WHEN THE BODY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Back in 2009 our family decided to take a trip out west. We were all able to get in my truck with our luggage under the bed cover. We all had plenty of room. It was a trip of a lifetime! The other day I said to Nicole – “That was so much fun! Maybe we can do that again one day.” To which she replied – “If we all tried to get in your truck and ride 5000 miles, we would kill each other.” So also with our church body. There was a time when 20 people on a Sunday morning was a good Sunday. The children’s ministry had 2 kids, that’s Rebecca and Abigail. We would count anything that breathed. Things have changed since then. God has truly blessed us and our church body keeps growing. If were not careful, we would kill each other. With that said, let’s turn to the book of Ephesians for our message titled “WHEN THE BODY GROWS.” We will do a series through this book soon but for now just a few verses from chapter 4.
Ephesians 4 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Question: How do you relate with others in the body? What is your role in this church body at Clearview? Are you helping to edify this body in love? To be a part of this church body, you have to be saved. Are you saved?
Context: Before we can understand the meaning and application of the passage we just read, we need to first ask “Why did Paul write this letter to the Ephesians?” Although there is no clear consensus, most scholars believe that Paul’s main purpose was to promote unity and love among the Ephesian Christians. He wanted them to love one another with the same deep love with which they love God and Christ. Those two are interconnected. Why did he feel that this was important? Maybe because he sensed that they were losing their grip on love. Was he right? Yes. Just a few years later, listen to what John wrote in Revelation 2 1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: (that’s Jesus) 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” What will people say of our church a few years from now?
With that in mind, let’s return to the passage but let’s begin in Ephesians 4 verse 1 to truly understand what we read. 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord…” Meaning: He is bound to Christ. He goes where Christ goes, does what Christ tells him to do, and says what Christ tells him to say. In other words, he is not writing on his own authority but Christ’s. What does Christ demand? 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” Paul begins this section by urging the Ephesians to remember the Christian graces. They are given in 2 Peter but some are here as well. Lowliness means humility. Nothing will destroy unity faster than pride. Gentleness means meekness. It is not weakness. Instead, it is knowing when to be angry and when not. Longsuffering means patience. It means don’t say what comes to your mind and your mouth. Bearing with one another in love means learn to tolerate each other and do it with “agape” love. Don’t resent the other person. What’s the goal? 3 “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It makes a difference in how you treat and interact with each other.
Application: Are you marked by Christian graces?
Now, if I were to end the message here and tell you to remember the Christian graces and be nice, kind, and loving to each other, it probably won’t last 10 minutes. Our Christian graces are linked to our foundational beliefs. We stand upon a 7-layered foundation:
- One Universal Church – 4 “There is one body…” Paul was dealing with issue of Jews and Gentiles coming together. So also today, there are many churches and denominations but if you are willing to receive Jesus Christ as your only Savior and God, then we are part of that one body.
- One Spirit – 4 “There is one body and one Spirit…” The same Holy Spirit indwells you who indwells me.
- One Hope – 4 “…just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” We have the same expectation that God will work his plan out for us and this world and Christ will ultimately come for us (the blessed hope and glorious appearing).
- One Master – 5 “one Lord…” The same second person of the godhead who became man and died for me and rose again on the third day is your master as well.
- One Faith – 5 “…one faith…” There is one settled body of truth which Jude calls 3 “…faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
- One Baptism – 5 “…one baptism…” This refers to the baptism Paul talks about in Romans 6 where we “were baptized into His death,” “buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised with him to “walk in newness of life.” The water baptism is the demonstration of this inward spiritual baptism.
- One God and Father – 6 “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Through Christ we have the same God the Father and we belong to the same family. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my father” but “our father.”
If you are willing to stand on this 7-layered foundation, we can work out any other disagreements we may have. If we step off any of these layers, no amount of pretend niceness is going to hold us together.
Application: Do you know our foundational beliefs?
Remember our Christian graces. Remember our Foundational Beliefs.
Remember our role in the body. 7 “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, (established churches along with signs and wonders and miracles. Today we don’t have this gift but we do have missionaries) some prophets, (communicated the divine revelation of God. Today we don’t have this gift because we have the New Testament but we do have revivalists) some evangelists, (preach and explain the good news of salvation like Philip the evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch but today Billy Graham) and some pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping (katartismos = “mending” restoring, putting things right) of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (This is my goal as the pastor/shepherd of Clearview) 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” It’s like a spiral. The more it turns the deeper the unity grows.
Our church body is growing but we need to be aware of our Christian graces, our foundational beliefs, and our role in the body.
Are you doing your part in the body? Are you in the body? Are you saved?
