Firm Resolve by Dr. Abidan Shah

FIRM RESOLVE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  How many of you know of the “Loser’s Limp?” Zig Ziglar (in his classic book “See you at the top”) described it like this – “Characteristically, when a person falls victim to Garbage-Dump Thinking, he develops an assortment of ‘Loser’s Limps.’ You know what the Loser’s Limp is if you’ve ever attended a football game or watched one on television…The offensive player slips behind the defensive player, reaches up, pulls in a pass and heads for the end zone. The defensive man quickly recovers and takes out in hot pursuit. When the offensive player gets about 20 yards from the end zone, the defensive player realizes he’s not going to catch the man with the ball. Everybody in the stands knows it too. So, the defensive player frequently pulls up limping and the people in the stands say, ‘Well, no wonder the poor guy couldn’t catch him. Look, he’s crippled.’ Now that is his Loser’s Limp.” As we move forward in this series on 1 Peter, we’re going to learn how to avoid the Loser’s Limp during trials; and instead, make a FIRM RESOLVE (title) to press forward in the Christian life. Please find 1 Peter 1:13. Main point: When going through trials, it’s easy to become irrational, hopeless, and even revert back to our old ways. In such times, it is imperative that we make a firm resolve to be sober and look to Jesus, our source of hope. Ultimately, hopeful lives are holy lives.

1 Peter 1:13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Background: This verse marks a shift in the focus of the letter. It begins with the Greek word “dio,” which means “therefore.” If you’re a Bible student or a Sunday School teacher, I’m sure you’ve told your students that “when you see a ‘therefore’ in the Bible, ask yourself ‘what is it there for’ or ‘what is its purpose?’” “Therefore” is a call to action based on what has been said thus far. What has been said thus far? After the opening greeting in the first two verses, Peter gave a long doxology from verses 3-12. In this long Greek sentence, he reminded the pilgrims of the Dispersion (Jewish and Gentile background believers in Asia Minor who were facing rejection by their own and societal discrimination by their neighbors) that even though—

1. Their own had rejected them and their neighbors had ostracized them. 1. God had chosen them and rebirthed them into his family.
2. They were feeling hopeless. 2. They had a living hope which was based on God himself.
3. They had lost their inheritance. 3. God had an inheritance – incorruptible, undefiled, andunfading – waiting for them.
4. Their trials were causing them grief. 4. Trials were opportunities for God to test and purify their faith so that they will receive praise, honor, glory when Christ comes.
5. They felt like mourning. 5. They were to rejoice with an exultant joy, the shouting joy that opens the pressure valve through trials.
6. They hadn’t seen Christ and still couldn’t see him. 6. They had a special love and trust relationship with Jesus Christ.
7. Christ was invisible. 7. Christ become visible to them and filled their hearts with joy inexpressible and full of glory.
8. They felt unsure as to where life was headed. 8. Christ had given them the assurance of their salvation.
9. They were people with no past and no future. 9. They were part of God’s greater plan of salvation, which the prophetshad tried to search it out and the angelsstill try to figure it out.
10. They could only see suffering. 10. The salvation plan included the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. If they suffered with Christ, they will also share with him in glory. No sufferings, no glory.

 Here’s the point: God gives us plenty of reasons to overcome and press forward through our trials.

Application: What reasons do you have to overcome the trials in your life? Can you see the purpose of trials in your life? Have you been born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do you have a love and trust relationship with him? Is your life tethered to God’s greater plan of salvation? Do you know that there is no glory without suffering?

Listen again: 13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…” “Gird up the loins” is a Semitic idiom that means “tuck your long robe into your belt so you can move freely, rapidly, and without hindrance.” We would say, “roll up your sleeves.” Peter went a step further – 13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…” In his characteristic style, Peter mixed metaphors here. He was telling the pilgrims of the Dispersion not to let the trials and circumstances of their lives cause them to lose their mind, their focus.

Application: Are you guarding your mind? What do you allow to go into your mind? Who has the key to your mind? Here are some scriptures to remember:

  • Romans 12: 2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5 “…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
  • Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Instead, “nephontes” (be sober), which was the opposite of being drunk and losing self-control.

Application: Are you sober enough to properly process information and be judicious and prudent? Do you make rash decisions?

Instead of losing your mind and indulging, 13 “…and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” “Rest your hope fully” is the first imperative (command) of 1 Peter. Keep in mind that in verse 3 Peter had told them that God had begotten them to a living hope, but now he told them to hope fully in the grace that is coming when Jesus comes. Also, in verse 10, Peter had told them that the prophets had prophesied of the grace that would come to them, but now he told them that grace is still on the way. The point is this: the work has begun but more is on the way; this glimpse of the fuller reality should help you live confidently today. The fact that we have lost confidence in the present is because we cannot see what lies in the future. As you see the heavenly city, it should help you live even more confidently now. This should make you fight even harder! For example: VE-Day was May 8, 1945, the war was already over on D-Day, June 6, 1944 when in “Operation Overlord” 1000 ships carrying 200,000 soldiers sailed across the English Chanel to France and landed on the shores of Normandy.

Application: Can you see what is coming for believers? Do you know that we win? As the adage goes, “we don’t fight to victory, but we fight from victory.” “If your faith cannot get you through one year, what makes you think it will get you through eternity!”

