Sleeping Through the Storm by Pastor Abidan Shah

SLEEPING THROUGH THE STORM by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Sleeping Through the Storm.jpgIntroduction: As many of you know, we’ve been in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels. This morning we come to a very familiar passage where Jesus calms a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The message is titled – “SLEEPING THROUGH THE STORM.”

Mark 4   35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Bridge: As all of you know, Winter Storm Helena hit us over the weekend. About 7:30 Saturday morning Nicole and I woke up to a loud crashing sound. We jumped out of bed and ran to the window. A big pine tree had fallen on the house. We put on some warm clothes and ran outside to investigate and then climbed into the attic to see if anything had come through. Thankfully, nothing had. Again, all I could say to Nicole was – “We really didn’t need this…we really didn’t need this…” How many of y’all have ever said that during or after some storm in your life – “We really didn’t need this?”

Context: In this message we will look at a windstorm that came upon the Sea of Galilee while Jesus and his disciples were sailing across. What makes this so puzzling is that it was Jesus who had instructed them to travel at this time! Question: If he was God, was he not aware of the coming storm? Not only that but he fell asleep during the storm! Another Question: Was Jesus so tired that he was oblivious to the storm or was he just so callous that he did not care about what was happening to his disciples? There are many other questions that we’ll answer in this passage that will help us face the storms in our lives.

Question: Are you going through a difficult storm in your life? Does it seem like this one will drown you? Do you wonder – if God knows all, why did he allow this storm in your life? And, if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he calm this storm in your life? Here’s a question that you definitely need to answer – Is Jesus in the boat with you? Is he in your life? Have you ever accepted him as your Savior?

3 principles about sleeping through the storm:

I. GOD NEVER ABANDONS US, ESPECIALLY IN THE STORM. 

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”

Background: Why did Jesus want to go to the other side of Galilee? When you read the whole context you see that so many people were coming to him from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, other side of the Jordan, Tyre, and Sidon. Mark 3:9 tells us that he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him because of the huge crowds, “…lest they should crush Him.” It was so bad that Mark 3:20 tells us, “…they could not so much as eat bread.” Jesus needed a break from the crowd. But listen again to that verse “…He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Keep in mind – Jesus was/is God. If he wanted to get away, he could have easily teleported himself to the other side. He didn’t need a boat to do that. But Jesus knew that the disciples needed a break too. They were stressed out as well and needed to get away. The boat was not for him. It was for them.

Understand the difference between physical and spiritual stress: The stress on Jesus and the disciples was not as much physical as it was spiritual. Physical stress comes when your body runs down and you have to take a nap, go for a dinner out, or even take a mini-vacation. Your mind and body need time to rest and recuperate. What Jesus and his disciples were facing was spiritual stress. They were constantly preaching, ministering, healing, and setting people free. They were spiritually drained. It needed a different therapy altogether. By the way, what happens if spiritual stress is not handled? People have spiritual breakdowns. Have you seen many godly people and leaders fall into scandals and devastating sins? They become spiritually fatigued, loose sight of God, and fall into the Enemy’s traps and sins. Jesus knew that his disciples were at the verge of losing their vision of him in the midst of working for him and with him. They needed a fresh vision of God.

36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. Meaning: Jesus was not sending them off on some adventurous retreat to learn more about God. He was with them. That’s the sign of God. Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Application: Do you realize that God never abandons you in the midst of the storm? In fact, he allows the storm to come into your life for a reason. It is his way to deal with spiritual stress in your life. In fact, the very last words of Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 28:20 “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”

How do you see the storms in your life? Can you see God’s real purpose in your life? Can you see how he is the divine architect behind the storm? Do you see that he is doing this for your spiritual benefit and not for your loss?

II. STORMS CAUSE US TO TURN TO GOD IN DESPERATION. 

37 “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.”

