The Greener Grass Syndrome (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

THE GREENER GRASS SYNDROME (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 18, 2018)Greener Grass Syndrome,

Have you ever driven past a herd of cows grazing in a lush green field and seen that one cow sticking its head through the fence, nibbling in the pasture next to it? Why is it doing that? Is there not enough grass in its own field? Is the grass any greener on the other side? Is the grass any tastier? None of the above. The cow is falsely assuming that the grass must be better on the other side. Humans do the same thing but worse. We buy into the myth that our lives are not as good as others’. We say things like: “I can’t wait to get outta here and move somewhere else,” “It was so much better back home,” “If only I looked like her, I would be so much happier,” “If only I had him, life would be so much better.” We see the perfect selfie and conclude that the person’s life must be better than ours. When in reality, that photo was retaken twenty times and tested by multiple filters. This delusion has become magnified in recent years with the rise of social media. As a result, some people have become paralyzed in self-defeat and some have slipped into the abyss of depression. Others have even walked away from a good job or a marriage, with tragic consequences.

So, how do you combat this “greener grass syndrome?” We can follow the example of God’s people in the book of Jeremiah. They were in exile in Babylon, pining to go back home to Jerusalem. They had forgotten that it was their sin that had caused them to be driven out of the land. Instead of repenting and seeking God’s will, they were wallowing in self-pity and longing for the “greener grass” back home. God sent Jeremiah to tell them to “bloom where they were planted.” Listen to Jeremiah 29:5-7 “Build houses and dwellin them;plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters…and seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive…” In other words, “Make yourself at home. Dig some foundations. Get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Become a productive member of the society. Make the place better by your presence.” At first, the people did not want to hear this but God warned them that things would not change for the next seventy years. But, if they were obedient to plant themselves where God had placed them, then his promise to them would be“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) People often quote this promise but neglect to realize that it was contingent on them flourishing where God had sent them.

There may be times when you have to change locations or jobs in order to improve your life. This is not “the greener grass syndrome.” Rather, it’s moving from a famine infested land to a fertile valley. But, just remember, bad habits don’t disappear by changing zip codes or job descriptions. Unless, the old nature has been transformed by Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will still be you even if you move to the other side of the moon! So also, being inspired and motivated by the successes of others is not always bad as long as it doesn’t trap you into envy. There is a fine line between copying and coveting. King Saul crossed that line when he began to despise young David and his successes. It launched him into a horrible depression and provoked within him the desire to kill God’s Anointed.

Ultimately, the challenge to all those seeking the “greener grass” is to make sure that what they think is a better place is not actually astroturf or a septic tank. But, if we let God guide our lives, our Babylon may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Hoi Polloi 17 – 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.

ENCOUNTERS 4 (CLEARVIEW FOLLOWUP)

ENCOUNTERS 4 (Clearview Followup) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Here are some key points to remember from the message:

  1. A Historical Fact to Learn: For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. Maybe the pool was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple.
  2. A Theological Truth to Believe: Many different views have been advanced for Jesus’s final words to the crippled man – John 5:14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” I don’t think that Jesus was bringing up original sin or some generational sin. Instead, He was simply demonstrated that He knew the man’s past. Apparently, the crippled man had done something bad that caused his paralysis. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. Jesus was warning him not to return to his old lifestyle.
  3. A Biblical Principle to Apply: “…And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.

When It’s Hard to be Grateful

WHEN IT’S HARD TO BE GRATEFUL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whenitshardtobegratefulThanksgiving is upon us and we often hear things like – “We have so much to be grateful for” or “There’s always something to be thankful for.” Although that’s true, sometimes it’s just hard to be grateful when you are going through a difficult time. So, I want to preach a message titled, “WHEN IT’S HARD TO BE GRATEFUL.”

Psalm 13 1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Overall Background: Psalm 13, the psalm we just read, is known as an individual lament. It is the desperate cry to God of one individual who is going through a very difficult time. Who is this individual? If you take the superscription (the first line) “A Psalm of David” as authentic (which I do), then this psalm was written by David. Apparently, David was going through some great trial and suffering and he wrote this psalm as a prayer and a praise to God. What was David going through that was so difficult? We don’t really know the answer to that. Maybe it was when he was running for his life from King Saul. Maybe it was when David and his men were busy fighting the Philistines and the Amalekites had attacked their base camp and taken their wives and children as hostages. Maybe it was when David was fleeing his own son Absalom. We’re not sure exactly what was happening but one thing we know is that David felt like he was dying and there was no one there to save him, not even God.

Question: Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been in a trial when you felt like God was just not coming through? Have you ever cried – “How long O Lord? How long?” Listen carefully: Just because you are saved doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the fiery trials of life. David was saved and yet he felt as if God had abandoned him. It’s easy to praise God and be grateful when things are great. It’s very very difficult to be grateful when things are not great.

Are you going to a difficult time? Has it been hard for you to be grateful? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this psalm. As Joseph Parker, the great Victorian preacher of City Temple Church in London in the late 1800s said, “The psalm begins with winter and ends with summer.”

I. THE PRESSURE OF LIFE 

1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?

Background: The psalm begins with a series of rhetorical questions known as “erotesis.” It means asking questions back-to-back without expecting any answer. Listen again – How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? The Bible is such a true to life book, isn’t it? Many of us have been in a similar situation when we have cried – “What are you doing God?” “Why are you allowing this to go on?” “Can you not change this situation? “Can you not answer my prayer?” “Why do you let my enemies win over me?” Many times people compare the Bible to other religious books. There is no comparison! This book is so real and applicable.

But there’s something more – there’s another figure of speech here known as “anaphora,” which means repeating the same words at the beginning of a series of statements. 1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul…? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? David is really struggling with the time that God is taking to respond. He’s asking – “Why is God just sitting there and watching me suffer?” “If He loves me, why doesn’t He do something?” By the way, there is no mention of sin and need for repentance. This means that this was not some punishment for sin.

Question: How many of y’all have wondered that at some point in your life? If God is all loving and all powerful, why doesn’t He do something about my situation? If I’m not sinning, why is God delaying His answer?

Illustration: When I was going through pain, I remember asking the same questions.

Listen carefully: It’s not a sin to ask that question. Jesus also did from the cross. As he hung on the cross for sins He did not commit. He was paying the penalty of your sins and my sins and the sins of every human being. He was fulfilling what He had agreed to do even before the foundation of the world. Nonetheless, Matthew 27 says in 45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Application: Are you going through a difficult time? Do you know that God understands? Jesus is our “merciful and faithful High Priest” who sympathizes with us. It’s alright to cry before Him? David did. Jesus did.

II. THE PRAYER OF DESPERATION 

3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;

Background: Even though David has been praying for a long time and has questioned God for delaying His answer, yet he does not give up on prayer. Instead, he prays again. Unfortunately, when we go through tough times, we stop praying. “Why pray when God is not even going to hear.” This is the time when you should pray all the more. What is interesting to me is that now David refers to God as “my God.” It is personal. One reason God allows us to go through difficult times is to bring us closer to Him.

What does David pray for? “Enlighten my eyes…” Job said the same thing in Job 17:7 “My eye has also grown dim because of sorrow, And all my members are like shadows.” Our greatest need in times of trials is vision. “God help me to see what you see.” From my perspective, it is hopeless. But then he says, “Lest I sleep the sleep of death.” What is at stake? David is so worn out that he thinks it’s going to kill him.

How many of y’all have said that at some time in your life – “This situation is going to kill me.” What’s the answer? Pray.

What else? 4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. One of the hardest things to face is our enemy doing well while we suffer. It is tough to watch the Enemy winning over our lives. By the way, the first enemy is singular and the second is plural. Meaning: We have one “The Enemy” and then we also have many “enemies.”

Once again, Jesus understands this. Listen to the Messianic Psalm 22 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

Application: Are you praying through trials? How are you addressing God? Are you praying for His vision in your desperation? Are you asking God to bring life into your dead situation? Are you reminding Him how the enemy is mocking you?

III. THE PRAISE OF VICTORY 

5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;

Background: Just when you feel as if all hope is gone and there is no sign of God, answer comes. David prayed for vision and God answered him. He always does! But His answer came in a very different way. It doesn’t say that God just removed the problem or that God vanquished David’s enemies. Instead, God changed David’s perspective. He is able to see life in a wholly different way. Now David is not as concerned with God’s power as He is in His mercy, His loving kindness. He understands that God does not owe Him anything. He understands that all he deserves is God’s judgment. Instead, God chooses to be merciful to David.

Many of us have too high a view of ourselves. Trials have a way of humbling us. They have a way of showing us who we really are and what we really deserve.

What’s more – My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

Previously, David’s joy was built upon his circumstances. Now, he rejoices in God’s salvation. What is this salvation? It is salvation from sin. It is salvation from self. It is salvation from Satan. It is also salvation from our circumstances. Maybe it has already happened or David is beginning to see the faint light of God’s intervention in his life. We don’t like to wait on God’s timing – Abraham had to wait for 25 years for Isaac to be born. Isaac had to wait for 20 years for his children. Joseph had to wait for 13 years before he became second in command in Egypt. Moses had to wait for 80 years before He could lead God’s people to the Promised Land. Jesus had to wait 33 years before He could do what He came to do.

What is David’s response? 6 “I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Now David breaks out in a song and says – “The Lord has dealt bountifully with me.” Before prayer David felt that he was falling into the sleep of death. He cries out to God in prayer. There is a change in perspective. Now he realizes how merciful God has been to him and all he can say is that “God has dealt bountifully with me.” Meaning: God is better to me than I deserve!

Question: How do you see your life? Do you feel that God is not giving you what you deserve? Do you feel that God is holding out on His best for your life? That is the Enemy’s greatest lie. He used it against Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and he still uses it against God’s people, especially when they are going through a difficult time.

Are you facing a tough time? Are you having a tough time praying? Are you saved? If you are saved, then when you can’t pray, the Holy Spirit is there to pray for you.

Romans 8   26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

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