The Joy-Producer by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

The Joy Producer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comfort and Joy by Pastor Abidan Shah

COMFORT AND JOY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

comfort-and-joyIntroduction: We’re in our final message in our Christmas series – BELIEVING IS SEEING. If you want to see Jesus, you have to believe in Him first and then you begin to see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and personal life. Jesus gave us a clue to find Him in Scripture when He said, “Moses wrote about Me.” We’ve examined two such passages already. Today we’ll look at a third one and the message is titled – COMFORT AND JOY.

Deuteronomy 18   15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Bridge: Everyone has a favorite Christmas carol. The one I like is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Unfortunately, many people don’t know what it means. To start with, it’s not about some merry gentlemen taking the time to rest. The comma should come after “merry” – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” What do those words mean? The word “rest” means keep/stay, like “rest assured.” The word “merry” means “joyful” and the word “gentlemen” does not refer to some Victorian gentlemen in top hats. It’s a generic reference to “people.” So the first line should read “God Keep You Joyful, People.” Why? “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay, Remember, Christ, our Saviour was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.” That is beautiful! We can have comfort and joy because Christ our Savior has come but I want to suggest a correction – “It’s not to save us from Satan’s power but from God’s power.” In today’s message we’ll learn about the real reason to have comfort and joy at Christmas.

Question: Before we go any further, what emotions come to your mind when you think about the coming of Jesus? Does His coming bring comfort and joy to your heart? Do you understand why Jesus really came into this world? Do you know that He has come to be the mediator between God and us? Do you realize that you cannot come to God on your own? Have you ever asked Jesus to be your mediator? Are you saved?

Today we’ll learn the biblical reason to have comfort and joy. 3 things to understand:

I. THE DREADFUL AND AGGRESSIVE HOLINESS OF GOD

Background: In the passage we just read from Deuteronomy 18 Moses is making a solemn promise to the people of Israel that after his own death God would raise up a prophet for them who would just like him be a Mediator between God and them. Why did they need a Mediator? Because of an incident that took place at Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb. To learn about this incident we have to turn to Exodus 19. The people had just left Egypt and they had made it to the foot of Mount Sinai or Horeb. It was time for them to come face-to-face with the God who had set them free. God spoke to Moses from the mountain and said, 4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” In other words, being set free from slavery is just the first step in where God wanted to take them as a people. He wanted them to be His special people. 6 “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Meaning: You are to represent me before the world just as a priest represents the people before God. But here was the key requirement – Holiness. Why? Because God’s holiness is His first and most distinctive attribute. If you’re going to be His special people and represent Him, you have to be holy as He is holy. Don’t misunderstand – holiness is not some puffy clouds or the sound of organ music or the smell of incense. Negatively, it is a “complete absence of sin” and positively, it is a “passionate desire for righteousness.”

God instructed Moses that before He would come down, the people had to consecrate and purify themselves. Furthermore, no one could approach the mountain except Moses. Then it happened on the third day – 16 “…there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. 20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Meaning: This was not some Hollywood theatrics. This was God the Holy Creator entering into His sinful creation. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Meaning: Not sure exactly what happened right then but there must’ve been some thrill seeking types who wanted to get as close to the fire without getting singed. God warned them that this was not some pull out your lawn chairs and enjoy the show time. They will die from this. 22 “Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” Meaning: Even the priests better be careful. This was the kind of holiness that would come after anyone who was unholy in its sight. How did the people perceive all this? Listen to Exodus 24:17 “The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Needless to say, the people of Israel were terrified of God. He was not someone to play with. Not even the priests could get near Him. His holiness was unbearable.

Application: What do you think about the holiness of God? Is it to you long dresses, three-piece suits, and hard straight back pews? Is it to you a long list of do’s and don’ts? Do you understand that God’s holiness is negatively a “complete absence of sin” and positively a “passionate desire for righteousness”? Do you understand that being saved means being saved from God’s holy wrath against your sin?

II. THE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING MERCY OF GOD

Exodus 20   18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. They were terrified and petrified of God. They were scared for themselves, their families, and their children. They stood far away. By the way, who told them to stay far away? God. As we just read, God had to send Moses down from the mountain to warn the people to stay away. If I were God, I would’ve let a couple of them turn extra crispy and that would’ve taken care of the rest! But God is so merciful, isn’t He? 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The people told Moses something that sounded like an affront to God. They told Moses that they would rather talk to him than to God. Again, if I were God, I would’ve said, “You don’t get to decide the terms of our communication.” By the way, these were the same people who later worshipped the golden calf at the foot of the mountain. I would’ve said – “Nope. People like you don’t deserve any breaks. You need to live under constant fear and an iron fist, that’s it.” 20 “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Meaning: God in His patient and understanding mercy allowed Moses to be the Mediator between Him and the people.

Application: Do you realize how merciful God is towards His people? Do you realize how without His mercy we would be consumed by His holiness? Do you realize how much He is willing to work with us even when we don’t deserve it? Do you realize how many chances He keeps giving to us?

III. THE FUTURE AND ULTIMATE PROMISE OF GOD

17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’”

Background: When God gave this promise, He intended a double fulfilment. On one hand, after Moses’s death, God sent many prophets through the centuries to His people to mediate for them. Some of them we know by their books – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and others. But there was another fulfillment that God intended – a much deeper, longer lasting, and ultimate fulfillment. One day God would send the Prophet who would have all the words of God in His mouth and He would be their Ultimate Mediator before God forever. God’s people were waiting for this prophet:

  • When John the Baptist came, the Jewish religious leaders questioned him – John 1   19 “…Who are you?” 20 He confessed…“I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “…Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
  • After Jesus fed the 5000, his own disciples said in John 6:14 “…This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
  • After seeing his numerous miracles, many in the crowd said in John 7:40 “…Truly this is the Prophet.”
  • When people were offended at him, Jesus himself said in Matthew 13:57 “…A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

Not only that but Jesus also repeatedly talked about having God’s Words in His mouth:

  • John 7:16 “…My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
  • John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”
  • John 17:8 “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”

I don’t have time to talk about how He prophesied about the future. The point is this – When Jesus said, “Moses wrote about Me,” He also had Deuteronomy 18 in mind where Moses promised the people that God would send them the Ultimate Prophet one day.

  • Just as Moses was a symbol of comfort and joy to the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate symbol of comfort and joy for us.
  • Just as Moses was a temporary mediator for the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate mediator for all who believe in His name.

But there’s something Jesus did for us that Moses could never do. Hebrews 10   19 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Whereas Moses told the people to stay away from the mountain of God, Jesus has invited us to boldly enter the Holiest by His blood.

Invitation: Does the coming of Jesus truly bring comfort and joy to your heart? Has he saved you from God’s holy power? Is He your Mediator?

Children That Bring Delight by Pastor Abidan Shah

CHILDREN THAT BRING DELIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Children That Bring Delight.jpgIntroduction: This is the fifth message in our series on the Trinity called “Battle of the Gods.” These messages are deep but they are teaching us that the doctrine of the Trinity is not some stale concept from some forgotten councils but it’s the key to many of our problems today. In today’s message we’ll learn what the Trinity has to say to both children and parents and the message is titled “CHILDREN THAT BRING DELIGHT.”

John 5   30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me…36 “…for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

the-collapse-of-parenting-by-leonard-sax

The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax

Bridge: Would you agree that children today are not like children 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago? In his recent book “The Collapse of Parenting,” noted family physician and psychologist Leonard Sax (By the way, I don’t agree with everything he writes.) talks about a six year old whose mother brought him because of a sore throat. When he told him that he would have to take a look at his throat, the mother asked the child’s permission – “Do you mind if the doctor looks at your throat for just a second, honey? Afterward we can go and get some ice cream.” Of course, the child told no and had to be restrained so the doctor could examine his throat. Sax says, “It’s not a question. It’s a sentence: ‘Open up and say, ‘Ahh.’ Parents are incapable of speaking to their children in a sentence that ends in a period. Every sentence ends in a question mark.”

What is happening to our children? Obedience has become optional or nonexistent. Parents are no longer authoritative or in charge. They are more like facilitators and advisors. Instead of teaching their child the difference between right and wrong, they are focused on making their children happy and boosting their self-esteem. Parents are afraid of being the bad guy. It’s not that they don’t spend time with their kids. They do but its not time having family meals or teaching about life. It’s time shuttling them from one extracurricular activity to the next. They are trying to give their children everything they didn’t have. If one of the parents tries to do what is right, the other plays interception and the one trying gives up. What parents don’t realize is that they are actually harming their children rather than helping them. Sadly, in some homes, the parent is more like the kid than the kid. Why would the kid obey? This happens in the projects as well as million dollar mansions. No wonder they seek the approval of their peers. Sax cites several researches to prove that this lack of parental authority is the cause of rise in obesity, anti-anxiety and ADD medications, disrespect (especially towards adults), why kids seem so fragile, and, if I may add, a sense of entitlement in the children. I don’t have time to analyze all the causes for this, which includes the breakdown of the marriage, mental and physical abuse, overdose of psychology, and lack of biblical truth. The point is this: Both children and parents in our culture desperately need help and the good news is – the answer is found in the triune God Himself. Just as Jesus brought delight to His Father, so also our children can bring delight to us when we follow Him.

Question: Has this hit a nerve for you? Has it struck a chord for you? Do you need God’s wisdom and guidance in your family? Are you open to God’s Word? Are you saved?

3 ingredients that help us raise “Children That Bring Delight”:

I. THE TRUE MODEL FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN

30 “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me…”

Background: Last weekend we learned that the Triune God created us in His image and designed us to reflect both equality and order in our marriage relationships. Just like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in essence but distinct in order, the husband and wife are also equal in essence but distinct in order. But there’s more. The Trinity is also the model for how parents and children ought to relate with each other in the family. Listen again to Jesus in verse 30 “…I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” Even though the Father and Son are equal in essence, the Father tells the Son what to do and He does it. Our earthly families were designed to reflect the order in the heavenly family. Paul laid this out for us in Colossians 3   17 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Meaning: Keep the Trinity in mind in everything you do. Now comes the application – 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” Meaning: The Trinity is not just the model for the husband-wife relationship but also for the parent-child relationship.

Now don’t misunderstand: The Father-Son relationship in the Trinity is not some detached spiritual order but God the Father actively loves God the Son and wants the best for Him. Listen to John 3:35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” Again, John 5:20 “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” Meaning: God the Father is not some detached and unemotional father to God the Son. He genuinely and actively loves the Son and wants to lift Him up in every way.

How about the Son? He does not grudgingly submit to the Father but He actually loves God the Father and wants to please Him. John 8:29 “…I always do those things that please Him.” Later He says in John 17 25 “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Meaning: I know what a wonderful and loving father you are and I want everyone to know that too.

Application: What would happen if parents, especially fathers, were just like God the Father, loving and yet firm with their children? What would happen if the children knew that they were truly loved and honored their parents, especially their fathers, by obeying promptly, completely, and cheerfully? Fathers, do you actively love your children and truly seek the best for them as God the Father did for His Son Jesus? Children, do you ever brag about your parents, especially your fathers, the way Jesus did?

II. THE TRUE ESTEEM OF OUR CHILDREN

31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true…”

Background: Keep in mind that the Jewish religious leaders were accusing Jesus of not only breaking the Sabbath but also making Himself equal to God the Father. When He says in verse 31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true,” He is bringing up the Jewish law that you needed two witnesses to prove that someone was guilty or not guilty and you cannot be your own witness. Jesus was stating the obvious – “I cannot be my own witness.” Here’s the point: We’re living in a culture in which people are constantly justifying themselves and their actions. Jesus (being perfect) refused to justify Himself. He refused to self-validate.

But there was someone else who could justify on His behalf – John the Baptist. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man…” Jesus is saying here – “John the Baptist is telling the truth about me but I don’t need his help in clearing up my reputation.” Earlier in John 2, John the writer of the Gospel said the same thing about Jesus – 24 “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” Jesus refused to take the validation of the good and the bad. Here’s the point: We’re living in a culture in which, other than self-approval, people are constantly looking for the approval of others. They are looking for others to justify and validate their actions. What do my friends say about me? How many likes did I get on Facebook or Instagram? How many people are looking at my stories on Snapchat? If my enemies don’t like me, that’s fine as long as my friends speak out for me.

Whose validation is Jesus interested in? 36 “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” Meaning: My obedience to my father is my validation. Wow! In other words, obedience to my father is the ultimate testimony of who I am. I did what my father told me to do and that proves that I am who I say I am.

What would happen if our children were so eager on obeying us rather than validating themselves or seeking the approval of their friends?

Application: Are you constantly trying to self-validate? Are you constantly trying to seek the validation of others? How much does obedience to your parents matter to you?

III. THE TRUE APPROVAL OF THE PARENT

37 “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me…”

Background: Twice during Jesus earthly ministry, the Father declared that He was pleased with His beloved Son. First time it was at Jesus’ baptism by John when He came up out of the water. Matthew 3  16 “…behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Second time it was at the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah came to talk with Him. Matthew 17:5 “…Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” Here’s the interesting thing – neither of those events are mentioned in John’s Gospel. Jesus was not talking about either of those. Listen to the rest of verse 37 “…You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” Meaning: The voice is not audible as much as internal. If you had the same father, you would have known His voice and recognized it. Obviously, we don’t belong to the same family. How do we know that? 38 “But you do not have His word abiding in you…” The only way you can hear His voice is if you have His word in you.

Young people – The reason your friends cannot see why you don’t party with them and do the things with them is because they don’t have the words of your parents in them. Parents – the approval is not sitting on the sideline yelling and screaming at your kids or threatening other parents. True approval is when your kid is faced with the wrong choice and hears your voice in His heart.

Invitation: Is Jesus the head of your family? Fathers and Mothers – are you walking with Christ? Children – Are you walking with Christ? Are you saved

“When All Seems Hopeless” (2) by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: This evening I want to preach a message I’ve preached before but not from the pulpit. I preached it in front of our fireplace last winter when we were snowed in and, if you remember, we came together on Facebook Live and Periscope. This sermon comes from one of my favorite passages from the Bible – Romans 15:13 and it’s called – “WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS.”

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Twice we come across the word “hope” in this verse. To me this passage has been a source of hope many times over and I’m praying that it will be for you as well.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily unwelcome companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have hope unless you have the Holy Spirit and you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Have you done that? Are you saved?

Let’s take this simple verse apart and examine each section. Once we’ve understood each part, we can put it back together and look at it as a whole. 4 key things in this verse:

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, God of love, and God of our salvation. But here we come across an attribute of God that we don’t hear about much but it is central to His character – “Hope.” Our God is also the god of Hope. When we are in a hopeless situation, He is the One who reminds us “Don’t give up. Keep pressing on. There is hope.” He points us to the door when we feel that there is no way out. He shows us the light at the end of the tunnel when all we can see is a dead-end.

But don’t misunderstand – Our God is not just the God who shows us the way or points us to the light. He is the also the One who actually makes the way for us and turns on the light for us at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

Think about Ruth – her husband died. She followed her mother-in-law back to the land of Judah. She was a Moabite woman, sworn enemies of the people of God. But God brought hope into her life. She married a man named Boaz and became the great-grandparents of King David. But there’s more – in time God grafted her into the family tree of Jesus Christ.

There’s something even greater than all this. God not only shows us hope and brings hope to us but He is the Ultimate Hope. In other words, He not only points us to the door and opens the door for us but He’s also the door. He not only points us to the light and turns on the light for us but He’s also the light.

How does He do that? In the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 10:9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Again, Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Then listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus is the Hope? What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Where do you need Jesus in your life? Someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.” Jesus our hope is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 times. It represents a sense of happiness that is not depended on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Jesus said in Matthew 5 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be all right in spite of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The point is this – Neither joy nor peace are contingent on our circumstances. Our God of hope sends us both because we need both to get to the desired end.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and all torn to pieces inside. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope overflows us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us both joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace. John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. Again, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “In believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course kind of life. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Some people are willing to do everything but have faith and belief. This keeps the promises of God from being activated in their lives. Alexander Maclaren gave a great illustration to bring out the importance of faith – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9   23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Are you willing to pray for faith?

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years or so He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looed like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

No Benchwarmers by Pastor Abidan Shah

NO BENCH WARMERS – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

nobenchwarmersIntroduction: Today I’m starting a brand new series called – “NO BENCH WARMERS.” For most churches, including ours, the calendar does not begin in January but in August or September. This series is designed to prepare us for our new church year.

Exodus 18   13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out.

Bridge: How many of y’all have heard the adage or saying – “20% of people at church do 80% of the work”? Is that true or false? By the way, it’s is not just at church; it’s everywhere. In the secular world it’s sometimes called the “80-20 rule,” or “the law of the vital few” or even the “Pareto Principle” after the Italian economist who first observed it. Why is it that 80% of people are inactive? I’ve heard all kinds of reasons – “People are just lazy,” “They don’t want to get involved,” “They don’t know the needs,” or “You just have to ask people.” The goal of this series is to change that statistic, to move people being “bench warmers” to “getting in the game”?

Context: Each message in this series is going to come from a different book in the Bible. The first sermon is from the passage we just read in Exodus 18 where 3500 years ago Moses had to deal with the same question – “How can I move the people of Israel from the bench to the field?”

Question: Are you in the game or are you just a bench warmer? Do you just come, sit, listen, and leave or do you have a part in the greatest game in the world? The greatest game in the world is not basketball, football, baseball, soccer, or any one of the Olympic games. It is the battle for the soul of every man, woman, boy, and girl. The goal is to connect that soul to its creator, to God. There’s just one rule – “Only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. You have to come to Jesus.” There is no rematch. You get only one life. There is a shot clock but you can’t see it. By the way, if you are breathing, you’re already in the game. Your clock is already ticking. Two Questions: Have you come to Jesus? Are you helping others come to Jesus?

In this message we will learn why some churches become weary and what has to happen. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your hearts. 3 things stand out in this passage:

I. POSITIVE EXCITEMENT 

Exodus 18   1 And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt….5…came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God.

Background: Moses had left his wife Zipporah and two sons with his father-in-law when he went to Egypt to free the Hebrews. The news got back to Midian that it had happened and God’s people were free. So Jethro brought Moses’s family to him. Picture the excitement as they arrived at the camp. 9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.” It goes on to tell us that Jethro was also a believer and offered burnt offerings and sacrifices to God. The point is that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was genuinely glad at what God had done for the people of Israel through his son-in-law.

Keep in mind that not everything was perfect. In chapter 14 when the people of Israel were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army, they had turned on Moses, saying – “We told you to leave us alone.” In chapter 15, just 3 days into the wilderness, they were thirsty and complained against Moses. In chapter 16, just a month or so later, they complained against Moses and Aaron saying, “We had pots of meat and bread in Egypt and here you are killing us.” In chapter 16 again, the people refused to keep the Sabbath and tried to gather manna. In chapter 17, they were thirsty again and tried to stone Moses in their anger. In chapter 17, the Amalekites attacked the people of Israel. But listen to Exodus 18:8 “And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the LORD had delivered them.” Here’s the point – You can either focus on the negatives or you can focus on the positives.

Application: Do you see the positive that God is doing at Clearview? Are you genuinely excited at the lives that are being saved, the children that are coming to Christ, the young people that are gathering, the marriages that are being reconciled, the homes that are being restored, and the community that is being transformed? Sometimes this is very hard to understand and appreciate in the church culture where it is more natural to groan, moan, and complain. The early church had their list of problems but it says in Acts 2:46 “…they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Here’s a principle: Excitement precedes involvement.

II. NEGATIVE OBSERVATION 

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening.

Background: According to some estimates the population of the people of Israel that left Egypt with Moses was altogether 2-2.5 million. To give you an idea of how big that number is – according to the United States Census Bureau, the combined population of the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), as of 2014, was a little over 2 million people. Imagine a crowd that big! Out of them I would assume at least a few thousand are standing in line everyday over personal problems, disputes, and crimes.

Here’s an important principle – Just because God is doing wonderful things among His people does not mean that His people will be problem free. I hear people say – “the church has problems.” Folks – Moses had problems sitting in the shadow of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night! The early church had problems just days after receiving the Holy Spirit in all power. As long as we live in this sinful world where there is a Satan and we still have our sinful natures, there will be problems. The question is “What do we do with those problems?” We cannot deny them. We have to deal with them biblically, prayerfully, graciously, and courageously. That’s exactly what Moses was doing.

Moses’ father-in-law was a godly man. He did not say – “Moses, you have a horrible bunch of people. This thing isn’t gonna last” He saw a deeper problem. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” Don’t misunderstand this question. Jethro was not saying – “Moses – Who made you the head honcho? Do you have control issues? Why can’t people go to others?” Jethro’s remark was based on a genuine heartfelt concern for how much Moses was doing.

Listen to the rest of the dialogue – 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.” Jethro, a godly man, saw past the surface to a deeper problem – the physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual exhaustion of Moses.

Application: Do you ever stop to think about how much goes on every day to make this place possible? What is your part? Are you content to sit back and let other people wear themselves out? Do you ever wonder – “what can I do to lighten the load?” “How can I share the burden so they and they do not have to sit under the hot sun all day (proverbially speaking)?” Do you see past the surface to the deeper needs at Clearview?

III. WISE SOLUTION 

19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. By the way, becoming a leader at Clearview is not about control and power, it’s about humility and service. I remember in the early days of our church’s transition, I had a guy visit us a few times and his first question was how do I get on the board here. I wanted to say – “Since you asked that question, I’ll never tell you.”

22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.” What Jethro was doing was telling Moses to delegate, to divide the work. 24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

What if Moses had refused to listen? It would have put him in an early grave. It would have caused problems in his marriage. It would have delayed justice for the people. It would have caused frustration among the masses. It would have destroyed the people.

Question: What could you be doing right now that could help lighten someone’s load? Are you a player in the greatest game on earth or are you just a bench warmer? On the last weekend of this month, August 27-28, we will be having our first annual ministry drive. Start praying right now about what is it that God is calling you to do.

Are you eligible to play? Have you ever given your life to Jesus? Until you do, you will have no motivation to play the game. You will have no desire to serve. You will have no desire to lighten the load of others. You will only be a spectator and that too a griping grumbling spectator

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: Thank you so much to all of you are joining us via Facebook Live and Periscope! Thank you also to John, Elie, and the guys there for leading us in worship! I especially want to thank Kim Davis for giving me the idea to do this! And Donna Young as well! After the initial excitement, it was like – “Well, now I have to prepare a sermon!” This morning I want to preach a message I’ve never preached before. It’s on one of my favorite passages from the Bible from Romans 15:13 and the message is titled – “When All Seems Hopeless.” You can follow along on the screen behind me or go to my blog http://www.abidanshah.com and follow the entire message there.

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Twice you come across the word “hope” in this verse.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on your personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Are you saved?

Let’s take this verse apart and examine each section. Then when we understand each part, we will put it back together and look at the whole.

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, and God of our salvation. But here it is the “God of Hope.” It is one attribute of God that we don’t think about. God is the One who shows us life when there’s only death. He is the One who shows us the light at the end of the tunnel. But there’s more – He’s also the One who brings life when there’s only death and He is the One who turns on the Light at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

But let’s go even a step further – He is the Life and He is the Light. In other words, He not only sees the future and He not only brings out a good future but He is the good future.

Listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Listen to what someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.”

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 some times. It is a sense of happiness that is not dependent on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Matthew 5 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be alright. It is also independent of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and inside they are torn to pieces. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope fills us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace.

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “in believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Alexander Maclaren gives a great illustration – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looks like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

How to Enjoy the Holidays

HOW TO ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtoenjoytheholidaysToday I’m preaching a message titled, “How to enjoy the holidays?” Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas is not too far behind. If your family is like ours, starting now, the next 2 months are crazy busy and stressful. We can’t wait for January to get here. This should not be the way.

Philippians 4   4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Overall Background: The central theme of the book of Philippians is joy. Paul mentions it about 16 times. Sometimes it is either the noun “chara” that means joy and other times it is the verb “chairo” that means rejoice. Here are some examples:

  • 1:4 in every prayer of mine (I’m) making request for you all with joy,
  • 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded,
  • 3:3 rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
  • 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown,
  • 4:4   Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Caesarea

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 2

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 3

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The point is – Philippians is the letter to read if you want joy in your life. But there’s something more. Listen to Phil. 1:12  But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; Not sure if Paul is in Rome or Ephesus, or Caesarea. If Caesarea, then Nicole and I stood in the very room where Paul’s trial took place. Either way Paul is in prison writing a letter on joy! Here’s the point: Joy is not hinged on your circumstances.

Question: How is the joy level in your life? Here’s another question – would people around you call you a person of joy? Here’s a better question – do you bring joy or do you bring pain in the lives of people around you? Are you saved?

5 things we will learn from this passage about how to enjoy the holidays:

I. FIND JOY IN EVERYTHING. 

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Background: If you read this verse out of context, you will miss the reason why Paul stressed, “always” and repeated, “Rejoice.” Read the 2 prior verses – Phil. 4:2  I implore Euodia and in the church I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Meaning: There was a conflict between 2 women. Who were they? 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Meaning: These women loved the Lord and helped Paul in his ministry. For some reason, they were in a conflict and it was tearing the Philippian church apart. It was stealing their joy. Hence Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

Would you agree that life has many unexpected joy stealers? Relationship conflicts, health, finances, crime, morality, bad news, and the list goes on and on.

For e.g. As I was typing this message, all of a sudden the word file closed. It does that once in a while. Only problem – I hadn’t saved it in the past 5 minutes. It was frustrating because now I had to remember what I had written and retype. Such is life.

Here’s the bottom line: You have a choice. You can either choose to be hateful, painful, or sorrowful or you can choose to be joyful.

Application: What is your choice this holiday season? What joy killers are lurking in your life? Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because joy is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of joy and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

II. FOCUS ON BEING GENTLE.

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Background: The word for gentleness can also be translated “kindness” or “tolerance.” It has the idea of being willing to bend. Bending does not mean compromising. It means learning to get along. In other words, don’t be rude, hateful or impatient but be kind, gentle, and patient. What is your motivation? “The Lord is at hand.” In other words, Jesus is near you and watching your behavior. You better be nice.

Illustration: Remember that old joke – Children were lined up in the cafeteria for lunch. At the head of the table was a basket of apples with a note – “Take only one, God is watching.” Moving through the line, on the other end of the table was a tray of chocolate chip cookies. Some smart aleck wrote a note and put it next to the cookies – “Take all you want, God is busy watching the apples.”

Bottom line: God sees everything. He sees when were being judgmental rather than gentle. Live every moment as if God is watching you because He is.

Application: Are you a gentle person or are you a judgmental person? Beware of self-righteousness. Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because gentleness is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of gentleness and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

III. FIGHT ANXIETY WITH PRAYER. 

Be anxious for nothing,

Background: The Greek word for anxious is “merimnao.” It’s origin is from two Greek words – “merizo” = divide and “nous” = mind. In other words, anxiety is a mind divided. Another synonym for anxiety is worry, which comes from the German “würgen.” It means to strangle or to choke.

Listen to what Chuck Swindoll said about worry – “Stress and worry break us down. They are the unseen source of our headaches, backaches, heartaches, and belly aches. They produce everything from obesity to obscenity, from constipation to diarrhea, and from impatience to impotence. They give us knotted stomachs, sleepless nights, high blood pressure, low morale. They make our tempers short and our days long. They cause indigestion, irritation, chest pain, and muscle strain. “You do not get stomach ulcers from what you eat,” said one doctor. “You get ulcers from what is eating you.”

What’s the solution? It’s not enough to say – “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Listen to what Paul says Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Meaning: The antidote to worry is prayer. What will happen? 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Once again, an old illustration: Frederick Handley Page of England was one of the pioneers in the early days of aviation. The story is told of how once he was flying and he heard the sound of gnawing. It was a rat. This was before autopilot so he could not do anything. He knew one thing – rat is a rodent that is not bad for heights. He began to climb higher and higher until it stopped.

Anxiety is also a rodent that cannot live in the secret place of the Most High.

Application: How is your prayer life? Are you daily grateful for what God has already done for you? Are you making your requests known to God?

IV. FIX YOUR MIND ON WHAT’S POSITIVE.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Some people think that Christian life is simply a list of don’ts, all negative. Christian life is also positive. We have to focus on what is good. You’ll become what you focus on.

For e.g. One time this lady came to me and complained about how she constantly had bad dreams. I told her to read her Bible and pray before she goes to bed tonight and see if it makes a difference. She thanked me and as she leaves she tells her friend – Can’t wait to watch “The Evil Dead” or some movie like that!

Then Paul adds in verse 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Meaning: If you need help finding positive things to focus on, copy me.

Application: What are you focusing on right now? Is it on Christ? Is it on the good that God has done in your life? Is it on the positive? Who are you copying?

V. FILL YOUR HEART WITH CHRIST.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This is one of the most misunderstood and misquoted verses in the Bible. Paul is not saying – “With Christ I can take over the world.” He is saying – “With Christ I can face the ups and downs of life, the time of abundance and the time of hunger.

Illustration: Several years ago I was in Mexico on a mission trip. We were up in the Yucatan peninsula where they still didn’t even have electricity. The people lived in these tiny homes and had hardly anything. All day long we had activities for the kids and in the evening we had songs, movies, and message for all the people in the village. On the last day we had a final activity in the morning and we were going to leave after that. As we were breaking things down, I thought came to my mind – “Is this worth it? Yeah…we spent all that money and came, went somewhere we’ve never been, learned a new culture, grateful for all we have back home, gave these kids something to do for a week but is this worth it?” As the thought was still in my mind, a man approached me. I had seen him several times in the week. He had a wife and couple of little kids. He asked me something in Spanish, thinking I knew the language. I asked the translator to help. The man was asking for a Bible. Of course, we had bought a bunch from the church. I opened my bag and gave him some. No sooner had I done that, 3 more people asked me for one. By the time we left, all were given.

The point is – those people didn’t have much but they were not hungry for stuff. They were hungry for the truth.

When your heart is full of truth, you will be content no matter your circumstances.

Are you ready to face the holidays? Are you saved?

DAILY DEVOTIONS FROM THE ORIGINAL GREEK – 1 John 1:4 by Abidan Paul Shah

Daily Devotions from the Original Greek – 1 John 1:4 by Abidan Paul Shah

Papyrus 9, 1 John, 4,11–12,14–17 - recto

Papyrus 9, P. Oxy 402, 3rd century, 1 John, 4,11–12,14–17 – recto

Through the years many people have approached me with the desire to study the Bible in the original languages. Not that they don’t trust the Bible in their English translations, they just have a hunger for more. The pattern is quite familiar – They ask me for resources. I provide them with the best tools. They wade into the murky waters of Grammar, Syntax, and Critical Issues of the biblical text. Some go farther than others but inevitably they all turn to familiar shores, never to venture again. It is truly unfortunate… Hence, these “Daily Devotions from the Original Greek.” They are in no way exhaustive exegetical commentaries. They’re simply my personal devotions based on the original languages. Hopefully, they will inspire some to cast anchor and sail into uncharted waters. My prayer is that you won’t despair when the winds howl or the waves threaten to overturn the boat. οἱ ἄνεμοι καὶ ἡ θάλασσα ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ. (Matt. 8:27)

Text: 1 John 1:4 – καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν ὑμῖν[1], ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡμῶν[2] ᾖ πεπληρωμένη.

(For the meaning and parsing of each Greek word in the verse please see below under parsing.)

My Translation: 1 John 1:4 And these things we write to you so that our joy may be complete.

Some Devotional Thoughts: 

The phrase ‘these things we(I) write to you’ is repeated several times through the letter. It has several applications. One, John wants his readers to know that this letter is not just chit-chat. There is a greater purpose it and it is imperative that they take it seriously. So also for us – we need to take the Word of God seriously. It is not for entertainment but for serious application. Second, John says ‘we write’ here but later its only ‘I write.’ It implies that John wants his readers to understand that his teachings are not just his own creation but they are also supported and endorsed by other authoritative individuals. Christianity is not some isolated idiosyncracy of some eccentric indivdual or some socio-cultural phenomenon. It had a wide range of followers.

Ultimately, the goal of the writing is to bring joy. Although, some Byzantine mss are divided over whether it is personal joy or the joy of the readers, it is still joy that is the final outcome of reading and applying the truth of God’s Word. 

Parsing[3]:

καὶ = and (conjunction from καί)

ταῦτα = these things (pronoun demonstrative accusative neuter plural from οὗτος)

γράφομεν = we write (verb indicative present active 1st person plural from γράφω)

ὑμῖν, = you all (pronoun personal dative plural from σύ)

ἵνα = so that (conjunction from ἵνα)

ἡ = the (definite article nominative feminine singular from ὁ)

χαρὰ = joy (noun nominative feminine singular from χαρά)

ἡμῶν = our (pronoun personal genitive plural from ἐγώ)

ᾖ = may be (verb subjunctive present active 3rd person singular from εἰμί)

πεπληρωμένη = complete/fulfilled (verb participle perfect passive nominative feminine singular from πληρόω)

———————————

[1] The Alexandrian manuscripts read ἡμεῖς while the Byzantine read ὑμῖν.

[2] The Byzantine text is divided at this point. Some read ἡμῶν, while others ὑμῶν.

[3] The parsing is taken from Bible Works 10

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 4)

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

How to behave this Christmas seasonYou know Christmas is here when: it takes you an hour to drive somewhere that normally takes 15 minutes; you can’t find a parking place at the mall; and people who are normally congenial snap at you. This series is to help us have the right attitude, not just during the Christmas season but also in every season of life.

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

Overall Background:  So far we have seen three messages in this series – 1. “How to Have Love Without Hypocrisy.” 2. “How to Hate Evil and Cling to Good.” 3. “How to Outdo Each Other in Showing Honor.” This morning we come to verse 11 and 12not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;” On the one hand, that verse seems like quite simple. But, pause and study it carefully and you will see that it is a message we desperately need to hear in America today. The title of this message is How to Stay Ablaze for God. Christianity in America is suffering:

–       Not because the gospel is weak (it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes),

–       Not because people are more sinful (people are just as sinful today as they were in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah),

–       Not because we don’t have the knowledge (we know more today than we ever did before),

–       Not because we don’t have the resources (never before has the church had all the literature, technology, and knowhow at its disposal),

–       Not because we don’t have the man power (we have more Christians today than any other time in history),

–       Not because we don’t have the time (there are still 24 hours in a day),

–       Not because we are more persecuted than before (study the early church that had to face the lions)

We try to pass the blame on this, that, and the other. The real problem in America is that most Christians have become anemic, lifeless, and weak. What is needed is the spirit of a Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla, men and women on fire for God.

This morning if the spiritual temperature of our nation troubles you, stop looking to Washington or Hollywood and start looking in the mirror. Are you ablaze for God?

The passage breaks down into three parts:

I. BE ON FIRE FOR GOD.

11 not lagging in diligence, A better translation of that would be “in zeal, do not be lazy.”

Christianity in America is suffering because we have lost the zeal, the fire, the passion, the urgency, the energy, the boldness, and the forthrightness that moved the world for God in previous generations.

Anytime you say that, immediately we think of someone who is pushy and obnoxious, trying to cram the gospel down our throat. No one wants that. That does more harm than good for the kingdom of God. People run when they see you coming. What we are talking about is “being in a spirit of revival.” It’s not that we have the gospel but the gospel has us. We are driven by our convictions regarding the lostness of every human being, the eternal judgment that is waiting in the end, the salvation through Jesus Christ being the only hope for them. The church is not a cruise liner. It is a rescue ship.

For e.g. Many years ago, when I first began in the ministry, I actually prayed to God for convictions. I had seen too many pastors and church people having a good time on a cruise liner while all around them there were people drowning in the water. It didn’t happen overnight but little by little God began to remove the complacency of my heart and replace it with His convictions.

Guess who was instrumental in this? The Holy Spirit. Listen to the next phrase – fervent in spirit, Again a better translation would be “boiling by the Spirit.” In other words, Ask the Holy Spirit to set you on fire. Our zeal for the gospel is not some self-induced passion but the Holy Spirit Himself sets us on fire. What you and I try to light ourselves on fire we fizzle out but when the Holy Spirit lights us up we begin to burn with an incredible unquenchable zeal.

That phrase “boiling by the Spirit” was used of Apollos in Acts 18:25 “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.”

Meaning: Set on fire by the Holy Spirit does not mean that you have all the answers and you have arrived. All is means is that moment and time you are completely under the authority and direction of the Holy Spirit

Any heart that is willing can have the Holy Spirit. He will empower whoever will honor Him.

Application: Many of us are on fire by the wrong spirit.

Now here comes another phrase that is critical for being on fire for God – serving the Lord. My paraphrase would be “with Jesus as Our Master.”

The purpose of the Holy Spirit is never to glorify Himself or you. His purpose is to glorify Jesus. Jesus Himself said in John 16:13-14  13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

Now we begin to walk, talk, think, and behave as Jesus. Now when we meet people, they see Jesus in us. There is no place for sin and self.

Robert Murray McCheyne, “Above all things, cultivate your own spirit. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear and your heart full of God’s Spirit is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin.”

Application: Are you on fire for God? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Are you living every moment to magnify Jesus Christ?

II. BE HOPEFUL AND PATIENT

12 rejoicing in hope,

What is HOPE? There are 2 ways people use the word hope: One, I sure hope it works out. Meaning = I don’t think it will get better; Second, Hope is on its way. Meaning = Don’t give up. There is help coming. It is the expectation of something better to come.

The Holy Spirit is the harbinger of hope. Listen to Romans 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Again, Romans 15:13  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Show me a person who is hopeless and I will show you a person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Anytime I hear I don’t think it’s going to work or I’m afraid it’s not going to work and I see a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit. The problem with our nation and our community is hopelessness. You can talk about hope and you can make hope your campaign slogan but if there is no genuine hope, nothing will happen.

Now someone might say, but you don’t realize how bad it is. Listen to the very next line – patient in tribulation. First the word tribulation refers to pressure to the point of breaking. Why are we surprised? Jesus said in John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation…”

How are we to face tribulation? Be patient. It is not some passive putting up with things but actively standing and enduring.

Someone might say “that’s hard to do.” Listen again to John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Application: Are you rejoicing in hope? Are you patient in the midst of trouble?

III. BE IN CONSTANT PRAYER

continuing steadfastly in prayer; Literally – busy yourself in prayer

Most of us busy ourselves in worry, in doubt, and in complaining.

Our prayer is our communication with the home base.

Stop praying and one by one like dominoes it will all crash. First to go is patience in trouble, next to go is joy, because there is no hope. Then, you are no longer following Jesus, no longer filled with the Spirit, and now you are simply existing with passion and zeal.

E.M. Bounds “Short devotions deplete spiritual vigor, arrest spiritual progress, sap spiritual foundations, blight the root and bloom of spiritual life. They are the prolific source of backsliding, the sure indication of a superficial piety; they deceive, blight, rot the seed, and impoverish the soil.”

In other words, your spiritual life, for practical purposes is dead. You can put up the tree, hang the wreaths, buy the gifts, sing Christmas carols but it doesn’t do anything for you or anybody else.

Application: Did this message describe you? Are you ablaze for God? Or, are you burned out for God?

John Wesley “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.”

Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

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