Background: Now keep in mind that these guys were expert fishermen. They had navigated the Sea of Galilee innumerable times. They knew how the lake was susceptible to sudden storms. But for some reason, this storm was different. It was getting worse and worse. They were about to sink! As they are becoming increasingly aware that they are going down, just then it hits them – Jesus is with us! But where is he? 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow…” Listen to how they addressed him“And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Let’s stop here for a moment – Can we agree that Jesus was aware of the storm before it struck? Of course! He was/is God. In fact, I would argue that he orchestrated this storm for a reason. Now, my finite human mind says – “if someone is stressed, the last thing they need is a storm.” Have you ever said – “God, I’m already at the end of my rope. I really don’t need this”? Why does God allow the extra stress in our lives? Listen carefully – God allows storms to come into our lives to awaken us out of our self-sufficiency and rut. He allows storms to come into our lives not to break us down but to bring us closer to him. Storms are not God’s torture chambers but his retreat centers to come to him so he can replenish and rejuvenate us with his power, his wisdom, and his grace. You say, “If God loved me, he won’t allow this…” He loves you too much not to allow this.

Listen to what Jesus handled did. 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Keep in mind that these guys had just seen Jesus perform miracle after miracle. They had just seen Jesus free many people from unclean spirits. They had just seen him heal multitudes of sick people. They had just heard Jesus talk about the kingdom of God and his purpose in coming. But all that went out the window or the boat! This was the end of everything! They really thought that after all that Jesus was going to end up at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee and they were going to drown with him.

Storms have a way of revealing the depth of our faith. We see miracle after miracle in our lives. We know that God is behind all that we are and we are doing. But then the big one comes and we forget everything. We revert back to the familiar and the visceral. We really don’t know God as well as we thought we did.

Application: Are you going through a storm? Have you called on God yet? How is your faith level? Do you throw out all your beliefs and bible studies and sermon notes during the storm? Do you revert back to the familiar and the visceral? Or do you take the time to remember what God has taught you about faith? Many years ago I heard someone say – “Don’t forget in the dark what God has taught you in the light.” Are you willing to turn to God in desperation?

III. GOD REVEALS HIMSELF IN A NEW WAY IN THE STORMS.

41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Background: Sometimes people have a very simplistic understanding of the miracles in the gospels. Either they don’t believe them or quickly jump to the conclusion that Jesus was God because he did miracles. All that’s true but there’s more to the miracles than we think. There are 2 things I want to highlight in this miracle: the Sea and the Sleeping Jesus.

  1. Sea – To start with, we need to understand what the sea represented to the ancient peoples, especially the people of God. For the ancient peoples like the Babylonians and the Ugarits, the sea was a symbol of chaos that the supreme deity had to keep his control over. The Bible gives us the true account of how God has controlled the sea through the ages. Genesis 1   1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. You can picture the chaos and the darkness of the waters at creation. On the second day, God separated the waters into 2 parts – the waters above and the waters below – and brought order from chaos. During Noah’s flood, God removed the separation temporarily and water came from the top and the bottom and chaos ruled the earth again. Then God made a covenant with Noah that he would never destroy the world with a flood again. Once again there was order from chaos. At times, this chaos of the waters is referred to as a dragon in the Bible that God had to defeat. Psalm 74   13 “You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters. 14 You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces…” Psalm 89   8 “O LORD God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O LORD?…9 You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them. 10 You have broken Rahab in pieces, as one who is slain.” I can go on and on but jump over to the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. Revelation 13:1 “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” Here we see the beast coming out of the sea to wreak havoc on the earth. But listen to the promise in Revelation 21:1 “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” Don’t misunderstand: There will be water in the new heavens and new earth but the threat and chaos of the sea will be gone forever.

Here’s the point: Storms bring demonic chaos into our lives. They try to shake our beliefs and our behavior. We lose our stability. We find ourselves disheveled.

