WHY WE LOVE OUR COMMUNITY? Newspaper Article by Abidan Paul Shah

WHY WE LOVE OUR COMMUNITY? Newspaper Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on June 6, 2015)

Why we love our community“Embarrassed of my hometown…” “Not what it used to be…” “Not surprised…” “Wish I could move…” These were some of the reactions to a recent crime report analysis circulating on Facebook. Actually, these were some of the nicer comments. Others were too crude to be mentioned here. Why are some people so quick to trash their community? It seems that they get some strange pleasure in mocking it and talking down about it. Instead of coming to her aid, they join the assailants. They’re like that person who sees an arsonist dousing his home with kerosene and offers him a match! Such people live somewhere at the intersection of Nostalgia Avenue and Bad Experience.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not naïve or oblivious to our problems. Nicole and I have raised our four children in this community for over 17 years and we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. But, as the adage goes, “All that glitters is not gold,” we have come to realize that there is no perfect world. What are ranked as the ideal places to live have their fair share of problems as well. Unfortunately, the average person only looks for their town ranking. They don’t stop to consider population dynamics, high crime areas, and latest annual crime reports, which are not properly factored in many of the raw data analyses.

Our community definitely has its problems but it desperately needs our love. Here are some reasons why we love our community:

  1. Our children call it their home. They’ve had a positive experience growing up with wonderful friends and neighbors. At the same time, they haven’t been sheltered from the problems plaguing our sin-sick world. Our community has given them a balanced view of life and reality. No matter where God takes them, they will neither be shocked nor disappointed but will become productive and contributing members of their community.
  2. We have a wonderful unity in diversity. I’m sure there are plenty of stories of crime and bad experiences but I dare say that there are plenty more stories of friendships and positive experiences. When we make the effort to go beyond skin pigmentation and get to know one another, we find that we have the same needs and pains, hopes and dreams. As Americans we also have a common biblical culture and values. Our community can be a good model of living in true harmony.
  3. Our community has plenty of opportunities to show compassion. Like the parable of the Good Samaritan, we daily come across people in physical and moral suffering. We can either skirt around them like the self-righteous priest and Levite or we can bandage their wounds and demonstrate the selfless love of Christ. Could it be that God has placed hurting people in our community because He knows that we will do something to help them?
  4. We have some wonderful law enforcement officials. Daily they put themselves in harm’s way to ensure our security. To dis our community is to dishonor their sacrifice and dedication. When we acknowledge the positive difference they are making, we empower them to be God’s minster for good. Recently a friend shared with me that some of our men and women in uniform have the words “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” etched somewhere on their belonging.
  5. God has His hand on our community. It has faced incredible odds (Yes – I have read the book and even have a copy of it) but it is still standing. It goes to show that if God is for our community, then no amount of ranking will be against us. Our best days are ahead!

PRAYER IN THE HOME

PRAYER IN THE HOME by Pastor Shah, Clearview Henderson

Prayer in Homes

This morning, in honor of Mother’s Day, I am preaching a simple message titled – “PRAYER IN THE HOME.” There is no such thing as a perfect home – a place where no one does wrong and there are no problems. Every home has its problems and failures. But there is such a thing as a praying home – a place where people believe in the power of prayer and they actually pray. If there’s one thing I remember about our home growing up is that it was a praying home not a perfect home.

1 Samuel 1:1-2, 7, 9-11 1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children…10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

Overall Background: The passage we just read is about a family that was far from perfect. The head of the household was a man by the name of Elkanah. He was a Levite. He belonged to the tribe that had been designated by God to assist the priests in the Tabernacle at Shiloh and later at the temple in Jerusalem. At first glance Elkanah seems to be a godly man. Listen to verse 3 This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. But there’s a problem. Listen to verse 2, And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Even though the Law did not prohibit bigamy, it was understood that you should have only one wife. Why did Elkanah do that? Listen to the rest of verse 2, Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children…The Bible does not give us the reason. Maybe Hannah was his first wife and because she could not have children, Elkanah decided to marry again.

How did all this affect Hannah? Listen to verse 6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb. Can you imagine how miserable that home was? Listen to verse 7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat…. There was constant taunting and bickering and fighting.

How did Elkanah handle all this? 8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” My response: “Seriously?!! You have another woman in the house and she is taunting your wife. It’s a mess. Obviously, you don’t get it?” Here’s an important principle: “You can get so far away from the things of God that common sense becomes uncommon.” You are so unfamiliar with the ways of God that wrong is right and right is wrong.

All Hannah could do was turn to God in prayer and I was to learn from her prayer this morning.

I. SHE PRAYED FROM THE HEART.

9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Everyone was eating except Hannah PrayingHannah. Keep in mind Elkanah had asked her “Why do you not eat?” This means she was fasting. Let me remind you again that there is great value in fasting. Fasting is not about trying to lose weight. It is about telling God that you are serious about a need in your life – serious enough to set aside food and dedicate that time to God in prayer.

10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.This was no rote prayer or ritualistic prayer. This was coming from the heart. If you have trouble praying, remember – “Three words said from a believing heart are worth more than ten thousand said from an unbelieving head.”

II. SHE PRAYED VERY SPECIFICALLY.

Listen to verse 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child…” She prayed to a definite God She addresses Him as the “Lord of hosts” = God of the angelic armies. She prayed for a definite purpose. Many of our prayers fail because there is no clear goal behind them. We assume that God knows what’s best and He will just give it to us. I prayed for Nicole and I got her. Someone might say – “What if I don’t get the answer?” Maybe, God wants to either prepare you to receive the answer or He wants to refine your prayer.

III. SHE PRAYED SACRIFICIALLY.

Listen again to verse 11 –If You “will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” She makes it clear that she is not asking for a child to make her happy or to make Elkanah proud of her or to have someone who will take care of her in her old age. She wants to dedicate this child to the work of the Lord. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” But, there’s more here. She wants to dedicate this child “all the days of his life.” Keep in mind; the Levites were consecrated to the service of the Tabernacle between the ages of thirty and fifty. That’s not enough for Hannah. She vows that, “no razor shall come upon his head.” When was the last time you prayed a sacrificial prayer?

IV. SHE PRAYED PERSEVERINGLY.

Listen to verse 12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth. 13 No w Hannah spoke in her heart; (In the east when people prayed, they spoke out their prayer. To pray in your heart means she was spiritually mature.) only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” When you pray, there will be people in your life who will not understand your burden. They will not be able to sympathize with you. They will accuse you of being a hypocrite and do everything they can to discourage you. Keep persevering in prayer. Listen to verse 15 But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.” I challenge and encourage you today not to give up in prayer.

V. SHE PRAYED BELIEVINGLY.

Listen to verse 17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” 18 And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and herface was no longer sad. Many people pray but they do not believe that God will answer their prayers. In other words, faith is missing. Listen to Jesus in Mark 11 22   So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.1. She prayed from the heart. 2. She prayed very specifically. 3. She prayed sacrificially. 4. She prayed perseveringly.

Application: How is your prayer life? Are their needs and desires in your life? Have you put them through this outline before?

WHAT WAS THE RESULT OF HANNAH’S PRAYER?

#1. Her prayer was answered.

20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.” In Hebrew “sama” means “heard and “el” is “Elohim” – the name for God.

#2. She kept her word to the Lord.

Samuel Dedicated by Hannah at the Temple by Frank W.W. TophamTrue to her word, 1Sam. 1 24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the LORD. 27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there.

#3. God used the little boy in a powerful way.

The Nation of Israel was in disrepair. The old order of the judges (Samson, Gideon, and Deborah) was dying out. From every direction the enemy nations were getting stronger. The only leaders over them were the priests but they could not do much. Plus, they were corrupt. They needed a king. Guess whom God used to set up the new order? Samuel.

–       This is the Samuel who went up and down the length and breadth of Israel to unite the people.

–       This is the Samuel who anointed Saul as the first king.

–       This is the Samuel who replaced Saul with David – the true King. Through that line came Jesus—the son of David—whose kingdom will never end.

All because one young woman suffered and pleaded with the Lord and kept her word to the Lord.

Application: Where is prayer in your life? Where is God in your life? Where is Jesus in your life?

You may say to me – “You don’t understand what I’ve been through in my life.” All I can say to you is what David said in Psalms 34:18 “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart.” Also, listen to God’s promise to those who hurt in Isaiah 61:7 “Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.” That’s God’s promise to you if you are willing to bring your bad experiences and your pain to Him.

“You cannot control the circumstances that you were born into but you can control the direction that you are heading into.

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 5)

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (part 5) by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

How to behave this Christmas seasonThis is our last message in our mini series from the Book of Romans titled – HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON. Many of you shared with me how much you appreciated the past 4 messages, especially during Christmas – a time of stress, frustration, and discouragement. I don’t think Paul had Christmas in mind when he penned these words but they definitely fit.

Romans 12:9-13  9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;  11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;  13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Overall Background: We come to the last line of that section – 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. This passage is about “How to Have the Right Spirit of Hospitality.” The word “hospitality” has a very strange history. It is connected to the Latin words hospes, from which we get words like “hospice” and “hospital” and hostis, from which we get the word “host” – the owner of the house. Amazingly, it is also connected with words like hostile – which could mean a stranger or enemy or army. That’s why you hear about the “Lord of hosts” = “Lord of Angelic Armies.” That’s why you also hear about the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Bottom Line: The word hospitality has a good and bad connotation in the past.

Why did I bring all that up? Because hospitality can be good and bad. If it’s good, it can be a refuge for the guests, the weary and worn in our homes and church. If it’s bad, it can be hostile and feel like the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

This morning, we will look at hospitality from the Bible as it applies in the context of our homes and our church? This is a very essential message. 3 things we will see here.

I. HOSPITALITY IS A CHRISTIAN GRACE.

given to hospitality. Meaning: By nature we are hospitable to all.

Background: Ancient cultures were big on showing hospitality to each other but it was a different story when it came to a stranger or an enemy. In Viking culture – if you happened to be in a friendly territory, you would get food, shelter, and protection. But if you didn’t know them well, watch your back. In Arab history, the greeting Salam (peace) had to be responded quickly with “peace back to you.” Meaning: “We’re good. Don’t wanna fight.” Live and let live. Not much hospitality there.

Here’s a glimpse of what most cultures were like – Romans 1:29-31 (As I read this section, imagine if you had to visit or stay overnight with people like this.) 29“being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,  31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful.” They had no sense of hospitality. If I had to stay with someone like this, I would not blink all night. You never know when they would stab you in your sleep.

Contrary to this what did Christianity say? Hebrews 13:2-3  2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Remember in the Old Testament when God came with two angels to visit Abraham and Sarah, Genesis 18 tells us that “when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground,  3 and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant.  4 Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.  5 And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it.  8 So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.”

After that, those angels went down to Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 19 tells us that even though Lot treated them with hospitality, before they could lay down, “the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house.  5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” They wanted to sexually rape them. That’s where we get the word “sodomy.” While Lot pleaded with them, they even tried to break down the doors.

Godly person cannot help but be hospitable to all. Sadly, the further we get from Christianity in our culture, the less we are hospitable. We become hostile. Sadly, the same attitude has come in among Christians.

For e.g. Growing up we constantly had missionaries in our home from America, Sweden, Germany, England, and Philippines. We had an American missionary who ate with us for over 10 years, almost every day for lunch. He would read to me and talk to me.

For e.g. Nowadays, its like the commercial – someone says “Dinner time!” and everybody runs to the van.

Someone might say – “Its easy to clean up.” It’s not about the work or the food. It’s about drawing close to one another.

We need to have this spirit of hospitality. The early church was known for their hospitality. Acts 2:46   So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,  47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Hospitality had a part to play in the growth of the church.

Application: Do you open the doors of your home to others? Do you participate in the hospitality at church?

II. HOSPITALITY HAS TO BE GUARDED.

Listen to how Paul brings up the subject – distributing to the needs of the saints

He refers to others as saints – not sinners or burdens or headaches. Meaning: It’s a privilege to serve others.

Hospitality can very easily go from serving others to cooking food. We can go from ministering to each other to getting it done and cleaned up as quickly as possible.

Did you know that the first church conflict took place over food? Acts 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.  2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.  3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;  4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Later on it happened again in the church in Corinth at the Love Feast – I Corinthians 11:20-22  20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.  21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.  22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

Most church conflicts don’t happen over doctrine and theology but food. It’s the debased mind getting into the church. Don’t be jumping in front of each other. Don’t bring your bad attitude in church.

For e.g. Like the guy who is having a lunch break with his buddy and opens up his lunch pail and bites into the sandwich. “Oh no! A baloney sandwich! Again! Everyday I get a baloney sandwich! I hate it!” His friend says – “Relax, take it easy. Just tell your wife tonight not to do that.” He replies – “Leave my wife out of it! I make my own sandwiches…”

Application: How do you see each other? At home and church. Do you see the other person as a saint or as a burden?

III. HOSPITALITY IS ULTIMATELY UNTO GOD.

Do you remember what it says just 2 verses earlier in verse 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

When we take our eyes off the Lord, we can miss the blessing in hospitality.

James Tissot-The Meal in the house of the phariseeIn Luke 7, Jesus was invited to the home of Simon the Pharisee. This was the same place where the woman came with thealabaster flask and washed Jesus’s feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Then, she proceeded to anoint his feet with fragrant oil. When Simon questioned Jesus’s integrity, Jesus responded to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

Contrast this with Luke 19, Jesus came to the place where Zacchaeus was in the sycamore tree and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” How did he respond? “So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.” What was the result? 8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The Light of the World - William Holman Hunt

What a difference! Simon had Jesus as a guest but he missed the blessing. Zacchaeus had Jesus as a guest andhe shared in the blessing.

The first question – Is Jesus welcome in your life?

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

William Holman Hunt painted “The Light of the World” with no handles on the outside to represent the “obstinately shut mind.”

%d bloggers like this: