Paul is like a coach talking to his team. He is going over the game plan, he is reminding them of the time remaining, he is correcting their mistakes, and he is inspiring them to get back in the game.

Application: This morning all of us need this timeout. We get so caught up in life. We get so frustrated with our circumstances. We get so disillusioned with our situations. We get so wrapped in bad habits and bad decision that we start losing. Let me remind you – If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are still in the game. The message for you is to listen to your coach – the Holy Spirit. If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, you are lost. No matter what game you win, you will still lose in the end and this is the message for you.

4 things Paul tells them in this timeout:

I. “YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO.”

Verse 11 begins with 3 words – “And do this”

Do what? Do what I’ve been teaching you since Romans 12:1. It is filled with applications on how to live the Christian life. For example:

–       Romans 12:2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Meaning: Change the way you think about God, life, self, and others.

–       Romans 12:5 “so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Meaning: We’re connected. Learn to get along with others in church.

–       Romans 12:9 “do not avenge yourselves…for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Meaning: Don’t waste your time holding a grudge. Let God handle it.

–       Jump over to Romans 13:9-10You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor.” Meaning: Love those whom God has placed in our life.

When Paul says, “And do this,” he is referring to all this and more. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t deliberate. Don’t hesitate. Obey it. Repeatedly the Bible tells us to obey.

–       1 Samuel 15:22 “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.”

–       Luke 6:46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?

–       James 1:22   But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

–       1 John 2:3   Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

For e.g. Once I was talking to a coach about a player and he said – “He is a great player but he doesn’t listen.”

Many of us think that we need a new secret to help our Christian life. We know enough to keep us going for a long time. Like the Hymn – “Trust and Obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey. Are you obedient?

II. “WATCH THE CLOCK.”

11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep;

Background: There are 2 things that Paul is telling them – First, watch the clock; and second, you are already in the fourth quarter. You have overslept!

Christians can and do fall asleep. I’m not talking about sleeping in church, which some do. They think I can’t see them. Let me ask you  – “Can you see me?” Then I can see you!

I’m talking about spiritually sleeping. Let me give you a quick checklist to determine if you are asleep:

–       Do you know what’s happening around you? In your family, marriage, church, and community.

–       Does it bother you that what is wrong is normal and what is right is abnormal?

–       Does it bother you that your loved ones and friends do not know where they will go when they die?

–       Does it bother you that the church has lost its focus?

If you know Jesus as your Savior, your eyes are opened to the truth, you know the people are lost, you know that you have the hope of eternal life with you, without knowing Jesus people are lost. How can you be asleep?!! Moreover, how can you oversleep?!! That’s even worse! We are running late.

for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

Background: Salvation here is not individual salvation but our ultimate deliverance from sin when Jesus comes for us. Now some people think that the early church believed that Jesus would come in their generation. That’s not exactly true. They believed that Jesus could come any moment. There’s a difference there. There is not a single prophecy that has to be fulfilled for Jesus to come again. He came the first time. There are 129 prophecies regarding the first coming in the OT. There are 329 prophecies regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ in the OT and NT. Now if the first one took place with fewer prophecies, then how much more will the second one come to pass, if it is 3 times more. We are 2000 years closer to His coming.

12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand.

Application: Isn’t it true that many of us know the right thing to do but we push it off to another day? We say – “Tomorrow, I’ll get started at that” but tomorrow never comes. “One of these days, I’ll get around to working on my marriage, going to church, reading the Bible, praying, serving God, and giving my life to God.” But that day never comes.

You need to be revived.

III. “LET’S MAKE SOME CHANGES.” 

12…Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness,

Background: Paul tells them – Guys, you have to change some things. Remember, the definition of insanity: do the same things over and over and expect different results. The reason you are in a mess if because of wrong choices.

If you are a Christian, what does the Bible say about you?

Romans 6:17-18  17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

II Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

I Corinthians 6:19-20  19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Hence, cast off the works of darkness. That’s not you!

Application: You may have to make some changes in what movies you watch, what romance novels you read, what games you play, what people you call your friends. Put away all your past regrets, present lures, and future fears. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Ask godly people to support you.

IV. “GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT.”

“and let us put on the armor of light.”

Background: The imagery is one of changing clothes. Put away your pajamas and put on your armor. You are in a battle. There is a battle for your marriage, for your children, for your lost loved ones, for your church, for your community. But you cannot fight this battle with earthly weapons.

