WHEN YOU ARE NEAR THE FINISH LINE

WHEN YOU ARE NEAR THE FINISH LINE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Three Examples:

1. A young girl grew up in church, great potential, wonderful goals in life. Next thing, she gets around people who pretending to be her friend lead her astray. Now she is no longer focussed and heading to her goal but has gone off the deep end.

2. Last Thursday I received an email from a friend. In the email, he mentioned a famous person whom I have admired for sometime. Most of you would know who he is if I were to mention his name. But I won’t. This friend mentioned this famous person and used the adjective “fallen.” Immediately, I went on the Internet and typed his name. Sure enough this man whom I had admired had left his wife of twenty years and was living with a mistress. He had a very high-profile position; he had influenced thousands of people for good; he had run very well; He was near the finish line but he had fallen.

3. A church that is doing great things for the Lord. Next thing, there are terrible problems. Now the church has gone through several splits. It no longer has any vision or direction.

Nehemiah 6:1-4 Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.

Overall Background: Nehemiah had to overcome incredible odds to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.

  • He had to get permission from the King of Persia.
  • He had to travel 700 miles across the desert to get to Jerusalem.
  • He had to deal with the taunts and threats of the enemies.
  • He had to deal with the lack of motivation of some people.
  • He had to deal with internal problems among the people.

When You Are the Near the Finish LineIn spite of all the obstacles, Nehemiah led the people to finish the wall around Jerusalem but then listen to what happens in verse 1: Now it happened whenSanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. Knowing that the work was almost done, Nehemiah’s enemies did not stop their attacks. Instead, they rallied together for one final, ultimate assault.

Listen carefully—Just because you can see the finish line of your life, marriage, work, and ministry does not mean the race is over. In fact, the greatest attack of the enemy is usually right before you cross the finish line. He knows that he cannot stop the work; he knows that he has failed before; yet he still believes that he can get you and he launches every weapon in his arsenal to bring you down. Just like the person I mentioned earlier, many people forget that the last quarter of the race is just as important as the first quarter of the race.

This morning, I want us to see how Nehemiah handled these attacks. First, I want us to see how the attacks came against him.

I. LET’S PUT THE PAST BEHIND US.

Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, Who were these two men?

Background: If you remember, thus far, Sanballat was the chief enemy of Nehemiah. He was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He hated Nehemiah from Day One. While Nehemiah wanted to help the people of Jerusalem, Sanballat wanted to advance his own agenda. He knew that if the Jewish people were successful in rebuilding the wall, he would no longer be in control. So he did everything he could to sabotage the project. He was not a friend but the ringleader of the opposition.

Geshem, if you remember, was also a major opposition of Nehemiah. Some archaeological discoveries describe him as the governor of Dedan; others describe him as the king of Kedar. That being the case, Geshem controlled the eastern desert region of Syria, northern Arabia, Sinai, and northern Egypt. He was a very powerful ruler and he was afraid that rebuilding the wall and empowering the people would interfere with his lucrative trade in myrrh and frankincense, besides many other things. He was not a friend but a huge opposition.

What did they want? “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” Ono was halfway between Samaria and Jerusalem. It was a kind of a neutral ground but it was away from Jerusalem. It was closer to the enemy territory.

How did Nehemiah respond? But they thought to do me harm. Nehemiah felt in his spirit that this was a mistake. “Why would these people who have opposed me so far want to be my friends?” More than likely their plan was to lure him away from Jerusalem and then kidnap him or kill him or just say, “he had an accident.” Nehemiah had what the world calls a “sixth sense” but what we know to be a sense of discernment.

So what did Nehemiah do?So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. Meaning: Nehemiah knew that unless God had changed their hearts, they were up to no good. Unless the grace of God through Jesus Christ breaks and molds the hearts of the people, they don’t change.

How did Nehemiah have this sense of discernment? Because he was a person of prayer. Every step of the way he had prayed and trusted God and the time he spent with God made him aware of the enemy. Just like King Solomon prayed before God – Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9) Some people consider their bad experiences as their sense of discernment. But your past can make you a bitter recluse. Some people consider their suspicious personality to be their sense of discernment. But your personality can leave you looking over your shoulders all your life. It’s only the Holy Spirit through prayer who gives the most accurate discernment against the enemy.

