The Greener Grass Syndrome (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

THE GREENER GRASS SYNDROME (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 18, 2018)Greener Grass Syndrome,

Have you ever driven past a herd of cows grazing in a lush green field and seen that one cow sticking its head through the fence, nibbling in the pasture next to it? Why is it doing that? Is there not enough grass in its own field? Is the grass any greener on the other side? Is the grass any tastier? None of the above. The cow is falsely assuming that the grass must be better on the other side. Humans do the same thing but worse. We buy into the myth that our lives are not as good as others’. We say things like: “I can’t wait to get outta here and move somewhere else,” “It was so much better back home,” “If only I looked like her, I would be so much happier,” “If only I had him, life would be so much better.” We see the perfect selfie and conclude that the person’s life must be better than ours. When in reality, that photo was retaken twenty times and tested by multiple filters. This delusion has become magnified in recent years with the rise of social media. As a result, some people have become paralyzed in self-defeat and some have slipped into the abyss of depression. Others have even walked away from a good job or a marriage, with tragic consequences.

So, how do you combat this “greener grass syndrome?” We can follow the example of God’s people in the book of Jeremiah. They were in exile in Babylon, pining to go back home to Jerusalem. They had forgotten that it was their sin that had caused them to be driven out of the land. Instead of repenting and seeking God’s will, they were wallowing in self-pity and longing for the “greener grass” back home. God sent Jeremiah to tell them to “bloom where they were planted.” Listen to Jeremiah 29:5-7 “Build houses and dwellin them;plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters…and seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive…” In other words, “Make yourself at home. Dig some foundations. Get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Become a productive member of the society. Make the place better by your presence.” At first, the people did not want to hear this but God warned them that things would not change for the next seventy years. But, if they were obedient to plant themselves where God had placed them, then his promise to them would be“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) People often quote this promise but neglect to realize that it was contingent on them flourishing where God had sent them.

There may be times when you have to change locations or jobs in order to improve your life. This is not “the greener grass syndrome.” Rather, it’s moving from a famine infested land to a fertile valley. But, just remember, bad habits don’t disappear by changing zip codes or job descriptions. Unless, the old nature has been transformed by Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will still be you even if you move to the other side of the moon! So also, being inspired and motivated by the successes of others is not always bad as long as it doesn’t trap you into envy. There is a fine line between copying and coveting. King Saul crossed that line when he began to despise young David and his successes. It launched him into a horrible depression and provoked within him the desire to kill God’s Anointed.

Ultimately, the challenge to all those seeking the “greener grass” is to make sure that what they think is a better place is not actually astroturf or a septic tank. But, if we let God guide our lives, our Babylon may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. STOP BLAMING GOD.

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

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

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

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

II. START BLOOMING WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. STAY FOCUSSED ON GOD’S PROMISE.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What’s Next For America?

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WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whatsnextforamericaThis being July the 4th weekend, I want to preach a message that I’ve preached before but from a different passage titled, “WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA?” Not a day goes by that people don’t call, text, or message me with the question – “What now?” “What do the recent decisions in America mean for Christians?” “Will we survive this new order?” “How does the future look like for our children and our grandchildren?”

Jeremiah 29:10-14 10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Background: The passage we just read comes from a very low point in the history of Israel. The people had forsaken God, gone after false idols, and then refused to repent. So God sent the Babylonians against them. In 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and drove the people of Judah 700 miles to the east across the desert to a land they had never seen. They were in exile, where everything was different – the landscape, the weather, the food, the customs, and definitely the people. They were homesick, discouraged, depressed, and feeling sorry for themselves. They just wanted to go home but that wasn’t an option. Psalm 137 1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song…4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song In a foreign land?” All they could do was reminisce and roll in self pity.

Application: Many in America are at this point – They are demoralized, discouraged, and disillusioned. They’ve become helpless and hopeless. What is God saying to us? The same thing He said to His people 2700 years ago – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: It’s not over for our nation. There is a future and a hope. Get up and trust in the Lord and seek Him. By the way, this message goes beyond just a national exile to personal exiles. Many of you are somewhere where you don’t want to be. Things have changed for you. They are not what you expected. What is God telling you? “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Meaning: Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Trust in God. He still has your future in His hands. Your exile may be a blessing in disguise.

As these people in exile were crying and wanting to go home, two men showed up from Jerusalem with a letter from Jeremiah the prophet. I want us to walk through this letter now and see what God is saying to us. 3 things –

I. BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED. 

Jeremiah 29:4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused (Not Nebuchadnezzar or Gay Rights or Supreme Court) to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:

3 things you are to do:

  1. Verse 5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.

Meaning: Pull down your tents and make yourself homes. Buy some real estate, dig some foundations, and get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Learn to grow some Babylonian crops. In other words, get settled.

Application: There are many people who are still living out of boxes, still living in tents. They will not commit to the job/church/community that God has given them. They are always looking over the horizon to some better place. They are constantly saying, “I don’t like this place. I want to move here or there.” They have zero commitment to flourish where God has brought them. No wonder, they are constantly negative about their job/ church/community. Yes – things have changed in America but settled down.

  1. Verse 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

Meaning: Start working on your marriages. Learn the joys of a happy God centered marriage. Also, be fruitful and multiply. Have children and grandchildren. Increase your numbers. Teach your children to walk in the way of God.

Application: Part of the blame for where our world is today lies on the failure of American homes and marriages – Children growing up and seeing mom and dad hating each other or growing up in single parent situations or growing up where Father’s role was either lacking or usurped. The world desperately needs to see how biblical marriages are fun and fulfilling. This fall we’re having another “Art of Marriage” event. Sign up! But there’s another problem. Our numbers have dropped. People don’t want children. They are a burden. They cramp our style. They cost money. They are messy. They are trouble. The other side wants to have more and more children and then adopt some. But it’s not enough just to have children. It’s just as important to train them in the way of God. Also remember – not only do we need more physical children but also more spiritual children. Win people into the family of God. Expand our numbers.

  1. Verse 7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

Meaning: Actively seek to get involved in the welfare of our community and our nation. Become the Salt and Light. Part of the reason why we are in the mess we are is because we preached many sermons on how to find God’s purpose for our lives and failed to ask what is God’s purpose for our world. Pray for those around you – at work, neighborhood, and community. Then you will have peace in our own lives. Did it happen? Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and Nehemiah.

Application: How much are you seeking to get involved in our politics and government? How much do you actually pray for community and nation?

II. BEWARE OF THE FALSE PROPHETS OF CHEAP GRACE AND FALSE HOPES

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

Background: While Jeremiah was sent by God to deal first with the sin of the people and then offer them grace and hope, the false prophets were skipping over sin and going right to cheap grace and false hopes. They wanted to bypass God’s Holiness and go right to God’s Love. God says – “I have not sent them.” Jeremiah even identifies them in his letter—Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemiah and prophesies what will happen to them – The first two Nebuchadnezzar will slay them and roast them over fire and the last will be wiped out from the face of the earth.

Please remember – God is a god of love but He will not compromise His holiness. He hates sin. His wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Romans 1:18

Illustration: Recently – I’ve been amazed at how some people are reluctant to call homosexuality a sin. They do all kinds of hermeneutical gymnastics to show that it’s not as bad. The problem is that many on the other side are okay with grace but don’t judge me. God forbid if we offer them cheap grace.

Application: Are you playing some Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemaiahs in someone’s life? Do you go around excusing what God explicitly calls sin. It’s His Law and He is the Judge. You’ll have to answer to Him.

III. BABYLON IS GOD’S BLESSING IN DISGUISE

What will God do if the people start blooming where they are planted and stop listening to false hopes and false dreams to run back? Listen to Jeremiah 29 10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. Meaning: You will not remain a captive forever. I will bring you out of your land of captivity. But seventy years is a whole generation. You may or may not return but your children and grandchildren will.

I believe that unless Christ comes, our children and grandchildren will right our wrongs. They will fix what we have failed. It is imperative that we train them in the truth and guard them from the agenda of the world. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are after them. They should be our first priority.

Listen to verse 11“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;

That verse has stood as a source of comfort to many people, even many who are here this morning, through some very difficult times in their lives. When you allow God to do His work in your life, He will even take what appears to be hopeless and evil and replaces it with future and a hope.

What were the Ultimate Benefits of the Exile for the People of Israel? (J. B. Tidwell)

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

 Our Babylons are God’s opportunity to bless us spiritually.

Listen to Eugene Peterson: “When the superfluous is stripped away we find the essential—and the essential is God. Normal life is full of distractions and irrelevancies. Then catastrophe: Dislocation. Exile. Illness. Accident. Job loss. Divorce. Death. The reality of our lives is rearranged without anyone consulting us or waiting for our permission. We are no longer at home….Exile reveals what really matters and frees us to pursue what really matters, which is to seek the Lord with all our hearts.”

God is still in America with us and He is just as much in charge now as before. He has allowed us to go into exile to do a deeper work in our lives. He wants us to repent and call upon Him and seek Him with all our heart. In the end, the exile is not against us but for us. There is a future and a hope for us. The place to begin is by asking – “Are you saved? Are you reaching the lost with the truth about sin and grace?

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