FUTURE AND HOPE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

FUTURE AND HOPE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

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

future-and-hope“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

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

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

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

AMERICA TOMORROW (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

AMERICA TOMORROW Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 23, 2016)

America Tomorrow by Abidan Shah“What’s going on in this world?! What’re we gonna do?!” I was greeted with those words as I made my way to the church office. I knew this person was referring to the recent headlines – “police officers murdered,” “terrorist attackin France,” “military coup in Turkey,” etc. I casually responded – “It seems like people have gone crazy…I guess we just need to pray more…” As I closed my office door behind me, those words began to ring louder and louder in my mind – “What’re we gonna do? What’re we gonna do?!” Just then a quote popped into my head that I read years ago – “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

What can good people do in a world gone mad? Of course we need to pray but it’s time we did more than just pray:

  1. It’s time that Christians step outside the four walls of their churches and take a lead in marching for peace and unity. The chaos and destruction in our nation and world is evidence that the followers of the Prince of Peace have abandoned their posts. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We resemble our Heavenly Father the most when we spread harmony in our world.
  2. It’s time we recognize that there are elements in our country and outside who are taking great delight in seeing us turn on each other. They want to see our law enforcement weak and the discontented angrier so that they can take advantage of the situation. Unless we recognize this threat and make efforts to unite, we will fall right into the enemy’s hands. As Benjamin Franklin famously remarked (although variously attributed to others), “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
  3. It’s time we stand with our law enforcement officials. Of course there will always be some bad apples but, as a whole, most of our law enforcement are good men and women who want to keep us safe. They deserve our support and encouragement. To make them weak is to throw the gates open to evil men.
  4. It’s time we look beyond a person’s skin pigmentation and offer respect and understanding to each other. No amount of slogan throwing will solve our divisions. If one segment of our American population feels that they have been negatively stereotyped and mistreated, then we should find ways to reach out in brotherly love and help change the situation. There will be no end to the present crisis unless a genuine attempt is made to understand and heal.
  5. It’s time we recognize that leadership matters. Part of the reason we’re in the mess we are collectively, financially, defensively, and spiritually is because of leadership. Stop looking for a perfect candidate and support the leader who will best represent biblical values. Vote for the leader who will believe in American exceptionalism and will make us a force for good once again.

Does America have a tomorrow? As long as the good people are willing to do something in God’s strength, the future is brighter than ever.

America Tomorrow by Pastor Abidan Shah

AMERICA TOMORROW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. LEADERSHIP MATTERS. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. UNITY MATTERS. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. REPENTANCE MATTERS.

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

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

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

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES – Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 5, 2015)

Dear Candidates,

Thank you for your desire to lead our great nation! We can only imagine the toll this has taken on you and your loved ones.

Presidential election 2016Let’s get right to it – You are running for the job because you agree that something is broken with our nation and you have the answer to fix it. If you think everything is just fine, then you’re out of touch with the American people. Frankly, the worst thing that our citizens can do is put you in the office! But, if your desires are noble, then the question is – “what do you think is broken with our nation?”

Here are some things that are not broken:

  1. Our American Spirit – We don’t need a President who feels that he has to constantly apologize to the world on our behalf. Most of us are very proud of our great nation! We have things to work on but it’s not our spirit. We think John Wayne said it best – “Sure, I wave the American flag. Do you know a better flag to wave? Sure, I love my country with all her faults. I’m not ashamed of that, never have been, never will be.”
  2. Our American Values – Our nation was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles. The freedoms and dignity that we continue to enjoy are hinged on them. We need a President who will uphold and protect them. If you set out to revise them, you will destroy our very foundation. As Proverbs 22:28 warns, “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.”
  3. Our American Dream – There’s no such thing as the Russian dream or Chinese dream or Swedish dream. It’s only in America that you can chart the course of your life. People may complain of injustice and unfairness but having lived overseas, I can assure you that this is still the land of opportunity. Please don’t communicate entitlement or hopelessness to our young people. They need to believe that if they work hard, their dreams can become a reality.

Here are some things that need to be fixed:

  1. Our Image before Our World – In the past few years it appears that America has lost the respect it once had before other countries. Some may ask – “Why do we deserve any special treatment?” or “What’s wrong with taking a backseat?” Remember the adage – “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” The reason wicked men are running amuck and rogue nations are threatening nuclear war is because the leader of the free world is nowhere to be found. Now the inmates are running the asylum! Our world needs us to lead again. Luke 12:48 reminds us, “to whom much is given, from him much will be required.” We need a President who will restore our position as the force for good.
  2. Our Faith in Our Government – If you ask most Americans, they will tell you that we have become uncomfortable with the growing infringement on our freedoms and values. We have to ask – “What is the role of our government?” It is to protect our life, liberty, and property. It is to punish those who infringe on the rights of others, get restitution for the victims, and care for those who are really in need. Most importantly, it is obligated to defend us against foreign and domestic threats. When law-abiding and tax-paying citizens become leery of the government, something is terribly wrong! Romans 13:3 is the litmus test of good government – “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.” We need a President who will restore our trust in our leaders again.

If you feel you are up for this task, our prayer is that God will give you the wisdom of Solomon to lead these United States.

What’s Next For America?

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whatsnextforamericaThis being July the 4th weekend, I want to preach a message that I’ve preached before but from a different passage titled, “WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA?” Not a day goes by that people don’t call, text, or message me with the question – “What now?” “What do the recent decisions in America mean for Christians?” “Will we survive this new order?” “How does the future look like for our children and our grandchildren?”

