Genuine Faith by Dr. Abidan Shah

 

GENUINE FAITH by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  When I was a school teacher and then a principal, I would go along with the students on their field trips. The ones I especially remember where the ones to New York city. They were a lot of fun, but they were also very stressful. Some of you teachers know what I am talking about. Trying to lead 40-50 middle school or high school students through Times Square and China Town was like herding cats. Then, the boys would find a bargain on a Foakley! “Do you think anyone would know?” Or, the girls would find a bargain on a genuine imitation leather jacket! “Can you tell the difference?” My answer would always be – “I can’t tell.” This was of course a lie. But, I didn’t have to tell them anything. Sometimes, those glasses would start breaking and those jackets would start flaking even before the bus ride was over. Why? They were not real. So also, some people’s faith looks real until they go through the bus rides of life and they start breaking and flaking even before the ride is over. We are in our series through 1 Peter and today we come to 1 Peter 1:6 for our message titled GENUINE FAITH. Main point: How we respond to the trials of life reveals the content and the quantity of our faith. Genuine faith makes the invisible Christ visible and fills our hearts with joy. It even reveals our true destination.

1 Peter 1:6 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.”

Context: After saying a good word about God, “eulogetos,” Peter immediately addressed the tough situation that the believers of Asia Minor were going through because of their faith in Christ. Peter assured them that he understood that they were grieved. The Greek word is “lupeo,” which can be translated “distressed,” “sorrowful,” “deeply grieved,” and “burdened down.” Why did they feel this way? As we learned in the last message, their own family and community had ostracized them and taken away their inheritance. Some people think that they were being persecuted by the Roman government. I don’t believe that was really the case because in the next chapter, Peter instructed them to honor the king and submit to those in authority. What did happen under Nero was that he got the people to hate the Christians. Here’s the point: Societal discrimination was often the method by which Christians were persecuted. Not much has changed. If we don’t step up and take a leading role in where our nation is headed, we too will face societal discrimination as Christians and the church. In the time of the governor Pliny, the name “Christian” was criminalized. We are headed down the same path in America today where being a Christian and holding church is being criminalized.

Application: Are you being grieved by what is happening in our nation? Are you standing up for truth and integrity? What trials are grieving you? Do you realize that trials have a timeline – a beginning, middle, and end. It is for a little while.

Listen again to 1 Peter 1:6 “In this you greatly rejoice…” Was Peter stating how the believers were responding or was he telling them to rejoice? In other words, was he saying, “You are greatly rejoicing in the face of trials” or was he saying “you should greatly rejoice in the face of trials”? I believe that it was both. In some ways, Peter was complementing them for their response. At the same time, Peter was also encouraging them to rejoice in the face of trials. How can we apply that in our lives? Should we pretend to laugh through our tears? Should be pretend to stay calm in the midst of chaos? Should we pretend that nothing is wrong? To understand the proper way to rejoice, we need to understand the various words and meanings of “rejoice” and “joy” (from William Morrice):

  1. euthumein, euthumos = optimism
  2. euphrainein, euphrosune = gladness
  3. hedone, hedus, hedeos = pleasure
  4. tharsein, tharrein, tharsos = courage
  5. hilaros, hilarotes = hilarity
  6. kauchasthai, kauchema, kauchesis = boasting
  7. makarios = happy
  8. skirtan = leaping for joy
  9. chara = inward joy
  10. sunchairein = shared joy
  11. agallian, agalliasis = exultant joy

That word “agallian” comes from the Septuagint. It means to be carried away in sacred joy. It’s the kind of joy that comes through worship. The psalmists loved that word!

  • Psalm 5:11 “But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them.”
  • Psalm 92:4 “For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands.”
  • Psalm 95:1 “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.”

That word is used again and again to praise God for his goodness and for his promises waiting for those who are in Christ.

How can these believers who were going through trials rejoice with this exultant joy? Listen again to the end of verse 6 “if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” The word for trial is “peirasmos.” Sometimes that word can mean “temptation” and sometimes it can mean “test.” The grief and sorrow that was coming from ostracization and societal discrimination could become a source of temptation. They can see that Satan was behind all temptations and he was trying to make God’s people doubt God and go back to their old ways. Or, they can see that it was a test from God.

