AMERICA TOMORROW (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

AMERICA TOMORROW Article by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Candidates,

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

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

Here are some things that are not broken:

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

Here are some things that need to be fixed:

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

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

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN (PART 2)

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

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

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

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

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

I. WHY DO WE PAY TAXES?

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. HOW MUCH TAXES SHOULD WE PAY?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. We begin to change.

2. We begin to take a stand.

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

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

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 important points we will see in this passage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO DECIDES MY DESTINY?

WHO DECIDES MY DESTINY by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Who Decides My Destiny

Romans 10:1-4  1Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Romans 10:9  9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Background: If you want to know what it means to be saved, this is the book for you. If you want to know why Jesus died on the cross, what does it mean that we are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, what does it mean that we are no longer under Law but under grace, what does it mean to live by the Spirit—this is the book for you. This book makes perfect sense right up until Romans 8. Starting in Romans 9 until 11 Paul seems to be going off on a tangent and talking about the people of Israel – the Jewish people.

Many people have come to Romans 9 and have drawn some unbiblical conclusions. One of those conclusions is that – God has chosen only a certain few to go to heaven and the others He has chosen to go to hell. Last week someone called me and asked my opinion about a church they were visiting in another city. They asked if this church was liberal and after looking at their website I told them that it is definitely not liberal but they hold to the view that God has elected certain people to go to heaven and certain to hell.

The question this morning is—is that true? Has God indeed elected some people for heaven and others for hell? The answer is absolutely, positively NO! You have a choice.

So why do people draw such conclusions? Because they rip Romans 9 right out of context. Has anyone ever taken you out of context? Yesterday was a hot day. What if I had said – “Man, it’s a hot day! I can kill for a glass of lemonade.” Right then someone happened to walk by and all they heard was – “I can kill” and they call the FBI and report me as a professional assassin. All because I said – “I can kill.”

What is the context of Romans 9? In the earliest church, there was a great controversy over the purpose of the Jewish people. No longer did people have to keep the Law, offer sacrifices, observe circumcision to be saved, and so the question came up – If we don’t have to become a Jewish person in order to be saved, then are they still God’s chosen people? If they are still God’s chosen people, do they still have to believe in Jesus to be saved? There was also some resentment against them since many had rejected Him.

In Romans 9, 10, and 11, Paul is explaining the role of the Jewish people in God’s kingdom. He begins by reminding the church that he had a great burden for them. Listen to Rom. 9:2-4 2…I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ (cast out from Christ) for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4who are Israelites…” Throughout the centuries people have persecuted the Jewish people. That is wrong.

Then he reminds in Romans 9:4 that they are indeed the chosen ones “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.” The people of Israel are God’s people to bring His plan of salvation into this world.

Why did God make this choice? He is sovereign. Listen to verse 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” This is from Genesis where God said that He will use Jacob to lead and Esau to look to him. Not salvation but service.

13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” This is from Malachi, where God judged the descendants of Esau – the Edomites – because of their immorality and disobedience. It had nothing to do with salvation. God preserved Jacob’s line to bring the Messiah into the world and he punished Esau’s line for spreading sin.

Someone might say – “That’s unfair, that God continued to work with Jacob and not with the others.” 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Keep in mind that this is not mercy unto salvation but unto preserving the plan of salvation. Listen to verse 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. Pharaoh had a choice – he could have gotten on board with God’s plan of salvation and helped the Hebrews (Jewish people). Instead, he hardened his heart and in turn God made an example out of him.

I can go on and on but the point is simple – God sovereignly chose the Jewish people to bring His plan of salvation into this world.

But now listen carefully – Every Jewish person had to individually choose God’s plan of salvation. Go back to Rom. 9:6-7  6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”

Rom. 10:1Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”

Application: Collectively, you can enjoy God’s blessings at Clearview but, individually, you can still be lost. Collectively, you can enjoy the blessings of living in this nation blessed by God but, individually, you can still be lost and go to hell.

The Jewish people had a lot of false ideas about being saved.

A.   DEDICATION

Romans 10:2-3  2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Background: Ever since Israel returned from Babylon, they were zealous in serving God. They were done worshipping idols. They were going to the synagogues and to the temples. They were teaching the Law of God. In fact, they had even added more laws to the Law. They were zealous for God but without knowledge. Paul was an example of that. Philippians 3:4-6 4though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

It was the Golden Age of Judaism and their golden age crucified Jesus Christ.

Let me ask you something: Is it possible to be dedicated/zealous and still be lost? Yes.