Jeremiah 29:10-14 10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Background: The passage we just read comes from a very low point in the history of Israel. The people had forsaken God, gone after false idols, and then refused to repent. So God sent the Babylonians against them. In 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and drove the people of Judah 700 miles to the east across the desert to a land they had never seen. They were in exile, where everything was different – the landscape, the weather, the food, the customs, and definitely the people. They were homesick, discouraged, depressed, and feeling sorry for themselves. They just wanted to go home but that wasn’t an option. Psalm 137 1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song…4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song In a foreign land?” All they could do was reminisce and roll in self pity.

Application: Many in America are at this point – They are demoralized, discouraged, and disillusioned. They’ve become helpless and hopeless. What is God saying to us? The same thing He said to His people 2700 years ago – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: It’s not over for our nation. There is a future and a hope. Get up and trust in the Lord and seek Him. By the way, this message goes beyond just a national exile to personal exiles. Many of you are somewhere where you don’t want to be. Things have changed for you. They are not what you expected. What is God telling you? “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Trust in God. He still has your future in His hands. Your exile may be a blessing in disguise.

As these people in exile were crying and wanting to go home, two men showed up from Jerusalem with a letter from Jeremiah the prophet. I want us to walk through this letter now and see what God is saying to us. 3 things –

I. BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED. 

Jeremiah 29:4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused (Not Nebuchadnezzar or Gay Rights or Supreme Court) to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:

3 things you are to do:

  1. Verse 5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.

Meaning: Pull down your tents and make yourself homes. Buy some real estate, dig some foundations, and get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Learn to grow some Babylonian crops. In other words, get settled.

Application: There are many people who are still living out of boxes, still living in tents. They will not commit to the job/church/community that God has given them. They are always looking over the horizon to some better place. They are constantly saying, “I don’t like this place. I want to move here or there.” They have zero commitment to flourish where God has brought them. No wonder, they are constantly negative about their job/ church/community. Yes – things have changed in America but settled down.

  1. Verse 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

Meaning: Start working on your marriages. Learn the joys of a happy God centered marriage. Also, be fruitful and multiply. Have children and grandchildren. Increase your numbers. Teach your children to walk in the way of God.

Application: Part of the blame for where our world is today lies on the failure of American homes and marriages – Children growing up and seeing mom and dad hating each other or growing up in single parent situations or growing up where Father’s role was either lacking or usurped. The world desperately needs to see how biblical marriages are fun and fulfilling. This fall we’re having another “Art of Marriage” event. Sign up! But there’s another problem. Our numbers have dropped. People don’t want children. They are a burden. They cramp our style. They cost money. They are messy. They are trouble. The other side wants to have more and more children and then adopt some. But it’s not enough just to have children. It’s just as important to train them in the way of God. Also remember – not only do we need more physical children but also more spiritual children. Win people into the family of God. Expand our numbers.

  1. Verse 7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

Meaning: Actively seek to get involved in the welfare of our community and our nation. Become the Salt and Light. Part of the reason why we are in the mess we are is because we preached many sermons on how to find God’s purpose for our lives and failed to ask what is God’s purpose for our world. Pray for those around you – at work, neighborhood, and community. Then you will have peace in our own lives. Did it happen? Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and Nehemiah.

Application: How much are you seeking to get involved in our politics and government? How much do you actually pray for community and nation?

II. BEWARE OF THE FALSE PROPHETS OF CHEAP GRACE AND FALSE HOPES

Jeremiah 29:8-9 8For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.

Background: While Jeremiah was sent by God to deal first with the sin of the people and then offer them grace and hope, the false prophets were skipping over sin and going right to cheap grace and false hopes. They wanted to bypass God’s Holiness and go right to God’s Love. God says – “I have not sent them.” Jeremiah even identifies them in his letter—Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemiah and prophesies what will happen to them – The first two Nebuchadnezzar will slay them and roast them over fire and the last will be wiped out from the face of the earth.

Please remember – God is a god of love but He will not compromise His holiness. He hates sin. His wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Romans 1:18

Illustration: Recently – I’ve been amazed at how some people are reluctant to call homosexuality a sin. They do all kinds of hermeneutical gymnastics to show that it’s not as bad. The problem is that many on the other side are okay with grace but don’t judge me. God forbid if we offer them cheap grace.

Application: Are you playing some Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemaiahs in someone’s life? Do you go around excusing what God explicitly calls sin. It’s His Law and He is the Judge. You’ll have to answer to Him.

III. BABYLON IS GOD’S BLESSING IN DISGUISE

What will God do if the people start blooming where they are planted and stop listening to false hopes and false dreams to run back? Listen to Jeremiah 29 10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. Meaning: You will not remain a captive forever. I will bring you out of your land of captivity. But seventy years is a whole generation. You may or may not return but your children and grandchildren will.

I believe that unless Christ comes, our children and grandchildren will right our wrongs. They will fix what we have failed. It is imperative that we train them in the truth and guard them from the agenda of the world. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are after them. They should be our first priority.

Listen to verse 11“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;

That verse has stood as a source of comfort to many people, even many who are here this morning, through some very difficult times in their lives. When you allow God to do His work in your life, He will even take what appears to be hopeless and evil and replaces it with future and a hope.

What were the Ultimate Benefits of the Exile for the People of Israel? (J. B. Tidwell)

BEFORE EXILE AFTER EXILE
1.    The Jewish people were constantly trying to be like their neighbors 1.    The Jewish people became a separate people.
2.    They worshipped many gods. 2.    They gave up idolatry completely.
3.    They could care less about the Law. 3.    They began to dig into the Law.
4.    They had no interest in gathering for worship and study of the word. 4.    They established the synagogues in every town and city as a place of worship, prayer, praise, and study.
5.    Judaism was just a formal religion. 5.    Judaism became a personal religion.
6.    They could care less of winning souls. 6.    They became a missionary people to all the nations.
7.    They refused to repent of their sins. 7.    They learned the blessing of repentance.
8.    They could care less about the coming of the Messiah. 8.    God placed a longing in their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

 Our Babylons are God’s opportunity to bless us spiritually.

