Cold Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

COLD LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Cold Love

Introduction:  Years ago there was a cartoon of an old farmer and his wife riding down the road in a pickup truck. The first frame showed the old farmer sitting behind the wheel with his arm out the window and the wife sitting up against the door on the other side. The second frame showed a young couple passing them. They were sitting so close to each other that you couldn’t tell which one was driving. In the third frame the old woman says to her husband, “Pa, you remember when we used to ride like that…What happened to us?” In the last frame the old farmer replies, “Ma, I ain’t moved…” It’s the same thing when it comes to our relationship with God. If you find that your love for him has grown cold, guess who moved? Not him. This is our first message in our series on the Book of Malachi. It’s called “Cold Love.”

Malachi 1    1 The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord.

Question: “Oh what a weeriness!” Some translations say, “Oh, what a burden!” It has the idea of exhaustion behind it. The people had become tired of serving God. For reasons we will see this morning, they had become sick of God. Does that describe you today? Has the Christian life become a burden for you? Have the things of God become a drag for you? If so, then you need a revival, you need a countershock. As someone said, “before you can be revived, you have to be vived, you have to be saved.” Are you saved?

Context: The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It belongs in a collection known as the Twelve Prophets or the “Minor Prophets.” They’re called “minor” not because they’re less important but because compared to the bigger writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel they were much smaller. But even though Malachi is small in size, it has a big message. To really understand that, we have to understand the context in which it was written. From my study of the language and theology of the book, I believe that it was written sometime towards the end of Nehemiah’s ministry. For those of you who may not be familiar, here’s a quick timeline:

  • In 538 BC God raised Cyrus, King of Persia, to free the Jewish people. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had taken the people into exile and had destroyed everything. Under Cyrus they were able to return and rebuild.
  • Some returned and by 515 BC (23 years later) the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt. God sent his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the people to rebuild the temple.
  • In 458 BC (60 years later) God sent Ezra the scribe to come and read his law to the people and call them to spiritual, moral, and social renewal.
  • In 445 BC (10 years later) God burdened Nehemiah to leave his high-profile position in Persia and rally the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem and they did it in 52 days! He also led them in revival. But then Nehemiah had to go back to Persia and spiritually and morally things began to go downhill again.

This is the time period in which God sent Malachi the prophet to his people. It was God who had brought them back into the land. It was God who had helped them rebuilt their lives. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the temple. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem. You would think that the people would be grateful to God and willing to serve him and obey him. Instead, they were becoming ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards him. Why? They were angry with God over why he had allowed them to go into exile in the first place. Why did so many have to die? Why did so many have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be turned upside down? They had forgotten that it was their sin that had brought the judgment of God. Now they were doubting the power of God, the love of God, and even the existence of God. As a result, some had turned towards atheism, others towards Epicureanism, and yet others had become reluctant believers. In other words, they were simply going through the motions but inside they were defiant towards God.

Illustration: Like the little boy whose daddy made him sit. He sat down with his arms crossed and said, “Fine. I’m sitting on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside.”

Application: Is that you? Have you become cynical and sarcastic towards God because of some bad situations? Are you simply going through the motions? Do you come to church but it’s a duty rather than a desire? Are you angry with God?

So God spoke to his people through Malachi– 1 “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” Some translations have it as “the oracle of the word of the Lord.” I believe that burden is a better translation because the word “massa” in this context has a sense of heaviness. The words that God is about to say to his people are heavy. Every message I preach I ask God to give me a burden for the people, a sense of urgency.

Now listen to the dialogue between God and his people. It’s in a “charge” versus “counter-charge” format – “God Speaks, Israel Speaks” 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. The word for love is “ahab” which has the idea of a sovereign, unconditional, and personal love. It represents covenant love. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” You have to read that with a tone of sarcasm and scoff. They were doubting the character of God.Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” What was God saying? Jacob and Esau were brothers. God in his divine sovereignty had chosen Jacob and his descendants to fulfill his plan of redemption in the world. There was nothing that special about Jacob. It was totally divine election. What God was saying to them is “Don’t you remember that I chose you to be my people? Don’t you remember that I am the reason for your existence?”

Application: Have you forgotten where God has brought you from? Have you forgotten that everything you have is a gift from God? We don’t go back to Jacob but to Jesus.

By the way, why did God say “but Esau I have hated”? The descendants of Esau were the Edomites. They were cousins but they hated the descendants of Jacob, the people of Israel. In fact, when Babylon came up against Jerusalem, the Edomites helped them to destroy the city. God says, “I have — 3 “…laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.” And if they try to rebuild, God said, “I will tear down faster than they can build. ‘They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness.’” In other words, God was saying “I will deal with them for what they’ve done to you.” By the way, sometime in the fifth century a group of Arab tribes drove the Edomites out of their homeland. By around 312 BC the Nabateans took over the region and made Petra their capital city. Nicole and I went there 3 years ago. It’s beautiful but a wasteland to this day.

6 “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts…” They were defying the honor of God. By the way, the reverence of God is not “organ music and lofty prayers.” It’s uncompromised obedience to him. Who were leading the charge here? To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, “In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ The priests and the Levites had no fear of God themselves. When the people would bring defiled food (the leftovers) and rejected stuff to the altar, the show-bread table and the altar of burnt offering, they would not stop them. They would say, “Yeah, it’ll work.” 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. 9 “But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. What a powerful analogy! People still try to offer God their leftover money, time, and talent. We are so prone to give what hurts the least. God says, “If you’re going to give me something, it should cost you something.” Why? It should be a sacrifice. It cost God something when he gave his Son on the cross.

Application: Have you lost the fear of God? Have you lost the reverence of God? Are you still trying to offer God your leftover money, time, and talent?

10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the Lord of hosts. 12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. They were openly disgruntled in worship. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord. Weariness is when you go from “I get to” to “I’ve got to” – “I’ve GOT to go to church” “I’ve GOT to teach S.S.” “I’ve GOT to sing.” “We’ve GOT to tithe.” Listen carefully: If you’ve lost the joy of the Christian life, you might as well stop the work of the Christian life. There’s nothing more dull, dry, boring, and tedious than Christian work without the joy of the Christian life.”

14 “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the Lord of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.

How to know your love has become cold? Doubt the character of God, defy the honor of God, and openly disgruntled in worship. Are you saved?

Love is Liberating by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS LIBERATING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Love is LiberatingIntroduction:  If you keep up with politics, I’m sure you’ve heard of Congressman Sam Johnson from Plano, Texas. He has served in the House since 1991 and will be retiring next year. He is an Air Force Veteran and a POW in Vietnam for 7 years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” also known as “Hell’s Hole.” In recalling his experience, he said, “Starvation, isolation and torture were constant companions. There was no news from home, and the enemy worked hard to make us feel alone and forgotten.” He describes one of the torture treatments – “I could recall nothing from military survival training that explained the use of a meat hook suspended from the ceiling…During a routine torture session…the Vietnamese tied a prisoner’s hands and feet, then bound his hands to his ankles—sometimes behind the back, sometimes in front. The ropes were tightened to the point that you couldn’t breathe. Then, bowed or bent in half, the prisoner was hoisted up onto the hook to hang by ropes. Guards would return at intervals to tighten them until all feeling was gone, and the prisoner’s limbs turned purple and swelled to twice their normal size. This would go on for hours, sometimes even days on end.” The torture and malnutrition made Johnson stoop-shouldered and mangled his right arm, besides a cracked back and broken arm when his plane went down. After 42 months in a dark solitary cell with rats and filth, he was finally released and he remembers the sweet embrace of his wife Shirley and their three kids. He said, “I got through those hellish years by the grace and mercy of God.” Our final message in this series on love is titled, “LOVE IS LIBERATING.” There’s no true love in hate-filled, torture like environments. True love flourishes where there is true freedom.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: At the heart of all the problems in the Corinthian Church was the problem of love. They didn’t know how to love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to teach them how to love each other the way Christ loves us. In today’s message, you will see that Christ never exposes, never suspects, never discourages, and never threatens.

Question: How do you love people? Do you at times expose the weaknesses and failures of the ones you love? Do you constantly suspect and doubt the ones you love? Do you discourage and steal hope from the ones you love? Do you give up on or threaten the ones you love? Are you saved? Have you truly experienced the love of God in Christ?

Let’s look at the words in Greek: The first is “love bears all things.” The Greek word for bears is “stegei.” It comes from the noun “stegei,” which means “roof.” I’m sure the Corinthians knew what this word meant. Archaeologists have found evidence that by the 7th century BC the temples and houses in Corinth had started replacing thatched roofs with fired tiles. Why? Because thatched roofs were a huge fire hazard, especially in a growing city like Corinth. These tiles were heavy, weighing about 60 plus pounds but they were durable, long-lasting, and protective from the rain, sun, heat, snow, and cold. The word “stegei” took on the idea of covering, sheltering, protecting, keeping out, and keeping in. When Paul says, “love bears all,” he is really saying, “love always covers and never exposes.” Meaning: Love does not find pleasure in exposing others to harshness. Love does not get joy in watching the other person squirm in fear or shame. In the Corinthian culture, it might have been okay to expose your enemy but not in Christianity.

