Trash Talk by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRASH TALK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Trash Talk

Introduction:  Some years back couple of our kids were complaining to Nicole about how much we make them work around the house and how much we should pay them. They didn’t realize that I was in the other room listening to their griping. So, I pulled out a piece of paper and started writing down everything we did for the kids and how much they owed us: Rent – $200/month; Food – $200/month, Gas – $100/month; Clothes – $75; Field trip – $30; and on and on. When we added it all up and tallied it with what they said we owed them, they owed us money! So, the kids wisely decided that it was better not to talk about getting paid. In Malachi, the people were also complaining against God about how much they were serving him and getting nothing for it. God heard them trash talking his name and he confronted them. That’s the title of the message: TRASH TALK.

Malachi 3    13 “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the Lord, “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ 14 You have said, “It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’” 16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.

Question: What do you say about God? Do you trash talk his name? Do you fear him? Do people hear you talking about God or do they hear you talking about others? Do you trash talk others or do you edify others? Are you saved?

Context: Throughout the book of Malachi God was holding the people of Israel in contempt for their words. It appears that they were trash talking about God behind his back but when he confronted them through Malachi, they didn’t repent and ask his forgiveness. Instead, like ungrateful children they restated their grievances against God to his face! Listen to these verses:

  • 1:2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” Probably they were going around saying “God doesn’t love us and care about us.” But when God confronted them, they were not afraid to say it again to his face!
  • 1:7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’”
  • 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’”

These people had become so used to God that they were not afraid to talk back to him. “What’s he gonna do to us? Hurt us? Hasn’t he done enough of that?” You can call this a sin of excessive familiarity. They had lost sight of who God was. They had forgotten Habakkuk 2:20 “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Zechariah 2:13 “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!”

Application: Are you infected with the sin of excessive familiarity towards God? Have you have lost sight of the fact that you are in the presence of the almighty eternal sovereign God? Never forget that you are just a creation. Be silent before him.

The pattern continues in Malachi 3:13 “‘Your words have been harsh against Me,’ Says the Lord.” The Hebrew word for “harsh” is “chazek,” which actually means “stout” or “heavy.” You could almost translate this as “Your words have been too heavy/too much against me.” It means that the people of Israel were not only speaking against God and to his face but they were also trying to force their words, their theology, and their false ideas about God upon him. People do that even today. With no biblical basis, they try to create God in their own image and preference – “I think God is like…” It doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is what God has said about himself in his word.

When God confronted them, they replied as expected – ‘What have we spoken against You?’ God reminded them – 14 You have said, “It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’” Nothing new here. They’re saying the same things they said previously – “There’s no benefit to serving God. You can do all you can to please him but it doesn’t matter. You can even walk around in all black (Kedar) to show your grief but it doesn’t matter to him.” In fact, they were even being sarcastic here – “Say hello to Mr. Proud but Blessed and Mrs. Wicked but Successful. They can even tempt God and nothing will happen to them but all we have to do is one tiny thing against him and he’ll send us off into exile!” How sad that people would talk this way about God…

Now listen to God’s response – 16 “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them…” Something has changed. Previously, God would’ve argued with the trash talkers and pointed out their fault and told them to make some changes. Not anymore. God is done with this group. He has decided to leave them to their own demise. Make no mistake, he will deal with them for their trash talking against him but he is no longer going to work with them. By the way, that’s a very scary place to be when God leaves us to our own demise. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Romans 1:24 “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness…”

Now, instead of working with those who were bent on trash talking against him, God turned his attention to another group who are doing just the opposite16 “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them…” Don’t misunderstand the word “feared.” It doesn’t mean fright. It is the Hebrew word “yare’” which means “reverence, honor, and respect.” Here’s an example: “By the time the year is over, I will do 7 weddings! Most of the time the bride does not want the groom to see her until she’s ready to walk down the aisle. At one of the weddings, they were having issues because where the bride was coming from, she was in line of his vision before she could even get to the aisle and she said, “I’m afraid he’s going to see me too soon.” Afraid? What’s he going to do to you? “Oh, not that way! I want everything to be just perfect for him so that when he sees me it’s me and no one else.”

