Unsearchable by Dr. Abidan Shah

UNSEARCHABLE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Word Power by Dr. Abidan Shah

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WORD POWER by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer: Practice by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

Matthew 6      5 “And when you pray…”

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

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

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

  1. Avoid prayer as a show.

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

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

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

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

  1. Avoid vain repetitions.

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

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

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

  1. Approach God as your Heavenly Father.

9 “In this manner, therefore, pray…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community by Dr. Abidan Shah

Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking in the Steps by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

 

Reward by Pastor Abidan Shah

REWARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How do you feel when someone breaks in line ahead of you? It happens in grocery stores, on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. You’ve been standing patiently in a line and then some inconsiderate jerk decides to jump ahead! Sometimes, it happens on the highways. There is a merge sign 5 miles back and you do the right thing but people keep driving past. Then they try to butt in right before the lane ends and some bleeding heart lets them in! It’s so unfair! So also, God’s grace can sometimes appear unfair by our standards. We expect God to honor our lines of justice, fairness, and seniority but he operates by his own lines of goodness and mercy. Just when we think we are next in line for his rewards for all the good and faithful service we’ve done, God puts us at the back of the line! We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The message is titled “REWARD.”

Matthew 20     1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, “Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are. Which laborer are you? Are you the one who came early or are you the one who came late? If you came late to God, are you working hard to make up for lost time? If you came early to God, are you still working hard for him or have you lost your focus? Have you become envious of the newcomers? Or maybe you are part of the third group who is still standing idle in the marketplace. It means that you’re lost. The Master is calling you. It’s time to get saved.

Context: The parable we just read is deemed by scholars as one of the three most difficult parables of Jesus. The reason it’s difficult is because it’s hard to identify whom Jesus meant when he said in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Were the “first” the “Pharisees and the scribes” and the “last” the “tax collectors and sinners”? Or were the “last” the “disciples of Jesus”? In my opinion, we have to begin 15 verses earlier in Matthew 19:16f to understand the true context of the parable. Here Jesus had the famous encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. Remember, he came to Jesus and asked him what he should do to have eternal life and Jesus told him to keep the commandments—“You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” etc. The young man very confidently replied, “I’ve already done them. What’s next?” Then Jesus raised the difficulty level and said to him in verse 21 “…If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Why did Jesus tell him that? After all, Jesus didn’t say that to Nicodemus who was also a very rich man. In fact, if you remember, he actually said the opposite when the woman broke the expensive alabaster flask of perfume at his feet. When people complained that it could have been used to help the poor, Jesus defended her and said in Mark 14:6 “Let her alone…She has done a good work for Me.” The reason Jesus told the young man to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him is because he was possessed by his possessions. Listen carefully: There is a big difference between you possessing riches and riches possessing you. You possessing riches is not a problem. There were many rich people in the Bible and many rich Christians throughout history. On the other hand, riches possessing you is a problem. It is not based on how much money you have in your bank account. It’s your attitude towards money. You can have only two dollars in your name but those two dollars can control your life. This young man was not ready for Jesus because he already had a god. As a result, he walked away sorrowful. Please don’t forget: Coming to Jesus does not mean you have to give up everything. It simply means that now Jesus is everything. That is a very hard thing to do if you are possessed by your possessions. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples in verse 23 “…Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were shocked at this statement and asked in verse 25 “Who then can be saved?” and Jesus replied in verse 26 “…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Application: Are you the rich young ruler? Are you possessed by your possessions? God can help you. He is not here to take your money. He wants to give you eternal life.

Now Peter in his characteristic manner takes this opportunity to gain some points—27“See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Unlike this rich young ruler who refused to part with his wealth, they had left all and followed Jesus. He wants to know what will be their reward? 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” I can imagine the twelve disciples thinking “Yes! Payday is coming!” Jesus being God knew what they were thinking and he said in the next line—30 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” You can almost hear the disciples say, “Wait! What? Isn’t it first we give and then we get and those who give first, get first.” Listen carefully: Even though the disciples had given up their earthly possessions to follow Jesus, they were still operating by earthly principlesTo counter this, Jesus gave the parable of Laborers in the Vineyard. Think about the parable again—The landowner had gone out early in the morning to get laborers to work in his vineyard. Those who came early in the morning were the first disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the other 8. Since there weren’t enough laborers, the landowner went back at the third hour. Still they weren’t enough and he went back at the sixth hour, the ninth hour, and the eleventh hour. Everything was great until it was time for the wages. The disciples were thinking that they were going to be the new leaders, replacing the Pharisees and the scribes. They were going to get the motherlode of the rewards. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way in the kingdom. First, the order got reversed. The eleventh hour once got paid first. Second, the eleventh-hour people got the same amount promised to the first hour people and the first hour people didn’t get any extra reward. Don’t misunderstand: We are not talking about the rewards in heaven. I Corinthians 3:8 “…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” The reward in this life are the presence of God, the gift of the Spirit, the joy of the Lord, the peace that passes all understanding, the riches in Christ. The first ones don’t get an extra helping! Unfortunately, church people like to act like they have an extra helping when they encounter the 11th hour people. We like to show off Bible knowledge, our spirituality, our understanding of the deep things of God, etc. God says, “You are all on the same level to me.” I believe that the greatest evangelists and Christian heroes and heroines have yet to be born. Again, don’t misunderstand: We are not saying that any new believer can get up and start teaching and preaching. I Timothy 3:6 tell us that an overseer should not “a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” Having said that, we don’t have levels of membership at Clearview.

Application: How do you see other believers who are less mature than you? How do you treat people who do not know the Bible as well as you? How do you treat people who are still struggling in their spiritual walk?

When the first hour people began to fuss12 “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’” Their problem was envy. Then Jesus made the same statement from Matthew 19:30 in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Invitation: Have you heard the call? Have you answered his call? Are you saved? This may be the 11th hour for you.

When You Are Where You Don’t Want to Be by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN YOU ARE WHERE YOU DON’T WANT TO BE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonWhen you are where you don't want to be

Introduction: Have you ever driven past a herd of cows grazing in a field and seen that one cow sticking its head through the fence, nibbling in the pasture next to it? Why? Is there not enough grass on its side? Is the grass any greener or tastier on the other side? Not really, but, for some reason, the cow thinks that the grass must be better on the other side. That’s where we get the expression – “The Greener Grass Syndrome.” We humans do the same thing. We say things like— “I hate it here,” “I can’t wait to get outta here,” “It was so much better back home,” or “If only I could be here or there, I would be so much happier.” Today’s message is titled – “When you are where you don’t want to be.” It’s for people who feel stuck because of job, family, finance or something else and sometimes they even blame God for their predicament. Here’s a question: Have you stopped to consider that maybe where you are is actually God’s blessing in disguise?

Psalm 137     1By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. 3For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requestedmirth, saying,“Sing us oneof the songs of Zion!” 4How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?

Question: Are you in a foreign land? Have you hung up your harp? Have you lost your song? Do you think that God has forgotten you? Are you saved?

Pray: Holy Spirit – help us to see our exiles from your perspective. Save those in sin.

Context: The psalm we just read comes from a very low point in the history of God’s people. The year was 587BC and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had for the third time attacked Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Not only did he utterly destroy Jerusalem, the Temple, the palace, the houses, the walls, and every important building but he also took the Jewish people with him 700 miles east to Babylon. They were broken, defeated, and captives in a land they had never seen. What was their response?Listen again to Psalm 137    1“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it.” Their song tells us that they had become hopeless, discouraged, apathetic, and had lost their desire to worship God. What do you do when you are where you don’t want to be? 3 things:

I. STOP BLAMING GOD.

Look again at the words of Psalm 137   3For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requestedmirth, saying,“Sing us oneof the songs of Zion!” The Babylonians were not mocking them but asking God’s people to share their worship songs with them. The people of Israel/Judah were known for their passionate worship songs to God. Listen to their response – 4“How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?” Don’t misunderstand. They were not being pious or standing up for the Lord’s honor. They were actually being bitter against him. They were being sarcastic here. They were being passive aggressive. They were refusing to sing praises to God because they were mad at God.

Application: There are people here who are just as resentful and bitter against God because he didn’t do something for them. They’ve lost their song. They have no desire to praise God. In fact, they are even passive aggressive when they talk about God.

The Jewish people in exile had forgotten that it was their sins and choices that had caused them to lose their land.They had broken all God’s commandments. They had fallen into idolatry and rebellion. Their kings had practiced child sacrifices. One of them had even burnt the Word of God. Instead of turning towards God, they had turned towards Egypt for help.They had forgotten how God had given them many chances to turn but just like their brothers and sisters up North, they had become stubborn.

Application:Are you blaming God for your situation? Stop blaming and start repenting.

II. START BLOOMING WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.

What was God’s answer to his people? As these people in exile were moaning and pouting, one day two men showed up from Jerusalem with a letter from Jeremiah the prophet.Listen to Jeremiah 29    4Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:  5Build houses and dwell in them; Meaning:  Yes, I have sent you into exile because of your sins. You’re gonna be here for a while. Starting unpacking.

Application: There are many people under the sound of my voice who are still living out of boxes. They will not commit to the job/house/church that God has given them. They are always looking over the horizon to the better place. It may not be sin that has brought you here but start unpacking. God has brought you here.

“plant gardens and eat their fruit.6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.”Meaning:  Stop looking down upon the land and people around you. The land is not evil and the people are not beneath you. Stop being superficial with them. Get to know them.

Application:Are you constantly negative about your job, community, or church. Have you been keeping people at arm’s length? It’s time to change.

7 “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”“Peace” refers to the health of the society which comes from the spirit of God. It is not enough to get involved in your community events. It is more important to do something about the spiritual needs of your community. Pray for the people around you. Share Christ with them.

Application:Many people who are listening to this message might say “I’ve been here all my life. I’m not in exile.” It’s your attitude that shows that you are in exile. You need to stop feeling sorry for yourselves, bloom where God has planted you, reach out to the people around you, and share Christ with them.

By the way, stop listening to bad advice. Jeremiah 29   8For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.

Application:Stop listening to Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemiah. They will do you no good.

III. STAY FOCUSSED ON GOD’S PROMISE.

Listen to Jeremiah 29    10For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”

Application: Every trial has a lifespan. What Satan will do is that he will try to convince you that your trial will never end. He will try to fill you with fear and doubt and discouragement. Don’t listen to him.

Instead, listen to verse 11:“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Many people claim this as a life verse but they fail to consider the other things.

Was that it? 12“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13And you will seek Me and find Me,when you search for Me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity.” As tough as the exile was for the people of God, it was a blessing in disguise. (Chart by J. B. Tidwell)

BEFORE EXILE AFTER EXILE
1.    The Jewish people were constantly trying to be like their neighbors 1.    The Jewish people became a separate people.
2.    They worshipped many gods. 2.    They gave up idolatry completely.
3.    They could care less about the Law. 3.    They began to study the Law.
4.    They had no interest in gathering for worship and study of the word. 4.    They established the synagogues in every town and city as a place of worship, prayer, praise, and study.
5.    Judaism was just a formal religion. 5.    Judaism became a personal religion.
6.    They could care less about winning souls. 6.    They became a missionary people to all the nations.
7.    They refused to repent of their sins. 7.    They learned the blessing of repentance.
8.    They could care less about the coming of the Messiah. 8.    God placed a longing in their heartsfor the coming of the Messiah.

 

Listen carefully: I have been through many exiles in my life. One thing I have learned – If you let God do His work in your life, your exile may be the best thing that ever happen to you. It will make you more like Christ. Do you know Christ?

Kingdom Here by Pastor Abidan Shah

KINGDOM HERE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonKingdom Here

Introduction:Since I’m preaching on the kingdom of God, I went looking for some king jokes and this is what I found. Caution: They’re really bad – When is a stick like a King? When it’s a ruler; What’s the diagnosis when a King has back problems? An aKING back; Why did the King put a bank machine in his castle? So, he could make Knightly deposits; Why did the King go to the dentist? To get his teeth crowned; What does the King do after he burps? He issues a royal pardon. Those are really bad! This morning we will see how the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus and that is not a laughing matter. In fact, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. It’s a false gospel. We’re in our new series on the true gospel and what it means. As we read our scripture today, pay careful attention to a certain phrase that’s being repeated.

Matthew 4:23“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 9:35“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 24:14“And thisgospel of the kingdomwill be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Mark 1   14“…Jesus came to Galilee, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, andthe kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Question: Did you catch the common phrase? “Gospel of the Kingdom.” For some reason we have dropped “of the kingdom” and retained only the “gospel.” As I mentioned earlier, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. Jesus is not just your Savior, he should also be your king. Is he your king? Does he call the shots in your life? Are you saved?

Context: A few weeks back, when we were in our series on discipleship, I preached a message on the importance of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus. I shared with you that more than a hundred times he mentioned it during his ministry. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king.Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. Unless we get this “kingdom” idea back into the gospel, discipleship will never happen. It will always be optional to obey God and follow him. So, 3 things that we need to understand about this kingdom gospel:

I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A SPIRITUAL AND INTERNAL CHANGE.

Background:  As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish people were very familiar with the concept of the kingdom of God/heaven. It was God’s sovereign rule over the whole world. They saw it as indirect and limited at the present time but they believed that one day in the future it would be direct and eternal. It will put an end to all wickedness and bring glory, justice, and righteousness to his people Israel. But, when Jesus began his ministry, he preached – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) This was very confusing and frustrating for them because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting and there was no physical evidence of the rule of God. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when this kingdom would come, he replied in Luke 17    20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have it as “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, it’s aready here. What did he mean by that? Several things:  One, he was referring to himself. The kingdom is where the king is and he the king is here. Second, he was telling them that this kingdom is not external but internal. They couldn’t see it but it was here. To explain this, Jesus often used parables – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13). His purpose in using parables was to conceal the meaning from those who opposed him and to reveal the meaning to those who believed in him. Bottom Line: The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It is not external and visible but internal and invisible which then manifests in the external and visible. Has there been an internal and invisible change in your life that now manifests itself in the external and visible?

II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS SUBMISSION TO KING JESUS.

Background:Unlike our gospels today, Jesus’s gospel demanded submission to him and his words as the requirement to enter into his kingdom:

  • Matthew 21:31“Assuredly, I say to you (chief priests and elders) that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Trusting in self-righteousness will not work.
  • Mark 9:47“if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Reluctance to let go of sin will not work.
  • Mark 10:25“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Trusting in earthly treasures will not work.
  • Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Giving lip service will not work.
  • Luke 9:62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hesitation to follow Jesus the King will not work.
  • Luke 18:17“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Stubbornness to obey Jesus the King will not work.
  • John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unwillingness to let God remake us will not work.

Don’t misunderstand:This does not mean that you have to be spotless before you can come to Jesus. If that were possible, you wouldn’t have to come to Jesus. What it does mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the king demands of you when you come to him. It may take years for you to be free from certain sins and struggles but the willingness is there from day one. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who helps you to become willing.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It demands total and complete surrender. Have you done that? You might say – “that’s so hard!” Here’s a question: “Are you willing to be made willing to surrender?”

III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF RESTORATION.

Background:Sometimes Christians find it confusing that Jesus talked so much about the kingdom in the gospels but the apostles writing the rest of the New Testament do not talk about the kingdom. Actually, they did but they used other terms and language.

Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyoneisin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Galatians 6:15“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”

2 Peter 3:13“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a newearthin which righteousness dwells.”

Revelation 21    1“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Here’s the point: The Kingdom Gospel is a life-long journey of being set free from the bondage and damage of sin and restored to the glorious and gracious rule of God. The more you and I understand that, the more we submit to him, the more we become disciples, not less.

Are you willing to surrender to King Jesus? Are you willing to re-surrender to King Jesus?

Discipleship: Rooted by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – ROOTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship RootedIntroduction: Last weekend, several of the guys in our church came out to help me with our yard. A major reason for that is that in the past two years we had 4 white pines to fall in our yard. The first one fell parallel to the house during a thunderstorm. The second one fell on top of the house during a snow storm. Thank God there was no damage. There were two still standing on the south side of the house and since I’m no arborist or tree expert, I decided to call one from the State to help me figure out what was going on. He came, looked at the trees, and told me that the white pines do not grow very well in our soil here. Although they do have a tap root system, the lateral root development is far more extensive, which means more roots grow horizontally close to the surface than into the ground. He told me that it was a matter of time before the two standing would fall as well. So, I paid a guy to take them down before they could do any serious damage. What does this have to with our message on discipleship? Just like those white pines, many Christians never develop a deep tap root system in their lives. They have more of a lateral close to the surface root system. It looks impressive but it’s useless when the storms of life begin to come. Unless they are rooted and built up in Christ and his Word, it’s a matter of time before they will fall. If I may add, they do a lot of damage when they fall. True disciples are rooted in the Word of God.

Colossians 2    4“Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.5For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see yourgoodorder and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.6As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,7rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught…”

Question: Paul was concerned about the Colossians because they were being deceived by persuasive words. He reminded them to stay rooted, built up, and established “as you have been taught.” What have you been taught? Solid biblical teaching is a must for every disciple of Jesus Christ. Without it, you will fall when the storms of life come. Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Context:To quickly summarize – the goal of discipleship is WATER = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING DISCIPLES. To achieve these things, we need certain disciplines – Evangelism, Confession, Weekly Church Attendance, Daily Bible Intake, and Discipling. They’re not the end but simply a means to the end. People ask “What’s the next step?” Last weekend, in a message titled “Pathways,” I explained that true discipleship cannot happen in isolation. You need others to become a disciple. Preaching is vital to your growth but it’s not enough. Sunday School or Small Groups like Clearview Circles are also important but they’re enough. These settings are too large and too diverse. True discipleship happens when you are in the Inner Circle. Jesus modelled this by moving people from the Crowd to the Congregation to the Community to the Inner Circle. An Inner Circle is a 3-5-member gender specific, closed group that exists by invitation only to believers and meets on a weekly basis for a determined period of time. This is where individuals study the Word, memorize the Word, hold each other accountable, pray for each, and, in the process, they learn to be conformed to the image of Christ. When the determined time period is over, they replicate, as God leads. By the way, here’s some exciting news – Last week, many of you informed me that you have begun inviting people to join you in an Inner Circle! That’s awesome!If you’re still wondering how the Inner Circle works, go back and listen to the last message where I explained “How to start an Inner Circle?” and “What do you do when you meet as the Inner Circle?”

In today’s message, I want to focus on Getting Rooted in the Word.Listen again to Colossians 2    6“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,7rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught…”Both individually and in your Inner Circle, you have to become rooted in the Word, the Bible, in order to be true disciples. This requires 3 things: 1. Read the Word. 2. Understand the Word. 3. Apply the Word.

  1. READ THE WORD – Here people ask me “what’s the best Bible version?” Most Bible translations coming out of trusted mainline Christian publishing houses are good. There have been a couple in the past two decades that have some translational biases towards gender inclusive language that you need to be careful about. If you have any concerns, please check with me. I’ll be more than glad to guide you. The main point is “start reading the Bible systematically every day.”
  2. UNDERSTAND THE WORD – Here people say things like “the Bible is hard to understand” or “you gotta have a theological education to understand the Bible.” Yes, there are many portions in the Bible that are hard to understand. I’ve been studying the Bible academically since 1995, that’s 23 years, and I still don’t understand some portions of the Bible. Having said that, most of the Bible is not beyond comprehension. Yes, you do need pastors and teachers to help you study the Bible but you can still study much of it by yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit. Listen to I Corinthians 2:12“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”

How does this work?Couple of years ago I did a series on how to study the Bible. It was intense. In fact, there’s a whole field of study known as “hermeneutics,” which deals with the proper study and interpretation of the Bible. People spend their whole lifetime working in this field and there are thousands of books on the subject. But, there are certain basic principles that can help an average person study the Bible and understand most of what it is saying. I have condensed them in 4 words which if you can remember each time you study the Bible, they will help you tremendously:

  1. Exegesis – think about the word “exit.” It means “coming out.” Exegesis means “to lead out.” It means that when we study the Bible, we are to lead the meaning out of the text rather than “eisegete,” which is bringing my personal meaning and superimposing it on the text.
  2. Context –have you ever said something that was taken out of context? It feels very frustrating. The Bible gets taken out of context a lot. It is critical that we read the verses before and after the verse or passage we are studying and get the whole context. The more you read, the better chance you have of interpreting correctly.

Let me give you 2 examples of exegesis and context:

Old Testament –2 Chronicles 27    1“Jothamwas twenty-five years old when he became king…2And he didwhat wasright in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done (although he did not enter the temple of the LORD)…” If I were preaching a message on the importance of having our kids come to church, that would be a perfect passage. Here’s the problem – That’s not what the writer meant! If you read the previous chapter, Uzziah had actually messed up by entering the temple in his pride and offering incense on the altar, which only a priest could do, and he was struck with leprosy by God! Jotham actually had godly fear and didn’t do that!

New Testament – Philippians 4:13“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”I’ve seen people make this their life verse and athletes tattoo this on their arms. What Paul really meant is very different – 12 “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Paul is really talking about contentment!

  1. Harmony –The Bible does not contradict itself. If you come up with an interpretation that totally contradicts what most of the Bible is saying, then think through your interpretation again.2 Timothy 2:15“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
  2. Goal– The Goal of the Bible is the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.

This brings us to the third thing in being rooted in the Bible –

  1. APPLY THE WORD – James 122“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;24for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continuesin it,and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Are you rooted in the Word? Are you a disciple?

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