Application: Do you cover people or do you expose people? In the Greco-Roman world, sometimes when the renters would not pay on time, the landlords would remove the front door or even strip off the tiles from the roof. Does that sound familiar? Someone is bound to say, “Are you suggesting we hide someone’s sin?” No. I’m simply saying what Peter also said in I Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Even though Peter uses a different word for “cover” than roof, the idea is the same. Love does not get pleasure out of exposing the other person but wants to help them in their moment of weakness and shame.

The second statement: “Love believes all things.” The Greek word for “believes” is “pisteuei,” which has the idea of trust in others. Again, the Corinthian culture was very competitive and status seeking. They were constantly striving to get ahead of one another by whatever means necessary. You always had to watch your back. Unfortunately, this mindset of distrust and suspicion had also entered the church. Even Christians didn’t trust each other. When Paul tells them “loves believes all things,” he was really saying, “love does not live in the zone of perpetual suspicion but is willing to trust others. It is the foundation of all relationships.”

Illustration: When God called me into the ministry, I went to Nicole’s dad and he helped me with my decision. I asked him if he would also help me find a good seminary. He took me to one. On the way, he told me that one of his good friends was a pastor nearby and he wanted to come visit with us. That sounded fine to me. This man came and after they caught up, he turned to me and began telling me how terrible people were and how they would stab me in the back and how they could not be trusted. He spent the next hour or two emotionally vomiting. I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t naïve about church ministry. My dad was a pastor and still is. But I didn’t know how to take what he had just told me. After he left, Nicole’s dad said to me, “Don’t pay attention to anything he said. He must be going through some mess. Without trust, you cannot minister to people.”

Here’s the point: If you constantly operate as some kind of a KGB agent, always frisking people, always looking over your shoulder, always questioning their motives, you will never be able to love people. Your relationships will always be sporadic, seasonal, and short lived. By the way, get used to the idea that people will fail you. They will break your trust. If I may add, many times, people will rise or fall to the level of your expectations. If you keeping suspecting them, they will become suspicious. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, there’s no true love.

The third statement: “love hopes all things.” The Greek word for “hopes” is “elpidzei,” which has the idea of expectation and wish. People often confuse faith with hope. They are related but they are not the same. They are related in the sense that they are both looking to something that is invisible and unprovable. But they are different because just a few verses later Paul says in verse 13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” What is the difference between faith and hope? Faith is what you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is what you can’t see but you are looking for. If faith is the foundation that you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is the window through which you are looking for what you can’t see yet.

Illustration: In the past few years, the Robertson family from West Munroe, Louisiana has become a household name. You’ve heard of their show – “Duck Commander.” They came from very humble background through some very difficult times. In the book “Duck Commander Family,” Willie Robertson writes this in the prolog: “The dinner table is where I learned to follow my dreams. This is where Dad told us he was going to start Duck Commander, and where I told my family I was getting married and heading off to college. Our hopes and aspirations were never shot down, never debated, only encouraged. We might have been eating fried bologna at the time because that was all we could afford, but there was hope that one day we would be feasting on a big fat rib-eye steak.” Would you agree that they are loving family? Would you agree that their hope has become more than a reality?

Here’s the point: You can have all the covering and all the trust but if you don’t have hope, you will shrivel and die. When a marriage loses hope, when a friendship loses hope, when a church loses hope, when a community loses hope, when a nation loses hope, it is the beginning of the end of love.

Application: Are you a hope giver or are you a hope stealer? Do you open the windows to your loved ones’ dreams and goals or do you lock them up like Congressman Sam Johnson in a dark, hopeless prison cell?

The fourth and final statement: “love endures all things.” The Greek word for “endures” is “hupomenei,” which carries the idea of being patient, remaining, and enduring. In other words, “love does not give up, doesn’t run out when things get tough.” In a transient culture like the Corinthians, when things didn’t work out with one person, move on to the next. If it doesn’t work out again, move on to the next. You don’t have to take anyone’s mess. How do we know this? Think about the different groups in the Corinthian church. I Corinthians 1   12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? The Corinthians had moved from one group to another when things didn’t work out with one.

Let me clarify: There are times when you may have to cut relationships because of physical or mental/emotional abuse. Having said, we need to learn to bear with others and their faults and failures. Listen carefully: When you love somebody, be prepared to be hurt. Hurting people will hurt people. But if you drop them, they will never get the chance to heal. In your marriage, family, church family, community, neighborhood, and workplace, you will come across people that you have to be patient with.

Application: Are you willing to endure? Are you willing to look over their failures and hang-ups? Are you willing to cut others some slack?

How can you have this kind of love? First, understand how God loves you. Remember, you can substitute Christ for every time love is mentioned in this verse – “Christ bears all things, Christ believes all things, Christ hopes all things, Christ endures all things. Christ never fails.” Second, understand how to love people. Begin today by setting people free. Think of yourself as a prison warden with keys to 4 cells:

  • Cell #1 Exposure (Remember, love covers all. Let the inmates know that you will always cover them.)
  • Cell #2 Suspicion (Remember, love trusts others. Let the inmates know that you will never doubt them.)
  • Cell #3 Pessimism (Remember, love gives hope. Let the inmates know that you see a bright day in the future.)
  • Cell #4 Threats (Remember, love endures all. Let the inmates know that you will never give up on them.)

True love will being to flow when you set the captives free.

Are you free? Are people in your life free? Are you saved

Love is Purifying by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS PURIFYING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love is purifyingIntroduction:  Sometime back I was watching a basketball game between two college rival teams. Please don’t ask me which one I was rooting for. I don’t want my tires slashed! Nonetheless, a player on the rival team travelled. He just lost his balance. What was amazing to me is that the home crowd cheered at the top of their lungs, including me. This is nothing new and I’m sure you’ve seen it before and probably cheered too. The player was embarrassed. He dropped his head and slumped back to his seat. But I thought about it. We weren’t cheering for our player who made a basket. We weren’t cheering for our team that made a good play. We were cheering for a player on the opposite team who made a mistake and cost his team possession of the ball. If you really think about it, we were actually happy over someone’s mistake and misfortune! Sadly, this happens not just in sports but also in real life. Today’s message will not only expose this ugly sinful side in all of us but also give us the solution so we can truly love others the way God loves us. The message is titled: LOVE IS PURIFYING.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian church was fraught with some of the worst kinds of sins. It was damaging the unity of the church. They couldn’t love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to confront them, to help them deal with those sins so they could love each other the way God loved them. By the way, when the Holy Spirit deals with us, he doesn’t leave any stone unturned. Now we come to another sin in this church – “rejoicing in iniquity.” We’ll try to understand that in a few moments but believe or not, it means feeling joy and cheering over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others.

Question: I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands this morning if you ever felt joy over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others. I’d hate to make a bunch of people lie at the same time in church. But would you agree that sin is deeper and uglier and more heinous than we pretend it is. The difference between the guy in prison and us is that he took the next step and by the grace of God we haven’t. Are you saved? Sometime people ask me – “What do I have to be saved from? Besides hell, the Devil, this life, yourself. This message will expose you to the “Resident Evil” inside you. It’ll show you why you need Christ to save you.

Let’s look at the words in Greek: “Love does not rejoice in iniquity.” First, the word for rejoice is “charei,” which carries the idea of being glad or taking pleasure in something. Second, “in iniquity” is the combination of the words “epi” = upon and “adikia” = wrongdoing, injury, injustice, or unrighteousness. Together they carry the idea of someone’s loss or wrong action. So Love does not rejoice in iniquity” means love does not get joy because of someone’s injury or wrong doing.

What in the world was happening in the Corinthian church? Keep in mind that the Corinthian culture was a very competitive, status-seeking culture in the ancient world. The American School of Classical Studies in Athens unearthed 1500 inscriptions from the Roman period (44BCE – 276CE) that brag on self. Scholars note that boasting about self was almost considered to be an art form. It was totally acceptable to not only brag about self but also secretly and sometimes even openly wish for the other person to fall and even cheered when they fell. In other words, it was normal for people in Corinth at the time to climb over each other in order to move up the social and financial ladder. Talk about Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest.” Unfortunately, this thinking and behavior had also infiltrated the church. Now the Corinthian Christians were not only boasting about self but they were also secretly and sometimes even openly wishing for the other person to fall and cheered when they fell.