Listen to Eugene Peterson: “When the superfluous is stripped away we find the essential—and the essential is God. Normal life is full of distractions and irrelevancies. Then catastrophe: Dislocation. Exile. Illness. Accident. Job loss. Divorce. Death. The reality of our lives is rearranged without anyone consulting us or waiting for our permission. We are no longer at home….Exile reveals what really matters and frees us to pursue what really matters, which is to seek the Lord with all our hearts.”

God is still in America with us and He is just as much in charge now as before. He has allowed us to go into exile to do a deeper work in our lives. He wants us to repent and call upon Him and seek Him with all our heart. In the end, the exile is not against us but for us. There is a future and a hope for us. The place to begin is by asking – “Are you saved? Are you reaching the lost with the truth about sin and grace?

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: DESIRABLE

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: DESIRABLE by Abidan Paul Shah (Clearview Church)

(This article was first featured in the newspaper The Daily Dispatch on Saturday, August 30, 2014)

Each year their number keeps growing – 4 million in 1950, 20 million in 1982, and over 100 million today. They represent about 48 percent of the adult population 18 years and older in America. If they were a country, they would be the 13th largest in the world! Who are they? They are the Singles – the never-married, the divorced, and the widowed in America.

Before you pull out a box of tissues and feel sorry for them, let me caution you that pity is the last thing they crave. Some find much satisfaction with their status in life and the others deserve our encouragement and support. Here are some suggestions:

  1. To people in general: Singles don’t like to hear – “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” “You’ll find someone when you least expect it.” “When you’re ready, God will bring the right person to you.” “But you are so pretty.” “Stop dating and just be patient.” Such statements are not only demeaning but also unrealistic. Even some Christian books and sermons on dating are filled with clichés that are anything but biblical. Never give advice that even you didn’t follow! Love can be complicated with many twists and turns along the way. Single people just need our encouragement and prayers more than anything else. I had given up on dating when a family member encouraged me to list all the qualities I was looking for in a wife and give it to God. Three months later I met Nicole and she was all that and much more! The next time you come across a single person, try saying – “You are so gifted in _______.” “I always love______ about you.” “I am praying for you.” They will appreciate that much more.
  1. To parents: Home is the training ground for life where a boy learns how the husband is to love his wife unselfishly and a girl learns how the wife is to respect her husband unconditionally. Many singles are afraid of commitment because of the constant bickering and bitterness they observed growing up. Let your children see you loving and forgiving one another. It will do much more for them than buying expensive toys and shuttling them to every ball game. If your marriage ended in a divorce, remind them that it was not their fault. Don’t blame the other person but admit your failures and encourage them not to make the same mistakes. This will give them hope for their future.
  1. To single guys: It’s annoying how romance novels and chick flicks have created an unrealistic ideal of the perfect guy. Ironically, there was only one perfect guy and He never married! There’s nothing wrong with working out and polishing your truck but make it a priority to seek God’s purpose for your life; understand what He wants you to do; and start reaching for that goal. This will bring a serene confidence in your personality, which is very attractive to a woman. After all, God designed the man to lead. (Ephesians 5:22-23) Here’s a warning: When you mistreat a woman, you mock the pièce de résistance, the crown of God’s creation, and you will have to deal with Him for that. Also, what goes around comes around. As someone remarked – “Boys laugh at what they put girls through, but they won’t be laughing
when they’re wiping tears off their daughter’s face for the same reason.”
  1. To single ladies: I can only imagine the frustration you face in having to compete with airbrushed divas and photoshopped models. You should feel loved and appreciated just the way you are. Unfortunately, in this fallen world, there will be rejections and broken hearts. But please don’t lower your standards and settle for whoever comes along. There are many good guys out there who still believe that a woman deserves to be treated as a princess. Let God guide your heart to the right one for you. Nothing wrong with focusing on your outer beauty but don’t neglect to work on your inner beauty, which is far more lasting. (Proverbs 31:30) Here’s a warning to you as well: Rejection hurts a guy just as well as a girl. Don’t lead them on if your intentions are not pure. Be kind and God will honor you for that.
  1. To those wondering why I’m writing this: Our nation is only as strong as the family. With the traditional family under attack and the devaluing of marriage in our society, we have to make it our priority to encourage the singles in America to believe in marriage once again. Our survival depends on them.

A Note to Facebook: Let’s change “Single” to “Desirable.”

WHY I BELIEVE THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR AMERICA

WHY I BELIEVE THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR AMERICA by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Running From God  (1)We are in our series on the Book of Jonah, called, “RUNNING FROM GOD” and this morning we are in Jonah 3 for our message titled “WHY I BELIEVE THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR AMERICA.” One question that I am frequently asked is – “Is God through with America?” Or “Is America under God’s judgment?” This morning’s message is very critical for all of us.

Jonah 3:3b-6, 10 3b Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city belonging to God, a three-day journey in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes… 10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Overall Background: We are at that point in our study of the book of Jonah where the focus has shifted from God working with Jonah as an individual to God working with the Ninevites as a people. So far we’ve seen how God disciplined Jonah when he disobeyed Him. Now we will see how God dealt with Nineveh because they disregarded Him.

This morning’s message is very critical for us to hear. In some ways, America is where Nineveh was 2700 years ago. We are in the middle of an economic, moral, and spiritual bankruptcy, just like the Assyrians. God is speaking to us today just as He spoke to the Ninevites of Assyria. He is giving us the answer to our problems as a nation. The question is – “Are we going to listen?” Before we get into the message, let me ask you this morning – “Do you care what’s happening in our nation?” Sadly, many people – young and old – think that as long me and mine are okay, I don’t care. Hopefully, this message will make you aware of what is at stake. If you do care, this message will give you the hope you are looking for our nation.

There are 3 things we will see in this message: First, the Morality of Nineveh; Second, the Message of Jonah; and finally, the Mercy of God.

 I. THE MORALITY OF NINEVEH.

Listen once again to verse 3…Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, belonging to God. Four times it claims that Nineveh was a great city. It even adds that it belongs to God. Why did He say that? Let me give you 3 reasons for that:

#1.It was great in size.

It took 3 days journey to walk through this city. It was not just one city but also a conglomerate of two or three cities, like RDU. Altogether it was a distance of 60 miles. The walls were 100 feet high and broad enough to let three chariots ride side by side. The city was big enough to have large spaces for farming and pasture. This would keep them self-sufficient in case they were surrounded. It had beautiful palace for the king. It is claimed by archaeologists that the population was somewhere over a million people.

#2.It was great in sin.

They were cruel in their treatment of their enemies. They did things that I cannot describe to you. All that we know of torture techniques fails in comparison. Historical records talk about pyramids of human heads after the defeat of the enemy. Boys and girls were burnt alive. Listen to how Nahum describes Nineveh – Nahum 3:1-5a 1 “Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery. Its victim never departs. 2 The noise of a whip And the noise of rattling wheels, Of galloping horses, Of clattering chariots! 3 Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear. There is a multitude of slain, A great number of bodies, Countless corpses—They stumble over the corpses— 4 Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, The mistress of sorceries, Who sells nations through her harlotries, And families through her sorceries. 5 “Behold, I am against you,” says the LORD of hosts.” Not a place that you and I want to go on a vacation.

#3.It was great in history.

The first time we hear about Nineveh is in the Book of Genesis 10. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Shem’s son Asshur founded the nation of Assyria. He left Babel and moved out and obeyed God. But the sons and grandsons of Ham were rebellious before God. Listen to Genesis 10 and verse 8 onwards. Ham’s son “Cush begot Nimrod.” Nimrod = marad (Hebrew) means to rebel. In essence, it means, “let’s do as we please.” “he began to be a mighty one on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.” It means “rebellious one before the Lord.”Early historical documents tell us that Nimrod was like the first Antichrist. He was a dictator. He tried to turn people away from God and to follow him. He was a hunter – not of animals but of men.

10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. In Babylon, he led the people of the world, at the time in the land of Shinar, Babylon, the land of modern day Iraq, to build “a tower whose top is in the heavens.” It was a temple dedicated to the worship of the heavens, the worship of the constellations, the worship of the sun, the moon and the stars (zodiac). This was sun worship. Today, all throughout the world you will find sun worship.But Nimrod did not stop there. 11 From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh…” What was his purpose? Maybe he was trying to infiltrate and corrupt Assyria like Babylon. This was how Nineveh got started.But for some reason it says in 3b Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city belonging to God, Meaning: God cared about Nineveh.

In many ways, we are where Nineveh was 2700 years ago. We are a great nation and we are also a sinful nation. CNN did a poll recently on how Americans view morality. If you compare it with a similar poll done in 1987 by Time magazine, it tells us how far we have come. Everything from “having an abortion, engaging in homosexual behavior, looking at pornography, smoking marijuana, and living with someone before marriage” has become more acceptable!

First Landing - Abidan and Nicole

First Landing – Abidan and Nicole

Shah Family - Chesapeake Bay

Shah Family – Chesapeake Bay

There is one area where we are very different from Nineveh. Our nation’s history goes back only 400 years. In fact, last week we were at Cape Henry on Fort Story – a joint expeditionary military base. We stood at the place known as the “First Landing.” This place, by the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, is where the first English colonists arrived at 4am on Sunday April 26th, 1607. It is now marked by a granite cross, put there by the Daughters of the American Revolution. They did this in memory of the cross that was set up by the colonists on April 29th, three days later. What took them three days to plant the cross? Because the pastor Robert Hunt had called for three days of prayer and fasting, saying, “From these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World but the entire world.”

If God cares for Nineveh, a city founded by one who hated God, how much more does He care about America.

Application: There is a great attempt to rewrite the history of our nation. When you study history, it is obvious that our nation was founded as a Christian nation. Does that mean that everyone always acted in a Christian spirit? Of course not. But, because some lived contrary to the Bible does not mean all did. Nonetheless, we are a nation that is turning away from God. We are becoming greater and greater in sin. Unlike Nineveh, Christians are still a strong majority in this nation.

II. THE MESSAGE OF JONAH

4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Background: Just an 8 word sermon! Actually in Hebrew it is only 5 words! I think Jonah gets the Guinness Book of World Record for the shortest sermon. I call it the turn or burn sermon.

What was the result in Nineveh?

Jonah 3:5-9 5So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.

People wonder how can a nation or city like Nineveh respond so easily? Things were not going too well for Nineveh about this time. They had faced some military and diplomatic losses recently. They were also facing famine. There were some riots and uprisings among the people. Not only that, but they also had faced an earthquake and a solar eclipse in 768BC. Needless to say, God was working on Nineveh for sometime.

6Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

The formula for revival is there in the Bible.

2 Chronicles 7:14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Several times in our nation’s history it seemed that we had hit bottom.

  • First time around 1730’s – The American Colonies were going downhill and God sent the First Great Awakening.
  • Second time was around 1790 – People were moving west and the country was going downhill. God sent the Second Great Awakening in the east and west.
  • Third time was in 1857. A man by the name of Jeremiah Lanphier led the prayer revival and countless many were saved. God raised up men like D.L. Moody and others.
  • Again in the 1920s and 1930s it seemed the morals of our nation were gone. God raised up the Billy Sundays and the Billy Grahams and many others.
  • In the 60’s and the 70’s it was the Jesus Movement where disillusioned young men and women turned towards God.
  • Now again in 2014.

Application: What message are we bringing to the world? As a church, are we actively sharing the good news?

III. THE MERCY OF GOD.

Jonah 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Background: Some people have a problem with that – “God relented.” How can God change His mind? In the OT, 9 times we hear that God does not change His mind but 27 times it says that He changes His mind.

2 Peter 3:9-13 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Where do you stand with God? In Christ He has made a way for you. Do you know Him?

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN (PART 2)

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Christian_CitizenThis morning is our second message in our miniseries through Romans 13, titled, “The Christian Citizen.” Sadly, most Americans are ignorant and naïve on matters concerning government, politics, and economy. More sadly, these subjects are never addressed from the pulpit. But praise God – the Word of God does address all these issues.

Rom 13:1-5 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Overall Background:  In the passage we just read, Paul is instructing the church in Roman and all of us on taxes. You’ve heard that adage – “There are 2 things in life you can count on: Death and Taxes.” If I may add – At least death comes only once but taxes come every year! And, guess what – Its tax time! The Bible has a lot to say on this subject. It not only teaches us spiritual wisdom but also daily wisdom. It not only inspires us to keep our eyes on the heavenly city but also instructs us on how to live in the earthly city. It not only teaches us to how to organize the House of God but also instructs us on how to organize our government and politics. If we would only turn to the Bible – The Manufacturer’s Instructional Manual – we would be so much better off. So this morning we will drop anchor at Romans 13:6-7 but also catch some important principles on this subject from throughout Scripture.

With that said, there are two questions we will answer in this message:

I. WHY DO WE PAY TAXES?

Listen to verse 6 “For because of this you also pay taxes, Because of what “this” do we pay taxes? The answer to that is given in the previous verses.

#1.The rulers protect us against foreign and domestic threats. Romans 13:3 “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.” Our rulers should put fear in the hearts of those who seek to do us harm. They are there to punish those who infringe upon our life, liberty, and property, and gain restitution for the victims. Let me add – there is more to protection than just physical harm. They’re also there to protect and take care of those who are really in need. They’re also there to oversee environment protection, patent protection, product safety, fair business transactions, transportation systems, and other interests that protect and enhance our standard of living. Hence we pay them taxes to be our protectors in all this.

#2.They are there to praise those who do good. Romans 13:3 says, “Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” The rulers should reward the honest, hardworking, and good people. Hence we pay taxes to them.

Our Declaration of Independence clearly states: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.”

Let me clarify: It’s not the government’s job to create jobs. (Check out my article on this subject titled – “CREATING JOBS IS TOP PRIORITY” – ANOTHER POLITICAL JARGON.” “Employers create jobs not Government. When there is a demand for a product, employers put up a “now hiring” sign. This is backwards with the Government-created jobs program. It puts up a “now hiring” sign and then looks for some artificial demand to justify it. Recently, there has been growing talks of targeted stimulus towards infrastructure repairs, clean energy, and education. Where will the Government find money to pay these new employees? Unlike the private sector employer who withdraws from his savings to pay his employees, the Government digs into our wallet when it is time to write the paycheck. When the money runs out, the only available option is to raise the taxes on the “rich” (a.k.a. the private sector employers). What is the natural recourse for these employers? Cut backs. In the final analysis, the Government destroys jobs rather than creates them. Furthermore, Government-created jobs have no clear accountability or bottom line. Projects can drag on for decades with an endless supply of taxpayer dollars.”

As Reagan remarked on several occasions, “The most dangerous words in the English language were: ‘Hi, I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.”

II. HOW MUCH TAXES SHOULD WE PAY?

7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

So how much taxes are due? Here are some key questions (See Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem):

1.    Should we lower taxes or raise taxes? Think about Bill who earned $80,000 and has to pay 25% in taxes. That’s about $20,000 in taxes. Now if the tax rate is lowered to 20%, then he has to pay only $16,000 in taxes. What’s he going to do with the $4000 extra dollars? Bill can go on a vacation and pay for gas, hotel room, and food. Or, he can use that money to start another business. Next year Bill could be earning $110,000. If he continues to pay 20% taxes, then he owes $22,000 in taxes. That’s $2000 more to the government than last year. He may even hire Mike to be his assistant and have to pay him. Now another person has a job. Overall, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

What would happen if we raise Bill’s taxes to 30% instead? Now he has to pay $24000 in taxes. That’s $4000 less dollars to spend. Do you think Bill will go on a vacation? Of course not. Do you think Bill will invest money or try to hang on to it? Hang on to it. Do you think he will worker harder at his job? Why should he? After all, Uncle Sam is going to take more money from him!

2.  Do the rich pay their fair share? (From my article “CORPORATE JET OWNERS – SWATTING POLITICAL JARGON” in 2011) “According to the SOI (Statistics of Income) tax stats available on the IRS website, the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans paid 38.02 percent of the total income tax. If you still think that it’s not enough, here is one statistic that will blow your mind. The top 50 percent of the taxpayers pay 97% of the total income tax. This means that half of all Americans pay only 3% of the revenue! Do we still think that these wealthy “fat cats” are not paying their fair share? In fact, they are the small business owners who are the heart of American business. Seems to me that they are being penalized enough already.

