Groundwork by Dr. Abidan Shah

GROUNDWORK by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: It was 4 years ago on August 21, 2017, when some of us drove all the way to Toccoa, Georgia, where Nicole and I went to college to witness the Total Solar Eclipse. As you witnessed in the video, it was amazing that we all began to shout spontaneously. Same thing was reported everywhere that people were gathered to watch this celestial event. What makes this so unique because the sun is 400 times larger than the moon and 400 times further away. If this wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have the same effect. The point is that human beings are fascinated with space. We want to know what’s out there and how it is connected to us. In our series on apologetics titled “CONTEND,” we come to the section that deals with space and its connection to earth. Some of the questions that lead me to deal with space were “Is the universe infinite?” “What about the canopy theory?” “Is there life in outer space?” Main point: The complexity and the immensity of the universe brings us to our knees and causes us to raise our hands in worship. It reminds us of how small we are and how big God is. No wonder the psalmist sings, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse shows His handiwork.”

Genesis 1       6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.

Context: There are 2 ways that some people have read the Genesis account of creation. Some think that it is simply a polemic against pagan gods surrounding the people of Israel. On the surface, this sounds good and even helps with some of the exegetical difficulties. Unfortunately, it also undermines the authority of God’s Word. People who believe this also claim that we shouldn’t get hung up on details. Instead, we should get the bigger picture that our God is superior to the other gods and not worry about things that are difficult to understand. Here’s the problem – if what we believe is not the truth and just a mythology, what right do we have to condemn someone else’s mythology? Others think that the creation account in Genesis is simply a reflection of the creation accounts of the ancient near eastern peoples. According to this view, no one knows what really happened and we shouldn’t press the point. Again, the problem here is that if we are unsure of what the Bible says, then what’s the use of believing anything. Here’s what we believe: The Bible gives us a clear and cogent account of how the world came to be. We must go above and beyond in trying to understand what it means. It is the only truth about our past, present, and future.

So, what does it mean? 6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” To start with, there is a translational issue here (from Sarfati and Danny Faulkner). The Hebrew word for “firmament” is “raqia,” and it is found 8 more times in the OT. What does “firmament” mean? The translators of the LXX used the Greek word “stereoma” to translate the Hebrew word “raqia.” The word “stereoma” means a crystalline structure, something hard and transparent. According to ancient Greeks, the earth was surrounded by a hard, crystalline, and transparent sphere with stars attached to it. When the Latin translator Jerome came to that passage, he chose to translate the Greek “stereoma” instead of the Hebrew “raqia” because he didn’t understand how to translate the latter. So, he called it “firmamentum.” Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the King James Version translators didn’t know what to do with “raqia” either and they simply transliterated Jerome’s firmamentum into the English “firmament.” What a mess!

Here’s the correct meaning: Expanse. It has the idea of something that has been expanded or stretched out. Sometimes, it even refers to beating or stamping out. So, contrary to what people think, “raqia” is not a cosmic dome but cosmic space that has been stretched out. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about this and sometimes uses the word “raqia” and other times the word “natah,” and even the words “matach” and “tapach.”

  • Job 9:8 “He alone spreads (natah) out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • Job 37:18 “With Him, have you spread (raqa) out the skies, strong as a cast metal mirror?
  • Psalm 104:2 “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch (natah) out the heavens like a curtain.
  • Isaiah 44:24 “I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches (natah) out the heavens all alone, who spreads (raqa) abroad the earth by Myself.”
  • Isaiah 48:13 “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out (taphach) the heavens.”

So, “raqia” has the idea of space or expansion. This makes sense in verse 7 “Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.” In other words, God made this “raqia” to separate the waters below from the waters above. One more thing – 8 “And God called the firmament Heaven.” In the OT, the word for heaven is “samayim,” which is found over 400 times. It shows up again in verse 9, 14, 15, and 17. This word refers to the space where God placed the luminaries (sun, moon, and stars) on Day 4 and the place where the birds fly “across the face of the expanse of the heavens” on Day 5. Here’s the point: The atmosphere and the outer space are both part of the “raqia.”

So, what happened on Day 2? God created a massive space between the watery matrix that will become earth and the remaining waters. Where did that water go? At one time, people proposed that there was a water canopy above the atmosphere, but it is no longer held to because of several problems (Robert Whitelaw and Walter Brown):

  • The Heat Problem – roast all life
  • The Light Problem – no sunlight or starlight for plants and seasons
  • The Pressure Problem – temp over 220 degrees F at the base
  • The Support Problem – if it collapsed at the Great Flood, that would be a long time
  • The Ultraviolet Problem – ultraviolet light would have destroyed the canopy

Better solution is that the “raqia” has separated the water which is now in some form at the edge of the universe. Psalm 148     1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! 2 Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! 3 Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! 4 Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 2 things that stand out: 1. There is an order – heavens, sun and moon, stars, and highest heavens. 2. This psalm was written after Noah’s flood. I’m not dogmatic about it, but this is where much scholarship is leaning – the expansion of the universe at a set time in the past. If this is true, this explains the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), which is that the universe appears to be bathed in a radiation field (Faulkner). This is a uniform coldness which is 3 K above absolute zero (– 459.67 F). It’s described to be like the heat from a rock lying in the sun all day. It comes towards the earth from all directions like a faint light. It is proposed that the water at the edge of the universe could be the cause of this radiation. The evolutionists talk about a big bang. According to the big bang theory, the universe started at a tiny, very very hot and dense point called singularity. It is claimed that after this rapid expansion, the heat has finally cooled down after 380,000 years after the big bang and dropped below 3000 K to form neutral atoms from electron and protons. This is how they account for the CMB. But their calculations don’t add up, especially with regards to the speed of light. We’ll come to this later. But, if God did this expansion faster than light (superluminally), it makes all the sense.

Let’s return to the text in verse 8 “…So the evening and the morning were the second day.” Notice: God does not declare this day to be good because good hasn’t come yet. 9Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. This is more than just water receding and earth coming in sight. This is known as transformation-from-water-model for the origin of the earth. How did that happen? Don’t think of this as your drinking water flowing from your tap! One scholar (Kulikovsky) has proposed,

Therefore, it may be that God (1) caused the earth’s watery foundation to be transformed into the basic elements and compounds such as silicon and carbon, and (2) separated these elements from the rest of the waters which resulted in the appearance of the dry land. In other words, the primeval earth comprised of the waters below the expanse—a large ball of water with similar dimensions as the earth today. Some of the waters were transformed into other compounds and were separated from the rest of the waters, which resulted in the formation of the dry land.

We have so much to understand! Nonetheless, 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Now God says, “it was good.”

If this were all there is to it, we would say that this is crazy and wacko. Turn to 2 Peter 3       4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

This is God’s world. He made it in his way, and he will destroy it in his way. The past is connected to the future. What matters is are you living in his world his way? Are you saved? Do you realize how infinitesimal you and I are? Does this lead you to worship?

