Shrewd by Pastor Abidan Shah

SHREWD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Have you heard someone say “so and so is book smart but not street smart”? It means that a person has a lot of book sense but no common sense. Scientists and professors are known for that. I knew some professors from back in college who were brilliant when it came to books but clueless when it came to day to day activities. One was a genius in Physics but could not operate the coffee machine. Another one was a Math whiz but could not manage his money. So also, there are many Christians who are the “Good Book” smart but a failure when it comes to daily life decisions. They have a lot of spiritual knowledge but no relational and financial wisdom. Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is very different than anything I’ve ever preached. It’s on learning how to be “SHREWD” and that’s the title of the message.

Luke 16     1 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 So he called him and said to him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

Question: Parables reflect who we are in the story. Are you the wise steward or a foolish one? Have you been a good steward of what God has blessed you with? How are your finances? How do you see money? Do you use money or love money? Do you have the true riches in Christ? Are you saved?

Context: Previously in this series, you’ve heard me say that this parable or that is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. Today’s parable is the most difficult parable of Jesus. The reason it’s so difficult is because on the surface it appears wrong on many levels. But, if we suspend our judgment for a little bit, it will begin to make a lot of sense. So, let’s review the story again: The steward has been fired for wasting his master’s goods but before he cleans his office, he decides to take advantage of his access to the financial records and pardons part of the debts that others owed to his ex-boss. Listen again to verse 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’” I did some math and that’s about 400-500 gallons of oil. This would take about 75 olive trees to produce and it would be the wages of an average worker for 2 years. That’s a lot of money! Again, verse 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’” Losing 20 measures of wheat would come to losing the produce of 20 acres of land. That would be equal to losing about 500 denarii. Again, that’s a lot of money! Also, these were just two examples listed but he did that with all his ex-boss’s debtors. Here’s a question: Why didn’t he just steal some money and goods? If he had been caught stealing, he would have been punished severely. So, why did he do this? He was doing favors on his ex-boss’s expense to cash in later when he would be jobless. In other words, he was using his ex-boss’s debt ledger to build friendships that he could call on in the future for help.

What was his boss’s reaction? 8 “So the master commended (epaineo = praised) the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.” Why didn’t he call the authorities? What boss/owner in his right mind would do that! Keep in mind that this is just a parable, a made-up story given to make a point. The point was that the steward did not steal from his ex-boss. Instead, he made a clever decision to take advantage of his situation and make friends for a rainy day. This act even impressed his ex-boss! Just when you want to say that there must’ve been a misunderstanding in the wording, listen to Jesus’ conclusion—“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” The Greek word for shrewd is “phronimos” which means insight and wisdom, sensible, thoughtful, prudent, and wise. The same word is also used by Jesus in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” What Jesus is saying is that lost people are wiser in using money than God’s people. 

Of course, people have tried to explain this point in more palatable ways. Some have said that Jesus would never commend such a behavior or commend lost people. There must be some misunderstanding. Nope. Listen to verse 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” In other words, Jesus was telling his listeners to use money to make friends so that when life does not go as planned, their wise investments would help them out. Again, some people have claimed that this could not be. Maybe, Jesus was simply using irony or sarcasm here. Listen to verse 10 “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the trueriches?” In other words, if you haven’t learned how to use money wisely, why should God trust you with his true riches. Keep reading—12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Now it begins to make a little more sense. Jesus was NOT saying—

  • God’s people should be more like the people of the world.
  • God’s people should use other people’s money to outsmart them.

Instead, Jesus was saying—

  • Learn from those sons of this world who use money to make friends.
  • If you don’t know how to use money properly, why should God trust you with his true riches.
  • If you claim to serve God, stop serving money. You cannot serve both. You will love one or the other.

Why did Jesus go through all this trouble to explain all this? 14 “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money (philarguros = fond of money), also heard all these things, and they derided Him.” There is the clue! The Pharisees loved money. The tax collectors and sinners used money to their advantage but the Pharisees were only lovers of money. Listen carefully: The Bible does not condemn money. It only condemns the love of money.Listen to I Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 2 Timothy 3    1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers…”

What happens when you love money? You begin to worship it. It controls your life. It dictates how you live. It decides your priorities. Of course, there are many lost people who love money and they destroy their lives chasing after it. But, unfortunately, many saved people do the same thing. They claim to know God but they worship money. They give their lives to chasing it and pierce themselves with many sorrows. They are money lovers. They condemn the rich (U-Haul behind a hearse) but many rich are not money lovers (most philanthropists)! To the contrary, the sons of light are money lovers:

  • Instead of teaching their children the proper perspective on money, they only teach them to love money.
  • Instead of focusing on relationships and investing to build them, they watch them fall apart and they blame the church or circumstances or even God.
  • Instead of finding true purpose in life, they only live selfish and self-centered lives.
  • Instead of investing in God’s eternal kingdom, they only live for the here and now.
  • Instead of being a solid testimony for Christ, they repel the lost world from the gospel.

Is there any wonder that God does not give his own any true riches? Is there any wonder that many of God’s people are living beggarly lives? Is there any wonder that many of God’s children are pierced with many sorrows? Is there any wonder that we are not winning the lost world?

Invitation: Are you shrewd? Do you love money or use money? Are you saved?

Envious Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENVIOUS MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: People often associate certain colors with certain moods, emotions, or attitudes. Red = Anger; Blue = Sadness/Peaceful; Yellow = Fear/Weakness; Gold = Greed/Rich; Purple = Pride/Royalty; Green = Envy. In our western society, we call Envy the Green-Eyed Monster because green is a color associated with sickness. Sometimes when people get sick their skin takes on a slightly yellow/green tinge. So also, when a person is infected with Envy, their demeanor/countenance takes on a sick appearance, if you know what I mean. Here’s the message in a nutshell: An envious mind will take your focus away from God and his goodness and leave you sick in your spirit with doubts and resentment. What you need is the mind of Christ. What you need is the replacing of your false assumptions with biblical truth and principles.

Philippians 1    14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

Question: Do you have an envious mind? Are you struggling with doubts and resentment? How do you feel when someone in your field or age group or social circle, even at church, starts advancing? Are you happy or are you resentful? Are you saved?

Premise: For the benefit of those who weren’t here last week, let me once again sketch for you how we work as human beings. Keep in mind that psychology is a very complex and highly nuanced subject but I’m making it simple for us to understand. In life, all of us have certain EXPECTATIONS. They can be our personal goals in life or how we expect things to turn out through circumstances. These expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. When expectations don’t turn out according to our assumptions, they lead to FRUSTRATIONS. These can be manifested as anxiety, guilt, and resentment. I gave you some examples last time from the subject of material success and marriage. Here’s another example from the subject of raising children. If you’re expectation is that “My child can do no wrong. He/she is perfect,” then you’re in for a lot of frustrations in life. Not only will they disappoint you but they will destroy their life as well. They will go through life thinking that they are the center of the universe and expect you to defend and bail them out. Where did this expectation come from? It came from false assumptions. Maybe it’s because you think that children have no sin nature and they don’t need to be disciplined or corrected. Maybe it’s because your parents were too harsh on you and you swore that you would never do that with your children. Maybe it’s because you are trying to copy the pattern of how your friends are raising their children. These assumptions can come from a myriad of places. What has to change are your assumptions. They have to be replaced by BIBLICAL TRUTHS. Replacing false assumptions with biblical truths is another way of saying “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When this happens, instead of expectations, you’ll have PROMISESand instead of frustrations, you’ll have FRUITS.

Context: Last week we learned that the Philippians had a fearful mind. Today we’re going to see that they also had an envious mind.Listen again to Philippians 1:14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” When word got out that Paul was reaching the praetorian guards in prison, other pastors and leaders became more courageous in sharing the gospel. Unfortunately, human nature is prone to sin and evil.Although some were preaching for the right reasons, some were for an ulterior motive. Listen to verse 15“Some indeed preach Christ even from envyand strife…”To begin with, don’t confuse Envy with Jealousy.“Jealousy” is “I have something that I will not share with you.” For e.g. a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend. “Envy”is “You have something that I wish I had and so I resent you for it.” Jealousy is possessive and Envy is resentful.