Some of y’all are saying – “What kind of degenerate person would wish for someone to fall? What kind of evil hearted people would cheer when someone falls into sin or when something bad happens to someone?” Us kind of people. I can hear some of y’all saying, “Oh no! Not me! I always feel for people when something bad happens to them.” Some of y’all are saying, “When I heard what happened to them, I sent them a card…I even stopped by and told them ‘I was sad to hear what happened.’” Sure, we’re sad when bad things happen to our children or our best friend or someone we like or someone who is helpless or less fortunate but how about when something bad happens to those we don’t like very much or those we don’t care for much. I am referring to what goes through our minds when we hear that someone we envy just received bad news from the doctor. I am referring to what flashes in the secret chambers of our hearts when we hear that someone who seems to be ahead of us in life is going through a divorce or their son/daughter is making bad choices. I am referring to our first reaction when someone who always seems so strong and self-sufficient loses his job or has a wreck. I’m not suggesting that we call them and tell them how happy we are or throw a party in their dishonor. We are more cautious and polite and have more decency than that. I’m referring to the subtle feeling of satisfaction, amusement, and glee that comes over us and says, “Now I feel better. Now I’m one step ahead of them.” It’s the voice in our head that says, “I feel bad for em…but that’ll take em down a notch or two” or “Maybe that’ll teach em a lesson” or “We must be doing something right because we’re not going through what they are…thank God…” Germans call this thought and feeling “Schadenfreude,” which is the combination of two words – Schaden = damage and freude = joy. It means “the emotion of pleasure we feel in the misfortunes of others.” 99.9% of the time we will never share this with anyone, even people we trust but its there.

Question: No need to raise your hand but has this feeling ever come into your hearts? If you’re human, it has. The sooner you acknowledge it the better. If you pretend it’s not there, you will not be able to deal with it. If you don’t deal with it, you won’t be able to love others the way God loves you. It will corrupt the channel of love in your heart. Illustration: Imagine if you asked someone for a glass of water. They bring you clean water but the container is dirty. No matter how clean the water is, the dirty container will contaminate it. So also, it doesn’t matter how pure the love is in your heart but if your heart is dirty, it will contaminate your love. It will corrupt even the love you have for your loved ones. It will the Devil the foothold he wants in your life.

The place to begin is to recognize the source of this “Schadenfreude.” No one has to give you a lesson in it. It comes from the sin that resides deep within all of us. Keep in mind, this was not just some Corinthian problem. It is an age-old problem. In the oldest book in the Bible, the Book of Job, listen to what he says, Job 31  29 “If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, Or lifted myself up when evil found him 30 (Indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin By asking for a curse on his soul).” Job calls this a sin. Psalm 17:5 “…He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 24   17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; 18 Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him. God told his people in the Old Testament to refrain from rejoicing even over the downfall of their enemies.

Application: If we were truly honest, all of us have some repenting to do.

But Paul didn’t stop there. It’s not enough “not to feel happy at the misfortunes of others.” He went one step further to say – “Love rejoices in the truth.” First, the word for rejoices is “sugcharei,” which is more than just rejoicing. It is actually “joyfully celebrating” or “congratulating” or “applauding.” Truth is the word “aletheia” which is somewhat complicated. Truth here is not gospel truth. It’s not just the good things of life. Truth here is something objective. It doesn’t matter if it benefits me or hurts me. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the social ladder. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the financial ranking. Truth is truth.

Illustration: Sometime back someone invited me to go watch a basketball game. One of the players of the rival team made an amazing play and someone said – “It doesn’t matter which team you’re rooting for. That was a good play.” Meaning: Truth is truth. It doesn’t matter if that point goes against us or not. That player had just made an excellent play.

Love not only refuses to be happy at the misfortunes and mistakes of one’s enemies but it acknowledges and applauds the good it sees in the other person, without any regard to how it impacts self.

So how can you do this? First, you have to see how God loves you. If you want to know how God loves you, look to the cross.

I Corinthians 1   18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Why did Paul begin his letter to the Corinthians by focusing on the cross? Because he wanted them to know how contrary it was to their way of thinking. In the Corinthian culture, it was acceptable to climb on others, wish for their failures, and even rejoice in their misfortunes. To the contrary, Jesus gave his life on the cross for the very ones who were nailing him. He rejoiced in the truth that what he was doing would bring life to them. Instead of wishing for their failure, he prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When you receive Christ as your savior, not only are your sins forgiven but it also changes your definition of love. God the Holy Spirit purifies our misunderstanding of love.

