FUTURE AND HOPE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

FUTURE AND HOPE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 12, 2016)

future-and-hope“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)

Last month Americans all across the land proved with their ballots that they were dissatisfied with the direction of our country. What is being called “one of the greatest political shakeups in history” is a glimpse into the soul of the real USA. Americans have overwhelmingly declared that they do care about the economy, security, and morality of their country. They do want a better world for their children and grandchildren. Once again they are seeing a future and a hope. These are indeed exciting times in our nation’s history. Along with the other positive changes, here are some more that we cannot afford to ignore:

  1. Unite as Americans – It’s obvious that we are more divided as a nation today than we’ve ever been. Wicked forces have done everything they could to tear us apart along cash, class, and color lines. It is vital that we bring about a healing in our great nation. We will have to reach out to each other and show love and compassion. The world is watching to see if we are still the “United States.” The wise king Solomon wrote, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  2. Equip our next generation – It’s imperative that we train our kids in politics, economy, and morality just as much as we train them in sports, dance, and music. We cannot shelter them from the issues facing our nation and the world. Instead, we should prepare them to change the world for the better. If they are to continue the good changes that are coming, we will have to teach them to lead with wisdom and courage. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
  3. Prepare for a spiritual awakening – The recent shakeup proves once again that God is not through with our nation. When we study our nation’s history we notice that He sent the greatest spiritual revivals when things were really low. He loves to work in dire situations because it brings all the glory to Him. We cannot forget to give Him thanks for giving us a second chance. But that’s just the beginning. We will have to return to the promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Abraham Lincoln said, “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” The dream is still alive.

America Tomorrow by Pastor Abidan Shah

AMERICA TOMORROW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

americatomorrowIntroduction: This morning I am preaching a special message in light of all that is transpiring in our nation and across the world. It’s called “AMERICA TOMORROW.” It is different than how I typically preach but it’s a message we desperately need to hear.

2 Chronicles 29   1 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old…2 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. 3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. 4 Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, 30:1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the LORD God of Israel…10…but they laughed at them and mocked them. 11 Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.

Bridge: In recent days many of you have shared with me how troubled you are over the state of our nation and our world:

  • Islamic Terrorism continues, as we saw couple of days ago in Nice, France where innocent people were killed at a national celebration. Then last month, in our own country, a terrorist killed people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
  • In the age of Internet and social media, people everywhere are more divided today than they’ve ever been. Even in America we’re divided by our skin pigmentation where one group feels that they are negatively stereotyped and mistreated.
  • Then the recent anger against law enforcement and the senseless violence in Dallas, Texas where 5 police officers were murdered.
  • Morally and spiritually our nation and world seems to be on a downward spiral.
  • Governments, even our own, seem too week and unconcerned to handle these problems and some are even unstable, as we’re seeing in Turkey with the military coup.

Question: What’s the answer? What is God doing? Is this the end of the world? Is there any hope for the future of our country and this world? Today’s message will challenge and encourage you to turn to the only one who has given us the answer – God. He has given us the answer in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But before we can see that how this works for our nation and world, the question is “Do you know Him personally?” “Have you received Him as your Savior?”

There are 3 things we’re going to learn from the passage we read that will help us with the problems were facing nationally and globally:

I. LEADERSHIP MATTERS. 

29   1 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old…2 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.

Background: If you read that casually, you will miss a very important point. The writer of the Chronicles is telling us – “Hezekiah’s father was David.” But that’s not biologically accurate. David lived about 300 years before Hezekiah! It’s like if one of you claimed – “George Washington is my dad.” We would laugh because he lived almost 300 years ago! So who was Hezekiah’s father? Two verses earlier in 2 Chronicles 28:27 it tells us “So Ahaz rested (died) with his fathers…Then Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.” King Hezekiah’s father was King Ahaz. Did the Chronicler make a mistake? No. Hezekiah’s Father, Ahaz, was an ungodly and wicked king of Judah. He had made images of Baal, practiced child sacrifices and idolatry.

What did God do? He gave him and his kingdom into the hands of the Syrians but that didn’t change him. Then God gave his kingdom into the hands of Israel and that still didn’t change him. Instead of turning to God, Ahaz turned to the king of Assyria for help, gave him the vessels from the temple but he still didn’t help him. He even sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, which made things worse. 24 So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the LORD God of his fathers. This was Hezekiah’s real father Ahaz.

When the Chronicler says that Hezekiah “did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done,” he was saying – “Hezekiah chose to follow David as his father instead of his own immediate father.” He began by opening the doors of the temple, repairing the damage his father had done, calling the priests and the Levites to return, and telling them to sanctify the house of God. For the first time in many years, people came together to sacrifice and worship again to the living true God.

Leadership matters. I hear people say – “Politics don’t matter.” Part of the reason we are in the mess we are collectively, financially, defensively, and spiritually is because of leadership. Everything rises and falls on leadership. What if people don’t listen? Someone said – “You cannot lead the orchestra unless you turn your back to the crowd.”

Application: Do you care about politics? Do you care about the issues facing this nation? Do you speak out on critical issues? Do you care about who gets in the office? Do you pray for our nations leaders? Do you inspire our young people to strive to be future leaders?

II. UNITY MATTERS. 

30:1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the LORD God of Israel.

Background: Remember, Hezekiah was only the king of the Southern kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been taken into exile and just a mix bag of people remained. Furthermore, the Northern Kingdom did not have a good relationship with the Southern Kingdom. If you remember, the Northern Kingdom had captured the Southern Kingdom under Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, and his people had been taken as servants to Samaria. So things had not been good between them. Nonetheless, Hezekiah knew that to rebuild the people of God, there had to be unity. Not only that, but he also sent letters to Ephraim and Manasseh. These were the descendants of Joseph from his Egyptian wife. The half tribe of Manasseh had refused to go into the Promised Land. In fact, Joshua had to plead with them to help the other tribes fight when they entered the Promised Land. It appears that they never truly felt part of the people of Israel. They even failed to drive out the Canaanites as God had told them. Nonetheless, Hezekiah reached out to them as well. There can’t be true unity unless there is a real attempt at unity.

It’s no secret that we as a nation are more divided today than we’ve ever been. The slogan on one side is “Black lives matter” and on the other side is “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.” In my opinion, all these slogans drive the wedge even further between us as a people. We need to first recognize that each side is saying something that the other side is not hearing. One side is saying – “How come mostly black men keep getting shot?” and the other side is saying, “Why are mostly black men committing crimes?” I don’t claim to have all the answers but my heart goes out to two groups:

  • First, to the law enforcement. Last year the Police Department sent me to attend a Post Critical Incident Seminar designed to help officers who were involved in some kind of shooting, either they had to shoot someone or someone shot at them or they witnessed a shooting or had to deal with the aftermath. I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. The facilitator asked each individual to share his or her experience. I was thinking – “This is cool stuff!” The same gruff and tough men and women began to share how they were struggling with those deaths and many broke down crying. None of them were wearing their story as a badge of honor. Each of them was deeply impacted by those shootings. Not only them but also their wives and children and friends were struggling with them. I’m not dismissing the bad apples but, as a whole, we need to be grateful to our law enforcement.
  • Second, to the black men, especially young men. Several years ago I was helping a young person from the black community who had made some bad decisions early in his life and had to spend some time behind bars. Now he was trying to find a job but because of his record he couldn’t. One day I was telling him to be patient and have a better attitude. He broke down crying. He said – “Do you know how hard it is to go through life without any direction? No male figure to get on to me and guide me. I’m angry at why this happened to me.” Then he said to me, “Even my very existence is a mistake.” He was born due to incestual rape. I’m not suggesting that all go through the same situation but I could finally see the despair and hopelessness in his life. Someone might say – “If they would pull up their pants, act nice, and appreciative, maybe we would try to help them.” Do you really think people in need will come to you in humility seeking your help? How did Ephraim and Manasseh respond to Hezekiah? 10 “…but they laughed at them and mocked them.” Think about how God reached out to us. Did a human coalition approach God in humility, acknowledging that we were hell bound sinners in need of a Savior? No. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Unity matters because there are elements in this country and outside who want to see our law enforcement weak and the discontented angry. Like Hezekiah we will have to reach out to all of our own.

Application: Do we appreciate our law enforcement? We are planning to provide a lunch and we will be taking a love offering for that purpose in the next two Sundays. Will you give? Have you prayed for the young people, especially those from the black community? Kindle is just one step in that direction but more has to come.

III. REPENTANCE MATTERS.

11 Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.

Now they did something very very important – 30 14 They arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and they took away all the incense altars and cast them into the Brook Kidron. Then the priests, the Levites, and the people cleansed themselves. They repented. 18…Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement for everyone 19 who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.” 20 And the LORD listened to Hezekiah and healed the people. It was supposed to be a 7 day feast but it became a 14 day feast. 25 The whole assembly of Judah rejoiced, also the priests and Levites, all the assembly that came from Israel, the sojourners who came from the land of Israel, and those who dwelt in Judah. 26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.

This is what America needs! Leadership Matters. Unity Matters. Repentance Matters. Without Jesus, nothing matters

Unity in the Body

UNITY IN THE BODY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Closeup image of hands of businesspeople on top of each other as symbol of their partnership

This morning we will be observing Communion. Turn to I Corinthians 11 for our message titled, UNITY IN THE BODY.

1 Corinthians 11   23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Upper Room 1

Upper Room 1 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Upper Room 2

Upper Room 2 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Upper Room 3

Upper Room 3 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: About 10 months ago, Nicole and I stood in the very place where these words were spoken. It’s known as the Cenacle, the upper room, where Jesus celebrated the last supper with His disciples. How do we know that? Because, during the early centuries of Christianity, the church on this site was the center of Christianity in Jerusalem. Tradition claims that it was also the site where Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection and where the Holy Spirit came upon them on the Day of Pentecost. Even though the rib vaulted bay (ceiling), columns, pillars, and walls have been rebuilt many times, parts of the floor are claimed to be original. I cannot describe the feeling I had when we stood on the very ground that Jesus and the disciples possibly stood or sat on for the Last Supper.

Picture with me that night when Jesus was with His disciples in this upper room. Earlier in the evening Luke tells us in Luke 22:24 “there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.” Jesus knew that and so in John 13 after the regular meal had ended Jesus began to wash the feet of His disciples. Why? To teach them what it meant to be humble. It was a demonstration of how they should be towards each other. They got it because when He revealed to them that one of them would betray Him, instead of being defensive or pointing fingers, Matthew 26:22 says, “they were exceedingly sorrowful…” and Mark 14:19 says, “they began…to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?”…“Is it I?” Meaning: They were not judging each other but themselves. Now, Jesus explained to them about the bread and the cup.

What’s the point? Before the disciples could understand the meaning of the bread and the cup, there had to be a change in attitude from pride and self-righteousness to humility, sorrow, and self-examination. A change in attitude had to come before a change in understanding. Unfortunately, by the time Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church, they were anything but that. They were pushing and shoving each other at the Lord’s Table. They were divided.

Question: How is your attitude this morning? Is there pride in your heart? Is there sorrow in your heart? Have you taken the time to think about what Jesus went through for you 2000 years ago? Have you examined yourself and asked – “Is it I?” or are you too busy judging others? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this passage that will prepare us for Communion today and also bring unity in the body.

1. THE SOURCE OF DISUNITY 

To understand the context in which Paul wrote the words, we should begin in verse 17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, (Paul is telling them the reason for these instructions. It is to correct them.) since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.

Background: What is Paul talking about? The Corinthian church was divided. Why? They had a lot of problems. You have to read the previous 10 chapters to understand that. They were filled with envy, strife, sexual immorality, idolatry, stealing, cursing, and the list goes on and one. They were living in the flesh. You cannot be united as a body of Christ and have this behavior on the side. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. In other words, it was no longer about the Lord’s Supper but their own supper. In other words, how the Corinthian Christians were acting at home is now how they were acting at church. Their personal sins were infecting the church body. What they were doing behind closed doors was now being done inside the church. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. Instead of the Communion being a time of humility, sorrow, and self-examination, they were having food fights! Who brought more food? Who brought less food? Who got in line first? As a result, some people were walking away hungry and some were walking away drunk. It was embarrassing! By the way, not much has changed, most church fights happen over food!

Here’s the point: Show me a church with a lot of problems and I will show you people living in sin. How you live Monday through Saturday will sooner or later show up Sunday mornings. “You can cover up only so long. Sooner or later it’ll come out in public.”

Application: How is Sunday worship for you? If Sunday worship is a sign of Monday living, how is Monday living? Is there trash in your life that you haven’t dealt with? Are you bringing your trash into the church body?

II. THE MEMORY OF THAT NIGHT 

Background: What is interesting to me is that Paul does not just reprimand them about their behavior at the table or give them a long lecture on the dangers of discord in church. Instead, he takes them down memory lane to that night when Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples. Listen to verse 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

That phrase – “in remembrance of Me” is very important. What Paul is saying here is that the reason you all are acting this way is because you have forgotten that night when Christ washed the feet of His disciples and when their hearts were humbled, He explained to them about the bread and the cup. You have lost sight of Christ and not just any Christ but the Christ who gave His body to be broken for us.

Again, verse 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Once again, there is that phrase – “in remembrance of Me.” You have forgotten your Master and God Jesus who allowed His blood to flow out for you.

What is the point? The antidote to disunity is a return to the night when Jesus revealed to His humble disciples the suffering that He was going to face. The reason churches are filled with pride and self-righteousness is because they have forgotten that night when Jesus was the focus and His sacrifice was the subject. Humility, great sorrow and self-examination was the only response. If there’s pride and hate in your life, bring the cross back into your memory.

Application: When was the last time you reflected on what Christ did on the cross for you? When was the last time you reflected on His death for your sins? When was the last time you told Him – “I’m not worthy of anything. It’s only by your grace that I stand.”

III. THE TIME FOR SELF-EXAMINATION

1 Corinthians 11   27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

The consequence of their personal sins was weakness, sickness, and even death. Could it be that the church in America is weak, sick, and dead is because we have lost sight of the sacrifice and death of Jesus for us.

Now, this is the crux of the matter – What do we do now? Listen to verse 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. The place to begin is to deal with sin in my own heart. What is the promise? If I do it, God won’t have to.

Application: Have you examined your life lately? This does not mean that you need to do introspection on yourself—go looking for sin. Let God expose your sin. Let God decide what is sin in your life. Then deal with it harshly.

What’s the result? It will bring unity in the body.

Are you part of the body of Christ?

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