Application: What are you doing with your trials? Are you struggling with temptations? It’s time to move over to testing.

To take it a step further, this test is not to destroy them but to make them shine even brighter. Listen to verse 7 “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Gold is tested by fire to remove the dross and impurity. It proves its genuineness. So also, when we go through trials, God is bringing all our impurities out. His purpose is not to destroy us but to purify us. Malachi 3       2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness.” Instead of running from trials and dreading them, we learn to welcome them and even rejoice in them. James 1      2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” In my personal trials, God grew me into the person I am today. This is not just a sermon for me. I believe this stuff! David understood the value of trials and he said in Psalm 139:23“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties.” Ultimately, we shall receive praise, honor, and glory when Jesus returns!

Application: How do you respond to times of testing? Do you remind yourself that God is not trying to destroy you? Instead, he is trying to purify you. Do you welcome it like David? Are you looking forward to the reward that is waiting for you when Jesus returns?

Finally, listen to 8 “whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” These believers were from Asia Minor. They never got the opportunity to see Jesus when he was doing his earthly ministry. Unlike Peter, the rest of the disciples, and the multitudes, they never saw him heal the sick, feed the hungry, preach the word, teach the disciples, and then die on the cross, buried, and rise again. Nonetheless, they loved Jesus. But, there’s more. They still didn’t see him. They didn’t see him as the resurrected Messiah. They didn’t see him as seated at the righthand of God. They didn’t see him as interceding for them to the Father. They didn’t see him as present where 2 or 3 are gathered. They didn’t see him as the coming King. Nonetheless, they believed in Jesus. Without historical encounter and present interaction, these believers had a relationship with Jesus through love and faith. This spiritual relationship with Jesus filled their hearts with exultant joy because they knew that he was with them! Hence, suffering and trials do more than just prove our faith. They make the Invisible Christ visible and bring exultant joy in our hearts. That is the motto of our church – “Making Christ Visible.” Bengel – “Christ in the heart; heaven in the heart; the heart in heaven.”

9 “receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

Where is all this headed? It is headed towards the salvation of your souls. Where is your faith headed? Trials reveal where you are headed.

Application: How is your joy level this morning? Are you facing temptations or trials? Can you see Christ? Have you ever seen Christ? Are you saved? Do you love and trust him?

Under God – Part Two by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God Part Two

UNDER GOD (2) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction:  This past week our family made a quick trip to the Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a very relaxing time. In some ways, it was like travelling back in time with horse drawn plows, horse buggies, and farm life. The best part for our children was playing with the farm animals at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. I think Nicole had just as much fun! On the way back, we stopped at the Gettysburg Battlefield, a place I had always wanted to visit. This was the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. In just 3 days (July 1-3, 1863), as many as 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers either died, were wounded, or went missing. The little town of Gettysburg had no idea that a chance encounter between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would forever change their lives. In a matter of just days, their peaceful farmland was turned into a bloody battlefield. Bodies were lying everywhere. Every home, church, and public building was turned into a hospital. The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves. Four months later, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. As I stood on that battlefield, I thought to myself how the people at the time must have felt when they saw the devastation of lives and land. They may have felt like the United States of America was history. They may have felt like our glory days were over. What many people don’t know is that 75 years later in 1938, about 1800 veterans of that same battle came together on that same battlefield. Some were now 90 years old. They shook hands and pledged allegiance to the same American flag. Here’s my point: No matter what is happening in our nation today, don’t lose heart. We are still “One Nation Under God” and our best days are ahead. We need to look to the sovereign God for healing and hope. This is the focus of the second part of our message titled “UNDER GOD.”

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”

Context: If you remember from last week, Psalm 33 is connected to Psalm 32. This connection indicates that before we can talk about “Blessed is the nation,” we need to talk about “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In other words, before we can talk about how much we need God’s blessing as nation, we need to talk about how much we need God’s forgiveness as individual believers. Keep in mind that this is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. He did not write some cheap poetry, but he gave us what God desires from us. Once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, then we can see that God is our hiding place and we don’t have to live in fear. Instead, we are to look to him and follow his guiding eye. We can see that he loves righteousness and justice. Listen once again to Psalm 33    4 “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice…” In our nation today, people are calling for justice, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, we are not calling for righteousness, which is just as important. In fact, we want justice without righteousness. God demands both.

We need a change in perspective on God. For starters, we need to remember that God is not subject to us. He is a sovereign God. First, he is sovereign over his creation. 5 “…The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. (Land, Plants, and Animals) 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. (Sun, Moon, Stars, and Universe) 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. (Waters, Fish, Sea Creatures) 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. It’s one thing to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, but how about his sovereignty over nations and people? 10 “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.” First, the word for nation is “goy,” which has more of a political meaning. Second, the word for peoples is “am,” which has more of an ethnic meaning. In other words, whether it is an organized nation or an organized group, if they God against God’s sovereign will, he will “pur,” frustrate their plans, and he will “nu,” hinder and prevent them.

Question: Are we seeking to achieve our goals and our plans in this world? God will bring them to nothing. Instead, we have to accept verse 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

Now comes our focal verse—12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” There are 2 different decisions here: First, a nation has chosen God. Second, God has chosen the nation. You’ve heard me say this time and again. Our nation was built to be under God. Our Founding Fathers were not perfect people but they definitely believed that God was the source of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence begins with this preamble – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Our Constitution does not directly mention God but he is assumed and implied. The 2 documents had different goals but they both chose God as the source of blessing for our nation.

But, God also has to choose us as a nation. In my view, America has been a source of good throughout her brief history. Has everything been perfect? Of course not. Nonetheless, God has been guiding us with his eye. 13 “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.” We have to choose to see that? Have you heard of the “All-seeing eye” or the “Eye of Providence?” You can see it on the back of a $1 bill. It is on the top of a pyramid with 13 layers, representing the 13 original colonies. Over the capstone are the words “Annuit Coeptis,” which means “Favors Undertakings” or “God has favored our undertakings.”

God is not only omnipresent and omniscient, but he also actively shapes us. 15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. This is not just in a personal context but in a national context as well. 16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army. A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” God shaped the hearts of our Founding Fathers so they could design a nation like no other. God gave them the wisdom to design a nation that would not be under the tyranny of a monarch. We all know that the Revolutionary War was fought against the strong and coercive measures by King George of England against the colonies. Neither did the Founding Fathers want a nation under the tyranny of the multitude. They didn’t want to set up a democracy like the ancient Greeks. That was just majority rule. They didn’t want that. Can you imagine what it would be like if the majority in a society made decisions only for themselves and not for the minority? What if the majority wanted to enslave the minority? What could we do to make sure that the majority could be kept in check? The Founding Fathers were not only trying to prevent the tyranny of a king, but they were also trying to prevent the tyranny of the majority. They came up with 8 block and tackle measures to keep the majority in check (I’m getting most of this from Dinesh D’Souza’s recent book “The United States of Socialism”):

  1. A Written Constitution: Unlike England’s common law, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution, a supreme charter that would override the will of the majority. This would keep the government in check. This could be amended but the process is very difficult.
  2. The Bill of Rights: This was added to put a series of limitations on the government that begin with “Congress shall make no law”—
  • no law restricting speech, or the press, or the free exercise of religion
  • Citizens have the right to assemble, to bear arms, and enjoy the due process of the law, and to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure
  1. The Supreme Court: They can strike down those federal laws that go against the Constitution and protect the rights of the citizens against the majority.
  2. Representative Government: People elect leaders who represent them. If you don’t like your leaders, then elect others at the next term.
  3. Separation of Powers: Power is divided between 3 branches—
  • Legislative with elected officials in the House of Representatives and Senate, together forming the Congress. Their job is to make the laws;
  • Executive with the President of the United States who acts as the head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He implements and enforces the law by appointing heads of federal agencies and Cabinet;
  • Judiciary with power to arbitrate and resolve legal disputes. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  1. Federalism: Power is divided between the national government and state government.
  2. Checks and Balances: Congress makes laws but the President can veto them. To overturn a veto, it requires congressional supermajority. The President can enforce the laws but the congress and the judiciary branches provide oversight. The judges interpret the Constitution, but they are appointed by the President and confirmed the Senate.
  3. The Electoral College and the 2 branches of the legislature – the House and the Senate: The President, members of the Congress, and senators are elected by the people. However, the Electoral College makes sure that the bigger states with more people do not decide the presidency. Each state has 2 senators a piece but the smaller ones have fewer congressional representatives.