For e.g. Mrs. Mary Johnson would often share with me how she was dedicated to the  church and taught Sunday School, and served as women’s ministry leader and she was lost. She had zeal (dedication) for God and she was trying to please God but she was lost.

Application: Many people are sincere in what they are doing, but they are sincerely lost.

B.   HIGH STANDARDS

3For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

Background: “Being ignorant of God’s righteousness” does not mean that the Jewish people were ignorant of the Holiness and Righteousness of God. In fact, they were quite proud that unlike the pagans and their sexually immoral lifestyles, they had some very high standards of righteousness and purity. But it was still not the righteousness of God.

Matthew 5:20  For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Application: We have friends and family members who think that they are good enough to get to heaven because they are not living an immoral lifestyle; they don’t lie and cheat and hurt people; they pay their taxes and do their part to help their community; they serve in their church and support a few charity organizations; they are good neighbors and upstanding citizens.  All that is good but there is only one problemthey are seeking to establish their own righteousness.

C.    KEEPING THE LAW

Rom. 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Background: God gave the Law (the 10 commandments, sacrifices, priesthood and festivals) to the people of Israel to warn them against the dangers of sin, to protect them from the effects of sin, to separate them from the influence of the sinful nations around them. The Law kept them together as a society, as a people, and as a nation until the Seed should came. Josephus the historian tells us: “The Jew (ish person) knows the Law better than his own name… Countless thousands would go to their great feasts. Over and above the Law….Many died on the cross and were willing to burned alive and thrown to the lions because of their loyalty to the Law. They were also very evangelistic, trying to convert the Gentiles to the Law of Moses. But they still missed the purpose of the Law.

Instead of letting the Law lead them to Christ, the Jewish people began to worship the Law. They thought that keeping the Law was going to save them. Paul says, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Application: Keeping the 10 commandments will do absolutely nothing for your salvation. People often ask me “You don’t think we need the 10 commandments today?” Yes we do. We need them in the Capital Building, courtroom, and classrooms. We need to teach them to our kids. They will preserve our society, and our nation. They will give them a sense of right and wrong. But, they will not save you.

Now Paul explains to them the right idea about getting saved.

Listen to Romans 10: 8-9  8But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): meaning = it’s not that complicated.

9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

#1.IF YOU CONFESS, MAKE SURE YOU BELIEVE IT. There are a lot of people who have confessed but they’ve never believed. They are still lost. By faith, you accept that Jesus is the Son of God who died for you.

10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

#2.IF YOU BELIEVE, MAKE SURE YOU CONFESS IT.

There is no such thing as secret Christians and private Christians. God wants us to declare publicly that we are followers of Jesus Christ. During Jesus’ earthly ministry –  John 12:42-43 42Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Listen to how Jesus responds in Matthew 10:32-33  32“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

For e.g. Adrian Rogers gave a great illustration of the woman who was sitting in the choir and the Holy Spirit was working on her that she needed to be saved. Her friend saw her agony and said, “Let’s go down to the front and give your heart to Christ.” She said, “I am too embarrassed to go to the front. Can I not get saved here?” The friend replied, “No you can’t.”Next night the same thing; next night, again, the same thing. On the last night, She was in agony again. This time she leaned over to her friend and said, “I am ready to go down.” The friend replied, “Now, you are ready to get saved, right here.”

You cannot confess and not believe and you cannot believe and not confess.

Application: Many are sitting on the sidelines that have never openly acknowledged that they are saved. Baptism is an important way of making that declaration. Someone says, “But I am embarrassed.” Listen to Romans 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. Jew or Greek – the same Lord will be rich to all who call on Him. 13For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

DEALING WITH DOUBTS AND DISCOURAGEMENT

DEALING WITH DOUBTS AND DISCOURAGEMENT

Romans 8:28-31 28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Calvinism vs ArminianismOverall Background: The passage we just read is one of the most discussed passages in seminaries and theological circles. In college—I remember—you could walk by the dorm rooms and hear guys discussing “Predestination and Election” – Has God indeed predestined some people to go to heaven and some to go to hell? Has God indeed chosen some before they were even born? In seminary—I remember—hot debates over Calvinism and Arminianism, “Once saved always saved,” and “can you lose your salvation?” Because of this one passage, Christians across the world have been divided for centuries. Why? Some people have misunderstood this passage.

Please listen very carefully: the reason people misunderstand this passage is because they disregard the context surrounding this passage. Has someone ever misunderstood you and taken you out of context? In the same way, people have taken just a few verses here and there and disregarded the context of Romans 8. This chapter is not about how God saves people. This chapter is about how God keeps His people saved.

