Uncomfortable Obedience by Pastor Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2018)

Manger NativityIntroduction: Thank you once again for being here this evening. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, using our gifts in his service, and leading someone to Christ. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our comfort zones. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Matthew 1     18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a justman,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were in their teenage years or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Joseph today (next Christmas Eve, we may focus on Mary). He was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary was pregnant and it was not his child.What a shock. Furthermore, she was not claiming that she was raped. She was not admitting to any guilt. What a shame. What a scandal. What’s even worse is that the word on the street was that she was claiming to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Joseph must have gone through a range of emotions: Shock, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, and even hate.
  2. They were still in the betrothal period and he was not officially married to her. Even though she was his wife technically, he still had the option to walk away from her. He was not the bad guy in this. No one was blaming him. They knew him better. In fact, they were expecting him to divorce her. Not to do so would be admitting to personal guilt.

Joseph gets a visit from the Angel of the Lord telling him that what Mary is saying is true. Plus, he had to stick around and name that child. Joseph chose to obey God instead of his emotions, his culture, or his family and friends. What would you have done?

How could he do that? The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally.I John 5:3“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Joseph loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

Taking Resentment Out of Marriage

TAKING RESENTMENT OUT OF MARRIAGE – Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

This morning we are in part 2 of the miniseries HEALING MARRIAGES and our message is titled – TAKING RESENTMENT OUT OF MARRIAGE.

Matthew 5   31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Overall Background: Listen to verse 31 again, “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ Why would God allow divorce? Doesn’t it say in Malachi 2:16a, “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence…” Meaning: Divorce is as bad as murder. Actually, God didn’t allow divorce but Moses did. Why did he do that? The Pharisees asked Jesus that same question in Matthew 19 7 “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” Listen to what Jesus said in verse 8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. Meaning: Divorce was the product of hardheartedness. In God’s original vision of marriage, divorce was not in it. But because of hardheartedness, bitterness, and resentment, Moses allowed it.

Listen carefully – “Hardness of hearts” is at the root of all marital problems. It happens when people become closed off to each other, bitter and resentful to each other, and even refuse to hear what God has to say. In that situation, God allows them to do whatever they stubbornly want to do.

Question: Is there hardness of heart in your marriage? Is there bitterness in your home? Is there resentment in your marriage? Have you turned towards God to set you free? Are you willing to let grace flood through your marriage? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this message that will teach us how to take resentment out of marriage:

I. WHAT IS HARDNESS OF HEARTS? 

8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives,

Background: To understand this, we have to go all the way back to why Moses originally gave this command to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 24   1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, 2 when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, 4 then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; What in the world is going on here? Among many pagan cultures the wife was considered the husband’s property. He could do whatever he wanted to with her. If he got tired of her or if he was mad with her or if he was in debt, he could sell her off to someone else. Later, if he got over his anger or if the debt got paid or if the second husband died, he could get her back. God said, “Absolutely Not!” – “for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.” What God was saying is – “I see through your scam. Don’t try to fool me. I know what you’re doing. You are copying the world and that is an abomination to me. It is lowdown, disgraceful, and shameful.” Human nature kicks in – “But what if there’s something unclean in her?” God said, “Fine. Give her a certificate of divorce but you cannot get her back. I’m not going to let you make a mockery of marriage.”

Jesus refers to this as the hardness of hearts. If there were true love in the marriage, this would not even be an issue. Either the man was just a lowdown jerk or something terrible must have happened in this marriage for him to stoop to that level. It must have been something so terrible that his heart was hardened forever towards his wife. It could also be that the wife was not so innocent. She must have done something repeatedly or bad enough to drive him to that point. At the end of the day, either their hearts or at least the man’s heart had become hardened, bitter, and resentful to treat his wife like livestock that he could barter or trade or sell.

When hardness of the heart gets in a marriage, men and women treat each other like livestock. They do things that are unbelievable. Question: Are you treating each other like livestock? Is there hardness of heart in your marriage? Some example of this is talking down to your spouse. Then, there is talking down to your spouse in front of the kids. Also, talking down to your spouse in front of others. It includes putting your needs above their needs. Divorce is the ultimate but there are many other things that happen before that point. What has happened to your marriage that your heart has become so hardened, bitter, and resentful?

II. HOW WAS MARRIAGE IN THE BEGINNING? 

8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Background: What beginning is Jesus referring to? He is referring to beyond Moses and the Law to the beginning of the creation. How do we know that? Because in the gospel of Mark the same incident is recorded and it says in Mark 10   5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation…” How does Jesus know how it was in the beginning? Because He was there! As Colossians and Hebrews tell us, the Son created the world. It means Jesus created Adam and Eve. He brought Eve to Adam and saw the childlike excitement in Adam’s eyes. He saw Eve as she walked towards Adam. It was love at first sight. Jesus must have looked up and saw the smile on the Father’s face and the Spirit was all over them. Then there was perfect intimacy. Genesis 2:25 “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” You can picture the angels high fiving each other and the Father says – “Boys, give em some privacy.” They were in love. She respected him and he lead her lovingly.

Marriage in the beginning is awesome! Like the French proverb says – “All beginnings are lovely.” In that “Velcro stage,” as someone called it, everything is “honey” and “sweetie.” I remember our wedding day like it was yesterday. I hadn’t slept a wink the night before. Nothing crazy. No bachelor party or nothing. My groomsmen were a bunch of losers! I want to Photoshop them out of the wedding picture but Nicole won’t let me. I was nervous but excited. “I am getting married! So awesome!” Then I saw Nicole walking down the aisle and she was beautiful! Then the vows – Nicole cried the whole time. I gave my vows to her dad. I looked at him the whole time. I didn’t want to mess up. Bottom line: we were in love! When in love, marriage is amazing! It’s a glimpse of heaven on earth.

How does hardness of heart get in a marriage? In every marriage there are certain expectations. When these expectations are not met, it leads to disappointments, hurt feelings, and anger. When these are left unresolved, hardness of the heart or resentment sets in. Some examples:

  • Unrealistic understanding of marriage –people enter marriage with rose-colored glasses. He makes me happy. She is the best thing that ever happened to me.
  • Broken promises and lost dreams – “I’ll be home by 5 today. I promise.” “I’m sorry I had to deal with a phone call. It’ll be 6:30 before I get home.” Then you hear things like – “He was never there for the kids.” “She’s always there for the kids but nothing for me.”
  • Unresolved hurts from the past – When we carry old baggage from the past into marriage, we tend to push it on the unsuspecting partner. Things like childhood abuse, parental failures, broken relationships, broken marriages, and other crisis.
  • Trauma or crisis – Health troubles, accidents, job loss, financial troubles, etc. are unfortunate. They can draw us together or tear us apart.
  • Depression and other emotional and physical struggles – In the beginning of a relationship, certain chemicals in the brain can offset depression for a while. But, after the newness has worn off, the old creeps back in and with it hardness of the heart and resentment. Sometimes it is chronic sickness and health decisions.

I can go on and on but the point is this – “hardness of the heart” can enter through the expected and unexpecteds of life and destroy the joy and the fulfillment in marriage. Because people cannot forgive, forget, let go, move on, turn the page, make amends, step in the other person’s shoes that something as beautiful as marriage needs a certificate of divorce.

Application: What expected and unexpected of life has caused hardness of the heart in your marriage? Are you bitter towards your spouse? Do you resent your mate?

III. WHAT IS THE CURE FOR RESENTMENT?

Here are the steps to cure resentment:

  1. Recognize the danger of hardness of heart/resentment/bitterness.

Hebrews 12   14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: Resentment will obstruct your view of God. 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; Resentment will spread to those around you.

  1. Confess your hardness of heart/resentment/bitterness as a sin.

Ephesians 4 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

  1. Accept God’s plan for your marriage and family.

Colossians 3 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

  1. Repeat the above daily.

Illustration: Sunday evenings at our home are very uneventful. After a long weekend, we’re usually crash in the living room; watch a show or a movie. Then it happens – 9 pm and it’s time for the younger kids to head to beds for school next morning. Then either Nicole or I will remember – “Trash pickup on Monday morning!” “Whoa! Before you got to bed, please take out the trash.” We will usually get things like – “We’re tired. Can we do it in the morning? I got some homework.” Our answer – “We have to cause if we don’t it will stink. I’ll have to take it in my truck and it will be messy. We have so much going on this week, if we don’t do it now, we won’t get to do it later.”

Same with hardness of heart/bitterness/resentment – daily you have to take out the trash. If not, no wonder your marriage and family is reeking.

Are you saved?

Healing Marriages

HEALING MARRIAGES – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Today we are starting a 2-part series called HEALING MARRIAGES.

Matthew 5   31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Overall Background: Listen to verse 31 again, “it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ After discussing the difficult subject of adultery, Jesus turned his attention towards divorce. For Jesus to address this subject in His greatest sermon is an indicator that divorce was a big issue at the time. In fact, you may remember in Matthew 19:3 “The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’” The reason they questioned Him is because divorce was a hot-button issue at the time. And what is amazing to me is that Jesus did not shy away from these questions but faced them head on. He did not sugar coat the truth and neither did he talk condemningly towards those who were divorced. Instead, He told the truth but in love.

Unfortunately, the church has failed terribly on this point – we have avoided this topic; we have failed to help those going through divorce; and, sadly, we have looked down upon those who have been through it. And when we have discussed it, we have either treated divorce as if it’s not a big deal or as if it’s the unpardonable sin. Both of these extremes are wrong. What we need is a biblical perspective on divorce – something that will bring truth, grace, healing, and hope to broken hearts.

Question: Have you been through divorce? Are you healed from the pain? Do you know someone who is going through it? Are you helping or praying for them? Are you contemplating divorce in your marriage? Do you know Christ as your Savior?

This series is not to condemn anyone for past decisions but to offer help and healing in the present. What we’re going to do today is look at some of the top reasons why people get divorced and how we can prevent them. Although there are many reasons, we will look at only the top 6 reasons for divorce, starting with #6.

(My information is from the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.)

#6. ADDICTION

According to the study, 23% of divorces were due to Alcohol and drug abuse. Marriage is tough as it is without the added burden of addiction. It is like running a three-legged race but you’re dragging the other person. This is especially harder when the addiction was not known in the beginning of the relationship. When it does come out, it leads to a lot of trust issues. It leaves a lot of resentment – “How could you do this to me?” Sometimes, there is knowledge about the addiction but the other person says, “Once we’re married, it’ll all change. I can change him/her.” It actually gets worse and worse.

For e.g. Growing up we knew this family down the street. The man had a problem with alcohol. At the end of the month, it was pretty much understood in the neighborhood that there was going to be a show tonight. Some people would actually bring out their lawn chairs and watch the show! It was very embarrassing and painful for the family.

What’s the answer? Commitment to solid biblical counseling. Titus 2   11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

Application: Are you struggling with addiction? Are you seeking help? Are you willing to commit to getting help? Do you see the pain you are causing those who love you?

#5. FINANCES

According to the report, 24% of the divorces were due to differences in financial priorities and spending habits. This is a tough one – children, sickness, accidents, things break down. Then, there’s the human nature, like the old adage – “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” Unfortunately, many couples have no concept of financial planning. When bills start piling up and creditors start calling, couples tend to turn against each other.

What’s the answer? Learn how to budget, live within your means, eliminate debt, and be truthful with each other. Here’s another major answer – start tithing. Proverbs 3   9 Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.

Illustration: A well-worn one-dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty-dollar bill arrive at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they move along the conveyor belt to be burned, they strike up a conversation. The twenty-dollar bill reminisces about its travels all over the county – “I’ve had a pretty good life. I have been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean.” “Wow!” says the one-dollar bill. “You have really had an exciting life! “So tell me,” says the twenty, “where have you been throughout your lifetime?” The one dollar bill replies, “Oh, I have been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church….” The twenty-dollar bill suddenly interrupts, “What’s a church?”

Be generous. Proverbs 11:25 The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.

Application: How are your finances? Are you willing to get help? Are you willing to tithe? Are you willing to be generous?

# 4. EMOTIONAL ABUSE

According to the study, 29% of the divorces were due to emotional abuse. We’re not talking about physical violence here but it still hurts. Maybe it’s because of the way someone was raised or maybe they went through abuse growing up. Sometimes it’s because of past resentments. Couples take jabs at each other, especially in public. Many promises are made but things do not change.

What is the answer? Ask God to change your spirit. Ephesians 4:2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,

Application: Is there emotional abuse in your marriage? Are you the abuser? Do you belittle your spouse? Is there pent-up resentment in your heart? Have you admitted before God that this is a sin? Have you repented and asked God to help you with it?

# 3. SPOUSE’S IMMATURITY

According to the research, 30% of the divorces are due to a spouse’s immaturity. Emotionally immature people are those who do not know how to handle anger, guilt, fear, grief, jealousy, insecurity, disappointment, and resentment. They don’t know how to handle life’s challenges. They easily get stuck in negative emotions. They tend to control people around them. They blame others for all their problems. They are self-centered and selfish. They may look adult but they are like a spoiled brat – Momma’s boy or daddy’s girl. They pout, whine, cry, manipulate, and hurt others. When confronted, they are in denial.

What’s the answer? Grow up! Ephesians 4 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

Application: Are you emotionally immature? Are you selfish and self-centered? Do you blame others for your problems? What are you going to do about it? Are you taking steps to grow in your maturity?

# 2. INCOMPATIBLE

According to this study, 30% felt that they were tired of making a poor match work. The common statement is “we are just two very different people. It’s just not working out.”

What’s the answer? Marriage is not about compatibility but about commitment. Once you have made up your mind that this is it, then this is it! You have to do whatever you can to make it compatible – spend time, go places together, encourage one another, see the best in each other, and understand your own weakness and weaknesses.

For e.g. I was reading an article which had a true story of this woman who had gone through a divorce. After the divorce, she felt that it was time to start dating again and her friends talked her into opening an account on match.com. “She received her first list of potential matches and at the very top of the list, her top match out of thousands of potential men was none other than her ex-husband!”

There is one compatibility you do need to worry about – Does the other person know Christ? 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”

Application: How committed are you to your marriage? Have you tried to look at life from your spouse’s perspective? What steps are you taking to make your marriage work?

#1. ADULTERY

According to research, 37% of divorces are due to unfaithfulness in marriage. In the last series I talked about the causes and consequences of adultery.

What’s the answer? Forgiveness. Listen to Colossians 3:12   Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Conclusion: According to research, about 40-50% of first marriages end in divorce or permanent separation and 60% of second marriages end in divorce. Each year one million children in America face divorce and half will face it again. Culture is trying to tear down marriage. God is still for marriage.

What steps are you taking to safeguard your marriage? The place to begin is by asking – “Do you know Christ as your Savior?” Then, “Are you submitted to the authority of the Holy Spirit in your life?” “Are you living according to the Word of God?”

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