Dark Day by Pastor Abidan Shah

DARK DAY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Dark Day

Introduction:  On August 21, 2017, people who lived in that 70-mile-wide ribbon all the way from Oregon to South Carolina experienced what is known as the total solar eclipse. It was the first time in almost 38 years that this natural phenomenon was going to pass through the United States. From our church, we had two van loads of people who travelled down to my old college in Georgia to see this incredible celestial event. We found us a nice shady spot from which we could glance at the sun wearing those eclipse glasses. We had looked up the time when it would be total solar eclipse and it was going to be at 2:37pm and last no more than 1 min 59 secs. As the appointed time began to draw near, everything turned eerie – the leaves did not look as green, the stream flowing by did not look as clear, the sky took on this dark and dreary color, and everyone felt as if the end of the world had come. the moon lined up directly in front of the sun, leaving a bright ring in the sky, and everything went dark. Even the birds stopped singing and the crickets began chirping. When it happened, involuntarily we all began to shout and cheer! I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. As incredible as that was, there’s coming a day much much scarier than anything we can ever imagine. That’s the title of our final message in our series through Malachi – “DARK DAY.”

Malachi 4    1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the Lord of hosts.

Question: Some people think that this world is just floating as some abandoned ship in the middle of the ocean. Not true. God set this ship to sail when he created this world and he is guiding it to its appointed destination. Make no mistake that it will reach its destination on the day that he has decreed. Are you prepared for that day? Are you prepared to face your maker? Are you living each day as if this could be the day? Are you telling others about Christ? Are you saved?

Context: In this final chapter of the Book of Malachi, God gave the people of Israel a glimpse of the future. Listen again to Malachi 4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.” God was telling his people, the people of Israel, that there was a day coming when he will execute his judgment on those who they were saying were the “proud but blessed” and the “wicked but successful” and it will destroy them. This was the same day that God mentioned 2 verses earlier in Malachi 3:16-17 where he listened and heard those who feared him and desired to please him speaking to each other about him. He says, “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels…” In other words, on the very day that God will proudly display those people of Israel who love him and desire to please him, he will crush those wicked who appear to be blessed in this life and seem to get away with wickedness.

 The OT is filled with many references about this “day.” Sometimes it’s called the “Day of the Lord,” sometimes the “Day of Tribulation,” other times the “Day of Judgment,” “Day of Wrath,” “Day of Jacob’s Trouble,” or even the “Day of Vengeance of the Lord.” Obadiah, Joel, Zephaniah, Isaiah, Ezekiel – they all talk about this day. It is spoken as “one day” but if you study it carefully, it represents the idea of God’s many judgments upon the wicked throughout history, culminating in a final ultimate judgment, the Day with a capital D. If you’ve studied biblical prophecy, we call it the “Great Tribulation.”

Let me pause here: I’ve spent a lot of time studying prophecy and eschatology (the study of the end times) and this is what I’ve found – Some people become obsessed with prophecy and others become adamant and argumentative over some view in prophecy. They begin to suffer from what’s known as the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” Abigail sent me a quote from them yesterday. By the way, David Dunning and Justin Kruger are social psychologists and professors who published a very interesting study in 1999. In a nutshell, the study proved this – “The less people know, the more they think they know.” Have you ever heard the statement – “Little knowledge is dangerous.” When it comes to prophecy, I have found a lot of dangerous people. They read a book or two and listen to some series from some favorite preacher and they become experts on the end times! I’ve preached many sermons on prophecy and this is what I’ve found – “The more I read and study prophecy, the more complex it becomes!” So, should we not study it? Of course not. We should study and teach prophecy but do it with humility and the right focus. Revelation 19:10 “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

What can we make of this prophecy? First, it is given to the people of Israel. Malachi was written to those Jewish people who were back in the land after their exile. It was written to confront their sins and to commend those who were pleasing God and speaking to one another about him. This prophecy will be fulfilled for the people of Israel in the end of times. In other words, God still has a purpose for ethnic Israel. Sometimes people have a problem with that. They think that the church has replaced Israel. They quote passages like Romans 9   6 “…For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham…” That’s a big misinterpretation of that passage in its context. Read the verses prior starting in Romans 9   2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. Paul is saying that he is so burdened for his people, the people of Israel, that if he could, he would go to hell so they could get saved. Later he says in Romans 10   1 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not…2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” Why is he saying all this? The Jewish people had rejected Jesus their Messiah so the question was “Is God through with them?” Listen to Romans 11   11 “…Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” Then he gives a powerful imagery of Israel being the olive tree and the Gentiles being the wild olive tree. Paul says in verse 17 “if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them…” 18 do not boast against the branches…remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” What does all this mean? God is not finished with the people of Israel. There’s coming a day when he will once again exalt his people and work through them. The reminder to us is to never turn our backs on the Jewish people.