There’s more – 14 “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.” Because they had been born again by the Father through the resurrection of the Son, they were to be “obedient children.” They are not to be obedient slaves but obedient children. There is a sense of dignity and choice implied. God doesn’t want us to obey out of fear but out of a willing heart. We are living in a culture where people will obey every mandate of human beings but disobey the commandments of God, even Christians. Peter warned them not to revert back to their former lusts in their time of ignorance. The word for lust “epithumia” is not just about the worst sins like gluttony, lust, greed, and pride, this is about the kind of life that lives to please self and reject God. It is about self-glory, self-preservation, and self-promotion. This is from the time of “ignorance.” This does not mean “lack of knowledge” but a life that doesn’t understand the need for God and his salvation in our lives. Some of the smartest people are ignorant because they haven’t realized that they need to be saved through Jesus Christ.

Application: Are you still in your time of ignorance? Are you still living by your fleshly lusts? Do you recognize your need to be saved?

Finally, what should be our standard through trials? 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Peter points back to the Holiness Code between Leviticus 11-20 (11:44; 19:2). Nothing has changed with regards to what God expects from his people. Keep in mind that Holiness is separation from the profane.

Application: Are you taking the time to be holy, to be separate? Are you set apart for God’s purpose? Are you sober minded? Are you resting your hope fully in what is coming through Christ? Are you obedient? Are you saved?

Greater Plan by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER PLAN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: When the kids were young, sometimes they would enjoy helping me in the yard, some more than others. It would start out with a lot of excitement until they got tired, bored, or hot. Then, they would go back in the house to get a snack or a drink, and I wouldn’t see them after that. Although they would genuinely help me, I always knew that the bulk of the work was going to be on me. In the evening, we would get ice-cream to celebrate, it was not just for “my” work but “our” work. As you know, we’re in our series on 1 Peter and we now come to verse 10. Main point: When the trials of life become too distressing, you have to remember that you are simply a small part of God’s greater plan. In other words, when doubts arise as to where life is headed and what God is doing, tether yourself to God’s eternal plan of salvation through Christ. It began before you and it will continue to those after you. Here’s the best part – If you suffer with Christ, you will also share with him in glory. The title is “GREATER PLAN.”

1 Peter 1:10 “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.”

Context: Here Peter was talking about the salvation of the pilgrims of the dispersion in Asia Minor. These were Jewish background and Gentile background believers in the Anatolian peninsula, modern day Turkey, who were facing persecution in the form of ostracization and rejection by their own families and community. This was all because they had received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Peter encouraged them to rejoice (aggalion = exultant joy, shouting joy) knowing that God was testing their faith and purifying them through their trials. He also reminded them to keep their eyes on Jesus Christ, whom they had not seen historically but they loved him and whom they could not see presently but they trusted him. As they loved and trusted Jesus through their trials, his invisible presence became visible and filled their hearts with joy inexpressible and full of glory. Not only that, but they also received the assurance that they would receive the end of their faith—the salvation of their souls.

Application: As you’re going through your trials, how is your love for Jesus? Do you take the time to think on his earthly ministry? Does your heart overflow with love for him? Are you trusting him every day? Do you take the time to reflect on his heavenly ministry right now? Does your heart take on new courage and strength knowing that he is with you? Do you have the assurance of your salvation? Are you saved?

Peter was not through. Since he brought up the subject of their salvation, he wanted them to understand how privileged they were in the whole course of salvation history, God’s greater plan. Listen again to 1 Peter 1:10 “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.” Which prophets was Peter talking about? The Old Testament prophets. They inquired (ekzeitein) and searched carefully (eraunein). When those words are used in the context of discovering divine will, they have a very deliberate and meditative meaning. In other words, this was not just some side hobby or idle pursuit. They were very intense and intentional in their search:

  • We could start with Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people. In Genesis 20:7, God called him a prophet. Did he inquire and search carefully? Jesus said in John 8:56“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
  • How about Moses? He said in Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.” When Jesus began his ministry, people began to make the connection with what Moses had said – John 6:14 “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’”

By the way, their search was not about the nature of his coming but about the timing of his coming. Listen to 1 Peter 1:11 “searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” The phrase “searching what, or what manner of time” should be read as “what time or what sort of time.” They knew what the Christ would do when he came; their question was “when?”:

  • Listen to David in Psalm 22 15 “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. 16 For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet…18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” No confusion there about how the Christ would suffer!
  • Also, listen to Isaiah 53     5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Again, no confusion here regarding how the Christ would suffer.
  • I don’t have time to bring up the rest of the prophets. Listen to Peter in his sermon from Solomon’s porch in the temple in Acts 3:24 “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.” The point is that the suffering of Christ was no afterthought. It was well understood. Their question was “when?”

Who was prompting this questioning? The “Spirit of Christ” = The Holy Spirit. By the way, this timing question became even more intense as it got closer to his coming:

  • Isaiah 6:11 “Then I said, ‘Lord, how long?’”
  • Daniel 12 8 “…Then I said, ‘My lord, what shall be the end of these things?’ 9 And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.’” Illustration: Like kids asking “Are we there yet?”
  • Habakkuk 1:2 “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear?” Habakkuk 2 2“Then the LORD answered me and said…3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.’”