…We need to stop thinking of economy as a zero sum game. This idea assumes that the economy is a fixed pie where the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. Think of a hard working and law-abiding farmer. He sweats all day under the hot sun. He hires laborers and pays them their fair wages. After the harvest, he sells his produce and gains a profit. Who did he rob? Or, how about the athlete who works hard and stays clean? Who did he rob to get that contract? Or, that talented girl who makes it big in the music industry through hard work and focus. Who did she rob?”

As long as you legally earn what you have, you should be allowed to enjoy the wealth.

Luke 19: 16-19  16 Then came the first, saying, “Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ 17 And he said to him, “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, “Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ 19 Likewise he said to him, “You also be over five cities.’

3.  Isn’t it better to raise taxes on corporations? Think for a moment – if you raise taxes on corporations, what are they going to do? They will raise the prices of their goods and services. If corporate tax goes up by 5%, the cost of products goes up by 5%. What’s more? The marginal corporate tax rate in America is 35%. Many of the Asian countries and European countries are dropping the rate so they can attract more companies overseas. We are loosing American jobs as one company after another closes to move overseas. We need more foreign investment here.

4.  Is it fair to have a progressive tax rate? This means that the higher you earn, the higher your tax rate. Let me clarify – this does not mean that if you make $10000 at 25%, you’ll pay $2500 and if you make $100000 at 25%, you’ll pay $25000. That would be nice! The more you climb the tax bracket, the higher your tax rate becomes. As a single person, if your income is not over $9,075, then 10% of the taxable income. If its over $9,075 but less than $36,900, then 10% on the $9,075 and then 15% over the excess. Then the rates keep climbing. Now if you get exemptions at lower levels of income, you may end up not paying any but getting more back in refund. How about for those on the higher level? They only end up paying more.

How was it in the Old Testament? 10% of their income to the Lord and then census tax of half a shekel.

5.  Are there other taxes? Yes! Capital Gains tax – tax on the increased value of something purchased as an investment – rental property. If a person is already paying income tax, should they also pay this? No. How about Death or Estate Tax – tax on a person’s estate after the person dies. Did not the person pay taxes while living? Then why should they be taxed again?

6.  Should everyone who earns have to pay? Yes. How about people who make very little and are trying to survive. Of course, provisions should be made for them. Jesus’ parents brought two young pigeons to be sacrificed. Why not a lamb? Because in Leviticus 12:8 it said, “And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”

It makes a difference when each American feels responsible for our nation.

Conclusion: It may seem – There’s no way people in America will ever see all this. Here’s how they can:

1. We begin to change.

2. We begin to take a stand.

GIve to Caesar3. We give God the best. Matthew 22:15-22  15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.  16And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.  17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20   And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21   They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

4. We reach people with the gospel – the only way to have a good and honest and just and hardworking citizen is by leading him/her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Christian_CitizenFor the next couple of weeks we will be in Romans 13 for a miniseries, titled, “The Christian Citizen.” Sometime back I was riding with a couple of guys and we began to discuss the role of Christians in government and politics. I was not prepared for all the negatives I heard – “Christians should stay out of politics.” “We’re not of this world.” “It doesn’t really matter how you vote.” “We need to only focus on the gospel” “This world will soon burn up anyways.” Needless to say, it was very disheartening for me. This morning let’s see what God’s Word has to teach on this subject.

Romans 13:1-5   1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

The passage we just read has puzzled scholars for a long time. Why did Paul include chapter 13 in his letter? All of chapter 12 deals with our interaction with fellow Christians. All of chapter 14 and beyond again deals with our interaction with fellow Christians. But chapter 13 in the middle focuses on our interaction with the government and rulers and authorities. It appears to be out of place. But the more you study it you realize that Paul through the Holy Spirit had a very good reason for this.

Paul has been teaching us a lot about love and forgiveness and showing hospitality and not taking vengeance and not being overcome by evil but overcoming evil with good. All these values and principles are wonderful for our individual lives and personal relationships but when it comes to society in general, we need certain rules and boundaries and obligations and consequences. Without them our society will fall apart. Furthermore, you can have all the rules, boundaries, obligations, and consequences but if you don’t have godly rulers and authorities and government to enforce them then it will not work.

This message is vital for us living in this great nation in 2014. Let me ask you:

–       Would you agree that we are living in a time when people have lost faith in government and have for a while?

–       Would you agree that it does make a difference who is in authority?

–       Would you agree that majority of our young people have no clue about the issues that are taking place?

–       Would you agree that we are loosing our cherished freedoms because we haven’t spoken out as we should have?

Paul is teaching the Christians in Rome what it means to be good Christian Citizens.

3 important points we will see in this passage:

I. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD SEEK GOD’S WILL IN THIS WORLD.

Before we jump in to Romans 13, we need to backup to Romans 12:2 for a moment. That is the verse that sets the tone for the entire application section. It says, “And do not be conformed to this world (age). Meaning: The people of this world have their set of beliefs and values. Don’t let them squeeze you into their mold. Instead, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Meaning: Let there be an individual mind transformation. What next? “that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God – the GAP Test. Meaning: As you resist this world and are being transformed in your mind, go out and prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Most of us only think of God’s will in our personal context – work, relationships, health, etc. But the passage does not limit God’s will to only our personal lives. It also extends into the world.

God has a will for our world. Do you remember how Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6? “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Meaning: In heaven God’s will is always done. Our prayer is that God’s will would also be done on earth. That means that God’s will is not always done on earth. Some people like to say – “God’s will is always done.” That’s not true. If it were so, Jesus would not have asked His disciples to pray for it. Let me ask you a question – “Is it God’s will for babies to be aborted?” “Is it God’s will for people to loose their jobs?” “Is it God’s will for the institution of the family to be torn down?” “Is it God’s will for someone to rob you and get away?” Of Course Not!