Timeless by Dr. Abidan Shah

TIMELESS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  How many of you have watched the sci-fi movies “Back to the Future”? The first one came out in 1985 in which Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes back in time to 1955 to help his parents. The mastermind behind the time-machine was “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) who built a DeLorean Time Machine from the DMC DeLorean car. The whole premise of the movies was that one day we will be able to time travel. As you know, we’re in our series on apologetics titled “CONTEND” and we have decided to camp at Genesis for a while. The reason is because many of the questions in the questionnaire were regarding the creation and origin of our universe – “Who made God?” “Is God bound by time?” Will we be able to time travel?” “How do lights from stars that are billions of light years away reach the earth already?” In this message we will tackle the question of time. Main point: God is the author of time. He gave us the gift of time so we could live and enjoy his creation. God is timeless and unchangeable, but he chose to enter time and became like us to save us through his Son Jesus. One more thing – We are time bound. We don’t know the future. “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Context: By declaring “In the beginning God” and “In the beginning was the Word,” both Moses in the Old Testament and John in the New Testament declared that God existed before the creation of the world. In fact, he was the creator of the world. John even identified the exact person of the Triune God who was designated the task of creating – 2 “He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This truth was affirmed again by the New Testament authors in Colossians 1:16, 1 Corinthians 8:6, and Hebrews 1:2. So what does that mean for the questions on time? Here are 4 things we need to keep in mind regarding God, time, and us:

  1. God created time. On the first day, he created space, matter, and time (you could add energy to it if you like): 1. Space – up and down, left and right, and forward and backward; 2. Matter – Atoms made of protons, neutrons, and electrons; 3. Time – past, present, and future. We will focus on time for now. What is the definition of time? William Lane Craig, “Time is that dimension of reality whose moments are ordered by earlier/later than relations.” In other words, it is the succession of moments. Time has been a subject of great debate among scientists, especially in the past century. The matter revolves around 2 individuals: Isaac Newton (1643-1727) and Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Newton was a philosopher, physicist, mathematician, and astronomer. He was an important figure in the Scientific Revolution we talked about couple of weeks ago. Among many other things that he worked on, he claimed that time was absolute, meaning it was not depended on the observer. Time moved forward as a regular succession of moments. We call them seconds, minutes, hours, months, years, millennia, etc. Space was also fixed, and gravity was just a force that pulled together objects with mass. There was no connection to acceleration. That’s where we get the whole apple story, which may be a myth. On the other hand, Einstein (a physicist and scientist who immigrated to the United States when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933) challenged Newton’s view. We know his theory of special relativity, E = mc2, but the one on general relativity was far more impactful. According to this theory, Einstein claimed that gravity bends light. For this to happen and to be able to observe it, you need an object far bigger than the earth and with a source of light directly opposite to the observer. He said that this would happen on the 29th of May 1919, during an eclipse, when a star that was blocked by the sun would be seen because its light would bend in the sun’s gravitational force. It happened and photographs were taken. Einstein had overturned Newton’s laws of gravity. Unfortunately, this was also taken to mean that Einstein had overturned Newton’s God. Such was not the case at all. To the contrary, the spacetime theorems proved that the universe had a beginning point. Scientists like George Ellis, Stephen Hawking, and Roger Penrose demonstrated that. Others tried to find a loophole, but they ended up supporting the fact that the universe is not eternal. Its known as the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Singularity Theorem.

Why did I go into all this detail? Because this helps us understand the question of how light from stars that are billions of light years away have reached the earth already. By the way, just recently, scientists spotted light from behind a black hole that is 1800 million light years away! The black hole is about 10 million times larger than our sun!

Here’s the point: God is the author of time and after all these years, we are just scratching the surface in our understanding and all of it is in line with the Scriptures.  

  1. God is timeless (Paul Helm and Grudem).

This is the traditional view that God exists outside time. He has no beginning or end. For him to have a beginning would be to compromise the doctrine that God is unchangeable.

Isaiah 57:15 “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy…”

Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

Hebrews 1     10 (quoting from Psalm 102) “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; 12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.”

2 Timothy 1:9 (God) “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began”

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Connected to God’s timelessness and unchangeableness is God’s divine fullness and self-sufficiency. Because he is timeless and unchangeable, he is also omniscient. He knows all. Because we are time-bound and subject to change, we don’t know it all.

  1. God sees all time equally and interacts with us personally in time.

Psalm 90:4 “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.” He sees all things equally, but the past is still past to God. 2 Peter 3:8 “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Everything remains vivid to God.

Even though God stands outside time, he constantly interacts with his creation and us.

Matthew 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.” Song: “His eye is on the sparrow.”

Psalm 139      15 “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed…”

He is not some static, detached, and emotionless being to us. Throughout the history of the world, God has stepped into time to relate personally with us. He smiles, laughs, weeps, gets angry, changes his mind, and rejoices. How can he do that? Is he just pretending? He can do that because he is God. Just like a parent sits down to play with their child and interacts with all their feeling. Contrary to our emotions that come from good and bad experience, his emotions are part of his disposition and character.

Incarnation is the greatest event of God in time! Like a parent stepping into a dollhouse but becoming like the child. Galatians 4      4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Can you sense the passionate interaction of God with us?

  1. We are time bound and will always be in time.

From the oldest book in the Bible – Job 14       1 “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. 2 He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue…5 Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with you; you have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.”

Don’t play God. Don’t say “no regrets,” “no care,” or “no fear.” You can say that only if God is with you. Ephesians 5      15 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Also, you and I will always exist in time, contrary to the song, “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more…” – Revelation 21     23 The 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. 24And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

Bottom line: You don’t have infinite time. Today is the day of salvation. Your time on earth may be over before you know it. There is a real eternity where time never ends, either in heaven or hell. Are you saved?

Faithfulness by Dr. Abidan Shah

FAITHFULNESS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: If there is one refrain or chorus that we have all said or heard again and again, it is “what a crazy year 2020 has been!” None of us ever imagined in our wildest dreams or nightmares that this year would turn out this way. Although, this year was quite serious and sad in many ways, people found humor in it as well. Check out some of the memes that people sent me – “T-shirt with the year in review stars – ‘Very bad, would not recommend,’” “picture of a knight in his armor with the caption ‘me being prepared for 2020’ and the next picture with an arrow through the eye slit,” “a bunch of porta potties on fire with the caption ‘if 2020 was a scented candle,’” and this one with “Sorry folks, the world is closed.” As I was praying about what is it that God would want us to remember at the close of this crazy year, he directed my attention to Psalm 66. Here’s the main point: If we look at our trials only through the lens of our personal story, we will become fearful and hopeless. Instead, we have to look at our trials through the lens of our collective story; then we see that we have faced worse situations before and God has been faithful. The foundation of our faith is not our own experiences but the collective experience of God’s people in the Scriptures. If he was faithful then, he will be faithful now and in the future. I can pray to him in confidence and know that he will answer the prayer of the clean heart.

Psalm 66       1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 2 Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.”

Context: Many of us treat the psalms as second-class literature compared to the narratives, prophecies, gospels and epistles. This is false. The psalms are equally Scripture. They are theology that sings. Once we decode the symbolism and the literary structure, they have some deep theology that is not found anywhere else in Scripture.