While the trash talkers were busy bad-mouthing God, there was another group that wanted to please God and give him their best and spoke to each other. What did God do? “And the Lord listened and heard them…” Can you picture God leaning down and eaves dropping over this group! What did he hear? “God really spoke to my heart through today’s message.” “I know you’re going through a tough time. I’ll be praying for you.” “We need to pray for that young man. I think God is doing something in his life.” “God has been so faithful to my family.” “Have you ever studied this verse? I wonder what it means.” “We need to spread God’s word into our community. So many people need Christ.” What was God’s reaction? “So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord…” Recording Angel! Write it down! Two people came out of Clearview and instead of asking where were going to eat or “was so and so still with so and so,” they talked about my word. That couple over there stopped and prayed for another couple who is going through a difficult time in their marriage. Those group of men are coming together to decide how they can spread my gospel in their community.

Most people find more joy in gossiping and trash talking than talking about the things of God. As someone once said, “Little people talk about people; bigger people talk about things; but the greatest people talk about ideas.” Now don’t misunderstand. This does not mean that you never talk about people. It means that you don’t trash talk people. We’ve all been guilty of wasting time talking meaninglessly about people. Jesus said in Matthew 12   36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Someone might say, “But it’s not as much fun talking about the Bible as it is talking about others.” Two verses earlier in Matthew 12:34 Jesus told the Pharisees, “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” It reflects what’s inside.

Application: When the Lord leans over you, what does he hear? Does the Recording Angel walk away from you shaking his head? Are you the kind of person who edifies others by their words? There’s something else that this group was doing“So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.” They were also thinking about God. Do you think upon him, upon Christ? Someone might say, “That’s so arrogant of God for wanting us to think of him!” Not really. As Donald Grey Barnhouse once said, “God is perfection and perfection is always glad when imperfection is interested in perfection.”

Now listen to God’s response – 17 “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels…” The word for jewels is “segullah” which means “prized possession. Meaning: God will display them proudly as a king displays his beautiful and precious diamond ring. “…And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” 18 Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God And one who does not serve Him.

Invitation: Are you his precious jewel? Can people discern easily that you serve God? Or do you trash talk God and others? Are you saved?

Pious Thieves by Pastor Abidan Shah

PIOUS THIEVES  by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Pious Thieves

Introduction:  A $1 bill met a $20 bill. He hadn’t seen him in a while and he said – “Hey! Where have you been? Haven’t seen you in years.” The $20 replied – “I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. I’ve been to the casino, went on a cruise, went to a baseball game, to the mall for Christmas shopping, fancy restaurants, beach, mountains. I’ve been living the high life. How about you?” The $1 replied with a sigh, “Me? Same old stuff…church, church, church.” Today’s message in our series on Malachi is called “PIOUS THIEVES.” Hopefully, it’ll do more than figure out where the $20 bill has been hiding. It’s about the state of the heart.

Malachi 3    6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

Question: I know that some of you have already made your assumptions about this message – “Here we go…Pastor Shah is gonna hammer on money since the new building has to be paid for.” Not really. We grew the most through the worst financial crisis this nation has ever faced. I’m not a least bit worried about money. The message is not about what you give. The message is about what you believe God has done for you. What has God done for you? How much you have belongs to God? Are you saved? This message is for you not from you.

Context: As I mentioned last weekend, the Book of Malachi is written like a courtroom drama where the people of Israel were on trial and God was their judge, their prosecuting attorney, their witness, and their executioner. But don’t think that all this was only one-sided and negative because God was also their public defender who was trying to negotiate a plea bargain that would greatly benefit them. Listen again to verse 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change…” When God said “I am Yahweh,” he was reminding them of his covenant name. In other words, God was showing them the old contract papers to remind them that the agreement he had made with them had not changed. Which agreement? 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” This is the 4th time God mentioned Jacob. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Abraham?” Because Abraham was also the father of the Ishmaelites. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Isaac?” Because Isaac was also the father of the Edomites. God was telling them that unlike the Ishmaelites and the Edomites who had perished or vanished, they were still alive because he had kept his covenant. Their entire existence was because of him.