The Greek word that Paul uses for envy is the word “phthonos.” It is found only 10 times in the New Testament in various forms. First time in Matthew and Mark when Pilate asked the people “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas or Jesus?” It says in Mark 15:10“For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.” Pilate must have noticed their “evil eyes.” The chief priests were envious of Jesus because the people loved him and not them. It is a residue of our life before Christ – Titus 3:3 “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” We are to lay aside envy and grow in Christ – I Peter 2:1-2 “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

Paul identifies for us the source of this envy in some of the preachers and leaders: Listen to verse16“The former preach Christ from selfish ambition…” (There is a situation of verse inversion happening here in some versions that I don’t have time to get into but it does not change the meaning of the passage.)Some of the leaders were saying, “How come Paul is getting all this attention from prison? Are we any less than Paul? Are we not going through similar suffering? The other day some of the Roman soldiers roughed us up too.” Paul calls their behavior “erithea” = “selfish ambition” because they were more concerned about gaining notoriety rather than seeking lost souls. Furthermore, they were also trying to send word to Paul that they were winning more souls than him. 16“The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains.” This behavior represented their ungodly assumptions. What were Paul’s assumptions/biblical truths?18 “What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Wow!

Why did Paul go into all this detail about the brethren in the Lord who were preaching out of envy and selfish ambition? Because the same behavior was being displayed among the Philippian believers. Listen to Philippian 2     1Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, beingof one accord, of one mind. 3Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambitionor conceit…” It is the same word “erithea” that he used to describe the envious brethren. Apparently, the Philippians had the same assumptions. Paul was exposing their sin in a roundabout way.

Envy coming from selfish ambition has been around for a long time.

  • Lucifer became envious of God and wanted a share of the worship.
  • Eve envied God and wanted to have His knowledge.
  • Cainkilled his brother Abel because he envied his sacrifice.
  • Down through the ages, brothers have been envying each other –Esau envied Jacob. Joseph was envied by his brothers. Moses was envied by his brother and sister. David was envied by his brothers and later by Saul. 
  • Don’t think that only men get infected with envy.Rachel and Leah envied each other in the OT and Mary and Martha in the NT.Envy is an Equal Gender Employer.

Do you struggle with envy? How do you feel when a friend gets a better job or finds a relationship and you don’t? How do you feel when you see someone on a vacation having a great time and you’re stuck because of health, money, or work? You have children who seem average or sick but then there are other families that have healthy children and great performers. Then the big source of envy – HOW YOU LOOK. Why do I have a weight problem, height problem? I don’t like my nose, my chin, my eyes and on and on. We often feel like God is so unfair in giving looks. The only way you can handle envy is by replacing your false assumptions with biblical truths. Listen to Paul in Philippians 4   11“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Are you a victim of envy? One way God deals with envy is that He crucifies the one being envied. If I were God, I would crucify the one who is envying – right? Not really. As someone said, “He never makes the path of greater fruitfulness enviable.”When you have a problem with someone because of envy, God says “I will crucify that guy for you.” Cain– you have a problem with Abel, I will take him early in life; Ishmael– you have a problem with Isaac, I will take him up on Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him; Esau– you have a problem with Jacob, I will keep him running all his life; Joseph’s brothers– you have a problem with Joseph, I will have him sold into slavery; David’s brothers– you have a problem with David, I will keep him running from cave to cave hunted by Saul. Chief Priests– you have a problem with Jesus, I will crucify him. Don’t misunderstand: Through their pain and trials God blesses them even more but he removes every opportunity for you to envy that person.

How do you beat Envy? Become grateful to God. Become an encourager to others.

Are you saved?

Resolve by Pastor Abidan Shah

RESOLVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 things we need to learn from Caleb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unstuck (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

UNSTUCK (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dedication by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEDICATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson Dedication

Introduction: How do you gift something to someone when it already belongs to them? I remember as a little boy wrapping things up around the house and giving it to my parents on their birthday. I would wrap up a flashlight and give it to my dad on his birthday. I would wrap up a pen and give it to my mom on her birthday. By the way, that was when I was very young. They would act all happy and excited to get a gift from me but later I realized that it wasn’t really a gift because it already belonged to them. In this service we are dedicating this new sanctuary to God but, in reality, it already belongs to him. So, what are we doing? We are really dedicating ourselves to God. We are committing ourselves to using this place to worship God, to magnify his son, to allow the Holy Spirit to work freely, to preach the truth, to encourage and edify one another, to reach the lost, and to be a lighthouse in our community and our world for Jesus Christ. The dedication is not of brick and mortar but of hearts and lives.

2 Chronicles 6    41“Now therefore, Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness. 42“O LORD God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; Remember the mercies of Your servant David.” 2 Chronicles 7  1When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house. 3When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying:“For He isgood, For His mercyenduresforever.”

Question:  They saw the fire and the glory and they fell on their faces before God. When was the last time you fell on your face before God? When was the last time you dedicated yourself to God? Are you saved?

Context:  The passage we just read comes from a very high point in the history of God’s people. After years of delaying and deferring, they finally got around to building the temple in Jerusalem. It came from a deep conviction in King David’s heart. 1 Chronicles 17:1“Now it came to pass, when David was dwelling in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORDisunder tent curtains.’” This is powerful to me because it tells you why David was a man after God’s own heart. He saw what many couldn’t see that there was no single place for God’s people to worship him. Even though David’s desire was noble, God knew the future and he told him that he was not going to build the house but his son will. Later we hear from David himself in 2 Chronicles 22    8but the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “You. . . shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. God saw what would happen with Bathsheba and Uriah her husband.9Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest. . .” Remember that. “. . . His name shall be Solomon. . . 10He shall build a house for My name.”Ultimately, God had one greater than Solomon in mind. (Matthew 12:42)

When we see paintings of the temple in Jerusalem, it’s not Solomon’s temple that we are looking at but Herod’s temple. Herod’s temple was beautiful! It was actually more than twice the size of Solomon’s temple. It was very impressive but no match for Solomon’s temple for many reasons. For starters, Herod’s temple was elaborate but Solomon’s temple was ornate. I don’t have time to go into all the details but listen to this – 1 Chronicles 22   14“Indeed I have taken much trouble to prepare for the house of the LORD one hundred thousand talents of gold (3,000 tons; rough calculation – $128 billion)and one million talents of silver (30,000 tons; rough calculation – $14 billion), and bronze and iron beyond measure, for it is so abundant. I have prepared timber and stone also, and you may add to them.15Moreover there areworkmen with you in abundance: woodsmen and stonecutters, and all types of skillful men for every kind of work.16Of gold and silver and bronze and ironthere isno limit. . .”Keep in mind that the temple, even though smaller than Herod’s, was roughly 40 ft wide, 130 ft long, and 50 ft tall. That’s a lot of walls to overlay with gold and silver.

For the cedar and the stones for the temple, Solomon gave Hiram, king of Tyre, twenty cities in Northern Galilee! He in turn also sent his best craftsman. There were 2 bronze pillars in the front entrance. One called “Jachin” meaning “God establishes” and the other called “Boaz” meaning “In God is strength.” Inside the temple, the walls are covered with precious stones and beautiful imagery of floral patterns and cherubs. All the sacred objects inside – candelabrum, tables, lamps, etc. – are all made of precious metals and wood. They did not spare anything in building the temple of God.

Here’s the point: The church is not a temple. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Neither is the building the church but it’s the place where the church meets. Having said that, it’s a shame when you see a church building in shambles and people living in mansions. Something is truly wrong. It’s a reflection of the spiritual lives of the people who attend that church. It tells how much they truly care about the things of God. How much do you care about the things of God? Do you give the best or what’s left over?