To start with, the psalm we just read (Psalm 66) can be divided into 2 halves: Verses 1-12 and verses 13-20. The first half is focused on corporate worship and the second half is focused on personal worship. In other words, first, we hear the chorus of the whole community singing and then we hear the voice of the individual worshipper. The first half lays the foundation for the second half. Without the corporate worship, there would be no individual worship.

First half – The choir calls all believers to praise God for his wonderful works. Listen again – 1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!” In the context, I would say that “all the earth” is referring only to the “God-fearing Israelites” or only to “all the believers of the earth.” After all, how can the lost world shout joyfully to the living God? Also, 2 “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.” Again, how can the lost world sing out the honor of God’s name and how can they make his praise glorious? Romans 3:23 is clear, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moving on to verse 3 “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power your enemies shall submit themselves to You.’” Every human being is an enemy of God until he/she meets Jesus Christ.Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Also,Colossians 1      21 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” Once we receive Christ as our Savior, we can join the throng of those who sing praises to God’s name. 4 “All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah

Application: Have you been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? Are you singing praises to God?

Now the choir invites all believers to take a trip down memory lane – 5 “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. 6 He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot…” Here the choir of God’s people are singing about the exodus from Egypt of their ancestors, particularly the time when the people of Israel found themselves hemmed between the Red Sea before them and the chariots of Pharaoh behind them. Remember, after the final plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh allowed the people to leave Egypt. As this massive crowd of 3 million began their journey, the land of Egypt was a wreck and the Egyptians were scared. The people of Israel had to walk right past the fortresses on Egypt’s eastern borders. There were soldiers and chariots in these fortresses with plenty of hatred and anger towards the people of Israel. Even though they were large in number, these former slaves (less than 24 hours) were no match for trained angry soldiers in chariots. God led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. Just then Pharaoh changed his mind and decided to pursue the people of Israel with a couple of thousand chariots with soldiers. What a horrible tactical decision!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses – Exodus 14     10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Listen to Moses’s response in Exodus 14     13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then, God commanded Moses to stretch his rod over the Red Sea to divide so the people could go on dry land. God sent a strong east wind that divided the sea and made dry land for them. Now, listen carefully to what happened next – Exodus 14    19 “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” As the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground, listen to what the Angel of the Lord did 24 “Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians.” This Angel of the Lord and pillar of the cloud was the pre-incarnate Christ who guarded God’s people until they were safely on the other side. Then God gave the command and the sea came back and drowned the entire Egyptian army.

Let’s return again to Psalm 66:6 “He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.There is a shift in the “person” from third to second. There is something very subtle here which is very substantial for our faith. The singers/congregation were not there at the Red Sea. Their ancestors were there. Nonetheless, they were there in the sense of the confessional statements (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). In theological terms, this is known as the “actualizing identification with Israel’s salvation history.” It means that by faith we are part of the whole story of God’s people. In other words, even though I wasn’t there physically, I was there spiritually and I saw the faithfulness of God in my life. We do that as Christians through the Communion – 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

The choir/congregation continues – 7 “He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah 8 Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, 9 Who keeps our soul among the living, And does not allow our feet to be moved.” This is the key verse of this psalm. God has preserved our feet from slipping into the netherworld. This does not mean that people have not died in 2020 of various causes, but God has our times in his hands and none have left this world outside of his time. 10 For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. 11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. 12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Everything from the exodus experience is now personal.

Application: What is your faith story? The Bible is our faith story. We have been through worse. If God brought us through fire and water, he will bring us through 2020. Can you sing that? Can you shout that? Do you understand now why we need community? We understand those who cannot be with us because of health concerns. That’s why we go above and beyond to make sure that we have the best online experience possible for those who cannot attend in person. To stop assembling is to take away our faith story. We have to remind each other of it.

Second Half – The individual proclaims his personal thanksgiving to God and promises to keep his vows. Listen – 13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows.” There is a shift in the “person” from second to first. The choir goes silent now and all eyes are turned towards the individual as he makes remembers the promises that he had made to God through the trials. 14 Which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah Many different kinds of sacrifices are in view here.

Applications: What promises did you make to God in 2020? You say, “I didn’t make any promises.” So, you just asked God to get you through? Get you through for what? Why should God give you another year? If were truly honest, many of us got through but our faith disintegrated. Many have destroyed the faith of others.

Listen to the conclusion of the psalm – 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. 19 Butcertainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” There is confidence in our prayers when our heart is clean before God.

Application: Is your heart clean before God?

Conclusion:

  • We need both descriptive praise and declarative praise.
  • We need to go back and then we can talk about the now.
  • We need both the community and the individual.
  • We need both worship and thanksgiving.
  • We need hearts that are clean if we want our prayers to be heard.

Can you see God’s faithfulness in the past and the present? Are you saved?

Living Hope by Dr. Abidan Shah

LIVING HOPE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Have you ever been disappointed? You were hoping for something but it didn’t turn out that way. As a kid, I remember when my mom would make my favorite desert. Before I would leave for school the next day, I would slide it behind the milk carton in the fridge. I was hoping that no one would find it until I got home. The moment I got home, the first thing I would do was to go look for it. Many a time I walked away so disappointed because someone got to it before I could. We all get disappointed over various things – friends, family, politics, culture. Today we will learn what the Bible has to say about a hope that doesn’t disappoint. We are in our series on 1 Peter and our message is titled LIVING HOPE. Please turn to 1 Peter 1:3. Main point: Unlike earthly hopes, the hope that comes from God never disappoints. Biblical hope is not based on earthly expectations and fears. It is based on the solid foundation of God himself. In other words, the hope that God gives is much more than the anticipation of something in the future. It is a deep personal trusting relationship with God.

1 Peter 1     3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Context: As you may remember from last weekend, Peter was writing to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Most of them were probably Jewish background believers who had lived in that part of the world for centuries. As Jewish people, they had already been ostracized; but now, because some of them had become believers in Jesus, their own communities had also ostracized them. Not only that, but many of them may have also lost their inheritance. I can only imagine how hopeless they must have felt. Also, based on the rest of the letter, some of them were probably locals who had converted to Christianity and they were also facing similar treatments. I think of my own dad who lost his inheritance when he became a Christian. I have often thought about the hopelessness he must have felt. Peter was writing to encourage such people to stay strong in their faith. He wanted them to know that even though the world and their own were rejecting them, God had chosen them. He wanted them to have their hope in God. He had a special inheritance for them in the future.

Let’s read verse 3 again. By the way, as we walk through this passage, notice how all the fundamental building blocks of our faith are tightly put together in these 3 verses – 3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” The Greek word for “Blessed” is “eulogetos.” This is different from the Greek word for “blessed” in the Beatitudes – “Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are the merciful.” The word there is “Makarios,” which means “happy” or “to be envied.” Here the word blessed is actually translated “praise.” Keep in mind that “eulogetos” gives us the English word “eulogy,” which comes from the compound Greek words “eu” (well/good) and “logos” (word). The word “eulogetos” means “to say a good word about someone.” Peter was calling on his readers to say a good word about God. By the way, this was not a good word about some generic God, but very specifically – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The point is that Peter was calling on his readers to praise the living true Triune God in the midst of their difficulties.