Application: I mentioned to you a few minutes ago, the message is not about what you give but what you believe about God. The message is not about how much you give but how much you believe belongs to God? Do you believe that everything you are and everything you have is because of God? If you have reservations there, of course, you will have reservations about how much you give. It will be like tipping after a meal. Imagine if I were to tip Nicole after a meal!

Here comes the plea bargain. 7 “‘Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” In other words, admit that you messed up and come back. God is not finished with you. Repent. Refusal would be the unpardonable sin. This is the main message of all the prophets in the OT. Listen to their response – “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?” God answers –  8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Background: Many of us know that tithe means “ten percent.” The word tithe is an Old English word that means “tenth.” Where does it originally come from? From the Bible, from the Old Testament. Actually, there were 3 kinds of tithes:

  • First, the general tithe of the land. Leviticus 27:30 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.” Where do you give it? Numbers 18:21“Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.”
  • Second, the eating of a portion of the tithe at the sacred meal when the first/general tithe was given. Deuteronomy 14  22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, (Jerusalem) the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
  • Third, the tithe collected every three years for the poor. Deuteronomy 14 28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Why were the people keeping back their tithes and their offerings? Think about it. It was an agro-pastoral economy. Most people were poor farmers. This was not by choice but by necessity. They had just returned from exile, maybe a generation or two. We’re not even talking about drought, locust infestation, and neighbors who were angry that the original inhabitants were back. Life was very tough for them. Many were also shepherds. Again, not by choice. Then there were those working for the imperial bureaucracy (the Persian empire) who were doing very well. They were wealthy landowners. So also, the priests appeared to be doing well. The lending and borrowing system made life very difficult for the common person. Usury (lending money at excessively high interest rates) was also being practiced at the time. This was debt slavery. Fraud, bribery, and corruption were also prevalent. Bottom line: Most people felt entitled not to give.

Some people think that all that is in the OT Mosaic Law and we’re no longer under it. Who came first Abraham or Moses? Genesis 14   18 “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him (Abraham)…” And what did Abraham do? 20 “…And he gave him a tithe of all. Another question: Who came first Jacob or Moses? Genesis 28:20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” I believe that the idea of giving a tithe was only ratified in the Mosaic law but it was established since the beginning of time. Does the New Testament obligate us to tithe? Some people bring up Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law” and Galatians 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law…” Yes, we are no longer under the obligation of the traditions and rituals in the law but the principle of the law still stands. By the way, tithing is just the starting point. We are really under grace giving, which is much more. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

Question: Are you tithing? $20/month implies that you are making $200/month; $50/month implies that you are making $500/month; $100/month implies that you are making $1000/month.

Now listen to what God said: 9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.” 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; 12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts.

Personal Testimony: When I first came, I didn’t have anything but I remember my parents telling me to give and I did. God has done above and beyond for me. I don’t give because he gives back. I give because it’s all his.

Are you tithing? Are you grace giving? Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll start caring about this place. Whatever you buy stock in, you’ll care about. Start giving and you’ll see God open the windows of heaven for you. Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll look forward to giving more. If you question my motives, give to another church!

For some reason God has decided to use money as the acid test of our faith. He’s asking us – “How much of what you have do you think belongs to you?” It’s really a matter of the heart.

Are you saved?