Ephesians 6:12-13  12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Last week I had a phone call from someone I’ve know for a long time and this person said to me – “I feel like my time is up. I had so many dreams and goals but I think life has passed me by.” I could hear a sense of defeat and discouragement in this person’s voice. My answer was – “Absolutely not! You are breathing aren’t you? Then, you are still in the game. You need to take a timeout, reassess your situation, seek God’s help, and get back in the game.” Instead of despairing over lost time, God wants us to live the remainder of our life with urgency and purpose.

Application: Are you doing all you can to live for God? Are you doing all you can to win people to Jesus Christ?

Let me add something here – If you’ve never received Jesus as your Savior, you are not asleep. You are dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” You don’t need to be awakened. You need to be resuscitated.

IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 3 (R.G. and Evelyn LeTourneau)

IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 3 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

If They Made It, you can make it tooWe are in our series through Romans 13 titled, IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO.” So far we have seen 2 couples in history and how they made it by the grace of God. The first was the hardheaded couple – Martin and Katie Luther and the second was the couple where both had a thorn in the flesh – Charles and Sussie Spurgeon. This Sunday morning we will look at the third couple in history that made it by the grace of God. Our message is titled – “WHEN BANKRUPTCY BRINGS A BLESSING.”

Romans 13:8-10 8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Overall Background: Listen to verse 8 once again – Owe no one anything except to love one another. Meaning: Don’t be in debt to anyone when it comes to financial obligations. At times you may have to take out a loan but do all you can to pay it back as quickly as possible. But, there is a debt that you cannot pay back. No matter how many payments you make on this account, you’ll still be behind on your payments. No matter how much you double up your payments, you’ll still have an outstanding balance. It is your love deficit towards others. It is on the love you owe to people. You’ll never be able to catch up on that account. You’ll never be able to burn the mortgage.
Applications: We’ve often heard the statement – “No one owes you anything.” That is true in a sense. Everyone is responsible for his or her actions and consequences. At the same time, there is one thing that we do owe others and that is love. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can no longer walk through life saying – “It ain’t my problem.” Just like the Good Samaritan, you stop to help those who are in need. You go above and behind in helping those who cannot help you in return. We have so much to learn here.

LeTourneau Big Tires

This morning we are looking at the marriage of R.G. and Evelyn LeTourneau. Now, who were they? If you’ve heard me preach on faith, I’m sure you’ve heard the name R.G. LeTourneau. Let me tell you a few things about this man:

– He is known as the “Dean of Earthmoving” – one of the greatest inventors of heavy equipment.
LeTourneau Tree Crusher1– When he started his business in 1921, in just two years he was $100,00 dollars in

debt. But over the next 18 years, his business grew to $10 million dollar with 4 factories and 3000 employees.
– His heavy equipment has been used around the world to clear land and build highways, dams, reservoirs, and everything big you can imagine.
– During World War II, 70 percent of bulldozers and engineering vehicles were LeTourneau’s inventions, even some of the machinery that carried our men to the shores of Normandy.
– He was responsible for as many as 300 patents.LeTourneau Snow Machines – His huge mobile offshore drilling platforms are used for drilling oil in the seas around the world.

– He founded LeTourneau University and supported many colleges, even the one that Nicole and I attended.
LeTourneau Drilling Platform– Besides leading his own company, he was also the president of the Christian Business Men’s Committee (CBMC) and president of the Gideons International.
– Each week he travelled thousands of miles, giving his testimony all over the world.
– He died in 1969 but his company is still in business today and his legacy R.G. LeTourneau 1continues.
What many people do not know was that he was married to Evelyn. Life had not been easy for them. Both of them knew what it meant to be bankrupt and what it meant to be blessed. They understood that they were stewards of what God had given to them. Let’s look at them. I will divide this message in the same outlinethat R.G. himself gave about his life. He said that his life had been through four bankruptcies.

1. MORAL BANKRUPTCY:

R.G. LeTourneau (Young)

They both grew up in Christian homes and received Jesus Christ as their Savior.For R.G. it was harder than Evelyn. Although R.G. had good godly parents, he was rebellious from the get go. One time his father told him to get more water from the well. He was so mad because it was more work than his brothers had done that he decided to draw all the water out of the well till it was dry! Another time he was told to chop some wood. He didn’t want to so he decided to chop the fence post as well. At 13 years of age he even ran away from home. He went to church and heard a lot about God but still wasn’t saved. One night at the age of 16 God got a hold of R.G. Listen to his words: “No bolts of lightning hit me. No great flash of awareness. I just prayed to the Lord to save me, and then I was aware of another presence. No words were spoken. I received no messages. It was just that all of my bitterness was drained away, and I was filled with such a vast relief that I could not contain it all. I ran to my mother. “I’m saved,” I cried. “It happened. You don’t have to worry about me any more. I have felt the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.” From that point on he had a Know-So salvation.