AMERICA TOMORROW Article by Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 23, 2016)
“What’s going on in this world?! What’re we gonna do?!” I was greeted with those words as I made my way to the church office. I knew this person was referring to the recent headlines – “police officers murdered,” “terrorist attackin France,” “military coup in Turkey,” etc. I casually responded – “It seems like people have gone crazy…I guess we just need to pray more…” As I closed my office door behind me, those words began to ring louder and louder in my mind – “What’re we gonna do? What’re we gonna do?!” Just then a quote popped into my head that I read years ago – “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
What can good people do in a world gone mad? Of course we need to pray but it’s time we did more than just pray:
- It’s time that Christians step outside the four walls of their churches and take a lead in marching for peace and unity. The chaos and destruction in our nation and world is evidence that the followers of the Prince of Peace have abandoned their posts. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We resemble our Heavenly Father the most when we spread harmony in our world.
- It’s time we recognize that there are elements in our country and outside who are taking great delight in seeing us turn on each other. They want to see our law enforcement weak and the discontented angrier so that they can take advantage of the situation. Unless we recognize this threat and make efforts to unite, we will fall right into the enemy’s hands. As Benjamin Franklin famously remarked (although variously attributed to others), “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
- It’s time we stand with our law enforcement officials. Of course there will always be some bad apples but, as a whole, most of our law enforcement are good men and women who want to keep us safe. They deserve our support and encouragement. To make them weak is to throw the gates open to evil men.
- It’s time we look beyond a person’s skin pigmentation and offer respect and understanding to each other. No amount of slogan throwing will solve our divisions. If one segment of our American population feels that they have been negatively stereotyped and mistreated, then we should find ways to reach out in brotherly love and help change the situation. There will be no end to the present crisis unless a genuine attempt is made to understand and heal.
- It’s time we recognize that leadership matters. Part of the reason we’re in the mess we are collectively, financially, defensively, and spiritually is because of leadership. Stop looking for a perfect candidate and support the leader who will best represent biblical values. Vote for the leader who will believe in American exceptionalism and will make us a force for good once again.
Does America have a tomorrow? As long as the good people are willing to do something in God’s strength, the future is brighter than ever.
GETTING A HANDLE ON MONEY by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
Nehemiah 7:70-73 70 And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas, fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments. 71 Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the treasury of the work twenty thousand gold drachmas, and two thousand two hundred silver minas. 72 And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments. 73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities. When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.
Overall Background: Nehemiah led the Jewish people to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem. To this day, you can see the remains of that old wall and it is nothing short of a miracle! How could these people do all that and that too in only 52 days! Clearly, it was a work of God. God brought them together, protected them, guided them, and gave them the strength to work together to finish the wall in record time. No doubt it was the work of God. But if we just stop there, we will have an incomplete picture of what really happened. In chapter 7, Nehemiah gives us a report of the number of people who were involved in the project and the amount of money they gave to the building project. Meaning: Even though the whole building project was a work of God,
- The mortar had to be purchased. It did not just fall out of the sky.
- The stones had to be ordered. They did not just chisel themselves.
- The tools had to be bought. They did not just appear out of thin air.
The people had to work together and give money towards the cost and expenses of the project. This is very important to understand. Just because God did a powerful work does not mean He violated natural laws and human laws. Even though God was ultimately doing the work, the people also had to do their part.
Just because God is behind all that is happening at Clearview, it doesn’t mean that the concrete, bricks, and lumber will fall out of the sky; it doesn’t mean the trusses will build themselves and the roof will grow on it. It requires our financial support.
I titled this message – “Getting a Handle on Money” because how we give money towards God’s work has a direct impact on what happens to money in our own hands. In other words, how you give is how you keep.
Three important observations in this text:
I. EVERYONE WAS EXPECTED TO GIVE.
70 And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work.
Background: Who were the “heads of the fathers’ houses?” The father’s house is the extended family unit between the larger tribe and the individual family unit. The larger tribes would be the tribe of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. Under each tribe would be many extended families – the family of Arah, Elam, and Azgad. Under each extended family there were hundreds of individual family units of husband, wife, and their children. The heads of the fathers’ houses set the tone for their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren to give.
For e.g. Growing up mom and dad would always talk about giving our tithes and offerings in church. We saw them struggling but still giving faithfully. They set an example for us to give. Not like the guy who came to church with his family? As they were driving home, he was complaining about everything: “The music was too loud. The sermon was too long. The announcements were unclear. The building was hot. The people were unfriendly.” He went on and on, complaining about everything. Finally, his little boy in the back seat piped up, “Dad, but you’ve got to admit—It wasn’t a bad show for a buck.”
So the heads of the extended families gave but it doesn’t stop there. “The governor gave to the treasury” – Some translations have the word “Tirshatah” which in Hebrew literally means “the one to be feared or respected.” It was the title for the governor. Who was the governor? I believe the governor was none other than Nehemiah. He was not there just barking orders but he invested his own money.
At Clearview, we believe that leaders should lead in giving. That does not mean that you should be the largest giver in the church but you should give proportionately to your income. Someone here makes $10,000 a month and they give $200 but another person makes $1000 and gives $100. Who is giving more? The one who is giving $100.
So the heads of the extended families and the governor gave but it doesn’t stop there.
72 And that which the rest of the people gave – Who are they? Everybody else.
Application: How is your giving at Clearview? Many of us have this idea – the rich guys are going to pay for this. I don’t have to give anything. Praise God for those who are wealthy and are giving so faithfully. But God’s order has not changed. Everyone should give according to what He has given to us. Young people—if you are getting paid, you should be giving your tithes and offerings. Single people—if you are working, you should be giving your tithes and offerings. Married Couples – if each of you is working, each of you should tithe. If you are on a fixed income – you should still tithe. If you are on a retirement, you should still tithe. I’ve heard people say – “I’m not a member so I don’t have to give.” Let me ask you—“Has this church changed your life?” “Has the preaching, ministry, and friendships at Clearview helped you and your family, then you should give.”
II. EVERYONE GAVE ABOVE AND BEYOND.
How much did the governor give? Verse 70 The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas, What is a “drachma?” It was actually aPersian gold coin called “daric.” The word “dari” was an Old Persian word for gold. It was 98% gold and 2% alloy for hardness. It weighed about 1/3 of an ounce. One Daric could buy you an ox or pay a soldier’s salary for a month. That is a lot of money!
How much did Governor Nehemiah give? 1000 gold drachmas = 20 pounds of gold besides fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments.
How much did the heads of the fathers’ houses give? Verse 71 twenty thousand gold drachmas, and two thousand two hundred silver minas. What is a “mina?” It was a Babylonian silver coin. One mina = 60 shekels. One shekel was the average monthly wage and so one mina would pay an average worker for 5 years. That is a lot of money!
How much did the rest of the people give? Verse 72 twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments. These people gave above and beyond what was expected of them. They had plenty of reasons not to give:
– We have just returned from Babylon. We are just getting settled. We don’t have a stable job.
– There is no guarantee if this project is going to work. What if it all fails?
– We don’t live in Jerusalem. It’s not going to benefit us.
– We are helping out at the building. We don’t have to give any money.
– Nehemiah’s got all the money. Let him give. The heads of the families have all the money. Let them give.
These people could have made every excuse in the book but they didn’t. They gave above and beyond. They gave sacrificially. They gave overwhelmingly.
Listen carefully: I believe that Clearview is a loving church, praying church, singing church, going church but we have yet to be a giving church. I hear all kinds of excuses:
– “Tithing is Old Testament” – Abraham gave a tithe way before Moses ever gave the Ten Commandments. In fact, in the NT, tithing is just the starting point!
– “Just cause I don’t give doesn’t mean I don’t love Jesus”—Like the bumper sticker: “Honk if you love Jesus.” I heard of another one—“Tithe if you love Jesus. Any fool can honk.” When John Wesley would visit his congregations he would often ask his assistants about their progress in the faith. He would often ask if their Christianity had affected their pockets. That is the real test of what we believe. We have yet to love God with our wallets.
– “I would if I had some extra”—God instituted tithing to teach us that it all belongs to Him and that we are to give back a portion of what He has given us. It’s like the father who buys French Fries for his son. Then just like fathers do. He reaches over to take one and the little boy slaps his father’s hand. “Don’t touch my French fries!” Now the father knows that he bought the fries. He could take all of them. He could get angry with his son. He could throw them in a trashcan. He could do anything he wanted to with those fries. The problem is that his son is selfish. That is the same way with us when we refuse to give God our tithe. We slap God’s hand and say, “Don’t touch my money!”
– “I give what I can”—You are to tithe on your gross not on your net. When you tithe on your net, you are in essence saying that the government not God gets the “first fruit” of our increase. If you are throwing in $5—are you only making $50 per month? I give $50; are you only making $500 a month?
Application: This is a tough message but it is desperately needed. Are we stealing from God? Are we playing safe? Are you hiding behind someone else’s giving?
III. EVERYONE BENEFITED FROM GIVING.
73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities.
Background: Because the people gave financially, the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt. Stability, peace, security, and prosperity returned to the nation. Their enemies realized that the Jewish people were back in control and they were afraid to attack them and vandalize their cities and their properties. What’s more? “When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.” Not only did they build the wall in record time but they also repopulated their original cities in record time! Just in time for the Feast of the Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of the Tabernacles. Isn’t that amazing?! Everything was a testimony to the hand of God upon His people.
When we give faithfully, God does things with our tithes and offerings that are way beyond our imagination. We get much more than we bargained for.
For e.g. The first check that Nicole writes in our home is the tithe check. Does it get tight sometimes? Yes it does. It is a sacrifice but God wants us to feel the pain when we give to Him. It is a reminder of the pain that the Father felt when He gave His Only Son to die on the cross for our sins. But every month God meets our needs in amazing ways. He always has. Not only that but He takes what we give back to Him and He multiplies it much much more.
How awesome it is to see God turning our community around and changing the hearts and minds of men and women, boys and girls!
1. Is Jesus Christ your Savior?
2. Is in charge of your finances?
Corrie Ten Boom said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”