For e.g. I can give you plenty of negative examples but let me give you a positive. When Nicole’s dad began as a pastor, there was a man in his church by the name of George. This man opposed him every step of the way. Later, Nicole’s father left and went on the mission field and pastored some other churches. About 10 years later, he was asked to help plant a church in one of the fastest growing areas in the country. They began meeting in a high school auditorium and one Sunday morning guess who walked in? George. Pastor Jerry said to himself, “Oh no!” Little did he realize what God had done in George’s life. He was not the same man. Long story short – George became his right hand man until the day he died and the church had several hundred in just a few months.

Application: Let me ask you a question – would you like to be a bitter recluse or a suspicious person or would you rather have the Holy Spirit’s discernment in your life? It only comes through prayer.

II. LET’S GET EVERYTHING OUT IN THE OPEN.

Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand.

Nehemiah open letterBackground: In those days, letters were written on papyrus or leather sheet, tied with a string, and then sealed. Only the person addressed could break the seal and open the letter. Sanballat send an open letter so that everyone who saw it could read its contents.

What was in the letter?In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. This was a psychological tactic. “Everybody knows what’s going on. Even if they didn’t, they do now with the open letter.” The Persian kings did not tolerate people pretending to be kings. Nehemiah worked for the king and he knew that very well.

What’s the solution? 7b Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together. Meaning: Let’s straighten things out. We’ll hear both sides of the story and then we’ll get all this sorted out. They were using the “guilty unless proven innocent” approach. How tempting it was for Nehemiah to say—“ I don’t want these rumors to go any further. Let me clear up my name.”

For e.g. I see this on Facebook – people trying to clear up their name. “You know who you are and I know what you said about me.” Why do people fall for this foolishness?

How did Nehemiah respond?Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.” Meaning: Thanks but no thanks. Nehemiah was a man of prayer and he knew that they were making this up. He had no need for anyone to take care of his reputation. He trusted God with his integrity.

For e.g. I’ve been there myself. Someone was talking trash about me. Another person wanted to play the mediator – “I will sit with both of you and help you work this out.” This person wanted to play the mediator but they couldn’t work out their own relationships. About the same time, another person came to me who had known me for sometime and said, “I trust you. I don’t need to know the other side.”

What else did Nehemiah do? For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.” Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. He went back to his work and went back to prayer.

Application: May I ask you – “Who is trying to distract you from your work?” Who is trying to play the mediator in your life?

III. LET’S PROTECT YOU FROM THE ENEMY.

10 Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.”

Background: This was a very shrewd tactic. This man Shemaiah pretended to be a friend and pretended to be a prophet of God who wanted to protect Nehemiah from the enemy. His plan to Nehemiah was to go hide in the temple. What’s wrong with that? Only the priests were allowed to enter the sanctuary. According to Numbers 18:7c “the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” In II Chronicles 26 we hear about King Uzziah who tried to burn incense in the temple and God struck him with leprosy. Shemaiah plan was two-fold: Get Nehemiah in the temple and then have him killed according to the Law or to let God strike him with leprosy.

How did Nehemiah respond? 11 And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” 12 Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. Being a person of prayer and integrity Nehemiah recognized the true intent of Shemaiah and he refused his offer.

Listen carefully: A true friend will not lead you to disobey God. A true friend will lead you to trust God more and obey Him and reject fear.

Let me say this as your pastor: If I ever teach you to live in fear, I don’t need to be your pastor. 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.”

The enemy used everything possible to attack Nehemiah. 1. Let’s put the past behind us. 2. Let’s get everything out in the open. 3. Let’s protect you from the enemy. At first glance, they all seem legitimate and harmless. But when you pray, you can see the beady eyes of the devil behind every one of them. Nehemiah prayed and trusted in God.

What was the result? 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. (just two months) 16 And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.

As the pastor, my heart’s desire is very simple: When all is said and done, no one should say, “Oh that church grew because of the preaching or music or programs or leadership or building.” Instead, the world should say “This work was done by God.”

When the dust settles, people should see Jesus Christ and no one else. Do you know Him? Are you looking to Him or are you looking at the enemy?

PASTOR’S NEW YEAR LETTER

PASTOR’S NEW YEAR LETTER

by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Dear Clearview Family and Friends,

Greetings! What a year 2012 has been! All of us had our ups and downs. There are several lessons we can learn from 2012:

  • Trials come to all of us. They seem to be custom designed for each of us.
  • Every trial has a life-cycle. Kinda like the flu!
  • The outcome may not be to our liking but it will be for our best.
  • The ultimate purpose of trial is to get us to turn to Christ. The sooner, the better!
  • God is faithful. He always has and He always will. He will never forsake His people.

As we look to 2013, it is easy to become discouraged and negative. Let me urge you to trust God to make it the best one ever! In fact, Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that “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.” Just when things seem to be hopeless, God does His miracles! He wants to do that in your life, your family, your work, and even our nation.

He is already doing some exciting things at Clearview! As you read this, the bulldozers are moving behind the church. It is exciting to look outside and see the new construction! Let me remind you again – this is not about building a big church. It is about lifting up Jesus Christ so that people may see Him and be saved. Our goal at Clearview is to “Make Christ Visible.”

Let me urge you to do the following:

  • Pray that God will guard us against the enemy. Satan always has something up his sleeves.
  • Resolve to know Christ better in 2013. Further resolve to lean upon Him and trust Him.
  • Resolve to give your tithes and offerings to the Lord. He doesn’t need it but you do! Malachi 3:10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
  • Remember to reach out to people with the Good News of Christ.

Nicole and I pray for you daily. Look forward to travelling 2013 with you!

Pastor_Shah_1

HOW TO CLOSE OUT 2012?

HOW TO CLOSE OUT 2012? by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Today is the last Sunday of 2012 and in two days we will enter into 2013. How you begin 2013 will depend on how you end 2012. With that in mind I want to preach a message titled, “HOW TO CLOSE OUT 2012?”

 John 13:33-38 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” 36Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.

Overall Background: The passage we just read took place in the final hours before Jesus was betrayed. He was sitting in the upper room with His disciples. They had just finished the Passover meal. Jesus had just informed the disciples that one of them would betray Him. You can just imagine the atmosphere of the room. As they say – “you could cut the air with a knife.” It was tense; it was sad; it was confusing. Occasionally, you could hear “Lord is it I?” – “Am I the one who will betray you?”
After the real betrayer—Judas Iscariot—walks out of the room, Jesus says to His disciples in verse 33 “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come….’”
That’s a loaded statement. In other words – “I have to walk down the road where you cannot follow me.” “I have some work to do but you cannot help me.”

For e.g. Growing up like any little boy, I wanted to help dad. Most of the time he would let me help him and even teach me how to do it. But sometimes, if the work was dangerous—electrical work, heavy work—he would tell me to step back. I remember distinctly – we were clearing out an old shed and from the looks of it, it was the perfect hideout for snakes. I remember my dad telling me – “Don’t come back here. I am going to go in.”

Jesus was telling His disciples – “You have followed me this far and that is great but now I need you to step back.” Why did He need them to step back? You and I who are living on this side of the cross, we know the path that Jesus was about to take. He was about to go to the cross. He was about to do what was purposed since the beginning of time – the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was about to do what all the prophets had prophesied in the Bible. He was about to do what He left His throne in heaven to do. Jesus was about to go to the cross and give His life as a sacrifice for our sins. No one could follow Him there.

Application: Let me say this as clearly as possible. You and I cannot go down that path. We cannot die for our sins. We cannot earn our own salvation. We can do all the nice things in the world—help people, feed the hungry, visit the sick, volunteer at the homeless shelter—but it will not take us down the path of salvation. Not only that but no one but Jesus can walk that path for you. I cannot walk that path for you. You cannot walk that path for me. Your parents cannot walk that path for you. The church cannot walk that path for you. No great personality–past, present, or future–can walk the path for you. All you can do is step back and see Jesus walking to the cross, being nailed to the cross, and dying on the cross for your sins. All you can do is accept His sacrifice for your sins and thank Him for walking that path for you. Have you done that?

Let’s go back to the story – you can imagine the look of confusion and doubt in the faces of the disciples. What do you mean, “Where I am going, you cannot come?” So Jesus tells them what to do in the meantime. Go to verse 33 again: “so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Jesus knew that in His absence the disciples would turn on each other. They would launch an investigation into who betrayed their Master. They would split into groups and factions and divisions. They would blame each other and tear each other apart. What’s more? They would even blame themselves. In the end, there would be nothing left.

So he says again in verse 35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus is saying – “This is the test. People are watching you. Don’t try to come after Me. Don’t try to tear each other apart. Satan wants to tear you apart. Just show the world the love you have for each other.”

By the way, what is the standard of this love? “love one another; as I have loved you,”

  • What  do you do when you feel angry, bitter, jealous, frustrated with someone? Insist on loving them the way I have loved you.
  • What do you do when you find yourself at the point of speaking hatefully, critically, and angrily to someone? Overcome evil with good. Overcome hatred with love.
  • What do you do when you cannot stand someone? Do not wait to feel kindly towards that person. Act kindly and do it immediately. Go out of your way to show love.

In other words, show each other the I Corinthians 13 kind of love – 4Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never fails.

Application: May I ask you – What was your standard of love in 2012? Was it “I will love you as long as you do this?” or was it “I will love you as long as you don’t do this? Are you ready to close out 2012? Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Is there someone from whom you need forgiveness?

Let’s go back to the story – instead of obeying Christ’s commandment to love each other, Peter insists on following Jesus. Listen to verse 36 onwards. 36Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” In other words, Jesus says, “Don’t follow me.” Peter says, “I will follow you anyways.”

In a moment of passion and emotion, Peter did not stop to think about what he was saying – “I will follow you now.” “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” This was not a mark of great discipleship. This was a mark of the flesh. This kind of thinking did not seek to glorify Christ. It was speaking in the power of self. It was seeking to glorify self.

What was Jesus’ response? Jesus did not commend Peter for this. To the contrary, listen to Jesus’ words to Peter in verse 38 “Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’” In other words, “Peter – you think you will do the best you can to follow Me. Before the night’s over, you will deny me three times.”

It happened exactly the way Jesus said it would happen. Peter not only denied Jesus three times but he also cursed Him in front of everybody – “I do not know the Man!” Right then the rooster crowed and Peter remembered the words of Jesus. Matthew tells us in Matthew 26:75 that “he went out and wept bitterly.”

That is the picture of every believer who tries to do things in the flesh.

Application: Look back at 2012. I can guarantee that every one of your low moments were moments when you tried to do things in your flesh – in your own power. I will do this. I will make it happen. I will do the best I can for the Lord. You fell flat on your face. You did completely opposite of what you started out doing. It brought out the worst in you. You ended up with mud in your face.

Back to the story – Did Jesus disqualify Peter? Did He demote Peter? No. Why? Because Jesus already knew what Peter was going to do.

Application: Your low moments, your weak moments, your failures in 2012 did not surprise Jesus.

The Holy Spirit through Luke gives us some additional information about the conversation between Peter and Jesus. Listen to Luke 22:31-34 31And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”

Jesus not only knew what Peter was going to do but He gave Satan permission to sift Peter. He allowed him to fall on His face.

Application: God was not only aware of your failures in 2012 but He also allowed them. Like Peter you may weep bitterly and look back at your low moments with regret but God is not looking at you with condemnation.

Jesus allowed Peter to fall on His face to reveal to him the failure of the flesh. Now when Peter returned, he was no longer trusting in self but in Christ. Jesus never gave up on Peter. In fact, He knew what Peter was going to do one day.

Application: So also with us. God takes us down the path of defeat to reveal to us the failure of the flesh and the need to rely on Christ. He builds us up in faith and get’s us to rely on Christ instead of self.

Some of us are looking at 2012 with regrets; some of us are looking at 2012 with shame; some of us are looking at 2013 with hopelessness and despair. God wants us to revise our outlook on the past year. There might be places that we need to seek His forgiveness—sins that need to be confessed; wrongs that need to be made right; attitudes that need to change. Having said that, know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Make a resolution to step into the New Year – not to be a better person or do the best we can but make a decision to rest in Christ – to see that the Old Self has been crucified, buried, and resurrected in Christ; to walk with our eyes set upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; to trust Him more; to seek Him more; to love Him more.

When Jesus returned to the disciples after the resurrection, He asked Peter three times. Do you love Me? That’s exactly what He wants from us today and in 2013.

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