WHERE IS GOD IN THIS CRAZY WORLD?

WHERE IS GOD IN THIS CRAZY WORLD? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Where is God in this crazy worldWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we’re in Luke 2 for our message titled – “WHERE IS GOD IN THIS CRAZY WORLD?” Lately, it seems as if our world is getting crazier everyday – ISIS terrorists, Ebola virus, high unemployment, and low morality. People are wondering – where is God in all this? Is He just sitting up there twiddling his thumbs? Has He lost control of the world He created? This morning we will look back 2000 years ago when Jesus was born into a world that was just as crazy. We will see that God is very much in control today as He was back then. His plan is always accomplished in heaven and on earth.

Luke 2 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Overall Background: I was talking to someone last week and this person said, “This world is getting crazier every day. I’m just ready for Jesus to come and get us out.” Two things wrong with that statement: First, to this person, this is the worst that this world has ever been. This morning’s message will teach us that it’s been worse before. Jesus’ coming for the church is not dependent on how bad the world gets. He can come any moment. Second, to this person, the world was like a building on fire that could collapse any moment, and God was like a rescue worker on the outside too afraid to go in. God is much more sovereign than that. Application: Have you wondered lately – where is God in this crazy world? Why doesn’t He just destroy the wicked? Why doesn’t He just end this world? I’m here to tell you that God is working powerfully in this crazy world but you won’t find Him if you look for Him in pomp, show, lights, and noise. He is working gently and powerfully in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Now, here’s a question – Is He working in your life? Have you welcomed Him in your life? If not, today is the day you can invite Him.

This morning we will first look at the crazy world in which Jesus was born and then we will see how God has been working in this world.

I. THE WORLD HAS ALWAYS BEEN CRAZY. Luke 2 1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου, ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. Who was Caesar Augustus? Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome when Jesus was born. His birth name was actually Octavius. He was the Assassination of Julius Caesar great nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, who was the dictator of Rome (48 BC – 44 BC, four years) until his enemies assassinated him on the Ides of March (March 15). Octavius took this as his opportunity to ascend to the throne. He wasn’t much of a soldier so he linked up with Mark Anthony and Marcus Lepidus and began avenging the death of Julius Caesar. He was brutal and did not spare any who stood up to him.

Octavius was very ambitious. He even had coins minted with Julius Caesar’s image on one side with the words “the God Julius” and his image on the other side with the words “Caesar, Son of a God.” He was not satisfied with being one of three and so he first got rid of Lepidus. Then, he defeated Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium, who committed suicide along with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. They knew what would happen if they fell into the hands of Octavius. Now, Octavius was the only man standing. He was powerful and cruel, to say the least. He established the Pretorian Guard – private bodyguards of 5000 soldiers. The Senate was afraid of him Augustus Divi Fand gave him power over the proconsuls and the armies. They even made him “Pontifex Maximus” or the chief priest of the state religion. Their own position was reduced to being just advisors.

But there’s more – remember when Octavius defeated Mark Anthony. There were provinces in Asia that had supported Mark Anthony. Now Octavius was in power and they were going to pay for that. Very quickly delegations came from city of Pergamum and the city of Nicaea informing him that they were going to make him a god and needed his permission to build temples in his name. Of course, Octavius said, “That’s okay. You don’t have to. But, if you insist….” Two years later, the senate even gave him the title we find in Luke 2:1 – Augustus, which means “great” as in god. He became Caesar Augustus, not only the Emperor of Rome but also a god who had been appointed by the will of the other gods. It was in his hands to bring the “pax Caesar Augustusdeorum” or the peace of the gods to the mortals on the earth. He was the incarnation of all the gods. He was the savior.

The people loved him. He expanded the Roman Empire, rebuilt temples and public buildings, reorganized the Senate, and brought opportunities to the people. He was so popular that Roman men even adopted his hairstyle. For the first time there was peace in the world, as long as you didn’t oppose Octavius. One scholar noted that never before in the history of the world was a man worshipped like Octavius – Caesar Augustus.

Some of you are saying – how come we’ve never heard of him? Have you ever looked at the calendar? The sixth month is named after the god Julius Caesar and the seventh month is named after Caesar Augustus – August.

Why did he want the world to be registered? Taxes. More money was needed to fund the growing army – 28 legions, each legion had over 5000 soldiers. More money was needed to fund Rome and fill the coffers of the god Augustus. But, there’s something more – Herod the king of Judea had made Octavius mad and this was his way of proving a point to Herod that he was the boss. Amazing isn’t it? Everybody’s life is turned upside just so an egomaniac can prove a point. So verse 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 2 Αὕτη ἡ ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου. 3 Καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν.

In short, Jesus was born in a world ruled by a cruel, egomaniac who thought he was god and didn’t think one bit about uprooting people and turning their lives upside down. This was the Crazy World – power, intimidation, cruelty, propaganda, brutality, show, dazzle, and everything demonic.

II. GOD ALWAYS ACCOMPLISHES HIS SOVEREIGN WILL.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 4 Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρέτ, εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν, εἰς πόλιν Δαυίδ, ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλέεμ, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυίδ, 5 ἀπογράψασθαι σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ μεμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ γυναικί, οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ. Joseph and Mary Bethlehem

Background: Caesar Augustus – claiming to be god, emperor of the world commanding everyone to go to their hometown – does not realize that he is just a pawn in the Master Plan of God. This was all part of the prophecy in Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

God is not unaware of all that is happening in the world. He knows everything and He works all things towards His divine purpose. Job 42 1 Then Job answered the LORD and said: 2 “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Daniel 2:20 “…Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. 21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings…”

Application: Are you afraid of what’s happening in this world? Are you discouraged by what you hear on the news? Just know that God is in complete control. Everything is falling into His divine purpose, whether in the world or in your life.

III. GOD ALWAYS COMES IN HUMILITY AND GRACE.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. Typically people think that Joseph and Mary just arrived Manger Nativityin Bethlehem and couldn’t find any room in the local motel. Not true. They were there for a few days before she went into labor. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 6 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ, ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν. 7 Καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.

The word for inn is “kataluma,” which is guestroom. Joseph and Mary were probably staying with some friends and couldn’t find any privacy and had to deliver Jesus in the family room. Unlike Caesar Augustus who was living in the lap of luxury, the King of Kings had to spend his first night where the animals were tied. God’s ways are not of pomp and show and lights and noise but humility and meekness. The world looks for a conquering hero on a white horse who would destroy the wicked. People are still looking for a leader who will step to the plate, with charisma and charm, and wrong the rights and fix all the craziness but God’s way hasn’t changed. God’s way is the way of the manger – the way of humility.

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

Background: Roman society was divided into many classes. You were born into your class and there’s nothing you could do to get out if it. Unlike Augustus who surrounded himself with powerful elites, God came to those who were the lowest. Shepherds were a smelly lot. They were dirty but they were on God’s mailing list.

Application: Do you think that you don’t deserve the grace of God? His grace is available to you.

IV. GOD’S WAY IS ALWAYS ONE PERSON TELLING ANOTHER.

shepherds nativity11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

That is still God’s Way – the angels told the shepherds, the shepherds came and saw, the shepherds went and told others, and the others marveled. Are you afraid of what’s happening in this world? Are wondering where God is in all this? He is perfectly in charge and His plan keeps moving. The real question is do you know Him as your Savior?

WHEN WE HIT ROCK BOTTOM

WHEN WE HIT ROCK BOTTOM by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Running From God  (1)We are in our new series on the Book of Jonah, called, “RUNNING FROM GOD” and this morning we are in Jonah 2 for our third message titled “WHEN WE HIT ROCK BOTTOM.” All of us at some point in our lives have reached that place where the only way to go is up. Maybe some of you are there this morning. Don’t lose hope. Desperation can be a life-changing experience.

Jonah 2:1-3 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. ‘Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice. 3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me. 4 Then I said, “I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’

Overall Background: Ask any child in Sunday School if they’ve heard the story of Jonah and the whale (big fish) and a smile will come across their face. We all know of the prophet Jonah whom God called to go to Nineveh and instead he ran in the opposite direction towards Tarshish. He got on a ship and went down to the lowest part, lay down, and was fast asleep. “God can’t find me here.” Really?!! God knows exactly where every person is every moment. Jeremiah 23:24 “Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD.

God knew where Jonah was and He sent a violent storm on the sea, so that the ship was about to broken up. Was God trying to punish him? Of course not! He doesn’t punish His children but he often disciplines them. Jonah knew that God was dealing with him so he told the sailors to pick him up and toss him into the raging sea and all will be well. Sure enough when they threw him overboard, the sea became calm. If that were the end, we would not be reading this book today. Listen to what came next. Jonah 1:17 “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 2 tells us what went on for those three days and three nights.In Jonah’s own words, he went down to hell. He went so low that he could see the roots of the mountains. In other words, he hit rock bottom.

Application: Let me ask you – have you hit rock bottom in your life? Are you rock bottom right now? How are you dealing with it? By the way, you don’t have to be in the belly of the fish to hit rock bottom. It can happen in the form of a personal tragedy, horrible accident, terrible sickness, relationship crisis, job loss, or financial problem.

This morning we will learn what to do when we hit rock bottom from Jonah 2.

1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR HELPLESSNESS.

3 “For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas,

For e.g. Think of the missing Malaysian plane. It is more than likely in the Indian Ocean. With all our technology and gadgets we cannot seem to find it.

Jonah is inside a big fish in the sea. Imagine how lost and helpless he is.

3 “For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods (Literally: river swirled about me) surrounded me;

The question in my mind is “Is Jonah in the Sea or in the River?” Sea is usually calm in the deep. So outside the fish it is calm but it is deep. Inside the fish it is like a river. Keep in mind that this fish is swimming. Verse 3again “All Your billows (breakers) and Your waves passed over me.” Jonah is not in some submarine taking a joy ride. He is being pounded left and right. Jonah is for the first time realizing how physically helpless and insignificant he is.

Some people trust in their bodily strength. Some people trust in their good looks. Some people trust in their connections. Some people trust in their wallets. When you are in the hospital room with your loved hooked up to all kinds of machines, that’s when you realize that you are not as big and tough as you thought. You would give everything you had to revert that situation but you can’t. I’m not suggesting that we need to act all helpless and weak. What I am saying is that we should acknowledge how small we are.

But it gets deeper – Verse 5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; Jonah is saying, “I felt like my soul was drowning.” What else? “The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.” At first reading, I want to laugh. I can picture Jonah with a bandana of reeds around his head. But what he is really saying is that he is choking.

Verse 6 I went down to the moorings (base) of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever.” Jonah is inside the big fish, plus surrounded by water, plus jostled around. How can he see where he is?The language he is employing is more spiritual than physical. What Jonah is saying is that he no longer knows where he is. You may not believe me but there are people here this morning that are exactly in that spot. They may not be inside the belly of a fish but spiritually they feel empty and lifeless.

Application: Are you trusting in your physical strength, outside beauty, connections, wealth, or family? Are you willing to acknowledge your helplessness.It can all be taken from you in a millisecond. Sometimes you can even feel spiritually helpless. Daily in my prayer time I tell God that I am nothing more than a clod of earth.

2. AFFIRM GOD’S PROMISES. 

Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly.

Background: Did you get that? Listen again – “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God” = “El Yahweh Elohayaw.” So far it has only been Yahweh (Jehovah). It was all impersonal. Now he is in the belly of the fish. All the superficial is being stripped away and the prayer has become personal.It’s one thing to say, “The Lord is a Shepherd” but its quite another to say, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”

What’s more? Listen to verse 2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD. This is no rote prayer. This is a real cry for help. I can’t help but think of Peter walking on water. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was fine. “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” (Mathew 14:30) The moment he focused on his circumstances he began to sink and he cried out = he screamed.

2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction.

Let’s put Jonah on the stand. “Jonah you disobeyed God. What makes you think that God will hear your prayer?”

Jonah’s Answer: Because God said in Psalm 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”

“But Jonah you really blew it.” I know but Psalm 103:9-14 says “…Nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. 14    For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

So Jonah claimed the promises of God and prayed. As he prayed, his faith began to rise.

Jonah 2:2b-3  2b “And He answered me. ‘Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice. 4 Then I said, “I have been cast out of Your sight;Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.” 6 Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God. 7 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple.

Application: What promises are you holding on to? Throughout my life I’ve had many – “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” “All things work together for good to those who love God.” “My grace is sufficient for you for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

3. ACT ON YOUR COMMITMENTS.

9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

Many people make commitments to God when they are in the foxhole. If you will only get me out, I will serve you. God gets us out and we forget. Jonah kept his word. He wrote it down for us.

For e.g. Family in church back home that made a vow for their daughter to get healed and then forgot.

Application: Do you have an outstanding vow to the Lord? Do you have a pending commitment towards the Lord?

4. ALLOW GOD TO FINISH YOUR STORY

We know why Jonah asked the sailors to toss him into the sea. He knew that he had really blown his testimony with these guys. For him to stand before them and share the gospel was worthless. They wouldn’t listen. It was time to demonstrate the gospel. By the way, people are tired of our words. They want to see the gospel lived out in us. tweet this button

Jonah was acting out what Jesus would do one day. Jesus won’t be running from God. In fact, He is God Himself. He will come by “the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” and human beings will take Him “by lawless hands” and crucify Him (Acts 2:23-24). That’s the only way God’s wrath against sin will be satisfied.

God says “Okay Jonah. You’re willing to let your life be a testimony to the death of Christ. I will make your life a testimony to the resurrection of Christ.

10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

God can do the same for you. No matter how far you fall from God, the moment you turn and return to Him, your life becomes a living testimony. Isn’t that wonderful?!!

Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 2

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Marks of an Encouraging ChurchIn this message we will come face-to-face with many different characters from the early church. They were flesh and blood human beings just like us. But, they were worthy enough to be mentioned in the Bible because they were a great source of encouragement to Paul and to each other. Our generation can definitely learn from these personalities were about to encounter in this passage.

Romans 16:1-5   1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,  2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,  4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.  5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.  7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

Overall Background:  Most people, when they come to Romans 16, just skip past the names mentioned by Paul and their description along with it. To them, they are no different than the genealogies that are found in the Old and the New Testaments, just some names that are hard to pronounce. Who cares? Let’s get to the good part. But as one scholar noted, “for those few who are especially interested in the socioeconomic composition of the early church, it is a gold mine.” (Douglas Moo) Meaning: If we want to know what the early church looked like, study these names and their descriptions. In these 16 verses, we come face-to-face with 26 Christians who lived 2000 years ago. These were common people with common problems. They probably had the same struggles we do, same weaknesses we have, and same trials we face. But, there were three things that qualified them to be included in the Bible – first, they knew Jesus Christ as their Savior; second, they were a great source of great encouragement to each other; and three, they were in the business of ministry – reaching people for the kingdom.

We need to hear this message today – many of us have such a distorted view of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be a member of a church, what it means to serve God as a body. This message teaches us what our church should look like. It teaches that what our focus should be. It teaches us how everyone has something to offer in the church. Let this message be a mirror for you this morning.

Without further due, let’s meet these Christians. There are 7 different personalities.

I. MEET PHOEBE – A SERVANT

1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,

Background: Keep in mind that Phoebe was not from Rome. She was coming to Rome and Paul was writing this letter as a commendation, asking the Roman Christians to help her. For starters, Phoebe was probably a Gentile believer. Her name Phoebe comes from Greek mythology – the goddess of prophecy, who held the oracle at Delphi. We don’t know how she got saved but she did. Paul knew her from Cenchrea. He probably met her when he was in Corinth for 18 months and Cenchrea was was only 8 miles from Corinth. Maybe Paul started the church in Cenchrea and led her to the Lord. We don’t know that for sure. What we do know about her is her reputation. Paul calls her a “servant.” He does not use that term lightly. Several times he used it to refer to himself:

Ephesians 3:7 “…I became a servant according to the gift of the grace of God.”

Colossians 1:25 “…I became a servant according to the stewardship from God…”

He encourages Timothy in 1Timothy 4:6 to be “a good servant of Jesus Christ.”

In Romans 15:8 he even refers to Jesus as a “servant to the circumcision for the truth of God.”

The word servant is not an ordinary title in Paul’s vocabulary. It was someone who gave their life for others. Can you picture Phoebe? If someone is sick, she is the first to bake a casserole or a pie. If there is a fellowship dinner, you can count on Phoebe to cook, to clean, and to wash the dishes. If there is need for helpers in a class or at an outreach ministry, Phoebe will gladly volunteer.

Listen to what else Paul says about her in verse 2 “…receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, (What a great complement! Treat her like you would treat the saints – Moses, David, Peter, James, and the other) and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.” What is amazing to me is that Paul is putting his own credentials on the line for this woman!

Application: What is your reputation? Servant or Helper. Or is it selfish, troublemaker, or gossip. Would someone like Paul put his credentials on the line for you? Praise God for the servants. Our church has many care-givers who work behind the scenes.

II. MEET AQUILA AND PRISCILLA – RISK TAKERS

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,

Background: Who were these two? They were a husband-wife missionary team. Paul first met them at Corinth. At that time, they had to leave their home in Rome because the Roman Emperor Claudius had kicked out the Jewish people from the city. They were also tent makers like Paul. They were fellow workers who helped Paul in Corinth and later in Ephesus. They were instrumental in discipling Apollos. They did not do that publicly or proudly but Acts 18:26 notes that “they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” What a beautiful picture of spiritual maturity!

But there’s more – verse 4 who risked their own necks for my life. Meaning: They were not just great Bible teachers and discipleship leaders. They were risk-takers. They were willing to put their lives at risk so that the gospel would go forward. Nothing significant is ever done without a certain amount of risk. Most Christians say “Give me some proof” or “Give me some guarantee.” Clint Eastwood – “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” Most churches are like a toaster. You go in fluffy and come out jammed or burnt.

Will Rogers – “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”

Paul goes on to say, “to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.  5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

Application: What is your reputation? Firm as a pillar, hard as a rock, favorite song is “I shall not be moved.” Are you the safe player? Or, are you a risk taker?

III. MEET EPAENETUS – SAMPLE

Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.

Background: Some people say “firstfruits” means that Epaenetus was Paul’s “first convert in Acahaia. Could be. But then Paul could have said “first convert.” He specifically uses the term “firstfruits” to refer to Epaenetus. What are “firstfruits?” Before the Israelites harvested the crops, they were supposed to bring a sample to the priest as an offering to the Lord. It was a sample of the greater, fuller harvest to come.

For e.g. When we go to the mall and then go by the food court – they offer you samples. “If you like this, you can have more.”

Epaenetus was a constant reminder of the greater harvest still to come. New converts are a must in every church. They are a reminder that more harvest can come.  tweet this button A church with no firstfruits is a dying, defeated, and discouraging church.

Vance Havner – “We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.”

How is our reputation? Do we have firstfruits? Do we welcome firstfruits? Is this a place where firstfruits are seen as a sign of more to come?

IV. MEET MARY, ANDRONICUS, AND JUNIA – FAITHFUL PARTNERS

6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.

Background: The Greek word for “labor” is considered by some scholars to be a designation for early missionary enterprise. People like Mary have been in the trenches for a long time. The emphasis is on “much.”

Again verse 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

The emphasis there is on “before me.” There were people like Andronicus and Junia who were tried and true fellow Christians in the church. You can count on them. It’s great to have new people but it’s also beautiful to be around people who have been there through the thick and thin. They don’t bail out, back out, jump ship, walk out, “take their toys and go home.” I tell people who threaten to take their toys and go home, “Your replacement is already in the wings.”

Application: Is this your reputation? Tried and true, consistent, faithful, and trustworthy, dependable, reliable.

V. MEET AMPLIAS, URBANUS, STACHYS, APELLES – VALUABLE

8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.  9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved.  10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ.

Background: Not much is said about them, just a word on each. Based on their names, more than likely they were either slaves or freedmen. But Paul found it necessary to greet them because they were valuable. Like the description of Apelles – “approved in Christ.” Meaning = they were people who proved their value in time.

There are people in church that are very valuable. If they did not show up, something would be missing. From greeters, to audio-visual, to kitchen, to nursery, they make a difference.

Application: May I ask you a question? – When you miss a Sunday or a Wednesday or another event, are you missed? Or do things go on as usual? People say – “If I knew what to do, I would get involved.” Start showing up. Start reading the bulletin, monthly newsletter, and weekly newsletter. Ask to volunteer. Get started somewhere. It may not be the end ministry but it’s a step in the door. You don’t have to preach, sing, or teach but there’s something you can do that makes all this work.

VI. MEET FAMILIES OF ARISTOBULUS, HERODION, AND NARCISSUS – INFLUENTIAL

10…Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.

Background: Many scholars have held that this Aristobulus was none other than the grandson of Herod the Great and brother of Herod Agrippa of Judea. This is a very wealthy and influential family. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Meaning: This person was also connected to the family of Herod. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Narcissus was a wealthy and powerful freedman under Emperor Claudius.

Bottom Line – There were wealthy, resourceful, influential people in the church. The church is not just a place for the poor and the downtrodden but also for the wealthy.

Application: Are you using your resources for the Kingdom of God? Are you being a good steward of what God has given to you?

VII. MEET THE REST – SAINTS

I’m going to read the names even though we will not examine them in detail, like the rest. They deserve to be mentioned.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord.  13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.  14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them.  15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

The word that Paul uses in the end to designate all of them is “Saints.” He doesn’t call them laypeople, church folks, or church members but saints, meaning set apart ones.

Invitation:

–       What do you see in the mirror?

–       Did you see yourself in one of those categories?

–       Do you see yourself at all?

If you don’t see yourself, it’s because you are not in Him. You need to be saved.

Maybe, you do see yourself but all you see is someone sitting on the sidelines. You walk in and walk out, no contribution, no ministry, and no service. It’s time to get up and get involved. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in what He wants you to do.

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 1

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Marks of an Encouraging ChurchThis morning’s message is part one of a two-part miniseries titled “MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH.” Many churches promise the right hand of fellowship but what you end up getting is the right knee of fellowship.

Romans 14:10-13  10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.  13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

Overall Background:  We have come to the final pages of Paul’s letter to the Romans. He began this letter with doctrine and then transitioned into application but he is not through. There’s something else on his heart. Just like a father writing to his children on his deathbed, Paul’s last words are not just fillers but I think they are some of the most important words in the letter. Paul through the Holy Spirit is reminded the Christians to be steadfast in unity and love towards each other. A church can be orthodox, gifted, and financially stable, but without love, it will fall apart. tweet this button

Both the OT and the NT emphasize unity and love among God’s people:

–       David wrote in Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

–       II Chronicles 30:12 “…the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.”

–       Jesus told his disciples in John 13:34-34   34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

–       Jesus prayed for His disciples – John 17:21 “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. The proof of the incarnation of Jesus is unity!

Sadly, many churches are straight in doctrine, loaded in gifts and talents, and abundant in financial resources but have failed in love. By our lack of unity and love we are destroying our witness and failing the Great Commission.

This morning we will learn 4 important marks of an encouraging church:

I. NONJUDGMENTAL OVER PERSONAL CONVICTIONS

Romans 14:1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. There are some things over which the Bible is clear and straightforward. Then there are some things where the Bible leaves room for interpretation. There we shouldn’t get into heated debates. Augustine once said – “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Sadly in many churches the nonessentials become the focus.

Background: Among the Roman Christians, there were 2 groups of people: those who were ‘weak in faith’ and those who were ‘strong in faith.’ The weak were those Jewish Christians who felt that they had to refrain from certain foods and observe certain days out of loyalty to the Law of Moses. There were 2 questions that divided them – First, should we eat meat? Romans 14:2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Isn’t that amazing that most church conflicts happen over food?!! “Who brought the food? Who didn’t bring the food? Who got in line first? Who stayed around and helped clean up?

Second, should we celebrate the Jewish holy days? Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Again, isn’t that amazing that not much has changed today?!! What day is sacred? Sunday or Saturday. My answer – Everyday!

How should we respond to these differences? Recognize that there is a difference between biblical convictions and personal convictions. Romans 14:3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.  4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. Meaning: I’m not called to sit in judgment over your convictions and you are not called to sit in judgment over my convictions. Keep in mind – this is not regarding sin. Paul covered that already when he said in Romans 13:13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

For e.g. Some people think that social media like Facebook and Twitter are of the Devil. That’s your personal conviction. Just like when radio first came, some people opposed it saying, “Satan is the prince of the power of the air.”

Romans 14:10 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

II. NON-OFFENSIVE TOWARDS THOSE WHO STRUGGLE.

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

Background: Just because you are entitled to live by your personal convictions or the lack thereof, you are still obligated to be sensitive to those who are weaker. Don’t put a stumbling block and cause your brother or sister to fall.

Romans 14:14-18  14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.  15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.  16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;

I often hear – I can do this because the Bible doesn’t say anything against it or I can do this because David did this or Jesus did that. We can argue ad infinitum and it doesn’t matter. Is it going to make you son or daughter stumble in their spiritual life? Is going to make a weak brother/sister fall in their spiritual growth? Then you are obligated to stop.

Someone might say – “Well, that’s his or her problem. I am not responsible for their actions and choices.” The last time someone said that was in Genesis 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Romans 14:17-18  17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Paul is talking to those with personal convictions – don’t put others in a bind by your personal convictions because of your preferences. It’s not about food and drink anyways.

18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

Bottom Line: Christian life is not about my rights. It is about my obligations.

III. BUILDING ONE ANOTHER LIKE JESUS

Rom. 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 

Background: The word for edify is the Greek word ‘oikadomei’ which is literally ‘building something.’ Meaning: We are God’s co-laborers in building each other spiritually.

Now, Paul is talking to both the ‘weak in faith’ and ‘strong in faith.’ Romans 14:20-21  20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.

Romans 15:1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.  3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”

Meaning: Our example in all this is Jesus Himself. Just like He gave His life for His sheep, we are to lay down our lives for each other.

Application: Whose example are you emulating this morning? It should be Jesus.

What will be the result? Romans 15:5-6  5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,  6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”

IV. FILLED WITH HOPE BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hope means something better is on the way. Don’t get caught up in the here and now but realize that we are simply passing through. Only the Holy Spirit can help us see that.

Do you have Him? Through Jesus as your Savior you can.

Does He have you? Let Him control your life completely.

Does our church have Him? We have constantly pray for that.

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