Dark Day by Pastor Abidan Shah

DARK DAY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Dark Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 7, 2017)

bef00a78-d76b-461a-be58-7037520c4569This is the time of the year when many people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to some surveys, about 70% are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions like growing in Christ, reading the Bible, praying, serving in church, etc. Another year comes and goes and there’s zero progress. In Luke 9 Jesus met three such individuals who were buried in the graveyard of excuses. Let’s see if we can learn something from their encounters:

  1. Grave of Comfort – Verse 57 “…Someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple willing to follow Jesus anywhere. In actuality, he was a young man looking to tag along Rabbi Jesus for a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices. Jesus knew his heart and bluntly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not calling him to give up his Sleep Number bed or his Tempur-Pedic pillow and wander around and live under some tree like a hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble. Instead, Jesus was telling him – “To follow me, you have to choose the uncomfortable life. Previously, it was comfortable to tolerate some old sin, habit, grudge, behavior, or desire in your life but following me will require giving them up. How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
  2. Grave of Obligations – Verse 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” What a strange request! Was the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! No. What the man was really saying was “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I will follow you.” He was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s heart too and responded trenchantly – 60 “…Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How could Jesus be so harsh?! Was he actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Again, don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. But in this situation, the man was using his obligations to keep him from obeying God. Jesus was telling him – “Life will never settle down. There will always be another obligation. Follow me now or never.”
  3. Grave of One Last Glance – Verse 61 “…Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’” This sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? – “At least my loved ones deserve to know that I’m leaving.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s real intention. He wanted to take that one last look to make sure that this was a right decision. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who took that fatal glance and like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What do they see? Some see pain and feel they can’t leave until they’ve healed; some see regrets and feel they can’t leave until they’ve fixed things; some see failures and feel their past would repeat again; and some even see the disappointed faces of their loved ones and feel they can’t let them down. Jesus warned him – 62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church told me that when he used to plow with a mule, he would find a fixed point in front and keep his eyes on it. When he looked straight ahead, he had straight rows behind him but if he turned back, he was all over the place. If your spiritual life is all over the place, it’s time to look ahead to Jesus.

By the way, before you can leave your grave of excuses to follow Jesus, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death by asking him to be your Savior. Happy Resurrection!

Comfort and Joy by Pastor Abidan Shah

COMFORT AND JOY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

comfort-and-joyIntroduction: We’re in our final message in our Christmas series – BELIEVING IS SEEING. If you want to see Jesus, you have to believe in Him first and then you begin to see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and personal life. Jesus gave us a clue to find Him in Scripture when He said, “Moses wrote about Me.” We’ve examined two such passages already. Today we’ll look at a third one and the message is titled – COMFORT AND JOY.

Deuteronomy 18   15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Bridge: Everyone has a favorite Christmas carol. The one I like is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Unfortunately, many people don’t know what it means. To start with, it’s not about some merry gentlemen taking the time to rest. The comma should come after “merry” – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” What do those words mean? The word “rest” means keep/stay, like “rest assured.” The word “merry” means “joyful” and the word “gentlemen” does not refer to some Victorian gentlemen in top hats. It’s a generic reference to “people.” So the first line should read “God Keep You Joyful, People.” Why? “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay, Remember, Christ, our Saviour was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.” That is beautiful! We can have comfort and joy because Christ our Savior has come but I want to suggest a correction – “It’s not to save us from Satan’s power but from God’s power.” In today’s message we’ll learn about the real reason to have comfort and joy at Christmas.

Question: Before we go any further, what emotions come to your mind when you think about the coming of Jesus? Does His coming bring comfort and joy to your heart? Do you understand why Jesus really came into this world? Do you know that He has come to be the mediator between God and us? Do you realize that you cannot come to God on your own? Have you ever asked Jesus to be your mediator? Are you saved?

