Bad Start, Good Finish by Pastor Abidan Shah

BAD START, GOOD FINISH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Bad Start Good Finish

Introduction: Does it matter how you start a race? If you ask Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, he’ll say, “Absolutely, it matters.” Back in 2011, he made a false start at the World Championships in South Korea and was disqualified. At the same time, Bolt confesses that he’s a poor starter. So, once the gun goes off, the first 30m is what he calls his “drive phase” where he puts his head down and drives himself forward. After that he goes into his “tall phase” where he gets as straight as possible. It’s time for top speed. At 50m, he glances left and right to see where he is in the race and at 60m he becomes a beast. He gives his everything. The last 15-20m of the race is his strongest. He checks one more time in the final 10m but at this point no one can catch him now. He knows that he’s won. Here’s the point: Yes, it matters how you start the race but no, the start doesn’t ultimately determine how you finish the race. You can have a good finish even with a bad start if you do certain things right along the way. That’s the title of the final message in our family series on the – “BAD START, GOOD FINISH.” In life and marriage it helps when you have a good start but it’s not everything. You may’ve had a bad start but you can still have a good finish if you do certain things right along the way.

Genesis 50   22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees. 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Question: For the past 9 weeks we’ve been studying the life of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. We’ve looked at their good decisions, their bad decisions, and the impact of those decisions on their later generations. In this final message, we’re going to see what things helped this family to finish well. There were so many negatives but what were the positives that gave them a good finish. But before we do that, here are some questions to consider: Do you think that you will finish well? Do you believe that your marriage will finish well? Do you believe that your kids will finish well? Or, do you believe that it’s too late? Do you live in regrets? Have you lost all hope for the future? Are you saved? When you receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and brings hope where there is hopelessness. If no hope, then either no Holy Spirit or he’s being quenched.

Context: The passage we just read is the final words to the Book of Genesis. We see Joseph lying on his deathbed giving his final instructions to his family. By the way, twice (verses 22 and 26) it tells us that Joseph was 110 years of age. Why? Because in the Egyptian culture and society, 110 years was considered to be the ideal age for a person to live. Joseph is the picture of a good finish. This is very important because Joseph’s good finish is symbolic of the good finish of the family of Abraham and Sarah. In this final message we’re going to see what helped them have a good finish:

  1. THEY HAD A CHAIN BREAKER.

If you remember the first message in this series, we looked at Terah, Abraham’s father. Terah was the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan…” Terah was the first chain breaker. He had to leave behind a comfortable and successful life, abandon his ancestral gods, and step out into the unknown.

For e.g. My father left Islam and became the chain breaker for us.

Application: Who has been the chain breaker in your life? A father, mother, grandparent, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. Sometimes, you have to be your own pioneer. There’s no one who has broken the chain in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. If you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the chain breaker and pioneer for your family.

  1. THEY FACED THEIR SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET.

In the second message we learnt about an embarrassing secret in the life of Abraham and Sarah. He had made a deal with his wife that everywhere they went she was to say that he was her brother. They did it in Egypt and if that weren’t enough, 25 years later, he did it again in Canaan. Listen to how the King of Gerar spoke to Abraham at 100 years of age. Genesis 20:10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?” Translation: “What’s wrong with you?” When confronted, he admitted that Sarah was his half-sister. Later, like father, like son, Isaac did the same with his wife Rebekah and claimed that she was his sister, which, by the way, was a lie. There were other incidents that were just as embarrassing like Sarah offering her maidservant Hagar to Abraham, Jacob ending up with two wives, Judah sleeping with his own daughter-in-law by mistake.

Here’s the principle: There are no perfect families. We all have some skeletons in our family closet. We all have some rotten fruits hanging somewhere on our family tree.

Application: What are you doing with your family skeleton? Are you pretending to be perfect? The more you try to hide your secret, the more it controls your life. Or, do you blame your skeleton for all your mistakes? Turn them over to God today.

  1. THEY REFUSED TO BE COATTAIL HANGERS.

In a message titled “Keeping Your Kids Out of Hell,” we met Lot, Abraham’s nephew. He attached himself to Abraham in Haran and followed him everywhere he went. He was the proverbial coattail hanger. When there was a conflict between Abraham’s herdsmen and his, Abraham gave him the option to pick which direction he wanted to go and he picked the plain of Jordan towards Sodom and Gomorrah because it reminded him of Egypt. This was more than the terrain. It was the culture he loved. What was the cost? He not only lost his testimony but also his family, including his wife, when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m sure you also remember the incident of how his daughters had him drunk and slept with him. Even if Abraham and Sarah’s family was not perfect, they were not coattail hangers. They were willing to stay in tents and wait on the city that had foundations. Hebrews 11 9 By faith he (Abraham) dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Application: Are you a coattail hanger? How do you make decisions in your life? Do you go after the exciting and the alluring or after those things that please God?

  1. THEY ACCEPTED THE ROAD OF BROKENNESS.

In a message titled “Facing Old Foes,” we saw how Jacob had to face his brother Esau after 20 years. If you remember, Esau didn’t care for his birthright and had sold it to Jacob who had stolen his rightful blessing from his father Isaac. God never condemned Jacob for that. Later Esau wanted it back but he couldn’t and his last words for Jacob in Genesis 27:41 were “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” On that fateful night before he came face to face with his brother, Jacob prayed and asked God to deliver him. Instead of giving him a good nights rest and strong arms or sending his angels to fight for him, the pre-incarnate Christ came down and wrestled him all night and when he realized that he couldn’t defeat him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it went out of joint. Now a sleep deprived, physically injured, and emotionally spent Jacob hobbled along towards his brother. Genesis 32:31 “Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.” How did Esau respond? God used Jacob’s brokenness to pour his grace upon him and move Esau’s heart to forgiveness.

Here’s the principle: Those weaknesses that we find to be a hindrance to our growth and prosperity are actually the thorns in the flesh that Paul talks about. They are opportunities for God to pour his grace upon us.

Application: How do you receive the painful events and incidents in your life? Do you realize that those things that you consider to be a hindrance are actually God’s blessings in disguise?

  1. THEY REFUSED TO LOSE HOPE.

So many other things happened in this family: Simeon and Levi killing the men of Shechem and stealing and enslaving the women and the children; Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery; Judah defrauding his own daughter-in-law and then being tricked by her into sleeping with her. But, this family did not lose hope in the promise that God had made to Abraham that in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed, that they are the carriers of the promise of salvation. Listen again to final words to his family – 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” Joseph’s end is not the end. It is the promise of a new beginning in the near future. They were words of hope. They were words full of the Holy Spirit.

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.”

Invitation: Do you have this hope for yourself, for your family, for this church, for our community, for our nation, for this world? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you saved?

Raising Overcomers by Pastor Abidan Shah

RAISING OVERCOMERS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Raising Overcomers

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

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

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

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

  1. He was taught the value of being trustworthy.

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

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

  1. He was loved and affirmed by his father.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parents Behaving Badly by Pastor Abidan Shah

PARENTS BEHAVING BADLY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Parents Behaving Badly

Introduction: I don’t know how your kids are but our kids love to hear stories about Nicole and I growing up. They love hearing about how mommy loved climbing trees and walking on top of the swing set instead of swinging on it. They love hearing stories of how dad tried joining the circus at five and ended up with a broken collarbone. Last week they were up laughing until midnight as we told them those stories from our childhood. I guess the thought of their parents acting crazy or getting in trouble brings comfort and joy to them! But what if those stories were still happening? What if Nicole was still walking on top of swings and I was still breaking collarbones trying to join the circus? That would not be funny anymore but embarrassing and painful, especially for the kids. Today’s message on the family is what to do about “PARENTS BEHAVING BADLY.”

Genesis 38   12   Now in the process of time…Judah’s wife, died…and (he) went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah…13 And it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil…and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah…15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. 16 Then he turned to her by the way…

Question: God has appointed parents to lead their children, to be a model for them. He has designed them to be emotionally more mature than their kids. He has called them to be the standard of morality and integrity for them. He has entrusted parents to be the spiritual guides for their children. Unfortunately, some parents are emotionally unstable, morally objectionable, and spiritually incapable. Sometimes they make decisions and do things that are embarrassing and distressing for the children. It reverses God’s hierarchy and design for the family. How are your parents? Do you look up to them or do you shake your head at them? Do you admire them or are you ashamed of them? Some of you may not need this message but others know very well what I am talking about and it is very painful for you. Do your parents know Christ as their Savior? Do you? This message will help you relate with parents behaving badly.

Context of the Message: In our series on the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis, we now come to the fourth generation, to Judah, one of the sons of Jacob. He did something unthinkable. He had sexual relations with his own daughter-in-law who tricked him by dressing up as a prostitute. What in the world is going on! First, why would a daughter-in-law trick her father-in-law in such a horrible way? Second, why would a grown man, coming from a family that loves God, go to a prostitute? To understand this, we have to back up to the opening verses of Genesis 38:1 “It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers…” If you’ve been keeping up with this series, we skipped over chapter 37 that gives us the account of Joseph and his brothers, how Joseph had his dreams and his brothers hated him for that and one day when they had the opportunity, they sold him into slavery. Who was the brother who suggested this? It was Judah. He probably did that to save his brother’s life. The other brothers were bent on killing Joseph. Selling him into slavery seemed to be a much better alternative. At least, Joseph would still be alive. But, can you imagine the guilt and the shame Judah had to live with? He could still hear the shrieks and the cries of Joseph as he was being dragged away by the Midianite traders. The first thought when he woke up and the last thought when he lay down to sleep was “I wonder if he’s still alive…” Every day he had to see the tear-stained face of his father Jacob and every time he was tempted to just confess to him, one of the brothers would shake his head at Judah – “You better not…” Judah was probably angry, depressed, and miserable. He did not want to see their faces anymore and instead of confessing, he packed up and moved away.

Principle: Judah moved away because he thought that a change in location was going to change everything. Out of sight, out of mind. People do that all the time and they fail to realize that they are still the common ingredients in all their problems. Unconfessed sin always brings only unending sorrow. Listen to David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 32   3 “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Secret guilt will only lead to ceaseless grief, regardless of your location. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Now, it happens with some that, though they are conscious of sin, they do not confess it; and what is the result? Why, it increases their misery. It is impossible that you should find peace while sin continues to gather in your soul. It is a festering wound…So long as a man continues silent before God, and does not own his sin, if the Lord really has begun to deal with him, he will have to suffer more and more from the pangs of conscience.”

Judah married a Canaanite girl in this new place. There is no love mentioned in this relationship. He met her, married her, had sexual relationship with her, and they had 3 children – Er, Onan, and Shelah. Just like his marriage, nothing is mentioned about his relationship with his children. In verse 6 he arranged a marriage for Er, his oldest one, with a girl named Tamar. Bottom line: Judah was living a ho-hum life…until his actions from his previous life began to catch up with his present life. Listen to verse 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him.” The Bible doesn’t say what he did but it must have been serious enough for God to kill him, something he hasn’t done since the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Nothing is said about how Judah felt about this. All it says is that he ordered his second son Onan to marry Tamar and have a child with her according to levirate marriage, where the brother-in-law marries the widow of his brother to keep the family name going (Levir in Latin means “brother-in-law). Onan married Tamar but secretly deceived her and refused to have a child with her. Listen to verse 10 “And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.” Wow! Why that serious? More than likely Onan didn’t want to give his brother any children. If he did, then he would lose his default inheritance. What he didn’t realize is that he was interfering with God’s plan of using the family of Abraham and Sarah to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. He was interfering with the gospel. I seriously doubt that in his guilt and shame Judah ever took the time to explain to his children the promise God had made to their family.

Question: How often do you talk to your children about the things of God? How often do you explain to them that the reason for your success is God’s hand upon you? How often do you challenge and encourage them to keep God first in their lives? Something else here – God was teaching Judah, “You took someone’s child. Now you’ll know what it means to lose a child.” Only sad part is that Tamar, the innocent bystander, was also suffering because of Judah’s sin from his previous life. Are your decisions bringing pain to some innocent person in your life?

Unfortunately, Judah did not learn his lesson. He continued his life of deception. He refused to let his third son Shelah marry Tamar for fear that he too might die. So he lied to Tamar and told her that once Shelah was older, he would marry her. Until then, she should go back to her parent’s house. He was thinking that with time she would forget or remarry someone back home and it’ll all be over. In the meantime, Judah’s wife also died. After grieving for her, he decided to go to Timnah at the sheep-shearing time. Tamar heard about it and embarked on a cruel scheme. We read this passage. She disguised herself as a prostitute, covered her face with a veil, and sat seductively at Enaim (lit. at the “opening of the eyes,” which could be the crossroads). Apparently, she knew her father-in-law very well. Sure enough he came by, saw her but didn’t recognize her. He made a proposition to her and she agreed for a young goat. As guarantee, he left his seal, cord, and staff with her. Here’s my question: What business did Judah have to go to a prostitute? He probably felt entitled to some good time. You can hear him say, “People don’t understand what I’ve been through. I just don’t care anymore. I’m not hurting anyone…”

Question: Do you use the same lines to indulge in sin? Do you feel entitled to sin because of all that you’ve been through? No matter what you’ve been through or what anyone has done to you, you are never entitled to sin.

Anyways, things are about to get complicated. Judah sent the young goat as he had promised but there was no prostitute. Judah didn’t care. “Let her keep it,” he said. But 3 months later, word got back to Judah that Tamar, his daughter-in-law, was pregnant. The cause was prostitution. Listen to his response: “Bring her out and let her be burned!”

Principle: Show me a person who is very legalistic and harsh about some sin and I’ll show you a person who is hiding a bigger similar dirty secret. The penalty for adultery later, according to the Mosaic Law, was death by stoning not burning. Reminds you of David when he stole Uriah’s wife and had him killed, doesn’t it? Don’t misunderstand, Moses, Jesus, and Paul were all hard against sin but it was always with a broken heart.

You know what happened next: Tamar sent word to her father-in-law that the man was the owner of the signet, the cord, and the staff. Judah immediately knew his guilt. He confessed. Long story short – Tamar had twins and the oldest one (Perez) became part of the genealogy of Christ. Matthew included this fact in his gospel to let people know that Mary was not the first one looked down upon in the birth of the Messiah. In other words, God worked all things together for good once again in his people’s life.

It is truly a sad sight when adults, especially parents behave badly. Here are some suggestions on what to do in those situations:

  • Know that they are just fallen human beings like yourself
  • Don’t put them on a pedestal nor fail to show them grace
  • Obey their godly teachings without following their ungodly examples
  • Remember that you are not to be blamed for your parents’ choices
  • Pray for them, especially if they do not know Christ

I Corinthians 6   9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

  • Trust that God will work all things together for good

Most importantly, be Christ-like and Christ-filled.

Too Old for Time Out by Pastor Abidan Shah

TOO OLD FOR TIMEOUT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Too Old for Time out

Introduction: Would you agree that parents sometimes say the funniest things? Here are a few that I’m sure you’ve heard at some point in time or you’ve said them:

  • “Don’t look at me with those eyes.”
  • “Quiet down, I can’t even hear myself think.”
  • “Don’t make me count to three!”
  • “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
  • “So if everybody jumps off the bridge, will you jump too?”
  • “Because I said so, that’s why!”

Unfortunately, there comes a day when it doesn’t matter what you say, kids do what they want to do. With that in mind, today’s message is titled, “TOO OLD FOR TIMEOUT.”

Genesis 34   25 Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males…27…and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled…30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?”

Question: How is your relationship with your children? More specifically, how is your relationship with your grown children? Are they at odds with you? Are you at odds with them? What have they done to disappoint you? Many years ago I heard someone say, “When your kids are little, they step on your toes. When they get big, they step on your heart.” What have they done to step on your heart? Are you saved? Are they saved? Leading them to Christ is the most important thing you can do for them. Today’s message will teach us what to do when our kids are too old for timeout.

Context of the Message: In the last message we saw how Jacob reconciled with his old foe, his brother Esau. His worst fears were over. It was time to head home. It was time to begin a new chapter in his life. But, unlike before, Jacob is very particular about doing things the right way. Listen to Genesis 33:18 “Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city.” Jacob remembered what happened to great uncle Lot who moved into Sodom and destroyed his family and he chose to live in a tent and stay outside the city. 19 And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Jacob remembered how Abraham adamantly paid Ephron the Hittite for his field in Machpelah and the cave in it and he paid Hamor for the land near Shechem. Why? He didn’t want any obligation to the people of Shechem. 20 Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel. This is very important. Jacob is again trying to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac. He is building an altar to the Living God just like they did everywhere they went. Remember in Genesis 12   7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD…8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel…there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Also, Genesis 26:25 “So he (Isaac) built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD…” The point is that Jacob is being very careful in making sure that he did not make the same mistakes as his ancestors made and he did everything according to God’s will.

Now, you would think that as long as YOU do your best to follow God, everything would be just fine. No. Two things Jacob failed to take into account: First, when God called him, he did not tell him to go only as far as Shechem. Listen to Genesis 31:13 “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.” Stopping at Shechem was partial obedience and partial obedience is still full disobedience. Second, Jacob did not taken into account that his kids were not little anymore. They’re growing up with a mind of their own and they’re about to make some very poor choices. Listen to what happens in Genesis 34   1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. I looked at this infinitive phrase “to see the daughters of the land” in the original language and the better translation should be “to be seen among the women of the city.” A more idiomatic translation would be “to hangout with the young women of the city.” Why did Jacob allow this? Maybe, it was because he sent her to pick something up from the market. Maybe, it was because she was the only girl among all the children and he felt that she could use some friends. Maybe, it was because he didn’t know and she got permission from her mother Leah. Nonetheless, Dinah started hanging out with the girls of Shechem.

Here’s an old idiom – “If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.” Meaning: If you hang around with people who don’t believe like you do or live the same convictions as you do, sooner or later you’ll start believing and living as they do. You may say, “I’m trying to witness to them.” That’s great but unless you are actively leading them to Christ, they are subtly pulling you away from Christ. There’s no static middle ground.

What happened next? 2 “And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her.” Some people immediately think that Shechem raped Dinah. That’s not true. The Hebrew construction actually means that he took her, lay with her, and shamed her. In other words, this was a consensual act but it ended up making Dinah look bad. Four thousand years later, not much has changed – “A boy does something wrong and he’s called a ladies man but if a girl does the same thing, she’s called a tramp.” Let’s keep reading – 3 His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.” In other words, this could have a good ending after all.

Now word gets back to Jacob5 “And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter.” It is interesting here that the narrator does not tell us as to Jacob’s reaction to the incident. Was he mad? Was he sad? Was he glad? Was he shocked? Was he disappointed? Was he indifferent? Nothing is mentioned here. I believe if anything, he is worried. Any reaction on his part, good or bad, could cause his grown sons to react badly. If he acts as if it’s no big deal, then they would be angry with him. If he acts as if it’s a big deal, then they will take that as a signal to get revenge. In Jacob’s mind, all that could be done now was to keep calm and try to make the best of this situation.

Application: Some of you are angry with your parents for something they did or didn’t do in a situation. Here’s my word to you – “You’ll never truly understand what they had to face. They did the best they could under the circumstances. Show them grace.”

What’s next? The brothers find out and they’re shocked, hurt, and angry. Hamor, the guy’s father, comes over to talk to Jacob and offers a marriage proposal. He even removes all restrictions to trade, business, and purchase of land. “After all, we’ll be family.” The boy is at the meeting as well. Listen to him – 11 Then Shechem said to her father and her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 Ask me ever so much dowry and gift, and I will give according to what you say to me; but give me the young woman as a wife.” He’s in love all right. Now listen to the response, not from Jacob but from his sons, Dinah’s brothers – 13 But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. 14 And they said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a reproach to us.” To cut to the chase, every male in your city has to be circumcised. The Bible does not tell us if Jacob was at this meeting or not. Either way, Jacob must have heard about the deal. He is a master deceiver and he knows what’s going on. His sons are making a wicked plan. If the people of Shechem refuse, his sons will take revenge on them for hurting their sister. If they accept…surely not every male in the city would agree to this…

Long story short – Shechem and his father went home and told the people of the deal and they all agreed to be circumcised! Go figure! 25 Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. I don’t think it was just those two brothers by themselves. More than likely, they took the lead and some of the other brothers followed, as well as all their workers. Furthermore, this is not the twenty-first century with all the sterilizations and proper medications. More than likely, there were plenty of infections and fever. That’s why they strategically waited till the third day when the pain would be at its worst. 26 And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house…27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. 28 They took their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field, 29 and all their wealth. All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses.

Word got back to Jacob of what they had done. Listen to Jacob’s reaction – 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious (lit. to stink) among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.” Previously, Jacob was afraid of Esau and his 400 men. Now, it is the entire nations of the Canaanites and the Perizzites! Furthermore, the word would travel to Esau of what Jacob and his sons had done and Esau would hate him again. But listen to the brothers – 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?” In other words, they don’t care about the consequences of their decisions. They wanted revenge and they got it. Jacob doesn’t say anything because there’s nothing left to say. His sons are now too old for timeout.

But listen to the very next verse – Genesis 35:1 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.” Meaning: It’s time to move. I didn’t call you here anyways.

Let me give you a few suggestions on what to do when your kids are too old for timeout:

  • Let them know that their actions were wrong
  • Don’t resent your kids. Forgive them
  • Reaffirm your love for them
  • Admit that you have made similar mistakes as well
  • Give them the opportunity to make things right
  • Trust God that he will finish what he has begun in their lives
  • Pray for them

Facing Old Foes by Pastor Abidan Shah

FACING OLD FOES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Facing Old FoesIntroduction: There have always been famous rivalries. In ancient times it was Athens vs. Sparta. In sports there are plenty of rivalries – Alabama vs. Auburn, Georgia vs. Georgia State, Duke vs. Chapel Hill. In soft drinks, Coke vs. Pepsi. There have been family rivalries like the Hatfields and the McCoys. But the worst kind is when it’s within the family. Sometimes our very flesh and blood can be our worst foes. This morning we will learn how to face old foes.

Genesis 32   6 Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7 So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed…9 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant…11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children.

Question: Who are you afraid to face? More specifically, who in your family are you afraid to face? What has happened between you and this person that the very mention of his/her name fills you with fear? The very thought of coming face-to-face with this person makes you sick to your stomach. It may not necessarily be a fear for your life but it’s a kind of a mental and emotional fear. Are you saved? Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” If you are saved, God can help you face this foe with power, love, and a sound mind.

Context of the Message: If you remember from last time, Jacob had enough of Uncle and Father-in-law Laban in Haran and he was headed back to his parent’s home with his wives and children. But coming home was complicated. He didn’t exactly leave on good terms. In fact, his last exit from home was more of an escape for his life. Twenty years had passed but his old foe Esau, his brother, was still there and, if I may add, stronger than ever. I’m sure Jacob had not forgotten Esau’s last words for him – “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Isaac, their father was still living but Rebekah, his mother, the one who always stood up for him and protected him, was dead. Jacob wanted to go home. He needed to go home. But, going home meant facing his brother whom he had deeply offended 20 years ago. As Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city…” This message will help us learn from Jacob how to face the old foe.

Let’s begin in Genesis 32   1 So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. If you remember, 20 years ago when Jacob was running for his life, he had a vision of a ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. So he woke up next morning and named the place Bethel, the house of God. Jacob was struggling with homesickness and God reminded Jacob that even though he was far away from the steps of his earthly home, he was always near to the steps of his heavenly home. In other words, when Jacob was away from his home, God gave him the key to his own heavenly home. But this time he calls the vision the “Camp of God.” Keep in mind that this camp was not like a tent in the woods. This was the base camp of the angelic army of God. Because Jacob was afraid for his life and family, God gave him a glimpse of his power and his presence all around him.

Application: What fear is plaguing you today? Jesus can meet you right where you are. He will replace your fear with his presence if you ask him. Have you done that?

Even after the vision of God’s army camp of angels around him, Jacob is still afraid of facing his brother Esau. So he begins to do several things to appease him. I’ve heard many messages condemning Jacob for his fear. Here’s the problem: The Bible never condemns him for doing what he did. What does he do? Genesis 32   3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 And he commanded them, saying, “Speak thus to my lord Esau, Several things are worth pointing out here: First, Jacob addresses Esau as “lord” or “master.” That does not mean “god.” It’s simply a designation of respect and honor. When it comes to facing an old foe in the family, watch how you address them. If you begin by calling them a name or treating them with disdain or reminding them of how you’re better than they are, it will only cause them to despise and resent you even more. Proverbs 15   1 A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

This is very hard for people today who are living in the social media world where every post, picture, and snap chat is meant to make our own self look better than we are.

What else did Jacob say? 5 “I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’” Jacob is offering gifts to appease his brother Esau. He is doing what Solomon tells us to do in Proverbs 12:14a “A gift in secret pacifies anger…” But the word still comes back to Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. 7 “So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed…” I would be afraid too because that was a sign of battle. So he divides up his livestock and the people into different groups, hoping that if Esau attacks one, the other may be able to get away. Here’s a question: Is Jacob failing to trust God by doing all this? Not really. He is doing all he can to protect the promise of God to his grandfather Abraham. How do we know? Listen again to his prayer in Genesis 32   11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, “I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” His prayer is focused on the promise of God.

Principle: Prayer is indispensable in times of crisis.

How does God answer Jacob’s prayer? Genesis 32:24 “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” How strange! Just when you’d think that God would send a cool breeze and give Jacob a good night sleep with dreams of angels protecting him and fighting for him, a stranger jumped on him and tried to pin him to the ground! This went on all night and when the stranger realized that he couldn’t win against him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it went out of joint.

What in the world is God doing? This stranger is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus. He’s wrestling with Jacob for several reasons. First, to test him and see if he still wants the blessing of being part of the promise of God to his grandfather Abraham. Jacob refusing to let go until the stranger blessed him proved that he still wanted it. Next, it was to break him. God knows that if Jacob went out there looking all big and bad, it would only aggravate Esau more and this time he would really kill him. What’s the outcome? Instead of making him strong, he made him weak. Why? Same reason that he made Paul weak in 2 Corinthians 12   7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. God way is through brokenness and weakness.

What was the result? Jacob is now sleep deprived, physically exhausted, and limping in incredible pain. 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip…Genesis 33:3 Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. You can see the silhouette of a truly broken man. What was Esau’s reaction? Genesis 33:4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. What a beautiful sight! He even refuses the gifts that Jacob had sent to him but Jacob insists and Esau reluctantly takes them. But when Esau offers to hang together, Jacob refuses because he knows that ultimately Esau was not on the same page as him.

Here are some suggestions in dealing with an old foe:

  • Trust God’s Presence
  • Show humility
  • Offer gifts
  • Pray
  • Be willing to be broken
  • Don’t compromise God’s plan for your life

Are you saved? Are you a foe of God? He is willing to reconcile with you

Resolving Family Conflict

RESOLVING FAMILY CONFLICT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Resolving Family Conflict

Introduction: Since we will be talking about conflict in the family, here are some funny memes that I’ve come across about the family:

  • “My family is temperamental, half temper and half mental.”
  • “Our family is just one tent away from a full blown circus.”
  • Mother to daughter – “You are going to be fine. You come from a strong line of lunatics.”
  • People: “Wow! Your family is nice.” Me: “Fools…You know nothing of the dark side.”
  • “My doctor asked if any members of my family suffered from insanity. I replied, ‘No, we all seem to enjoy it.’”
  • Every family has one weird relative. If you don’t know who it is, then it’s probably you.

There’s no drama like family drama. Having said that, family is still worth having. As you know, we’ve been studying the family of Abraham and Sarah through the Book of Genesis, looking at their good and bad decisions and the impact they had on later generations. This morning we come to the third generation, the family of Jacob and Rachel and Leah. We’re going to learn from them how to resolve family conflict.

Genesis 31   46 Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Galeed, 49 also Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. 50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!”

Question: Is there conflict in your family? Has some family member offended you? Has some family member been offended by you? Have things happened and words exchanged that have led to hurt feelings, anger, and broken relationships? Has the Holy Spirit been convicting your heart to make things right? Have you taken steps to reconcile? Are you saved? If you are, then do you know that as believers we have been given the ministry of reconciliation?

Context of the Message: If you remember from last time, Esau was angry with Jacob because, in his view, Jacob had cheated him off his birthright. Word began to spread that Esau was waiting for his father to die so he could kill his brother. When Rebecca, their mother, heard about it she called Jacob and listen to what she said to him – Genesis 27   43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. 44 And stay with him a few days, (Remember that, not few months or a year or 10 years, and definitely not 20 years!) until your brother’s fury turns away,” 45 “…then I will send and bring you from there.” The plan was for Jacob to stay only a few days with Uncle Laban. Why? Rebekah knew her brother. We’ll see what that means in a few moments. Let’s begin with reading what happened when Jacob got to uncle’s place.

Genesis 29   13 Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house…14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.”

Context: To a causal reader, this is no big deal – “Uncle is glad to see his nephew.” But there’s more intended here. To understand the true intent, you need to put on the glasses of Jewish or Hebrew humor every time there is an interaction between Uncle Laban and Nephew Jacob. They are constantly trying to one up on each other. Y’all remember the old cartoons “Spy versus Spy”? This is just like that.

Let’s read again – 14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” Translated: Poor nephew. You are in a safe place now. You are with Uncle Laban. Trust me. We’re family. I’ll take care of you. “And he stayed with him for a month.”

Principle: Extended stays usually end up in unnecessary strife. Love grows at a distance and it shrivels up close.

Now begins the Spy vs Spy Story:

It begins with Laban – Genesis 29:15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” If I were Jacob, my response to him would be “Am I working for you? Did I say, ‘I need a job.’” It’s sneaky what Laban is doing. He is restructuring the relationship from family to employee. He also knows that Jacob seems to be attracted to Rachel, his younger daughter. In a round about way he is trying to strike a deal with Jacob. He is trying to get Jacob to go to work for him.

Jacob is eager to strike a deal – Genesis 29   18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.” Jacob is in love. The average bride price was 30-40 shekels back then. Jacob was probably paid a shekel a month. He’s working for twice the amount required! 19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

Laban gets one up on JacobGenesis 29    22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob…25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. You would think a man would know if he had the wrong woman on the wedding night. Apparently not! Maybe it was the lack of any lights in the tent. Maybe she had a veil.

Listen to Jacob’s response – Genesis 29   25 “…And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?’” He’s upset! I would be too!

For e.g. When I was in seminary, many years ago, a family member sold us his car. In about a month or so, the antifreeze leaked out and the engines locked up. Needless to say, the car had to be totaled. Nicole remembers how mad I was with this person.

What is Laban’s response? Genesis 29   26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.” 28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. Laban is quite the wheeler and the dealer. He locks Jacob into a 14-year contract now. Apparently, he had no problem with men having multiple wives. This was not Jacob’s idea.

It’s been 14 years now. Jacob is tired of Uncle Laban. After Rachel had Joseph, he came to Laban and said in Genesis 30   25 “…Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.” 27 And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.” 28 Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” Jacob is not falling for it this time. 29 So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. 30 For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?” Meaning: It’s time for me to work for myself.

Now its Jacob’s turn to get back at Uncle Laban for tricking him with Rachel – Genesis 30   31 So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: 32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. Jacob makes a proposition to Laban. Let all the speckled and spotted animals be mine. In other words, all the abnormal ones are mine. You get to keep all the one-colored normal ones. Laban liked that. That’s about 20% of the one-colored Awassi fa-tailed sheep and black goats. He took the irregular abnormal ones of Jacob and left them with his sons. He let Jacob take care of the one-colored animals. Now, Jacob does something that is very odd and mysterious. He takes those one-colored normal animals of Laban and exposes them to shoots of various trees. Some call this ancient science and some call it genetic engineering. Either way, Jacob was pretty smart. Somehow he knew the difference between genotype and phenotype. Genotype is your genetic identity, your personal genome. It’s in you but we can’t see it. Phenotype is your actual physical features, your visible characteristics. It’s not hidden in you. You can actually see it. Jacob knew that even though the sheep and goats were all white on the surface, they still carried the genetic code for the speckled and spotted variety. According to the law of heredity, he crossed the heterozygotes among themselves and in turn he had more and more of his share than Laban’s. Smart guy! What’s the result? Genesis 30   42 But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. 43 Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

Six years later Laban got word of what Jacob had done to him. Needless to say, he’s mad! Jacob hears about and he calls the two sisters, his wives together and tells them in Genesis 31   6 “And you know that with all my might I have served your father. 7 Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.” Now listen to the response of Jacob’s wives, Laban’s daughters – Genesis 31   14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money. 16 For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children’s; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it.” I can imagine that Jacob is relieved that both Rachel and Leah are with him on the matter.

It’s not over yet. Genesis 31:19 “Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s.” Why??? Maybe she still believed in those false gods. Maybe it was to guaranty her inheritance. Maybe it was to give her right to be head of the family unit. Maybe they represented deceased ancestors. Honestly, who knows! Later it will have some horrible repercussion on the people of Israel. They will worship these gods…

Back to Laban – Three days later he hears about it. He pursues them. God warns him in a dream not to harm Jacob and his family. He finally catches up. Listen to what he says in Gen. 31:26   And Laban said to Jacob: “What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword? 27 Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? 28 And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing…30 “…why did you steal my gods?” Jacob tells him to kill the person who has his gods. Laban searches through Jacob’s tent, Leah’s tent, Rachel’s tent, the two maidservants tents, and nothing. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.” And he searched but did not find the household idols.

Listen to Jacob’s self-righteous response in Genesis 31   36 Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Jacob has no clue that Rachel, his lovely wife is the culprit! Then you know they built the altar and called it Mizpah.

What a mess! Let me give you a few suggestions in resolving family conflict.

  • Keep your sense of humor.
  • Lower your expectation.
  • Don’t allow bitterness to control your life.
  • Learn to get along.
  • Don’t let family come between you and God’s plan for your life.
  • Be Christlike in everything.

Are you saved? Is their strife in your family? How about doing what you can to reconcile? Are you letting your family keep you from following God?

Train Up a Child by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRAIN UP A CHILD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Train up a Child

Introduction: Potty training can be a nightmare. We have four kids and I’d rather not tell you which one was a nightmare. One of them we really thought was going to go through high school in pull-ups! Very stubborn! This one would find new ways to hide from us. I remember Nicole would be in tears. Thank goodness when they finally got it! The best day of my life, probably next to the day I got saved and got married! I’m sure you would agree that when it comes to our kids, potty training is just the beginning. They need life training. Today’s message in our series on the family is titled, “TRAIN UP A CHILD.”

Genesis 25   21 Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived…24 So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob…27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Question: Do you believe that children can be trained and should be trained? Do you believe what the Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it”? Are you doing all you can to train your children in the way they should go? Do you know the right way? Are you walking in the right way? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Are you saved?

Context of the Message: In this series, we’ve been studying the family of Abraham and Sarah through the Book of Genesis, looking at their good and bad decisions and the impact they had on the third, fourth, and even later generations. Now we come to the second generation, the family of Isaac and Rebecca. We’re going to learn from them not only how “to” train up a child but also how “not to” train up a child.

As we just read, Isaac prayed for his wife Rebekah to get pregnant and she did but then something began to happen. Listen to verse 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 And the LORD said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” What’s going on here? 2 things. First, God’s plan of salvation was in motion. Paul explains in Romans 9  11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” God had chosen the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring his plan of salvation into the world. Even in the womb, Jacob was positioning himself to be the dominant one, according to God’s sovereign will and purpose. Don’t misunderstand: This choice/election was not unto salvation but unto service to bring Jesus into this world. Now, if you think that is unfair, think about what the Hebrews, the people of Israel, and the Jewish people endured through the centuries because of God’s sovereign choice.

Second, some of the children’s personalities were being manifested even before they were born. Listen again to 25 “And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. The older one was red and hairy, kind of wild looking. The word for “hairy” in Hebrew is “sear.” So, he is named “Esau,” a wild man. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob.” The younger one came out clutching his brother’s heel, “aqeb,” and is named Jacob, a grasper. Here’s the point: Even before they were born, one was wild and the other was trying to be the leader and they couldn’t get along.

Principle: Kids don’t enter this world as a blank slate. They come with certain personality traits, some good and some not so good. Where do they get these personality traits? From God, of course, but also through the unique combinations from your family tree. For e.g. Have you ever seen one of your kids do something that reminded you of some family member who died even before they were born or someone who is living they’ve never met? One time Nicole noticed one of our kids walking around with their hands behind their back and she said – “Look! Who does that remind you of?!” Sure enough it reminded me of my dad and this child had never met my parents at that time!

Application: Kids have certain personality traits even before they come into this world, some good and some not. Get to know each of them individually. Once you see their bent, pray and seek God’s grace and wisdom to train them in the way they should go.

The rest of their personality traits come from the environment in which they live. Listen to Genesis 25:28 again, “And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” Many of us would agree that right there is one big way not to train up a child – “Don’t play favorites.” In psychology, the technical term is “differential parenting.” Unfortunately, parents do that a lot and I’m sure you would agree that it causes a lot of problems to the child who gets neglected. Why did Isaac favor Esau? The Bible says because he ate of his game. The English translation takes away the force of the original wording. In Hebrew the actual wording is “because game was in his mouth.” Meaning: The reason Isaac favored Esau was not because he was proud of his son’s hunting skills. Instead, Isaac must have been a hunter in his early days but now he could not get out there to track, kill, or clean the animal. Esau was a means to an end. Maybe Isaac is the reason Esau became a man of the field.

A Word to Parents: Nothing wrong with desiring your kids to be successful in academics, athletics, or business. But, don’t do it in order to live vicariously through them. Meaning: Your motives should not be to relive the glory days through your children. Your kids know that and so do people around you. It does more harm than good. By the way, it even negatively affects the kids you are favoring. Couple of years ago, the journal of Child Development had an article by Dr. Jennifer Jenkins, professor of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto, who researched hundreds of families and found that even the child who was favored struggled with uneasiness over the unfairness they witnessed in their parent. Some of them actually became quite antisocial. Favoritism is detrimental to the whole family, not just the neglected child.

Application: Have you been playing favorites with a child? If so, you need to seek the forgiveness of the neglected child. Have you been living vicariously through your children? You need to end that and seek God’s will for their lives. It may even be essential to seek the forgiveness of the child you have favored.

Why did Rebekah love Jacob? People have misunderstood what’s going on here. They think that each parent had picked their favorites. Isaac picked Esau and Rebekah picked Jacob. They tend to place both Isaac and Rebekah under the same guilt of “differential parenting.” Not true. If you read it properly, the Bible points the finger of guilt only towards Isaac and not towards Rebekah. If you notice, unlike a reason given for Isaac’s love for Esau, there’s no such reason given for Rebekah’s love for Jacob. Isaac is guilty not just for picking Esau to satisfy his taste buds but also for neglecting Jacob. Maybe Jacob was too soft and naïve for him. In other words, it’s not that Rebekah sided with Jacob but that she saw Jacob being neglected, saw his spiritual bent and gave him the spiritual encouragement he needed.

How do we know that Jacob had a spiritual bent? In the very next verse we hear of a very odd event. Genesis 25   29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. The Hebrew word for weary is actually “hayep” which could actually be translated “starving.” It’s a snickers commercial moment – “You are not you when you’re hungry.” 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” The actual wording in Hebrew is “Let me swallow, please, some of that red stuff, for I am starving.” Then it says, “Therefore his name was called Edom.” Again, the emphasis is on redness. In ancient times, red or reddish brown was considered to be heroic. The point is that Esau was geared towards earthly awards and approvals. Isaac should have done something about this but he didn’t. 31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” What was so special about his birthright? Whoever had the birthright would be part of God’s promise to Abraham of being a blessing to the world. Jacob wanted to be part of God’s plan of redemption through Jesus. 33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. By the way, this was only half of what Jacob needed to be part of God’s plan of redemption. He had the “bekora” but he also needed the “baraka,” the blessing. Later, Rebekah helped Jacob trick his father by wearing Esau’s clothes and covering his hands and necks with goat’s hair. The Bible never condemned Jacob for doing that. Why? Because Jacob had the heart for the birthright. If it were left up to Isaac, he would have blessed Esau and really complicated God’s plan of redemption.

What happened to Esau? Hebrews 12:17-18 “…Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.” Isaac is to be blamed for this.

Who is responsible to train your children? You are. Here are a couple of principles:

  • Understand your child’s bent
  • Don’t play favorites
  • Encourage those with a spiritual bent
  • Generate spiritual bent in those who don’t
  • Ultimately, lead your children to Christ

Illustration: On this Mother’s Day, I think of Susanna Wesley. She married an Anglican minister by the name of Samuel. They hardly got along on anything. He couldn’t manage their finances and they were constantly indebt. They had 19 children. Ten of them died in infancy. One was crippled and another couldn’t talk until the age of six. Susanna was sick a lot. Once Samuel was even locked up for the debt. Twice their home burned down. Some say that it was probably by church members who were angry with Samuel over his messages. She tried to spend two hours a day in prayer. This was very hard to do with all the kids. So she would pull her apron over her head and pray. The kids knew not to disturb her then. Two of her sons – John Wesley and Charles Wesley became the founders of the Methodist Church.

Are you training your kids in the way they should go? Are you walking in the way you should? Are you saved?

Keeping Your Kids Out of Hell by Pastor Abidan Shah

KEEPING YOUR KIDS OUT OF HELL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Keeping Your Kids Out of HellIntroduction: Two years ago I preached a revival at Mt. Olivet UMC in Manteo, same church where Andy Griffith was a member. After the last night of revival, I decided to head back home. The pastor of the church tried to talk me out of leaving because there was snow in the forecast but I thought that I could beat it. I bought a large cup of coffee. The boys were with me and I set them up with their movies. It would be 12-1 at night when we got home, no big deal. Five minutes into the trip I realized – Big deal! Sleet, heavy snow, and my truck started skidding on that icy bridge. I couldn’t see past 5 feet in front of me. The bad part was that I was on a 3-mile long narrow bridge called the Alligator River Bridge! I’m sure there’s a reason why they call it that! I was so angry at my self – “What were you thinking?! Why didn’t you listen?!” I remember telling the boys, “I am so sorry” and I asked them to start praying. We finally made it off the bridge but it got worse. Now I was on the most desolate stretch of Highway 64 with swampland on either side and I couldn’t pull over. Also, I remember seeing a sign coming in like “Don’t disturb or feed the bears.” Some of you might say – “Oh bears are usually hibernating in the winter.” Not if you run into them with a truck! Have you seen “Open Season”?! By the way, isn’t it amazing that when you really need cellphone, there’s no service. Finally, I was able to call the pastor and he was able to get in touch with one of his pastor friends in Columbia or this could have gone really badly. The point is this – the fault was with me, not my boys. I led them into a situation that could have ended very badly. As bad as that was, it is much worse when parents lead their children towards hell. Today’s sermon on the family is titled – “KEEPING YOUR KIDS OUT OF HELL.”

Genesis 19   12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! 13 For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law…and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.

Few questions: If you are a parent or a grandparent, how are you leading your children? Or how have you led your children? Are you serious about their eternal future? Are you doing all you can lead them to Christ? Do you know Christ as Savior? Are you saved?

As you know, we’re studying the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis and in this message we’re going to learn how they kept their kids out of hell. In order to get the right perspective, we’ll have to begin with Genesis 12:4 “So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him.” Lot was Abraham’s nephew. As I mentioned in the previous messages, I believe that Lot attached himself to Abraham in Haran, maybe because his own father had died earlier. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, unlike Abraham who got a call from God, there’s no mention of such a call in Lot’s life. This does not mean that he wasn’t saved. It only means that he was not ready to go further with God. But when he saw his uncle breaking camp, he decided to join the caravan. Everywhere Abraham went, Lot went with him and, every time God blessed Abraham, Lot managed to get in on the blessing. Bottom line: Lot was a coattail hanger. Who is a coattail hanger? This is a person who comes into your life and attaches himself or herself to you. They go where you go but they’re not where you are. They talk like you talk but they’re only copying you. They may even show some external improvements but they don’t have the same internal values and convictions. They simply hang on to your proverbial coattails.

Principle: Beware of coattail hangers. They have the potential to get you off course. You won’t see their true colors until you face some crisis together.

Question: Do you have a coattail hanger in your life? Are you a coattail hanger?

Let’s return to our account: Both Abraham and Lot’s livestock kept growing and there was a conflict between their herdsmen. So Abraham approached Lot and reminded him that they were family and there was no need to fight. Instead, he told Lot to pick the land he wanted first. Why did Abraham do that? Was it because he was a humble, peace loving, or generous man? It was much more than that. Listen to Hebrews 11   9 “By faith he (Abraham) dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents…10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Don’t misunderstand this. It does not mean that Abraham was a nomad, a Bedouin, who was content with wandering from place to place. It does not mean that Abraham was an idealist, who was looking for some magical city in the sky. What it means is that he wanted to be the citizen of a city of which God was the Founder and the Mayor. It means that he wanted to build his home and raise his children in a city whose vision and values were directed by God. Until he found that city, he was willing to live in tents. Again, please don’t misunderstand this. This does not mean that Abraham had the bumper sticker “Tent Life” on the backside of all his camels. What it means is that Abraham refused to submit to the sinful culture in which he lived.

Let me clarify: In this life, you’ll have to live in a city and buy or build a home. You will have to be involved in the world around you. You may have to send your kids to schools and colleges where you live. Nothing is wrong with that. Sometime people think that to follow God you need to get into communes or get into some time warp from 200-300 years ago. Not only is that odd but it goes directly against Jesus’ command to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We’re not to isolate ourselves from the world but to influence the world with the gospel. But there is a third category of people – they are those who instead of influencing the world get assimilated into the world. They are sucked into the temptations and lures of the world.

Question: Which one are you? Are you isolated from the world? Are you influencing the world? Are you assimilating or assimilated into the world?

Abraham was not an isolationist but an influencer but how about Lot? 10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan…” That statement reminds me of Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” So also 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” What did Lot see? 10 (He) saw all the plain of Jordan that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.” Keep in mind that much more than the foliage and terrain is in view here. When Lot had followed Abraham into Egypt, he was so impressed and dazzled by the land and the culture that he never got over it. He longed to be in a place like Egypt! 11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. What Lot didn’t realize is that by journeying towards Jordan he was exing himself out of God’s promise.

Principle: As a pastor for about 18 years I have seen people choose the greener grass, thinking that it would make them happy. They think it would be so much better for their children and their future. What they don’t realize is in the process they ex themselves out of God’s promise of protection and direction.

But that’s not the worst. 12 “…and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. I think Lot saw in Sodom what he had seen in Egypt. It was a perfect place to be except for one problem – 13 “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” What was so bad about Sodom? Later you will see that this city became synonymous with homosexuality. Sometimes people say that homosexuality is a sin like any other sin. What’s the big deal? It’s a big deal to God. Romans 1 warns us that it is the last step on the way down. It’s the point at which God finally gives people over to their debased minds to destroy themselves completely. Why? We are made in the image of God. We are a copy of God. For a man to say he is a woman or for a woman to say she is a man is to say that the copy is faulty which implies that the original is faulty.

What’s the result? By the next chapter Genesis 14:12 Lot has become a citizen of Sodom. In Genesis 18 & 19 we hear that God himself came down (the pre-incarnate Christ) with two of his angels. It’s time for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But because of Abraham’s pleading with God, He instructed his angels to go in and rescue Lot and his family from Sodom. It is so bad in Sodom that the men of the city even came to gang rape the angels. After striking those evil men with blindness, listen to what they told Lot in Genesis 19   12 “…Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! 13 For we will destroy this place…” What was the response? His son-in-laws laughed at him. They thought he was joking. Their wives (his daughters) probably laughed as well. As to sons, I believe that they were too far-gone. The only ones he could rescue were his wife and his two virgin (unmarried) daughters. Listen to verse 16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. I wish I could say, “then they lived happily ever after.” Lot begged the angels not to make him escape into the mountains but to stay in a small city nearby. But because he didn’t go far enough, he even lost his wife because she looked behind him and turned into a pillar of salt. Then you know how his daughters got him drunk and slept with him, giving birth to the Moabites and the Ammonites who were a thorn in the side of the people of God.

Principle: Many times people make decisions based on their material eyesight. They see something alluring and exciting and they go for it without any regard to what this would mean for the future of their marriage and children.

You want to keep your kids out of hell?

  • Stop being a coattail hanger
  • Lead them to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God
  • Do whatever you can to keep them from Sodom
  • Be warned that there will be a fight
  • Stop lingering and negotiating with God

I knew of a family growing up who did the very same thing and lost it all.

Are you saved? Are you doing all you can to keep your kids out of hell

Skeletons in the Family Closet by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming a Chain Breaker by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The first Chain Breaker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The reason for the move.

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

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

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

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

  1. The warning to the Chain Breaker.

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

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

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

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

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

In order to be a chain breaker:

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

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

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

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

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