Cold Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

COLD LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Cold Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fear-Defier by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE FEAR-DEFIER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Fear Defier

Introduction: I usually don’t use movies as illustrations but if there’s one that I’ll make an exception for, it is my all-time favorite, “Tombstone.” It’s based on the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona where Wyatt Earp and his two brothers along with Doc Holliday had the famous shootout with the cowboys Billy Claiborne and the Clanton and the McLaury Brothers. A few years back Nicole and I actually took a trip there. There’s a part in the movie where Wyatt Earp shoots his way out of a tough situation. The next scene shows the men cleaning their guns and Sherman McMasters (one of the good guys) asks, “Where is he (Wyatt Earp)?” and Doc Holliday replies, “Down by the creek, walking on water.” It implies that Wyatt Earp just pulled off a miracle like Jesus walking on the water. As great as that movie is, nothing is further from the truth. Sure, Wyatt Earp was bold and fearless but it takes much more than that to walk on water. There’s only one who did that. His name is Jesus. He alone is the great Fear-Defier.

Matthew 14   22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. 25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

Question: All of us have some fear or another in our lives. Some are afraid of their past. Others are afraid of their future. Some are fearful of some person in their lives. Others are fearful of those they don’t know. For some it’s the fear of rejection. For others it’s the fear of failure. The list goes on. What is your fear? What are you afraid of? Have you ever met Jesus? He’s the great fear-defier. What’s amazing is that he will not only give you peace in the midst of the storm but he’s also lead you to walk on water.

Context: Let’s begin with verse 22 “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.” In Greek it is “anagkazo,” which is literally “forced” or “urged” them to get away. Why did Jesus do that? Keep in mind that this was right after that great miracle of feeding the 5000 men plus women and children. If you remember from last week, we came up with the estimate of at least 15,000 people. Now think about it. 15,000 ÷12 = 1,250 people per disciple. Imagine if you were responsible to feed 1,250 individuals! How exhausting that would be! I can imagine some of them already asking for the breakfast menu! But I don’t think this was the main reason. The main reason was that Jesus did not want the disciples to start thinking like the unbelieving crowd. If you remember, some of them wanted to take Jesus by force and make him king. What they wanted was a walking talking cafeteria. Jesus knew the danger of that thinking and he got them out of there.

Application: At Clearview there are disciples and then there’s the crowd. The disciples roll up their sleeves; the crowds fold up their arms. The disciples ask, “What can I do?” the crowds ask, “How long will it take?” The disciples offer their time and energy; the crowds offer their doubts and demands. The disciples bring their wallets to church; the crowds leave their wallets at home. Which one are you? If you were there back then, would Jesus send you away with the disciples or with the crowd?

Now Jesus goes up on the mountain by himself to pray. 24 “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.” Confession Time: I’ve struggled with this passage. If Jesus truly cared about his disciples enough to rescue them from the crowd, then why in the world would he send them into a storm! It’s like – “Let me help you cross the street” but when you get to the other side, he turns around and pushes you into the oncoming traffic. Did Jesus not know that there would be a storm? Of course he did. He was and is God. But there’s something else. 25 “Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them…” Fourth watch in the Roman time system was between 3am to 6am. The Gospel of Mark adds something here that has puzzled scholars for a long time. Mark 6:48 “…Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.” Why would he do that! To get the answer to these questions, we have to turn to geography. Luke in his gospel tells us that Jesus fed the multitude somewhere near the city of Bethsaida (Luke 9:2). Bethsaida is located on the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee. More than likely, it was not directly next to the city since the gospels say that it was a deserted place but Bethsaida was the closest big town. But then Mark says that after the miracle Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat and go to Bethsaida. What Jesus was doing was trying to get the disciples away from the crowd but sail close to the shoreline and get back to the town of Bethsaida. John in his gospel tells us that the disciples got into the boat and decided to go towards Capernaum, which is on the northwestern corner of the Sea.

Why did they do that? I’m going to give you my opinion but it will make sense to you when you look at the whole context. The clue is found in the Gospel of Luke. Even though Luke does not record the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, he tells us something very interesting that Matthew, Mark, and John do not tell us. After sending the disciples to the boat and the multitude on their way, Jesus went to pray by himself. We think that the disciples were probably on the boat by the time Jesus started praying. Not true. Listen to Luke 9 17 So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. 18 And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” 20   He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” Now the disciples make their way to the boat. I believe that they were in stunned silence. After sailing for a few minutes someone must have spoken up – “What do you guys think? Do you really think he is who he says he is? I mean he’s talking about dying and coming back to life. He’s talking about picking up our cross and following him! He’s talking about coming in his glory and his father’s and the angels.” Then someone must have turned to Peter and asked,” Hey Peter, do you really believe that he’s the Christ of God?” Just my opinion but at that moment Peter must have said, “I don’t know what I believe. Forget Jesus. Let’s go to Capernaum.” They all decided to bail on Jesus.

What happened next? Storm came up and the boat was tossed by waves to somewhere in the middle of the sea. Now Jesus comes walking on the waves and Mark says that he “would have passed them by.” Do you blame him? I would too! In fact, I would’ve kicked up the waves a little! The disciples thought he was a ghost and began to scream out of fear. Jesus immediately called out – “It’s me. Have courage. Don’t fear.” Then Peter did something that he was known for, something impulsive. “Boys, it’s now or never.” “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” What’s the big deal about walking on the water? It’s God’s calling card:

  • Job 9:8 “He alone spreads out the heavens, And treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • Psalm 77: 9 “Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters…”
  • Habakkuk 3:15 “You walked through the sea with Your horses, Through the heap of great waters.”

Just like Jesus, Peter began to walk on the waves but then the old fear came back and he began to sink and cried out “Lord, save me!” and Jesus grabbed his hand and said “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then he got into the boat and the disciples came and worshipped him saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Listen to how Mark closes in 6   51 “…And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”

Let me draw some applications:

  • If you are a disciple, God expects much more from you than from the crowd. The greatest need of the multitude was food but the greatest need of the disciples was faith. The end goal of the multitude was contentment but the end goal of the disciples was advancement.
  • Confession should be followed by Obedience.
  • Hardness of heart is the source of Fear.
  • When we’re faithless, He remains faithful. He cannot deny himself. (2 Tim. 2:13)
  • Keep your eyes on Jesus and not on the wind and the waves.

Love is Liberating by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS LIBERATING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Love is LiberatingIntroduction:  If you keep up with politics, I’m sure you’ve heard of Congressman Sam Johnson from Plano, Texas. He has served in the House since 1991 and will be retiring next year. He is an Air Force Veteran and a POW in Vietnam for 7 years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” also known as “Hell’s Hole.” In recalling his experience, he said, “Starvation, isolation and torture were constant companions. There was no news from home, and the enemy worked hard to make us feel alone and forgotten.” He describes one of the torture treatments – “I could recall nothing from military survival training that explained the use of a meat hook suspended from the ceiling…During a routine torture session…the Vietnamese tied a prisoner’s hands and feet, then bound his hands to his ankles—sometimes behind the back, sometimes in front. The ropes were tightened to the point that you couldn’t breathe. Then, bowed or bent in half, the prisoner was hoisted up onto the hook to hang by ropes. Guards would return at intervals to tighten them until all feeling was gone, and the prisoner’s limbs turned purple and swelled to twice their normal size. This would go on for hours, sometimes even days on end.” The torture and malnutrition made Johnson stoop-shouldered and mangled his right arm, besides a cracked back and broken arm when his plane went down. After 42 months in a dark solitary cell with rats and filth, he was finally released and he remembers the sweet embrace of his wife Shirley and their three kids. He said, “I got through those hellish years by the grace and mercy of God.” Our final message in this series on love is titled, “LOVE IS LIBERATING.” There’s no true love in hate-filled, torture like environments. True love flourishes where there is true freedom.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: At the heart of all the problems in the Corinthian Church was the problem of love. They didn’t know how to love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to teach them how to love each other the way Christ loves us. In today’s message, you will see that Christ never exposes, never suspects, never discourages, and never threatens.

Question: How do you love people? Do you at times expose the weaknesses and failures of the ones you love? Do you constantly suspect and doubt the ones you love? Do you discourage and steal hope from the ones you love? Do you give up on or threaten the ones you love? Are you saved? Have you truly experienced the love of God in Christ?

Let’s look at the words in Greek: The first is “love bears all things.” The Greek word for bears is “stegei.” It comes from the noun “stegei,” which means “roof.” I’m sure the Corinthians knew what this word meant. Archaeologists have found evidence that by the 7th century BC the temples and houses in Corinth had started replacing thatched roofs with fired tiles. Why? Because thatched roofs were a huge fire hazard, especially in a growing city like Corinth. These tiles were heavy, weighing about 60 plus pounds but they were durable, long-lasting, and protective from the rain, sun, heat, snow, and cold. The word “stegei” took on the idea of covering, sheltering, protecting, keeping out, and keeping in. When Paul says, “love bears all,” he is really saying, “love always covers and never exposes.” Meaning: Love does not find pleasure in exposing others to harshness. Love does not get joy in watching the other person squirm in fear or shame. In the Corinthian culture, it might have been okay to expose your enemy but not in Christianity.

Application: Do you cover people or do you expose people? In the Greco-Roman world, sometimes when the renters would not pay on time, the landlords would remove the front door or even strip off the tiles from the roof. Does that sound familiar? Someone is bound to say, “Are you suggesting we hide someone’s sin?” No. I’m simply saying what Peter also said in I Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Even though Peter uses a different word for “cover” than roof, the idea is the same. Love does not get pleasure out of exposing the other person but wants to help them in their moment of weakness and shame.

The second statement: “Love believes all things.” The Greek word for “believes” is “pisteuei,” which has the idea of trust in others. Again, the Corinthian culture was very competitive and status seeking. They were constantly striving to get ahead of one another by whatever means necessary. You always had to watch your back. Unfortunately, this mindset of distrust and suspicion had also entered the church. Even Christians didn’t trust each other. When Paul tells them “loves believes all things,” he was really saying, “love does not live in the zone of perpetual suspicion but is willing to trust others. It is the foundation of all relationships.”

Illustration: When God called me into the ministry, I went to Nicole’s dad and he helped me with my decision. I asked him if he would also help me find a good seminary. He took me to one. On the way, he told me that one of his good friends was a pastor nearby and he wanted to come visit with us. That sounded fine to me. This man came and after they caught up, he turned to me and began telling me how terrible people were and how they would stab me in the back and how they could not be trusted. He spent the next hour or two emotionally vomiting. I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t naïve about church ministry. My dad was a pastor and still is. But I didn’t know how to take what he had just told me. After he left, Nicole’s dad said to me, “Don’t pay attention to anything he said. He must be going through some mess. Without trust, you cannot minister to people.”

Here’s the point: If you constantly operate as some kind of a KGB agent, always frisking people, always looking over your shoulder, always questioning their motives, you will never be able to love people. Your relationships will always be sporadic, seasonal, and short lived. By the way, get used to the idea that people will fail you. They will break your trust. If I may add, many times, people will rise or fall to the level of your expectations. If you keeping suspecting them, they will become suspicious. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, there’s no true love.

