Miracles Happen by Pastor Abidan Shah

MIRACLES HAPPEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Miracles Happen

Introduction: People use the word miracle all the time. If their ball team stinks, they say – “We need a miracle!” If they’re caught in a traffic jam, they say they need a miracle to get out. Companies use the word “miracle” to market their products – miracle whip, miracle gro, and miracle weight loss pill. By the way, I’ve heard that the only thing you lose with the last one is money out of your pocket! As a pastor I’ve even heard couples say, “It’ll take a miracle for our marriage to work.” The point is that people use the word “miracle” a lot but they seem to believe less and less in them. Today’s message is titled “Miracles Happen.” It is the first in our series on miracles and here’s the gist: “If you can believe in God, you can believe in miracles.” The real question is not “Do you believe that miracles happen?” but “What kind of God do you believe in?”

Luke 7   20 When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. 22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Question: Do you believe that miracles happen? People doubted Jesus, even John the Baptist. I believe that some of the biggest agnostics and unbelievers are not out there but in here. Tough times of life and unanswered prayers have made some of us “believing skeptics.” Do you truly believe in miracles? Are you saved? The greatest miracle is a changed life.

Background: When I was in college, my philosophy professor wrote three words on the board on the first day of class – “Ideas have consequences.” It comes from the title of a 1948 book by an American intellectual Richard Weaver. I understood what he meant but I didn’t grasp the seriousness of those words until later. Ideas do have consequences. They do shape how people think, feel, believe, and behave. This is especially true when it comes to young people. They are easily influenced by ideas. In my 18 years as pastor, many parents and grandparents have shared with me with great sadness how they raised their children and grandchildren in church but when they left home and came under the influence of some college professor or some show or some friend that they stopped believing in God, the Bible, and miracles. They often add – “But we raised them in church! They know better!” I want to tell them – “It’s wonderful that you raised them in church but that’s not enough. You failed to teach them how to face ideas.” Don’t misunderstand what I mean by “ideas.” By “ideas,” I’m not referring to “Oh, I’ve got an idea.” By “ideas,” I’m referring to formulated thoughts and opinions over different matters like life, creation, morality, and values. What happened to them is that they went away from the shelter of their home and church and got bombarded by ideas that were contrary to the Word of God. In the absence of clear and coherent answers from the Bible, they gave into skepticism and unbelief. The problem is not with the kids or the school. The problem is with us and our failure to teach our kids how to handle ideas.

This is why in the couple of the opening messages in this series on the miracles of Jesus, I want to answer the question – “Do miracles happen?” and “Why do some people don’t believe in miracles?” These are not typical messages but they are ones we desperately need to hear.

Throughout the history of the world there have been people who have opposed anything miraculous. We don’t have the time to go through all of them. I just want to focus on there major ones from three different angles:

  1. Philosophy – Scottish skeptic, philosopher, and historian David Hume: He came out of the Enlightenment movement that began modern thought in the 17th and 18th centuries. He pushed reason to the limits just to prove that reason has limits. He made argument upon argument just to prove that arguments don’t prove anything. Among many other things that he wrote against God and Christianity, he was also skeptical about miracles. His argument was as follows:
  • Miracle goes against the laws of natures.
  • Laws of nature have been established by experiences that do not change.
  • A wise person bases his/her belief on evidence.
  • Therefore, miracles don’t happen.

For e.g. Jesus walking on water violates the law of nature. Experience has proven time and time again that you cannot walk on water. If you are wise, you will base your belief on evidence. Therefore, miracles don’t happen.

  1. Theology – German New Testament Scholar and Theologian Rudolf Bultmann: His father was a Lutheran pastor and his grandfather was a missionary. He was influenced by the existentialist philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Under this view, he considered the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the future resurrection to come, the blood atonement for our sins, eternal life, and the rest as misleading. He called them mythological ideas that need to be reinterpreted. So began his program of demythologizing the New Testament. He was also influenced by another scholar by the name of Johannes Weiss who belonged to the history of religion school. Under his influence he looked at non-Christian and rabbinic stories as sources of the miracles. He used what is known as form criticism to get to the source behind the stories in the NT.

For e.g. The miracle at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine is no miracle according to Bultmann. It was adapted from the Dionysian cult of the time and was used by the church to prove that Jesus is the great Revealer.

  1. Science – No one person comes to mind but if I had to pick one, it would be Theoretical Physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics Steven Weinberg: Listen to what he had to say in his 1999 talk at the Conference on Cosmic Design of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.:

“It used to be obvious that the world was designed by some sort of intelligence. What else could account for fire and rain and lightning and earthquakes? Above all, the wonderful abilities of living things seemed to point to a creator who had a special interest in life. Today we understand most of these things in terms of physical forces acting under impersonal laws. We don’t yet know the most fundamental laws, and we can’t work out all the consequences of the laws we do know. The human mind remains extraordinarily difficult to understand, but so is the weather. We can’t predict whether it will rain one month from today, but we do know the rules that govern the rain, even though we can’t always calculate their consequences. I see nothing about the human mind any more than about the weather that stands out as beyond the hope of understanding as a consequence of impersonal laws acting over billions of years. There do not seem to be any exceptions to this natural order, any miracles. I have the impression that these days most theologians are embarrassed by talk of miracles…The evidence for all these miracles seems to me to be considerably weaker than the evidence for cold fusion, and I don’t believe in cold fusion. Above all, today we understand that even human beings are the result of natural selection acting over millions of years of breeding and eating.”

For e.g. The man being healed of dumbness was based on the power of suggestion and maybe some form of ancient medicine but nothing miraculous.

How do we answer such attacks from Philosophy, Theology, and Science? If you came face to face with Hume, Bultmann, or Weinberg, what would you say to them? Let me give you the basic principles behind this series:

  1. God exists.
  2. There is only one God.
  3. God created the world and continues to rule over it.
  4. Since this is God’s world, the natural law is his law and he can do miracles if he chooses.
  5. God does miracles when he wants to further his purposes.
  6. Jesus, the Son of God did miracles and they are truthfully recorded in the gospels
  7. God may do miracles in response to the prayers of people.
  8. We are called to believe in miracles but trust in Jesus.

Invitation: Have you ever trusted in Jesus as your Savior? That’s the greatest and most important miracle you need in your life.

Foundation: God’s Vision for Clearview by Pastor Abidan Shah

FOUNDATION: GOD’S VISION FOR CLEARVIEW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Foundation

Introduction: Last week was very exciting in the life of Clearview. After months and months of waiting, we got word from the building contractor that the concrete was going to be poured Wednesday morning at 4am. We decided to get here by 9 to film it but unfortunately it was all over by then. But imagine if the whole church would have shown up at 4am Wednesday morning. Imagine if I was dressed up in my suit and tie ready to preach. Imagine if Ryan was ready with his announcements and John was ready with his guitar. What if the moment they started pouring the concrete, the praise team starting leading the people in worship. What if we all stood on the side and had a church service the whole time with singing, preaching, and everything while the concrete was being poured! That would be odd, wouldn’t it! That’s exactly what happened 2500 years ago when God’s people returned from exile and laid the foundation of the temple.

Ezra 3   10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Before we begin this message, here are a couple of questions to consider: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Some of you are saying, “Oh, I see the new building coming,” or “I saw the plans on the way in this morning.” Folks, I’m referring to much more than brick and mortar. I’m referring to the building up of lives, marriages, families, young people, and communities. I’m referring to changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? Can you see that? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read from Ezra describes the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. You may remember when I preached a series on Nehemiah couple of years ago how in 587 or 586BC Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the walls of the city, and especially destroyed the ancient temple of Solomon. Not only that but he also dragged the Jewish people 700 miles away into exile to Babylon. They had no hope of ever returning back and there was nothing left to return back to. Everything was gloomy and hopeless. But God had promised them that in his timing he would bring them back and he did. In 539BC (about 50 years later) Cyrus the king of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire and set the people free to go back home to Jerusalem. Not only that but Cyrus even returned the items that had been taken out of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and placed in the temple of his gods. He also provided support and commanded the people to do the same for those who were going back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. How amazing that a pagan king would do that!

Here’s a principle worth remembering: No matter what is happening in the world, no matter who is in charge, God is still in control. He is still sovereign and he never abandons his people.

Personal Reflection: Eleven years ago in 2007 when we stepped out on faith from the old church building, little did we realize what was about to happen. We had no clue that the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s was about to hit our country and the world and here we were without a church building! But here’s something amazing – we didn’t miss a single service! God took care of us as a church! He knew what was going to happen and he was perfectly in control.

I love this quote from Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (now OMF): “Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.”

Application: Do you believe that God is faithful and that he’ll take care of you? Are you God’s work in God’s way? Can you see God’s hand upon Clearview?

Ezra 3   1 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem.

Background: About 50,000 returned in the first wave to Jerusalem and they were united in their mission and vision.

So also at Clearview, we’ve been united and we need to stay united. What is our motto at Clearview? “MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE.” What is our mission? “To lead all people into a life-changing, ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” What is our vision? If you’ve been to the new members’ class, you’ve seen our list. It includes – seeing marriages healed, homes transformed, young people following Christ, communities transformed, God’s people digging into his word and worshipping him in joy, and on and on.

2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.

Background: The first thing we see is that they built the altar. This was very important because the one thing they were unable to do in Babylon was offer any sacrifices. This was similar to what David had done when he had captured the same ground about 500 years earlier. He also built an altar to God. Why was this important? Because the altar was a reminder to God’s people that they could not get near to God without sacrifices.

So also at Clearview, we are centered upon the cross of Christ. We believe that without the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we cannot come near to God. Hebrews 13:10 reminds us that Jesus is our altar. What do we offer on him? 15 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Two things we offer on the altar of Jesus –our sacrifice of praise (worship) and the sacrifice of giving to God’s work and sharing with those in need.

3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. Meaning: In spite of the threats of the enemies around them, they kept on worshipping God. No better time for me to say than today – “Thank God that we live in this great nation where we have the freedom to worship according to the dictates of our conscience.

7 “They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.” Meaning: This was not all just talk but people actually supported the work financially. We will hear on that in just a moment. 8 Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites. All these names remind us that all of us have a part to play in the future of our church.

Then came the day for laying the foundation. As the builders got ready to lay the foundation of the temple, the priests and Levites lined up in their attire with their trumpets and their cymbals and they led the people of God in worship and praise. 11 “…Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.” Something else happened12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.” In other words, not everyone had the same reaction. Some wept and some shouted and people heard it!

Lot of things are happening at Clearview – Everyday I hear from someone how God is using this church to touch their lives. Friday, a man told me that God used Clearview to save his marriage. Another person told me that they wish they had found Clearview much earlier. A young person told me that he looks forward to get here. It’s his favorite place in the world! We have people who are tuning in to the services all over this community. We have people as far away as Arizona who watch us. The other day I called my parents and they told me that people tell them what I preached on that morning. As you know my messages are on my website. We have people who are coming from all over the world!

Let me re-ask the questions I asked in the opening: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Can you see how God is building up lives, marriages, families, young people, and our community? Can you see the changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Raising Overcomers by Pastor Abidan Shah

RAISING OVERCOMERS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Raising Overcomers

Introduction: When it comes to raising children, there are photographers and then there are instructors. There’s a big difference between those two. Once a student pilot was waiting for his lesson when suddenly a man jumped in the cockpit and said, “Let’s head towards those mountains to the south and then fly as low as you can over the lake.” The student took off and the man started taking pictures. After a while the student asked, “Do you always take pictures when you give flight lessons?” “Flight lessons? I’m just the photographer for the newspaper.” The student replied, “If you’re not the flight instructor, then you probably can’t tell me why these red lights are flashing, can you?” Today’s message is on raising children who overcome in life. Just like the opening anecdote, some parents are just photographers. They only capture what they encounter in the journey of life. Other parents are instructors. They teach their children how to navigate through the trials in life. Today’s message is titled “RAISING OVERCOMERS.”

Genesis 37   23 So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. 24 Then they took him and cast him into a pit…28 Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and…sold him…And they took Joseph to Egypt. Genesis 50:19-20 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid…you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

Question: It’s no secret that life is full of trials. Job, the oldest book in the Bible, reminds us in 14:1 “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” Even Jesus says in John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation…” The point of this sermon is this – It’s not enough to acknowledge that life will bring trials and tough times. As parents and adults, God has entrusted us to teach our kids to become overcomers. Are you teaching the kids and the young people in your life to become overcomers? Are you an overcomer? By the way, please don’t confuse overcoming with enduring. There’s a big difference between them: Enduring is “I’ve been there and I have a T-shirt to prove it.” Overcoming is “I’ve been there and I have a godly character to prove it.” Meaning: I’m more like Christ having been through trials. Are you saved? Are your kids saved? Before they can be overcomers, they have to be overcome by the gospel. In this message we will see how Jacob the overcomer taught his son Joseph to overcome.

Context: As you know, we’re in our series on the family, looking at the family of Abraham and Sarah through Genesis, looking at their good and bad decisions and the impact their decisions had over the later generations. Now we come to a very prominent figure in this family: Joseph. He was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. He was dragged off to Egypt where his master Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of trying to rape her. He was unjustly thrown into prison where he helped fellow inmates, but one of them forgot to return the favor. These are just some of the struggles that the Bible tells us. Who knows what else happened to him. All this could have destroyed him. Instead, Joseph overcame all of these trials and in God’s sovereign plan became second in command to Pharaoh. How did he do that? 4 reasons:

  1. He was taught the value of being trustworthy.

Genesis 37:2 “Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.”

At first glance, Joseph sounds like a tattletale. No one likes a tattletale, a snitch. As a teacher, you know how it is when kids run to you and tell on someone. We tell them to mind their business. The difference between a tattletale and a trustworthy person is this: A tattletale wants to make himself look good but a trustworthy person wants to make his superior look good. Jacob knew the difference and he valued the trustworthiness of his son. This is going to be very important one day for Joseph when he would have to work for Potiphar and then for Pharaoh. They knew they could trust Joseph. They could see integrity in his eyes. Teach your kids the value of being trustworthy.

  1. He was loved and affirmed by his father.

Genesis 37:3 “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.”

Again, at first glance, this sounds like favoritism but it’s not. If this were favoritism, the Bible would have condemned Jacob but it doesn’t. Neither does it mean that Joseph was the baby of the family and hence Jacob loved him. If that were true, then Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother, should be the one to get Jacob’s special attention. I believe that “son of his old age” implies a son who brought comfort and joy to his father. Jacob also affirmed Joseph’s character by giving him a special coat. By the way, it was not a “coat of many colors” but in Hebrew it is a “coat that extended to the palms and the feet.” It was a ceremonial coat that implied authority and power. Jacob was affirming that God had great things in store for Joseph. Can you imagine where Joseph would’ve been if all he felt was the hatred of his brothers? An important warning: What I’ve often seen is that parents favor the child who gets into trouble or who fails to do well in life. Nothing is wrong with that. God does that with us when he leaves the 99 and goes after the one lost sheep or throws a party for the prodigal son and not the faithful elder brother. But, it’s just as important to show your love and affirmation to the good child.

  1. He was taught to face rejection in the face of truth.

Genesis 37   4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. 5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. What was the dream? They are in the field binding sheaves and his sheaf stood tall and the others bowed down to his. What was their reaction? 8 And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us?…So they hated him even more for his dreams…

Again, at first glance, it sounds like either Joseph knew how to aggravate his brothers or that he was completely clueless. Why would you share things with your brothers and have them hate you more each time? Unless…this dream was meant to be shared. Unless…God had instructed Joseph to share this dream with his brothers.

Genesis 37   9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers…” This time it was about the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing before him. Even Jacob was aggravated with him at first but then listen to verse 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

I believe that when it says that Jacob “kept the matter in mind” that he prayed for his son – “God, if you are the source of these dreams then let my son stand his ground and never give up.” This would be very important when he had to interpret the dreams of the Chief Butler and the Chief Baker. One dream was good and the other bad. The Bible doesn’t tell us but I feel that Joseph probably did that for others as well and gained the reputation of an uncompromising dream interpreter. If he had been scared to share the truth with his brothers, he would’ve never been brought before someone as powerful as Pharaoh. Teach your children to be willing to face rejection when telling God’s truth.

  1. He was pushed out of the shelter of his home.

Genesis 37   12 Then his brothers went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” So he said to him, “Here I am.”

When we read that passage, we almost want to shout at Jacob – “Are you crazy! Don’t you know your sons! They’ll kill him!” And even if its not your sons, how about the bad people around Shechem! They still remember what your boys did to the entire city. Joseph gets to Shechem but his brothers are not there and he was just wandering in the field. Genesis 37:17 And the man said, “They have departed from here, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.

From the Valley of Hebron where Jacob and his family lived to Shechem was 50 miles. Dothan was another 14 miles to the north! Dothan was in a valley that connected the coastal plain to the Valley of Jezreel where Megiddo was. This area was the route leading to the International Highway headed towards Egypt. It’s no surprise that few verses later we read about the Midianite/Ishmaelite caravan passing by. Did Jacob not think about where he was sending his son! Did he not know that there were bad people in the world! Of course he did. About 30 years earlier, Jacob was also living under the shelter of his mother and had to be pushed out. Somehow he knew that Joseph had to grow up. Parents – be careful how much you shelter your children. You might be crippling them. Learn to lovingly but firmly push your children out of the shelter of the home.

I can go on and on but the true test of whether or not Joseph became an overcomer is not how he responded when he was sold into slavery or how he responded when Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him or how he responded when the Chief Butler forgot him in prison. The true test is how he responded when he saw his brothers again.

Genesis 45   3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. 4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life….7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

Repeatedly, he tells them that it’s not them but God. That’s the mark of a true overcomer. You are more concerned about glorifying God than proving yourself or destroying your enemies.

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. I John 5   4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Are you a photographer or an instructor? Before you can teach your children to be an overcomer, you have to overcome. Through Christ you can.

Skeletons in the Family Closet by Pastor Abidan Shah

SKELETONS IN THE FAMILY CLOSET by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Skeletons in the Family ClosetIntroduction: Several years ago Nicole was really into doing her family history. She scoured the libraries, checked the Internet, and visited all the graveyards she could. She would stay up late at night, have all her notes scattered over the dining room table, and try to connect the genealogical dots. She made a lot of progress but then she hit a dead-end. It seemed as if after a certain point, some of the people just disappeared into thin air. She took all her notes down to her grandmother in South Georgia at Christmas. She told her about the problem she was running into. Her grandmother, who is still living, said with a smirk, “Have you ever thought that maybe the reason you cannot find them is because they didn’t want to be found!” By the way, her name is Granny Outlaw. I tell people that I have outlaws for in-laws! The point is “Everyone has some Skeletons in their Family Closet.” In this message we will learn how to deal with those embarrassing moments and situations in our family’s past.

Genesis 12   10   Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, “This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”

There are no perfect families. We all have some skeletons in our family closet. To use the metaphor of a family tree, we all have some rotten fruits hanging on our family tree. In this message we will learn how to deal with those skeletons and those rotten fruits.

Question: Do you have some family secrets? How are you handling them? Do you try to embellish them to make yourself look better? Do you blame all your failures on those shameful memories? Do you wear them as a badge of honor? Here’s a deeper question: If you are saved, do you realize that you are part of a whole new family? John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Does your life demonstrate your new family traits? Or are you still living with the old family habits and tendencies? Are you saved?

As you know, we are studying the family of Abraham and Sarah. They had some skeletons in their closet. Let’s start looking at them:

Skeleton #1 – Genesis 12:10-20 (We just read this passage.) There was a famine in the land of Canaan and so Abraham took Sarah his wife and headed down to Egypt. But before he entered Egypt, he had a talk with her. It began with “You are such a pretty woman!” Sound familiar, ladies? Translated: “I need a favor.” Here it comes. Hold on to your hats! “When the Egyptians notice you, they will say: ‘She is his wife.’ They will kill me but spare you. So, please say that you are my sister and it will be okay for me because of you and they won’t kill me.” Really?! Just in case you are wondering – This is the same Abraham who stepped out on faith to follow God to a land that he had never seen. By the way, they’re not some newly married couple. He’s 75 and she’s 65 years old!

Principle: Age does not equal maturity. You’re never too old to do something stupid. If I may add, God is not looking for perfect people, just those willing to be used by him.

Skeleton #2 – Genesis 20 It’s been 25 years since the Egypt incident. Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90 years old. You’d think that they have matured. 2 Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. God warned Abimelech in a dream that Sarah was Abraham’s wife and he’s a dead man. 10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What possessed you to do this?” Translated: What’s wrong with you? 11 And Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. 12 But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.” This just gets better and better! 13 “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your agreement that you should make with me: in every place, wherever we go, say about me, ‘He is my brother.’” So, you decided this 50 years ago and you haven’t revised it?!

Principle: Be careful of agreements that have been made out of fear and selfishness instead of prayer and faith. If I may add, a half-truth is still a full lie in the sight of God.

Skeleton #3 – Genesis 26 This time the spotlight shifts from Abraham to his son Isaac. Listen to verse 7 And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” because he thought, “lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.” Like father, like son! In a moment of fear and weakness, he resorts to his dad’s tactic of claiming that his wife is his sister. One little problem here, while Abraham and Sarah were half-brother and sister, Isaac and Rebecca were not. Isaac told an out and out lie.

Principle: Whatever you do in moderation, your children will do in excess.

Application: Do you have such an unflattering past in your family history? Are there some scandalous moments in your parents and grandparents life? Take hope. Even those as prominent as Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Rebekah messed up. If God can use them, he can use you too.

Now let’s go a little deeper. Why did Abraham and later Isaac really do what they did? We’ll have to play the detective here and look for the real motive behind the crime. I have a possible theory – Abraham did not lie just to save his skin. I believe that he misunderstood what God had told him in Genesis 12   1 “…Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” I wonder if Abraham mistakenly thought that God intended to bring his blessing into the world only through him. I wonder if he mistakenly thought that God’s plan only involved him and not Sarah. Hence, his plan was to protect himself, not because he was a coward but because he thought that he alone was crucial in God’s plan of redemption. He was trying to stay alive so that God’s plan would not fail.

Some of ya’ll are thinking that is too much. Have you read these 3 incidents carefully? God never condemned Abraham or Isaac for their actions. For e.g. When Cain killed his brother, God cursed him from the earth. (Genesis 4:10-11) When David committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband murdered, it says, “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” (II Samuel 11:27) I can give many more examples. The point is that in each of these incidents, God actually cursed and even punished the Egyptians and the Canaanites! In the first incident, Genesis 12:17 “the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” In the second incident, Genesis 20:18 “…the LORD had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” In the third incident, listen to Abimelech’s reaction in Genesis 26   10 “…What is this you have done to us? One of the people might soon have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us.” 11 So Abimelech charged all his people, saying, “He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” What’s more is that after each of these incidents, God blessed Abraham and Sarah and then Isaac and Rebecca with more than they had before they made their poor choices!

Principle: God sees the heart and he is far more gracious than we are. So should we.

Let me add: What neither Abraham nor Isaac realized until later is that in God’s sovereign plan, Sarah was just as crucial as him. This is why he kept rescuing her. By the way, Sarah misunderstood this as well. What did she do when she couldn’t provide a child for Abraham? She offered her own maidservant Hagar to her husband. We often look down on Sarah when in reality it was a tremendous sacrifice on her part. How many women would be willing to make that sacrifice for God’s plan of redemption?

Principle: In God’s plan none of us are expendable. We all have a part to play. Husbands – don’t underestimate what God has for your wife. Wives – Don’t underestimate what God can do through your husband. Parents – Your kids are not beyond hope. Kids – God is not through with your parents.

One more thing: Don’t use this as a justification for making more bad decisions. Think about the Egyptians and the Canaanites. God had called Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Because of what they did, they became a curse instead.

Principle: The ends don’t justify the means. Obedience is the only way to life.

Let me close by giving you the following suggestions in how to deal with the skeletons in your family closet:

  • Be honest. Be humble. Don’t forget where you came from. Stop bragging.
  • Don’t copy the wrong actions but accept the humanity of your parents and grandparents.
  • Don’t be too quick to judge. Only God sees the heart. Offer grace. Give them a break. You never know what they had to endure.
  • When you follow God, know that he will always work all things together for good.

I think about the genealogy of Christ in Matthew. 4 women are mentioned by name: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. The first one deceived her father-in-law into sleeping with her, the second was a Canaanite prostitute, the third was a Moabite (descendant of the incestual relationship between Lot and his daughter), and Bathsheba, married to a Hittite and then committed adultery with King David. If God can use that to bring his Son into this world, he can bring something good through any of our family.

Are you saved? Have you received God’s grace into your life?

Becoming a Chain Breaker by Pastor Abidan Shah

BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

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Introduction: Many years ago Nicole and I decided to take our 3 kids at the time to our old stomping grounds in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. There is a place there called Helen, kind of a tourist town, built like an Alpine village. The Chattahoochee River winds through the town and people can go tubing. It’s beautiful. We arrived that evening and went for a walk and saw the people floating around in ankle deep water. Nicole and I had done that before and we decided to take the kids tubing the next day. We didn’t pay attention to the weather but all night it rained and rained. The next day we got to the tubing place and it was no longer a lazy river but looked like some white water rapids. Against our better judgment we decided to go for it. Nicole kept Nicholas with her, I kept Abigail, and Rebecca was by herself. It wasn’t 30 seconds into the river that I realized that this was a huge mistake. The ankle-deep river was now about chest high in places and we were being hurled through as if we were on the Colorado River. I hung on to Rebecca’s tube until a big boulder knocked her out of my hands. Before I could react she had slipped a few meters and then a few yards away. People on the banks were watching us in shock. Rebecca went around a bend and I couldn’t see her anymore. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life. We could see slippers and tubes that were abandoned by people but we didn’t want to get out because Rebecca was somewhere out there. Finally, we got to the end and she was there waiting for us. The point is this – when I made the decision to go tubing, I never anticipated what would happen. In fact, after the first 10 minutes, I lost sight of our daughter. So also in life, we make decisions but we don’t realize the consequences that follow. Most of the time we will never see what may happen in the future. The series we’re starting today is called “THE FAMILY: SOME DO’S, SOME DON’T’S, AND SOME WHO KNOWS.” People have asked me to teach on marriage, family, and parenting and I’m always reluctant because there’s so much I don’t know. But I had to remind myself that it’s not about my opinion but about the Word of God. So, we will be studying the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. The advantage of this series is that we’ll be able to track the consequences of their good and bad decisions to the third, fourth, and even later generations. Today’s message is called “BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER.”

Genesis 12   1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”…5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan.

Question: Before we begin the first message, let me ask you a few questions. Do you feel that you have a good understanding regarding marriage, family, and parenting? How is your marriage? How is parenting working out for you? Where did you get your understanding on those subjects? Was it from a parent, grandparent, celebrity, friend, or church leader? Were those individuals truly successful in their marriage, family, and parenting? Do you have Christ in your life? Without him, you’ll never have what you truly need to be successful. Why don’t you invite him into your life right now?

In this first message we’re going to learn what it means to be a chain breaker. As we go further it’ll become clear what I am referring to.

  1. The first Chain Breaker.

When we thing about the beginning of the people of Israel, we only think about Abraham and Sarah but truly we need to go a few steps back and read the preceding verses. Listen to Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.” We mistakenly think that Abraham (Abram) was the first and only one to get the call to follow God out of the Ur of the Chaldeans. Not really. In fact, the first one to step out was Abraham’s father Terah.

Who was Terah? When we do a careful study of the genealogies in the Book of Genesis, we find that Terah is located at the end of the first age and the beginning of the second. The first age begins with Adam and Eve, goes through Noah and his three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), zooms in on the line of Shem, and ends with Terah in Genesis 11:24. The second age begins with Terah in verse 27 “This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” The point is this – Terah is the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. He was the first chain breaker. The Bible doesn’t talk about it but I can imagine the struggle he must have faced in leaving Ur. Archaeological evidence tells us that it was a large city. Being near the Persian Gulf, people from everywhere came there for business. Also, Ur was a center for moon worship. There is evidence to this day of a ziggurat dedicated to the god Nanna or Sin. He was the god of the cowherders, cattle breeders, and orchardmen. Basically, he was the god of fertility (keep that in mind), along with his consort or wife, Ningal, the goddess of reeds. Terah had to leave all this behind to follow God to Canaan.

Principle: When you see a successful person, don’t immediately give them all the credit. Look for whose shoulders they’re standing on. Someone had to step out and be the pioneer in their life. This is especially true in the Christian life. Remember Paul telling Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5 that he is filled with joy every time “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

For e.g. You’ve heard me give my dad’s testimony and how he was the pioneer to follow Christ in his family but this was also true in my mom’s side of the family. It was my grandmother’s dad (my great-grandfather) who practiced medicine back in the late 1800s-early 1900s. I remember my grandmother telling me that he was the first one to follow Christ through the work of some Reformed Presbyterian missionaries from England. He became a lay preacher. He was the pioneer on that side of the family.

Question: Who has been the chain breaker and pioneer in your life? A father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. It is their sacrifice that brought blessing into your life. Sometimes, there’s no one in the past that you can thank and you have to be your own pioneer. In my early years as a pastor I used to hear, “we used to go to church as a little kid.” Now, it is, “no, our family never went to church…”

Application: Are you the pioneer in your family? It’s not easy to do what you’re doing. No one has set any pattern for you. There’s no one to look up to in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. Just like the pioneers in our nation’s history, you have to make the tough sacrifices. But if you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the pioneer.

  1. The reason for the move.

Why did Terah decide to move out of Ur? We have no indication in the text that God called Terah the same way he called Abraham. Maybe it was because of the losses in his life. First, there’s no mention of his wife, which means she must have died in Ur. Second, verse 28 says, “And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.” We don’t have any details on Haran’s death but you can imagine what effect this must have made on Terah. Maybe this was a catalyst for him to move out of Ur.

Principle: All pioneers have to go through pain to move out of their comfort zone. God doesn’t cause the pain but he uses the pain to bring something good into our lives.

For e.g. Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States is one of my favorites. February 14th, 1884 was an awful day for him. He was in the NY state legislature trying to get a bill passed when he was called home. His mother had died due to typhoid fever. Few hours later, his wife of 4 years also died due to some kidney problems. She had just given birth to their daughter. Teddy Roosevelt left everything and went into the badlands for a couple of years and worked as a rancher and a local sheriff. When he returned, he was a different man who made a big impact in America and the world. Teddy Roosevelt came from a Christian home and he knew that God had used his pain to mature him.

Question: Have you been through pain in your life? You can do one of two things. Either you can sit and blame the people or situation that has brought pain into your life or you can ask God to use that pain in your to push you out of your comfort zone.

  1. The warning to the Chain Breaker.

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.

I don’t want to deal too much in speculation, hypothesis, and theory. I like to stick to the facts. But just for a brief moment, I wonder if God called Terah before he called Abraham. Terah obeyed but only partially. He could not move past the ancestral gods. Terah came out of the old country but the old country did not come out of Terah.

What was the result? Listen to what Stephen said in his sermon before the high priest in Acts 7   2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

While Terah staggered at his call, Abraham continued the journey with God. Unfortunately, he had to wait till Terah died. If I may add, because of his delay, Abraham was stuck with Lot, which was very costly. Also, it delayed the coming of Isaac and caused the birth of Ishmael, which was also very costly.

Principle: If you’re stuck in your ways and your ways are from the Bible, that’s great. But, if you’re stuck in your ways but your ways are not from the Bible, someone else may have to finish your journey.

In order to be a chain breaker:

  • Be willing to leave your comfort zone.
  • Be willing to let God use your pain for your growth.
  • Be careful about hanging on to old gods.
  • Be aware of who will be following you and what your disobedience may cost them.

For e.g. Nicole’s grandfather was a chain breaker on that side of the family.

For e.g. Kid who followed his dad to the bar by placing his little feet in the imprint of his dad’s feet in the snow.

Are you a Terah or an Abraham? Whom are you following? Do you see the significance of your disobedience? Are you still hanging on to the old gods? Are you saved?

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

Comfort and Joy by Pastor Abidan Shah

COMFORT AND JOY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

comfort-and-joyIntroduction: We’re in our final message in our Christmas series – BELIEVING IS SEEING. If you want to see Jesus, you have to believe in Him first and then you begin to see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and personal life. Jesus gave us a clue to find Him in Scripture when He said, “Moses wrote about Me.” We’ve examined two such passages already. Today we’ll look at a third one and the message is titled – COMFORT AND JOY.

Deuteronomy 18   15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Bridge: Everyone has a favorite Christmas carol. The one I like is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Unfortunately, many people don’t know what it means. To start with, it’s not about some merry gentlemen taking the time to rest. The comma should come after “merry” – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” What do those words mean? The word “rest” means keep/stay, like “rest assured.” The word “merry” means “joyful” and the word “gentlemen” does not refer to some Victorian gentlemen in top hats. It’s a generic reference to “people.” So the first line should read “God Keep You Joyful, People.” Why? “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay, Remember, Christ, our Saviour was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.” That is beautiful! We can have comfort and joy because Christ our Savior has come but I want to suggest a correction – “It’s not to save us from Satan’s power but from God’s power.” In today’s message we’ll learn about the real reason to have comfort and joy at Christmas.

Question: Before we go any further, what emotions come to your mind when you think about the coming of Jesus? Does His coming bring comfort and joy to your heart? Do you understand why Jesus really came into this world? Do you know that He has come to be the mediator between God and us? Do you realize that you cannot come to God on your own? Have you ever asked Jesus to be your mediator? Are you saved?

Today we’ll learn the biblical reason to have comfort and joy. 3 things to understand:

I. THE DREADFUL AND AGGRESSIVE HOLINESS OF GOD

Background: In the passage we just read from Deuteronomy 18 Moses is making a solemn promise to the people of Israel that after his own death God would raise up a prophet for them who would just like him be a Mediator between God and them. Why did they need a Mediator? Because of an incident that took place at Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb. To learn about this incident we have to turn to Exodus 19. The people had just left Egypt and they had made it to the foot of Mount Sinai or Horeb. It was time for them to come face-to-face with the God who had set them free. God spoke to Moses from the mountain and said, 4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” In other words, being set free from slavery is just the first step in where God wanted to take them as a people. He wanted them to be His special people. 6 “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Meaning: You are to represent me before the world just as a priest represents the people before God. But here was the key requirement – Holiness. Why? Because God’s holiness is His first and most distinctive attribute. If you’re going to be His special people and represent Him, you have to be holy as He is holy. Don’t misunderstand – holiness is not some puffy clouds or the sound of organ music or the smell of incense. Negatively, it is a “complete absence of sin” and positively, it is a “passionate desire for righteousness.”

God instructed Moses that before He would come down, the people had to consecrate and purify themselves. Furthermore, no one could approach the mountain except Moses. Then it happened on the third day – 16 “…there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. 20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Meaning: This was not some Hollywood theatrics. This was God the Holy Creator entering into His sinful creation. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Meaning: Not sure exactly what happened right then but there must’ve been some thrill seeking types who wanted to get as close to the fire without getting singed. God warned them that this was not some pull out your lawn chairs and enjoy the show time. They will die from this. 22 “Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” Meaning: Even the priests better be careful. This was the kind of holiness that would come after anyone who was unholy in its sight. How did the people perceive all this? Listen to Exodus 24:17 “The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Needless to say, the people of Israel were terrified of God. He was not someone to play with. Not even the priests could get near Him. His holiness was unbearable.

Application: What do you think about the holiness of God? Is it to you long dresses, three-piece suits, and hard straight back pews? Is it to you a long list of do’s and don’ts? Do you understand that God’s holiness is negatively a “complete absence of sin” and positively a “passionate desire for righteousness”? Do you understand that being saved means being saved from God’s holy wrath against your sin?

II. THE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING MERCY OF GOD

Exodus 20   18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. They were terrified and petrified of God. They were scared for themselves, their families, and their children. They stood far away. By the way, who told them to stay far away? God. As we just read, God had to send Moses down from the mountain to warn the people to stay away. If I were God, I would’ve let a couple of them turn extra crispy and that would’ve taken care of the rest! But God is so merciful, isn’t He? 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The people told Moses something that sounded like an affront to God. They told Moses that they would rather talk to him than to God. Again, if I were God, I would’ve said, “You don’t get to decide the terms of our communication.” By the way, these were the same people who later worshipped the golden calf at the foot of the mountain. I would’ve said – “Nope. People like you don’t deserve any breaks. You need to live under constant fear and an iron fist, that’s it.” 20 “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Meaning: God in His patient and understanding mercy allowed Moses to be the Mediator between Him and the people.

Application: Do you realize how merciful God is towards His people? Do you realize how without His mercy we would be consumed by His holiness? Do you realize how much He is willing to work with us even when we don’t deserve it? Do you realize how many chances He keeps giving to us?

III. THE FUTURE AND ULTIMATE PROMISE OF GOD

17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’”

Background: When God gave this promise, He intended a double fulfilment. On one hand, after Moses’s death, God sent many prophets through the centuries to His people to mediate for them. Some of them we know by their books – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and others. But there was another fulfillment that God intended – a much deeper, longer lasting, and ultimate fulfillment. One day God would send the Prophet who would have all the words of God in His mouth and He would be their Ultimate Mediator before God forever. God’s people were waiting for this prophet:

  • When John the Baptist came, the Jewish religious leaders questioned him – John 1   19 “…Who are you?” 20 He confessed…“I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “…Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
  • After Jesus fed the 5000, his own disciples said in John 6:14 “…This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
  • After seeing his numerous miracles, many in the crowd said in John 7:40 “…Truly this is the Prophet.”
  • When people were offended at him, Jesus himself said in Matthew 13:57 “…A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

Not only that but Jesus also repeatedly talked about having God’s Words in His mouth:

  • John 7:16 “…My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
  • John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”
  • John 17:8 “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”

I don’t have time to talk about how He prophesied about the future. The point is this – When Jesus said, “Moses wrote about Me,” He also had Deuteronomy 18 in mind where Moses promised the people that God would send them the Ultimate Prophet one day.

  • Just as Moses was a symbol of comfort and joy to the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate symbol of comfort and joy for us.
  • Just as Moses was a temporary mediator for the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate mediator for all who believe in His name.

But there’s something Jesus did for us that Moses could never do. Hebrews 10   19 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Whereas Moses told the people to stay away from the mountain of God, Jesus has invited us to boldly enter the Holiest by His blood.

Invitation: Does the coming of Jesus truly bring comfort and joy to your heart? Has he saved you from God’s holy power? Is He your Mediator?

Children That Bring Delight by Pastor Abidan Shah

CHILDREN THAT BRING DELIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Children That Bring Delight.jpgIntroduction: This is the fifth message in our series on the Trinity called “Battle of the Gods.” These messages are deep but they are teaching us that the doctrine of the Trinity is not some stale concept from some forgotten councils but it’s the key to many of our problems today. In today’s message we’ll learn what the Trinity has to say to both children and parents and the message is titled “CHILDREN THAT BRING DELIGHT.”

John 5   30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me…36 “…for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

the-collapse-of-parenting-by-leonard-sax

The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax

Bridge: Would you agree that children today are not like children 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago? In his recent book “The Collapse of Parenting,” noted family physician and psychologist Leonard Sax (By the way, I don’t agree with everything he writes.) talks about a six year old whose mother brought him because of a sore throat. When he told him that he would have to take a look at his throat, the mother asked the child’s permission – “Do you mind if the doctor looks at your throat for just a second, honey? Afterward we can go and get some ice cream.” Of course, the child told no and had to be restrained so the doctor could examine his throat. Sax says, “It’s not a question. It’s a sentence: ‘Open up and say, ‘Ahh.’ Parents are incapable of speaking to their children in a sentence that ends in a period. Every sentence ends in a question mark.”

What is happening to our children? Obedience has become optional or nonexistent. Parents are no longer authoritative or in charge. They are more like facilitators and advisors. Instead of teaching their child the difference between right and wrong, they are focused on making their children happy and boosting their self-esteem. Parents are afraid of being the bad guy. It’s not that they don’t spend time with their kids. They do but its not time having family meals or teaching about life. It’s time shuttling them from one extracurricular activity to the next. They are trying to give their children everything they didn’t have. If one of the parents tries to do what is right, the other plays interception and the one trying gives up. What parents don’t realize is that they are actually harming their children rather than helping them. Sadly, in some homes, the parent is more like the kid than the kid. Why would the kid obey? This happens in the projects as well as million dollar mansions. No wonder they seek the approval of their peers. Sax cites several researches to prove that this lack of parental authority is the cause of rise in obesity, anti-anxiety and ADD medications, disrespect (especially towards adults), why kids seem so fragile, and, if I may add, a sense of entitlement in the children. I don’t have time to analyze all the causes for this, which includes the breakdown of the marriage, mental and physical abuse, overdose of psychology, and lack of biblical truth. The point is this: Both children and parents in our culture desperately need help and the good news is – the answer is found in the triune God Himself. Just as Jesus brought delight to His Father, so also our children can bring delight to us when we follow Him.

Question: Has this hit a nerve for you? Has it struck a chord for you? Do you need God’s wisdom and guidance in your family? Are you open to God’s Word? Are you saved?

3 ingredients that help us raise “Children That Bring Delight”:

I. THE TRUE MODEL FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN

30 “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me…”

Background: Last weekend we learned that the Triune God created us in His image and designed us to reflect both equality and order in our marriage relationships. Just like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in essence but distinct in order, the husband and wife are also equal in essence but distinct in order. But there’s more. The Trinity is also the model for how parents and children ought to relate with each other in the family. Listen again to Jesus in verse 30 “…I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” Even though the Father and Son are equal in essence, the Father tells the Son what to do and He does it. Our earthly families were designed to reflect the order in the heavenly family. Paul laid this out for us in Colossians 3   17 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Meaning: Keep the Trinity in mind in everything you do. Now comes the application – 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” Meaning: The Trinity is not just the model for the husband-wife relationship but also for the parent-child relationship.

Now don’t misunderstand: The Father-Son relationship in the Trinity is not some detached spiritual order but God the Father actively loves God the Son and wants the best for Him. Listen to John 3:35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” Again, John 5:20 “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” Meaning: God the Father is not some detached and unemotional father to God the Son. He genuinely and actively loves the Son and wants to lift Him up in every way.

How about the Son? He does not grudgingly submit to the Father but He actually loves God the Father and wants to please Him. John 8:29 “…I always do those things that please Him.” Later He says in John 17 25 “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Meaning: I know what a wonderful and loving father you are and I want everyone to know that too.

Application: What would happen if parents, especially fathers, were just like God the Father, loving and yet firm with their children? What would happen if the children knew that they were truly loved and honored their parents, especially their fathers, by obeying promptly, completely, and cheerfully? Fathers, do you actively love your children and truly seek the best for them as God the Father did for His Son Jesus? Children, do you ever brag about your parents, especially your fathers, the way Jesus did?

II. THE TRUE ESTEEM OF OUR CHILDREN

31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true…”

Background: Keep in mind that the Jewish religious leaders were accusing Jesus of not only breaking the Sabbath but also making Himself equal to God the Father. When He says in verse 31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true,” He is bringing up the Jewish law that you needed two witnesses to prove that someone was guilty or not guilty and you cannot be your own witness. Jesus was stating the obvious – “I cannot be my own witness.” Here’s the point: We’re living in a culture in which people are constantly justifying themselves and their actions. Jesus (being perfect) refused to justify Himself. He refused to self-validate.

But there was someone else who could justify on His behalf – John the Baptist. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man…” Jesus is saying here – “John the Baptist is telling the truth about me but I don’t need his help in clearing up my reputation.” Earlier in John 2, John the writer of the Gospel said the same thing about Jesus – 24 “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” Jesus refused to take the validation of the good and the bad. Here’s the point: We’re living in a culture in which, other than self-approval, people are constantly looking for the approval of others. They are looking for others to justify and validate their actions. What do my friends say about me? How many likes did I get on Facebook or Instagram? How many people are looking at my stories on Snapchat? If my enemies don’t like me, that’s fine as long as my friends speak out for me.

Whose validation is Jesus interested in? 36 “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” Meaning: My obedience to my father is my validation. Wow! In other words, obedience to my father is the ultimate testimony of who I am. I did what my father told me to do and that proves that I am who I say I am.

What would happen if our children were so eager on obeying us rather than validating themselves or seeking the approval of their friends?

Application: Are you constantly trying to self-validate? Are you constantly trying to seek the validation of others? How much does obedience to your parents matter to you?

III. THE TRUE APPROVAL OF THE PARENT

37 “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me…”

Background: Twice during Jesus earthly ministry, the Father declared that He was pleased with His beloved Son. First time it was at Jesus’ baptism by John when He came up out of the water. Matthew 3  16 “…behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Second time it was at the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah came to talk with Him. Matthew 17:5 “…Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” Here’s the interesting thing – neither of those events are mentioned in John’s Gospel. Jesus was not talking about either of those. Listen to the rest of verse 37 “…You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” Meaning: The voice is not audible as much as internal. If you had the same father, you would have known His voice and recognized it. Obviously, we don’t belong to the same family. How do we know that? 38 “But you do not have His word abiding in you…” The only way you can hear His voice is if you have His word in you.

Young people – The reason your friends cannot see why you don’t party with them and do the things with them is because they don’t have the words of your parents in them. Parents – the approval is not sitting on the sideline yelling and screaming at your kids or threatening other parents. True approval is when your kid is faced with the wrong choice and hears your voice in His heart.

Invitation: Is Jesus the head of your family? Fathers and Mothers – are you walking with Christ? Children – Are you walking with Christ? Are you saved

Choose Jesus, Choose Life by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

CHOOSE JESUS, CHOOSE LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

choosejesusIntroduction: This is the third message in our series on the Trinity titled – “BATTLE OF THE GODS.” We are studying the words of Jesus in John 5 where He gave us a glimpse into the eternal godhead. Today we will focus on the second person of the Trinity, the Son, and how he gives us life. The message is called – “CHOOSE JESUS, CHOOSE LIFE.”

John 5   22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.

Bridge: Sometime back I was at a business where the father had now retired and the son was running everything. I asked the father – “How does it feel to turn things over to your son?” He answered – “It was time for my son to take over. He proved himself worthy of handling the business.” Then he added – “I am still in charge but I am very proud of the man He has become.” A similar transfer of business also took place in the Trinity after the second person of the godhead, the Son, set aside His divine glory, humbled himself, took the form of a bondservant, and came into this world in the likeness of men. The Father was so pleased with Him that He turned everything over to Him. Even though the Father is still superior, if you want to come to Him you have to go through the Son.

Context: In the passage today we will go deeper in the mystery of the godhead. What we will learn today is the role of Jesus in our salvation. Father is still in charge but you have to come through the Son. To be made alive, you have to respond to the voice of the Son.

Question: Have you been to the Son? Have you heard His voice calling you from the dead? Do you realize that if you haven’t responded to His voice, you may be physically alive but you are spiritually dead? You may be a good person, a kind person, a giving person but you are still a dead person until you respond to the voice of the Son of God. Are you saved? If you are saved, are you echoing His voice to others who are lost?

3 questions about “Choosing Jesus, Choosing Life.” Let the Holy Spirit open your ears.

I. WHY DID THE FATHER TURN THINGS OVER TO THE SON? 

22 “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.”

Background: When you read the Old Testament, God the Father is the ultimate judge.

In Genesis 18:25 Abraham speaking to the pre-incarnate Christ referred to God as the “…judge of all the earth…”

In Judges 11:27 Jephthah the judge said, “…May the LORD, the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon.”

Psalm 105:7 says, “He is the Lord our God: he is judge of all the earth.”

There are plenty more passages in the Old Testament and even in the Rabbinic writings that claimed that the Father was the ultimate judge. But something changed when the Son lovingly and humbly submitted to the will of the Father and came into the world to give His life on the cross. He could have rejected the Father’s plan. He could have suggested an alternate plan. He could have at the last moment backed out of the plan. Instead, He did what the Father even before the creation of the world had decreed – the Son would become the Lamb slain for the sins of the world.

At the baptism in Matthew 3:17 says, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Again in Matthew 17:5 at the Mount of Transfiguration it says “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 5   8 “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek.’” Paul said it best in Philippians 2   5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here’s the point – The Son lovingly and humbly submitted Himself to the will of the Father by giving His life for us. In turn, the Father gave Him the gavel to judge the world. Now if you want to come to the Father, you have to go to the Son. Listen again to John 5 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Application: Have you been to the Son? No use talking about how much you love God and how much you pray everyday. No use talking about what church you’re a member of and how much good you do for others. The Father hates the talk that bypasses the Son. Has there been a point in your life when you acknowledged that Jesus is God’s Son who died on the cross for your sins 2000 years ago? Have you asked Him to be your Savior?

II. HOW DOES THE SON EXECUTE JUDGMENT? 

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

Background: Don’t misunderstand this point. The Son becoming the judge of the world does not mean that He puts on some heavenly robe and sits in some heavenly court and supervises attorney’s arguing their cases, witnesses taking their stand, defendants pleading their innocence, and criminals getting their due penalty. He is not sitting all large and in charge rapping and slamming the gavel on the judges bench – “Order in the court.” In fact, in John 8:15 Jesus clarifies that His judgment is different – “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.” His judgment begins with pleading with every person to hear His word, believe in the Father who sent Him, and accept His sacrifice for his or her sins.

What an unusual judge! Imagine if the judge would come off the stand and walk up to the criminals (By the way, all of us are criminals because we have not only broken God’s laws but we are born as law breakers/sinners.) and start pleading with them to accept His forgiveness. What if he tells them – “I’ve paid your debt and you can go free. I’ve taken your punishment and you don’t have to serve time. I’ve served your death penalty and you are free to go.” That would be crazy! This is the judgment that Jesus executes and has been. Sometimes people come to the church and they are judging everything. They even sit there in judgment on my sermon. What they don’t realize is that the whole time they are under judgment themselves! “Who me?! You must know me! I’m this, that, and the other.” Listen to John 9   39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” 40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

Application: Have you heard the judge calling your name? Have you responded to Him and received His pardon? Is Jesus your Savior? Listen to John 12   47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.

III. WHO IS THE ULTIMATE JUDGE?

25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.

Background: Here Jesus is not referring to some future point but “now is,” which means its right now. He is not referring to physically dead people but spiritually dead people. He is not referring to “hear” as in auditory comprehension but “hear” as in personal acceptance of the words of Jesus. In the context, it means obeying the gospel of Christ.

What will follow? 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. Now Jesus is pointing to the future resurrection to come one day when those who have received Christ in this life will rise to life and those who have done evil by rejecting Him to condemnation. You are the ultimate judge of your destiny.

Illustration: Many of you have probably heard the story of George Wilson. Many preachers have shared it. It was back in 1829 when George Wilson along with James Porter had robbed a United States mail carrier. They were caught and found guilty of 6 charges that included robbery of mail (a big offense) and putting the life of the driver in jeopardy. Their sentence was death by hanging. Porter was hung but Wilson was not. He had some influential friends who pleaded with President Andrew Jackson for his pardon, which he did. Surprisingly, he rejected the pardon. The Supreme Court had to step in and rule on the case. Chief Justice John Marshall delivered the opinion of the court – “A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it is rejected, we have discovered no power in this court to force it upon him.” George Wilson was hung because he rejected a pardon for his crime.

When you refuse to receive Jesus as your savior, you condemn yourself to everlasting death. You are the ultimate judge of your destiny.

Are you saved?

Good Good Father by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

GOOD GOOD FATHER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

goodgoodfatherIntroduction: This weekend I’m preaching the second message in our new series on the Trinity called “BATTLE OF THE GODS.” We’re going to focus on the nature of the first person of the godhead – God the Father. The message is titled “GOOD GOOD FATHER.” It will not only help us understand God the Father better but also help all men who are fathers to have a better understanding of their role.

John 5   19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.”

Father Knows Best

Father Knows Best

Family Matters

Family Matters

Bridge: Where do you think most people in America/West get their understanding of what it means to be a father/dad? Television. Would you agree that the image and respect for fathers has been steadily declining since the early days of TV? We’ve come a long ways since Jim Anderson on “Father Knows Best” or even Carl Winslow on “Family Matters.” For the past 20-25 years fathers on TV are portrayed more and more as incompetent, clueless, out of touch, wimpy, rude, crude, and everything that is contrary to what a dad is supposed to be. It’s as if the definition, the position, or the calling of fatherhood is being redefined. Today’s message will help us become better fathers ourselves to our children by patterning ourselves after God the Father.

Some Questions: What comes to your mind when you think of God the Father? What do you think about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son? I know these are some deep questions about the Trinity that you may not have examined before but here are some questions closer to home. Men – What is your understanding of being a good father? Do you think you’ve been a good dad? Ladies – don’t think that this message is only for the men. Some of you have been interfering and sabotaging the role that God has called your husband to play and it needs to stop. Children – some of you have been bitter with your dads for the right or the wrong reasons. Today God wants to bring healing in your relationships. Are you saved? Have you been to the Son?

Let’s answer the question – “What does it mean to be a ‘Good Good Father’ like our Heavenly Father?”

I. BE THE INITIATOR AND THE PATTERN SETTER.

19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”

Background: In this verse Jesus not only gave us a glimpse into His relationship with His Father but also laid out a general principle regarding fatherhood. I know some of our translations have the Son and the Father capitalized as if Jesus was only talking about the Trinity but many scholars believe that it could also be “a typical son” with a small “s” and “a typical father” with a small “f.” In other words, what Jesus was saying is that both in the Trinity as well as in everyday life it is the Father/father who is the initiator and the pattern setter for the children to follow. Listen again – “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”

Men – If you are a father, just like God the Father in the Trinity, you have been assigned by God to be the initiator and the pattern setter in your house. You’ll have to learn from God the Father what it means to be a good initiator and a good pattern setter in your home. Just the way God the Father decreed to create the world and initiated the plan of salvation for sinful humanity, you have to be the creator and initiator of all good things in your family. Unfortunately, in many homes, it is not the man but the poor wife who is playing the initiator and pattern setter for spirituality and everything positive while the man is busy chasing the dollar or sprawled out in front of the TV or out in the garage messing with the vehicles or feeding some habit or hobby. Men – the status of your home is contingent on you. Someone might say – “I’ve tried but it’s always a fight.” I understand that sometimes it can be that way but you can’t give up. Just as a drill sergeant cannot give up on his troop and a coach cannot give up on his team, you cannot give up on your role as the initiator and pattern setter in your household.

Where do you begin? The first place to begin is by rejecting bad patterns of fatherhood in your life. Men – we admire certain men in our lives. Sometimes it’s through personal relationships like fathers, grandfathers, uncles, bosses, supervisors, superior officers, teachers, instructors, coaches, etc. These are people in our lives who have helped us and made a big impact upon us. We respect them and we try to do everything like them, even how we raise our children. If they were wonderful fathers, then great. If not, that can be a huge mistake. Sometimes these men are not personally related to us. We admire them for being successful businessmen, athletes, actors, musicians or some superstar. We idolize such men to the point of emulating them in how they raised their children. We feel that we have to do everything just like them. Now if they were wonderful fathers, then wonderful. If not, that can be a huge mistake. Also, please don’t listen to every parenting seminar and bible study that comes along. Some are unhealthy, legalistic, and unbiblical. In recent years we have seen the fruit of some of this mess.

Application: Men – Are you being the initiator and the pattern setter in your home? You want your children to be good, are you following Jesus Christ? You want the children to be in church, are you in church? If you make fun of the church members and constantly criticize the pastor, don’t expect your children to do any different. Are you following God the Father as your pattern or do you have the wrong pattern?

II. SHOW LOVE IN DIFFERENT WAYS.

20 “For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself does…”

Background: You may not know that this is the second time in John’s Gospel that this statement is made. The first time was in John 3:35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” The first one in John 3:35 is about trust and the second in John 5:20 is about knowledge. Something more interesting here – two different Greek words are used for love in these two almost identical statements. In John 3:35 the word for love is “agapan” and in John 5:20 the word for love is “filein.” Any significance? In the first one the Father is telling the Son that He loves Him enough to trust everything over to Him. In the second one the Father is telling the Son that He loves Him enough to reveal everything about Himself to Him. I know some of y’all are wondering – “What does all this mean?” Just like God the Father showed love towards His Son in different words and different ways, so also we can show love to our children in different words and different ways. Men – There is no set way to show love to your children as long as they know you love them.

Illustration: After Rebecca was born I was scared to death about being a father. Even though I had a good father, I also saw that he was not always perfect. Also I had seen many not so good fathers. I wanted to be the best dad that I could be to her and for any who would come after her. So I began to check books out of the library and buy books on being a good father. Even though I was young, only 21 years of age, I could tell that many of the books were only promoting certain personality traits of the writers rather than the core values of fatherhood. For example, some portrayed dad as being a super masculine outdoorsy type, laying down the law for his kids, making them toe the line. Others portrayed dad as a counselor who is always sensitive to the emotions of his kids and understand where they were coming from. Which one is a better father? Neither. You need both. Sometimes you have to lay down the law and other times you have to sit there and listen. Some men are gruffer and others are mellower. Being gruff does not make you a bad father and being mellow does not make you a good father. These models are more personality traits rather core values. The main point is that as fathers we need to show love in different ways as the occasion demands.

Application: Do you understand the love of the Father towards the Son? Do you show love to your children in different ways as the occasion demands? Are you holding on to some grudge against your father because he did not follow a certain trait, because he did not show up for every game you played? Did you forget that he was there when you had your wreck? Did you forget that he was there when you were sick?

III. RAISE YOUR KIDS TO SURPASS YOU.

20 “…and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.”

Background: This is a deep statement here. What Jesus is saying here is that the Father has done great things but now He wants to show His Son even greater things so that the onlookers would marvel. The Father raises the dead and gives life to them but the Son will give life to whom He will, dead or alive. In other words, it is one thing to bring a physically dead person to life. It’s quite another to bring a physically living but spiritually dead person to life. Listen 3 verses later to John 5   24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” Isn’t God the Father so humble and generous?!! He didn’t limit the work of Jesus but He gave Him the authority and power to surpass Him.

How did Jesus handle all this authority and power? 30 “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” In other words, the Father honored the Son by giving Him greater authority and power and the Son in turn acknowledged how much more He was depended on the Father.

Application: What would happen if our families were to operate by such divine principles? What would happen if fathers all across America began to model themselves after our Heavenly Father? What would happen if children began to honor their fathers as God the Son honored His Father?

Our culture is struggling with the absence of fathers in the home. Many homes have fathers but they are not leading, as they should. Sometimes they are not being allowed to lead. Dads need to declare with Joshua in 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.”

For those whose fathers checked out, God the Father stepped in for you. Forgive those who failed and look to your Heavenly Father.

Are you saved? You cannot come to the Father unless you come to the Son first

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