Let’s return to Malachi – 2 “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…” The question that is often asked at this point is “where will the church be at this point?” Will we be there to see the Sun of Righteousness? I believe the imagery for the church is not the “Sun of Righteousness” but what Revelation 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” Does that mean that we will be raptured? Also keep in mind Revelation 2   26 “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations…28 and I will give him the morning star.” It could be that we may be gone before the day dawns or we may have to overcome and Jesus will guide us as the morning star.

“…And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.” But at the outset 144,000 Jewish people will be saved and they will go out as missionaries. All of them like the apostle Paul or the prophet Jonah or the apostle Peter. They will be filled with the Holy Spirit, not having to learn any language and they will go to the uttermost parts of the earth. There will be persecution. Israel will be attacked but God will save them. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the Lord of hosts. Today many countries are trying to destroy the Jewish people. Make no mistake, they will ultimately win. God will be faithful to the covenant he made to his friend Abraham.

4 “Remember the Law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Meaning: One major sign of the fulfillment of God’s timing is when there is no generational gap. Also remember, the plan of salvation has always been the same – Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Dr. Vance Havner said, “You can give a Bible and a candle to a child of God then put him in a dungeon. Even there, he will know more about what is going on in this world than all of Congress and the Pentagon put together.”

When will all this be? 1Thessalonians 5   1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

Be ready now. Get saved. Tell others. Live pleasing to God.

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.

Out of the Graveyard by Pastor Abidan Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

out-of-the-graveyard-2Introduction: This is the first weekend of the New Year and I want to preach a message titled “OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD.” Hopefully, it will awaken us to come out of the graveyard of excuses and inspire us to step out into the New Year with Christ.

Luke 9 57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

Bridge: This is the time of the year when people everywhere make New Year’s resolutions to change their lives, to break some bad habits, and even to start some good ones. According to some surveys, about 70% of the resolutions are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions of growing in Christ and following Him. Another year comes and another year goes and still there’s no progress. Today’s message is going to help us come out of the graveyard of excuses and step out into the New Year with Christ.

Context: The passage we just read took place during the early part of Jesus’ ministry. Multitudes of people were flocking to Him. It seemed like the movement was growing by leaps and bounds. Just then Jesus had an encounter with three different individuals. Each had a desire to follow Him but unfortunately had second thoughts and went back to the graveyard of excuses. Sadly, not much has changed. Even today people begin with a resolve to follow Christ but for one reason or another, they go back to their old lives. They refuse to leave the graveyard of comfort, obligations, and approval.

Question: Are you buried somewhere in the graveyard of excuses? What resolutions have you made for 2017? Sometimes people say – “I just don’t make any resolutions anymore. They don’t work for me anyways.” To me, it’s like saying – “I just don’t have any destinations anymore. They don’t work for me anyways. I just get in my car and drive!” That’s ridiculous. The problem is not with the resolutions as much as it is with the list of excuses we make. By the way, before you can leave the graveyard of excuses in following Christ, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death. Are you saved?

3 common graves in the graveyard of excuses:

#1. GRAVE OF COMFORT 

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Background: At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple but Jesus knew his real intention. Apparently, he was approaching Jesus as a rabbi. Matthew even tells us that he addressed Jesus as “Teacher.” In those days, and even in some settings today, a rabbi would gather around him a set of young followers. Their job was simply to take care of their master’s needs. It was a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices and obligations. Yes, they had to follow the rabbi wherever he went but all their basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter were taken care of.