  1. Sleeping Jesus – Next, we need to understand what a sleeping god meant for the ancient peoples, especially the people of God. Among the Babylonian, Akkadian, and Egyptian myths, a sleeping god was a sign of control and power. Of course, the Bible gives us the true meaning of this. What did God do after he created everything? On the seventh day he rested. Was he tired? Of course not. It was a sign that he was supreme and in charge. Repeatedly in the Old Testament the people of God called on God to awaken.

Isaiah 51:9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old.”

Psalm 44   23 Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever. 24 Why do You hide Your face, And forget our affliction and our oppression?

I can go on and on but here’s the point: Jesus sleeping in the midst of a sea storm, a demonic chaos, was a sign that he was none other than God in flesh.

Check out this passage and see how much this was a fulfillment of a prophecy – Psalm 107   21 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! 22 Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing. 23 Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, 24 They see the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. 25 For He commands and raises the stormy wind, Which lifts up the waves of the sea. 26 They mount up to the heavens, They go down again to the depths; Their soul melts because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, And are at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. 29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven. 31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! 32 Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders.

Invitation: How is your vision of God? How is your vision of Jesus? Are you growing in Him? Do you realize how much you don’t know Him? Are you saved?

#Peace is not the absence of #storm. It is the #assurance that God has allowed the storm and will use it for His glory and my growth

How to Close a Prayer by Pastor Abidan Shah

HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtocloseaprayer

Introduction: This is our final message in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father.” At the end of the service, Ryan will be making an exciting announcement about it so stay tuned. Today’s message is titled – “HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER.”

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: Would you agree that how you end a conversation matters? There are conversations that end on a high note and then there are some that end on a low note. Some end with hope and anticipation while others end with doubt and despair. Some end with joy and gladness while others end with tears and sadness. Prayer is also a conversation and it matters how you end it. Jesus ended the “Lord’s Prayer” with the doxology – “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” By the way, according to Jewish custom, prayer was always followed by a conclusion, a doxology. In the Mishnah (m. Ber. 1.4) it says, “In the morning two blessings are to be said…which they ordered to be concluded (with a benediction) must not be left without such a conclusion…” In the Old Testament, you see this repeatedly at the end of prayers. Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

Question: How do you end your prayers? Is it with hope and anticipation or is it with doubt and despair? Is it with joy and gladness or is it with tears and sadness? Do you pray? Are you saved? It’s hard to have a conversation with someone you don’t know.

Matthew 613 footnote

Matthew 6:13 with a footnote

This morning we will look at the doxology or the end of the Lord’s Prayer and my desire is that it will encourage you to pray with hope and joy and faith. But before we jump in, there’s an important issue that we need to address. Some of your Bibles may have this statement next to this verse or at the bottom of the page – “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have these words” or “some late manuscripts add the doxology” or “the NU text omits the doxology.” In many translations the doxology is included but in brackets and in several Bibles it is not included at all. What exactly is going on here?

Matthew 613 brackets

Matthew 6:13 in brackets

Matthew 613 omitted

Matthew 6:13 omitted

My first encounter with this issue came when I was in elementary school. I went to St. Aloysius, a Catholic School, where every morning during school assembly we said the Lord’s Prayer. What was startling to me was how the nuns would end the prayer with “And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.” Wait a minute! You’re forgetting something! “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” Later on I learned that the Catholic Bible did not have the doxology. Why? Because it was based on the Latin Vulgate which also did not have the doxology. Little did I know at the time that one day I would pursue a PhD in the field of New Testament Textual Criticism (I don’t like to brag about that), which deals with these very issues. I believe that the doxology should be included in the text. Why? I don’t have time to go in depth but let me quickly give a couple of things to remember. But before I do that, let me be clear – I am not a “King James Only.” It’s a great translation but I’m not here to defend it.

  • It is true that the doxology is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts that have survived (Aleph and B) from the 4th It is also not found
    Gk Mss Dist Matt Doxology

    Greek Mss Distribution of Matthew’s Doxology

    in 3 manuscripts from the 5th century (D Z 0170). But one thing that many people don’t realize is that 4 out of those 5 seem to have a common origin, which narrows their weight.