I want us to focus for the next few moments on Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple. 2 Chronicles 6    12Then Solomonstood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and. . . knelt down on his knees before all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven).” So also, when we come into this place, we are to humble ourselves and come with open arms.

14and he said: “LORD God of Israel, there isno God in heaven or on earth like You, who keepYourcovenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. 15You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; So also, when we come into this place, we are to come in faith and take hold of God’s promises.

22 “If anyone sins against his neighbor, and is forced to take an oath, and comesandtakes an oath before Your altar in this temple, 23then hear from heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, bringing retribution on the wicked by bringing his way on his own head, and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.” So also, we need to come knowing that God sees and knows everything.

24“Or if Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and return and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this temple, 25then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to them and their fathers.So also, we need to come repenting before God.

28“When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sicknessthere is;29whatever prayer, whatever supplication is madeby anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: 30then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men), So also, we need to come seeking help from God in times of trouble.

2Chr. 6:32  “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple; 33then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as doYour people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name. So also, we need to realize that this place is for all people.

41“Now therefore, Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness. 42“O LORD God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; Remember the mercies of Your servant David.” What Solomon saw through a telescope, we see clearly. Jesus is the ultimate Son of David, chosen King of Israel, whose kingdom shall have no end. We are now the priests and the holy nation before God. We are to rejoice in goodness.

Ephesians 2   19 “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Are you part of the temple of God? Are you saved?

BUSINESS IS GOOD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

BUSINESS IS GOOD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on April 29, 2017)

“Local business gives back.” “I like to support companies that give back.” “We feel that we need to give back to our community.” It seems that “giving back” is the new litmus test for being a good business. It is assumed that most businesses are basically bad because they only take from the people. Behind such thinking is the idea that deceiving people is the only way that businesses grow and their owners get rich. Hence, “giving back” is the moral way to come clean and make things right.

Is this really true? Do businesses profit only because they exploit the ignorant masses? Are the rich getting rich only because they deceive and take advantage of the poor? Before I answer that, let me acknowledge that throughout history there have been those who have prospered by manipulating the unsuspecting or seizing from the weak. I call them the “Mr. Potters” from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” With that being said, most are more like George Bailey.

The Bible is replete with examples of such businessmen and women whom God used in his eternal plan. In the Old Testament, he called Abraham and Sarah, a wealthy couple, to initiate his plan of salvation for the world. He led Boaz, a prosperous farmer, to redeem Ruth, the great grandmother of King David. In the New Testament, Jesus chose a small business owner to lead his church. Yes, Peter was not just some poor illiterate fisherman, as his letters (I Peter & II Peter) prove. Paul was helped by Lydia, a businesswoman from Philippi. But doesn’t the Bible warn the rich in James 5 to “weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten…you have heaped up treasure in the last days”? True, but keep reading – “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out…you have condemned, you have murdered the just.” The rich who were being condemned were those who were cheating the defenseless workers. The point is that God is not against those who have justly accumulated wealth through business. In fact, he frequently used them and even blessed them with more!

The slogan “giving back” wrongly portrays businesses as one-sided and parasitic. To the contrary, “giving back” happens when you receive goods or services in exchange for money. For example: When you buy a sandwich, you are getting back a full stomach; when you pay for a lawn care service, you are getting back a well maintained yard; etc. Good business is recognizing what people need, meeting the need, and making a profit from the exchange. Booker T. Washington (Founder of the Tuskegee Institute) said it best, “No one who continues to add something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward.” The reward can then be used as the owner pleases. Personally, I know many who give very generously to the community but choose to stay anonymous.

Lately, it has become fashionable to march down the street and hold up a sign against the greed of the rich. I wonder about their true motivation. As Father Robert Sirico once told Dinesh D’Souza, “If greed is the natural vice of those who have more, envy is the natural vice of those who have less.” How about dropping those self-righteous signs and check how much you’ve “given back.” Compared to the millions in the third world countries, you are rich!

%d bloggers like this: