LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT

LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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We are in our series on the life of Christ from all 4 gospels and this morning we are in Matthew 2 for our message titled – “LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT.” All of us are comfortable around people who are just like us in background and likes/dislikes but when we get around people who are different, we feel awkward, threatened, and we even try to avoid them. God wants us to step out of our comfort zone and reach people no matter who they are.

Matt. 2 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him….9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Overall Background: In a few weeks Nicole is going to pull out our Christmas decorations. It’s our family tradition to come together and put up Three Wise Men The Nativity Storythe Christmas tree, ornaments, wreaths, candles, and especially, the nativity sets. One goes on the piano and the other on the table behind the couch. Just like the passage we read, both the sets have the three wise men with gifts in their hands, dressed like medieval kings with purple, blue, and green robes and crowns on their heads. In fact, some Christmas songs even refer to them as the three kings. Only problem – it’s not the truth! The actual words are “magi from the east.” The magi were nothing like what we have made them out to be. They were from Persia (modern day Iran). They were star-gazer, astronomers, astrologers, dream interpreters and sorcerers. Our English word “magic” actually comes from the word magi. They did not have the best reputation. Jewish people looked down on them with suspicion and disdain. Even the Romans did not like them and many times they were kicked out of Rome and Italy. In short, the magis were different and, yet, for some reason, they were on God’s guest list for the birth of Jesus. Why did God do that? To remind us that Jesus came not just to save one group of people but all people. His sacrifice on the cross was not just for the insiders but also for the outsiders. We like to reach out just to our own types but the Great Commission is to go to all types of people and make disciples.

Application: Let me ask you a question – How do you respond to people who are different? Do you avoid them? Do you look down on them? Do you ridicule them or try to intimidate them? We are never more like God than when we forgive and when we love people who are different than us.

To understand the magi and who told them about Jesus and why they came, we have to go back about 600 years to the time of Daniel. It is Daniel who holds the key to the mystery of the magis. As we look at the interaction between Daniel and the magis, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to love people who are different.

1. LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT DOES NOT MEAN COMPROMISING YOUR CONVICTIONS.

Daniel 1:8   But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Background: You remember Daniel – how Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonians, had taken him along with other young men from Judah into exile. They were gifted and wise and they were placed in a three-year training program for the service of the king. They were to eat from the king’s table and drink his wine but Daniel along with the other men remained firm in their convictions. They had made up their mind that they would not eat the food from the king’s table. Why? Because it had been offered to false gods. They challenged the head of the program to let them eat just vegetables and drink water for 10 days and see if it made any difference. At the end of the 10 days, they actually looked better than the rest.

Three years later, their training was completed. Listen to verse 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. Daniel and the other young men stood firm in their convictions and, in the end, they were 10 times better than the other magis.

Sometimes we think that loving other people means we need to compromise our convictions or water down the truth. Daniel and the other young men honored God and God honored them. Our world needs to see people who are firm in biblical convictions. We believe there is only one God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that the Bible is the only Word of God. We believe that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life. We believe that this nation was founded upon biblical values. We still believe that this is a Christian nation. Loving people does not mean we need to compromise.

Application: Are you a person of biblical convictions? Do you stand for the truth? Do you speak up for the truth? 

2.  LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT MEANS LETTING GOD OPEN OPPORTUNITIES TO WITNESS.

Daniel 2:2 Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams.

Background: King Nebuchadnezzar began to have nightmares. They were so bad that he couldn’t sleep. So he called the Chaldeans and gave a strange command – “tell me my dreams.” Their response – “Tell us your dreams and we’ll give you the interpretations. We can read your palms or watch the pattern of birds flying or look at the position of the stars or examine the liver of a special sheep or chicken.” The King said, “You’re a bunch of liars. You’re trying to buy time.” Listen to verse 10 The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean.” What is the king’s response in verse 12-13 “…the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar DreamDaniel went to God in prayer and God revealed to him the dream as well as the interpretation. So Daniel went before the king and listen to what he said in verse 30 “But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living…” Meaning: Daniel did not use this as an opportunity to attack the Chaldeans. He could have said – “Kill them. They are a bunch of liars. They are crooks.” Instead, he knows that God has a greater purpose in mind.

Sometimes we have a wrong attitude towards people who are different. We say things that should not be said. We act in ways that we should not act. In the process we lose all opportunity to witness to them.

Daniel explained the dream to the King and as a result verse 48 “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.”

Later Cyrus diverted the water of the Euphrates River that entered and his soldiers literally walked under the walls of the city in ankle-deep water. The Babylonian empire became the Medo-Persian empire overnight.

Next, you know how the new king under Cyrus, King Darius was deceived into throwing Daniel into the Lion’s Den. God shut the mouth of the lions. The king was so moved that he made a decree in Daniel 6:25-26 “ . . . To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, And steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His dominion shall endure to the end.

God made Daniel so influential that people all over the earth heard the gospel of the living God through him.

The priestly class of the magi now joined in with the Chaldeans.

WOW! Can you imagine how Daniel used this opportunity to tell them about the coming of the Messiah?!! Have you ever read the book of Daniel?!! It is filled with Messianic prophecies. In fact, he prophesied the exact time of the death of the Messiah in Daniel 9.

Daniel 9:24-27 24Seventy weeks (the word for weeks is actually seven. Literally this should read “seventy seven-year periods are determined for your people.” Seventy seven-year periods is 70X7 = 490 years.) are determined For your people and for your holy city (Jerusalem), To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. (when will this prophecy begin) 25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem (this command was given on March 5th of 444 BC by King Artaxerxes to Nehemiah) Until Messiah the Prince, (490 years starting in 444 BC. Keep in mind that they are using a 360 day year calendar along with leap years and it all works out perfectly.) (Prophecies are like riddles. Not all will be accomplished at one time.) There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; (69X7=483 years) The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself (483 years from 444 BC Jesus the Messiah will be go to the cross for our sins. Would you like to guess where that falls? It was March 30, AD 33 when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. And then Jesus died on the cross on April 3, AD 33); (I know it is hard to follow all this – And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, . . .” (This corresponds perfectly with the 7 year period of the Great Tribulation in the end times.)

What does this have to do with the seeing a star in the east? More than likely the magis had converted the information in Daniel 9 to correspond with the movements of the stars. Generation after generation since Daniel they were waiting for the star to appear that would signal the birth of Jesus. At the right time when the star appeared, they left their homes in the east and set out to locate the king of the Jews!

What if Daniel had refused to witness to the magis? What if Daniel had got them killed? We would have never had the three wise men in the nativity.

Don’t be afraid of people who are different. Stand firm in biblical convictions and let God open the opportunities for you to witness to them. 

3. LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT MEANS BEING FAITHFUL IN WITNESSING AND TRUSTING GOD WITH THE RESULTS. 

Daniel 12 8 Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?” 9 And he said, “Go your way, NativityDaniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end…12 Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. 13 “But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days.”

Almost 600 years later the magi came. All in God’s timing!

Matthew 8:11 11And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 13:29-30 29They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”

Are you sharing Jesus with those who are different? Do you know Him as your Savior?

PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE

PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

PRAISE UNDER PRESSUREWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning I am preaching a message from Luke 1:46 titled, “PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE.” It is easy to praise God when things are going great – no bills, no pain, no bad news – but it is very hard to praise Him when things are tough. Many of us become obsessed with our problems, get discouraged, destroy relationships, and make bad decisions. But, when we deliberately choose to praise God, we not only please Him but we open the door for Him to take charge and work all things together for good.

Luke 1:46   And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is traditionally known as the “Magnificat.” It comes from “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” which is the Latin translation of “my soul magnifies the Lord,” the first line of Mary’s hymn. This song has been a part of liturgies, music, and art for centuries. Sadly, we have lost the real meaning and purpose behind it. Mary wrote it at a time when she was going through extreme doubt, worry, and fear. This was her song of praise and submission to God’s will.

Here’s the gist of the message – During times of pressure, you can either continue in doubt, worry, and fear or you can turn to God in praise. You can either get angry with people and be down at your circumstances and indulge in some destructive habit or you can “lift up your eyes to the hills – from where comes your help.” You can say with the psalmist, “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” When you do that, you open the door for God to step into your life and take charge of the situation. After all, He allowed it to come for a reason. When you praise Him, you invite Him to switch seats from the passenger to the driver. But let me also warn you – just because you praise God in the midst of pressure doesn’t mean your problem will disappear. It only means that God will steer your life to bring glory to His name.

Application: What trial or pressure are you facing this morning? How are you handling it? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Without Him you can try to be positive, optimistic, and even pray but you are lost like a sailboat in a storm. You need Him to be your Savior.

Let’s look at Mary’s song and see how we can praise God under pressure:

1. CONTEXT OF PRAISE

Luke 1:39   Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

Background: When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be pregnant with a child who is the Son of God, she was afraid and full of worries. A baby was growing inside of her and she had nothing to do with it. How would her family deal with this? She’s not married but engaged to a good man. How will Joseph deal with this? She comes from a priestly family. How will her community deal with her? Will she be stoned to death? So the angel suggested that she visit her relative Elizabeth who was also pregnant. Mary left immediately from her home in Nazareth of Galilee and travelled 80-100 miles to the hill country of Judea, South of Jerusalem. It probably took her about 3-4 days in journey. You can only imagine how exhausted she was. I doubt she had a full night’s sleep since the week before. Now she came to Zachariah and Elizabeth’s home. How will they treat her?

Picture – Mary, a young girl who was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted.

Application: Have you ever been in that situation? Maybe it wasn’t as intense but it was exhausting. Maybe you are in that situation right now. How are you handling it? Are you getting angry? Are you discouraged? Are you afraid? Are you praying? Luke 18:1b “men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” The antidote to losing heart is prayer.

How did Elizabeth greet her? 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Meaning: No condemnation, criticism, and condescension but only uplifting, encouraging, and faith filled words.

Application: Let me ask you – When people get around you, do they feel uplifted, encouraged, and faith filled. I guess the deeper question is – “Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?” “Is your life under His command and control?”

2. CONTENT OF PRAISE

Luke 1:46 And Mary said:

Background: Let me stop here for a moment – Some people mistakenly think that Mary immediately launched into her song of praise when Elizabeth finished saying verse 45Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” It is as if Mary was like – “I’ve been writing a poem all the way from Nazareth to Judea. It’ll make a great song one day. Tell me if it rhymes.” This is my opinion – I don’t think Mary wrote this song of praise until sometime in the last month of her three months with Zachariah and Elizabeth. It was after day after day and week after week of listening to Zachariah and Elizabeth that Mary began to jot down her thoughts and prayers.

Spiritual growth does not happen overnight. It grows in the crucible of suffering and pain. Some of the greatest melodies and lyrics were written when a person was going through a time of loss and pain. Charles Spurgeon said, “Pain makes every note come out with great effort, yet I believe God bends down His ears to hear such singing as that. I have known birds in cages sing better than those outside—and the Lord sometimes puts us in a cage on purpose that He may hear us sing the sweeter.”

Now listen to her words of praise – it can be divided into three sections:

  1. She focused on God – “My soul magnifies the Lord…

Meaning: This was not a song of self-determination and resolve. It was a song that magnified God. How do you magnify God? How do you make God great? It’s not like you put God under a microscope. It’s more like walking up to the Washington Monument and realizing how immense it is. Magnifying the Lord means drawing closer to Him and realizing how great He is in everything. It begins by thinking upon Him and His many attributes. Sometimes we focus so much on our problem that it is magnified more than it needs to be. Instead, the more you magnify God, the more you want to magnify Him. You may start to magnify Him in a whisper at the bottom of the hill but as you start climbing up and draw closer to the top, you find yourself shouting praises to His name!

When was the last time you focused on how great is our God?

  1. She returned to the basics – 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

Meaning: As Mary begins to magnify God, she does not get into the deep things of the Christian life. She does not talk about pneumatology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. She does not get into the various views of sanctification. She goes back to the fundamentals. She rejoices in “God my Savior.” No matter how deep you grow in your knowledge of the Bible and no matter how much you understand the deep things of the Christian life, you never get too far from “God be merciful to me a sinner.” You might say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven” and that’s wonderful. At the same time, this same Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” At the end of the day, I’m just a sinner saved by grace.

When was the last time you got on your face before God and said, “God be merciful a sinner.” Do you know what that does? It takes the pressure off of us and puts it upon God.

  1. She was grateful to God for everything:

– First, for her own self. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

During trials it is good to look back and thank God for how far He has brought you.

For e.g. Visiting a lady at the hospital and how she encouraged me to be thankful.

49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.

Meaning: When God shows His grace, He does not compromise with sin. Don’t ever think that grace means God overlooks your sins. It only means that God looks at Jesus instead of you.

– Second, for all people. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.

Anytime good things happen to people, it is God. He is the source of all good things.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. Meaning: The wicked rich He has sent away empty.

– Third, for God’s people. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Meaning: There’s a difference here in how God blesses all the people in the world and how He especially takes care of His people.

For e.g. If I see a child hungry, I’ll find a way to feed him/her. But, if it is my child, I don’t wait till I see him/her hungry. I have a purpose for his/her life.

Application: Are you going through a time of pressure, have you praised God? Have you thanked Him for what He has done for you, for others, and for His people? What are you magnifying in your life? Are you grateful for being saved?

3. CONSEQUENCE OF PRAISE

Luke 1:56  And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

She had to go back. We live in a time where people want to run away. Nobody wants to go back. Everybody wants to move somewhere else.

But, how did she go back – reluctantly, bitterly, or angrily? We get a glimpse of her new personality after the shepherds came to visit the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Luke 2 17 Now when they (shepherds) had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it (crowd) marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Another translation has it – “And Mary was pondering all these matters, trying to put them together in her heart.”

Meaning: She did not lose heart, bail out, get angry, feel sorry for her self, and wish she had another life. Like a servant, she knew that her Master knew best and she submitted willingly.

Application: How are you dealing with your pressures? Do you know Jesus?

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