Jesus knew what this young man was thinking. It would’ve been very easy for him to say – “Alright. Come on. Just do what everyone is doing.” Instead, he abruptly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Please don’t misunderstand this. This was not a call to give up your Sleep Number bed or your Tempur-Pedic pillow for Jesus. This was not a call to renounce all the material comforts of life and choose to wander around and live under a tree like some hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble right now. What Jesus was asking this young man was – Do you really understand what it means to follow me? To follow me, you have to live an uncomfortable life where–

  • It may be comfortable to tolerate some old sin in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
  • It may be comfortable to hang on to some old habit in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
  • It may be comfortable to hold on to some grudge against someone in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
  • It may be comfortable to live by some old dreams and desires in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.

I can go on and on. What Jesus was telling this young man was – “Following me will not be comfortable. It may get lonely, painful, tough, and disappointing but here’s the promise – I’ll be with you.”

Even today, people want to follow Jesus as long as it is comfortable. They want an easy life with minimal changes, responsibilities, and sacrifices. They want to go forward with God only if they don’t have to give up anything. They want to go deep in their walk only if they don’t have to do too much digging. They want to sacrifice only if someone else is footing the bill. By the way, they’re the first ones to check out when things get tough.

Application: Do you really know what it means to follow Christ? Are you willing to take the uncomfortable way? Again, this was not a call to give up all the comforts of life and all the finer things of life. You can have all the comforts of life and finer things of life but the comforts of life and the finer things of life cannot have you. How much are you willing to sacrifice?

#2. GRAVE OF OBLIGATIONS 

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

Background: At first reading that sounds like a strange request! Is the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! Not really. What the man was really saying was that “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I can follow you.” This man was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down. Right now I have too much on my plate. Once I can take care of all that, then I’m set to follow Jesus.” By the way, this was a delusion because things would never settle down for him. What would happen after this man buried his father? Now they’d have to divide up the inheritance. He may be responsible to make sure that everyone gets his or her fair share. It’s rare that siblings ever get along in such matters. Someone would be bound to claim “unfair.” Now he would have to smooth out any hurt feelings. Who knows but the matter might end up in a court of law. That would be the end of it.

Jesus recognized his excuse. So listen to his response – 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How unthinkable?!! Was Jesus actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. It is always about taking care of those who are helpless. But in this situation, the man’s obligation was going to keep him from going forward with Christ. The answer was very clear – “Let the dead bury their own dead.” What does that mean? Jesus was being rhetorical. He was telling the man to stop focusing on every trivial or essential concern of life and to follow Him.

Here’s the point: Life has a way of keeping us obligated, especially if we’re looking for excuses. If there’s not one obligation, there will be another:

  • After the children grow up
  • After they get done with college
  • After they get married
  • After the grandkids start school. It never ends!

Application: Are you waiting for things to settle down in your life? What excuses comes to your mind when you think about going forward with God? What noble obligation is keeping you from following Christ?

#3. GRAVE OF ONE LAST GLANCE

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

Background: Again, on first reading, this sounds like a reasonable request – “Let me go and tell bye to my family and friends. How can that be so bad? At least they’ll know where I am.” Don’t misunderstand. This was not about bidding farewell to loved ones. It was about taking that one last glance. What’s so bad about that? The world is full of people who took that one last glance like Lot’s wife. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what she saw. All it says is that she turned into a pillar of salt. She was petrified forever. Even today people turn into a pillar of salt with that one last glance. What do they see?

  • Some see Pain; things that have wounded them deeply and they feel they can’t leave until they heal.
  • Some see Regrets; things they wish they had done differently and they feel they can’t leave until they fix them.
  • Some see Failure; places where they messed up in life and they feel their past would repeat again.
  • Some even see Disappointed Faces; people in their life that are hurt because they’re following Christ and they feel they can’t leave them.

Luke 14   26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

Matthew 10   34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

What advice did Jesus give to this man? 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus used an imagery from farming to make a very important point. Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church shared with me how when he used to plow with a mule, he was told to keep his eye on a point in front and not look back. When he kept his eyes forward on the mark, he had straight lines behind but if he were to look back at the lines, then the lines would be crooked.

Invitation: Are you looking back instead of going forward? Is Jesus your goal or do you keep looking back? Are you ready to come out of the graveyard of excuses?

  • Instead of the grave of comfort, “deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Christ.”
  • Instead of the grave of obligation, “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of you.”
  • Instead of the grave of one last glance, “run the race, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”

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

WHEN YOU ARE NEAR THE FINISH LINE

WHEN YOU ARE NEAR THE FINISH LINE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Three Examples:

1. A young girl grew up in church, great potential, wonderful goals in life. Next thing, she gets around people who pretending to be her friend lead her astray. Now she is no longer focussed and heading to her goal but has gone off the deep end.

2. Last Thursday I received an email from a friend. In the email, he mentioned a famous person whom I have admired for sometime. Most of you would know who he is if I were to mention his name. But I won’t. This friend mentioned this famous person and used the adjective “fallen.” Immediately, I went on the Internet and typed his name. Sure enough this man whom I had admired had left his wife of twenty years and was living with a mistress. He had a very high-profile position; he had influenced thousands of people for good; he had run very well; He was near the finish line but he had fallen.

3. A church that is doing great things for the Lord. Next thing, there are terrible problems. Now the church has gone through several splits. It no longer has any vision or direction.

Nehemiah 6:1-4 Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.

Overall Background: Nehemiah had to overcome incredible odds to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.

  • He had to get permission from the King of Persia.
  • He had to travel 700 miles across the desert to get to Jerusalem.
  • He had to deal with the taunts and threats of the enemies.
  • He had to deal with the lack of motivation of some people.
  • He had to deal with internal problems among the people.

When You Are the Near the Finish LineIn spite of all the obstacles, Nehemiah led the people to finish the wall around Jerusalem but then listen to what happens in verse 1: Now it happened whenSanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. Knowing that the work was almost done, Nehemiah’s enemies did not stop their attacks. Instead, they rallied together for one final, ultimate assault.

Listen carefully—Just because you can see the finish line of your life, marriage, work, and ministry does not mean the race is over. In fact, the greatest attack of the enemy is usually right before you cross the finish line. He knows that he cannot stop the work; he knows that he has failed before; yet he still believes that he can get you and he launches every weapon in his arsenal to bring you down. Just like the person I mentioned earlier, many people forget that the last quarter of the race is just as important as the first quarter of the race.

This morning, I want us to see how Nehemiah handled these attacks. First, I want us to see how the attacks came against him.

I. LET’S PUT THE PAST BEHIND US.

Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, Who were these two men?

Background: If you remember, thus far, Sanballat was the chief enemy of Nehemiah. He was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He hated Nehemiah from Day One. While Nehemiah wanted to help the people of Jerusalem, Sanballat wanted to advance his own agenda. He knew that if the Jewish people were successful in rebuilding the wall, he would no longer be in control. So he did everything he could to sabotage the project. He was not a friend but the ringleader of the opposition.

Geshem, if you remember, was also a major opposition of Nehemiah. Some archaeological discoveries describe him as the governor of Dedan; others describe him as the king of Kedar. That being the case, Geshem controlled the eastern desert region of Syria, northern Arabia, Sinai, and northern Egypt. He was a very powerful ruler and he was afraid that rebuilding the wall and empowering the people would interfere with his lucrative trade in myrrh and frankincense, besides many other things. He was not a friend but a huge opposition.

What did they want? “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” Ono was halfway between Samaria and Jerusalem. It was a kind of a neutral ground but it was away from Jerusalem. It was closer to the enemy territory.

How did Nehemiah respond? But they thought to do me harm. Nehemiah felt in his spirit that this was a mistake. “Why would these people who have opposed me so far want to be my friends?” More than likely their plan was to lure him away from Jerusalem and then kidnap him or kill him or just say, “he had an accident.” Nehemiah had what the world calls a “sixth sense” but what we know to be a sense of discernment.

So what did Nehemiah do?So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. Meaning: Nehemiah knew that unless God had changed their hearts, they were up to no good. Unless the grace of God through Jesus Christ breaks and molds the hearts of the people, they don’t change.

How did Nehemiah have this sense of discernment? Because he was a person of prayer. Every step of the way he had prayed and trusted God and the time he spent with God made him aware of the enemy. Just like King Solomon prayed before God – Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9) Some people consider their bad experiences as their sense of discernment. But your past can make you a bitter recluse. Some people consider their suspicious personality to be their sense of discernment. But your personality can leave you looking over your shoulders all your life. It’s only the Holy Spirit through prayer who gives the most accurate discernment against the enemy.

For e.g. I can give you plenty of negative examples but let me give you a positive. When Nicole’s dad began as a pastor, there was a man in his church by the name of George. This man opposed him every step of the way. Later, Nicole’s father left and went on the mission field and pastored some other churches. About 10 years later, he was asked to help plant a church in one of the fastest growing areas in the country. They began meeting in a high school auditorium and one Sunday morning guess who walked in? George. Pastor Jerry said to himself, “Oh no!” Little did he realize what God had done in George’s life. He was not the same man. Long story short – George became his right hand man until the day he died and the church had several hundred in just a few months.

Application: Let me ask you a question – would you like to be a bitter recluse or a suspicious person or would you rather have the Holy Spirit’s discernment in your life? It only comes through prayer.

II. LET’S GET EVERYTHING OUT IN THE OPEN.

Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand.

Nehemiah open letterBackground: In those days, letters were written on papyrus or leather sheet, tied with a string, and then sealed. Only the person addressed could break the seal and open the letter. Sanballat send an open letter so that everyone who saw it could read its contents.

What was in the letter?In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. This was a psychological tactic. “Everybody knows what’s going on. Even if they didn’t, they do now with the open letter.” The Persian kings did not tolerate people pretending to be kings. Nehemiah worked for the king and he knew that very well.

What’s the solution? 7b Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together. Meaning: Let’s straighten things out. We’ll hear both sides of the story and then we’ll get all this sorted out. They were using the “guilty unless proven innocent” approach. How tempting it was for Nehemiah to say—“ I don’t want these rumors to go any further. Let me clear up my name.”

For e.g. I see this on Facebook – people trying to clear up their name. “You know who you are and I know what you said about me.” Why do people fall for this foolishness?

How did Nehemiah respond?Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.” Meaning: Thanks but no thanks. Nehemiah was a man of prayer and he knew that they were making this up. He had no need for anyone to take care of his reputation. He trusted God with his integrity.

For e.g. I’ve been there myself. Someone was talking trash about me. Another person wanted to play the mediator – “I will sit with both of you and help you work this out.” This person wanted to play the mediator but they couldn’t work out their own relationships. About the same time, another person came to me who had known me for sometime and said, “I trust you. I don’t need to know the other side.”

What else did Nehemiah do? For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.” Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. He went back to his work and went back to prayer.

Application: May I ask you – “Who is trying to distract you from your work?” Who is trying to play the mediator in your life?

III. LET’S PROTECT YOU FROM THE ENEMY.

10 Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.”

Background: This was a very shrewd tactic. This man Shemaiah pretended to be a friend and pretended to be a prophet of God who wanted to protect Nehemiah from the enemy. His plan to Nehemiah was to go hide in the temple. What’s wrong with that? Only the priests were allowed to enter the sanctuary. According to Numbers 18:7c “the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” In II Chronicles 26 we hear about King Uzziah who tried to burn incense in the temple and God struck him with leprosy. Shemaiah plan was two-fold: Get Nehemiah in the temple and then have him killed according to the Law or to let God strike him with leprosy.

How did Nehemiah respond? 11 And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” 12 Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. Being a person of prayer and integrity Nehemiah recognized the true intent of Shemaiah and he refused his offer.

Listen carefully: A true friend will not lead you to disobey God. A true friend will lead you to trust God more and obey Him and reject fear.

Let me say this as your pastor: If I ever teach you to live in fear, I don’t need to be your pastor. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

The enemy used everything possible to attack Nehemiah. 1. Let’s put the past behind us. 2. Let’s get everything out in the open. 3. Let’s protect you from the enemy. At first glance, they all seem legitimate and harmless. But when you pray, you can see the beady eyes of the devil behind every one of them. Nehemiah prayed and trusted in God.

What was the result? 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. (just two months) 16 And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.

As the pastor, my heart’s desire is very simple: When all is said and done, no one should say, “Oh that church grew because of the preaching or music or programs or leadership or building.” Instead, the world should say “This work was done by God.”

When the dust settles, people should see Jesus Christ and no one else. Do you know Him? Are you looking to Him or are you looking at the enemy?

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