Refining Fire by Pastor Abidan Shah

REFINING FIRE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Refining Fire

Introduction:  One night a chemical plant outside the city limits caught on fire. The alarm went out to fire departments for miles around. Here came all the big fire trucks from the city and started fighting the fire but it was no good. After about an hour the president of the company went to the fire chief and said, “We have some secret formulas in a vault in the center of the plant. I’ll give $50,000 to the engine company that brings them out safely.” The chief told his men – “C’mon, we need that money!” They strengthened their attack but two hours later it was still no good. The president raised it to $100,000. Just then they heard a long siren and a fire truck coming towards them. It was from the volunteer fire department out in the country. The truck looked like it should’ve been in a museum 50 years ago! The guys were bunch of retirees in their sixties and seventies. To everyone’s shock they drove right into the flames of the chemical plant. From the distance the other fire fighters with their shiny big trucks and all the public watched in amazement as those old guys hopped off their rig and began to fight the fire with intensity. In about half an hour, the blaze was out and the vault was safe! The president was so impressed that he raised the reward to $200,000! He walked over to thank them – “Wow! That’s Old School right there! What’re y’all going to do with the reward money?” The fire truck driver replied – “Old School? Phoo…The first thing we’re going to do is fix the brakes on that truck!” In this message we’re going to talk about a different kind of fire, not a destroying fire but a refining fire.

Malachi 2:17 “You have wearied the Lord with your words; Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,’ or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ 3   1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap.”

Question: Are you in God’s refining fire? Are you going through a tough time physically, mentally, financially, relationally, spiritually? Could it be that God is using that fire to refine you, to purify you? Are you saved?

Context: The book of Malachi has a fascinating literary style. Scholars have given it different names: judicial speech pattern, disputation speech, dialectical style. Bottom line: It reads like a courtroom drama where the people of Israel are on trial for falsely accusing God of being unfaithful to them, not coming through for them. What they didn’t realize was that God was their judge, their prosecuting attorney, their witness, and their executioner. So, welcome to God’s court. Let’s listen in on the trial – Malachi 2:17 “You have wearied the Lord with your words…” The people of Israel were bringing their leftover, rejected sacrifices to God and murmuring under their breath. What were they saying? “…Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,’ or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ Why were they talking like that? Bad things had happened in their lives and they were comparing themselves to their ungodly neighbors and saying, “Look at them. They don’t go to church but they don’t get sick with cancer. They don’t give their hard money in tithe but they seem to buy a new car and a new boat. They didn’t raise their children in church but they seem to be doing just fine. There’s no benefit to following God. Looks like bad people have a better life than we do. God must love them more. He’s not just. He’s not fair.” They were calling God’s character into question.

Listen carefully: I’ve been there. Let me warn you – If you look at life only through your natural eyes, you’ll talk like that too. If you compare yourself to your neighbors only by earthly standards, you’ll also become bitter towards God. In fact, Satan’s greatest temptation against believers is that “God is holding out on the best for you” or “God is not giving you what you deserve but I will.” He did that with Adam and Eve – “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He even tried that with Jesus – “If you fall before me, I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world.” He was implying that his father won’t!

Application: Are you comparing yourself to someone? Have you allowed bitterness to come into your life? Are you going through the motions but inside you have become angry towards God? You need to humble yourself, repent, and seek God’s forgiveness.

How did God answer their false accusation? 3   1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. What an unusual answer! Before we try to understand what all that means, let’s identify the different personalities mentioned in that verse:

  1. “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Who is the “I” and the “Me” here? This is God the Father. He is the one saying all this.
  2. “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Who is this “Messenger” who will prepare the way before God? Malachi gives his identity in 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Does that mean Elijah the prophet will come back from the dead? Not really. It means a person like Elijah the prophet will prepare the way before God when he comes. (We’ll come back to this in a second.)
  3. “…And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. Who is this “Lord” and this “Messenger of the covenant?” They are one and the same. The Hebrew word for Lord is “ha adon” which is God. The word messenger is “malech” which is also “angel.” This “angel of the covenant” is none other than the “angel of the Lord” who led Israel out of Egypt, went before them as they crossed the Red Sea, led them through the wilderness, and filled the temple with his glory. He is the pre-incarnate Christ. In other words, the Lord who will suddenly come into his temple and the Angel of the covenant are none other than Jesus. What is this covenant? It’s the same covenant that God made to save the world. He made it with Eve, with Shem, with Abraham, with Moses, with David, and on to the renewed covenant in Jeremiah. Hebrews 12:24 says “Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” What will he do? 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? Meaning: They thought God would come to fulfill all their desires and wants. Instead, when he comes, it will be unbearable. He will come in judgment.

Let’s put all this back together. The people of Israel were murmuring because God was nowhere to be found. God said, “I hear you and I’m coming but I’m sending my Son Jesus, the same one who made the old covenant with you. This is how you’ll know that he is the One – there will be a messenger who will clear his way first and then he will come without warning into his temple. And don’t think for a moment that this will be all fun and games. You won’t be able to stand it.” 2000 years ago John the Baptist came crying in the wilderness. Was he Elijah? In a sense, he was. If you remember, the angel told Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist in Luke 1:17 “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah…” by which he meant that the same spirit and power that energized Elijah in the Old Testament will also energize John the Baptist. Jesus also said in Matthew 11:14 “if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come,” meaning in spirit and power John the Baptist was like Elijah. What did John preach? Matthew 3   11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Some of y’all are thinking “But Jesus didn’t do that.” Read the gospels carefully and you will see how many times he pronounced judgment on the religious leaders – Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Then he called the temple a “den of thieves.” Then he cursed the fig tree as a representative of his people. Listen to him in John 9:39 “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

Listen carefully: The mistake we make is in thinking that all Jesus came to do was to be our Savior. Don’t forget that he also came as our Judge. Ever since then he has been doing both in our lives and he will complete his task with the people of Israel at his Ultimate Coming. If you want to know what his work now looks like, try to understand what it will be like at his Ultimate Coming – 2 “…For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.” Growing up I remember ever so often my parents would take me along to the goldsmith and silversmith shops. There was an entire row of these shops. It was always fascinating for me to watch them as a kid. Nowadays it’s all sophisticated but back then they used to sit on the ground in front of this small portable furnace. They would place the silver into this pan and hold it over the fire. After a few moments, the silver would turn into molten state. As the ore melted, the dross (impurity) would rise to the top. The silversmith would then take a small scalpel like instrument and remove the impurity and stoke the fire even more. Some more impurities would rise to the surface and he would keep scraping them off. Occasionally, he would sit up and look into the pan. What was he looking for? Silver in its purest form turns into liquid mirror. When he could see his face reflected in the pan, the silver was ready. Same way with us, God allows trials to come into our lives. Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, loss of health, financial troubles, family problems. What is God doing? He is turning up the heat. If he let him, he is removing the dross from our lives. How does he know when we’re ready? When he can see the face of his Son Jesus reflected in us. Is Jesus your Savior?

Rotten Blessings by Pastor Abidan Shah

ROTTEN BLESSINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Rotten BlessingsIntroduction:  Sometime back someone gave us some Georgia peaches. I love peaches! I had a couple and I put the last two in the fruit bowl in the kitchen. The next day Nicole went grocery shopping and bought a bag of oranges. One of the inhabitants of our home put the bag of oranges right on top of the peaches. I forgot all about them. Couple of weeks went by until we got to the last of the oranges and I felt something pulpy and slimy underneath. Buried under there were those two peaches. They had rotten. What caused them to rot? To start with, they began dying the moment they were plucked from the tree, the source of life. Then, under the weight of the oranges, their thin skin was easily broken which made it easier for the elements to take over. When the inside of the peaches became exposed to air, then microorganisms began to use them for their own purposes. I can go on and on but losing their source of life was the first step towards rottenness. So also with us, God blesses us with many blessings. But, when we detach ourselves from him, the source of our blessings, those same blessings become rotten. That’s the title of our message “ROTTEN BLESSINGS.”

Malachi 2   1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart… 9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law.”

Question: Are you detached from the source of your blessings? Have you lost sight of God in your life? Have your blessings turned rotten for you? Are you saved?

Context: In our first message in this series on Malachi we learned that the Jewish people had become ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards God. God sent Malachi to shock them back into reality. That’s why our series is called “Counter-shock.” As much as God was disappointed with his people, he was really angry with the spiritual leadership, the priests and the Levites. Listen to Malachi 2:1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.” God was holding the priests accountable for the behavior of the people. Never forget – We will all have to give an account at the judgment seat of Christ but those who are in leadership will face a far stricter judgment as James 3:1 warns us. Now listen to verse 2 “If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, (How do you give glory to God’s name? Praise him, Fear him, Represent him with truth and integrity) “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart. What does that mean that God would curse their blessings? It has 2 meanings:

  • First, it refers to the blessing that the priests would pronounce twice daily in the temple, one in the morning and the other in the evening. It’s found in Numbers 6 23 “…This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’ 27“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” God was telling them – “When you say those words, you’re actually cursing the people.” By the way, Malachi 3:11 tells us that their crops were failing terribly at this time.
  • Second, it refers to what the priests and the Levites considered to be their personal blessings (their financial compensation, food, and their children). They too had become a source of shame and suffering.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my favorite preachers from yesteryears, gave an excellent illustration of this in modern day America. Our nation was founded upon biblical values. Let me say here: There are elements in our country right now who are working very hard to tear down our foundations. Make no mistake, the attacks against our flag and our national anthem are symbolic of a much sinister attack against us as a nation. At least on September 11, 2001 we saw the planes flying into the World Trade Towers. This to me is worse because we cannot see that we are under attack but our foundational values are being torn from under us. Anyways, one of our foundational values as a nation was that Sunday was a day of rest, a day set aside to worship God. Six days we could do as we pleased but then the 7th day was to be the Lord’s Day. In the old days, everything slacked off by Saturday evenings to get ready for church the next morning. As our country departed from God, Saturday and Sunday became the weekend, the time to unwind. Saturday became the party night and still is and Sunday became the day to sleep in, especially if you had a hangover. Statistics tell us that 1 out of every 5 Americans are involved in an alcohol-related car crash and the day on which those injuries occur the most is Saturday and the second is Sunday.

Back to our illustration: After our Navy was destroyed in Pearl Harbor, our Congress held several hearings of the Joint Commission investigating the attack. There were as many as 9 investigations. Several books are there on it: At Dawn We Slept; Dec 7, 1941; Pearl Harbor Papers; etc. Our people went into the war department in Tokyo and found out that the Japanese espionage had been spying on America for years and that Admiral Yamamoto, the mastermind of the attack, had deliberately chosen Sunday morning as the day to attack. Why? Several reasons – the ships would be in the docks, most sailors would be out on leave because of pay day but more than anything, it was the one day that most people would be down with a hangover. Bottom Line: The Japanese had determined that if America was attacked early Sunday morning, it will find it most vulnerable! As you know, Sunday morning (Dec. 7th 1941) Japanese fighter planes came in. The man at the radar reported but the officer in charge didn’t do anything because of his hangover and the bombs were dropping and destroying our navy. Did God cause it to happen? Absolutely not! We took God’s blessing of the day of rest and turned into a day of hangover and our blessing became a curse. In other words, our Day of Rest became a Date which will live in Infamy, as FDR called it.

This is exactly what God is saying to us today. Every blessing comes from him but when you take him out of the blessing, it becomes a curse – Money (take God out and it becomes our Master); Education (take God out and you have school shootings); Technology (take God out and it becomes a distraction); Freedom (take God out and it becomes a liability); Marriage (take God out and it becomes a misery); and even Children (take God out and they become a nuisance) 3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants…” I would even add Church to that list (take God out and it becomes a meaningless ritualistic burden, a relic of the past). Have your blessings become your curses?

But God is not through – “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it. What’s going on here? To understand that you have to understand how sacrifices were done by the priests in the temple. It’s all laid out in the Book of Leviticus. When a person sinned, they would bring a lamb for the sacrifice. The priest would first examine the Lamb to make sure that it didn’t have any blemish. Keep in mind that all this was pointing to Christ. I Peter 1   18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things…19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Then the person bringing the lamb would place their hands on the head of the lamb. It symbolized the imputation/transfer of the sins of the individual to the animal. Again, it was a picture of Christ, the Lamb of God taking our sins upon himself. Then the priest would take the lamb by the wool and lift it on top of the altar. The altar was sitting North to South with the northern end towards the Holy of Holies. By the way, the cross was located on the north side of Jerusalem. Now, with one stroke of the knife the priest would cut the jugular vein of the lamb and the blood squirting out was caught in a bowl which was then placed on the North side of the altar towards the Holy of Holies. The Blood was to becoming the propitiation for our sins. So also Jesus poured out his blood as an atonement for our sins. Someone might say, “Isn’t that barbaric?” Leviticus 17:11 “…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Hebrews 9:22 “. . . without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Remission means “Cancellation of debt.” God will punish sin. Either he will punish it in the individual or he will punish it in the substitute. Jesus became our substitute. All you have to do is ask him to be your Savior.

What’s next? The priest would then take the blood from the North side of the altar and sprinkle it 7 times before the veil. It would signify God’s acceptance. Now he would come out and apply the blood to the altars. It was a symbol of the way being opened from God to us. Next, the priest would take the knife and quickly flay the lamb. The wool was used for clothing. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The skin was cured and the Bible would be written on it. Christ is the Word of God for us. The meat of the lamb was eaten by the priests. We feed upon Christ daily. Nothing of the lamb was wasted just as everything of Christ is essential for us. Then something else would happen. The priest would remove the intestines which was filled with unexpressed dung and put in a bowl on the south side of the altar. Later, that bowl along with the “offal,” which were the waste parts of the animal, were taken out the dung gate on the south side of the city and dumped on the ash heap outside the city walls. This place was called Gehenna, a place of constant burning. It became a symbol of Hell.

Listen again to verse 3 “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.” Do you get the imagery! God is saying, “If you reject the blood of the Lamb on the north side of the altar, I will smear your face with the dung of the Lamb on the south side of the altar and you will be sent to hell. By the way, this was not just any feast but the solemn feast, the Feast of the Passover. In other words, if you refuse Jesus as your Savior, you will have him as your Judge.

Invitation: Have your blessings become a curse? Have you removed God from your blessings? Have you received the Lamb of God? Is he your Savior or your Judge?

Cold Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

COLD LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Cold Love

Introduction:  Years ago there was a cartoon of an old farmer and his wife riding down the road in a pickup truck. The first frame showed the old farmer sitting behind the wheel with his arm out the window and the wife sitting up against the door on the other side. The second frame showed a young couple passing them. They were sitting so close to each other that you couldn’t tell which one was driving. In the third frame the old woman says to her husband, “Pa, you remember when we used to ride like that…What happened to us?” In the last frame the old farmer replies, “Ma, I ain’t moved…” It’s the same thing when it comes to our relationship with God. If you find that your love for him has grown cold, guess who moved? Not him. This is our first message in our series on the Book of Malachi. It’s called “Cold Love.”

Malachi 1    1 The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord.

Question: “Oh what a weeriness!” Some translations say, “Oh, what a burden!” It has the idea of exhaustion behind it. The people had become tired of serving God. For reasons we will see this morning, they had become sick of God. Does that describe you today? Has the Christian life become a burden for you? Have the things of God become a drag for you? If so, then you need a revival, you need a countershock. As someone said, “before you can be revived, you have to be vived, you have to be saved.” Are you saved?

Context: The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It belongs in a collection known as the Twelve Prophets or the “Minor Prophets.” They’re called “minor” not because they’re less important but because compared to the bigger writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel they were much smaller. But even though Malachi is small in size, it has a big message. To really understand that, we have to understand the context in which it was written. From my study of the language and theology of the book, I believe that it was written sometime towards the end of Nehemiah’s ministry. For those of you who may not be familiar, here’s a quick timeline:

  • In 538 BC God raised Cyrus, King of Persia, to free the Jewish people. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had taken the people into exile and had destroyed everything. Under Cyrus they were able to return and rebuild.
  • Some returned and by 515 BC (23 years later) the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt. God sent his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the people to rebuild the temple.
  • In 458 BC (60 years later) God sent Ezra the scribe to come and read his law to the people and call them to spiritual, moral, and social renewal.
  • In 445 BC (10 years later) God burdened Nehemiah to leave his high-profile position in Persia and rally the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem and they did it in 52 days! He also led them in revival. But then Nehemiah had to go back to Persia and spiritually and morally things began to go downhill again.

