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.

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?

The Blessing of Spiritual Vision

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THE BLESSING OF SPIRITUAL VISION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofspiritualvisionIntroduction: So glad all of you are here this morning and also glad to have all those who are joining us by radio! Thank you for tuning in! We’re back in our series called Salt and Light on the Sermon on the Mount and this morning we will be looking at the sixth beatitude in our message called – THE BLESSING OF SPIRITUAL VISION.

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Just when you think that you have a handle on these beatitudes, this one throws you for a loop. Think about this – As a Christian you can be poor in spirit and have the kingdom of heaven, mourn and be comforted by the Holy Spirit, meek and inherit the earth, hunger and thirst for righteousness and be satisfied, merciful and receive mercy but if your heart is impure, you’ll never see God. In other words, you can be stable emotionally, growing biblically, and acting mercifully but if you are living sinfully, then you will be blind spiritually. You can do a lot of things right as a Christian and even be a salt and light to the world but if there is sin in your life, then God will be hidden from you.

There are two words that have all but disappeared from Christian vocabulary. First is the three-letter word – Sin. We talk about everything from prayer, worship, ministry, God’s will, conservative values, and reaching the world but sin? Who wants to talk about that! Another word that has gone out of her vocabulary is holiness. In fact, that word is looked down upon as legalistic, negative, old-fashioned, judgmental, and boring.

Question: How is your sin life? What do you think about holiness? When was the last time you repented before God? Has the Holy Spirit convicted you recently of some sin in your life? Have you done anything about it? There is no substitute to holiness in the Christian life. Here’s the heart of the matter – are you saved? If there is no conviction of sin, it’s probably because there is no Holy Spirit in your life. You’ve never seen God and you’ll never see God until you see Him on the Day of Judgment.

This morning ask the Holy Spirit to remove the trash in your heart so that your vision may be clean enough to see God. Once again – three questions in this passage:

I. HOW TO HAVE A PURE HEART?

“Blessed are the pure in heart…”

Background: Before we run to Webster’s to define purity, we need to look in the immediate context. Jesus was quoting this beatitude, almost word for word, from Psalm 24, a psalm of David. To give you a little context – this psalm begins with the declaration that everything belongs to God – 1 The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. This earth, this universe, and all of us human beings are God’s property and He is the Creator King but He is not satisfied with just that. Listen to vs. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Meaning: God is not some almighty sovereign ruler, despot, and dictator who lives in His grand palace and can never be seen and approached by the common people. To the contrary, He wants to meet us, talk to us, and connect with us. He wants us to come to Him, hang out with Him, and live with Him. But there’s a problem – “Or who may stand in His holy place?” There’s a barrier/barricade that keeps us from getting near Him. It’s God’s holiness. He is holy and we are sinful.

People ask, “What is sin?” Paul gives a detailed list in Galatians 5 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 1 John 5:17 simply says, “All unrighteousness is sin…” Bottom Line: Sin is anything that is contrary to the nature of God and goes against the will of God. It is neither neutral nor passive. It wants to spread and take control and destroy everything. But God is holy and He cannot and will not let sin rule. That’s why His wrath is against sin and since we are sinners, it is against us. In fact, Romans 5:10 tells us that sin has made us “enemies of God.” Don’t misunderstand – God’s wrath is not some bad temper. He’s not some bully going around threatening people or a cantankerous old man, always angry and yelling at people to get out of His yard. Isaiah 28:21 reminds us that God’s wrath is His unusual act.” Think of it this way – “It is a love which is so jealous for the good of the loved one that it blazes out in fiery wrath against everything that is evil.” (Leon Morris, Apostolic Preaching of the Cross)

So sin invokes God wrath but that’s not the final word. To the question, who can stand in His holy place, the answer comes in vs. 4 “He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” Meaning: To come close to God you need to purify yourself, externally and internally. In other words, you need total holiness. No hypocritical, half-hearted, pretend holiness will do. God sees the heart. We are like an open book in His sight.

Application: Are your hands clean before God? Is your heart pure before God? Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin’?” It’s a rhetorical question. Jeremiah 17 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart…” David clarifies in vs. 4 “…Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.” 2 things God hates: 1. False gods – anything that is taking the place of God in your life. It’s more than just some idols in a temple. 2. False swearing – claiming God’s name falsely. When you say you are a Christian and yet disobey Christ and His Word, that’s swearing deceitfully.

Application: Is someone or something playing God in your life? Are you taking God’s name in vain? Have you ever received a spiritual heart transplant? Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? That’s the only way you can receive a clean new heart.

II. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SEE GOD? 

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

Background: How does that work? We have to go back again to Psalm 24. Listen to vs. 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5 “He shall receive blessing from the LORD…” Now listen carefully to vs. 6 “This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face.” For over 2000 years people have struggled with this verse. What exactly is David saying here? “Those who cleanse their hands and purify their hearts will receive a blessing from God. They will be called the Jacob generation. Who are they? They are those who are determined to see the face of God.”

Who was Jacob? Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and twin brother of Esau. Esau was the firstborn but despised his birthright. Jacob wanted that blessing and bought it for a bowl of stew. Later when Esau tried to get the blessing back, Jacob went as far as to deceive his father to get what was rightfully his. By the way, the Bible never condemns him for that. Esau made a vow that he would kill Jacob and he had to flee for his life. Twenty years later, it was time for Jacob to head home but he had to face Esau. The night before he prayed to God foe help. What was God’s response? Genesis 33:24 “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 have sent a cool breeze, put some angels around him, and given him sweet dreams on a soft bed so Jacob could wake up fresh and ready to take on Esau, some stranger jumps on him and tries to pin him to the ground! This goes on all night but the worst is about to come. Genesis 39:25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint…” Ouch! So now he’s sleep deprived, physically exhausted, and limping in incredible pain. Will he finally give up?

What in the world is God trying to do? God is testing Jacob. “You tricked Esau and got the birthright. You tricked Laban and got your Jacob wrestling with Godfamily out. You are about to trick Esau and head back to your home. Are you going to trick Me too? But how much do you really want the blessing?” Somewhere between the grappling and tussling, pushing and shoving it hits Jacob – his opponent is not just some man or even some angel (He had seen some earlier in Mahanaim). This person is a whole different being and immediately he tightens his grip. Did he pass the test? Maybe. The person says in vs. 26 “…Let Me go, for the day breaks” but Jacob replies, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” It was no longer about Esau. It was no longer about his livestock. It was no longer about his family. Did he pass the test? Maybe. 27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Meaning: You wanted the blessing. You fought for it and got it. Did he pass the test? Maybe. 29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. Did he pass the test? Now he passed the test.

Listen to Jacob’s response in vs. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Who was this? There’s only one who qualifies to be both God and man. It’s Jesus Christ pre-incarnate. The same way he came to Abraham and later to Moses, Daniel, and others, he came to Jacob.

Application: Do you really want to see God? God doesn’t reveal His face so easily and cheaply. How much are you willing to purify your heart? What would happen if you and I had that kind of determination to seek after God? The Holy Spirit is waiting to do that kind of work in our lives.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK? 

Jacob and Esau reconcile by Francesco HayezBackground: Keep in mind the true blessing of the beatitude is not to self but to others. We are blessed in order to be the Salt and Light to others. Let’s go back briefly to Genesis 32:31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. You can silhouette of a truly broken man. He sees Esau and bows seven time to the ground. 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! 8 Then Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company which I met?” Remember the hundreds of animals – goats, ewe lambs, rams, camels, cows, bulls, donkeys, and foals? And he (Esau) said, “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 And Jacob said, “No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.

Our world is so broken right now. Our country is so divided right now. What is the answer? It may sound simplistic but here goes – “Men and women, boys and girls with clean hands and pure hearts who have only one desire – to see the face of Jesus.” When we go out like Jacob who saw the face of Jesus, then and only then will forgiveness and salvation come to the Esaus. Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Is your heart pure before God? David said in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do you need a new heart? Are you saved?

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