Principle: If you find yourself overwhelmed by your situation, turn your attention away from the situation and yourself and start praising God. Take time to praise God for who he is and what he has done for you. Listen to David in Psalm 61     1 “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Application: Are you overwhelmed by your problems? Are you overwhelmed by what’s happening in our world? Are you praising God right now?

Now Peter gives the reason for this praise – 3 “…who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The pilgrims of the Dispersion had been rejected by their own families. They had been cut off from their family trees. Peter was reminding them that God had brought them into his family by his abundant mercy. The word he used was “anagennaw” (begotten us again), which means “to give new birth.” It is similar to “gennaw” in John 3 where Jesus told Nicodemus in verse 3 “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This rebirth does not just happen. It requires resurrection life, the power that brings life into a dead person. I Corinthians 15:45 “And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” God compassionately chose to rebirth us into his family through the resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. God the Father delivered his Son out of the clutches of death and thus made the way for all sinners born dead in trespasses and sins to be delivered from the clutches of sin and death as well. This begins with spiritual rebirth and is completed with our own resurrection one day.

Application: Have you been born again? Have you experienced the resurrection life of Jesus? If you prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King, you have. Do you know that there is a resurrection coming for you in the future?

What is the result of this rebirth? 3 “…who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope…” Something very interesting here about that word “hope.” It has an adjective “living.” Where does this concept come from? The world offers hope but it can be conditional or uncertain. The hope that Peter was talking about was living because it was rooted in God himself. This is the biblical understanding of hope. Here are some examples from the psalms in the Old Testament – Psalm 38:15 “For in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.” Psalm 71:5 “For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth.” Psalm 130:7 “O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there ismercy, And with Him is abundant redemption.” Paul talks about this as well – Romans 5:5“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Here’s the point: God’s hope is not rooted in some human expectation or fear. It is built on the character of God himself. In other words, hope is not just what may happen or what may not happen. It is a deep personal trusting relationship with God. Because we are part of Jesus’ resurrection life, we have this living hope.

Application: What is hope to you? A better life? Your party in power? Streets of gold? Mansions in heaven? All that is fine to desire, but, ultimately, our hope should be God himself. It’s not that you cannot hope for those other things. You can but only if the ultimate source of your hope is God. Is God your hope?

It’s about to get even better – 4 “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”

Background: This living hope is leading us to an inheritance. In this life, the pilgrims had lost their inheritance, but there was a real inheritance waiting for them that was indescribable.By the way, Peter was reaching in the Old Testament tradition to find the true meaning of inheritance. Listen to Psalm 16:5 “O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.” Peter describes it in negative terms because nothing compares to it in this life. Paul would whole heartedly agree with Peter here. Listen to Paul quoting from Isaiah 64 in 1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’”

3 negatives:

  1. Incorruptible (aphthartos) – In this life everything faces corruption because of sin, even our bodies.
  2. Undefiled (amiantos) – In this life everything is tainted by sin.
  3. Unfading (amarantos) – In this life everything fades. The second law of thermodynamics (entropy) is constantly working to pull things down.

Philippians 3    20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

This does not mean that we cannot fight for the incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading in this life. We can and we should because we know what it looks like. Having said that, we know that it is available on the other side.

What is the guarantee that all this will happen? 5 “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

  1. God is responsible.
  2. We need to trust him.
  3. It will be revealed in his time.

Invitation: Do you have this living hope? Are you looking forward to the inheritance? Are you born again?

Unsearchable by Dr. Abidan Shah

UNSEARCHABLE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: One Sunday morning after church, as the family was driving home, the mother began, “The choir was awful this morning. They were so off-key, weren’t they?” To this, the dad added, “The service was too long and I still don’t know what the minister was talking about.” The mother replied, “And, can you believe they’re going to spend all that money on that mission trip to Guatemala? Don’t we have plenty to do around here?” Their 16-year old daughter chimed in, “Why do the Jones’ always sit in front of us? They act like they are so better than us.” After a few seconds’ pause, their 10-year old from the back seat remarked, “Are we going back? Because, I thought it was a pretty good show for a dime.” Many Christians have a very low view of the importance of the church. Even before the current crisis, many had a take it or leave it attitude about the church. Now, with the current crisis, church has been shoved under the “non-essential” category. As you know, we began a mini-series through Ephesians on the role of the church. Here’s the main point of today’s message: The church is essential. In God’s divine plan, he has chosen the church to make known his mystery and wisdom to the principalities and powers of the evil domain. When the church is the church we are supposed to be, united and holy, then the spiritual rulers and authorities behind the power brokers of the world know that Jesus is in charge and they are not. For the church to shut down its activities is to give free reign to evil in the world. Today’s message is called “UNSEARCHABLE.”

Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Context: The verse we just read is part of a digression by the Apostle Paul. He often does this in his letters, but, unlike our digressions that are losing our train of thought, his digressions are the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to take us deeper into the wisdom and purpose of God. If you remember from last weekend, most believers had been playing on the shallow end of the pool, never learning how to swim in deep waters. All of a sudden, we got slammed by a pandemic tsunami and now we are stranded all over the place, clutching on to whatever we could find. If we’re going to make it moving forward, we will have to step into deep waters and learn how to swim.

Until the end of chapter 2, Paul was explaining to the Ephesians how the Gentiles had been brought into the family of God by Jesus Christ. Listen to Ephesians 2  19 “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” In other words, every believer—regardless of his/her ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or nationality—has an equal status in the family of God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Then, Ephesians 3:1“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles…” Meaning: Paul’s calling from God was to help Gentiles come into the family of God and become one body, the church.

Just when we want to say, “It’s great how there is no more division between the Jewish people and the Gentiles. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Good work Paul!” he stops and takes a digression to help us understand that this one body is much more than just a holy huddle. There is a powerful purpose behind it. Listen to Ephesians 3     2 “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).” What is the mystery of Christ? In some sense, Paul was using a term that the Ephesians would have been familiar with because they had mystery religions with secret knowledge. But, it is more likely that Paul was appealing to Daniel 2 where the Hebrew word “raz” or the Greek word “musterion” was used to refer to God’s secret plan of bringing Jesus into the world to save humanity. Paul was referring to the coming together of the believing Jewish people and the Gentiles into one body as the mystery of Christ. In the Old Testament, Gentiles could join God’s people, but they had to become Jewish first. Now, Gentiles did not have to become Jewish and Jewish people did not have to become Gentiles. Instead, both Jewish people and Gentiles could come together into a new community through Jesus Christ. This was the mystery of Christ. It was not as clear in times past. 5“which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” Now comes the verse we read in the opening – Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” What are the unsearchable riches of Christ? Christ has incredible wealth that we cannot fathom! It includes his grace, his mercy, his goodness, his love, his promises, his glory, etc. All that is now available to each of the Gentiles who have entered into the family God. Verse 9 “and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.”