This is the time period in which God sent Malachi the prophet to his people. It was God who had brought them back into the land. It was God who had helped them rebuilt their lives. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the temple. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem. You would think that the people would be grateful to God and willing to serve him and obey him. Instead, they were becoming ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards him. Why? They were angry with God over why he had allowed them to go into exile in the first place. Why did so many have to die? Why did so many have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be turned upside down? They had forgotten that it was their sin that had brought the judgment of God. Now they were doubting the power of God, the love of God, and even the existence of God. As a result, some had turned towards atheism, others towards Epicureanism, and yet others had become reluctant believers. In other words, they were simply going through the motions but inside they were defiant towards God.

Illustration: Like the little boy whose daddy made him sit. He sat down with his arms crossed and said, “Fine. I’m sitting on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside.”

Application: Is that you? Have you become cynical and sarcastic towards God because of some bad situations? Are you simply going through the motions? Do you come to church but it’s a duty rather than a desire? Are you angry with God?

So God spoke to his people through Malachi– 1 “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” Some translations have it as “the oracle of the word of the Lord.” I believe that burden is a better translation because the word “massa” in this context has a sense of heaviness. The words that God is about to say to his people are heavy. Every message I preach I ask God to give me a burden for the people, a sense of urgency.

Now listen to the dialogue between God and his people. It’s in a “charge” versus “counter-charge” format – “God Speaks, Israel Speaks” 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. The word for love is “ahab” which has the idea of a sovereign, unconditional, and personal love. It represents covenant love. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” You have to read that with a tone of sarcasm and scoff. They were doubting the character of God.Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” What was God saying? Jacob and Esau were brothers. God in his divine sovereignty had chosen Jacob and his descendants to fulfill his plan of redemption in the world. There was nothing that special about Jacob. It was totally divine election. What God was saying to them is “Don’t you remember that I chose you to be my people? Don’t you remember that I am the reason for your existence?”

Application: Have you forgotten where God has brought you from? Have you forgotten that everything you have is a gift from God? We don’t go back to Jacob but to Jesus.

By the way, why did God say “but Esau I have hated”? The descendants of Esau were the Edomites. They were cousins but they hated the descendants of Jacob, the people of Israel. In fact, when Babylon came up against Jerusalem, the Edomites helped them to destroy the city. God says, “I have — 3 “…laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.” And if they try to rebuild, God said, “I will tear down faster than they can build. ‘They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness.’” In other words, God was saying “I will deal with them for what they’ve done to you.” By the way, sometime in the fifth century a group of Arab tribes drove the Edomites out of their homeland. By around 312 BC the Nabateans took over the region and made Petra their capital city. Nicole and I went there 3 years ago. It’s beautiful but a wasteland to this day.

6 “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts…” They were defying the honor of God. By the way, the reverence of God is not “organ music and lofty prayers.” It’s uncompromised obedience to him. Who were leading the charge here? To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, “In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ The priests and the Levites had no fear of God themselves. When the people would bring defiled food (the leftovers) and rejected stuff to the altar, the show-bread table and the altar of burnt offering, they would not stop them. They would say, “Yeah, it’ll work.” 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. 9 “But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. What a powerful analogy! People still try to offer God their leftover money, time, and talent. We are so prone to give what hurts the least. God says, “If you’re going to give me something, it should cost you something.” Why? It should be a sacrifice. It cost God something when he gave his Son on the cross.

Application: Have you lost the fear of God? Have you lost the reverence of God? Are you still trying to offer God your leftover money, time, and talent?

10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the Lord of hosts. 12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. They were openly disgruntled in worship. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord. Weariness is when you go from “I get to” to “I’ve got to” – “I’ve GOT to go to church” “I’ve GOT to teach S.S.” “I’ve GOT to sing.” “We’ve GOT to tithe.” Listen carefully: If you’ve lost the joy of the Christian life, you might as well stop the work of the Christian life. There’s nothing more dull, dry, boring, and tedious than Christian work without the joy of the Christian life.”

14 “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the Lord of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.

How to know your love has become cold? Doubt the character of God, defy the honor of God, and openly disgruntled in worship. Are you saved?

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