By the way, this was not just about Christ’s suffering but as verse 11 adds, “the glories that would follow.” What are these glories? 1. Resurrection – 1 Peter 1:21 “who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory…” 2. Ascension and Authority – 1 Peter 3:22 “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”

What is the point of all this? 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven…” Throughout their existence, the people of old, especially the Old Testament prophets lived in the light of Christ’s coming suffering and glory. They faced their trials in the shadow of this greater plan of suffering and glory. More importantly, they did all this for us:

  • When Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah, he had this greater plan in mind.
  • When Joseph lay dying, he spoke to his brethren about this greater plan.
  • When Rahab the prostitute hid the spies in her house, she had this greater plan in mind.
  • When David was fleeing for his life from Saul, he wrote about this greater plan in his psalms.
  • When Jeremiah wrote to encourage the people in exile, he had this greater plan in mind.
  • When Esther resolved to stand up for her people saying “if I perish, I perish,” she had the greater plan in mind.

I can go on and on, the point is this – Those Old Testament people faced their trials with the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow with us in mind. In a way, they were partaking in Christ’s suffering that would come in the future, along with the glories that would follow. By the way, a side note here – 12 “…things which angels desire to look into.” Meaning: The angels watch in awe this entire drama throughout human history!

What is the application for us? Some people live in the microcosm of their own trials, griefs, pains, and uncertainties. They feel defeated, disillusioned, or distressed. They want God to get them through or bless them with something or teach them some great truth or principle. What if life was never meant to be lived in some personal bubble. What if my suffering or yours were part of a divine Master plan? What if our trials were meant for us to connect with the sufferings of Christ and the glories that are to follow? What if what we’re going through is not for us but for those coming after us? What if we are to rejoice and not reject the sufferings of life? Listen to 1 Peter 4:13 “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

Here’s the principle: If you don’t tether yourself to God’s greater plan of salvation through Christ, the storms of life will carry you away or tear you to pieces or leave you bruised and wounded. And, when you get through, that’s it. There’re no glories to follow.

Invitation: Are you bogged down with the immediate? Can you see what God is doing through your storm? Can you see what God is doing through the storm of 2020? What are doing for those who are coming behind you? Are you saved?

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?

Word Perfect by Dr. Abidan Shah

WORD PERFECT

WORD PERFECT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Words are important, especially in an election year. Pop quiz. Who said these words? “Fourscore and seven years ago” – Lincoln. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” – FDR. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” – Kennedy. “Read my lips – no new taxes” – Bush Sr. “I didn’t inhale” – Clinton. Last week, we learned from Solomon in the Old Testament that words are incredibly powerful. They can be used to give life or cause death. In today’s message, we will go to James in the New Testament to learn how to have perfect words. Here’s the main point: How we use our words is a direct reflection of what is in our hearts. Hateful words come from a hate-filled heart. Christful words come from a Christ-filled heart. It’s only when we are jostled in life through trials that we reveal what is truly inside our hearts. Today’s message is called “WORD PERFECT” from James 3:1-12.

As you know, James is probably the most practical and down to earth book in the New Testament, if not the whole Bible. In this section, he deals with the incredible power in our words and how to keep them in check.

James 3:1 “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers…”

Apparently, as the infant church was growing, many were seeking to be teachers of the growing Christian tradition. Maybe, it was on such basis as – “I lived next door to someone who knew Peter” or “Jesus came to me in a special dream” or “I have the gift of teaching.” Such self-proclaimed teachers were probably the source of division, infighting, and hateful speech in the early church. Hence, James was warning them not to be so eager to become a rabbi. Why? “…knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” Did you know that pastors, Sunday school teachers, and Bible study leaders will give a special account on the day of judgment? People ask me “Is it easier for you to preach, now that you have been preaching for all these years?” My answer: “It is actually harder because I know now what is at stake—people’s lives, marriages, and future destinies!”

Now, James addresses everyone, not just teachers, regarding their words. 3 things:

I. Our Words Control Our Actions.

2 “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” There are 2 ways to see this statement:

  1. If you can control your mouth, which is so unruly and uncontrollable, you can definitely control the less unruly members of your body. Think about it – Which is easier to do? Lie or murder. Lie, of course. But, if I can keep myself from lying, then there is a good chance that I can also keep myself from murdering somebody. If you are a liar, you are one step closer to being a murderer.
  2. Your mouth controls your body. That sounds strange, but think about it—Things don’t just happen. There’s always a progression. We might conceive an action in our minds but the thought is first expressed in our words. Words are the first building blocks to action. Things move from our mind to our words to our actions. I think this may very well be what James had in mind because of the 2 illustrations he gives:
  • A horse and its bridle: 3 “Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.” A Horse can weigh on an average a 1000 pounds or more, but a 100-pound girl can control the horse because she has the reins which control the bit in the horse’s mouth.
  • A ship and its rudder: 4 “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”

Here’s the point: If you don’t like where you are headed, change the way you talk. Some people have a self-denigrating and self-deprecating talk. If you say, “I am just a loser. I am so stupid. I am an idiot,” you are living up to your words. We shape our words and then our words shape us. Many of us are speaking our world into existence!

Sometimes, it’s not our own words, we are living up to the words of someone else in our life. Sometime back I was listening to a message by someone who ministers to prisoners. He said: it does not fail when he asks them to raise their hands if they ever heard their father say: “Boy, someday you will end up in prison.” Almost all the hands go up. The direction of their life was set by the words of their father. As a pastor, I have to be careful who I let speak into my life, especially before preaching.

As a pastor, I can predict with a high level of accuracy which way you are headed by the words you use:

  • Pitiful words – headed towards depression;
  • Angry words – headed towards violence;
  • Boastful/prideful words – headed towards a fall;
  • Adulterous/flirtatious words – headed towards an affair. Listen to David in Psalms 34  12 “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”

This is not pop psychology. This is God’s Word. Pop psychology stole this concept from God’s Word!

Application: Which way are you headed? Are you dissatisfied with where your life is going? Better Question: What are you saying? What words are ringing in your ears?

II. Our Words Can Cause a Chain Reaction.

5 “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.” A better translation: A tongue is small but it boasts of big destructions.

Again, James gives us 2 illustrations to prove his point:

  • Forest Fire: 5 “…See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” Thousands of acres are destroyed due to one tiny spark. 6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” The tongue can start a forest fire from hell.
  • Deadly Poison: 7 “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue…” James takes us to the circus with elephants, horses, lions and tigers. He takes us to Sea World with Dolphins and Killer Whales. All of these can be tamed but not the tongue. “…It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” The King Cobra in India can with one tiny bite send a person into convulsions within minutes and die. Listen to David in Psalm 140 1“Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men, 2 Who plan evil things in their hearts; They continually gather together for 3 They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips.”

What’s the point? Just like a tiny spark can cause a forest fire unexpectedly and one tiny bite can kill a full-grown person, the tongue is small but it can cause big damage.

For e.g. Imagine a Mr. Kindle (Remember – “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”). One Monday morning, Mr. Kindle was running a little behind for his 9 am meeting. So, he checked his rearview mirror and gently stepped on the gas. “5 miles over is alright.” He looked at his watch again and decided to make it 10 and then 15 miles over the speed limit. Unbeknownst to him, a policeman at the intersection clocked him at 20 miles over the speed limit, pulled him over, and gave him a tongue lashing and a ticket to go with it. Mr. Kindle was furious – “Look at this cop giving me a ticket instead of catching some real criminal out there!” Now Mr. Kindle was really late. He marched into the office, yelling for his secretary Mrs. Henderson – “Where are the files that I told you to have ready for the meeting?” Mrs. Henderson – “You told me not to worry about them and that you would print them yourself.” Mr. Kindle – “Stop making excuses and get me those files. Don’t think that I cannot replace you!” Mrs. Henderson is now furious. She stomps back to her office mumbling, “How dare he talk to me that way!” As she is turning on her computer, she notices the new temp Karen looking at her phone. “Karen!” she yells, “We did not hire you to play on your phone. Get busy or go home.” Karen is now furious – “How dare Mrs. Henderson talk to me like that. I was simply trying to access Google docs to help her out! Fine! She can find it herself!” Karen takes an early lunch, still fuming over the morning’s happenings. Just then, young Nick comes by her window to take her order. This is his first week on the job. He is nervous. He is still learning. He forgets to greet her. Karen says to herself – “Look at the kind of kids they hire these days. When I was working, we had standards.” She gets her order and as she is driving off, she notices that her fries are missing. She’s had enough. She stomps back to the window – “I need to see your manager and I need to seem him now!” The manager comes over – “This young man was extremely rude to me and he purposely messed up my order! If you don’t do something about it, I will call corporate!” Reluctantly, the manager sends Nick home for the day. Nick is now mad – “That is so unfair! I didn’t do anything wrong!” He screeches to a halt in his driveway. Just then his dog Spot comes to greet him, as always, but this time, Nick is in no mood for that – “Leave me alone, you dumb dog!” – and he kicks at him. What he doesn’t see is that as Spot jumps back to avoid the kick, he turns over the charcoal grill from last night. Even though Nick’s dad had checked to make sure that there was no live coal, one smoldering ember rolls into the patch of dry grass behind the house. That evening, hundreds of acres of woods were on fire. Question: Who started the fire? Spot, Nick, or Mr. Kindle? Mr. Kindle!

Do you see how our words can cause a chain reaction? Are you a verbal arsonist? If you think that all this is just pop psychology (the human potential movement), this is where that stops but the Word of God keeps going.

III. Our Words Convey What is Inside.

9 “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” Something interesting here: James has shifted the terminology from word to tongue to mouth. Why mouth? Maybe because Jesus used that word. Matthew 12:34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 15:11 “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” The point is that this is no secondary injunction. Jesus commanded this!

What is the problem? 11 “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” The problem lies in the heart. Our words are a good indicator of what is in our hearts. Both Jesus and James explained the Freudian slip centuries before Freud.

The Content of the Old Well: Sin Nature, Upbringing, Bad Examples, Bad Experiences, Daily Barrage from the World, Flesh, and the Devil.

The Content of the New Well: New Creation through Christ, Feeding on the Word, Godly Fellowship, Rejection of Worldly Values, New Habits.

For e.g.  Someone said this:

  • Show me a harsh tongue and I will show you an angry heart.
  • Show me a negative tongue and I will show you a fearful heart.
  • Show me an overactive tongue and I will show you an unsettled heart.
  • Show me a boastful tongue and I will show you an insecure heart.
  • Show me a filthy tongue and I will show you an impure heart.
  • Show me a critical tongue and I will show you a bitter heart.
  • Show me someone who says “hell” all the time and I will show you what’s inside.

Invitation: Has your heart been transformed by salvation through Jesus? Are you saved? How much do you care about the words that come from your lips? The work has to begin here (heart) and then here (mouth). It begins with humility, acknowledgment and repentance. Just like Isaiah we need God’s touch on our lips.

Thankful for Our Church Family by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR OUR CHURCH FAMILY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Thankful for Our Church Family

Introduction: One of my fondest memories as a kid growing up was having family meals with the whole family. I especially remember those meals when we were having my favorite dish or dessert, my mom, dad, and grandma would give me an extra spoon from their plate. It was their way of saying – “We know how much you love this! So, we are willing to sacrifice so you can enjoy yourself and we can watch your joy!” It built a feeling of love and assurance in me. Amazingly, I’ve found myself doing the same with our kids when they were young. If we had a special meal or some ice cream the kids really liked (we’re not talking about vegetables), I would take some from my plate and put it on theirs and watch their faces light up. I am so grateful for my family. It taught me so much.Family is where we learn how to love others and live with others. The church is also a family where we also learn how to love others and live with others. But it goes beyond: Our earthly family is temporal but our spiritual family is eternal and we are constantly adding more people to the dinner table. This is very hard for people to grasp in a world that is antisocial and self-centered. God has given us the church for a reason. Are you thankful for the church?

Colossians 3    12Therefore, astheelect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you alsomust do.14But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Question: Do you see it as optional and burdensome or do you see it as essential or beneficial? Have you entered the church family through Christ? Are you saved?

Context:We’re in our series called “Thankful.” With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, the goal of the series is to prepare our hearts to have the right perspective at this time of the year. Today we’re going to talk about being thankful for our church family. Paul in his letter to the Colossians talks about some essential values of a church family. When I see that list, I realize that we have much to be thankful for our church family. 3 things to be exact:

I. GODLY RELATIONSHIPS

Colossians 3    12Therefore, astheelect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;

Background:The key phrase here is “the elect of God.” Who are the elect of God? Keep in mind that this passage is not about the doctrine of election and predestination and all that. In the context, it is simply the adjective “eklektos,” which means “choice,” “excellent,” or “pure.” The idea behind it is that of a special people. The church is a special people of God, holy and beloved. Being this kind of a people, we are to have certain family values. What are they?

  1. Greek word is “splanchna,” which refers to our vital organs like “heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.” These were considered to be the source of our emotions. The word implies mercy from within.
  2. Greek word is “oiktirmos,” which has the idea of compassion with lamentation. Together, “splanchna” and “oiktirmos” have the idea of a deep gut level compassion for others that cannot be put into words. A family has a bond that is inexpressible.
  3. Greek word is “Chrestotes,” which has the idea of kindness. It’s the opposite of harshness. It is “always alive and active and breaks out spontaneously in the life of the person who is led by Christ.” (NIDNTTE)
  4. Greek word is “Tapenophrosune,” which means a deep sense of humility. It is the word that Jesus used to describe himself in Matthew 11   28“Come to Me, allyouwho labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” In other words, people should find rest through you.
  5. Greek word is “Prautes,” which means gentleness. But, it is the gentleness that comes from God. It is the fruit of the Spirit.
  6. Greek word is “Makrothumia,” which is more than just patience. It is something that God does in us that helps us meet people with a generous and self-giving spirit.

13“bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…”

  1. Greek word is “Anechomai,” which means “to put up with.” It means don’t say or do what comes to your mind. It is also reciprocal in the context.
  2. Greek word is “Charizomai,” which comes from another Greek word “charis,” which is grace. It means to show grace and to forgive each other. Rest of verse 13“…if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you alsomust do.” 14“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

Application: I am thankful for this church family for its godly relationships. It is not perfect by any means but it is one where I see these Christian graces at work. If you come with the spirit of “giving someone a piece of your mind,”“straightening people out,” or “putting someone in their place,” you are missing out on what this church family is about. Are you truly thankful?

II. WORD AND WORSHIP

16“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…”

Background: What is the Word of Christ? Is it the words that Christ preached while he was on the earth? I believe it is really the word “about” Christ, the entire Bible. For those of us who are living on this side of the canon, it is both the Old and the New Testament. One of our core values at Clearview is that “We are a Bible believing church that believes in the importance of sound doctrine and the need for a scriptural foundation for our daily life and church.” The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.”That’s why we emphasize biblical preaching. There are times that I have to put aside meetings and even certain ministries if I feel that the message needs some extra time. After every message, I ask myself certain questions:

  • Did this message come from the Bible, from its immediate and overall context?
  • Is it clear enough to understand and apply?
  • Does it magnify Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross?
  • Does it draw the lost to salvation?
  • Does it call the saved to obedience?

16“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another”– Here “teaching” is the systematic explanation of truth and “admonishing” is “strong encouragement” to follow what you have learned. It also involves correction. This happens through Sunday School, Wednesday Evening Bible Studies, Circle Groups, and Inner Circles. This is available for adults, youth, and kids. This is a must for us to live in this world.

“teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” – We are now talking about worship here. 3 titles are given:

  • Psalms – the Greek word is “psalmois” which comes from the Greek word “psallo,” which means “to pluck the strings.” They are songs of praise with a beat. They can be from the Old Testament but many were also composed.
  • Hymns – the Greek word is “humnos” which originally was even used by Homer to mean poetry that was recited or sung. It means to sing about someone or something. It’s not just a reference to Protestant church songs from the 1600s. I love the old hymns but we shouldn’t stop there. Every generation should write more hymns.
  • Spiritual Songs – the Greek word is “ode” or “ade” that’s where we get our English word adoration. This includes songs that reinforce our beliefs and draw us close to God.

“singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”– This tells us the attitude we should have in worship.

Application:I am thankful for this church family for its heart for the Word and Worship. It is not perfect by any means but I see the focus and the balance. If you come angry because your music is not being played, you will miss out. Are you truly thankful for the worship of this church?

III. SELFLESS MINISTRY

17Andwhateveryou do in word or deed, doall in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Background:This is a doing and serving church. We are to meet the needs inside and outside. We are to go across town and across the globe to meet the needs in Jesus’ name and with thanks to God the Father through him.

Invitation:Are you doing that? Are you serving Christ? Are you doing it thankfully or grudgingly? Are you saved?

Thankful for my Church Family

THANKFUL FOR MY CHURCH FAMILY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

thankfulformychurchfamilyThanksgiving is upon us and we are told to be thankful for our family, friends, health, nation, and even spiritual things like the Word of God and our salvation. But there’s one thing that we usually don’t hear in this list – it’s our church family. So this weekend I’m preaching a message titled – “Thankful for my Church Family.”

Romans 1 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.

Overall Background: Unlike the churches in Galatia, Philippi, and Ephesus, Paul did not start the church in Rome. We don’t know who did – maybe it was someone on a business trip or someone on a military assignment or maybe it was a family or a group of people but somehow the gospel made it to Rome and the church was born. In fact, when Paul wrote this letter to them, he had never even been to Rome as an apostle. But, he heard about them and listen again to what he says in Romans 1   7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all…” Paul had never even travelled to the church family in Rome but he was already grateful for them!

According to a survey by AAA that came out last Wednesday, this Thanksgiving week 46.9 million people in America will travel about 50 miles or more from their homes to visit family and friends. It’s the highest number in the past 8 years, about 300,000 more than last year. That’s a lot of travel! But, did you also know that according to some estimates as many as 16 million people in America travel to their church every week? Could be more but I’m being conservative. But keep in mind, that’s 52 times a year. So, 16X52 = 837 million trips to see the church family throughout the year! 46 million trips just at Thanksgiving versus 837 million trips throughout the year! But, if you talk to most church going people, not many are grateful for their church family. In fact, most of them are unhappy with their church family. Some are disappointed with their church family. Yet, others look at their church family as a burden, an obligation, and treat it as dispensable/unnecessary. “It’s alright but I can live without it.”

Question: How do you see your church family? Are you grateful for this church? Do you realize what God has done in your life through Clearview? How do you see this place? How do you talk about this place to others? Are you saved? If not, you will never truly appreciate the benefits you are receiving here.

This morning we will learn to be thankful for our church family like Paul was for the church family in Rome. Let the Holy Spirit bring an attitude of gratitude for this church.

I. REASON TO BE THANKFUL – FAITH

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Background: The reason Paul is grateful for the church in Rome is because of their faith, which is being spoken of throughout the world. What does “faith” mean here? The Greek word “pistis” has two implications:

  1. Saving Faith – it means receiving the message of the gospel. It means believing that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and He is alive today. Later in Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Again, in 1 Corinthians 1:21 Paul says, “…it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.I can give you many other examples but here’s the point – Faith, first and foremost, means being saved by believing in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s the point – the church in Rome had the reputation of being a gospel preaching, soul saving church.

Churches today are trying to make a name for themselves, such as “contemporary church,” “old-fashioned church,” “young people church,” “missions minded church,” “Bible-teaching church,” “community focused church,” and many other titles. Paul is not grateful for the church in Rome for any of those reasons but for their faith in the gospel. My goal as a pastor of this church has always been and will always be to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with every man, woman, boy, or girl, no matter what they look like and where they come from. That’s why the motto at Clearview is “Making Christ Visible.” That’s why I’m thankful for this church family.

Application: Are you thankful for Clearview? Are you grateful for the focus we have at this church? Are you saved? Have you placed your faith in the work of Jesus on the cross? The goal of this service and everything that goes on here is to get you saved.

  1. Life of Faith – it means living daily by faith in God and His promises. It means trusting God to guide, provide, and protect the direction of our church. You have to understand the background of this church in Rome in order to appreciate that compliment from Paul. The church in Rome was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers. One early historian (Suetonius) tells us that in AD 49 Jewish believers were being expelled/kicked out of Rome because of their faith. More than likely some of these Jewish Christians had family members and friends who were taken away from them. You can only imagine their pain. The Gentile believers in the church were Roman people or other nationalities that also believed in the gospel. What an interesting combination! They don’t have a whole lot in common. Oil and water coming together but blood is uniting them. In spite of all this, the one thing that is being heard about them is that they are a family of faith. Meaning: They are a church that believes in God for great things. They are a church that believes that God will provide and we can trust Him with the impossible.

Almost everything we do here can be duplicated. Good preaching – you can go and listen to a great talk by some great speaker. Good music – you can go to a great concert. Good programs – you can join some club. Good outreach – you can join some relief organization. But there’s one thing the world cannot duplicate – it is our faith in God. Clearview stands today because of our faith in God. People in this community are still scratching their heads as to what is the secret of this church! Rich, poor, black, white, young, old (led by some Indian guy whose father is a Muslim convert) keep coming to this church and it keeps growing! How? It’s our faith that God will do great things. Listen carefully – if we stop trusting God for great things, we begin to make sense to people. Let’s be a mystery! Let us be known for our faith in a powerful God!

Application: Are you thankful for the life of faith in this church? Are you adding to the faith are you taking away? Are you an asset or are you a liability?

II. RESPONSE IN THANKFULNESS – PRAYER

9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,

Background: Paul wants the Christians in Rome to know that because of their reputation of faith, he is not only thankful for them but he is also praying for them. Many times people mention their church but it’s not in prayer. It’s in gossip, criticism, anger, and disappointment. If you have a problem with Clearview, start praying for it and see what God will do. He will not only change Clearview but he will also change your heart towards Clearview. But Paul begins the verse with – “For God is my witness.” Now we’ve all said that to someone at some time – “Praying for you.” “We’ll keep you in prayer.” Paul wants them to know that this is not fluff. So he adds, “For God is my witness.” Meaning: God knows that I’m not lying to you. “…whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.” Meaning: God knows that I am no hypocrite. I serve Him very sincerely from my inward self. “…that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” And what is Paul praying for? I can think of a few things he must have mentioned in his prayer:

  • God build their faith in You.
  • God help them to not lose heart.
  • God make them more like Jesus.
  • God give them a hunger and thirst for your Word.
  • God ground them in your truth.
  • God protect them from the Enemy.
  • God keep them united, loving, kind, and patient towards each other.
  • God help them to keep winning more and more souls in the kingdom of God.

But there’s something more. Listen to verse 10 “making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.” Paul wants to visit them. Why? Listen to verse 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established. Meaning: Paul wants to strengthen them in their faith. He wants them to be established. How will this happen? Listen to verse 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Meaning: Paul is saying, “I will bring my faith to you and we will put your faith and my faith together so that together we will have a stronger faith – first in the gospel of Jesus Christ and then in the power of God to do the impossible. In the end of his letter to the Christians in Rome, he returns to this. Romans 15   30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.

Isn’t it true that when you get around people of faith, your faith begins to grow? They believe in a big God and you start believing in a big God! They believe that God’s gonna do great things and you start believing that God’s gonna do great things! They believe that nothing is impossible to God and you start believing that nothing is impossible to God! As a pastor my heart’s desire is to get you to build your life unhesitatingly on the gospel and trust God with the impossible here and at home. Then, I need my faith to grow. Bring your faith to me so that my faith will grow. Many of you have done that for me time and time again.

Application: Do you fuel the faith at Clearview or do you quench it? Are people trusting God more at Clearview because of you or are they trusting God less because of you?

Conclusion: In our time people look at the church as non-essential, just something extra. In fact, it is looked upon as more of a burden than a blessing. I’m thankful for my Clearview Church Family. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my marriage would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my children would be if it wasn’t for this church.

Same goes for you – many of you still have your life together because of this church. Many of you have your marriage together because of this church. Many of you have your children walking with God because of this church. Are you thankful for this church family? Do you belong to this church family? Are you saved

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.

How to Enjoy the Holidays

HOW TO ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtoenjoytheholidaysToday I’m preaching a message titled, “How to enjoy the holidays?” Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas is not too far behind. If your family is like ours, starting now, the next 2 months are crazy busy and stressful. We can’t wait for January to get here. This should not be the way.

Philippians 4   4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Overall Background: The central theme of the book of Philippians is joy. Paul mentions it about 16 times. Sometimes it is either the noun “chara” that means joy and other times it is the verb “chairo” that means rejoice. Here are some examples:

  • 1:4 in every prayer of mine (I’m) making request for you all with joy,
  • 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded,
  • 3:3 rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
  • 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown,
  • 4:4   Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Caesarea

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 2

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 3

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The point is – Philippians is the letter to read if you want joy in your life. But there’s something more. Listen to Phil. 1:12  But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; Not sure if Paul is in Rome or Ephesus, or Caesarea. If Caesarea, then Nicole and I stood in the very room where Paul’s trial took place. Either way Paul is in prison writing a letter on joy! Here’s the point: Joy is not hinged on your circumstances.

Question: How is the joy level in your life? Here’s another question – would people around you call you a person of joy? Here’s a better question – do you bring joy or do you bring pain in the lives of people around you? Are you saved?

5 things we will learn from this passage about how to enjoy the holidays:

I. FIND JOY IN EVERYTHING. 

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Background: If you read this verse out of context, you will miss the reason why Paul stressed, “always” and repeated, “Rejoice.” Read the 2 prior verses – Phil. 4:2  I implore Euodia and in the church I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Meaning: There was a conflict between 2 women. Who were they? 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Meaning: These women loved the Lord and helped Paul in his ministry. For some reason, they were in a conflict and it was tearing the Philippian church apart. It was stealing their joy. Hence Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

Would you agree that life has many unexpected joy stealers? Relationship conflicts, health, finances, crime, morality, bad news, and the list goes on and on.

For e.g. As I was typing this message, all of a sudden the word file closed. It does that once in a while. Only problem – I hadn’t saved it in the past 5 minutes. It was frustrating because now I had to remember what I had written and retype. Such is life.

Here’s the bottom line: You have a choice. You can either choose to be hateful, painful, or sorrowful or you can choose to be joyful.

Application: What is your choice this holiday season? What joy killers are lurking in your life? Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because joy is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of joy and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

II. FOCUS ON BEING GENTLE.

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Background: The word for gentleness can also be translated “kindness” or “tolerance.” It has the idea of being willing to bend. Bending does not mean compromising. It means learning to get along. In other words, don’t be rude, hateful or impatient but be kind, gentle, and patient. What is your motivation? “The Lord is at hand.” In other words, Jesus is near you and watching your behavior. You better be nice.

Illustration: Remember that old joke – Children were lined up in the cafeteria for lunch. At the head of the table was a basket of apples with a note – “Take only one, God is watching.” Moving through the line, on the other end of the table was a tray of chocolate chip cookies. Some smart aleck wrote a note and put it next to the cookies – “Take all you want, God is busy watching the apples.”

Bottom line: God sees everything. He sees when were being judgmental rather than gentle. Live every moment as if God is watching you because He is.

Application: Are you a gentle person or are you a judgmental person? Beware of self-righteousness. Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because gentleness is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of gentleness and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

III. FIGHT ANXIETY WITH PRAYER. 

Be anxious for nothing,

Background: The Greek word for anxious is “merimnao.” It’s origin is from two Greek words – “merizo” = divide and “nous” = mind. In other words, anxiety is a mind divided. Another synonym for anxiety is worry, which comes from the German “würgen.” It means to strangle or to choke.

Listen to what Chuck Swindoll said about worry – “Stress and worry break us down. They are the unseen source of our headaches, backaches, heartaches, and belly aches. They produce everything from obesity to obscenity, from constipation to diarrhea, and from impatience to impotence. They give us knotted stomachs, sleepless nights, high blood pressure, low morale. They make our tempers short and our days long. They cause indigestion, irritation, chest pain, and muscle strain. “You do not get stomach ulcers from what you eat,” said one doctor. “You get ulcers from what is eating you.”

What’s the solution? It’s not enough to say – “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Listen to what Paul says Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Meaning: The antidote to worry is prayer. What will happen? 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Once again, an old illustration: Frederick Handley Page of England was one of the pioneers in the early days of aviation. The story is told of how once he was flying and he heard the sound of gnawing. It was a rat. This was before autopilot so he could not do anything. He knew one thing – rat is a rodent that is not bad for heights. He began to climb higher and higher until it stopped.

Anxiety is also a rodent that cannot live in the secret place of the Most High.

Application: How is your prayer life? Are you daily grateful for what God has already done for you? Are you making your requests known to God?

IV. FIX YOUR MIND ON WHAT’S POSITIVE.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Some people think that Christian life is simply a list of don’ts, all negative. Christian life is also positive. We have to focus on what is good. You’ll become what you focus on.

For e.g. One time this lady came to me and complained about how she constantly had bad dreams. I told her to read her Bible and pray before she goes to bed tonight and see if it makes a difference. She thanked me and as she leaves she tells her friend – Can’t wait to watch “The Evil Dead” or some movie like that!

Then Paul adds in verse 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Meaning: If you need help finding positive things to focus on, copy me.

Application: What are you focusing on right now? Is it on Christ? Is it on the good that God has done in your life? Is it on the positive? Who are you copying?

V. FILL YOUR HEART WITH CHRIST.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I 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. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This is one of the most misunderstood and misquoted verses in the Bible. Paul is not saying – “With Christ I can take over the world.” He is saying – “With Christ I can face the ups and downs of life, the time of abundance and the time of hunger.

Illustration: Several years ago I was in Mexico on a mission trip. We were up in the Yucatan peninsula where they still didn’t even have electricity. The people lived in these tiny homes and had hardly anything. All day long we had activities for the kids and in the evening we had songs, movies, and message for all the people in the village. On the last day we had a final activity in the morning and we were going to leave after that. As we were breaking things down, I thought came to my mind – “Is this worth it? Yeah…we spent all that money and came, went somewhere we’ve never been, learned a new culture, grateful for all we have back home, gave these kids something to do for a week but is this worth it?” As the thought was still in my mind, a man approached me. I had seen him several times in the week. He had a wife and couple of little kids. He asked me something in Spanish, thinking I knew the language. I asked the translator to help. The man was asking for a Bible. Of course, we had bought a bunch from the church. I opened my bag and gave him some. No sooner had I done that, 3 more people asked me for one. By the time we left, all were given.

The point is – those people didn’t have much but they were not hungry for stuff. They were hungry for the truth.

When your heart is full of truth, you will be content no matter your circumstances.

Are you ready to face the holidays? Are you saved?

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