Meaning: This passage is not about whether God elects who will be saved and who will not. This passage is not about whether God predestines who will come to Him. This passage is about how God always finishes the work that He starts in the life of every believer. He never leaves a job half-done.

Application: No matter what is happening in your life; No matter how terrible things appear to you; No matter what bad things you have done; if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, then God will work all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

In Romans 7-8, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has been teaching us about the struggle in the life of every Christian. Romans 7:15 “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” This is the struggle against the Old Nature, the Indwelling Sin, and “the evil present with me.” I am saved. I am a new creation in Christ. I have been crucified, buried, and resurrected in Christ but as long as I live in this world, I have to deal with this Old Nature.  Romans 7:24 “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The answer comes back in the next verse Romans 7:25 “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Meaning: the only way I can have victory is when I keep my eyes on Christ, when I follow Christ, when I reckon myself by faith to be in Christ.

Who helps me to keep my eyes on Christ and follow Christ and reckon myself to be in Christ? The Holy Spirit. When I get saved, God sends His Holy Spirit to live in me. As I walk in the Spirit, I put to death the deeds of the flesh. As I walk in the Spirit, He enables me to pray. Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

What’s more? As we face the doubts and discouragements of life, the Holy Spirit helps us every day.

I. HE HELPS US WITH OUR PAST QUESTIONS.

Romans 8:29-30  29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Background: That word “foreknew” has been debated to no end. Prior to the coming of  Augustine, the pastor of Hippo in North Africa in the fourth century, people had no problem with that word. It meant knowing something or someone beforehand. Augustine came along and said that foreknowledge is much more. In fact, God has elected some people out of His own free will and He knows them beforehand. Some people have said that the word for foreknowledge – “proginoskein” – has a pregnant meaning of “making someone the object of loving care.” They do that by breaking that word apart into fore + knowledge. Here’s the problem with that – let’s take that word “mouse pad.” We all know what that means. But if I were to break it apart into a mouse and a pad, it would not be correct. Now, that’s an extreme example but I hope you get the point.

Foreknowledge does not mean “God making someone an object of His love and saving them.” It simply means that God knew beforehand what we were going to do and what we were going to choose. He knew us even before we were born.

David says in Psalms 139:1-6  1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. 3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether (already).

Psalms 139:13-15  13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret. . .”

David agrees with Paul that God knew Him beforehand. God knew what He would do, what He would choose, and what He would become.

What does He do with that knowledge? 29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined (proorizein  – should be translated as pre-appointed or appointed beforehand – not to be saved but to become like Jesus) to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. God knows all my past. He knows what I have done. He knows my weaknesses. But, when I come to Him for salvation, He doesn’t turn me away. Instead, He sets me up to become like His Son, Jesus.

Listen to the rest – 30Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. It is all past tense. Meaning: When I come to Christ, He does not wait for me to act. He goes ahead and applies everything to my account. As far as He is concerned, you are as good as in heaven – already glorified! 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Application: You may say “I don’t feel glorified. I don’t feel justified. I don’t feel called. Some days, I don’t even feel saved.” Dear friends, from God’s perspective, when He sees you, He sees Jesus. He is your brother. You are part of the family of God. What are you worried about?

The first thing the Holy Spirit does – 1. He helps us with our past questions.

II. HE HELPS US WITH OUR PRESENT NEEDS

Romans 8:32-37 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Background: That is simple enough. What do you need? Is there anything that is too much for God? Will God draw a line and say – “I can do only so much and no more.”

For e.g. If you go to buy a very expensive watch, the beautiful and ornate case is free.

Jesus promised His disciples back in John 16:23-28  23“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. . . 26In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

The same promise that Jesus made to His disciples are now made to every believer.

Application: What is destroying your peace? What eats your sleep? Have you turned to your Heavenly Father for it? Financial need, relationships, wisdom, strength, grace.

Jesus Intercedes for usSomeone says, “You don’t know how bad I have been. God’s not going to answer my prayers.” 33Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Meaning: We not only have the Holy Spirit interceding for us but we also have Jesus praying for us.

For e.g. We often say “It’s not what you know but who you know that matters.” To be honest, it’s neither. “It’s not what you know or who you know that matters. What matters is who knows you.” Jesus, who knows our every weakness, is the one who is interceding for us.

Application: Why do we listen to the enemy? Why do listen to those who only desire to bring us pain? Why do we only think of negative thoughts? God has promised us so much more in Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit – 1. He helps us with our past questions; 2. He helps us with our present needs.

III. HE HELPS US WITH OUR FUTURE FEARS

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Background: No matter what is coming, one thing is for sure – the love of Christ will always remain.

36As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

38For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jacob cried in Genesis – “all these things are against me.”

Paul replies in Romans – “all things work together for God for me.”

Application: Are you saved? Are you looking to Christ? Are you trusting the Holy Spirit to help you?

WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA? (Article)

WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA? (Article)

Every day I run into people who are afraid, discouraged, and hopeless about the future of our nation. They seem to have one or more of the following three attitudes: REMINISCE, RESIGN, and RETREAT.

  1. REMINISCE – Some say, “America’s best days are over. We are just like the Roman Empire in its final days. Just reminisce/remember the past. That is all that’s left.” There are several problems with this view. In some sense, we are like Rome – wealthiest nation, largest military, largest multi-ethnic population. We also seem to have the same problems that Rome did – immorality, breakdown of the family, weak borders. Nevertheless, when you truly compare America with Rome, there are more differences than similarities. Rome was founded upon myths and mythologies of gods and goddesses; America was founded upon Judeo-Christian values. Rome was highly unstable; America is still very stable politically and socially. Christianity in Rome had lost its momentum; Christianity in America is still alive and well. The list goes on.
  2. RESIGN – Others say, “All government is evil and Christians should just wash their hands from it. Politics is just a waste of time.” Although this sounds spiritual, there are several problems with this view. If our Christian forefathers through the centuries had believed this way, infanticide and child abandonment would still be legal; gladiators would have continued to die in brutal battles-to-the-death; human sacrifices would have wiped out entire cultures; pedophilia would be perfectly legal; polygamy in the Western world would not be a problem; burning alive of widows in India would have continued; Slavery and slave trade would still be with us; and the list goes on. Jesus has not called us to abandon the market place but to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13-4)
  3. RETREAT – There are yet others who claim, “It’s the end of the world. Let’s just get ready for Jesus to come.” Let me be clear – I believe that Christ is coming again. The OT has 300 prophecies of the first coming of Christ but 500 about His Second Coming! If you add up all the verses on the Second Coming in the Bible, the total is about 2400! In the NT itself one out of every 25 verses has to do with His Second Coming. There is no doubt that Jesus is coming again, but…..before He comes to make all things right, He will come for His church. No one can expedite or predict the rapture of the church. But once the church is gone, then begins the Tribulation with signs leading to the Second Coming of Christ. Bottom Line: The rapture could be tonight or 200 hundred years from now—only God knows.

So if the attitude of REMINISCE, RESIGN, and RETREAT are wrong, what’s next for America?

I believe that we are living in a time of aftershocks from the sexual revolution of the sixties. History shows that such periods are normal when values are tested and re-tested. Some old ideas are buried and new ideas are birthed. But it does not mean that all is lost and hopeless. In fact, listen to what God says in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” As people of God, let’s trust Him to raise up a new generation that will bring America back to Him. Let’s be optimistic; let’s encourage our young people; and let’s make room for them.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA?

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

With all that has happened in our nation in the past week, many people are afraid, discouraged, and hopeless about the future of our nation. So this morning I want to preach a message titled “WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA?”

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

1 Samuel 1:1-2  1Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
1 Samuel 1:10-11 10And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. 11Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

Setting: In the past week, I have seen 3 different reactions to our elections: REMINISCE, RESIGN, and RETREAT.

1.     REMINISCE – I’ve heard some people say, “America’s best days are over. Just reminisce/remember the past. That is all that’s left. We are just like the Roman Empire in its final days.”

  • There are several problems with this view.
  • In some sense, we are like Rome – one of the wealthiest nation, largest military, largest multi-ethnic population.
  • We also seem to have the same problems that Rome did – moral problems, breakdown of the family unit, too many laws and lawsuits, weak borders.
  • But when you truly compare them, there are more differences than similarities.
  • Foundation: Rome was founded upon myths and mythologies of gods and goddesses; America was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles.
  • Church and Christians had hardly any voice in Rome; Christians are still a strong majority in this nation.
  • Attitude towards other countries – Rome conquered people and made them Romans; America has brought freedom and liberty to many peoples so they could hold their own elections.

2.     RESIGN – Some people have said, “Politics is a waste of time; all government is evil and Christians should just wash their hands from it. It’s not worth it. Jesus is my President. Christians should focus only on reaching the lost. ”

  • Although it sounds spiritual, there are several problems with this view.
  • If our Christian ancestors through the centuries had believed this way, infanticide and child abandonment would still be legal; gladiators would have continued to die in their brutal battles-to-the-death; human sacrifice would have continued and wiped out many nations; pedophilia would be perfectly legal; polygamy in the Western world would not be a problem; burning alive of women in India would have continued; Slavery and slave trade would have continued; and the list goes on.
  • It matters! Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16  13“You are the salt of the earth…

3.     RETREAT – Let’s just get ready for Jesus to come.

  • My study of the scripture tells me that Jesus will return again.
  • Did you know there are 300 prophecies in the OT of the first coming of Christ? Did you also know that there 500 in the OT about His Second Coming! If you add up all the verses on the second coming from the OT and NT, the total is about 2400! In the NT itself one out of every 25 verses has to do with the Second Coming of Jesus. Bottom Line: Jesus is coming back to make all things right.
  • But I want you to understand something. Things don’t have to be bad for Him to come. We or the world cannot expedite His coming.
  • He could come right now for the church—in the blinking of an eye—and then the Tribulation will begin.
  • You and I cannot set the calendar for the rapture by the events in the world.

So if the 3 different reactions to our elections—REMINISCE, RESIGN, and RETREAT—are wrong, how are we as Christians to live in a time like this? What’s next for America?

There was a period in the history of the people of Israel that resembles our time today. This was a very difficult time in the history of Israel. It was a time of change and transition. The old order was being pulled down and the new order was going up. The old order of the judges was being pulled down and the new order of the kings was going up. Things were not going too well.

Listen again to Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Overall Background: Those are the last words in the Book of Judges. The Nation was in bad shape. From every direction they were falling apart The only leaders over them were the priests. They had been the supreme authority over the people of Israel but they could not do but so much. They could not rule the people. They could not unite the people. They could not lead them in battle against their enemies. They needed a king:

–         Canaan had been conquered but it was far from being subdued.

–         In the South, the Philistines were still in control of 5 cities.

–         Jerusalem was still under Jebusite control.

–         The Seacoast was still in the hands of the Canaanites.

–         The little kingdom of Gezer was still independent.

–         To the north – the mighty kingdoms that Joshua had conquered were still not completely in control.

Why did God allow this? Why didn’t God help them win over these nations?

To understand that you have to read the opening of the Book of Judges

Judges 3:1-2  1Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan 2(this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it),

Did you hear that? The reason behind their defeat was God! God allowed those nations to remain. Why? To test them; to teach them war; to give them a backbone and muscle.

Application: Isn’t this the situation in our own lives. We have wars when we were hoping for peace; frustrations instead of rest; turmoil when we wanted tranquility. Why? God is testing us. He is teaching us to war. So that we may know ourselves; know God; rely upon Him; call upon Him. So that we may become strong in the Lord.

So also for our nation—God is testing us. He is teaching us to war. He is building some backbone and some muscle in us. Just when we were hoping for peace, there is turmoil. Just when we were hoping for a solution, we have a problem. All this is for our good.

Back to the story of Israel—how was God teaching them to war? When the Philistines and the other nations would come against Israel, God would raise up a judge to lead his people to war. This person would rally God’s people and teach them to war. This was the time that God raised up a Gideon, Barak, Sampson, and a Deborah. If it wasn’t for God leaving these nations, we would have never heard of them. Nevertheless, their impact was limited. There was no central government. The nation was on the brink of falling apart from the inside and outside.

Application: Doesn’t this somewhat describe our nation? God has bailed us out time and again. He has raised a leader here and a leader there – a D.L. Moody here and Billy Graham; a James Dobson here and James Kennedy there. But their impact has been limited.

By the way, it might be worth mentioning here that the priesthood had also become corrupt. The High Priest’s (Eli) sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were stealing from the people. The judges could fight against the enemy but they couldn’t fight against the priests.

It was time for a change of order. God was ready to bring down the order of the judges and set up the order of the Kings.

Application: People have asked me repeatedly in the past few days. What is God up to? Is God punishing us? Has God abandoned us? To the contrary, He is setting up a new order. He wants to teach His people to war. He wants to test us. He wants to build us up. For too long we have sat comfortably thinking that everybody thinks like us. Not true! He is bringing in a new order of things. He wants to bring about national unity. He wants to turn the hearts of the people back towards Him. If anything, the past week has shown that we are a nation divided.

Back to the history of Israel—how did God go about bringing a change?

–         Did He get the priest to announce that it’s time to change? No

–         Did He bring a King and set him on a throne? No

God’s greatest gifts come through sorrow and suffering. That which costs nothing will achieve nothing.

Application: We are enjoying the blessings of this great nation because others have paid the price.

For e.g. Did you know that many of the soldiers who fought in the revolutionary wars did not have shoes? Washington had to plead with the Congress to get the men some shoes. They had frost bites. They had no food. They slept out in the cold. We have forgotten them and not to mention they many many others who have given their lives through the years for our nation.

It began with a woman named Hannah. She was the second wife of a man named Elkanah. She was barren. Her sister wife would mock her and mistreat her. One day when they went to the house of the Lord, Hannah slipped away by herself and began to pray.

Listen to 1 Samuel 1:10-11 10And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. 11Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

God heard her prayer and in time she had a son named Samuel. True to her word she gave him to the Lord.

–         This is the Samuel who went up and down the length and breadth of Israel to unite the people.

–         This is the Samuel who set up the order of the Kings.

–         This is the Samuel who replaced Saul with David – the true King. Through that line came Jesus—the son of David—whose kingdom will never end.

All because one young woman suffered and pleaded with the Lord and kept her word to the Lord. She could have hung on to her only child but she gave him for the service of God.

Application: What is God doing in America? He is pulling down the order of the judges and raising up the order of the kings—boys and girls who will conquer this world for Jesus Christ. We may have to suffer a while. We may have to give up some personal comforts. But in the end, the reward would be worth it.

I am more hope-filled than ever about our nation. Because now God is getting ready to raise up Davids and Daniels and Esthers. What is God calling you to do to bring our nation together? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Are you telling others, especially the young generation about Him?

STOP. THINK. VOTE.

STOP. THINK. VOTE.

Winston Churchill supposedly said, “The strongest argument against democracy is a five-minute discussion with the average voter.” True or not—it seems that way more and more. People seem to be voting more by assumption rather than information, feelings rather than facts, and rhetoric rather than results. Oops….Let me leave the rhetoric behind and share with you some wrong and right reasons to consider before you vote for a candidate.

Here are some wrong reasons to vote for a candidate:

  1. Party Loyalty – Often people vote a certain way because they think that it would be wrong to abandon their party after all these years. Here’s the question that every voter should ask: “Has my party abandoned me?” “Does it still have my best interest in mind?” “Are my values important to those I am electing?” Don’t let someone use you just for your vote.
  2. Skin Color – What makes America wonderful is that unlike some countries we have shown that anyone—regardless of the shade of their skin—can be the President of the United States. With the same token, we need to show the world that Americans look deeper to the principles and values of our candidates. What matters is what they stand for rather than what they look like.
  3. Religious Faith – Americans have repeatedly shown that a candidate’s religious tradition is not as important as his moral values. A person may claim to be “born again” and still lose the re-election campaign if his values and economic policies are not ours. Thomas Jefferson—the third President—was a deist but he reduced the national debt by a third.

So what are the right reasons to vote for a candidate? Deuteronomy 1:13 says, “Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.” Let’s look at those three qualities:

  1. Wise – from the Hebrew word hokma. In this context, it means skills in civil and military affairs. With regards to civil affairs, the President cannot ignore the tremendous unemployment rate and the mounting debt crisis facing our nation. Many Americans are living in constant fear of losing their jobs. Our children and grandchildren need to know that we are doing everything possible to prepare a better tomorrow for them. With regards to the military, the President should never cut back on defense spending. Recent events in Libya are a reminder that the world remains unstable and unpredictable.
  2. Understanding – from the Hebrew word bina which means discernment. The President should have a sense of discernment as to how jobs are created. We constantly hear about how the “rich should pay their fair share.” According to the SOI (Statistics of Income) tax stats available on the IRS website, the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans paid 38.02 percent of the total income tax. If that’s not enough, the top 50 percent of the tax payers pay 97% of the total income tax. This means that half of all Americans pay only 3% of the revenue and many don’t pay any! To increase taxes on the wealthy would actually hurt the small business owners and destroy more jobs!
  3. Knowledgeable – from the Hebrew word yeduim. It carries the meaning of respect. The United States has been and continues to be the force for good in this world and we need a President who will inspire respect and admiration, both here and abroad. It affects the progress of democracy, business, and national defense.

So before you head to the polls – Stop, Think, and then Vote.

STOP. THINK. VOTE. (Sermon)

STOP. THINK. VOTE. (Sermon by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson)

In ten days, our nation will be going to the polls. In fact, the early voting has already begun. With that in mind, I want to preach a message this morning titled, “STOP. THINK. VOTE.” Turn in your Bibles to Deuteronomy 1:5-13. Winston Churchill supposedly said, “The strongest argument against democracy is a five-minute discussion with the average voter.” True or not—it seems that way more and more. People seem to be voting more by assumption rather than information, feelings rather than facts, and rhetoric rather than results.

Deuteronomy 1:9-13  9“And I spoke to you at that time, saying: ‘I alone am not able to bear you. 10The Lord your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude. 11May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are, and bless you as He has promised you! 12How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints? 13Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’

Overall Background:  The passage we just read refers to a time in the early history of Israel when Moses was the only judge over all the people of Israel. He would sit from morning till evening, listening to case after case, dispute after dispute, and argument after argument. It was too much for him. He was not able to do it. He was wearing himself out. On his father-in-law—Jethro’s—suggestion, Moses asked the people to choose from among their tribes men who were wise, understanding, and knowledgeable and then he (Moses under the authority of God) would make them heads over them. This was not just an example of delegation; this was not just an example of democracy; this was an example of how God decides who will be our leaders. The people would choose their leaders and Moses as God’s leader would approve them. They were to vote for their leaders based on wisdom, understanding, and knowledge; then Moses would swear them in. God had the final say over their choice.

For e.g. The image that comes to my mind is the oath of office taken by every American President since George Washington. At the end of the oath they say, “So help me God.” In fact, George Washington’s inauguration took place in New York City, which was the nation’s capital for the first year of the new government. The newspaper reported that – “on the morning of the inauguration, church bells will ring at nine o’clock so people could go to church and pray for the new government.” About noon as they were making their way to the Federal Hall, they realized that they did not have a Bible and the Parade Marshall had to rush to find one. Finally, they made their way to the balcony of the Federal Hall, overlooking Wall Street. Washington placed his left hand on the Bible and raised his right hand to take the oath. At the end of the oath, he said, “So help me God” and leaned over and kissed the Bible. Then they went back into the Federal Hall where he gave his inaugural address in which he said, “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.” By the way, he began his address with prayer and he closed in prayer. Would you like to know what they did after that? They went down the street to St. Paul’s Church for a special service. It was not a Sunday. It was a Thursday.

Isn’t that amazing! That is how our country began! We have drifted far from that, haven’t we?

This morning, I want us to look at some very important questions with regards to the upcoming election. I want to answer three very important questions that Americans in general and Christians in particular often ask: 1. Is it wrong for us to talk about politics in church? 2. Should Christians be concerned with politics? 3. What are the right reasons to vote for a candidate?

I. IS IT WRONG FOR US TO TALK ABOUT POLITICS IN CHURCH?

The answer is No. It is wrong to endorse a candidate or oppose a candidate by name. In 1954, the IRS put a regulation that prevents pastors from supporting or opposing any candidate by name. It was done without any debate or discussion. The churches are allowed to deal with issues that are part of an election campaign. In reality, endorsement for candidates seems to be happening all the time through some churches and the IRS has never actually revoked the tax exempt status of any church for doing that.

Application: Sometimes people have used a scare tactic against the church and pastors to keep us from speaking on issues.

II. SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE CONCERNED WITH POLITICS?

The answer is Yes! But before we look at why it is important, I want to deal with several wrong views that people have about Christians and Politics. (From Wayne Grudem, “Politics According to the Bible”):

1.     Government should force people to follow Christianity.

  • When you look at history, it was never a good thing when the government tried to dictate the faith of a person.
  • The history of Europe shows how terrible the conflict used to be between Catholics and Protestants and between the Reformed and the Anabaptists. Thousands were persecuted and killed and burned at the stake.
  • Jesus set the boundary for us when he said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Meaning: Church and Government are two separate entities.
  • You cannot force someone to have faith in Jesus. It is a choice.

2.     Government is evil and Christians should have no part in it.

  • They say that politicians are corrupt and they have never done any good.
  • Behind every government is Satan who is busy causing wars and destruction. For e.g. behind Hitler was Satan who caused him to exterminate Jewish people and capture Europe.
  • Here’s the question: Who was behind the Allied Forces who went to fight the Nazi army? Who was behind the troops who landed at Omaha beach?
  • There are people who use Jesus’ statement to turn the other cheek to argue that Christians should never retaliate. When Jesus said turn the other cheek, he was talking about how we deal with individual insults. This is much different from what God expects from politicians and government.
  • Romans 13:3-4 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

3.     Christians should focus only on reaching the lost.

  • You see bumper stickers like this all the time – Elect King Jesus
  • It all sounds very spiritual but it is escapist.
  • In the Old Testament, we meet Daniel who greatly impacted Babylon and later the Medo-Persian Empire.
  • Also, Esther, who spoke up and saved the lives of all her people.
  • In the New Testament, John the Baptist spoke against the Moral, Spiritual, and Political Issues of his day. He was not afraid to take on Herod Antipas.

4.     Christians and Government should not mix at all.

  • This is a view that is used by people who hate Christianity. They try to attack anything that resembles Christianity. They argue that there is no place for prayers before a city council meeting; no place for the cross at veteran’s memorials; no 10 commandments in the courtroom.
  • This is just a tactic to pass values that are not accepted by most Americans. For e.g. The Same-sex marriage issue. Most Americans are not for it. Back in 2009, only 28.1% of Iowans supported it in their state. How did they get around it? They used the argument that traditional marriage is just a religious bias of Christians and hence the Iowa Supreme Court imposed same-sex marriage by claiming that it is a religious prejudice and goes against the Constitutional rights of a person.
  • Marriage is not a religion. It is a universal institution. By the way, the Bible also believes that stealing is wrong and murder is wrong. Should we then make it legal to steal and murder since they are Christian rules? That’s foolish.
  • When the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” it does not mean that Christianity has no say in politics. It simply means there can be no state church.

Here is the right view – Christians should have a significant influence on the Government.

  • It’s because Christians went beyond just evangelizing people and got involved in politics that they were able to pass laws against infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); they were able to outlaw the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); they were able to outlaw the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); they were able to bring about prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); they were able to stop the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; they were able to outlaw pedophilia; they were able to grant property rights and other protections to women; they were able to ban polygamy in the Western world; prohibit the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlaw the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuade government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advance the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlaw slave trade and slavery. (Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt.)
  • What did Jesus say? Listen to Matthew 5:13-16  13“You are the salt of the earth… 14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden…16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Hence, it is important for Christians to speak up and let their voices be heard.

Is it wrong for us to talk about politics in church? No; Should Christians be concerned with politics? Yes

III. WHAT ARE THE RIGHT REASONS TO VOTE FOR A CANDIDATE?

People will be going to the polls and vote but many are voting for the wrong reasons. Here are some of those wrong reasons:

  1. What Party they Belong to? – Often people vote a certain way because they think that it would be wrong to abandon their party after all these years. Here’s the question that every voter should ask: “Has my party abandoned me?” “Does it still have my best interest in mind?” “Are my values important to those I am electing?” Don’t let someone use you just for your vote.
  2. What do they look like? – What makes America wonderful is that unlike some countries we have shown that anyone—regardless of the shade of their skin—can be the President of the United States. With the same token, we need to show the world that Americans look deeper to the principles and values of our candidates. What matters is what they stand for rather than what they look like or how charming they are.
  3. What Religious Faith they belong to? – Americans have repeatedly shown that a candidate’s religious tradition is not as important as his moral values. A person may claim to be “born again” and still lose the re-election campaign if his values and economic policies are not ours. Thomas Jefferson—the third President—was a deist but he reduced the national debt by a third.

So what are the right reasons to vote for a candidate? Deuteronomy 1:13 says, “Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.” Let’s look at those three qualities:

A.     Wise

Background: from the Hebrew word hokma. In this context, it means skills in civil and military affairs. With regards to civil affairs, the President cannot ignore the tremendous unemployment rate and the mounting debt crisis facing our nation. Many Americans are living in constant fear of losing their jobs. Our children and grandchildren need to know that we are doing everything possible to prepare a better tomorrow for them. With regards to the military, the President should never cut back on defense spending. Recent events in Libya are a reminder that the world remains unstable and unpredictable.

B.    Understanding

Background: from the Hebrew word bina which means discernment. The President should have a sense of discernment about how jobs are created. We constantly hear about how the “rich should pay their fair share.” According to the SOI (Statistics of Income) tax stats available on the IRS website, the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans paid 38.02 percent of the total income tax. If that’s not enough, the top 50 percent of the tax payers pay 97% of the total income tax. This means that half of all Americans pay only 3% of the revenue and many don’t pay any! To increase taxes on the wealthy would actually hurt the small business owners and destroy more jobs!

C.     Knowledgeable

Background: from the Hebrew word yeduim. It carries the meaning of respect. The United States has been and continues to be the force for good in this world and we need a President who will inspire respect and admiration, both here and abroad. It affects the progress of democracy, business, and national defense.

Application: So before you head to the polls – Stop, Think, and then Vote.

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