The third statement: “love hopes all things.” The Greek word for “hopes” is “elpidzei,” which has the idea of expectation and wish. People often confuse faith with hope. They are related but they are not the same. They are related in the sense that they are both looking to something that is invisible and unprovable. But they are different because just a few verses later Paul says in verse 13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” What is the difference between faith and hope? Faith is what you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is what you can’t see but you are looking for. If faith is the foundation that you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is the window through which you are looking for what you can’t see yet.

Illustration: In the past few years, the Robertson family from West Munroe, Louisiana has become a household name. You’ve heard of their show – “Duck Commander.” They came from very humble background through some very difficult times. In the book “Duck Commander Family,” Willie Robertson writes this in the prolog: “The dinner table is where I learned to follow my dreams. This is where Dad told us he was going to start Duck Commander, and where I told my family I was getting married and heading off to college. Our hopes and aspirations were never shot down, never debated, only encouraged. We might have been eating fried bologna at the time because that was all we could afford, but there was hope that one day we would be feasting on a big fat rib-eye steak.” Would you agree that they are loving family? Would you agree that their hope has become more than a reality?

Here’s the point: You can have all the covering and all the trust but if you don’t have hope, you will shrivel and die. When a marriage loses hope, when a friendship loses hope, when a church loses hope, when a community loses hope, when a nation loses hope, it is the beginning of the end of love.

Application: Are you a hope giver or are you a hope stealer? Do you open the windows to your loved ones’ dreams and goals or do you lock them up like Congressman Sam Johnson in a dark, hopeless prison cell?

The fourth and final statement: “love endures all things.” The Greek word for “endures” is “hupomenei,” which carries the idea of being patient, remaining, and enduring. In other words, “love does not give up, doesn’t run out when things get tough.” In a transient culture like the Corinthians, when things didn’t work out with one person, move on to the next. If it doesn’t work out again, move on to the next. You don’t have to take anyone’s mess. How do we know this? Think about the different groups in the Corinthian church. I Corinthians 1   12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? The Corinthians had moved from one group to another when things didn’t work out with one.

Let me clarify: There are times when you may have to cut relationships because of physical or mental/emotional abuse. Having said, we need to learn to bear with others and their faults and failures. Listen carefully: When you love somebody, be prepared to be hurt. Hurting people will hurt people. But if you drop them, they will never get the chance to heal. In your marriage, family, church family, community, neighborhood, and workplace, you will come across people that you have to be patient with.

Application: Are you willing to endure? Are you willing to look over their failures and hang-ups? Are you willing to cut others some slack?

How can you have this kind of love? First, understand how God loves you. Remember, you can substitute Christ for every time love is mentioned in this verse – “Christ bears all things, Christ believes all things, Christ hopes all things, Christ endures all things. Christ never fails.” Second, understand how to love people. Begin today by setting people free. Think of yourself as a prison warden with keys to 4 cells:

  • Cell #1 Exposure (Remember, love covers all. Let the inmates know that you will always cover them.)
  • Cell #2 Suspicion (Remember, love trusts others. Let the inmates know that you will never doubt them.)
  • Cell #3 Pessimism (Remember, love gives hope. Let the inmates know that you see a bright day in the future.)
  • Cell #4 Threats (Remember, love endures all. Let the inmates know that you will never give up on them.)

True love will being to flow when you set the captives free.

Are you free? Are people in your life free? Are you saved

Love is the Greatest by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS THE GREATEST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

love-is-the-greatestIntroduction:  We’re going to take a break from our regular series on the Life of Christ and go to I Corinthians 13 for the next few weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. It’s a series on love titled “LOVE IS THE GREATEST.” Don’t think that this series is only about romantic or marital love. It is about love in general in our family, church, and community.

I Corinthians 13    1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Bridge: Would you agree that the word “love” is probably the most used word in the world? Would you also agree that the word “love” is probably also the most abused and misunderstood word in the world? People love everything from hamburgers to hairstyles and spouses to spinach. We sing about love, write about love, and tell each other “I love you” or “I don’t love you.” The question is – “do we truly understand what love is?” In this series we’re going to learn what love really means and how to show it.

Question: Before we go any further, let’s have a heart to heart talk. Do you truly understand what it means to love? I’m not talking about just romantic or marital love but also loving people in our church and our community. Are you saved? If not, you are loving with a weak, inferior, and selfish love. It’s only when we receive Christ in our hearts as our Savior that the Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts.

In this message we’re laying out the groundwork for this series. 3 things to understand:

 I. THE CONTEXT OF CORINTH

Background: In the first century, there were three prominent cities in Greece. First was Athens, known for its great history, architecture, and ancient schools of learning. By the time of Paul, it was just a tourist town where people send their children to study. Second was Sparta, also known for its great history and military tradition. By the time of Paul, it was also just a tourist town known for its ancient battle stories. The third city was Corinth. Unlike Athens and Sparta, it was anything but ancient. Yes, it went back hundreds of years but it was more alive than ever during the time of Paul.

What made Corinth so unique? To begin with, it was its geographical location. It was sitting on the crossroads or intersection between the east and the west and the north and the south. It was sitting on the isthmus. What is an isthmus? It is a narrow strip land joining two large lands, with sea on either side. If you want to go north and south, you have to go across this isthmus. Also, on the east side, there was a harbor and on the west side, there was a harbor. They created a shortcut across this narrow strip of land called diolkos. It was a paved track, something like a railroad track. They would empty the ship of its cargo at one harbor and then drag the ship across the diolkos to the opposite harbor, reload the ship, and keep sailing. You say, “that’s crazy!” Because the journey around the Peloponnese was so dangerous due to the sudden heavy winds and jagged rocks, it was safer and cheaper to do that than to sail around and destroy the ship and lose all the cargo. Corinth was a major crossroad for trade in the ancient world.

Let me back up a little bit and say a word about the people who lived in this place. In 146 BC the Romans had destroyed Corinth because of their rebellion but in 44 BC Julius Caesar rebuilt this city and populated it with former slaves, army veterans, business people, and laborers. Yes, there were people there who were original Greeks but most probably were not. Picture in your mind, not only a major crossroad of the ancient world but also populated by people who had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Someone said that this was like San Francisco during the California gold rush! People were making money and moving up the social ladder.

By the way, what kind of people do you think were passing through this town? Sailors, merchants, troops. You can only imagine the immorality and debauchery that went on in this place. This was a place where people came if they wanted to have a good time. And as they say – “What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth!” Remember, when I told you to keep an eye on the big mountain behind me. It is called the “Acrocorinth.” By the time of Paul, the temple of Aphrodite was up there. Some say 1000 and some say 100 girls served as priestesses in the temple. This was nothing but religious cover for prostitution. Corinth had a high death rate due to infectious diseases. There’s something else, Corinth was also the location of the Isthmian Games. They were just like the Olympic Games but held every other year and Greeks from all over would come to watch and participate. You can imagine the crowds of people that would come to the city.

I find it amazing that Paul did not stay in Athens or go to Sparta? Instead, he went to Corinth. Why? This is where the people were. This is where lostness was at its max. This is where people were drawn to sexual lusts and selfish pride. This is where people needed to hear that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” This is where people needed to hear “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul came to Corinth sometime in March AD 50. Here he met a Christian couple, Aquila and Priscilla. He stayed with them and worked with them. What did they do? They were tentmakers. I find this very fascinating. Paul was literate and he could have easily got a job as a translator or a scribe. He could have earned good money working at the tax table by the docks or at one of the money lending shops. Instead, he chose tent-making. Why? Any common person coming into the town for a short business trip or to watch the Isthmian Games would need a tent. Guess what? They had to come to Aquila and Priscilla’s shop and who would they meet? The greatest evangelist who ever lived! Paul. I believe that many of them probably got saved at the tent shop! How amazing! And the church was born.

Application: Have you taken the time to look at our own community? Sometime we talk so bad about our community. Do you think God has placed you where you are for a reason? Are you sharing the love of God with your community?

II. THE CONDITION OF THE CHRISTIANS

Background: Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months, teaching them, and encouraging them. After the church was up and running, Paul put right leaders in place and left to go back towards Asia Minor and Jerusalem. Then two things happened: First, he began receiving letters from the church in Corinth, asking for guidance in certain matters. Second, he began hearing reports from people that the church in Corinth was having problems. People were divided. They were fighting with one another and they were even reverting back to their old sinful lifestyles.

What were some of the things that Paul was hearing? To answer that, you simply have to read between the lines of Paul’s letter:

I Corinthians 3   3 For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? The Corinthian church was splitting into groups.

I Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! Some of the Corinthians were turning against Paul and calling him a fool.

I Corinthians 5   1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!  Sexual immorality had entered into the church. What’s worse is that they had no problem with it! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.

I Corinthians 6   5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Some of them were dragging fellow believers into the court.

I Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. Some couples were no longer being sexually intimate. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

I Corinthians 11   20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? They had brought the social divisions of the world into the church, even into the communion service.

The Corinthians were acting spiritual but they had zero love. I Corinthians 13   1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Application: How is your spiritual walk? Is your life marked by love in your home, church, and community? Is your understanding of love shallow, weak, and incomplete like the Corinthians?

III. THE CONTENT OF LOVE

Now we come to the passage we will focus on in the next couple of weeks: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…” Paul was going back to the basics with the Corinthians and teaching them what true love looked like. These former freedmen, army veterans, business owners, sailors, shipyard foremen, common laborers, and even prostitutes were saved but their old way of life was seeping back into their new life.

Sometimes people say, “So and so must not be a Christian because I don’t see any love in them. If you are saved, you will be a loving person. Sometimes they even point to Romans 5:5 “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Listen carefully: Just because you’re saved and you have the love of God poured into your hearts does not mean that loving others will be automatic. If that were so, we wouldn’t need this passage. You need both. You need to be saved and have the Holy Spirit pour God’s love into your hearts. But because we have lived so long in a loveless world, we need to learn and then practice actions of love. Again, the Holy Spirit is there to help us. Without obedience, there will only be love within and selfishness, self-righteousness, pride, wrath, lust, and greed without.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you practicing love

Looking for Grace and Truth by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOOKING FOR GRACE AND TRUTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

looking-for-grace-and-truthIntroduction: This weekend I am preaching the second message in our Christmas series “Believing is Seeing.” It’s about believing in Jesus and once you do that, He comes alive and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives. Today’s message is titled – “LOOKING FOR GRACE AND TRUTH.”

John 1   14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Bridge: When we travel long distance, the kids love to play the “I Spy” game. I spy something blue or I spy something starting with the letter S. It’s amazing once someone declares what we should be looking for, how everyone starts seeing that object everywhere. In this series we are looking for Jesus in the writings of Moses.

Context: If you remember from last weekend’s message, Jesus told His opponents “Moses wrote about Me.” The question is – how and where did Moses mention Jesus? The clue is found in John 1:14 “…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And again in verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Every time Jesus before He was born is mentioned, grace and truth are mentioned. Here’s the point – If you want to find Jesus in the writings of Moses, you have to start looking at every place where “grace and truth” come together. In other words, you have to play the “I spy” game and start looking for grace and truth and you will see Jesus.

Question: Do you need grace and truth in your life? Grace is God’s compassion in your life. Truth is God’s unadulterated fact about you. You need both to make it in life. You can’t have one without the other. Which one do you need more right now? Grace or Truth. Are you saved? The truth is that you are a sinner condemned to die and grace is what’s going to save you.

In this message we will go all the way back to Genesis 3 where we find the first mention of grace and truth:

I. THE GRACE OF GOD IN CREATION

Genesis 1   26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Background: This was unilateral decision by God. The counsel was within the Godhead – Father, Son, and Spirit. God did not need to create us. He wanted to create us.

Psalm 8   1 “O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!…3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him…”

By the way, this is not just about Adam and Eve but about each of us – We are the creation of God’s grace.

And who created us? Jesus! Listen to these verses:

John 1   1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him…”

Colossians 1   16 “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

Ephesians 3   8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ…”

Hebrews 1   1 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…”

Application: How do you see yourself? How do you see your success? It is all by God’s grace.

II. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SUBTLETY OF SIN

Genesis 2   16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Background: Why did God give us restrictions? To show us our limitations; to remind us that we are not masters of our own destiny; to keep us responsible to the One who created us.

We don’t know how long their obedience lasted but one day they had a visit.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

At this point, the man should have stepped up and intervened but he didn’t. Instead, he allowed his wife to be deceived by this crafty being.

Genesis 3   4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Did you see how Satan twisted the words of God? He still does that.

Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

That is the truth about sin – it is appealing to the appetite, to the senses, and to our pride. Not much has changed. Listen to 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Application: Do you understand the truth about sin? Do you see how Jesus has laid out the standard of obedience for us? Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

III. THE GRACE OF GOD IN COMING FOR US

Genesis 3   8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

Background: If I were God, I would have sent my destroying angel to annihilate and obliterate the creation, especially Adam and Eve. Either start over or go back to how things were. God could see the future as He can see the future now. Why deal with these fallen human beings and what they will do for ages to come? Why give Satan any more opportunity to wreak havoc in the world? Instead, God came down. More specifically, Jesus came down. How do we know that? 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Isn’t that amazing that when man and woman fell into sin, it was Jesus who came down in grace?

Titus 2   11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Titus 3   4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

I can go on and on but the point is simple – The triune godhead reached down to us in grace through Jesus Christ.

Application: How do you see Christ? Can you see His grace towards us in not only creating us but also coming to us in grace when we sinned?

IV. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SERIOUSNESS OF SIN

Genesis 3   16   To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

Background: I don’t think I can add any more to the fact that God will not ignore sin or gloss over sin. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”

Application: Do you think the preaching against sin is harsh? If you read the Bible carefully, it’s not harsh enough! How do you see sin in your life? Do you understand how high is God’s standard of holiness?

V. THE GRACE OF GOD IN MAKING A WAY

Genesis 3   14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

Background: Think about who is saying these words? It is Jesus. Who is He saying these words about? Himself! He is prophesying His own death and the plan of redemption. That is grace, isn’t it? Romans 5   15 “…For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many…17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)…21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Invitation: Have you received the grace of God in Jesus? Have you first received the truth about sin? Both come from Jesus because He is grace and truth.

“When All Seems Hopeless” (2) by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: This evening I want to preach a message I’ve preached before but not from the pulpit. I preached it in front of our fireplace last winter when we were snowed in and, if you remember, we came together on Facebook Live and Periscope. This sermon comes from one of my favorite passages from the Bible – Romans 15:13 and it’s called – “WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS.”

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.”
Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “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.” Twice we come across the word “hope” in this verse. To me this passage has been a source of hope many times over and I’m praying that it will be for you as well.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily unwelcome companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have hope unless you have the Holy Spirit and you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Have you done that? Are you saved?

Let’s take this simple verse apart and examine each section. Once we’ve understood each part, we can put it back together and look at it as a whole. 4 key things in this verse:

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, God of love, and God of our salvation. But here we come across an attribute of God that we don’t hear about much but it is central to His character – “Hope.” Our God is also the god of Hope. When we are in a hopeless situation, He is the One who reminds us “Don’t give up. Keep pressing on. There is hope.” He points us to the door when we feel that there is no way out. He shows us the light at the end of the tunnel when all we can see is a dead-end.

But don’t misunderstand – Our God is not just the God who shows us the way or points us to the light. He is the also the One who actually makes the way for us and turns on the light for us at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

Think about Ruth – her husband died. She followed her mother-in-law back to the land of Judah. She was a Moabite woman, sworn enemies of the people of God. But God brought hope into her life. She married a man named Boaz and became the great-grandparents of King David. But there’s more – in time God grafted her into the family tree of Jesus Christ.

There’s something even greater than all this. God not only shows us hope and brings hope to us but He is the Ultimate Hope. In other words, He not only points us to the door and opens the door for us but He’s also the door. He not only points us to the light and turns on the light for us but He’s also the light.

How does He do that? In the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 10:9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Again, Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Then listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus is the Hope? What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Where do you need Jesus in your life? Someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.” Jesus our hope is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 times. It represents a sense of happiness that is not depended on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Jesus said in Matthew 5 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be all right in spite of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The point is this – Neither joy nor peace are contingent on our circumstances. Our God of hope sends us both because we need both to get to the desired end.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and all torn to pieces inside. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope overflows us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us both joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace. John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. Again, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “In believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course kind of life. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Some people are willing to do everything but have faith and belief. This keeps the promises of God from being activated in their lives. Alexander Maclaren gave a great illustration to bring out the importance of faith – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9   23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Are you willing to pray for faith?

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“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.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years or so He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looed like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

ENCOUNTERS 3 (CLEARVIEW FOLLOWUP)

ENCOUNTERS  (Clearview Followup) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Here are some key points to remember from the message

  1. A Historical Fact to Learn: The nobleman went from Capernaum to Cana, which is about 16 miles, a day’s journey. It was uphill because Capernaum was about 700 feet below sea level. Maybe, he walked or maybe he rode his horse. Why? Because his boy was dying with some kind of fever. He may have been a bad person working for a bad man but he was a good father who loved his son and would do anything for him.
  2. A Theological Truth to Believe: You cannot come to Jesus with unbelief in your heart and expect Him to listen to you. Listen to Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
  3. A Biblical Principle to Apply: Crisis is the perfect opportunity to bring people to Christ, to turn their doubts into faith. Do you know someone like that? Pray for them. Are you that someone who is struggling with doubts? Bring your struggles to Him and try Him.

When God Tests Us by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD TESTS US by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whengodtestsusIntroduction: We’re back in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father” and today’s message is titled – “When God Tests Us.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: We have come to the last and probably the hardest petition in the Lord’s Prayer – “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Unlike the other petitions, this is the only negative request that is asking God not to do something. This morning we will be answering some very important questions from this passage but first let me say – Both trials and temptations are a normal part of the Christian life. 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” Men and women of God through the ages have gone through them. They’re not fun in the least. But God has a purpose in them for us and He is faithful to deliver us and refine us through them if we let Him.

Questions: Are you going through some trials in your life? Does it feel like it just keeps coming? Does it feel like the Enemy keeps winning in your life, your home, and your world? Have you prayed for God’s deliverance? Are you submitting to God’s will in your life? Are you saved? If not, then you are already in the clutches of the Evil One?

3 Questions we will answer this morning:

I. DOES GOD LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION? 

“And do not lead us into temptation…”

Background: When you think about it, this petition seems to go directly against James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” Typically, some people have tried to solve this dilemma by pointing out that the same Greek word “peirasmos” is used for testing and temptation, which is true. They suggest that the translation should be changed to “Lead us not into testing” and the problem is solved. That’s not true. Actually, it creates some new set of problems. Again, James 1 says, 2 “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” It means – testing is not harmful but helpful and we should be joyful in the face of it. If that were the case, why would Jesus teach us to pray against something that is helpful for us?

To understand what Jesus really meant, we need to understand 2 things – First, the word “peirasmos” and the verb “peirazo” have been consistently used in a negative sense in Matthew. When Jesus gave this petition, he had the negative “temptation” and not the positive “testing” in mind, especially since He even brings up the Evil One. Second, we may have problem with this petition but the Jewish people didn’t. In the Talmuddic prayers, we come across a similar petition – “Lead my foot not into the power of sin, and bring me not into the power of iniquity, and not into the power of temptation, and not into the power of anything shameful.”

Here’s the point: Jesus meant what He said and His original audience had no problem with the statement that sometimes God leads His people into situations where the Enemy is allowed to tempt them. Several examples from the Bible come to mind here:

Job and his friends by Ilya Repin

Job and his friends by Ilya Repin

In the opening chapter of Job, we see God bragging on Job to Satan. Job 1   8 “…Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?…11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” After Satan wreaked havoc in Jacob’s life and Job didn’t deny God, God again bragged on Job. Again, Satan tells God that it’s because it’s not hot enough. Job 2   5 But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”

We see a similar situation in the life of David. 2 Samuel 24:1 Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” We don’t know exactly why God tested David in this way but look at the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:1 “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” Very strange! On the one hand, God is testing David but, on the other, Satan is tempting David.

Christ in the wilderness - Ivan Kramskoy

Christ in the wilderness – Ivan Kramskoy

Turn to the NT to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew 4:1 says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” It’s as clear as day.

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus has an eerie conversation with Peter. Luke 22   31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” There is a sense of finality in Jesus’ statement of what was about to happen in Peter’s life.

How about Paul? 2 Corinthians 12   7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Here’s the point: God does not tempt us but He does allow us to go into situations where the Enemy can tempt us. It is part of His grand design to purify and humble us.

Application: Are you facing temptations in your life? Are old habits, attitudes, and behaviors resurfacing in your life? Don’t panic. Don’t lose heart. Realize that God is allowing the Enemy to tempt you. He has not abandoned. He is with you. He has a purpose for you. Trust Him. Do you believe that in your worst moments God has not abandoned you but He is very near to you?

II. HOW SHOULD WE PRAY DURING TEMPTATION? 

13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Background: Some people say – “I get it. Satan wants to tempt me but God wants to test me. I guess I should be glad that I am going through this. I am just going to grin it and bear it because it’s all going to work in my favor when it’s over. After all, doesn’t James 1:2 say, ‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.’ To be honest, we should be looking forward to testing because it’s good for us! In fact, God – bring on some more! Also, doesn’t I Corinthians 10:13 also reminds us that, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” God knows my limit and He won’t put any more temptation on me than I can take.”

Here’s the question: If temptation is productive and God knows my limits and will not put on me any more than I can take, why did Jesus teach us to beg God not to lead us into temptation? To start with, Jesus’ original readers did not have any problem with this petition. In fact, this kind of petition was not uncommon in Jewish prayers of the time. Listen to Psalm 155 from Qumran. It says, “Remember me and do not forget me, and do not lead me into situations too hard for me.” In other words, God, please don’t let me get into situations that will produce overwhelming temptation. Here’s the point – if we ignore the context, we will miss the intent. This prayer is a conversation between a child and the father. How does the prayer begin? “Our Father in Heaven” Jesus is teaching us how to come to God as our heavenly father, something the Jewish people understood very well. This prayer is not a discourse on systematic theology, which the Jewish people were not so keen on – bringing passages from here and there on a subject and constructing a doctrine.

Illustration: Sometime back I was watching our boys playing on the soccer team and this little kid got hit with the ball in the face. It was pretty hard. All of us went “whoa!” collectively. The coach ran up there and the mom ran up there. By this time, the kid was crying and when he saw his mom, he ran up to her and hugged on to her. Let me ask you – why did he go hug his mom? She’s not the coach. She cannot ease the pain. She didn’t cause the pain. Why? To a child, the mother is a symbol of safety and comfort. By the way, he stopped that real quickly when he realized that all his teammates and all of us were watching him.

The point is this – God is the source of comfort in our trials and He wants us to come to Him as a child to his/her father and plead for “mercy and grace to help in time of need.” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1   3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation…” Jesus was not laying out the doctrine of theodicy (Why God permits evil). He was simply laying out the attitude of prayer. Listen carefully – Proper theology leads to proper intimacy but don’t let your theology get in the way of your intimacy with God. In other words, stop teaching God the Bible and just pray.

Application: How do you pray? Do you pray like that little child, flinging himself in his mother’s arms? Or do you let your theology get in the way of your intimacy with God? Do you come to Him in in the midst of your struggles and just fall upon Him and ask Him for relief? Or do you presume to teach God the Bible?

III. WHAT IF OUR PRAYERS REMAIN UNANSWERED? 

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Background: The word “but” implies that if we have to go through temptation, then please “deliver” us from the Enemy. The Greek word for deliver is “hruomai” which means, “to rescue someone from a fate from which he cannot escape on his own.” In other words, the battle is on and the Enemy is in control and the disciple is too weak to free oneself. Someone else is needed to fight the Enemy and set them free. Now the battle is in the Deliverer’s hands.

Jesus gave the perfect demonstration of this in the Garden of Gethsemane – Luke 22   41 “…and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; “Wait a minute. What are you talking about? You came for this very purpose? You know you had to do this.” The pressure is so high that right now it’s only a son talking to his father. But then listen – “‘…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Meaning: Jesus submitted Himself to the trial. 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. He prayed as a child but submitted as a son.

Real Trial. Real Prayer. Real Answer. Real Submission. Real Victory.

Invitation: Are you going through some temptation right now? Are you praying for help? Are you praying for deliverance from the Enemy? Are you saved?

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: Thank you so much to all of you are joining us via Facebook Live and Periscope! Thank you also to John, Elie, and the guys there for leading us in worship! I especially want to thank Kim Davis for giving me the idea to do this! And Donna Young as well! After the initial excitement, it was like – “Well, now I have to prepare a sermon!” This morning I want to preach a message I’ve never preached before. It’s on one of my favorite passages from the Bible from Romans 15:13 and the message is titled – “When All Seems Hopeless.” You can follow along on the screen behind me or go to my blog http://www.abidanshah.com and follow the entire message there.

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.”

Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “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.” Twice you come across the word “hope” in this verse.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on your personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Are you saved?

Let’s take this verse apart and examine each section. Then when we understand each part, we will put it back together and look at the whole.

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, and God of our salvation. But here it is the “God of Hope.” It is one attribute of God that we don’t think about. God is the One who shows us life when there’s only death. He is the One who shows us the light at the end of the tunnel. But there’s more – He’s also the One who brings life when there’s only death and He is the One who turns on the Light at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

But let’s go even a step further – He is the Life and He is the Light. In other words, He not only sees the future and He not only brings out a good future but He is the good future.

Listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Listen to what someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.”

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 some times. It is a sense of happiness that is not dependent on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Matthew 5 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be alright. It is also independent of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and inside they are torn to pieces. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope fills us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace.

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “in believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Alexander Maclaren gives a great illustration – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“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.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looks like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

Why We Need Community – Part 1

WHY WE NEED COMMUNITY? – pt 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whyweneedcommunityIntroduction: This weekend I am beginning a two-part message titled “Why We Need Community?” In our world of hyper-connectivity with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, we’re still isolated. With isolation comes anxiety and anxiety brings bad decisions.

1 Samuel 21   10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.

Overall Background: I’m sure all of us are familiar with David in the Bible – the shepherd boy who rescued his father’s sheep from a lion and a bear, the young lad who defeated Goliath the Philistine giant, or the great warrior who subdued thousands of Israel’s enemies. But there’s one image of David that’s very hard to imagine. Listen to verse 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. What in the world is David doing? He’s acting as if he’s lost his mind! The clue to his erratic behavior is found in the question that Ahimelech the priest asks David when he came to him: “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” David is running from Saul and he is all alone. What happens when people are alone? They become afraid. What happens when people are afraid? They make bad decisions. Listen to verse 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath (Philistines). In other words, he jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Talk about a bad decision!

It’s amazing what loneliness will cause a person to do. It will cause people to be afraid and when people are afraid, they will make decisions that they would never make in their right minds. In other words, loneliness leads to fear and fear leads to foolish choices.

Question: Are you filled with anxiety? Are you making bad decisions? Are you isolated? You say – “Oh no. I’ve got friends.” Are they the right kind of friends? When you get saved you become part of this body. Are you saved?

This morning we will learn why we need community from the life of David. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

I. NEED FOR TRUE FRIENDSHIPS 

1 Samuel 20 41 “…And they (Jonathan and David) kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’ ”

Background: Who is Jonathan? He was the son of King Saul, king of Israel. Jonathan was David’s best friend but his father Saul hated David. It all began when David returned after defeating the Philistines and the women came out singing and dancing, saying – “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” This made Saul very angry and from that day forward he began to eye David. He tried every possible way to kill him. Jonathan was aware of his father’s hatred against David but he also knew that David was the rightful heir to the throne and he was willing to stand with David even though it would cost him the kingdom. He repeatedly tried to encourage him. Later in 1 Samuel 23 16 Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. Even though David was a man after God’s own heart, he still needed a Jonathan to strengthen him. John Piper said – “Don’t ever think that a man is so strong that he does not need to be strengthened in God.” Listen to how Jonathan encouraged David – 17 “…Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Can you imagine the courage that came into David’s heart because of Jonathan’s words? That’s what true friends do.

Beth Shean

Beth Shean (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

All of us need a Jonathan in our lives. All of us need friends who will love us unconditionally and stand with us even if the whole world turns against us. David loved his friend Jonathan right to the end. In the famous battle on Mount Gilboa, the Philistines killed Saul and Jonathan and hung their bodies on the walls of Beth Shean. Nicole and I have been there. Valiant men came and took down their bodies and David rewarded those men. He even wrote a beautiful song in honor of Jonathan and Saul. David understood the value of a true friend.

Application: Do you have such a friend/friends? Do you have such Jonathans in your life? Many people are loners, especially when it comes to the Christian life. No wonder they fall apart. No wonder they make poor decisions. Are you making poor decisions? Could it be it’s because you are a spiritual loner? “I just don’t have no friends.” You have to be friendly to have friends.

II. DANGER OF ISOLATION 

1 Samuel 20 42 “…So he (David) arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.”

Background: After Jonathan and David wept, it was time to part. Jonathan went back to the city of Gibeah, north of Jerusalem and David went 3 miles towards the city of Nob, southwest of Jerusalem. Listen to 1 Samuel 21:1 Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” For the first time David is all alone and Ahimelech could probably see that in his eyes. Fear is contagious. David’s fear transferred to Ahimelech. What happens when people are afraid? They make bad decisions:

Here’s bad decision #1verse 2 So David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ And I have directed my young men to such and such a place. That’s a lie. Out of fear, David is lying. By the way, this lie would cost Ahimelech his life as well as the life of 84 other men and women, children, nursing infants, and livestock.

Ahimelech giving sword to David - Aert de Gelder

Ahimelech giving sword to David – Aert de Gelder

Here’s bad decision #2 – verse 8 And David said to Ahimelech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” He keeps lying. Verse 9 So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.” That should’ve been enough a wakeup call. God was reminding David to trust Him as he had done as a young lad against Goliath. David is too scared to think straight and he chooses to trust in Goliath’s old sword. Out of fear, David has lost his faith in God.

Here’s bad decision #3 – verse 7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD. And his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chief of the herdsmen who belonged to Saul. Uh oh…David must have noticed this Edomite servant of Saul near the tabernacle and he immediately got scared. What did he do? Verse 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. This was a Philistine city 23 miles to the west. What is worse is that it was the hometown of Goliath! This is the guy who killed their hometown hero and he shows up with Goliath’s sword! David has lost all sense of wisdom.

The Philistines recognize David and they tell their king – “Isn’t he the one who has killed our thousands?” Listen to David’s response – 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. How tragic! This courageous man of God out of fear has been making one bad decision after another and now he is acting like a fool. Many of us make foolish decision and keep sliding down the slippery slope of despair when we are isolated from God’s people.

Application: Have you been making some bad decisions in your life? Have you gone from faith to fear? Where are the Jonathans in your life? Are you connected to God’s people? If you are honest, you would agree – this place has kept many of y’all from making some very foolish decisions in your life?

III. GOD’S PURPOSE IN COMMUNITY

David wrote Psalm 56 as a prayer during this time. Listen to it – 1 Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. 2 My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High…6 They gather together, They hide, they mark my steps, When they lie in wait for my life. He is asking God to come to His rescue. God answers His prayer. He doesn’t strike Saul. He doesn’t strike Doeg the Edomite. He doesn’t strike the Philistines. What does God do? 1 Samuel 22   1 David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. This was a well-known place in Judah. It was 10 miles from Gath and 15 miles from Bethlehem. Once again David prayed like he did back in Gath. One such prayer is Psalm 142. Listen to the words – 1  I cry out to the LORD with my voice…4 Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul. 5 I cried out to You, O LORD: I said, “You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living…7 Bring my soul out of prison, That I may praise Your name; The righteous shall surround me, For You shall deal bountifully with me.” What David is saying is “God – I need you and I need some righteous people to come alongside of me.”

Did God answer David’s prayer? 1 Samuel 22  1 “…So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him.” God sent people to David. By the way, they are not perfect people. 2 “And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.”

God’s plan for us hasn’t changed. If David needed community, you and I need community. The reason marriages fall apart is because there is no one there who is holding people accountable. The reason children go off the deep end is because there is no one holding our young people accountable. The reason men and women make foolish decision is because they are going about as Lone Rangers, trying to take on the enemy. It was never meant to be this way. God designed us to work in a community.

In this coming year our focus at Clearview is community. We want you to plug in through our Sunday School, Fish groups, and Clearview Circles into some kind of community that will give you the courage to face life and make wise choices. No amount of bible study and prayer can take the place of godly connection.

Simple Question

  1. Are you connected to Christ?
  2. Are you connected to the Body of Christ
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