The Joy-Producer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE JOY-PRODUCER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

The Joy Producer

Introduction: When you talk to some Christians, it seems that to be a good Christian you have to be miserable. In fact, the more miserable you are, the godlier you must be or so they think. It reminds me of a group of Christians who were gathered on a Friday evening prayer meeting when one lady prayed, “Dear God, please bless us your people. We’re in here trying to serve you while the world is out there having a wonderful time.” In other words, to be a good Christian you cannot have wonderful times, only miserable times. This is completely contrary to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus came to bring joy and in this message we will learn that he is the great JOY PRODUCER.

John 2   1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Question: We will look at this passage in detail in a few minutes but for now the question we need to answer is this – “Is your Christian life more resembling of a funeral service or a wedding service?” Are you full of misery or are you full of joy? The coming of Jesus in any life brings joy. Has Jesus come into your life? Are you saved?

Clarification: Before we begin this message, let me clarify one thing. Typically this passage is invoked either in support of or against drinking alcohol. For example, some people say, “Jesus turned water into wine so it’s okay to drink, as long as you don’t get drunk.” Then people on the other side say, “Jesus would never endorse alcohol. He only turned water into unfermented grape juice (which is not true).” Listen carefully: No matter where you stand on this topic, this passage is neither for nor against drinking alcohol. It has a much deeper meaning, which we will learn in this message.

Let’s Begin: Instead of starting in verse 1, we need to drop down to verse 11 “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” The key word there is “signs.” It comes from the Greek word “semeion.” John the apostle/writer of the gospel used this word for Jesus’ miracles. Now, Matthew, Mark, and Luke also used that word but not for Jesus’ miracles. They used it in a negative tone when the scribes and the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus and he refused. To the contrary, John the apostle concluded his gospel in these words – John 20   30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” When John used the word “signs,” he had more than “miracles” in mind. He used the word “signs” the way the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), used that word to prove the power of God and his work on behalf of his people. For example: After the flood, God said in Genesis 9:13 “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” After God brought his people out of slavery, they sang in Deuteronomy 26:8 “So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.” In Isaiah 7:14, it was prophesied, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” When John used the word “signs,” he meant those incidents that proved that Jesus was/is God and he was the one who was to come. In other words, signs were more than miracles by Jesus to help people (the other gospels); they were proof of who he was/is and why he came.

So what was the sign behind the miracle of the wedding at Cana? As we just read, Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Back in those days, Jewish weddings were a time of great joy and celebration! Unlike the Roman weddings, which were not ostentatious and extravagant, Jewish weddings symbolized the greatest joy! They normally lasted a whole week! By the way, by the end of this year, I will do 7 weddings in total! They are a lot of fun and excitement but they’re also a lot of work, as some of you know very well. Imagine a whole week of celebrations! If you were wealthy back then, you’d invite the whole village. Think about all the food and drinks you had to prepare! According to one ancient Jewish source, if you invited someone to a wedding and didn’t show proper hospitality, you are no better than a thief! Guess what! At this wedding, the drinks ran out! How embarrassing! So Jesus’ mother mentioned it to him and listen to his reply – 4 “…Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” What Jesus was saying is – “Do you really think that I left my heavenly throne and came down to fix drinks? I’ve come for something much greater.” What was Mary’s response? 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” It seems like she didn’t get it but that’s not true. Remember, after his birth and the visit to the temple at the age of 12, twice it says in Luke 2 that Mary “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She knew that Jesus was much more than her son. Somehow Mary knew that Jesus would use this as a sign. By the way, this was not his first miracle but the first sign that he performed. That’s why I didn’t begin this series with it.

Listen to verse 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. That’s about 150 gallons of water! To get an idea of how much that is, imagine a fish tank, 6 feet long, two feet tall, and two feet wide. That’s a lot of water! What is it for? For ceremonial hand washing and ritual cleansing of the vessels. During the time of Jesus, these rituals were at an all time high. Even John the Baptist’s disciples got into arguments with the Jewish people over purification (John 3:25). Listen to what Jesus did7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” Think about it, Jesus could have easily told them to fill the wine jars with water but he specifically commanded them to fill up the purification pots. Remember, this is a sign. Jesus is telling them that he has come to replace all those purification laws and rituals with something much better. John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Listen carefully: Nothing wrong with traditions but don’t let rituals and traditions get in the way of true substance. Go to Jesus.

What happened next? He told them to get some out and take it to the Master of the feast. When he tasted it, he was amazed and said to the bridegroom, 10 “…Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” Apparently, they would serve the best quality wine first and when people were drunk and didn’t know or care what they were drinking, then they would serve the inferior quality. What he was saying is “I thought the party was on but I was wrong. The real party is about to begin!” What’s the point? Remember, this is a sign. Jesus was asking them “Didn’t my boy John the Baptist tell you that the better wine was coming?” Oh Yeah…just a chapter earlier. John 1:15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” John 1   26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” John 1   29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ Don’t miss this: This passage is not about to drink or not to drink. This passage is about Jesus being the good wine who brings true joy and celebration! Everything prior to him was inferior. When he comes into your life, then the real wedding feast can begin!

11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. What does this glory look like? It’s not some bright light or some halo around the head, some nimbus or aureole. It is a combination of grace and truth. John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

  • Truth is you are lost in your sins but grace brings you forgiveness.
  • Truth is you are an enemy of God but grace makes you a child of God.
  • Truth is that you are born to die but grace gives you eternal life.
  • Truth is that you are nothing but grace invites you to join God in his work.

Some people are reluctant to believe in Jesus. They think that coming to Jesus would mess up their party. They think that coming to Jesus will kill all their fun. It’s just the opposite. When you come to Jesus, you see his true glory and that’s when the party really begins. Listen to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Do you have this joy in your life? By receiving Jesus as your Savior you can. Beware of Joy Killers? Sometimes they are people, places, or passions. Be intoxicated on Jesus. Be addicted to him. It never gets old.

The Sin-Forgiver by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE SIN-FORGIVER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

The Sin Forgiver

Introduction: A man and his wife pulled into a gas station back in the days of full service stations. The young attendant got the pump going and then washed the windshield. When he finished, the man leaned out and yelled, “It’s still dirty. Wash it again.” “Yes Sir” said the attendant and washed it a second time, looking closely for any bugs and dirt he might have missed. When he finished, the man leaned out again and yelled loudly, “Don’t you know how to wash a windshield! Do it again!” So he did it again a third time but he couldn’t find anything. Now the man was furious – “I’ve had enough of this. I’m talking to your boss. You’re the lousiest windshield washer I’ve ever seen!” As he was about to get out, his wife reached over, removed his glasses, wiped them down with a tissue, and put them back on his face. Needless to say, the windshield was spotless. Many times people view others through their own dirty glasses. They did that to Jesus but he saw through their sinfulness. After all, he was and is the great SIN-FORGIVER.

Mark 2   1 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” 6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Question: Can you see God working or are the smudges of your sinful hearts keeping you from seeing Jesus? Are you like the men who were willing to tear down the roof to bring their friend to Jesus or are you like the scribes who could only sit back and cast doubts at Jesus? What do you believe about Jesus? Do you believe that he was and is God who has the power to forgive sins? Are you saved?

Context: Let’s go back to verse 1 “And again He entered Capernaum after some days and it was heard that He was in the house. Nicole and I have been to Capernaum. Let me say a word about the houses back then. The front door would actually lead into a courtyard first, which then led to several rooms around the courtyard. The rooms were single-storey with walls made out of basalt, a black volcanic rock. Verse 2 “Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door.” More than likely Jesus went into one of the larger rooms of the house and it not only filled up that room but also the courtyard and out the door. You could say that it was a full house! Who were these people? Remember, Capernaum was a port town on the Northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee from where boats would go in and out with cargo. It also sat along an important trade route known as the Via Maris (Way of the Sea), which connected Egypt in the South to Syria inthe North and Mesopotamia in the East. People from all over came there – business owners, Roman soldiers,

politicians, religious teachers, tax collectors, and, even prostitutes. Remember, this is where Jesus called Matthew the tax collector and Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their fishing business and follow him. Why were these people crowded around Jesus? 2 “…And He preached the word to them. They were hungry for the truth of God. Are you?

3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was…” Apparently, four guys were trying to get their friend, father, or brother to Jesus but couldn’t get through the crowd. So they climbed up the stairway in the courtyard to the rooftop, somehow without dropping that man! 4 “…So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” The roofs were usually flat and made out of wooden beams and thatched with reeds, sticks, and smaller branches, followed by a matted layer of thorns, and then a layer of a few inches thick of clay. The roof had to be pretty sturdy because it was used for working, drying fruits, and even sleeping during the hot summer nights. When it says that these men “broke through the roof,” it was much more than removing a few sticks and pulling aside a few pieces of hay. They did some damage to this roof! You can see the mud and branches falling through the rafters. I can imagine the people of the house trying to get to these four through the crowd to stop them but these fellows were determined. They probably tore a good bit before anybody could get to them. I can imagine these guys telling the owner – “We promise we’ll fix it.” You can almost see the owner shaking his head, “I made a mistake inviting Jesus to my house.”

Let me say a quick word – “Ministry can be messy. Ministry can be costly.” Some churches get so bent out of shape over the scratches on the door, chair marks on the walls, and stains on the carpet. Get over it. I’ve seen many pristine, neat, clean, and empty churches. This gets worse when it comes to spiritual and emotional scratches, dents, and stains but it’s part of a growing work!

Listen to verse 5 “When Jesus saw their faith…” In other words, Jesus was impressed by the faith of these guys. Jesus was amazed that these men were willing to carry their friend all the way to the rooftop, tear it up, and face the consequences. Why? Because they believed it would be worth it if their friend could just get to Jesus. He could’ve stopped them at any time but what a perfect object lesson to the business owners, soldiers, sailors, tax collectors, and prostitutes – “Are you this desperate to come to me?

Application: How much do you trust Jesus? Would Jesus be impressed by your faith? Let’s go a step further – What would happen if we would be this passionate and full of faith when it came to our friends? One reason we don’t do much when it comes to leading our friends to Christ is because we don’t have the faith that Jesus can change their lives. Faith is essential to bringing people to Christ. Listen to Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

There is something more important here. Verse 5 “…He (Jesus) said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” 6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” This is a really odd statement by Jesus. Why did Jesus say that? Was it because this man had been paralyzed because of some sin? Was it because Jesus knew the doubt in the minds and hearts of the scribes? It could be but I think there is a third option. Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven is because he knew that the man needed something more than just physical healing. He needed spiritual healing.

Application: All week long I get calls, texts, and Facebook messages from people, asking me to pray for someone going through some pain, suffering, or need and add them to our prayer list. I do pray for them and we do add them to our prayer list. Having said that, the first thing I pray for is their spiritual need. Does that person know Christ? If they do, then are they walking with Christ? If they don’t know Christ or they do know Christ but are not walking with him, I pray that God will not alleviate their pain, suffering, and need until they are where they need to be with him. C.S. Lewis in his classic book “The Problem of Pain” said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” If you’re going through some suffering right now, ask God what is he trying to say to you. Don’t misunderstand. He is not the author of evil but he will use it to bring about something good.

But there’s a greater issue here. Listen to verse 8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? Jesus did not ask, “Which is easier to do?” but “Which is easier to say?” It is easy to say “Your sins are forgiven” but its hard to say “Arise and walk” because it can be verified. They were reasoning against the “Reason of the Universe,” the One who created all Logic! 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Let me remind you – the greater miracle is not the one that can be proved but the one that cannot be proved. Forgiveness of Sins has to be taken by faith. You have to believe that Jesus is God who has the power to forgive sins.

What do you believe about Jesus? Is he God who has the power to forgive sins?

Which one are you? The four men of faith on the roof or the scribes without faith under the roof.

Just like the man with the smudged glasses, is the sin of disbelief clouding your view of Jesus?

Sin is the paralysis of the soul. Only Jesus can set you free.