When our mind is renewed, we will not only prove God’s will in our personal lives but we will also prove it in our community, our nation, and our world. We will become a Catalyst for proving God’s will on the earth. No wonder Paul put Romans 13 right in the middle. He is telling us “Don’t run from the world but go into the world and help prove the will of God for the world.”

What will this world look like then? Good and Acceptable and Perfect.

Declaration of IndependenceOur Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

Application: Do you think the world around you is good, acceptable, and perfect? Do you think our neighborhood is good, acceptable, and perfect? Is our nation and our government doing what is good, acceptable, and perfect will of God? Don’t blame the community, government, and the world for it. Let’s look into the mirror. The reason we are in a mess is because we as Christians have failed to make a difference.

Are you willing to take the blame for failing to prove God’s will in our community, our nation, and our world?

II. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE THAT GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL AUTHORITY.

1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Meaning: God is the source of all authority and order and He has placed every ruler in that position.

This was perfectly demonstrated in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. This King was ruthless and had taken the Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar DreamJewish people into exile. What Nebuchadnezzar did not know was that God had chosen him for that. (Jeremiah 27:6-7) Through Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego he had come to know the living and true God. He had acknowledged that there was no other God than the god of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But one day, he was walking in his royal palace and in pride he said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” 31 While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!  32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” The Bible says that very hour God’s word was fulfilled.

At the end of the 7 years, Nebuchadnezzar repented and he was restored and he made a commitment to always follow the King of heaven.

Another example comes from the New Testament when Jesus stood before Pilate as the chief priests and the scribes kept instigating the crowd to crucify Him. Jesus stood silent and Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:10-11 In other words, Jesus was saying, “You’re trying to help me? You are powerless. I gave you that scepter.”

Paul goes on to say in verse 2, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. At this time, Christians were not a majority. They were a growing minority where the governing authorities were pagan. Paul is instructing the Christians to submit to those in authority since God is the real person in authority.

What does that mean for us who live in America in 2014?

–       We need to make sure we elect people in authority who will represent God the best.

–       We need to respect all those in authority and teach our children to do the same.

–       We need to pray for all those in authority and encourage them whether local, state, or national.

III. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD SUBMIT AS UNTO THE LORD.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.

Background: Paul explains here that submission to authority is based on certain assumptions. The rulers are not to be a terror to good works. Their purpose is to encourage the good and punish the bad.

Eisenhower at Ohrdruf Concentration CampFor e.g. Immediately our mind goes to someone like Adolph Hitler who not only killed six million Jewish people but he also massacred other nationalities and even his own people.

Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  Hitler was a terror to the good people and raised the evil in power.

4 For he is God’s minister to you for good.

Paul uses the title God’s Minister to describe the person in governing authority.

Application: When you elect somebody are you looking for someone who comes the closest to being God’s Minister?

But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Meaning: There is something called evil. The ruler, whether born again Christian or not, can recognize that its evil, wrong, bad for society, and bad for our future.

5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

Application: When you elect somebody, will it be good for your conscience to obey them? Do what they believe line up with the Word of God?

Government, Politics, and Authorities have a major role to play in our spiritual life.

How seriously do we take that? Every time I hear someone say, I don’t care about politics, I don’t pick parties, I don’t vote, I think how ignorant and how reckless and how spiritually immature.

Christians should be involved in the political process because conscience is at stake.

I. As Christian Citizens, we should Seek God’s Will in this World. 2. As Christian Citizens, we should recognize that God is the Source of all Authority. 3. As Christian Citizens, we should evaluate our Authorities based on God’s Standards.

Application: Are you praying for our local authorities, state authorities, and national authorities? Are you seeking to glorify God in being a good citizen? Are you a citizen of the heavenly city?

THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE

THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

THANKSGIVING - AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFEThis is Thanksgiving week and so this morning I am preaching a message from Romans 1, titled – “THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE.” Recently, I asked some people, “What things are uniquely American?” I got all kinds of answers – baseball, BBQ, jazz music, blue jeans, and many more. Yet, there is one thing that tops them all. It is “Thanksgiving.”

Rom. 1:18-25  18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Overall Background:  Thanksgiving is a uniquely American phenomenon. There’s nothing like it in any other part of the world. You see harvest festivals and moon festivals but it’s nothing like Thanksgiving in America. You ask – “What’s the difference?” Thanksgiving in America is not about the harvest. It’s not just the celebration by the farmers in America. Everybody from NASA scientists to construction workers to schoolteachers to hospital nurses celebrate Thanksgiving. This coming week, as many as 40 million Americans will travel on or before Thanksgiving Day in order to be with our family and friends.

  • We will sit together, no matter if we get along or not.
  • We will laugh or cry and eat till we pop. We try to tell ourselves that after Thanksgiving we will go back on our diet.
  • Many of us will bow our heads in thanks for the blessings of loved ones, health, job, freedom, and life itself.

Why is Thanksgiving so important in America? Let me first give you some reasons that people think it’s important but they are not the real reasons.

Don't Taste Me Bro!

#1.Let’s throw out the obvious one – Americans hate turkeys. Not true. Let me make a quick point here. It’s all right to eat meat. Some people think that it was not until after the Fall or after the Flood that God gave us permission to eat meat. Not true. In the very first chapter of Genesis, God gave them to us for food. He told Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:29 that He had given every herb and every tree for food. In the very next verse (30), He adds that every beast of the earth, every bird of the air, and every thing that creeps on the earth (and earlier He also mentions fish of the sea) are also for food. It helps when you read it in the original language. If you remember, Abel was a shepherd, who brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. Meaning – Right from the beginning, people understood what was the best meat. When God came to visit Abraham, He ate meat. While it’s wonderful to love animals and have them as pets, it’s not wrong to have them for food, just as it’s wonderful to have a potted plant and then eat salad.

If you don’t eat meat, that’s fine. Just don’t think that it’s nobler to abstain from meat.

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe#2.Some people think that it is because the pilgrims celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” with the Indians and thus set the tradition for generations to come. Not true. It is quite possible that the pilgrims might have celebrated some form of harvest festival with the Native Americans; but the evidence regarding that event comes from barely few fragments, which are not very clear about any grand thanksgiving celebration. Later writers and painters have embellished much of what we have come to think of the “First Thanksgiving.” They are not strong enough motivators for us to take red-eye flights or drive in the dead of night to avoid getting stuck in thanksgiving traffic.

#3.Some people even think that it is because our government has instituted “Thanksgiving Day.” Not really again. It is true that President Washington issued a proclamation that November 26, 1789 be celebrated as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.” It is also true that President Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the National day of Thanksgiving and later the Congress passed a law ensuring the celebration of the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day every year. Nevertheless, our moms and grandmas don’t slave over a hot stove for three days in order to comply with some government mandate. It’s not because it’s a National Holiday. After all, most of us Americans don’t take kindly to state sponsored religion.

#4.So, what is the real reason? Is it the food? Is it the family? Is it the urge for us to shop till we drop on “Black Friday?” I don’t think so.

While there is some truth in all of them, I think the reason is much deeper. The real reason we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving is because deep in our psyche we know that all we are and all we have is from above. Somehow we know that we don’t deserve this. Somehow we know that God is the source of all our blessings. Somehow we know that God in His goodness either carried us to the finish line or moved the finish line a little closer for us. Somehow God has brought us through difficult times as a nation and continues to guide us. Somehow we know that there is a divine hand that is guiding our lives and our nation – what Ravi Zacharias calls the “Grand Weaver.”

Let me clarify:

–       This does not mean that every person sitting around the dinner table will be choking back tears of gratitude.

–       This does not mean that every person who is grateful will have the same level of gratefulness.

–       This does not mean that people in other parts of the world are unappreciative and ungrateful.

–       This does not mean that other people don’t recognize some sovereign deity.

–       This does not mean that every American is a Christian.

–       This does not mean that God is okay with our sin and immorality.

What it does mean is that Americans, as a people, recognize that God has been good and gracious towards us, even though we don’t deserve it. That makes God happy. It pleases Him when we are thankful to Him.

Let’s look at Romans 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Background: Some people read that passage and immediately think that every sinner is under the wrath of God. Listen again to that verse – The wrath of God is over all those who suppress (hinder, block, hold down) the truth of God. They know better but they do it anyways. Now don’t get me wrong—we are all born “dead in trespasses and sins.” We are all hell bound. We are all sinners with a sin nature.

David says in Psalms 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Paul says in Romans 5:19 “. . . by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners . . .” Every person who comes into this world comes with a sin nature. Every sinner has a judgment waiting for him/her. Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”

But the wrath of God is something much more. Romans 1:18 is not just about any sinner. It’s about the boastful, arrogant, defiant sinner, who shakes his/her fist towards heaven. Listen to verse 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

God has given us enough reasons to know that He is there and He made it all and all that we have is a gift from Him.

–       Human Beings have been looking at the Sky for centuries and know that someone made them and put them there. Night Sky1One of the French revolutionaries boasted to a peasant, “We are going to pull down all that reminds you of God.” To which the peasant replied, “Then, you better pull down the stars.”

–       Human Beings have been looking at the Earth for centuries: perfect distance from the sun; any closer and it would be too hot; any further and it would be too cold. Any closer and all the water would boil away; any further and all water will freeze. Any smaller and oxygen will leave and we would have no atmosphere; any larger and poisonous chemicals will stay in our atmosphere. God made it just right.

–       Human Beings have been looking at the beautiful creation around them for centuries—the beautiful trees and flowers; beautiful animals and birds and sea creatures.

–       Human Beings have been looking at each other for centuries. How complex and beautiful are human beings. Our human heart beats 100,000 times a day. That comes to about 2,500 million times over 70 years. It pumps enough blood in a lifetime to fill the Empire State building. The heart is a maintenance-free pump that can function throughout life without replacing any parts.

Normal Rockwell Thanksgiving

We as Americans have recognized this and we also know that the reason we stand as a nation is by the grace of God:

–       Our National motto is “In God We Trust.”

–       The 4th stanza of the Star Spangled Banner says: “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

–       The 4th stanza of My Country ‘Tis of Thee says: “Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.”

–       Our Pledge of Allegiance still says that we are “One Nation Under God.”

Why do I bring all this up? Because as long as we are grateful to the Almighty God for all our blessings, there is still hope for us as a nation. As long as the Spirit of Gratitude towards God abides in us, the Spirit of God abides upon us.

What happens to the people that refuse to acknowledge God? Listen to verse 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,  23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,  25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

When people ask me if America’s glory days are over, I remind them to keep their eyes on Thanksgiving Day. As long as Thanksgiving remains a part of the American way of life, we are still a “shining city upon a hill.”

Application: Are you thankful for the blessing of living in this nation? Are you thankful? For your blessings (material, health, family)?

For e.g. Sometime back I was sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. Suddenly, the door leading to the inside opened and I heard this heavy breathing. I saw a social worker or home healthcare nurse, holding this young man by the arm and leading him. Even though he was walking on his own, he could not control his movements/motor skills. I jumped up and opened the door leading out of the waiting room into the hallway. As I walked back to my seat, the lady sitting next to Nicole and me said – “We have so much to be thankful for. We take so much for granted.”

There is something much greater than material and physical blessings. It is the blessing of hope, forgiveness, and peace through Jesus Christ.

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