The point is that our Founding Fathers wanted to create a nation that would be fair to everyone. By God’s hand, they came up with an amazing system of checks and balances. They wanted to make sure that “might will not make right.” Our nation fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery. But, in each generation, our leaders knew that this would happen but the nation would go on because it was built on the right foundation. Lincoln acknowledged this in the Gettysburg Address (Video):

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

How much clearer can we get!

Let’s read the final words of the psalm—18 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. (In God We Trust.)22 Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

Are you praying for our nation? Are you hoping in his mercy on our nation? Are you saved?

Furnace by Pastor Abidan Shah

FURNACE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: I love cartoons about heaven. I don’t like jokes about hell. There’s nothing funny about hell. It is a place of eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. I didn’t say that. Jesus did. When we reject God’s plan of salvation through Jesus, we condemn ourselves to this eternal furnace. That’s the title of our message today – “FURNACE.”

Matthew 13      24Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27So the servants of the owner came and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28He said to them, “An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29But he said, “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

Question:  There’s only 2 groups of people: the wheat and the tares. Which group do you belong to? How do you see God’s delay in judgment? Are you confusing his compassion for complacency? Are you saved?

Pray: Holy Spirit – We are talking about the dreaded subject of Hell. Satan and his hordes of evil angels know that this is their final destiny. Cover us with your protection and grace. Save those who are headed to hell today.

Context:Before we jump into the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, let me remind you once again the reason why Jesus spoke in parables. If you remember from last week’s message – Parables were much more than stories given to illustrate a point; they were stories used by the prophets to confront the people of God regarding hidden sins in their lives. You have to think of parables as a mirror. You look in a mirror to see your physical condition. You look into parables to expose your true spiritual condition. When you read a parable, your question should not be as much “I wonder what principle is behind this story” as much as “I wonder what character I am playing in this story.”

With that in mind, let’s look at the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. To start with, this is one of the most misunderstood parables of Jesus. I know what some of y’all are thinking – “Well, Pastor Shah, tell us what this parable is truly about.” I’ll do even better. I’ll let Jesus explain the true meaning of this parable. Out of the many parables of Jesus recorded in the gospels, 3 are actually included along with Jesus’ explanation. This happens to be one of them. The explanation is given in Matthew 13starting in verse36Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”The way we will tackle this is by looking at some of the common misunderstandings of this parable and compare it with Jesus’ explanation:

#1 Some people assume that this parable is about the CHURCH. They think that the wheats and the tares represent the two categories of people in the church: the wheats represent the saved and the tares represent the lost. Is this true or false? FALSE. Listen to verse 37He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world…”

#2. Some people assume that this parable is to warn us about POSERS, false Christians hiding among true Christians. They think that the similarities between the wheat and the tares was given to illustrate how false Christians look just like true Christians.Is this true or false? Well, this is PARTLY TRUE AND PARTLY FALSE. Yes, it is true that the “tare” or the “darnel” is an annoying weed that looks very much like the wheat in the early stages.But, when fully developed, the leaves of the wheat are 6-12 mm wide but the leaves of the tare are only about 3 mm wide. So, in the early stages, they are indistinguishable but later, they are different. The reason the servants came to the landowner and complained is because they noticed the tares among the wheat. In the early stages, it may be hard to distinguish a fake Christian from a true Christian but in time, it will become clear. You cannot hide forever. Your fruits will expose your true identity.Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 7   15“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, norcana bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”Question:  Are you a wheat or a tare? Do you see yourself in the story? You cannot hide forever. Nicole got saved under this parable. In time, it will become clear what you are by your fruits. No Fruit = No salvation. Having said that, posers are NOT the main purpose of the parable.

3. Some people assume that this parable is a warning not to JUDGE but to TOLERATE false believers and even the evil around us. They quote what the master told the servants when they asked him if they could uproot the tares –29“No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.” Some people think that it meant that Jesus did not want us to judge false believers because that would do more damage to the true believers. Is that really what Jesus meant?In reality, Jesus didn’t shy away from calling people out. Repeatedly he called the Pharisees “hypocrites,” “fools,” and “blind guides!” Not just the religious leaders but even those who were trying to follow him, he called into question their lack of commitment. Matthew 10   37“He who loves father or mother more than Me isnot worthyof Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me isnot worthyof Me. 38And he who does nottake his cross and follow after Me isnot worthyof Me.” 

Is Jesus telling us not to stand up for what’s right and oppose what’s wrong in our society because it would be bad for us believers?Are we only to sit back and patiently and meekly take the beating? If anything, he told us to do just the opposite. In Matthew 5: 13-14, Jesus commanded us to be the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World.

So, what was the real reason for the parable? The reason behind all 3 parables in Matthew 13is the question that even John the Baptist had in Matthew 11     2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciplesand said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”How odd? Why would John ask such a question? This was the same question that was on the mind of many of Jesus’ followers. Why, if Jesus is the Messiah and the kingdom has come, is there still so much evil in the world?

  • For starters, why is John the Baptist still in prison?
  • Why are the Romans still in charge?
  • Why are many in Israel, especially the religious leaders, rejecting Jesus?
  • Why has there been no separation between the righteous and the unrighteous?
  • Why has judgment not begun?

To answer that, Jesus gave the parable and then it’s explanation in Matthew 13     37He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wickedone.39The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Nowadays, many Christians do not believe in a literal hell as a place of fire and burning. Jesus did. Listen to these verses:

Daniel 12:2“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shameandeverlasting contempt.”

Mark 9     42“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44where‘Their worm does not dieand the fire is not quenched.’” (Quoting Isaiah 66:24)

Luke 16    23And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’”

Jude 7“suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

Revelation 20:10“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophetare.And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Why hasn’t judgment begun?

2 Peter 3     3knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue asthey werefrom the beginning of creation…7But the heavens and the earthwhichare now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one dayisas a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slack concerning Hispromise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Hebrews 9    27And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,28so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many….”

Invitation:Are you ready for the judgment that is coming? Are you saved?

Episode 17: Running the Race (ft. Dr David Alan Black)

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In this episode, Abidan Paul Shah will be talking with Dr. David Alan Black about his newest book “Running My Race: Reflections on Life, Loss, Aging, and Forty Years of Teaching.” It’s about learning to deal with the pains of life in a way that draws us closer to the heart of God. Both laypeople and scholars will benefit from this book.

If you have any questions or topics you would like to be discussed, please tweet them to @hoipolloiradio.

LIFE IS A VAPOR (ARTICLE) by Abidan Paul Shah

LIFE IS A VAPOR – Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on April 2, 2016)

You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)

Sylvia Edwards 4Monday afternoon two weeks ago I got a phone call that I have received before as a pastor but I never imagined whom it would be about. “Sylvia Edwards died.” I thought I had misheard the name and so I asked – “Who did you say again?” I heard it right the first time. It was Sylvia. I couldn’t believe it…I saw her the night before at church! We talked about her singing at the coming Fourth of July program. She wasn’t feeling well but she was still excited about picking out the songs and getting started with the practices. If you knew Sylvia, you would know that she loved to sing and she wasn’t one to sit still very long! Now, two days later we were standing by her graveside – “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”

Life is indeed a vapor, a mist. It’s like breathing on a glass window on a cool day. You see the condensation for a couple of seconds and then it’s gone. Such is life. The Bible repeatedly warns us about the brevity and unpredictability of life – 1 Chronicles 29:15 “…Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope.” Job 7:7,9 “…my life is a breath!…As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, So he who goes down to the grave does not come up.” Psalms 102:11 “My days are like a shadow that lengthens, And I wither away like grass.” In spite of all such warnings, many still live as if they have all the time in the world.

Sylvia Edwards singing at Clearview with her sister Linda Twisdale

Sylvia Edwards singing at Clearview with her sister Linda Twisdale

Listen to what the Bible says – “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” (James 4:15) This does not mean that God is against planning. He wants us to plan but He also wants us to acknowledge Him in all our planning. He wants us to remember that our life is a gift from God. It means much more than saying – “Lord willing I’ll be at church Sunday.” It means living life knowing that our every breath, heartbeat, and brainwave is on loan from God and can be taken away from us any moment. Sylvia knew that and so lived her life. How about us?