The Life-Giver by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE LIFE-GIVER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Lifegiver

Introduction: Nature has a way of reviving you. As many of you know or saw on social media last week, I was at Camp Living Water in Bryson City. It’s a Christian camp our kids have been going for over 15 years. Many Clearview kids were there this summer. Just last week 8 campers got baptized; more got saved and will be baptized at their churches. It’s amazing! I love going there because I always feel revived! If you’ve been to Bryson City, the scenery is breath taking, surrounded by mountains on all sides, especially the Great Smoky Mountains to the North. Directly behind the camp is Deep Creek. I usually walk back there and sit on one of those big rocks in the middle of the creek and I feel so revived! It is so refreshing! Having said that, I’ve never seen a physically dead person come to life there. Nature can revive you and refresh you but it cannot resurrect you. In fact, nothing and no one can bring you to life, except God. Only God is the true Life-Giver. I’m talking about more than physical life. I’m talking about spiritual life.

Luke 7   11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”

Question: What do you believe about Jesus? When he raised the dead, some called him a prophet but others called him God. What do you call him? He raised the physically dead to life, which is amazing, but the greater miracle is when he raised the spiritually dead to life. He is doing that even today. Have you been spiritually raised to life?

Background: When we think about dead people coming to life, we expect the Bible to be chockfull of them. Not true! Believe it or not, there are only 10 actual cases recorded in the entire Bible – 3 in the Old Testament and 7 in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, 1 is by the Prophet Elijah and 2 are by the Prophet Elisha. Out of the 7 in the New Testament, only 3 were done by Jesus, 2 by Peter and Paul each, one of Jesus himself rising from the dead and the last one is of the many saints coming to life when Jesus rose from the dead. Although Jesus himself claimed that he raised many dead to life, the gospel writers give only 3 actual cases – the first is the son of the widow from Nain (we’re going to look at it today), the second is the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of a synagogue, and the third is Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. That’s it! But there’s something else. All three took place in insignificant places not Jerusalem. The first took place in Nain, a small village in Galilee. The second took place at some unnamed place on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, probably Capernaum. The third of Lazarus was in Bethany. One more thing, in the first two miracles Jesus did not want to make a whole lot of fuss about them. In fact, in the second one, he actually instructed Jairus and his wife not to mention the miracle to anyone. Why didn’t Jesus make raising dead people to life a major part of his ministry? Because bringing people back to life physically was not Jesus’ main agenda. As awe-inspiring as it was, Jesus didn’t want to be known as the man who brings the dead to life. Can you imagine what people would’ve done if this had become the main focus of his ministry? People would be digging up their dead loved ones and bringing them to Jesus so he could resurrect them! They would be trying to touch him with the bones of their loved ones. Imagine that! Not only would this quickly get out of hand but also it would detract from the main reason why Jesus came. He did not come to bring the physically dead to life. He came to bring the spiritually dead to life. Don’t forget, each of them died again. Jesus came for more than holding back the inevitable. He came to bring eternal life.

So why did Jesus do this particular miracle of raising the dead to life? Listen again to verse 12 “And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out.” Let me quickly point out that the reason he saw them at the gate of the city is because they used to bury the dead outside the city in those days. Cemeteries were considered to be unclean. But there is something very important to understand. This man probably died that day, maybe even a couple of hours earlier. Unlike our funerals that take 2-3 days to happen, their funerals were immediate because it was too expensive for common people to try to preserve the body. Can you imagine how difficult this must be for the loved ones? In this particular case there was something more – “the only son of his mother; and she was a widow…” Luke mentions 2 things here: first, the loved one was a woman; second, this was her only child; third, she was a widow. Think about that for a moment. Losing a child is hard as it is, probably the hardest thing anyone can ever face. Then, it was her only child. That just makes it even worse. But, there’s more. She was a woman and a widow. In those days, it was so hard for a woman to survive on her own. Her son was probably her only source of help and now he was gone. Luke adds, “And a large crowd from the city was with her.” It may appear that all those people would help her out now but it’s my opinion that they probably didn’t come for her. Maybe the son was a prominent person. As it happens all too often, people say, “Don’t worry, we’re here for you” but then everyone moves on with their lives.

Jesus being God could see all this. Listen to verse 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Let me pause here and draw your attention to something that is easily missed. The word “Lord” is the Greek word “kurios.” This is the first mention of that title for Jesus in Luke’s gospel. This is very important. Now, what does that word “kurios” really mean? It’s an old Greek word that comes from word “kuros” which means “authority.” So “kurios” meant someone in authority and control, someone who was a master or owner, someone superior. Sometimes it was even applied to gods. But there’s more. When the Jewish people translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek, over 6120 times they translated “Yahweh,” the name for God as “kurios” and over 530 times they translated “Adon,” another name for God, as “kurios.” It means that “kurios” was more than just someone in authority to the Jewish people. It meant God! If I may add, Luke wrote his gospel to the gentile world. He is in every telling them that Jesus is God. Not only that, Luke is also telling them that Jesus is a compassionate God unlike their gods who were more concerned about their pleasures and powers.

Application: What do you believe about God? What do you believe Jesus as God? Does he care about your suffering and pain? Is he too concerned with his agenda and plans for his world? Or, does he hurt when he sees you hurt?

What happened next? 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. Something very important here – Jesus touched the open coffin. He was not afraid of being unclean. Paul says it best in Romans 14:9 “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Now listen to the authority in his words – “And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.” Can you feel the authority and power of Jesus in this miracle? The young man not only sat up but also began to speak. Meaning: This was no illusion or some evil magic or some séance. This was the real deal.

What was the response? 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” Don’t misunderstand. They were not proclaiming that Jesus was God. They were comparing him to the prophets Elijah and Elisha in the Old Testament. Have you ever heard “little knowledge is dangerous”? What they failed to consider is that unlike Elijah and Elisha who both had to stretch their body over the corpse to bring it to life, Jesus commanded the dead to rise. In other words, they missed the fact that Jesus was God. 17 “And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.” Why doesn’t God go around raising the dead today? Why should he? Just like then, people will miss the point!

The real miracle that God wants to do in your life is to raise you spiritually. Listen to what Jesus said in 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.” Paul confirms this in Ephesians 2   4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

You can have this spiritual resurrection today by asking Jesus to save you. Are you disappointed with God because he didn’t do some miracle in your life? How about taking by faith that he has a better plan for you.

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.

Be the Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

BE THE GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Be The Gospel.jpgIntroduction: Sometime back I was fishing at a friend’s pond with the boys and one of them wanted to use a spinner bait. I thought I knew what I was doing. So I tied it and decided to give it a shot. I did catch a fish for about 10 seconds before the fish took the bait from me. Just like a good dad, I blamed them for tying the wrong knot. In today’s message we will learn how a fish caught a man. It’s not a hoax. The message is about Jonah in the Old Testament and it is titled “BE THE GOSPEL.”

Matthew 12   38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

Context: Many of you may remember that 3 years ago I preached a series of messages on the Book of Jonah called “Running from God.” (You can still access them on my blog site and podcast.) The most amazing lesson for me in that series was not that Jonah was still alive after being inside the great fish for 3 days and 3 nights. God can do any miracle. The most amazing thing for me was that the people of Nineveh repented after Jonah preached only 8 words to them (at least in English) – “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Wow! Jonah must be some preacher! What was so powerful in his message that the people were willing to believe God so quickly? What was so radical in his sermon that even the king would decree that every man and beast would fast, seek God and repent? The answer is very simple – “Jonah became the gospel.”

Question: Before we see what that really means, have you heard the old adage – “You are the only Bible some people will ever read”? Let me tweak that a little – “You are the only gospel some people will ever see.” Meaning: It’s not enough to preach the gospel. We also have to live it out. We have to demonstrate in our lives the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People around us need to see the gospel of salvation in us. Can the people around you see the gospel of Christ in you? Have you ever responded to the gospel in your life? Are you a witness of Christ?

This morning we’re going to focus on how Jonah became the gospel to others:

I. It began with a wakeup call.

Jonah 1   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” The word for “arise” in Hebrew is “qum” meaning “up.” Jonah was comfortably asleep when God came to him. I believe that there is a double meaning here. Jonah was not only physically asleep but he was also spiritually asleep. The reason we can say that is because of his reaction to God’s call. 3 “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” People run from God when there is sin in their lives. Case in point: Adam and Eve hid from God after eating the forbidden fruit. What Jonah didn’t realize at that time was that this wakeup call was not just for Nineveh but also for him.

Principle: When God awakens you to do something, don’t see it as something you are doing for God. Primarily, it’s for you.

II. It unleashed a storm of troubles.

Jonah 1:4 “But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.” Jonah made the same mistake that people make today – I know what God expects of me and I don’t like it. I’m going to take a break from God. I’m going stop coming to church for a while or I’m going to try some other churches because I feel like Pastor Shah is singling me out. I’m going to move to another city/state because I feel like I need a fresh start in my life. Sometimes it’s not physical relocation but mental relocation like a makeover or a new hobby or a new set of friends, anything to keep me from facing God. Jonah believed in the old cliché – “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Principle: God may be out of your sight and out of your mind but you are never out of his reach.

III. It brought discipline from God.

Jonah 1:12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Jonah knew right away that he was the reason for the storm and that God had come to deal with him. But please don’t misunderstand – Jonah was not committing suicide. If this were the case, he would’ve just jumped overboard. Jonah was a prophet of God who knew the ways of God. He knew that God did not punish his children but he disciplined them. By the way, there is a big difference between punishment and discipline. In punishment the goal is the past but in discipline the goal is the future. God’s purpose in Jonah’s discipline was to change his mindset about the gospel. The reason Jonah ran from God was because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He felt that God had no business saving the pagans. God had to change Jonah’s understanding of the gospel. God was about to give Jonah a glimpse in the coming death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • To start with, Jonah did not just jump overboard. Instead, he asked the sailors to throw him into the raging sea. So also, Jesus was taken by lawless hands and nailed to the cross.
  • As the great fish nose-dived into the deep, Jonah cried to God “For You cast me into the deep.” (Jonah 2:3) So also, Jesus was not a victim of the cruel and the evil. He was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23)
  • Jonah felt abandoned by God and cried, “I have been cast out of Your sight.” (Jonah 2:4) So also, Jesus, at the ninth hour from the cross, cried out with a loud voice – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
  • Jonah described his physical condition inside the great fish as, “The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.” (Jonah 2:5) So also, Jesus felt the death grip of sin rising around him. And what did he have on his head? A crown of thorns.
  • Jonah described how he was cut off from the earth – “I went down to the moorings of the mountains. The earth with its bars closed behind me forever.” (Jonah 2:6) So also, Jesus was “cut off from the land of the living…” says Isaiah 53:8
  • How long was Jonah inside the great fish? 3 days and 3 nights. How long was Jesus in the grave? 3 days.
  • What happened to Jonah after that? Jonah 2:10“So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry” What happened to Jesus on the third day? God raised him up “having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:24) Just the way God told the fish to spit out Jonah, God told death to spit out Jesus.

Can you see how Jonah got a glimpse of the gospel in his discipline?

Principle: When God disciplines his children, his goal is not pain but progress. He doesn’t leave you bruised and battered. He leaves you resembling the image of the crucified, buried, and risen Savior.

IV. It led to a great outpouring of salvation.

Jonah 3   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” Before we jump to the reaction of the Ninevites, we need to say a word or two about Nineveh – It was one of the most ancient cities in the world. Its name was from the Sumerian logogram NINUA, which is fish. There was another town with a similar name “NINA” which worshipped the fish goddess Nanshe. More than likely, the people of Nineveh also worshipped the same fish goddess. Her symbol was a “fish.” Also, a Greek historian by the name of Berossus tells us that the Assyrians had a myth that a half-fish, half-man god called “Oannes” or “Uanna” had come up out of the sea and brought them wisdom, sciences, and art. An archaeologist from the 19th century tells us that outside a large chamber in Nineveh there was a bas relief of a half-fish, half-man being.

The text doesn’t tell us but I can only imagine what Jonah looked like when he approached Nineveh. They say that whales have a multilayered stomach like cows, sheep, and deer. In the first stomach, food is crushed and in the second stomach, the gastric juices break it down. I don’t know how far he made it. I picture him as totally bleached from top to bottom. He looks creepy to say the least. Plus, people must have seen a big fishing floating to the shores. As they got near, they see this man being vomited out! I believe word got out that this Jewish prophet had just come out of a big fish. He goes to a city whose very name is dedicated to the fish god. Imagine their shocker when they ask him – “What’s your name?” Jonah. Sounds very much like “Uanna.” Are you god? “Of course not. I am a prophet of the Living God. My God told your god what to do. He put me inside the big fish to show me that one day He is coming and he will be face death and sin for all, including you. You have 40 days to believe in him and if not “Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Someone might say – “That’s too much speculation.” Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 11   29 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.

Do you understand now that it was not 8 threatening words that turned Nineveh around? Jonah represented the gospel through his very life.

Invitation: We do not need a big fish experience to become the gospel to others. Everything we go through in life should testify to the watching world of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our obedience to the Word of God, we become a sign of the gospel of Christ to the lost world around us.

Have you received this gospel? Are you running from God?

When God Calls You by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD CALLS YOU by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

when-god-calls-youIntroduction: It’s time for our message, so turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Mark. For those of you who may not know, we’re in our series on the Life of Christ from all 4 gospels. Now before we begin I do have a confession to make. In the past 2 years since we began this series, I have unintentionally neglected one of those four gospels – the Gospel of Mark. So today we turn to Mark 2 for our message – “WHEN GOD CALLS YOU.”

Mark 2   14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Bridge: How many of y’all remember growing up playing pick up games after school or in the neighborhood? You wanted your name to be called, right? In fact, not having your name called was very embarrassing and painful to say the least.

Context: In this message we will see how Jesus called someone to follow Him who, according to the religious leaders of the day, was unfit to be called. To be more precise, his job made him unfit but according to Jesus He was a perfect fit for God’s kingdom.

Question: There are several calls from God that come in a person’s life. As a Christian, there is the call to discipleship. It’s God’s call to leave all behind and go further with Him? As a Christian, have you heard that call in your life? There’s another call that comes in a Christian’s life – the call to take on a special ministry or work. Don’t misunderstand. This does not necessarily have to be a call to preach. It is a call to join God in doing something to build His kingdom in this world. As a Christian, have you heard that call in your life? But before you get any of these calls, you have to answer the first call that comes in every person’s life – the call to be saved. Have you heard that call? Have you responded to Jesus as your Savior? Are you saved?

This morning we will learn how to respond when God calls you:

I. NATURE OF GOD’S CALL.

14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. People mistakenly assume that this was the first encounter of Jesus with Levi/Matthew. Not necessarily. I believe that Jesus knew Levi/Matthew very well and probably had several conversations with Him.

Let’s back up a little bit and get the whole context starting in verse 13 “Then He went out again by the sea…”

capernaum-aerial

Capernaum Aerial

Background: Where is this “by the sea”? This is Capernaum. As I’ve mentioned before, Nicole and I have been there. It is on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. In ancient times it sat along an important trade route known as the Via Maris (Way of the Sea), which connected Egypt in the South to Syria in the North and Mesopotamia in the East. So people from everywhere passed through Capernaum. Not only that but because of the Sea of Galilee Capernaum was an important port for importing and exporting cargo. This was much more than just a fishing village. It was a big checkpoint

capernaum-ancient

Capernaum Ancient

for customs. This is why, as we will see later on, so many tax collectors/customs officials were there. There was a small Roman garrison in Capernaum. By the way, what else shows up around places like this? Brothels and prostitutes.

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus picked Capernaum to be the base of His early ministry? Why? Because people from everywhere were there, especially the

capernaum-synagogue

Capernaum Synagogue

nonreligious types. 13 “…and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them.” Can you picture Jesus preaching to the multitudes along the countryside? Can you picture Him doing some of His greatest miracles there? Can you picture Him walking by the fishing boats and calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him? Can you picture Him teaching at the local synagogue, which was fairly new, built by a centurion whose servant Jesus healed? Can you picture Him walking through the streets of Capernaum and talking to the people?

The point is this – Jesus was not a stranger in Capernaum anymore. People recognized Him everywhere He went. Most of them had heard Him. Many of them knew someone

capernaum-ruins

Capernaum Ruins

in their family or neighborhoods that were healed by Him. Some of them may have even responded positively to His message. I’m going somewhere with this. When it says in verse 14 that Jesus saw Levi/Matthew and called him and he immediately left all, it does not mean that this was a first encounter. I believe that Jesus knew Levi/Matthew very well and probably had several conversations with Him. I believe that Matthew had probably seen firsthand some of His miracles. He had probably gone to hear Him preach many times. This was not a random call to some random person demanding a spontaneous life-long commitment. God doesn’t work that way.

capernaum-street

Capernaum Street

What kind of a call did Jesus give to Levi/Matthew? Was it a call to salvation? I don’t think so because there’s nothing about belief in Jesus. Was it a call to discipleship, to growth in his faith? I don’t think so because discipleship does not mean that you have to quit your job. What kind of a call was this? It was a specific call that Jesus gave only one other time to people He picked to be His disciples. This was a call to a very specific life. Sometimes I’m amazed at how people flippantly talk about responding to God’s call to do this or that. Then they go out and make a mess out of things and return with their tail between their legs. What happened? I don’t know. I guess I misheard.

Here’s the point: Take the time in prayer to discern God’s call in your life. If God is tugging on your heartstrings this morning and you’ve never given your heart to Jesus, the first call you need to respond to is salvation. If you are saved and God is tugging on your heartstrings again, don’t run out and try to start some ministry. You will become a liability. First, examine your heart for any sin that you are ignoring or covering up. Maybe, God’s call for you is to repent. If you are saved, your sins are fessed up, and you still feel God is tugging on your heartstrings, check God’s Word to see if there is some place in your life that you need to be obedient. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not suggesting that unless all the boxes are checked that you cannot follow God’s call in ministry. That will never happen. I’m just saying that we need to discern God’s call before we respond flippantly.

Application: What is God calling you to do? Receive Jesus as Your Savior or repent of some sin or obey some truth from God’s Word or follow Him in lifelong service?

II. CONFIRMATION OF GOD’S CALL.

15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many…”

Background: We don’t know if it were the same day or a few days later but Levi/Matthew must have asked Jesus – “How would you feel if I organize a big feast (as Luke has it) at my place and invite some of my buddies to come? They probably won’t ever go to a synagogue but they might come to hear you. Just want to forewarn you – Some of them are a little rough around the edges.” You can picture a smile come across Jesus’ face as he replied – “Matthew, that’s why I came.” Matthew probably said – “I figured you’d say that.” Can you picture him going all out for this dinner party to invite all his friends to meet Jesus? I wonder if Jesus helped out? I think He did. I can see Him sweeping the floors, wiping down the tables, and even cleaning the fish.

Feast with Tax Collectors and Sinners

Feast with Tax Collectors and Sinners

They came and it was a party like none other. All lost people gathered around the Son of God having a party. What was the result? “…and they followed Him.” We don’t know the actual implications of “followed Him.” It could mean that they got saved and left their old lifestyles. It could mean that that got saved and gave their gifts to support the ministry of Jesus. It could also mean that they literally followed Jesus like Matthew. Tax collectors were among the literate people in ancient times. As you know Matthew wrote the first gospel. I can almost picture him telling his buddies who followed Jesus to take some notes. Is it any wonder the Matthew’s gospel is the most comprehensive of all 4 gospels?!! Matthew’s call was to go and call others.

Here’s the point: God reaches people through people. We are the instruments of His gospel. As a pastor, I may not be able to reach people that you can reach. They won’t listen to me but they will definitely listen to you. There are many people at Clearview who have come because a friend or neighbor invited them.

Application: Do you invite people to meet Jesus? Do you care about the salvation of your friends and neighbors? When was the last time you invited someone to church? Sometimes people are reluctant to come to church. When was the last time you invited someone to come over for a cookout and shared the good news with them in a non threatening manner?

III. OPPOSITION TO GOD’S CALL.

16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

Background: Tax collectors, even though they were Jewish by ethnicity, were out there with the gentiles and the prostitutes. The Romans had established a system of tolls and customs known as “portoria” all over the empire. Instead of wasting money and manpower to collect these tolls, they would farm them out to the highest bidder. Whoever won the bid would pay the amount set by the Roman government and then whatever he collected would be profit. These were the “telonai” or the “toll collectors” or “tax collectors.” You can just imagine how much this would get abused. Of course, they had the support of their tough guys and soldiers if needed. The people hated them and the religious leaders grouped them with robbers and even the Romans regarded them as brothel keepers (pimps). No religious parent in those would like their child to come home and say – “When I grow up, I’m going to be a tax collector.” Is it any wonder that the scribes and the Pharisees were shocked to see Jesus mingling with them?

What was Jesus’ response? 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Jesus was not saying that the religious leaders were the “righteous” who did not need to be saved. He was being sarcastic. The point was – “It is so much easier to convince an outright sinner that he/she needs to be saved than to convince a church going, Bible-toting, so called Christian that he/she is lost.”

Illustration: A man complained about the amount of time his family spent in front of the TV. His children watched cartoons and didn’t do their schoolwork. His wife watched soap operas instead of doing housework. He said, “I am going to fix the problem. I’m going to pulling the plug as soon as the baseball season’s over.”

Unless you are willing to admit that you are a sinner, you are not ready to be saved. Are you lost? What is God calling you to do? Is He calling you to lead your marriage and your home in His way? Is He calling you to some greater task? Did the Holy Spirit bring someone to your mind that you need to bring to Christ

ENCOUNTERS 4 (CLEARVIEW FOLLOWUP)

ENCOUNTERS 4 (Clearview Followup) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Here are some key points to remember from the message:

  1. A Historical Fact to Learn: For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. Maybe the pool was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple.
  2. A Theological Truth to Believe: Many different views have been advanced for Jesus’s final words to the crippled man – John 5:14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” I don’t think that Jesus was bringing up original sin or some generational sin. Instead, He was simply demonstrated that He knew the man’s past. Apparently, the crippled man had done something bad that caused his paralysis. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. Jesus was warning him not to return to his old lifestyle.
  3. A Biblical Principle to Apply: “…And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Downtrodden) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters4Introduction: For the past 3 weeks we’ve been in our series through the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” In this 4th and final message we’re about to meet a man who had been sick for 38 years, desperately waiting for someone to help him find healing. By the time Jesus found him he had given up all hope.

John 5   5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

Bridge: Do you know someone who’s in a hopeless situation? Humanly speaking there is no way out for them physically, mentally, or emotionally. Maybe its because of some decision or choice they made earlier in their life or maybe its through no fault of their own. It doesn’t matter. When you think of hopelessness, your mind immediately goes towards this person and you say something like – “I feel so sorry for him or her…”

Context: In this message we will meet such an individual – a sick downtrodden person who had been in a debilitating situation for almost 4 decades and had lost all hope in life. You know by now that we have been looking at 4 individuals between the two bracket passages in the gospel of John – John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 & 41. In these passages Jesus describes the sinful and fickle nature of human beings and how He did not need their endorsement. He only came for their salvation. He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. I do need to point out that unlike the previous 3 encounters, this one has an unusual ending.

Question: Do you believe that there’s hope for the hopeless? Do you believe that Jesus has the power to bring life where there’s death? Do you know someone who has lost all hope in life? Are you that someone? Are you saved?

2 questions again. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your life.

I. WHO WAS THIS CRIPPLED MAN?

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. What was the purpose of this pool? Maybe it was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple. Either way, whether the sheep went by the pool or went into the pool, you can just imagine how filthy this area would’ve been. Upper class people would’ve avoided this pool but not Jesus.

Application: Sometimes you have to cross your personal boundaries and go into areas that may not be quite clean or up to your standards in order to reach people.

But there’s something special about this pool. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. What does that mean? 4 “For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” Some translations claim that this was not part of the earliest manuscripts. My research indicates that it should be included in the text. John is giving us a folk belief about the pool from that period. Personally, I think it was some kind of a hot spring or mineral bath that gave it some health benefits. In fact, after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, they turned into a healing sanctuary to the god Asclepius.

5 “Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.”

There’s enough in that statement to create a profile of this person:

  • How old was he? Sometimes people automatically assume that he was born this way and must be 38 years old. 38 years is how long this man had been sick. There’s nothing in the text that indicates that he was born this way. I think that he must’ve been an adult at the time of this permanent injury or sickness. We’re going to see in a moment that he had actually done something bad to cause his infirmity. If I were to guess his age, it would be somewhere in the late 50s to early 60s bracket.
  • What was his infirmity? It must’ve been some kind of a paralysis because he could not get himself into the pool fast enough. You can imagine the pain and the filth he was in.
  • What caused his infirmity? Maybe he got injured at work. Maybe someone hurt him. Based on Jesus’s final words to him, I think it may have been a very different reason. 14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” “Worse” indicates that his condition was a result of some sin. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. So it was not just the physical pain of the infirmity that he was dealing with. More than likely he was also dealing with a mental pain of the infirmity – lot of regret and shame over his bad past.
  • What was his condition when Jesus found him? “When Jesus saw him lying there…” Sometimes people assume that he was lying at the pool 38 years. There is nothing in the text that supports that. He may have been at the pool for 30 years or 3 years or 3 months. We don’t know for sure. One thing we do know is that he was all by himself. Listen again – “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Maybe his parents brought him there. Maybe his siblings brought him there. Maybe his wife and children brought him there. But, for some reason they had all left him to fend for himself. Why? Maybe they were embarrassed of him. May be that they had given up on him. Maybe they got tired of trying to help him. We can only conjecture but I picture him angry, bitter, and frustrated. Maybe like a prison inmate he had become institutionalized.

Do you know people like this? Something painful has happened in their life. Some kind of a trauma has happened in their life. Maybe they are even responsible for their predicament but now they are bitter, angry, and frustrated with life. They are all alone, cynical, and pessimistic.

Application: How do you treat such people? Do you show mercy to them? Are you compassionate to people around you? You never know what people are going through.

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?

6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” Jesus not only noticed him but also treated him with dignity. Not only that but Jesus saw the hopelessness in his eyes and offered him hope. Just like Jesus Christians should be hope carriers in this world. Listen to Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

What was the man’s response? 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” He did not answer the question he was asked. Jesus had not asked him – “So, how does all this work?” Here’s the point: Don’t expect lost people to immediately understand the meaning and the power of the gospel.

What was Jesus’ response? 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” The Bible does not say it but based on Jesus’s previous interactions, the man more than likely believed that Jesus was able to heal him. There’s something very important I need to point out: Can you hear the authority in Jesus’s words? If there’s one thing that is definitely lacking in the church and Christians today is authority. We have plenty of gimmicks and gadgets. We have plenty of books and knowledge. We just don’t have the boldness to say with Peter and John when they said to the lame man sitting by the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem in Acts 3:6 “…Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

What was the result? 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

Now there’s a twist to the narrative: And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! What was his answer? 11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.

Unlike the other miracle narratives, there’s another twist here14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” This man did not know Jesus but He believed in His miracle giving power. The Bible does not say that he got saved. Did he or did he not get saved? I believe that he did because he did not just run home or back to his old life. He went to the temple and Jesus came looking for him. Jesus being God knew this man’s past and warned him not to return to that life again. 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

Jesus had a higher purpose in His encounter with the crippled man. He not only wanted to heal this man physically, emotionally, and spiritually but He also wanted to expose the sinfulness and the hard heartedness of the religious leaders. The punch line of the account is not that the man believed but that the religious leaders didn’t believe. They did not care for the lost and the hurting.

Illustration: Sometime back a little boy was born. Six months before his birth his father died and then 6 years later his mother died. His paternal grandfather raised him for 2 years and then he also died. Now 8 years old, his uncle had custody of him. Between the years of 9 and 12, he travelled with his uncle on many business trips and had the opportunity to see many churches. He even met and talked to a pastor but never truly heard the gospel. Unfortunately, the state of the church at the time was very schismatic and sectarian. Christians were arguing and fussing about everything imaginable. In fact, later this boy got married and began having n ightmares, which he wrote down in a book. In the same book he also wrote about his misguided understanding of Christianity. He thought the Trinity was Father, Son, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. He even talked about how the Christians “vainly dispute.” (Sura 19:34) and how the “people have cut off their affair (of unity) between them, into sects: Each party rejoices in that which is with itself.” (Sura 23:53) Long story short – this boy was Mohammad. The religion he founded was Islam and the book he wrote was the Koran. What would have happened if those Christians and the pastors had focused on the pain of this boy and shared the gospel with him?

Are we bringing hope to the hopeless? Do you need hope through Jesus Christ?

ENCOUNTERS 3 (CLEARVIEW FOLLOWUP)

ENCOUNTERS  (Clearview Followup) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Here are some key points to remember from the message

  1. A Historical Fact to Learn: The nobleman went from Capernaum to Cana, which is about 16 miles, a day’s journey. It was uphill because Capernaum was about 700 feet below sea level. Maybe, he walked or maybe he rode his horse. Why? Because his boy was dying with some kind of fever. He may have been a bad person working for a bad man but he was a good father who loved his son and would do anything for him.
  2. A Theological Truth to Believe: You cannot come to Jesus with unbelief in your heart and expect Him to listen to you. Listen to Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
  3. A Biblical Principle to Apply: Crisis is the perfect opportunity to bring people to Christ, to turn their doubts into faith. Do you know someone like that? Pray for them. Are you that someone who is struggling with doubts? Bring your struggles to Him and try Him.

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Outcast) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

encounters2_outcastIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner had an encounter with Jesus.

John 4   3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

Bridge: Have you ever been thirsty, I mean “really thirsty?” Maybe it was after cutting grass on a hot day or after a long walk or playing a sport, you were parched! People drink all kinds of drinks to quench their thirst but there’s no substitute to a glass of cool water.

Context: In the passage we just read, Jesus used the imagery of thirst to convey the gospel to a woman of Samaria. Keep in mind that in this series we’re looking at 4 individuals between the two brackets in John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 and 41. The first individual was a religious man named Nicodemus (we met him last weekend), the second individual was a woman of Samaria with an embarrassing past (we’re going to meet her today), the third individual was a brash rich man, and the fourth was a sick hopeless patient. Four very different people from different walks of life and Jesus, the Master soul winner did not use some one size fits all approach with them. Instead, He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel in a way they could understand, and left all four of them transformed. Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner woman from Samaria had an encounter with Jesus that changed her destiny forever.

Question: How do you see people? Do you only notice their skin pigmentation or the kind of clothes they wear or the background they come from? Or do you take the time to see below the surface, try to understand them, and meet them where they are? Do you see the thirst in their hearts for the Living Water? Are you the one who is thirsty for the Living Water? Are you the one who needs an encounter with Jesus?

In this message we will meet the woman of Samaria. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

I. WHO WAS THE SAMARITAN WOMAN? 

3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.

Background: On the map of Israel, Judea is in the South and Galilee is in the North. There has been much debate over why Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Was it for theological reasons or geographical reasons? Was it because He wanted to reach out to the Samaritans with the gospel or was it because it was the easiest, quickest, and safest route through a Roman territory? I personally think that it was simply for geographical reason. By the way, you often hear things like – “The Jewish people back then would not have gone through Samaria.” That’s not true. We have plenty of evidence that they did.

Here’s the point: Sometimes we expect God to direct us through some supernatural impulse and intuition. That’s not always the case. Many times God simply uses the ordinary, mundane, and common sense decisions of life. Don’t always be talking about how you had this feeling that you had to do this and that and God showed up. Many times it is just the simple choices of life that God uses to do the amazing.

5 “So He came to a city of Samaria…”

Background: Right there we can begin constructing the profile of this woman:

  • Samaritans – Just like the Pharisees, there is considerable debate over who were the Samaritans. If you were to ask the Samaritans (only about a thousand exist today in Israel), they would tell you that they are the direct descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that Israel began to depart from God during the time of Eli, the high priest. Remember Eli who saw Hannah praying and thought that she was drunk but God blessed her with a child named Samuel? This Eli, they claim, messed things up by moving the worship center of Israel from Gerizim to Shiloh. They’ll tell you that they, the worshippers at Gerizim, are the original Israel.

But if you read the Bible you get a different account. It’s found in 2 Kings 17 when God sent the Assyrian Empire against the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples under which they would take the people from the conquered territory and move them to another part of the empire and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Listen to 2 Kings 17:24 “Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel…” These people somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were not resettled. So the Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. You can sense the tension between them in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah when the Jewish people tried to rebuild the temple and the city walls. The Samaritans tried to sabotage their building projects. There’s more that I can go into but if this woman was a Samaritan, she has a historical religious chip on her shoulder.

  • Verse 5 “So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” Meaning: This was not just any part of Samaria but a special place in Samaria. She probably had a sense of spiritual pride. Do you know people like that who have spiritual pride but they still haven’t encountered Jesus?
  • Verse 6 “Now Jacob’s well was there…” Archaeology takes us to a deeper level of understanding here. Jacob’s well is a deep well near Shechem. It is still there to this day. But Sychar, the best archaeologists can tell, is probably near the modern day Arab village of Askar, which is 1 mile from Shechem. Ancient sources tell us that there was a spring there in Sychar. So the question is why did she come to Jacob’s well if there was one right where she lived? 6 “…Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Noontime is not the time to draw water. Could it be that she was searching for the God who met Jacob in the wilderness?
  • Verse 7 “…Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. She is an outspoken, fearless woman, and truthful!
  • By the way, later we will also learn that she had been through 5 marriages and was working towards number 6 now! I think if she hadn’t met Jesus, she would have gone beyond Elizabeth Taylor’s record of 7 men, 8 marriages! This means she was an independent woman who didn’t care what anyone thought of her. By the way, don’t think that she was a prostitute. They were her husbands.

Application: Do you know some Samaritan women or men? Do you judge them or pray for them? Do you like Jesus try to reach them with the gospel or do you run the other direction from them?

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HER? 

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Again, what’s amazing to me is that Jesus used His surroundings as a lead in to the gospel! She’s at the well and Jesus offered her the living water. Also, He did not get offended by her tone. Be prepared for people to lash out at you. Love them anyways.

What’s her response? 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir…” Now she’s talking to Him with a little more respect. “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” Just like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman has no clue what Jesus was talking about. Once again, don’t assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo. 12 “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Now she turns into a lay theologian and even defensive over her people’s beliefs. Don’t underestimate people’s personal beliefs.

John 4:13   Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Meaning: Jesus is talking about a whole different kind of thirst, not physical but soul thirst. Not only that but that Jesus is offering is not just running water but a fountain of water. Later in John 7 Jesus gave the identity of the spring, this fountain 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive. All this will lead to the same eternal life that Jesus promised Nicodemus. But even more than what He told Nicodemus – this life will be abundant, continuing, and self-replenishing!

Listen to her response – 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Either she still does not understand or she is being sarcastic or she is just being skeptical. 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” Don’t misunderstand – Jesus was not talking down to her. He was simply revealing to her His omniscience. When you draw closer to the light, you will see the blemishes in the light. But please don’t mistake this for salvation. Here’s a greater point: If the Christ you’ve met does not know you through and through, you’ve got the wrong Christ. Listen to the woman’s response – 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Meaning: Now she has elevated Jesus’s status from a common Jewish man to a prophet.

Listen to Jesus’s response – 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” What’s her response? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. Many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus. Listen to what they said to her – 42 “…Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

ethel-waters-and-billy-graham

Ethel Waters and Billy Graham

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters

Conclusion: When I was preparing for this message, I couldn’t help but think of Ethel Waters, Black singer from the early part of the twentieth century. Her mother was raped at knifepoint at the age of 13. Of her childhood she said, “No one raised me; I just ran wild. I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” She went through extreme poverty, daily hunger, stealing, and shuffled from one place to another. She got married at 12 and that was a very abusive relationship. But by the age of 17 she entered show business as a singer and dancer. She won awards and sang on Broadway. She was the first black singer on a coast-to-coast radio show and even made it into the movies. In 1929, she was making $1250 a week! But something was missing in her life. One day in 1957 she walked down the aisle at a Billy Graham Crusade in Madison Square Gardens, New York City. She began to sing for the Billy Graham Evangelist Crusade. Her most famous song was “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” But one thing she often said – “I know I’m somebody because God don’t make no junk.”

Are you bringing people to Jesus, the Savior of the World? Have you had an encounter with Him? Are you still thirsting for something?

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