Today we’ll learn the biblical reason to have comfort and joy. 3 things to understand:

I. THE DREADFUL AND AGGRESSIVE HOLINESS OF GOD

Background: In the passage we just read from Deuteronomy 18 Moses is making a solemn promise to the people of Israel that after his own death God would raise up a prophet for them who would just like him be a Mediator between God and them. Why did they need a Mediator? Because of an incident that took place at Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb. To learn about this incident we have to turn to Exodus 19. The people had just left Egypt and they had made it to the foot of Mount Sinai or Horeb. It was time for them to come face-to-face with the God who had set them free. God spoke to Moses from the mountain and said, 4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” In other words, being set free from slavery is just the first step in where God wanted to take them as a people. He wanted them to be His special people. 6 “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Meaning: You are to represent me before the world just as a priest represents the people before God. But here was the key requirement – Holiness. Why? Because God’s holiness is His first and most distinctive attribute. If you’re going to be His special people and represent Him, you have to be holy as He is holy. Don’t misunderstand – holiness is not some puffy clouds or the sound of organ music or the smell of incense. Negatively, it is a “complete absence of sin” and positively, it is a “passionate desire for righteousness.”

God instructed Moses that before He would come down, the people had to consecrate and purify themselves. Furthermore, no one could approach the mountain except Moses. Then it happened on the third day – 16 “…there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. 20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Meaning: This was not some Hollywood theatrics. This was God the Holy Creator entering into His sinful creation. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Meaning: Not sure exactly what happened right then but there must’ve been some thrill seeking types who wanted to get as close to the fire without getting singed. God warned them that this was not some pull out your lawn chairs and enjoy the show time. They will die from this. 22 “Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” Meaning: Even the priests better be careful. This was the kind of holiness that would come after anyone who was unholy in its sight. How did the people perceive all this? Listen to Exodus 24:17 “The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Needless to say, the people of Israel were terrified of God. He was not someone to play with. Not even the priests could get near Him. His holiness was unbearable.

Application: What do you think about the holiness of God? Is it to you long dresses, three-piece suits, and hard straight back pews? Is it to you a long list of do’s and don’ts? Do you understand that God’s holiness is negatively a “complete absence of sin” and positively a “passionate desire for righteousness”? Do you understand that being saved means being saved from God’s holy wrath against your sin?

II. THE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING MERCY OF GOD

Exodus 20   18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. They were terrified and petrified of God. They were scared for themselves, their families, and their children. They stood far away. By the way, who told them to stay far away? God. As we just read, God had to send Moses down from the mountain to warn the people to stay away. If I were God, I would’ve let a couple of them turn extra crispy and that would’ve taken care of the rest! But God is so merciful, isn’t He? 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The people told Moses something that sounded like an affront to God. They told Moses that they would rather talk to him than to God. Again, if I were God, I would’ve said, “You don’t get to decide the terms of our communication.” By the way, these were the same people who later worshipped the golden calf at the foot of the mountain. I would’ve said – “Nope. People like you don’t deserve any breaks. You need to live under constant fear and an iron fist, that’s it.” 20 “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Meaning: God in His patient and understanding mercy allowed Moses to be the Mediator between Him and the people.

Application: Do you realize how merciful God is towards His people? Do you realize how without His mercy we would be consumed by His holiness? Do you realize how much He is willing to work with us even when we don’t deserve it? Do you realize how many chances He keeps giving to us?

III. THE FUTURE AND ULTIMATE PROMISE OF GOD

17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’”

Background: When God gave this promise, He intended a double fulfilment. On one hand, after Moses’s death, God sent many prophets through the centuries to His people to mediate for them. Some of them we know by their books – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and others. But there was another fulfillment that God intended – a much deeper, longer lasting, and ultimate fulfillment. One day God would send the Prophet who would have all the words of God in His mouth and He would be their Ultimate Mediator before God forever. God’s people were waiting for this prophet:

  • When John the Baptist came, the Jewish religious leaders questioned him – John 1   19 “…Who are you?” 20 He confessed…“I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “…Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
  • After Jesus fed the 5000, his own disciples said in John 6:14 “…This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
  • After seeing his numerous miracles, many in the crowd said in John 7:40 “…Truly this is the Prophet.”
  • When people were offended at him, Jesus himself said in Matthew 13:57 “…A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

Not only that but Jesus also repeatedly talked about having God’s Words in His mouth:

  • John 7:16 “…My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
  • John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”
  • John 17:8 “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”

I don’t have time to talk about how He prophesied about the future. The point is this – When Jesus said, “Moses wrote about Me,” He also had Deuteronomy 18 in mind where Moses promised the people that God would send them the Ultimate Prophet one day.

  • Just as Moses was a symbol of comfort and joy to the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate symbol of comfort and joy for us.
  • Just as Moses was a temporary mediator for the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate mediator for all who believe in His name.

But there’s something Jesus did for us that Moses could never do. Hebrews 10   19 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Whereas Moses told the people to stay away from the mountain of God, Jesus has invited us to boldly enter the Holiest by His blood.

Invitation: Does the coming of Jesus truly bring comfort and joy to your heart? Has he saved you from God’s holy power? Is He your Mediator?

The Blessing of Sorrow

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here or watch the video here.

THE BLESSING OF SORROW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofsorrowWe are in Matthew 5 for our series titled – “SALT AND LIGHT.” This morning we are looking at the second beatitude and our message is titled “THE BLESSING OF SORROW.

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. You can picture Jesus looking across that mountain and seeing the multitude/people.

  • There sits a family that just lost their home in a fire.
  • There sits an old man who lost his ability to see.
  • There sits a young man who just lost his job as a soldier.
  • There sits a young couple that was robbed on their way to Galilee.
  • There sits a father whose son just ran away from home.
  • There sits a mother who lost her daughter to an epidemic.
  • There sits that middle-aged couple wondering where time has gone.
  • There sits a young girl who lost her innocence to what she thought was love.
  • There sits a little boy who lost his parents.

As the Bible says, “seeing the multitudes” he opened His mouth and said – “Blessed are those who mourn.” In other words, “Blessed are those who have gone through some loss.” Why do we mourn? Because something or someone we had is not there anymore.

Not much has changed. The multitude is still grieving. There are people all over this room who are mourning. As someone said, “In every pew there sits someone with a broken heart.” We are grieving over the loss of a job, house, health, relationship, love, money, vision, time, or a loved one. Life is a series of losses – some big and some small – and because of that we all mourn or sorrow to some degree or the other.

Application: What are you doing with your sorrow? Are you pretending that everything is all right? Are you looking to false substitutes to cope with your sorrow? Are you looking to Jesus? Are you trusting Him to get you through? Only He can truly comfort you.

3 things we will see in this message. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will apply this beatitude to your life so not only will you get this but go further to Luke’s rendition of this beatitude – “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

I. WHY DO WE MOURN?

This week was a busy one for me. All day Monday through Wednesday I was in Raleigh for NCLEAP – NC Law Enforcement Assistance Program. They were conducting what is known as PCIS – Post Critical Incident Seminar. It is an event designed to help officers (Police, State Troopers, Sherriff’s Dept.) and their spouses who have gone through trauma like line of duty shooting and line of duty death. People don’t realize what men and women in law enforcement go through every day of their lives. They are constantly bombarded with trauma, death, loss, and grief and it begins to take a toll on them and effects their health, relationships, and work. Just to let you know – as many as 100 commit suicide every year. At this seminar men and women and their spouses come from everywhere who are struggling with loss and they are helped with peer support and teaching. As the chaplain for the Henderson PD I was invited to be there and I am really glad I went. One of the teachers was Dr. Therese Rando who is a world-renowned grief expert and Clinical Director of The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss. She has published as many as 80 works on the subject and been on national TV and everything. Amazing how the Holy Spirit works! This week I am preaching on mourning and the world expert is sitting behind me! Here’s what she shared:

There are 2 kinds of loss in life:

  1. Physical loss – car is stolen, house burns down, leg is amputated
  2. Abstract loss – divorce, job loss, relationship loss

Both of these are known as Primary Loss. But there’s something else happens next which is known as Secondary Loss – Because of primary loss, people go though a deeper loss of their worldview – what they believe about God, this world, themself, and others. Because of your loss you begin to look at everything differently. Keep in mind that there’s a difference between losing your keys and losing a loved one to cancer but your loss is important to you. Children leaving the home can be a loss. Depending on how serious your loss was to you, you begin to rewrite your life script.

What’s next? Loss leads to grief and mourning. There’s a difference between the two:

  • Grief is your reaction to the loss. This can be psychological, behavioral, social, and even physical. It includes crying, depression, guilt, anger, irritability, restlessness, fear, anxiety, numbness, sleep deprivation, social withdrawal, addiction, etc.
  • Mourning is learning to cope with your loss. It involves adjusting to the loss by undoing our previous ties with that thing or person. It involves building new ties with that thing or person. It involves revising our worldview and learning to move forward. By the way, people grieve and mourn differently.

Life is a series of losses – some big and some small – and because of that we all grieve and mourn to one degree or another. This is a big problem of life. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus began His Sermon with the most common human problem?!! After all He is God! What did you expect! It behooves me when people say that the Bible doesn’t apply. It applies much more than you think!

Application: Are you struggling with some loss in your life? Are you trying to pretend that you are strong and it doesn’t bother you? Are you living in grief and mourning? God understands. Jesus understands. He cares.

II. WHAT ARE SOME WAYS PEOPLE COPE? 

People try all sorts of ways to mourn. They are known as “coping mechanisms.”

  • Act out = Go wild. Do crazy things. You owe it to yourself.
  • Adapt = Find a new normal. Just adapt to this loss.
  • Altruism = Help other people and it will make you feel better.
  • Avoid = Just don’t face it. Pour yourself into your work, hobby, or relationship.
  • Cry = Let it out.
  • Distance = Move away. At least get away for a while.
  • Emotionality = Have an outburst. Make people scared of your anger.
  • Fantasy = Go into your make-believe world. Turn on a favorite song and dream.
  • Help-Rejecting Complaining = Ask for help and then reject it. Look for pity.
  • Intellectualize = Think deep on the subject. Go get a PhD on it.
  • Passive Aggression = Be stubborn and hostile even if it hurts self. Procrastinate.
  • Provocation = Get others to act so you can react.
  • Regression = Act like a little kid.
  • Self-harming = Cause pain to self so you don’t have to face the pain of loss.
  • Trivializing = Pretend that it’s not a big deal.

Why do people try these coping mechanisms? Because they give some temporary relief or even long-term relief but there’s a big difference between relief and comfort. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will find relief.” The English word “comfort” comes from the Latin com = with and fort = strong. It’s connected to words like fortify and fortress. We will see all this in the last point.

Application: Which one of these coping mechanisms are you using? Are you just satisfied with relief? Relief can only shift the pain, sometimes on those around you. Can you see the pain that others are feeling through you?

III. HOW DOES GOD COMFORT US? 

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.

Background: Keep in mind that Jesus gave these beatitudes in a particular order. You cannot jump around here. The first one is the first one for a reason – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Remember the “kingdom of heaven/God?” It is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the life of everyone who has received Jesus as his/her Savior. Remember Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Who are the “poor in spirit?” They are those who have less of self. So the first beatitude is saying that those who have less and less of self will be more and more under the control of the Holy Spirit. When you have this in place you are ready for the second beatitude – “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Look at the word “comfort,” not in English but in Greek. It is the word “parakaleo.” It is the verbal form of “parakletos,” the name Jesus used for the Holy Spirit.

  • John 14 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
  • John 14:26 But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
  • John 16 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

When Jesus gave the second beatitude, it was in the context of the Holy Spirit being the one who comforts. Jesus Himself is our Comforter but now He is also at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. So he sends another Comforter the Holy Spirit. Amazing! We have 2 Comforters! What are they doing? One is advocating for me in heaven and the other from earth. The Holy Spirit encourages me, guides me, strengthens me, gives me exactly what I need, sends the right people in my life, and even uses my loss to comfort others. Guess what? It works! “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” – G. K. Chesterton

But it doesn’t stop there – Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 1   3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. The point is that we’re not just waiting to be comforted but as salt and light we comfort others.

Invitation: Do you know Jesus as your Savior? How are you handling loss in your life? Are you looking to the Holy Spirit to comfort you? Do you know someone who needs Him?

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