Question: Are you part of this mystery? Have you been brought into the family of God? Are you saved? Do you value the unsearchable (unfathomable) riches of Christ?

Now, starting in verse 10, Paul goes deeper, explaining to us the critical nature of this new body, the church—10 “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God…” The Greek word for manifold is “polupoikilos,” which means “multifaceted” or “many faced.” The more you get to know Christ, the more multifaceted he becomes! Once again, verse 10 “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Let’s pause here for a moment and ask “What are principalities and powers?” The Greek word for “principalities” is “archei,” which means “angelic rulers.” In our context, it refers to “evil angelic rulers.” The Greek word for “powers” is “exousias,” which means “spiritual authorities.” In our context, it refers to “evil spiritual authorities.” There are 2 other times, they are mentioned in Ephesians:

  • Ephesians 1   19 “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power…20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power…” When God the Father raised his Son from the grave, he also raised him higher than all evil angelic beings.
  • Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly” Here Paul commands us to “Put on the whole armor of God” because we are in a battle against evil angelic beings.

Here’s the point: The mystery of Christ was also kept hidden from all the evil angelic beings. The coming of Jesus not only brought redemption, but it also broke the power of these wicked beings. Even though they know that Jesus is King, they still try to usurp his power. When the church is the church we are supposed to be, united and holy, then the spiritual rulers and authorities behind the power brokers of the world know that Jesus is in charge and they are not.

Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that the church has to proclaim a message to these evil beings. This does not mean that the church has to rebuke the enemy and his cohorts. It simply means that we make known “gnorizo” that we are the body of Christ, united and holy, and evil begins to back off. The Enemy has always used the tactic of “divide and conquer,” starting with Adam and Eve. When we come together in unity and holiness, we are making known to him and his cohorts the manifold wisdom of God.

Question: Isn’t it amazing that the same time evil has raised its ugly head in the past few months that the church has dropped her head and gone into hiding?

Ephesians 6     13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Invitation: Are you part of the mystery of Christ? Are you saved? How important is the church to you? Are you aware that we are in a spiritual battle?

Word Power by Dr. Abidan Shah

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WORD POWER by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Words have power. Some words can make us happy but some words can make us sad. Take for example: Ice cream (Happy), Heartbroken (Sad), Christmas (Happy), Goodbye (Sad), Weekend (Happy), Time for Bed (Sad). Some words can inspire us and yet others can depress us: Goals (Inspiring), Graduation (Inspiring), Taxes (Depressing), Bills (Depressing), Migraine (Depressing). Today’s message is on the power in our words. Here’s the point: God has entrusted us with incredible power. It is not located in our minds or our biceps. It is located in our mouths. We can either use our words to breathe life or we can use our words to bring death. You don’t have to be the smartest or the strongest person to have word power. That’s the title of our message today—WORD POWER.

Proverbs 10:11-21 is a series of contrasts between wise words and foolish words, between righteous lips and wicked hearts. Each proverb is linked to the next with common words or similar sounding words in Hebrew. In English, they may appear to be a bunch of platitudes thrown together randomly, but, in reality, they are a beautiful tapestry weaved together by the wisdom of God.

11 “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life…” The Hebrew word for well is “maqor,” which means spring or fountain. In the ancient Near East, water was in short supply, and still is. A natural spring or wellspring was very precious. People would gather around it and even fight over it. In the Old Testament, we see several conflicts over wells. King Abimelech’s (Gerar) servants seized Abraham’s wells. Later, the Philistines stopped up Isaac’s wells. Moses defended Jethro’s daughters from the wicked shepherds at the well. Bottom line: Just like the well in the ancient Near East, the mouth of the righteous person is a precious commodity. People gather around it and claim it because it gives life. By the way, the phrase “well or fountain of life” is found 3 other times in the Book of Proverbs. One of them is Proverbs 14:27 “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life…” Wise words are on the same level as godly reverence! To the contrary, 11 “…but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.” Ironically, the word for violence is “hamas,” just like the terrorist organization. In Arabic, it means zeal or courage. Even though Solomon was not talking about the terror group, what a stark reminder!

Application: Do your words refresh and give life, or do they destroy and take life? Do people gather around you because they know they will find life or do they avoid you? I am here because people like my parents and other godly people spoke words of encouragement into my life.

12 “Hatred stirs up strife…” The opening of this verse is expanding the second part of the previous proverb 11 “…violence covers the mouth of the wicked.” The violent words of the wicked are due to the hate that is resident in their hearts. They can’t help but stir up trouble. Sometime you need to be careful how you talk to your own selves. Don’t hate your own self! To the contrary, 12 “…but love covers all sins.” This is expanding the first part of the previous proverb 11 “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life…” The reason the mouth of the righteous is full of life is because love is the spring that feeds their hearts and it comes through in gracious and forgiving words. The love of God is flowing through their hearts.Romans 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Illustration: As some of you know, I love the Old West. During the summer, especially in Nevada, a pool of water would be sitting under the hot sun and the surface water would evaporate, leaving behind deadly minerals in high concentration. An unsuspecting thirsty traveler would drink from it and the arsenic would cause a rapid and painful death. What were some signs to look for? Dead vegetation and animal or human bones by the oasis.

Application: Is there deadness around you? Only the love of God flowing through your heart will cover all sins and bring life to those around you. Maybe you grew up in that atmosphere. You can change. You say, “it’s hard.” Listen to I Peter 4:8 “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’”

13 “Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, but a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.” First, who is an understanding person? According to the Book of Proverbs, an understanding person (nabon) is someone who seeks and finds knowledge. They recognize the moral order of God. They submit themselves to the guidance and correction of God. Second, how do you receive wisdom? The way the Hebrew is constructed, the wisdom from the lips of those who have understanding are like a rod on the back of those who are devoid of understanding. If you are wise, you will recognize when you hear wisdom and you will seek for more. If you are foolish, it may come across as a tongue lashing. If you desire to be wise, you won’t reject it. You’ll be humble and willing to take it. I’ve had to endure discipline through the years. It’s not fun and it’s easy to become bitter and angry towards the person, but if you receive the discipline with humility, you will be wise.

14 “Wise people store up knowledge, But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.” The key to becoming wise is to you stop speaking and start storing up. If you keep talking, you will destroy what little you do have and remain foolish. Are you a talker or do you stop long enough to listen to wisdom? I heard about a very successful pastor who ran into a young church planter. The young guy asked for a few minutes of his time. The senior pastor agreed. Unfortunately, the young man talked solid for an hour. The veteran pastor got up and left. Probably the greatest lesson I have learned about speaking is the art of not speaking and listening.

15 “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city…” It seems as if Solomon has changed the subject from words to wealth. Not so. He is still talking about words. He is building on the common word “destruction” between verses 14 and 15. Those who are wise become wiser just like a rich person invests and builds up his assets. He/she recognizes the value of wisdom and seeks to gain more wisdom. To the contrary, 15 “…The destruction of the poor istheir poverty.” Unfortunately, the poor in wisdom remain in their predicament and their lack of wisdom reinforces their foolishness. 16 “The labor of the righteous leads to life, The wages of the wicked to sin. 17 He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray.”  If you refuse to work for righteous instruction, you will reap the wages of sin. If you refuse words of correction, you will continue in your destruction.

Application: How do you handle discipline? Do you resent the person? Do you receive the person?

Watch out for speech contamination. 18 “Whoever hides hatred has lying lips…” For a time, you may be able to fool people by your words. But, if there is hate in your hearts, your speech is corrupted. You are biased. This could be an unrelated situation but your integrity is compromised. A classic example would be the scribes and the Pharisees. They hated Jesus so much that they were willing to lie against him to give a false testimony. In other words, a hateful person cannot be trusted for true wisdom.

For e.g. Charles Bracelen Flood in his book “Lee: The Last Years” talks about a time after the Civil War when General Robert E. Lee visited a woman who lived in the north of Lexington. She immediately took him to the remains of a tree in her yard. The limbs of the tree had been shot off by Union fire during General Hunter Valley Campaigns in 1864. The trunk of the tree had been torn by the cannonballs. She waited for Lee to condemn the North or at least sympathize with her loss. Lee stood there for a little bit and then said, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and then forget it.”

18 “…And whoever spreads slander is a fool.” A hateful person will stop at nothing to destroy someone’s reputation. The Bible calls such a one “fool.”

19 “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” This has often been taken to mean that we shouldn’t talk much. There is truth to that. The less we talk, the less there is a chance to say things that are sinful. But, in the context of verse 18, where there is hatred and slandering, the less we talk the less we have the opportunity to be hateful and slander. How does slander begin? It begins by describing the offense of the offender. If you keep talking about the offense, it’s a matter of time before you will embellish the truth. When you vent and vent and vent, it won’t be long, before you say things that never even happened. You can talk to a counsellor or a trusted friend but be careful about rehearsing imaginary scenarios.

20 “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; (purified silver = has no dross or impurity) The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many,(Shepherd many) but fools die for lack of wisdom.” Do your words lead people to life-giving pastures by still waters or do they push them off the cliff to a sure, painful death?

Let’s look at the example of Wisdom personified, Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God.This is what he said regarding the Pharisees and the scribes who opposed him. John 8     43Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

Invitation: How have your words been recently? Have you been wise with your words? What have you said about Jesus Christ? Is He your Savior? Is He your Master? Is He your King?

Prayer: Practice by Dr. Abidan Shah

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PRAYER – PRACTICE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you have ever said, “Lord, have mercy?” If you grew up in the south, I’m sure you have either said that or heard that at some point. It’s a prayer, but it’s really a stress relief or an exclamation of happiness, surprise, or anger. It’s like the other one – “Lord, help me.” Again, not a real prayer, just a colloquialism. Unfortunately, they are no different from some of our “real” prayers, which are a little longer, but they have also become just an extended colloquialism. Here’s the main point of today’s message: Just because we begin with “Dear God” and end with “Amen,” it does not mean that we are really praying. Prayer is a conversation with the living true God as our heavenly father. We come to him in sincerity and speak from our hearts. As we recognize who he is and express what we need, we receive the assurance that our heavenly father is already working the best answer for us. Last weekend, we focused on the doctrine of prayer. Today, our focus is on the practice or the mechanics of prayer.

Matthew 6      5 “And when you pray…”

Before we go any further, notice that Jesus did not say “if you pray” but “when you pray.” God assumes that we will pray to Him. He expects us to pray to him. Prayer is our daily dialogue with God in which we ask Him for our needs and receive from him the answers. Since the beginning of time, men and women in the Bible have prayed daily. Even Jesus had a daily time of prayer. Mark 1:35 says, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” It’s like the song “What a friend we have in Jesus,” where it says, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer.” Many of us are not praying. How do we know that? You don’t return from God’s presence fearful, hopeless, defeated, doubtful, and discouraged.

Application: Do you come to God in prayer? What comes first? Plans or Prayers. Are you bearing needless pain?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered 3 important guidelines for prayer:

  1. Avoid prayer as a show.

6      5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

Context: After the Jewish people had returned from their exile, they were serious about religion. The priests and the scribes created an elaborate ritual of prayer and liturgy. Their daily prayer was a long list of 19 petitions known as the “Shemoneh Esreh,” each starting with the statement “Blessed are You, O Lord” and ending with “The whole world is full of His mercy.” They had to pray this prayer standing up. Hence, the daily prayer is also called “Amidah.” You had to pray facing the “Aron Kodesh,” the ark that houses the Torah scrolls. Observant Jewish people would begin by taking 3 steps backwards and then 3 steps forwards. The steps backwards symbolized moving away from the material world and the steps forwards symbolized approaching the King of Kings. During the prayer there was a certain way of bowing – “Barukh Atha Adonai.” You had to come back up when you said “Adonai.” Then when you said “Kadosh,” you had to get on your toes about 3 times, with each time rising a little taller. Again, not everyone followed this and there were many variations. When it was over, you bowed to the left, then to the right, and then to the front and said – “He who makes peace in the heavens, may He make peace for us and all Israel, and let us say, Amen.” Then, you had to do the same stuff after the prayer – take 3 steps backwards and 3 steps forwards.

Some of the people would be on their way to the synagogue and be running late. So, they would stop in the street corner and start their Amidah. Keep in mind that the Jewish people were not expected to pray in the streets but some would do it anyways. It was forbidden to interrupt anyone praying the Amidah unless it was a safety issue or you had to go. It was a big show! Jesus knew the hypocrisy of their hearts. 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not saying, “Don’t pray in public.” Instead, he was saying – “Don’t pretend to pray only in public.” Imagine if your kids only talked to you in public with grandiose words! At home, “Get out of the way, old man!” Jesus knew their hearts and he confronted their hypocrisy. One antidote for hypocrisy in public prayer is private prayer. Public prayer is like the edifice, the visible part of a building, and private prayer is the foundation.

Application: Do you pray for a show? Are you pretending to be more spiritual than you really are? How is your private prayer life?

  1. Avoid vain repetitions.

7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do…”

Background: The word for “vain repetitions” is a Greek word battalogew, which is a very unique word. It is not found anywhere else in the New Testament or in ancient Greek literature or the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). It was a description of the worship of heathens. Listen to what Jesus said about it in verse 7 “…For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them…” We may not be heathens but it is not much different than what we do even today. We mumble unnecessary words in prayer that add nothing to our conversation with God. Imagine if your kids talked with you and repeated your name and used unnecessary words! Sometimes, we even use “magical formulas” like “Plead the blood of Jesus” or “In Jesus Name.” Other times we repeat the Lord’s Prayer or the Doxology or the Apostles Creed. I’m not suggesting that any of this is sinful or wrong but the point is this – “Do we really mean what we say in prayer?” 8“…For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Here’s the whole point – Prayer is family talk. It is a loving conversation between a father and a child. You cannot fake it.

Application: How do you see God when you pray? Can you see Him as your Father?

  1. Approach God as your Heavenly Father.

9 “In this manner, therefore, pray…”

Now, we come to what’s known as the Lord’s Prayer or the Pater Noster or sometimes even known as the Disciple’s Prayer. It is found twice in the Gospels – one here in Matthew 6 and a shorter version in Luke 11. It could be that Jesus taught the same prayer several times or it could be that Luke placed it at a different point in his gospel, as he often does. What is interesting about Luke’s version of the prayer is that he gives us the context in which Jesus gave this model prayer. Listen to Luke 11:1 “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’” What is very interesting to me is that the disciples did not ask Jesus – “teach us to preach” or “teach us to evangelize” or “teach us to do a miracle” but “teach us to pray.” Why? Because they witnessed how important prayer was to Jesus. Everything in this prayer has to be read with the mindset of God as our heavenly father.

9 “…Our Father in heaven” = God is our Father—Creator, Superior, and Redeemer.

“…Hallowed be Your name.” = God’s names are His character and His work in our lives. He will hallow his name. But, how about in my own life?

10 “Your kingdom come…” = It is the sovereign eternal rule of God over His world. It begins in our hearts when we are saved and will be completed when Christ returns.

“…Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” = God has a revealed will (what God expects) and a secret will (what is God up to). Here the prayer is for the secret will.

We’ve come to the midpoint in the Lord’s Prayer and, so far, we have looked at the first 3 lines known as the “Thou Petitions” – “Hallowed be thy name,” “Thy kingdom come,” and Thy will be done.” Now we will look at the next 3 lines known as the “We Petitions” – “Give us this day our daily bread,” “Forgive us our debts,” and “Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from the evil one.”

11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” = Daily we should come to God as a little child looks to his/her parent for sustenance. But, the bread is not just physical but also spiritual.

12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” = This is probably the hardest line in the Lord’s Prayer, if not the whole Bible. E.M. Bounds said “A heart all love, a heart that holds even its enemies in loving contemplation and prayerful concern, a heart from which all bitterness, revenge, and envy are purged—how rare! Yet this is the only condition of mind and heart in which a man can expect to command the power of prayer.”

13 “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one…” = Even though God allows us to go through trials to purify and humble us, he wants us to come to Him as a child to his/her father and plead for “mercy and grace to help in time of need.”

“…For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” = He is the rightful owner, now and forever. He can change circumstances, now and forever. He gets the glory now and forever.

Invitation: How is your prayer life? Is it a show? Is it filled with vain repetitions? Is it a child coming to his/her father? Have you said the sinner’s prayer? Have you prayed to ask Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

Prayer Doctrine.jpg

PRAYER – DOCTRINE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Kids have some very interesting prayers! I found a few online:

  • Dear God, If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set. Raphael
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Larry
  • Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. Joyce
  • Dear God, Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. Peter
  • God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. Love, Chris.
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. Sam

Unlike kids, who pray with a childlike faith and innocence, adults have a complex and sometimes even an unbelieving attitude towards prayer. Today we begin a 2-part series on prayer: first, we will focus on doctrine, and then, on practice. Here’s the main point of the first message on the doctrine of prayer: Our prayers reflect our understanding of God’s providence. In other words, our understanding of how much God is in control and how much free will we have will directly impact how and how much we pray.

1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Background: The Greek word for confidence is “parresia,” which can be translated as openness, confidence, boldness, and frankness. This is the kind of spirit we should have when we come to God in prayer.

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for my dad. We were not a perfect family, but we were a praying family. From an early age, I remember watching my mom, my dad, and my grandma pray. In church, I remember listening to adults pray, just like we do here. We even had home prayer meetings twice a week. We had 2 different language services (still do) and we would meet at different people’s homes each week to pray; Wednesday evening was people of the Hindi language service and Thursday would be of the English language service. As a little boy, I remember praying all the time—for a baby sister, for a new bike, for new shoes, for good grades in school, for being able to win a race with the other boys. I believed in prayer. But then, it happened. When, I can’t pinpoint the time, but I began to become more “realistic” and “grownup” about what I asked in my prayers. I began to lose the childlike faith and innocence in my prayers. I still prayed, but it wasn’t the same. I believe I have just described the prayer life of most of you here.

Why do we experience such a shift in our prayer life? Short answer: We grow up and face real life. We go through suffering and loss. Our hopes get dashed. Our prayers remain unanswered. We even come face-to-face with evil. Now, there is a change in our view of God and our prayers. It’s like the child who has a toy doctor kit and one day he gets a little cut. Instead of using the instruments (thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure kit) in the box, mom and dad take him/her to a real doctor or nurse who have real instruments. That’s when the child realizes that the instruments are simply toys. They are just pretend. Now, the child does play with the kit but it’s only pretend.

Long answer: Real life jars our view of God’s providence, and, with that, our prayers change as well. Let’s begin with defining the word “Providence.” For starters, that word is not found in the Bible but the concept is everywhere. Basically, it is the answer to how much is God in control of the world he has created and how much can we influence him. When we begin to seriously deal with the matter of God’s providence, a lot of complex and deep questions rise up. I don’t have time to deal with all of them here. There are some wonderful books out there like “Providence and Prayer” by Terrance Tiessen. Here, I just want to bring out a few of the major ones (they are interconnected): Is God timeless or is he bound by time just as we are? Because if he is in the same boat as we are, then, how can he really be prepared for what is coming around the corner? Does God know the future? How much does he know? If he does know the future, why doesn’t he do something about bad things? Does God allow evil to exist? Is he helpless to combat evil? Is he allowing evil to bring about something good? How about when it brings a lot of pain? Do I have any free will? Can people interfere with the plan of God? Does God change his mind? Bottom line: Does prayer change things?

If such questions about God’s providence are not answered, our prayer life will suffer.

Here’s how the proper view of the providence of God can help our prayer life:

  1. God’s providential control is comprehensive, detailed, capable, loving, and best.

There is much about the providence of God in creation in the Book of Psalms and Job. But, here is a classic passage from Matthew 6     26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 10     29 “…And not one of them (sparrows) falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Miracles are also part of his equation, but they are rare.When they don’t happen, we have to trust his perfect plan.

  1. People act freely within God’s overall will.

The best way to understand that is to imagine a road trip growing up. Mom and dad will get to the destination but it’s up to us as to how we will enjoy the trip. When it comes to humans, his sovereign will is always done, even if his moral will may be rejected. God’s purpose was to bring the people into the Promised Land. This was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah one day. Nonetheless, they all had a choice in how they would live in the land.Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Even evil has been allowed to exist temporarily but the boundary is set, as in Job. In his divine wisdom and care, he allows it. Through his foreknowledge, God already knows what we or evil will do, but everything is always within his reach and control. Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

  1. God works in us to bring us in partnership with his will and he uses prayers as a major means.

This happens through scripture, prayer, (personal and corporate) and fellowship with other believers. 1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Moses prayed for God’s people and miracles happened. The early church prayed and circumstances changed. Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Jesus wanted his disciples to participate in prayer. John 16      23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This applies to our personal lives as well because we are connected to his comprehensive plan. James 4:2 “…Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” Can we change the mind of God? In his perfect wisdom and plan, he has even allowed for that. His overall plan is always intact, but it does impact the immediate plan of God.

  1. Providence, Prayer, and everything else are ultimately connected to our salvation through Jesus Christ.

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: What do you believe about prayer? Does God answer? Can he answer? Have you prayed to invite Jesus into your life to be your Savior and King?

Community by Dr. Abidan Shah

Community

COMMUNITY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: The history of our world is littered with countless obsoletes. Think about the technological obsoletes of the past few decades—phone booths, calling cards, pagers, palm pilots, floppy disks, Kodak films, calculator watches, Sony Walkman, etc. Many of the things we use today will probably become obsolete by tomorrow. Lately, in light of the current crisis, some people are claiming that even how we interact with each other (shaking hands, gathering in crowds) is going to become obsolete and they are applying this even to the church. They are claiming that we won’t necessarily come together physically. Instead, we may do all this over technology with small groups of people gathering here and there. Please listen carefully: No matter what will become obsolete in this world with regards to technology and cultural habits, the church of Jesus Christ will never become obsolete. God has said in his word that his church will remain no matter what and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Throughout the history of Christianity, peoples and governments have prognosticated the death of the gathered church. They died but the church still gathers and lives on. Today’s message is heavy on my heart. We’re going back to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We’ve studied portions of this letter before but now we’re starting a new series titled COMMUNITY.

Philippians 1     1 “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Question: What do you believe about the gathered church? Do you belong to the church of God? Are you saved?

Background: Those of you who’ve been at Clearview for some time may remember that, in 2018, we went through the first chapter of Philippians, and then, last year (2019), we covered the second chapter. That series was called “MIND (RE)SET.” For the benefit of those who weren’t here last year or the year before, I want to quickly mention 2 things as background information:

First, the Philippians were Paul’s pride and joy. He had founded the church in Philippi. If you remember, Paul had come to Philippi in response to the Macedonian Call. Acts 16 tells us of 3 dramatic conversions: first, a business woman named Lydia by the Zygaktis or Krenides River (I’ve been there); second, a slave girl who was demon possessed; and third was the Philippian jailer and his whole family. If you want to know how Paul felt about the Philippian church, listen again to Philippians 1:3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…”

Question: Do you thank God every time you think about the church? Do you miss the time we had together? Do people say that about you?

Second, this was not just an ordinary letter. Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell in Rome. How do we know that? Philippians 1:7 “…both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel…” Again, verse 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” More than likely, Paul was in a house arrest situation since he was able to send letters and receive friends. Nonetheless, this was a serious situation. Listen to Philippians 1:20 “…Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Meaning: There was a strong possibility that Paul will not make it alive out of this prison. In the midst of such grave uncertainty, Paul took the time to write to the Philippian church. Why? When we read the letter carefully, we find 2 hints that help us understand the purpose for the letter:

  1. Paul mentions the word “chara” joy about 5 times in various forms:
  • Philippians 1:4 “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.”
  • Philippians 1:25 “…I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.”
  • Philippians 2:2 “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded”
  • In Philippians 2:29 Paul wants them to receive Epaphroditus, one of his companions in ministry, with joy.
  • Philippians 4:1 Paul calls them, “…my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown…”

Paul also uses the related word “chairo” meaning rejoice about 7 times in various forms. The most famous one being Philippians 4:4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Because of this some people have assumed that Philippians is Paul’s letter to teach us the importance of Joy in the midst of trials. This could’ve been true if it wasn’t for the second hint.

  1. Paul repeatedly talks about division among the Philippians.
  • Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
  • Philippians 2:2 “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded
  • Philippians 2 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
  • Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without complaining and disputing.”
  • Philippians 3:16 “…let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.”
  • Philippians 4:2 “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”

What exactly was happening in the Philippian church? There were divisions in the body and because of that joy was leaking out. Please listen very carefully: Nothing will deplete joy in the Christian life faster than division in your life, your marriage, your family, and your church. All it takes is for one divisive person to start something and before you know it, the whole body is infected with a spirit of division.

The current crisis has scattered the church. That doesn’t have to be bad if we try to use it as a limited time opportunity to spread the gospel of God in creative ways. Then, it’s time to come back together as a church. Technology can never be a substitute to the actual gathering of the people of God in a physical location. Pockets of people meeting online or in someone’s home is not church. How about Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them”? Have you read the context? Let me read to you Matthew 18:17 “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” That passage about 2 or 3 is given in the context of church discipline! Don’t get me wrong. We want small groups, Sunday School groups, and inner circles, but they are not to become a substitute for church.

Let me go back to where we began: No matter what will become obsolete in this world with regards to technology and cultural habits, the church of Jesus Christ will never become obsolete. God has said in his word that his church will remain no matter what and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

  • Jesus is the founder of the church. Anything he has founded cannot be destroyed. In fact, the church is referred to as the “bride of Christ” (Revelation 19 and 21).
  • The church is not just a group hanging out here and there. It refers to the assembly in Jerusalem, Antioch, Derbe, Lystra, Ephesus, Philippi, etc. 1 Corinthians 10:17 “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”
  • When Paul talks about the church, he is referring to the “concrete assembly of those who have been baptized at a specific place.” (J. Roloff) The model were the early synagogues of the Jewish people. Yes, the church are the people primarily but the places they met is also the church. It was a visible representation of their presence in a city or town. That’s why I like the steeple.
  • Listen to the imagery of the church in Ephesians 2 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The famous theologian John Stott said, “The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history.”

Throughout the history of Christianity, peoples and governments have prognosticated the death of the gathered church. They died but the church still gathers and lives on.

Hebrews 10    24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhortingone another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Conclusion: What do you believe about the church, the physical gathering of the body of believers in a physical location? Do you think God has stepped away from the church, saying, “this Covid-19 really got me; y’all going to have to figure this one out”? If you care about the Lord, then you will care about his bride, the church. Are you allowing someone to create division in the body? Are you a member of the body of Christ? Are you saved?

Walking in the Steps by Dr. Abidan Shah

Walking in the StepsIt is so wonderful to be back home! We had an amazing trip to Israel, but are so glad to be back with all of you. Thank you so much for your prayers and for following along with us on social media. We are so thankful to know that our church family was praying for us during our trip!

It is always so amazing to walk around these different locations, knowing that you are standing on sites mentioned in Scripture! It’s like watching the stories of the Bible come to life before your very eyes! This weekend, we will hear from some of the team members that just returned. They will share about what this trip meant to them, how it changed their perspective of the Bible, and how it helped them to grow in the faith. The title of the message this weekend is “WALKING IN THE STEPS.”

This message will deepen your faith and change your perspective on God’s Word! Don’t miss it and invite your friends and family along, as well!

 

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