Young Evelyn LeTourneauThis did not mean that all his problems were gone. He had some terrible accidents – fell off a motorcycle and bruised himself terribly, got caught in a grease fire while working in the pit under the car, broke his neck in a car race. Then he met Evelyn. She was some years younger than him and her father was not ready for them to be married. So they decided to elope. They fled in his Saxon Roadster across the border to Tia Juana, Mexico. Needless to say, her father was angry and filed kidnapping charges against R.G. What a rocky start! Although they came back and the charges were dropped, Evelyn’s father did not speak to R.G. for 7 years! One day he came over to the shop were R.G. was working and held out his hand and said – “All right, Bob, You’re all right, and my daughter is all right, and my grand-children are all right. I’m the one that’s wrong in holding a grudge. You want to shake hands with me?” And R.G. nearly broke his arm shaking it!

Application: In many homes people are still holding a grudge for what took place last week or last year or ten years ago. Instead of standing as a hedge of protection for our children, we act as a hedge of thorns.
Why do I share this? Sometimes we see people who are successful and think they have it made. The only thing we have it made is our salvation.

So, they had a rocky start to their life together but they both knew Jesus as their Savior.

2. SPIRITUAL BANKRUPTCY:

Evelyn and R.G. worked together to make ends meet. Evelyn was keeping the house and taking care of a small vegetable garden. R.G. had gone into car sales and service business with a friend, which they called Superior Garage in Stockton, California. It was supposed to be a 50/50 partnership. The business was doing really great. About this time World War I came and R.G. joined the naval yard. He almost died when the Spanish influenza broke out killing thousands of people. War ended and their first son was born. R.G. was not prepared for what was about to happen when he went back on the first day to the Garage. His friend told him that they were bankrupt. He couldn’t believe it. How could that be?! Other garages were growing and set for the big car boom of 1919-1920. Everyday there was another bad news – another creditor who needed to be paid, another deal that didn’t work out. It wasn’t long before R.G. knew that his friend had a bad habit and had run the business into the ground.

Evelyn

But that wasn’t the worst of it. One night he returned from the garage and Evelyn was pacing the floor. The Spanish influenza had been raging through Stockton, especially among little infants. Few days later their baby died. Listen to R.G. words: “I held Evelyn, but when I could find words, it was to God that I addressed them. ‘What’s wrong? What have we done that we should be so punished? We’ve worked hard. We’ve tried our best to be Christians. Oh, where have we gone wrong?” That night, while we were still numb with sorrow, the answer came to me. ‘My child,’ the Voice said, ‘you have been working hard, but for the wrong things. You have been working for material things when you should have been working for spiritual things.’ The words were few, but the meaning ran deep. All that long night I reviewed my past, and saw where I had been paying only token tribute to God, going through the motions of acting like a Christian, but really serving myself and my conscience instead of serving Him. Instead of being a humble servant, I was taking pride in the way I was working to pay my material debts at the garage, while doing scarcely a thing to pay my spiritual debt to God.”

God did not cause his business to go down. Neither did he cause the baby to die. But God in His sovereignty used the struggle and thepain in their lives to turn them towards spiritual things. About this time they found a good church and their life changed forever.
His life verse became Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Application: Trials can either press you towards God or they can push you away from God. Trials can take your spiritual life to a whole new level or they can turn you bitter and angry and frustrated with God. R.G. and Evelyn chose to draw closer to God.

3. FINANCIAL BANKRUPTCY:

It happened in 1931 (2 years after the Great Depression hit the United States and the world) LeTourneau had two construction projects in hand – one, a million dollar contract, to build a highway to Boulder Dam on the Colorado River in Nevada; the second, a half a million-dollar contract, to build the Orange County Dam in Southern California. There were some problems in completing the Boulder Dam and LeTourneau was in a loss of $100,000 – in today’s standards it would be a $1 million dollars. Anyways, bonding company in San Francisco was willing to do one of two things – take it out of LeTourneau’s hands or

LeTourneau Family

oversee as he did it. To make matters worse – the State Inspector came and said “It is too late to get started because rainy season is just a few months away. You cannot complete it. Have to wait till next year.” To wait a year, might as well as call it the end – there will be no recovery. LeTourneau begged and pleaded with the inspector who finally said there is some work to be done at the base of the dam. If you can complete the work in 1 month, I will believe that you can finish the dam before the rainy season comes. LeTourneau and his men worked days, night and Sundays. The job was done. Nothing like it was done. Inspector said, “Alright if you work at the same speed, I know you will get it done before the rains.”
Prior to this LeTourneau had never worked his men on Sundays. It troubled his conscience to work on Sundays and keep his men from God’s day of rest. (I know that some of us in the medical field or law enforcement or professions like them are required to be there. We are not talking about that.) He approached the Bonding company and said “I want to stop the work on Sunday. We’ll still get the job done.” They said, “No way – to much of a risk for us. You do that – we take over.” LeTourneau prayed and asked the Lord. A still voice said “Obey God rather than man.”

They did not show up Sunday. The next day the head man at san Francisco called “What do you think you are doing? We try to help you and this is what you do. Either you work Sundays or we take over.” LeTourneau answered, “I cannot change my decision. You can take everything I have except my wife and children.” Three days later the headman came to the scene and said, “Alright fellow, you do it your way. I will back you up. I guess it will be alright.” Needless to say, the work was completed and LeTourneau was able to save the business. Bottom line – LeTourneau honored God. One time someone asked him “If you know a thing is the will of God and you do not feel you have the faith, what do you do?” He said, “I go ahead and act like I have the faith.”

The very next year, 1932, things were not much better. He was again in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. The pay roll was five weeks behind. LeTourneau did not know what would happen next. It felt like it was over. That Sunday he was in church. It was a Missions Sunday and people were pledging for missions. God spoke to his heart and said – “How about making a pledge to missions this year?” He answered – “How can I? There are people in church here who work for me. I haven’t paid them in five weeks. If I do this, they would call me a hypocrite for making a pledge when I wasn’t paying my bills.” God told him to divide the pledge and make it in the names of his children. He made a pledge of $5000, which was a lot by today’s standards.

R.G. and Evelyn LeTourneau

About this time he had sold a machine to a contractor but he was having trouble with the steel tires in the desert sand. The contractor wanted to go elsewhere but LeTourneau persuaded him to let him try the pneumatic tires. It worked like a charm. The contractor bought two of the scrapers and even told him to build another one. R.G. asked if he could have a small down payment. The man said – “Down payment! I’ll give you the check for the whole thing!” He gave him a check for $25,000.

From there on, God became his business partner. He would often say: “Not how much of my money I give to God, but how much of His money I keep for myself.” R.G. also gave way 90% of his income to the Lord’s work.

He put it this way: “I shovel out the money and God shovels it back in—but God has a bigger shovel.”

4. PHYSICAL BANKRUPTCY:

Dec 1968 RG and Evelyn LeTourneau with Billy Graham

As I mentioned earlier, R.G. and Evelyn would travel every week to speak in churches and gatherings. Once they were travelling in 1937 with a singing quartet. They had a head on collision with a car coming towards them. The driver of the other car had turned his head to talk. Five people died at the scene – three in the opposite car and two from the quartet. R.G.’s hips were driven out of their sockets, his pelvis was broken, chest was crushed, leg was broken, and a foot crushed. Evelyn was bruised and bleeding and unconscious.

R.G. looked up to heaven and said – “Lord, this could not have happened if You had not permitted it, because I know ‘that all things work together for good to them that love God.’ You suffered more than this for me. Thy will be done.’” God healed them and used them again.

They made it by the grace of God. They obeyed God and trusted Him for the impossible. Rom. 8:28 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.

IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 2 (Charles and Susie Spurgeon)

IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

If They Made It, you can make it tooLast Sunday we looked at the marriage of the great German Reformer Martin Luther and his wife, Katie. Both of them were hardheaded but by the grace of God in their life, they became a model couple for generations to come. This morning we go to the second message in the series – WHEN THERE IS A THORN IN THE FLESH.

Romans 13:8-10   8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Overall Background:  We’re basing this series on Romans 13:9 and 10 – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. The first statement is a command to be obeyed but the second statement is the test whether the command was truly obeyed. Anyone can say – “Sure, I love my neighbor.” But the test is “If you say you love somebody, do they feel safe with you?” Let me turn that around: “If you say that someone loves you, do you feel safe with him or her?” In this series we’re not talking about just any neighbor but our nearest neighbor, which should be our spouse. The question is – “Do they feel safe with you? Do you feel safe with them?” They may know your deepest secret and yet your secret is safe. They may know your greatest weakness and yet it never becomes a weapon in his hand or mouth. That’s Real Love.

This morning we are looking at the marriage of Charles and Susie Spurgeon.

Now, who were they? If you’ve heard me preach for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard the name Charles Spurgeon. Let me tell you a few things about this man:

–       Although there have been many great preachers in history – Charles Spurgeon still holds the title “Prince of Preachers.”

–       When he came to the New Park Street Church, London, in 1854, they had only 200 some members. Under Spurgeon’s 38 years of ministry, they added about 14,000 members.

–       At one time he had as many 12,000 in audience, with 10,000 waiting outside.

–       On several occasions Spurgeon would ask his audience not to attend the next Sunday’s service so that others could have an opportunity to find a seat. Once, the audience vacated so that the people waiting outside could come in and the building was immediately packed again.

–       Charles Spurgeon was a soul winner like no other. Once he was testing the acoustics in a large building and he shouted – “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – and a man working in the rafters got saved. Once a woman read a piece of paper that was used to wrap some butter. It was Spurgeon’s sermon and she was saved.

–       His sermons went everywhere. In 1865, Spurgeon’s sermons sold as many as 25,000 copies per week. Even to this day, he is the most widely read preacher of all times.

–       He missed the opportunity to go to college but started a college that is still there to this day. He was a brilliant man who had about 12,000 volumes in his library and read 6 books a week and could tell you what he read and where he read at any time.

–       Spurgeon insisted that the new building of the church should reflect Greek architecture because the NT was written in Greek. That’s why most churches have Greek columns in the front, even ours!

–       I can go on and on.

What many people do not know was that he was married to Susannah or Sussie Spurgeon and both of them had a thorn in the flesh and yet they made it by the grace of God and became a model for many. Let’s look at them.

I. IT WAS NOT LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT.

Charles Spurgeon had been very successful in a small town out in the country called Waterbeach. Then he got a call to come to London’s NewYoung Charles Spurgeon Park Street Church for a trial sermon. He showed up in Victorian London. It was obvious that he had no fashion sense. He was definitely no Beau Brummell or British Dandy. When Sussie saw him the first time, she didn’t care much for him. She was the daughter of a successful merchant and very much into proper manners and customs. She wanted a preacher with some style and class. Charles was just a country boy, a country preacher. His hair was everywhere. He had a huge blue handkerchief with white polka dots in his front pocket. All she could see was the handkerchief. But then God began working on Sussie’s life. She had been saved but was backsliding. Charles’ preaching opened her heart once again to God.

Young Susannah SpurgeonLong story short – the leaders invited Charles to come to be their pastor and even gave him a dozen white pocket-handkerchiefs. After coming as the pastor, Charles and Sussie began to spend sometime together. He encouraged her in her spiritual walk. They would take long walks and talk about the things of God. A year later Charles actually baptized her and the year after they were married and later had 2 twin boys.

Application: Many people’s understanding of love is directed by Hollywood. It is unrealistic, superficial and filled withCharles Spurgeon twin sons fantasy. Instead of starting on a spiritual level, many relationships go directly to the physical levels. I’m not saying that romance is wrong but for a Christian young man or a young woman the first test should be – is the other person a Christian. 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Meaning: Don’t just look at the outward but focus on the inward.

II. IT WAS PATIENCE AND PRAYER THAT GOT THEM THROUGH TOUGH TIMES.

It was no secret that God had His hands on Charles Spurgeon. Very quickly the church began to grow. The ministry expanded. Charles had a lot on him. Several times Sussie would walk into the vestry and Charles wouldn’t even recognize her. He would stand up and greet her with a hand shake and a “How are you?” At first she was upset but then she knew what he was facing. One time before they were married, he even left her in a crowded place and forgot about her. She had to make her way through the crowd to find a seat. It made her so mad that she left the place and went to her parent’s home, hoping to find some sympathy. Instead, her mom wisely explained to her not to be selfish and hinder the ministry for her future husband.

But all this was the least of their worries. As the church began to grow, they decision was made to expand the building and rent Exeter Hall, which was a large public auditorium that could seat about 5000 people. This was unheard of in Victorian England! How could you meet in a public place for church service! One newspaper said – “the place is jammed to suffocation. All his discourses are redolent of bad taste, are vulgar and theatrical.” Another said, “All the most solemn mysteries of our holy religion are by him rudely, roughly, and impiously handled.” Charles pretended that it didn’t bother him but it did. He couldn’t sleep at nights. Listen to what he said – “Down on my knees have I often fallen, with the hot sweat rising from my brow under some fresh slander poured upon me; in an agony of grief my heart has been well-nigh broken…” Sussie said, “My heart alternatively sorrowed over him and flamed with indignation against his detractors.”

Spurgeon Surrey Music HallThey moved into the new building but it was too small again. Once again they had to expand. This time they had to meet in the much bigger Surrey Music Hall. This was a Theater! Once again he was criticized and slandered but more people kept coming. One night some instigators decided to cause trouble and someone screamed “Fire!” “The galleries are collapsing!” There was a mad rush – a stampede – to the doors. Charles tried to quiet the audience and kept preaching. Once again someone yelled fire and as he turned from the pulpit, he collapsed. He had a breakdown. He had to be taken out the side door and brought him home. In Sussie’s own words – “I wanted to be alone, that I might cry to God in this hour of darkness and death! When my beloved was brought home he looked a wreck of his former self-an hour’s agony of mind had changed his whole appearance and bearing. The night that ensued was one of weeping and wailing and indescribable sorrow. He refused to be comforted. I thought the morning would never break; and when it did come it brought no relief.” 7 people died and many were seriously injured.

These were some very difficult days for them. A few days later, they were walking together in the garden and it suddenly hit Charles that it was not about him but about Jesus Christ. Why was he so worried! He missed only one week and was back in the pulpit.

Let me remind you – Anytime something good happens, the enemy is not happy. He will do everything he can tear down homes and marriages and relationships. When both turn towards God instead of turning on each other, there is incredible strength that comes.

Listen to 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7  4 Love suffers long and is kind…7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Sadly, many of us are always expecting the other person to understand us. Whether in the church ministry or your own life, sometimes it can get rough. Sometimes it feels like the attacks will never stop. Sometimes you feel like you can’t go on. What a blessing to have a companion who understands your pain and bears with you.

III. IT WAS WEAKNESS THAT POURED MORE GRACE ON THEM.

The Metropolitan Tabernacle SpurgeonThe new building was finally finished. They changed the name to “The Metropolitan Tabernacle.” Charles writing ministry began to grow. Sussie even started a book fund to assist preachers who didn’t have money for books. They even started a college for preachers and an orphanage. Charles’s had more and more speaking engagements and Sussie would go with him. It seemed like everything was going great but then in 1868, at the age of 36, Sussie became terribly sick. She was in constant pain. She even had a major surgery that helped the pain but ultimately became a semi invalid. She could not travel with him anymore.

A year later, Charles’s health also took a turn for the worse. At the age of 35, he had a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, which was especially bad during the cold and damp winters. He also had gout. Once he wrote to his congregation – “I have been brought very low, my flesh has been tortured with pain, and my spirit has been prostrate with depression…With some difficulty, I write these lines in my bed, mingling them with the groans of pain and the songs of hope.” Charles did get better but he continued to have health issues.

But, there was something much worse in his life. It was Depression, something that was triggered on the night of his collapse. Listen to howCharles Spurgeon1 Susannah Spurgeonhe described it – “My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for.” At times he was away from the pulpit for three weeks at a time. Many times Sussie would sit by his bedside and read to him. He would feel better but few weeks or months later the heaviness would return. Even Sussie struggled with depression.

At age 57 his body could not take it any more. As he lay on his deathbed, Sussie was with him. He called for her and she responded with “Tirshatha” – Governor in the Old Testament. He said – “Oh wifey, I have had such a blessed time with the Lord.” No bitterness and no doubt, just gratefulness.

They understood that God had allowed a thorn in the flesh in their lives to keep them from being puffed up. They understood 2 Cor. 12:8-10  8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Over 100,000 people came to the funeral.

Charles and Sussie are a model couple for generations to come. It was not love at first sight. It was filled with criticism, controversy, and pain but it was lifted with mutual love and understanding.

Is there some weakness in your life, some thorn in the flesh? God has allowed it to be there for your good. Don’t be angry. Don’t run. Don’t lose hope. Give it back to Him and see what He will do in your life.

IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 1 (Martin and Katie Luther)

IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson, NC

WHEN BOTH ARE HARDHEADED

If They Made It, you can make it tooHave you ever looked at those great people in history and wondered what their marriage was like? “How did they do it?” “They couldn’t have problems like we have to deal with.” “They had to be so compatible.” “My marriage could never be like that.” This morning we will take a realistic look at the first such couple in history and our message is titled – “WHEN BOTH ARE HARDHEADED.”

Romans 13:8-10   8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Overall Background: Listen once again to verse 9 and 10 – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Before we start thinking about the family across the street or the people next door or someone at work, listen to what Martin Luther, the German Reformer, said, “The Christian should love his wife. He is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love.” And I would add the husband should be the deepest love for the wife.

Sadly in many homes, people are being stripped, robbed, and left for dead emotionally and mentally like the man in the Good Samaritan story. Many spouses are just like the priest and the Levite; they pass by on the other side. How beautiful is that marriage where one or the other spouse becomes the Good Samaritan, who came by and had compassion on that Jewish man. He stopped knowing the robbers could be nearby and rob him and beat him too. He bandaged his wounds, poured oil and wine. He set him on his animal and took him to the inn and took care of him. The next day, he even paid two denarii to the innkeeper to watch over the man and promised to return and pay for anything more that will cost. Sadly, many spouses are more like the robber than even the priest or the Levite. We are the one leaving our nearest neighbor stripped, wounded, and left for dead.

This morning we will look at the marriage of Martin and Katie Luther. Who were they? If it weren’t for Martin Luther, there wouldn’t have been a Protestant Reformation. If it weren’t for Martin Luther, you would not hear – “all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you’re saved.” If it weren’t for Martin Luther, you wouldn’t have that the English translation as it is today. If it weren’t for Martin Luther, there wouldn’t have been a John Wesley because Wesley read Luther’s preface on Romans and got saved. If it weren’t for Martin Luther, we would not have singing in church today.

What many people do not know is that he was married to a woman named Katherine and both of them were hard headed. Let’s look at their life.

luther-scala-sancta

1. THEY MET UNDER VERY UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk and Professor of
Bible in the University of Wittenberg, Germany. He had struggled with his salvation for some time. He had been to Rome and seen all the holy relics. He had gone from place to place saying mass at all the holy churches. He even climbed the steps leading to the Chapel of St. Lawrence called the Scala Sancta – 28 steps. Supposedly these steps came from Jerusalem on which Jesus had walked down after he faced Pilate. It was said that if a person were to climb these steps on his knees, for each step, he/she would get 15 years of indulgence. Later he said, “I was no closer to God on the top than I was on the bottom.” He went home and began reading the Book of Romans and it dawned on him that God gives us His righteousness when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. “The just shall live by faith.” So on 31st October 1517, he decided to nail a pamphlet with 95 theses to the Wittenberg Door. Long story short – little did he realize that he had lit the flame of the Protestant Reform

Martin’s writings were creating quite a stir. Monks and priests realized that they didn’t have to be celibate in order to serve God. They began to renounce their vows of celibacy and began to get married. Even Luther thought about it but then said  – “Good heavens, they won’t give me a wife.” He was a hunted man, 41 years of age, condemned to burn at the stake. He didn’t want to marry someone and then jeopardize her life.ation. He was condemned as a heretic. All his writings were to be burned and he was to be captured or killed, whichever was easier. Martin had to go into hiding in the Wartburg Castle.

Herring BarrelOne day he received a letter from 12 nuns who were trying to escape from a nunnery in Nimbschen. This was no easy task. It wasin the territory of Duke George – someone who hated Martin. Duke George had already executed someone for trying to free these nuns. Luther came up with a plan. Through some connections he contacted the man who delivered smoked herrings to the cloister. 12 barrels filled with herring showed up at the nunnery. But when they left, they were not empty. Each barrel under the canvas had a nun. Two days later they arrived at the doorstep of Martin Luther. Three went home and nine were left. Now it was his job to find each of them a husband. These nuns were not very good at housekeeping. All they could do was pray and sing. Thankfully, he was able to marry all of them off, except for one. Her name was Katherine von Bora. She was a little feisty. She had been turned down once already. She even suggested – “Why don’t you marry me?” But after some thought, he agreed.

He admitted – “I am not madly in love.”

On June 10, 1525, Martin and Katie were married, quickly and secretly. There was only one couple there as witnesses. They did that on purpose. Everyone had an opinion and they were tired of it.

Can you imagine a worse way to start a marriage? A 41-year-old monk condemned as a heretic and a 26-year-old runaway nun. Your marriage might not have started well but it can finish well. It’s not how you start but how you finish that matters.

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach

2. THEY DIDN’T SEEM VERY COMPATIBLE: Martin had grown up with a father who was hard to please. He was unhappy because Martin had joined the ministry. Throughout his life Martin struggled against those who were overbearing and unreasonable. Now he was a 41-year-old monk who had not made up his bed for over a year. His straw bed was rotting with sweat. He had a short fuse.

Katie was shipped off to the nunnery at 9 or 10 yeas of age because she was rude to her step mom. She had a quick tongue.

He loved the spotlight and she was somewhat shy. He was moody and she was very task oriented. But, neither of them hesitated to speak their mind. That’s a volatile combination!

They had one thing in common – they loved Jesus. If Jesus is at the center of your marriage, you can make it too. Martin once said – “To have peace and love in a marriage is a gift which is next to the knowledge of the Gospel.”

Katherine von Bora - Lucas Cranach3. THEY HAD TO LEARN TO MANAGE MONEY: Martin had taken a vow of celibacy, obedience, and poverty. Martin’s philosophy was “God has divided the hand into fingers so that money would slip through.” Very noble isn’t it? No wonder Luther was in debt!

Katie had better sense. The Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz had given Martin 20 guilders as a wedding present. That was about two months salary. Luther said – absolutely not! He was the man who authorized the purchase of the indulgences and he will not take his money. Katie stepped in and said – we’re taking it. You are 100 guilders in debt.

She had to hide money from Martin, so he wouldn’t give it away. Because of Katie, they were able to acquire some land and even a farm. Later Luther admitted, “The greatest blessing is to have a wife to whom you may trust your affairs.”

By the way, according to a survey done recently by the American Institute of CPAs, money is the top cause of conflict in marriages. Unless couples have a mature, biblical understanding of money, they will have problems.

Martin and Katherine4. THEY LEARNED TO APPRECIATE EACH OTHER: Katie had to work all day, taking care of their 6 children and animals and servants and farm. At times there were as many 25-30 people at the house. When the day was done, she just wanted to sit with her husband and have some adult conversation. Martin Luther was a scholar and a preacher. He preached 4 times and lectured and taught the students all day. All he wanted to do was just relax into a chair and read a good book. One time he even locked himself in his study for three days until Katie had his door removed. All Martin could say was – “Why did you do that? I wasn’t hurting anybody.”

In time they learned to appreciate and understand one another. Martin suffered with gout, insomnia, gallstones, kidney stones, constipation, dizziness, and ringing in his ears. Katie was a doctor to him. She used herbs, proper diet, and massages to help him feel better. Martin confessed – “I trust more in Katie and I expect more from Katie than I do Christ.” He would jokingly call her – “my rib,” “my master,” or even pick on her and call her Kethe (German) = “my chain.” Katie would call him “Doctor.” She knew how to cheer him up. One day he was all depressed and Katie showed up in a black dress. He asked  – “Who died?” Her answer – “God, the way you’re acting.” That cured him up.

Martin once said that marriage is a school for character. Did you know that your marriage is God’s workshop in making you more like Jesus?

Magdalena Luther Lucas Cranach

5. THEY FACED DIFFICULT TRIALS TOGETHER: Just two years into their marriage, Luther became terribly sick and suffered for about 8 months. Many of their friends died. Even their own son was ill and Katie was pregnant. Their house was like a hospital. During this time he wrote the song “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” from Psalm 46.

Later, the Luthers lost 2 of their children. The first one was their second child Elizabeth, who died when she was a year old. The second was their child Magdalena, who died when she was fourteen. This was a very tough time in their lives. Martin was facing some other problems and this just made matters worse. His health was also falling apart.

Yet, they made it because they had each other and they had the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Martin and Katie became a model couple for generations to come. It was not love at first sight. It did not have any fireworks. But it was real love. Once Martin remarked – “The first love is drunken. When the intoxication wears off, then comes the real married love.” They were married for 21 years.

If they can make it, you can too. Here are some important points:

–       It’s not how you start, but how you finish that matters

–       It’s about learning to understand and appreciate the other person.

Martin loved to say, “Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”

–       Each marriage requires 3 people – husband, wife, and Jesus Christ.

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN (PART 2)

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

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

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

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

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

I. WHY DO WE PAY TAXES?

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. HOW MUCH TAXES SHOULD WE PAY?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. We begin to change.

2. We begin to take a stand.

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

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

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