Many of us waste time on the trivial and miss the important. “One of these days I am going to spend time with my children.” “One of these days I am going to take my wife on a special date.” “One of these days I am going to bake that pie for my husband.” (Ladies – I know that seems trivial but not for us!) “One of these days I am going to stop by and see my parents.” “One of these days I am going to make things right with my brother.” “One of these days I am going to call my sister.” God wants us to stop procrastinating and start doing what is good – Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Did you know that procrastination is a sin?! It is especially when we delay with God. “One of these days I am going to turn my life around.” “One of these days I am going to church.” “One of these days I am going to read my Bible.” “One of these days I am going to give my life to Christ.” Unfortunately, that day never comes and we keep sliding away from God. We’re like the fool who said – “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:19-20)

Make it right with God today…not because you might die tonight…but because you have to live tomorrow.

The Blessing of Sorrow

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THE BLESSING OF SORROW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofsorrowWe are in Matthew 5 for our series titled – “SALT AND LIGHT.” This morning we are looking at the second beatitude and our message is titled “THE BLESSING OF SORROW.

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. You can picture Jesus looking across that mountain and seeing the multitude/people.

  • There sits a family that just lost their home in a fire.
  • There sits an old man who lost his ability to see.
  • There sits a young man who just lost his job as a soldier.
  • There sits a young couple that was robbed on their way to Galilee.
  • There sits a father whose son just ran away from home.
  • There sits a mother who lost her daughter to an epidemic.
  • There sits that middle-aged couple wondering where time has gone.
  • There sits a young girl who lost her innocence to what she thought was love.
  • There sits a little boy who lost his parents.

As the Bible says, “seeing the multitudes” he opened His mouth and said – “Blessed are those who mourn.” In other words, “Blessed are those who have gone through some loss.” Why do we mourn? Because something or someone we had is not there anymore.

Not much has changed. The multitude is still grieving. There are people all over this room who are mourning. As someone said, “In every pew there sits someone with a broken heart.” We are grieving over the loss of a job, house, health, relationship, love, money, vision, time, or a loved one. Life is a series of losses – some big and some small – and because of that we all mourn or sorrow to some degree or the other.

Application: What are you doing with your sorrow? Are you pretending that everything is all right? Are you looking to false substitutes to cope with your sorrow? Are you looking to Jesus? Are you trusting Him to get you through? Only He can truly comfort you.

3 things we will see in this message. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will apply this beatitude to your life so not only will you get this but go further to Luke’s rendition of this beatitude – “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

I. WHY DO WE MOURN?

This week was a busy one for me. All day Monday through Wednesday I was in Raleigh for NCLEAP – NC Law Enforcement Assistance Program. They were conducting what is known as PCIS – Post Critical Incident Seminar. It is an event designed to help officers (Police, State Troopers, Sherriff’s Dept.) and their spouses who have gone through trauma like line of duty shooting and line of duty death. People don’t realize what men and women in law enforcement go through every day of their lives. They are constantly bombarded with trauma, death, loss, and grief and it begins to take a toll on them and effects their health, relationships, and work. Just to let you know – as many as 100 commit suicide every year. At this seminar men and women and their spouses come from everywhere who are struggling with loss and they are helped with peer support and teaching. As the chaplain for the Henderson PD I was invited to be there and I am really glad I went. One of the teachers was Dr. Therese Rando who is a world-renowned grief expert and Clinical Director of The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss. She has published as many as 80 works on the subject and been on national TV and everything. Amazing how the Holy Spirit works! This week I am preaching on mourning and the world expert is sitting behind me! Here’s what she shared:

There are 2 kinds of loss in life:

  1. Physical loss – car is stolen, house burns down, leg is amputated
  2. Abstract loss – divorce, job loss, relationship loss

Both of these are known as Primary Loss. But there’s something else happens next which is known as Secondary Loss – Because of primary loss, people go though a deeper loss of their worldview – what they believe about God, this world, themself, and others. Because of your loss you begin to look at everything differently. Keep in mind that there’s a difference between losing your keys and losing a loved one to cancer but your loss is important to you. Children leaving the home can be a loss. Depending on how serious your loss was to you, you begin to rewrite your life script.

What’s next? Loss leads to grief and mourning. There’s a difference between the two:

  • Grief is your reaction to the loss. This can be psychological, behavioral, social, and even physical. It includes crying, depression, guilt, anger, irritability, restlessness, fear, anxiety, numbness, sleep deprivation, social withdrawal, addiction, etc.
  • Mourning is learning to cope with your loss. It involves adjusting to the loss by undoing our previous ties with that thing or person. It involves building new ties with that thing or person. It involves revising our worldview and learning to move forward. By the way, people grieve and mourn differently.

Life is a series of losses – some big and some small – and because of that we all grieve and mourn to one degree or another. This is a big problem of life. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus began His Sermon with the most common human problem?!! After all He is God! What did you expect! It behooves me when people say that the Bible doesn’t apply. It applies much more than you think!

Application: Are you struggling with some loss in your life? Are you trying to pretend that you are strong and it doesn’t bother you? Are you living in grief and mourning? God understands. Jesus understands. He cares.

II. WHAT ARE SOME WAYS PEOPLE COPE? 

People try all sorts of ways to mourn. They are known as “coping mechanisms.”

  • Act out = Go wild. Do crazy things. You owe it to yourself.
  • Adapt = Find a new normal. Just adapt to this loss.
  • Altruism = Help other people and it will make you feel better.
  • Avoid = Just don’t face it. Pour yourself into your work, hobby, or relationship.
  • Cry = Let it out.
  • Distance = Move away. At least get away for a while.
  • Emotionality = Have an outburst. Make people scared of your anger.
  • Fantasy = Go into your make-believe world. Turn on a favorite song and dream.
  • Help-Rejecting Complaining = Ask for help and then reject it. Look for pity.
  • Intellectualize = Think deep on the subject. Go get a PhD on it.
  • Passive Aggression = Be stubborn and hostile even if it hurts self. Procrastinate.
  • Provocation = Get others to act so you can react.
  • Regression = Act like a little kid.
  • Self-harming = Cause pain to self so you don’t have to face the pain of loss.
  • Trivializing = Pretend that it’s not a big deal.

Why do people try these coping mechanisms? Because they give some temporary relief or even long-term relief but there’s a big difference between relief and comfort. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will find relief.” The English word “comfort” comes from the Latin com = with and fort = strong. It’s connected to words like fortify and fortress. We will see all this in the last point.

Application: Which one of these coping mechanisms are you using? Are you just satisfied with relief? Relief can only shift the pain, sometimes on those around you. Can you see the pain that others are feeling through you?

III. HOW DOES GOD COMFORT US? 

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.

Background: Keep in mind that Jesus gave these beatitudes in a particular order. You cannot jump around here. The first one is the first one for a reason – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Remember the “kingdom of heaven/God?” It is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the life of everyone who has received Jesus as his/her Savior. Remember Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Who are the “poor in spirit?” They are those who have less of self. So the first beatitude is saying that those who have less and less of self will be more and more under the control of the Holy Spirit. When you have this in place you are ready for the second beatitude – “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Look at the word “comfort,” not in English but in Greek. It is the word “parakaleo.” It is the verbal form of “parakletos,” the name Jesus used for the Holy Spirit.

  • John 14 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
  • John 14:26 But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
  • John 16 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

When Jesus gave the second beatitude, it was in the context of the Holy Spirit being the one who comforts. Jesus Himself is our Comforter but now He is also at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. So he sends another Comforter the Holy Spirit. Amazing! We have 2 Comforters! What are they doing? One is advocating for me in heaven and the other from earth. The Holy Spirit encourages me, guides me, strengthens me, gives me exactly what I need, sends the right people in my life, and even uses my loss to comfort others. Guess what? It works! “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” – G. K. Chesterton

But it doesn’t stop there – Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 1   3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. The point is that we’re not just waiting to be comforted but as salt and light we comfort others.

Invitation: Do you know Jesus as your Savior? How are you handling loss in your life? Are you looking to the Holy Spirit to comfort you? Do you know someone who needs Him?

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