Under God by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God

UNDER GOD by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are facing the consequences of decades of these decisions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Life Between Posts (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

LIFE BETWEEN POSTS (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

%d bloggers like this: