Living Stone by Dr. Abidan Shah

 

LIVING STONE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  We have several families in the church who are building homes or have just finished building. It can be such a long arduous process. There are so many things to consider from the right builders, cost of the materials, weather, decision fatigue, and changes. But, in the end, it is all worth it when you can sit on the front porch or the living room and know that you are in your own house. But, it takes a lot of patience to get there. By the way, I went looking for some construction jokes online and they all said that they’re still working on it. In today’s message, Peter is going to appeal to the construction imagery to encourage his readers. Here’s what he’s saying to them: When the world and even our loved ones evict us because of our faith, we are not left homeless in this life. Instead, we are carefully chosen by God to join Jesus in building our spiritual house where God dwells. We are precious to him.

1 Peter 2      4 “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Context: As you’ve heard me say it throughout this series, Peter wrote this letter to encourage believers who were facing persecution and ostracization because of their faith. It was causing some of them to turn back to their old natures and pick up those old sinful ways – “malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.” These are not sins committed in isolation, but sins committed in relationships. In other words, they were turning against each other in the church family. Peter evoked the imagery of a newborn baby to exhort them to seek the pure milk of those things that are proper for the life of a believer. If not, in fear, they will act the fool like David. But, there is another side to the Christian life. It is a life that is diametrically opposite to the innocent, helpless, single-minded life of a newborn baby. It is a life that recognizes that each of us are a small but significant building material in the house of God. It is a life that recognizes that each of us are to be a holy priest before God.

Application: How do you see yourself in the church family? Are you in the church family? Do you have this balanced view of the Christian life?

But, let’s back up because there’s more there. Why did Peter appeal to the building construction imagery? He was acknowledging their present struggles. The persecution and ostracization was having another 2-sided effect on them: On one hand, they were losing their sense of belonging; and, on the other hand, they were losing their inheritance from their old families. They may also have been barred from entering their temples where other business may have been carried out. This often happens when people become Christians in other parts of the world.

Illustration: As you’ve heard me talk about my dad many times, he grew up in a well to do and loving Muslim home. His future was set. He went to college and got his degrees. He had his career path laid out for him. He even knew who he was going to marry. The family had plenty of old money and plenty of prospects to make new money. But then, he had several life-altering moments, one in which he even came face-to-face with death. It caused him to start searching for the truth. After about a yearlong journey of searching, he came to know Christ as his Savior and King. But, when he told his father that he had become a Christian, his father was very angry and gave him the ultimatum: either renounce all this Christianity stuff or leave the house before he was up. Then he added, “If you leave just know that you cannot take anything from this house, except the clothes on your back. Your Jesus was a beggar. If you follow him, you will end up a beggar. One day you will return home and it will be up to me whether or not I will receive you back.” After that exchange, my father stepped outside and looked up at the night sky and had a conversation with God – “God, I don’t understand. I chose to follow you and the first thing that happens is that I lose my family.” God answered him, not audibly but in his heart – “Do you trust me that I can take care of you in the life to come?” He answered, “Of course. That’s why I’m following you.” God spoke to him again – “If you can trust me to take care of you in the life to come that you cannot see, why can’t you trust me to take care of you in this life?” That was it. My dad stepped out in the darkness and made his way to the local train station. He got in line to buy a ticket but he didn’t even know where he was going. The person before him asked for a ticket to Pune. When my dad stepped to the ticket window, he said, “Same place as him.” That night, my father lost his family, his inheritance, and all his earthly security. Unbeknownst to him, he had bought a ticket where the American missionary lived who would later adopt my father as his son.

So also, the believers in Asia Minor may have lost their families, their inheritance, and all their earthly homes and securities. Hence, Peter appealed to the imageries of building, stone, house, rejection, and shame. By the way, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, brought up the same point in Ephesians 2      19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” More than likely, Peter and Paul got this unusual imagery from the teachings of Jesus himself: Mark 12     10 Have you not even read this Scripture: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 11 This was the LORD’S doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” Here, Jesus referred to himself as “the stone.” The origin of this imagery goes back to the Old Testament: Isaiah 28:16Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.” God used the imagery of foundation and cornerstone because God’s people always had to face eviction and instability in life.

Application: You may not have to face evictions for your faith, but it may cost you to follow Christ in the days ahead? How far are you willing to go? There are more times of instability and uncertainty coming in the days ahead? Are you ready for them?

Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, refocused the persecuted and rejected believers on the fact that they were all involved in a massive construction project. It is the spiritual temple of God. Listen again to verse 4 “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious.” Here the “Living Stone” is Christ. There are 2 things about him: He is rejected by the world, but he is selected by God. But, it’s not just him – 5 “you also, as living stones…” We are also “living stones” that will be rejected by the world but rest assured that we have been selected by God.

What is the purpose of this selection? 5 “…are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 6Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” As I read earlier from Isaiah 28:16, this was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Bottom Line: Christ is our pattern in building the spiritual house of God. There is a sense of solidarity and connection between the persecuted believers and Jesus. We are together involved in a building project. In fact, Christian community is the place of the presence of God in this world. We mistakenly overemphasize God’s presence with us individually. That may be true, but it is the community that displays God’s presence before the watching world.

7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” This is a fulfillment of Psalm 118:22. 8 and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 8. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

Application: Are you working to build the temple of God? Disobedience will cause you to stumble? Also, Christ is precious to those who know him and are obedient to him. To others, he is a stumbling block – lost as well disobedient saved.

9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

By the way, there is a judgment coming. Listen to 1 Corinthians 3      9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and thatthe Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you building? Are you stumbling?

Faithfulness by Dr. Abidan Shah

FAITHFULNESS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: If there is one refrain or chorus that we have all said or heard again and again, it is “what a crazy year 2020 has been!” None of us ever imagined in our wildest dreams or nightmares that this year would turn out this way. Although, this year was quite serious and sad in many ways, people found humor in it as well. Check out some of the memes that people sent me – “T-shirt with the year in review stars – ‘Very bad, would not recommend,’” “picture of a knight in his armor with the caption ‘me being prepared for 2020’ and the next picture with an arrow through the eye slit,” “a bunch of porta potties on fire with the caption ‘if 2020 was a scented candle,’” and this one with “Sorry folks, the world is closed.” As I was praying about what is it that God would want us to remember at the close of this crazy year, he directed my attention to Psalm 66. Here’s the main point: If we look at our trials only through the lens of our personal story, we will become fearful and hopeless. Instead, we have to look at our trials through the lens of our collective story; then we see that we have faced worse situations before and God has been faithful. The foundation of our faith is not our own experiences but the collective experience of God’s people in the Scriptures. If he was faithful then, he will be faithful now and in the future. I can pray to him in confidence and know that he will answer the prayer of the clean heart.

Psalm 66       1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 2 Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.”

Context: Many of us treat the psalms as second-class literature compared to the narratives, prophecies, gospels and epistles. This is false. The psalms are equally Scripture. They are theology that sings. Once we decode the symbolism and the literary structure, they have some deep theology that is not found anywhere else in Scripture.

To start with, the psalm we just read (Psalm 66) can be divided into 2 halves: Verses 1-12 and verses 13-20. The first half is focused on corporate worship and the second half is focused on personal worship. In other words, first, we hear the chorus of the whole community singing and then we hear the voice of the individual worshipper. The first half lays the foundation for the second half. Without the corporate worship, there would be no individual worship.

First half – The choir calls all believers to praise God for his wonderful works. Listen again – 1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!” In the context, I would say that “all the earth” is referring only to the “God-fearing Israelites” or only to “all the believers of the earth.” After all, how can the lost world shout joyfully to the living God? Also, 2 “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.” Again, how can the lost world sing out the honor of God’s name and how can they make his praise glorious? Romans 3:23 is clear, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moving on to verse 3 “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power your enemies shall submit themselves to You.’” Every human being is an enemy of God until he/she meets Jesus Christ.Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Also,Colossians 1      21 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” Once we receive Christ as our Savior, we can join the throng of those who sing praises to God’s name. 4 “All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah

Application: Have you been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? Are you singing praises to God?

Now the choir invites all believers to take a trip down memory lane – 5 “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. 6 He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot…” Here the choir of God’s people are singing about the exodus from Egypt of their ancestors, particularly the time when the people of Israel found themselves hemmed between the Red Sea before them and the chariots of Pharaoh behind them. Remember, after the final plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh allowed the people to leave Egypt. As this massive crowd of 3 million began their journey, the land of Egypt was a wreck and the Egyptians were scared. The people of Israel had to walk right past the fortresses on Egypt’s eastern borders. There were soldiers and chariots in these fortresses with plenty of hatred and anger towards the people of Israel. Even though they were large in number, these former slaves (less than 24 hours) were no match for trained angry soldiers in chariots. God led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. Just then Pharaoh changed his mind and decided to pursue the people of Israel with a couple of thousand chariots with soldiers. What a horrible tactical decision!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses – Exodus 14     10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Listen to Moses’s response in Exodus 14     13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then, God commanded Moses to stretch his rod over the Red Sea to divide so the people could go on dry land. God sent a strong east wind that divided the sea and made dry land for them. Now, listen carefully to what happened next – Exodus 14    19 “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” As the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground, listen to what the Angel of the Lord did 24 “Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians.” This Angel of the Lord and pillar of the cloud was the pre-incarnate Christ who guarded God’s people until they were safely on the other side. Then God gave the command and the sea came back and drowned the entire Egyptian army.

Let’s return again to Psalm 66:6 “He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.There is a shift in the “person” from third to second. There is something very subtle here which is very substantial for our faith. The singers/congregation were not there at the Red Sea. Their ancestors were there. Nonetheless, they were there in the sense of the confessional statements (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). In theological terms, this is known as the “actualizing identification with Israel’s salvation history.” It means that by faith we are part of the whole story of God’s people. In other words, even though I wasn’t there physically, I was there spiritually and I saw the faithfulness of God in my life. We do that as Christians through the Communion – 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

The choir/congregation continues – 7 “He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah 8 Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, 9 Who keeps our soul among the living, And does not allow our feet to be moved.” This is the key verse of this psalm. God has preserved our feet from slipping into the netherworld. This does not mean that people have not died in 2020 of various causes, but God has our times in his hands and none have left this world outside of his time. 10 For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. 11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. 12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Everything from the exodus experience is now personal.

Application: What is your faith story? The Bible is our faith story. We have been through worse. If God brought us through fire and water, he will bring us through 2020. Can you sing that? Can you shout that? Do you understand now why we need community? We understand those who cannot be with us because of health concerns. That’s why we go above and beyond to make sure that we have the best online experience possible for those who cannot attend in person. To stop assembling is to take away our faith story. We have to remind each other of it.

Second Half – The individual proclaims his personal thanksgiving to God and promises to keep his vows. Listen – 13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows.” There is a shift in the “person” from second to first. The choir goes silent now and all eyes are turned towards the individual as he makes remembers the promises that he had made to God through the trials. 14 Which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah Many different kinds of sacrifices are in view here.

Applications: What promises did you make to God in 2020? You say, “I didn’t make any promises.” So, you just asked God to get you through? Get you through for what? Why should God give you another year? If were truly honest, many of us got through but our faith disintegrated. Many have destroyed the faith of others.

Listen to the conclusion of the psalm – 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. 19 Butcertainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” There is confidence in our prayers when our heart is clean before God.

Application: Is your heart clean before God?

Conclusion:

  • We need both descriptive praise and declarative praise.
  • We need to go back and then we can talk about the now.
  • We need both the community and the individual.
  • We need both worship and thanksgiving.
  • We need hearts that are clean if we want our prayers to be heard.

Can you see God’s faithfulness in the past and the present? Are you saved?

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?

The Journey by Dr. Abidan Shah

The Journey.jpg

JOURNEY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  About 11 years ago, Nicole and I took our kids on a long journey across the country. We went to all the major Old West sites in Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. We even went to Monument Valley, Utah, in the Navajo Nation Reservation. This is one of those iconic places where a lot of the Old Westerns were filmed. We had a wonderful time! There was a hotel near the Park but it was very expensive and so I decided to drive a little further. This was Highway 163 with nothing on the left or the right and it was dark. To make matters worse, we hadn’t eaten any dinner, the kids were really hungry, and we were low on gas. Talk about being afraid. I remember praying that God would get us out of this. Everyone was turning on me. I felt a little of how Moses must have felt. Thirty miles later, we came to a place called Kayenta, where the Burger King was still open. What a relief! What we didn’t realize is that inside the restaurant was the world’s best exhibit to the Navajo Code Talkers from World War 2. There was a movie about them a few years. Plus, we also found a good place to stay overnight. Needless to say, I was really grateful! Main point: Life is a journey full of choices. Unfortunately, poor choices can lead to years of regret and pain. But, God can use even our failures to work all things together for good if we let him.

Deuteronomy 1:41 “Then you answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD; we will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’

Context: On the surface, these words seem to be words of repentance and renewal, very sincere and inspiring. Unfortunately, the context proves otherwise. Moses is recalling what took place at Kadesh Barnea in Numbers 13 & 14, where the people had rejected God’s command to go in and possess the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve spies had brought back a negative report that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey but the inhabitants were strong, the cities were fortified, and there were even giants there. What was the response of the people? They lifted up their voices and cried and wept all night! They complained against Moses and Aaron saying, Numbers 14     2 “…If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” They actually began to talk about picking a leader and going back to Egypt! How sad and shameful! When Joshua tried to persuade and motivate them, they wanted to stone them all! What was God’s response? He wanted to destroy them and make a new nation through Moses. I would’ve taken God up on it! Moses actually talked God out of killing his people Israel. He begged God to forgive them. God agreed and pardoned them, but he declared, Numbers 14     22 “because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers…” What is the next step? Verse 25 “…tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.” Why? 30 “…you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.”

  1. The Repercussion of disobedience

Principle: God’s forgiveness does not erase the consequences of sins in this life. Someone may say: “What’s the use of God’s forgiveness if there are still consequences?” To erase consequences would be to erase God’s standard of holiness. If God did that, he would no longer be God. Because of his forgiveness, you are no longer his enemy. Now, he is showing you mercy without compromising his holiness.

Application: Do you take sin seriously? Do you understand that you can be forgiven but there are still consequences in this life? Have you ever received Christ as your Savior? Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

  1. The Regrouping of false repentance

Instead of accepting God’s verdict, the people decide to bum rush their way into the Promised Land – Numbers 14: 40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!” Moses warned them not to go because God was not with them. Nevertheless, they rushed up the mountain. I love Moses’ recollection in Deuteronomy 1:44 “And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah.” There’s a play on words here. This was supposed to be “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) If they had gone in as obedient children, they would have gotten the honey. Since they still had the slave mentality, they went in but got the stinger.

Principle: We cannot speed up God’s work of sanctification in our lives. He will not give us what we are not ready to handle.

Application: Is there something that you have been asking God for and it has not been coming? Trust God that he knows you better than you know yourself. He will not give it to you before you are ready for it.

  1. The Rerouting of discipline

Deuteronomy 1:46 “So you remained in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you spent there.” Numbers 14:34 clarifies this – “According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.” We don’t know for sure how long they were at Kadesh Barnea, but they then moved south and started going in circles. Deuteronomy 2:1“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days.” Their entire time in the wilderness was 40 years, but it was about 38 years since the first entry and failure. I did some math and that’s about 13,880 days. One scholar (Daniel Block) called it a “classic understatement.”They could have done something about this: 1. They could have returned back to Egypt; 2. They could have dispersed as a people; 3. They could have gone back to foreign gods. Some did at times but not wholesale. Instead, they chose to stay as a people and take the discipline of God. They had to die one by one and their children had to do their funerals. Based on the census of Numbers 2 and 26, about 2 million of the people died in those 40 years!

Application: How do you handle the discipline of God? Hebrews 12     5 “…My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” People ask me – “How do I know when I am being disciplined?” Don’t think of discipline as punishment. For a believer, all our punishment was exhausted upon Christ. Discipline is when God uses trials and predicaments in life to bring us to trust and obey him more. We go through times of disappointment, unpleasant situations, relationship breakdowns, loss of peace and joy, sickness, and sometimes, even death. Don’t see them as punishment but as discipline. Even Moses had to endure discipline. He talks about it in Deuteronomy 1:37 “The LORD was also angry with me for your sakes, saying, “Even you shall not go in there.”

  1. The Reentry by God’s grace

Deuteronomy 2       2 “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: 3 ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.’”

The last of the older generation just died and it is time to move forward. By the way, the entire time has not been a waste. Some significant things have happened. God has laid out more of his plan for how the tabernacle and the sacrifices are to be laid out. Now, it was time to reenter the Promised Land, but this time, it was not from Kadesh Barnea but the east side of the Jordan River. They are to pass through the territories of the Edomites, Moabites, and the Ammonites. I don’t have time to go through all the details of this journey. Bottom line: they are to walk through respectfully and peacefully. God even took care of the giants beforehand in the territories that they were passing through. Various Amorite kings came against Israel but God routed them and gave his people their possessions. In the midst of all this, there is an episode where God’s people (the new generation) once again began to complain against God and Moses. So, God sent fiery serpents into the camp and many died. Listen to Numbers 21     7 “So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’” This was a pre-figure of the cross of Jesus. Listen to John 3    14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 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.” Why a snake! 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Finally, how I could forget Rahab, the madam from who protected the 2 spies that Joshua sent to check out Jericho. She was saved and became part of the genealogy of King David and Christ. Can we not declare with Paul in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: How do you see your life’s journey? Which stage are you in? Repercussion, Regrouping, Rerouting, or Reentry. Are you saved? Is Christ in your journey?

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

hosannaIntroduction:  This past Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. Due to the coronavirus situation, parades all across the country were cancelled. Needless to say, a lot of people were disappointed. I don’t think they were disappointed because they couldn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s life, but it was because they couldn’t get out and have a good time with their family and friends. 2000 years ago, there was also a parade and some people tried to cancel it but they couldn’t. It was the parade for Jesus as he came into Jerusalem. Instead of clover leaves, the people held palm branches in their hands. Instead of Irish drinking songs, the people were singing Hosanna to the Son of David. As we draw closer to that time of the year, I want to preach a 4-week series titled “HOSANNA.” Here’s the message in this series: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

John 12    12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” 14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” 16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

Question: Did you know that God desires to save you? I’m talking to believers. He wants to rescue you from your predicament, whatever trials you are facing. Are you saved? I’m talking to unbelievers now. Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Context: When people first come to Clearview, they are somewhat amazed at how much I talk about being saved. Some have even come to me and asked if that was a Baptist thing. I try to explain to them that it is not a Baptist thing but a Bible thing. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about being saved, being delivered, and being rescued by God. In fact, that word Hosanna is literally the combination of “hosiah” and “anna,” where “hosiah” means “save us” and “anna” means “now” or “please.” It’s referring back to Psalm 118 where the psalmist says in verse25 “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.” This was usually prayed after the harvest season celebration. They would even wave and beat the ground with branches of willow and palm trees. Later on, this was also done during times of great needs and burden. In the weeks ahead, we will focus on all that. In this message I want to focus simply on the idea of being saved or rescued by God. It is all over the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus’ name in Hebrew is “Yeshua,” which is Savior! With that said, let’s look at it quickly in the short time we have:

  1. Let’s begin by going to what is considered the oldest book in the Bible, Job:

Job 5:11 “He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”

Job 40:14 “Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.” Here God is speaking sarcastically to Job. He asks Job if he can do all the mighty things that God does. “If so, then you can save yourself Job.”

  1. When God’s people were in slavery in Egypt, he sent Moses to rescue them:

Exodus 14    13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

  1. After they settled into the Promised Land, God sent judges to save his people:

Judges 7:2 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’”

Keep in mind that Gideon’s army was 32,000 men and they were outnumbered. Then 22,000 left when given the choice. Only 10,000 left and only those who drank like dogs were allowed to stay and that was only 300! God said, “Now that’s perfect!”

  1. After the judges came the kings but the formula didn’t change:

1 Samuel 17    45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give you into our hands.”

When the kings trusted in the Lord to deliver, they won. When they trusted in themselves, they fell.

  1. In the wisdom books, it is not cunning and strategy that saves but the Lord:

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I will recompense evil”; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.

Proverbs 28:18 Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, but he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.

  1. Over a hundred times, the prophets call upon the people to look to the Lord to save:

Isaiah 45    21 “Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. 22“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!”

Jeremiah 15:20 “And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you and deliveryou,” says the LORD.

Hosea 14     1 “O Israel, return to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; 2 Take words with you, and return to the LORD. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us…”

Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

  1. Finally, in the psalms, it is everywhere that God is our Savior:

Psalm 28     8 The LORD is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed. 9Save Your people, And bless Your inheritance;

Psalm 44     6 For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. 7 But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. 8 In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever.

Psalm 80:3 “Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”

Psalm 119:94 “I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts.”

Psalm 144     9 “I will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, 10 the One who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David His servant from the deadly sword.”

Let me repeat again what I said in the opening: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Are you saved?

Dark Day by Pastor Abidan Shah

DARK DAY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Dark Day

Introduction:  On August 21, 2017, people who lived in that 70-mile-wide ribbon all the way from Oregon to South Carolina experienced what is known as the total solar eclipse. It was the first time in almost 38 years that this natural phenomenon was going to pass through the United States. From our church, we had two van loads of people who travelled down to my old college in Georgia to see this incredible celestial event. We found us a nice shady spot from which we could glance at the sun wearing those eclipse glasses. We had looked up the time when it would be total solar eclipse and it was going to be at 2:37pm and last no more than 1 min 59 secs. As the appointed time began to draw near, everything turned eerie – the leaves did not look as green, the stream flowing by did not look as clear, the sky took on this dark and dreary color, and everyone felt as if the end of the world had come. the moon lined up directly in front of the sun, leaving a bright ring in the sky, and everything went dark. Even the birds stopped singing and the crickets began chirping. When it happened, involuntarily we all began to shout and cheer! I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. As incredible as that was, there’s coming a day much much scarier than anything we can ever imagine. That’s the title of our final message in our series through Malachi – “DARK DAY.”

Malachi 4    1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the Lord of hosts.

Question: Some people think that this world is just floating as some abandoned ship in the middle of the ocean. Not true. God set this ship to sail when he created this world and he is guiding it to its appointed destination. Make no mistake that it will reach its destination on the day that he has decreed. Are you prepared for that day? Are you prepared to face your maker? Are you living each day as if this could be the day? Are you telling others about Christ? Are you saved?

Context: In this final chapter of the Book of Malachi, God gave the people of Israel a glimpse of the future. Listen again to Malachi 4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.” God was telling his people, the people of Israel, that there was a day coming when he will execute his judgment on those who they were saying were the “proud but blessed” and the “wicked but successful” and it will destroy them. This was the same day that God mentioned 2 verses earlier in Malachi 3:16-17 where he listened and heard those who feared him and desired to please him speaking to each other about him. He says, “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels…” In other words, on the very day that God will proudly display those people of Israel who love him and desire to please him, he will crush those wicked who appear to be blessed in this life and seem to get away with wickedness.

 The OT is filled with many references about this “day.” Sometimes it’s called the “Day of the Lord,” sometimes the “Day of Tribulation,” other times the “Day of Judgment,” “Day of Wrath,” “Day of Jacob’s Trouble,” or even the “Day of Vengeance of the Lord.” Obadiah, Joel, Zephaniah, Isaiah, Ezekiel – they all talk about this day. It is spoken as “one day” but if you study it carefully, it represents the idea of God’s many judgments upon the wicked throughout history, culminating in a final ultimate judgment, the Day with a capital D. If you’ve studied biblical prophecy, we call it the “Great Tribulation.”

Let me pause here: I’ve spent a lot of time studying prophecy and eschatology (the study of the end times) and this is what I’ve found – Some people become obsessed with prophecy and others become adamant and argumentative over some view in prophecy. They begin to suffer from what’s known as the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” Abigail sent me a quote from them yesterday. By the way, David Dunning and Justin Kruger are social psychologists and professors who published a very interesting study in 1999. In a nutshell, the study proved this – “The less people know, the more they think they know.” Have you ever heard the statement – “Little knowledge is dangerous.” When it comes to prophecy, I have found a lot of dangerous people. They read a book or two and listen to some series from some favorite preacher and they become experts on the end times! I’ve preached many sermons on prophecy and this is what I’ve found – “The more I read and study prophecy, the more complex it becomes!” So, should we not study it? Of course not. We should study and teach prophecy but do it with humility and the right focus. Revelation 19:10 “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

What can we make of this prophecy? First, it is given to the people of Israel. Malachi was written to those Jewish people who were back in the land after their exile. It was written to confront their sins and to commend those who were pleasing God and speaking to one another about him. This prophecy will be fulfilled for the people of Israel in the end of times. In other words, God still has a purpose for ethnic Israel. Sometimes people have a problem with that. They think that the church has replaced Israel. They quote passages like Romans 9   6 “…For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham…” That’s a big misinterpretation of that passage in its context. Read the verses prior starting in Romans 9   2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. Paul is saying that he is so burdened for his people, the people of Israel, that if he could, he would go to hell so they could get saved. Later he says in Romans 10   1 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not…2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” Why is he saying all this? The Jewish people had rejected Jesus their Messiah so the question was “Is God through with them?” Listen to Romans 11   11 “…Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” Then he gives a powerful imagery of Israel being the olive tree and the Gentiles being the wild olive tree. Paul says in verse 17 “if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them…” 18 do not boast against the branches…remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” What does all this mean? God is not finished with the people of Israel. There’s coming a day when he will once again exalt his people and work through them. The reminder to us is to never turn our backs on the Jewish people.

Let’s return to Malachi – 2 “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…” The question that is often asked at this point is “where will the church be at this point?” Will we be there to see the Sun of Righteousness? I believe the imagery for the church is not the “Sun of Righteousness” but what Revelation 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” Does that mean that we will be raptured? Also keep in mind Revelation 2   26 “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations…28 and I will give him the morning star.” It could be that we may be gone before the day dawns or we may have to overcome and Jesus will guide us as the morning star.

“…And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.” But at the outset 144,000 Jewish people will be saved and they will go out as missionaries. All of them like the apostle Paul or the prophet Jonah or the apostle Peter. They will be filled with the Holy Spirit, not having to learn any language and they will go to the uttermost parts of the earth. There will be persecution. Israel will be attacked but God will save them. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the Lord of hosts. Today many countries are trying to destroy the Jewish people. Make no mistake, they will ultimately win. God will be faithful to the covenant he made to his friend Abraham.

4 “Remember the Law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Meaning: One major sign of the fulfillment of God’s timing is when there is no generational gap. Also remember, the plan of salvation has always been the same – Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Dr. Vance Havner said, “You can give a Bible and a candle to a child of God then put him in a dungeon. Even there, he will know more about what is going on in this world than all of Congress and the Pentagon put together.”

When will all this be? 1Thessalonians 5   1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

Be ready now. Get saved. Tell others. Live pleasing to God.

“When All Seems Hopeless” (2) by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: This evening I want to preach a message I’ve preached before but not from the pulpit. I preached it in front of our fireplace last winter when we were snowed in and, if you remember, we came together on Facebook Live and Periscope. This sermon comes from one of my favorite passages from the Bible – Romans 15:13 and it’s called – “WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS.”

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Twice we come across the word “hope” in this verse. To me this passage has been a source of hope many times over and I’m praying that it will be for you as well.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily unwelcome companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have hope unless you have the Holy Spirit and you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Have you done that? Are you saved?

Let’s take this simple verse apart and examine each section. Once we’ve understood each part, we can put it back together and look at it as a whole. 4 key things in this verse:

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, God of love, and God of our salvation. But here we come across an attribute of God that we don’t hear about much but it is central to His character – “Hope.” Our God is also the god of Hope. When we are in a hopeless situation, He is the One who reminds us “Don’t give up. Keep pressing on. There is hope.” He points us to the door when we feel that there is no way out. He shows us the light at the end of the tunnel when all we can see is a dead-end.

But don’t misunderstand – Our God is not just the God who shows us the way or points us to the light. He is the also the One who actually makes the way for us and turns on the light for us at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

Think about Ruth – her husband died. She followed her mother-in-law back to the land of Judah. She was a Moabite woman, sworn enemies of the people of God. But God brought hope into her life. She married a man named Boaz and became the great-grandparents of King David. But there’s more – in time God grafted her into the family tree of Jesus Christ.

There’s something even greater than all this. God not only shows us hope and brings hope to us but He is the Ultimate Hope. In other words, He not only points us to the door and opens the door for us but He’s also the door. He not only points us to the light and turns on the light for us but He’s also the light.

How does He do that? In the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 10:9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Again, Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Then listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus is the Hope? What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Where do you need Jesus in your life? Someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.” Jesus our hope is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 times. It represents a sense of happiness that is not depended on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Jesus said in Matthew 5 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be all right in spite of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 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.

The point is this – Neither joy nor peace are contingent on our circumstances. Our God of hope sends us both because we need both to get to the desired end.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and all torn to pieces inside. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope overflows us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us both joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace. John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. Again, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “In believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course kind of life. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Some people are willing to do everything but have faith and belief. This keeps the promises of God from being activated in their lives. Alexander Maclaren gave a great illustration to bring out the importance of faith – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9   23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Are you willing to pray for faith?

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years or so He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looed like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

A TALE OF TWO PRIORITIES (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

A TALE OF TWO PRIORITIES Article by Abidan Paul Shah

 

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on September 17, 2016)

a-tale-of-two-priorities“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” – Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)

We are living in an age similar to the one Dickens described in his novel. On the one hand, we are the prosperous citizens of the Information Age, rolling in the luxuries of the knowledge boom. On the other hand, we are the penniless inmates of the Ignorance Asylum, rotting in the filth of foolish decisions. We are constantly looking down at our gadgets for tips and tricks when we should be looking up to the One who holds all truth. We are searching Google for answers when we should be seeking the Bible for wisdom. We are chatting on Facebook with strangers few states away when we should be talking face-to-face with loved ones a few steps away. We are giving our children all that we never had when we should be giving them all that they really need. We are talking about changing the world while we are chafing at the miseries of those down the street. We are content with wearing wristbands when we should be wearing work gloves. We are holding up signs of love and equality on the sidewalks when we have hate and intolerance hidden inside.

(Wow! Not sure where all those rhymes came from! Dickens would dig it if he could! J)

The point of this article is not to demonstrate my rhyming skills, which seem to have vanished as randomly as they came to me…Neither am I trying to advocate some kind of a primitive lifestyle, away from all the distractions of the Internet or social media. We’ve driven too far down the technology ramp to backup. All I am proposing is that we return to the two priorities Jesus gave when someone asked Him “Which is the great commandment in the law?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Please don’t misunderstand those words. Jesus was not suggesting that we stick God and people on the top of our already crazy busy life. That would never work. Sooner or later we would push both of them off or supersede them with the mundane or the urgent. Instead, imagine your life as a circle with God as its center and everything flowing out of Him. He is no longer just someone we glance at once or twice a week but our entire life becomes an outworking of His love and truth. In the process we not only love Him with everything we have but His love radiates through us to those around us. Our friends and family feel it and so do our enemies. We begin to make wise decisions that are motivated by God’s love rather than our impulse or others’ incitement.

In short, a God centered life brings to us the best of times in spite of the worst of times.

Pure Motives, Clear Life

PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

CLEAR MOTIVES PURE LIFE (1)Introduction: Today we are in part 3 of our series on worry and anxiety from the Sermon on the Mount called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and today’s message is titled – “PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE.”

Matthew 6   22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Overall Background: On first reading, the passage we just read seems to be out of context. It’s as if Jesus lost his train of thought and instead of talking about worry and anxiety, He got distracted and went off on some tangent about the lamp and the eye. But, when we study this passage carefully, we realize that Jesus did not lose His train of thought. He did not go off on some rabbit chase. In fact, He was very much on the subject of worry and anxiety. Here’s what Jesus was saying: Daily we are bombarded with messages and stimulus. If our eye is good, which means our focus is on God and on the right priorities and our motives are pure, then we will let only light go inside of us. If our eye is evil, which means our focus is on the things of this world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, then we will allow darkness to enter in. What does this have to do with worry and anxiety? Worry and anxiety are simply symptoms of the darkness down below. (Keep in mind – I’m not referring to anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Go back and listen to the first sermon.) But common worry and anxiety are a manifestation of what’s happening deep below. To cure what is in here, you have to purify your eyes, your focus, and your motives. To do that you need the Holy Spirit of God to apply the Word of God and give you the same focus and the same motives as the Son of God, who was always full of light. He was never worried and never anxious at any point in His life on earth.

Question: Do you struggle with worry and anxiety? How is your eye, your focus? How are your motives? How do you handle the stimulus that comes your way each moment? Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Without the Holy Spirit in your life, your motives will remain questionable. There can be no divine light in your life. By the way, even Christians, unless you are submitting daily to the Word of God and the Spirit of God, you will also be full of darkness.

There are 3 questions that we will answer in order to understand this passage:

I. WHAT IS THE LAMP OF THE BODY?

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”

Background: “The lamp of the body” is a very strange statement. The only way we can make any sense of it is by looking for other places where Jesus talked about the lamp. We don’t have to go very far because he talks about it in this very Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5   14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Also, the parallel passage in Luke 11 clarifies it some more – 33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye.

The light that is in us is the presence of God. It is the holiness of God. It is the nature of God. It is the only good that is there in this dark sinful world. When our lights are bright, they radiate out and impact those around us. Jesus tells us not to hide this light. It results in good works. It leads lost people to glorify the Father in heaven. It is not hidden by circumstances.

Illustration: On a mission trip to the Yucatan Jungle in Mexico we were invited to go by the home of an elderly couple by their son. The man was one time pastor of a church in the village but too sick and aged to do much now. We walked in and saw this couple lying in their bed. The son asked if we would sing and so we sang in English and our local partners sang in Spanish. Before the chorus was finished, they were sitting up in their bed and singing with us. The glow had returned!

Question: How is your glow this morning? Is it shining brightly? Is it shining dimly? Or is it out? Has the light ever been lit in your life? John talks about how to have this light all throughout his gospel:

John 1   4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John 8:12   Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 12:46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

Have you ever received Jesus, the light of the world, in your life?

II. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EYE?

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”

Background: This is one of the hardest verses in the Bible. Scholars have debated back and forth over the significance of the eye in this passage. We all know that the eye is more than the organ that enables us to see what is around us. Ever since ancient times it was believed that our eyes also reflect what is inside of us. As someone said, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Cicero (Roman philosopher and orator who lived 50 years before Christ) said, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.” You can fake a smile and pretend all is well but your eyes will betray what’s really going on inside. Sometimes you can even tell if a person is friendly or mean, generous or greedy just by looking into their eyes. If you face a scary situation or an exciting situation, your pupils will begin to dilate involuntarily. Scientists have even discovered that the eyes can “reveal the presence of broader disorders like heart disease, stroke threats, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.” (The Economist, July 2015)

All that is true but that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Listen again to verse 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…” It’s not “the eye is the mirror of the soul.” The direction of light flow is outside in and not inside out. The eye sheds light inward and directs the decisions we make with our bodies. We may have trouble understanding this but Jewish people in the time of Jesus did not, especially when He said in verse 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Let me give you a couple of examples. In Deuteronomy 15 God had given explicit commands to His people to release their indebted brother in the seventh year, the Year of Release. God knew the human nature and so listen to verse 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.” Here the person sees his poor brother in bondage and instead of rejoicing that his year of release has come, he has a cruel and wicked thought in his heart. If I let him go, I’ll have to be out there sweating in the heat. I can’t do that. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and sin has entered in. Another example from Proverbs 28:22 “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.”

Parable of the laborers in the Vineyard - Bernhard Keil

Parable of the laborers in the Vineyard by Bernhard Keil

Here a person sees riches and instead of praying, “God, what is your purpose? Guide me. Help me to keep you first,” he just chases after money. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and greed has set in. In Matthew 20 Jesus Himself uses the phrase “evil eye” in his parable of the landowner who hired laborers at different hours of the day and when time came to pay them, he paid 1 denarius to all of them. The ones who came early complained about not getting more than the ones who came at the eleventh hour. Listen to what the landowner said to them, 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ Here the early workers seeing that they didn’t get any more, instead of rejoicing over getting their due wage, they complained about those who came at the eleventh hour and call the landowner unfair. Now their eyes have become evil and the sin of ingratitude has set in.

Illustration: Many years ago Nicole and I went to the SBC annual meeting. We were having a wonderful time. Different people came to the stage and preached and gave reports. Then, this one man came to the stage. He wasn’t much older than me. He spoke and people clapped. Just then a small thought went through my mind – “Why him and not me?” The convention was over and we toured the state. As we were headed home, Nicole asked me – “Is something wrong?” I answered – “No” but I knew that wasn’t true. It took several days for me to finally listen to the Holy Spirit. I had allowed the sin of envy to enter in me and bring darkness. I had to repent and the light returned.

“Your focus and your motives direct what enters in you. If they are pure and sincere and set upon the things of God, you will allow God’s light to flow through you but if they are evil and wicked, you will be full of darkness and sin and despair.”

Question: What is your first response to the good and the evil around you? What have you allowed inside that has brought darkness in your life? What is blocking God’s light in your life? Have you ever asked God to purify your motives?

III. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WORRY AND ANXIETY?

22 “…If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.

Background: Greek word that Jesus used for “good.” It’s actually the word a`plouj, which translates “single.” It has the idea of purity and sincerity. James uses it in its adverbial form in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all sincerely and without reproach…” Meaning: When God gives you wisdom, He doesn’t have any ulterior motives. Paul uses it in its noun form in Romans 12:8 where he tells the Christians in Rome to give but give with sincerity…” Meaning: Don’t have ulterior motives in your giving. So when Jesus says in verse 22 “…If therefore your eye is single,” what He’s really saying is “If your eye is pure or sincere, then your whole body will be full of light…” In other words, if your motives are pure, it will only bring light inside.

Illustration: It attacks the best of us. Billy Graham in his book on the Beatitudes talks about in his early days he would see two people having a great time or laughing and he would feel that it had to do with him or “why wasn’t he included?” He repented of that.

Here’s the point: Worry and Anxiety are a by-product of darkness. The only way to counteract is when the stimulus comes, let the Holy Spirit guide your response. He will make your motives pure and sincere. In turn, what goes in will be light and not darkness. Then what come out will be joy and gratitude not worry and anxiety.

23 “…If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” This can be taken in 2 different ways – Either, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful is that darkness inside of you? Or, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful must the darkness be in the lost world. Either way, turn on the light!

Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? Ask the Holy Spirit to purify your motives and let the light of Christ flow through you. Are you saved? Invite Christ to be your light today.

Putting Anxiety to Work Part 1 by Pastor Abidan Shah

PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

puttinganxietytowork

Introduction: This morning we’re starting a brand new series from the Sermon on the Mount called “Putting Anxiety to Work.” So many have messaged me and told me how much they’re looking forward to this series! I am looking forward to it as well!

Matthew 6   31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Overall Background: We’ve come to the section in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about anxiety. In fact, between verses 25-34, 6 times He uses the Greek word merimnaw, which can be translated as anxiety, worry, or care. The fact that Jesus used the word so many times implies that He was talking about something more than just casual concern. All of us have those but the repetition tells us that He had something deeper in mind. It’s also interesting to me that Jesus talked more about anxiety or worry in His sermon than He did about prayer. Could it be that it was a big issue for people back then? We will see more on that in a few minutes but here’s a question: If Jesus unabashedly discussed this subject, why is the church so reluctant to talk about it? Did you know that according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million Americans or 18% of the population suffers from clinical anxiety disorder? According to surveys by Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 6.8 million Americans or 3.1% of the population suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), 6 million or 2.7% struggle with Panic Disorder, 15 million or 6.8% struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder, 19 million or 8.7% struggle with Specific Phobias, 7.7 million or 3.5% struggle with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the list goes on. According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2006, each year Americans lose altogether 321 million days of work due to anxiety and depression, which ends up costing the economy $50 billion each year. By the way, women more than men face anxiety and 1 out of 8 children are affected by it as well. I can go on and on but the question is why aren’t we speaking on this subject when people and loved ones all around us are struggling? Jesus did!

Question: Are you facing anxiety of some form in your life? Do you know someone who is struggling with it? How do you view anxiety? Do you view it as something that can just be shaken off? Do you view it as a result of some sin? Let me give you my approach in these messages – Much of what the Bible condemns is “worry anxiety,” which is more than casual concerns but not what we know today as “anxiety disorders.” In fact, it is hard to find “anxiety disorders” in the Bible but there are many powerful and life-changing principles in God’s Word, especially the Sermon on the Mount, which can help us deal with those anxieties. In fact, many ideas that are being sold in self-help books and bestsellers are actually found in the most distilled and pure form in the Bible. It’s like buried treasure in your backyard waiting to be found! But before we start digging, let me say a couple of things upfront – First, some anxiety problems do require antianxiety medications and tranquilizers. That’s not a sin but medication alone will not solve your problems; second, this is not a psychology class on anxiety. My purpose is to help you have a balanced biblical perspective that will enable you to live Christ-honoring, joyful, and productive lives.

Before we begin, let me ask you – “Are you saved?” Do you know Christ as your Savior?

Today’s message is the introduction to this series with several important questions:

I. WHAT IS ANXIETY? 

To understand it, we need to distinguish it from 2 other words: worry and stress. People often confuse them. Let’s look at each of them:

Worry – It is more than casual concern. It comes from the Old Germanic word “wurgen,” which meant, “to strangle.” Later in Middle English it took on the meaning of “seize by the throat.” At its core, worrying is refusing to trust God and trying to live independently of Him. It’s a sin. The Bible repeatedly condemns it. In His parable of the Sower or soils, Jesus said in Matthew 13:22 “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” The same Greek word merimnaw is used but the idea is one of “worry.” So also I Peter 5:7 “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” The Greek word switches from merimnaw to melei, which has the idea that “God takes interest in you.”

Stress – There are many ways experts define stress but the best definition that I’ve come across is that “Stress is any situation where a person feels that they don’t have the adequate resources to deal with their circumstances.” The situation may be physical threat like death or emotional threat like divorce or breakups or financial threats like deadlines or bottom lines. Life is full of stressful situations, especially in our world today. Did you know that it was back in 1983 that the phrase “stressed out” entered our vocabulary? And would you agree that life is more stressful today than it was 30 years ago? Dr. Archibald Hart in his book The Anxiety Cure” says, “Human beings were designed for camel travel, but most people are now acting like supersonic jets.”

Now comes Anxiety – Again, many definitions are out there but the most balanced one I have found is by Dr. Archibald Hart (Senior professor of psychology, dean emeritus at Fuller Theological Seminary, a licensed psychologist, etc.) – “Anxiety is a disease of stress.” He goes on to say – “It is clearly the consequence of too much stress acting on your highly vulnerable brain chemistry. And if you have inherited a weakness in your brain’s chemistry, you will have a much lower threshold for tolerating anxiety than others.” He even gives this formula – “High adrenaline, caused by overextension and stress, depletes the brain’s natural tranquilizers and sets the stage for high anxiety.” What are the brain’s natural tranquilizers? God has so designed us that when we face stress, there are natural tranquilizers in our brains, brain chemicals known as “neurotransmitters” that keep us sane in the face of stresses in life. Some people call them the “happy messengers” – Serotonin, Noradrenaline, and Dopamine. Stress depletes our natural tranquilizers. In essence, anxiety is not that something bad has entered the brain. It’s actually something good is now absent from the brain or it’s running low. By the way, it usually affects the tough people.

II. WHAT IS ANXIETY DISORDER?

Now, please don’t walk out and start telling people that you have an anxiety disorder and you need some medication. Most people don’t. Let me clarify a few things again:

  • Anger is not anxiety disorder. You are facing a threatening situation and you go on the attack. It may be wrong, depending on the situation, but that’s not anxiety. Sometimes the Bible tells us as in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry, and do not sin” and then in Ephesians 4:31 tells us “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you…”
  • Fear is not anxiety disorder. You are facing a threatening situation and you retreat. That’s normal. In fact, some fear is actually commanded. Psalm 34:9 “Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.”
  • Panic is not anxiety disorder. Panic attack is a body’s smoke alarm that is warning you that something is not right. What does it feel like? According to the American Psychiatric Association 1994, typical symptoms include “pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, dispersonalization, numbness, tingling, chills, or hot flashes.” Some of you have shared with me that it feels as if you are having a heart attack or going crazy. Your brain is trying to tell you that have too much stress in your life. It’s time to take some actions and make some significant life changes. When does it become a disorder? When they are recurrent, unexpected, and you become preoccupied with them and start making significant changes in your lifestyle.

There are other types of Anxiety Disorders like “event specific,” “phobia induced,” “ruminative or focused attention,” or “generalized anxiety.” As I mentioned earlier, this is not a psychology class. My purpose is to simply introduce this subject and educate the church.

III. WHERE DOES THE CHURCH COME IN? 

For anxiety disorder, you will need professional help. You may need medication to bring the natural tranquilizers back to their proper level but that’s not enough. This is where the church body is vital. There are 2 other ways that the church can help –

  1. Connecting with others facing similar struggles. Communication with others who have similar convictions and have gone through similar struggles helps. We are planning on starting something like this soon. Let me know if you are interested.
  2. Biblical Preaching: Even though the Bible doesn’t talk about “anxiety disorders,” it has much to say about how to reduce stress and start living a balanced life. The reason I chose to do this series is because in His Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us how to do this. In Matthew 6:21 He says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, ask yourself – “what is driving you?” Is money driving you? It will drive you mad. Money is not evil. It’s a great servant but a horrible master. Matthew 6:22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Is there darkness inside, then it’s time to check the windows of your souls. Matthew 6:24“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other…” How many things are controlling your life? Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? When was the last time you took time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation?

I can go on and on. The point is this – preaching brings these truths to the minds and the hearts of the people. Let me say something here – Sometimes people have a very dismissive attitude towards preaching. We don’t need any more preaching. It’s about connecting with each other in small settings and then going out there and doing ministry. I guess the Holy Spirit made a mistake in telling us that preaching is important.

Mark 3:14 “Then He (Jesus) appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach…”

Acts 8:4   Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Romans 10 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

“Well…the preacher has to say that. That’s his bread and butter.” Not true. This is God’s appointed means by which He speaks to His people. This does not take away from personal bible study or small groups (we have Clearview Circles and you should join them). Preaching is the way He has chosen to speak through earthen vessels. This is the hour when my best counseling takes place.

Are you saved? Are you ready for the life God wants you to live?

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