  • But, what many people don’t realize is that the doxology is found in 1 early Greek manuscript (W) from the 5th century and 2 (sigma and phi) from the 6th
  • Furthermore, the doxology is absent from only 13 or so manuscripts and 10 of them after the 13th
  • But, from the 8th century on 1504 manuscripts have the doxology! One of my friends (Jonathan Borland) did the math and altogether 98.6% of all Greek manuscripts have the doxology, a few with some variations. They had to be copied from somewhere.
  • It is also true that the Latin version omits it (I just mentioned that) and so also the early church fathers (Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine).
  • But the doxology is found in an Old Latin, (k/1), some of the Old Syriac versions, some Coptic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Georgian, and Armenian.

I can go on and on but the question is why did some manuscripts drop it?

  • Maybe because Luke does not include it, some scribes may have felt that Matthew shouldn’t either. They should have remembered that maybe Luke left it out because the Gentiles didn’t see the need for a doxology at the end of every prayer.
  • Maybe because when the church collectively read the passage, they would stop at “deliver us from evil” and the priest alone would say the doxology. This could have become a norm and the doxology got left out by a handful of manuscripts.
  • Personally, I think its because some scribe thought that it was contradicting the opening of the prayer – “Your kingdom come.” It could be that the scribe felt that if the kingdom was still to come in the future, how can we say “Yours is the kingdom,” as if it is already in the present.

We don’t have all the answers but my conclusion is that the evidence is in the favor of the doxology. Please don’t misunderstand – this does not mean that people who don’t include it are liberals or unsaved. That’s not true. So, why did I go through all this trouble? Our young people are bombarded daily with allegations that the original Bible has been lost in transmission. That’s not true and cookie cutter answers won’t work. We have to, as Peter says in I Peter 3:15, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Back to our message – This doxology reminds us of 3 things about God as we close our prayer:

I. HE IS THE RIGHTFUL OWNER, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is the kingdom…forever.”

Background: If you remember the message on – “Your kingdom come” – the Jewish people knew that God was their eternal King. He was their rightful King. And one day He was coming to take His rightful throne over the world and rule forever. By ending with the doxology– “Yours IS the kingdom” – Jesus was saying that even now God was the rightful King. Even now He owned everything and everyone. It was very similar to the doxology that David prayed in I Chronicles 29   10 Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. If you remember, the people of Israel had rebelled against God and had demanded a king to be like other nations. Even though David was the king of Israel, He was humbly acknowledging that God was Israel’s true king. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. Is it any wonder that God repeatedly heard David’s prayer and established His kingdom forever?!

Here’s the point: No matter how we come to God in prayer, we need to remember that God owns this entire creation and everything in it, including all our problems and us. Like that old song—

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

……….

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:

Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and Heav’n be one.

………

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?

The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He owns it all? Do you proclaim Him king over your circumstances and over yourself?

II. HE CAN CHANGE CIRCUMSTANCES, NOW AND FOREVER.

“For Yours is…the power…forever.”

Background: This almost sounds like the last point but there is a difference. It’s one thing to be the rightful owner but it’s another thing to be in control. To say it differently – you can own something but still be helpless to change a situation. By ending with the doxology – “For Yours is the power” – Jesus was saying that the Father was not only in charge but He also had all the power to change all circumstances. By the way, Jesus demonstrated that when they brought a paralytic to Him on a bed. Matthew 9   2 “…When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’ 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house. 8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

Here’s the point: No matter what we are facing in this life, when we come to God in prayer we need to remember that God is perfectly capable of handling that situation, be it physical healing or spiritual healing.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He has power to work in your situation? Do you proclaim Him all-powerful and all capable?

III. HE GETS THE GLORY, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is…the glory forever.”

Background: The Greek word for glory is “doksa” from which we get the word “doxology.” At the end of it all, God wants to get the glory and He will get the glory. It means that when your prayers are answered, it’s not because of how strong or wise or patient or even prayerful you were. It was all because of God, for God, and to God. The best example of this is the healing of Lazarus. If you remember, Jesus was a friend of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from the town of Bethany. He often visited them. One day He got word that Lazarus was sick. Now you would think that Jesus would leave it all and go help out His friends. Instead, listen to John 11:4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. How strange?! He loved them and so He stayed 2 extra days instead of coming to them immediately! He finally gets there. The sisters are distraught and they get to the grave and Martha says to Him – “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” What was His response? John 11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” What was the result? Not only Lazarus was raised to life but many believed in Him. Ultimately, God got the glory.

Application: The real question is “Are you willing to give Him glory in your life and through your circumstances?” Are you willing to let God use you to draw people to Himself?

Are you saved? Are you praying? Are you praying for His kingdom, His power, and His glory?

Before the Manger: How Can a Baby Change My Life?

BEFORE THE MANGER – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

beforethemanger1Christmas is here. If you don’t believe that you weren’t out shopping this weekend! Today I’m starting a four-week series titled “BEFORE THE MANGER: HOW CAN A BABY CHANGE MY LIFE?” This message is titled: “ARE YOU READY TO FACE JESUS?”

John 17   1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Overall Background: There are as many as 650 different prayers in the Bible but none of them can match the depth and the height of the prayer we just read. It is prayed by Jesus Himself. In other words, we are being privy to a conversation between the Godhead, the Trinity! How amazing is that! What we are going to focus on today is what He says in verse 5 “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” It appears that Jesus is longing for something that He had to temporarily set aside when He came as a baby in a manger.

For e.g. Like the little boy who was wearing his nice pair of shoes. His dad asked him to help out in the yard. So he took off those nice shoes and put on his simple shoes. Once he was done, he asked his dad – “Can I please put on my nice shoes now?” Dad replied, “Sure son. Thank you.” I know the analogy breaks down because Jesus now has both His nice shoes and simple shoes on! The point is this – The reason many people don’t think much of Jesus is because they only see him in His simple shoes as a baby in a manger. They picture Him only as the carpenter’s son born in a sleepy little town of Bethlehem, surrounded by sheep and cattle, visited by some shepherds. They never contemplate Him in His nice shoes, in His glory before the world was. They never seem Him as the Lord of glory who created the world and who had no beginning. No wonder many people have a tough time declaring Jesus – Lord/Master/Boss of their lives.

Question: Have you ever met Christ in all His glory? Do you understand what He laid aside to come into this world and die on the cross for your sins and mine? If you know Him for who He really is, is He truly the Lord/Master/Boss in your life? Are you saved?

This morning very briefly we will try to catch a glimpse of the glory of Jesus before the world was. The goal is for you to bow before Him. There’s only one response. 3 things:

I. HE WAS BORN BUT HE ALWAYS WAS.

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Bethlehem 1

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 1 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Bethlehem 2

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 2 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Back in January of this year, Nicole and I went to Israel and we were able to go to Bethlehem into the Church of the Nativity. This is where tradition tells us was the place where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. Both of us touched the star that surrounds the bedrock on which the manger was set according to tradition. It was quite a moment to actually touch the ground where Jesus was placed when He was born into the world. At the same time, I had to remind myself that this was not the place where Jesus came to existence. He was there before the world was.

Bethlehem 3

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 3 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The Prophets prophesied about this. Listen to Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Listen to how John begins his gospelJohn 1   1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. But he doesn’t stop there. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. So also 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;

I can go on and on but the point is this – Jesus did not begin 2000 years ago. He always was! As God, He had no beginning. In fact, He created the world in which He entered.

Application: How do you see this baby in the manger? Do you understand that He made the world and you and me? Do you understand that He breathed life into you? In Acts 3:15 Peter chastises the people by saying that they killed Jesus the “the Prince of life.”

II. HE BECAME LIKE US BUT HE WAS ALWAYS LIKE THE FATHER. 

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself…”

Background: Repeatedly, Jesus talks about His relationship with the Father. Many people misunderstand this relationship. They think a Father-Son relationship means the Son has to be born to the Father. For example: When I say that I am the son of my father, it implies that I had a starting point. When I say that I am a father to my sons, it implies that I was responsible for bringing them into existence. But when the ancient people, especially the people of the Bible, used the phrase “son of,” they were not talking just about being a descendent or having a starting point but having family resemblance. I am related to my father and my sons are related to me. I am like him and they are like me. Jesus repeatedly explained this to the people: John 8:19 “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” John 10:30 “I and My Father are one.” John 14:9 “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Not only that but Father-Son relationship also implies inheritance. John 3:35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” John 16:15 “All things that the Father has are Mine.” Finally, the Father-Son relationship implies access. John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 15:23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.” Listen to how Paul puts it in 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…19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

Here’s the point: We think of God the Father as the powerful one who controls the entire universe and directs our lives. We forget that He has placed all things in the hands of His Son. The Son is in charge.

Application: How do you see Jesus? Do you see Him only as a helpless baby in a manger or do you see Him as the Son of God with full authority from the Father? Have you come to Him? Have you received Him as your Savior?

III. HE TOOK ON EARTHLY GLORY BUT HE ALWAYS HAD HIS DIVINE GLORY IN REACH.

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Background: While on earth Jesus temporarily veiled His glory. As Paul says in Philippians 2:7, Christ “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” This does not mean that He was “gloryless” on earth. Listen to 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.” Sure – Jesus set aside his divine glory but He took on a bondservant kind of glory while He was on earth: this glory was reflected when He had to lie in a manger because there was no room in the inn; this glory was reflected when He submitted himself to his parents at 12 years of age; this glory was reflected when He talked to an adulterous Samaritan woman; this glory was reflected when He healed the lepers. I can go on and on – Jesus was glorious because He was full of grace and truth. Having said that, Jesus had to veil/cover up His divine glory when He came into this world. It doesn’t mean that Christ gave up His deity. It only means that temporarily He held back His Heavenly glow.

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

What is this pre-incarnate glory? In the Old Testament it is known as the “shekinah” of God. In Exodus 13 Christ showed this glory to the people of Israel as the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. In Exodus 33 Moses wanted to see “God’s glory” but it was so bright that God had to shield him. In Isaiah 6:5 Isaiah saw this glory and cried, “Woe is me, for I am undone!…For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” Only once did Jesus reveal His pre-incarnate glory. It was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew 17 2 says, “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” Paul describes it in I Timothy 6:16 as an “unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see…” In the Book of Revelation when John saw this glory, he says in Revelation 1   14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. In Revelation 21:23 we read that the Heavenly City “had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.”

Listen carefully – Jesus’ pre-incarnate divine glory is more than just bright light. It is Jesus in all His power and authority. There’s only one response when you meet Him this way. It is submission. Hebrews 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Do you know this King of glory, Jesus Christ?

Illustration: Blaise Pascal was a brilliant French scientist, philosopher, mathematician, and inventor in the 17th century. At the age of 15, he was writing books and inventing theorems. At the age of 19, he developed a calculating machine, which was probably the first computer. He also made discoveries that led to the invention of the barometer, vacuum pump, air compressor, syringe, and the hydraulic press. With all this success he still became disillusioned with life. On the night of November 23rd, 1654 he picked up the Bible and began to read John 17. When he came to verse 3 – “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – it was as if a spark went off and the whole room was on fire. He wrote – “From about half past ten at night to about half an hour after midnight: FIRE.” In that very instant he was converted and became a Christian. When he died, they found this verse sewed into the lining of his coat. It touched him so much that he wanted it always close to his heart.

Question: You may not have a similar experience but are you converted? Have you received eternal life through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? He is coming again but Matthew 24:30 says, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

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