How do you love others? Now with the help of the Holy Spirit you can actually love people through the cross. It’s not just Jesus on the cross but also you crucifying your sinfulness and selfishness and loving people with a purifying love.

Are you saved? Are you loving others with a purifying love

Love is Disarming by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS DISARMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love-is-disarming

Introduction:  Today’s message is titled – “Love is Disarming.” In other words, love allows you to drop your guard. Have you been around people who have their guard up – they’re always tense and uptight, they have a defensive perimeter around them? Have you been around people you have to be really guarded with – what you say, how you say, when you say? What is the common problem in both situations? Lack of trust. Why? Maybe at some point in time trust was violated. Something personal or private was shared, some weakness or vulnerability was exposed, and now it is used against the person. During counselling, the wife will say – “He’s so shallow.” Then the husband will reveal – “I messed up years ago or I told her something privately and now she brings it up every time we have an argument and has told everyone about it.” The wife is provoking her husband and he is arming himself. Other times, some people are just easily provoked. Nothing is being done to them but because of their personality or their past experience, they immediately react. Like siblings in the backseat – “She’s touching me!” but the other child is 3 feet away. Love creates a safe zone where no one provokes or is being provoked, where people trust each other and disarm.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian Church had many problems. One major reason for their problems was their nature of provoking and being provoked by each other. Their culture of jabbing and poking each other had come into their church body.

Question: Are you a person who is easily provoked? Are you the person who is provoking someone? I am talking in the context of marriage, family, church, neighborhood, workplace, and community. Do you feel like you are in an unsafe zone? Are you causing an unsafe zone? Are you saved? Without Christ, you are in the unsafe zone. He is the one who can bring you in the safe zone with God.

Let’s look at the words in Greek: “Love is not provoked.” The word is “paroxunetai.” It has the idea of “to irritate and to exasperate someone.” It means poking and jabbing someone in a subtle way that they finally react. It doesn’t immediately lead to full-blown rage but it does make a person feel “wounded or punctured by some sharp point.”

Paul also adds to this“love thinks no evil.” The verb “think” in Greek is “logizomai.” It can have several layers of meaning. It can mean “to count or to evaluate,” like Paul says in Romans 6:11 “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s like “thinking and mulling over a matter.” In some contexts, it can go a step further and have the idea of “planning or plotting evil.” In our context, it may have a double meaning of “sitting around and suspecting your neighbor of evil or sitting around and plotting evil against your neighbor.” There is one more meaning, a secondary one – “giving value or making much of.” This is especially strong when it is in a negative context like the one we are looking at. It has two implications. First, it means that you focus a lot on the evil you see in your neighbor. Second, it also means that you pay a lot of attention to the evil done to you by your neighbor.

Why did Paul bring this up in his description of true love? Because there was a lot of irritation causing behavior going on in the Corinthian church. There was a lot of poking and jabbing each other that was happening. History tells us that this was kind of common in the Corinthian culture. Let me give you one example. As you know, about a month ago Nicole and I were in Corinth, Greece. One of the most interesting sites is on the west side of the Agora, the marketplace, known as the Babbius Monument. It was a circle of Corinthian columns set on a square pedestal. What is very interesting is the inscription on the band above the columns. It says, “Gnaeus Babbius Philinus, aedile and pontifex, had this monument constructed at his own expense, and he approved it in his official capacity of duovir.” There are many monuments in the ancient world but not like this. You have to read between the lines to know what is really being implied. First, his name is a slave name. Apparently, he was a freedman who rose to power and became an aedile, a city manager. His job was to maintain the roads, supervise the food and water supply, organize the local games, among other things. He was telling those who were looking down on him for being a former slave – “I am no longer a slave. I am the city manager. Show me some respect.” But he doesn’t stop there. He adds another title to his name – pontifex, which means priest, probably to the patron god of the Isthmian games. Now, he was telling those who might be treating him like an outsider, “I am also the priest. I have spiritual authority now. You better show me respect.” Then he adds the line – “had this monument constructed at his own expense.” Apparently, people were spreading rumors that Babbius stole the city’s money to build the monument. This was his way of firing back – “Stop saying that. This is my own hard earned money.” The final line is really odd – “and he approved it in his official capacity of duovir,” which was a chief magistrate. Someone must have said – “He ain’t gonna last. Once he gets fired, we’ll take down his monument.” Babbius was sending a warning to them, “Don’t you think even about taking down my sign. I am the chief magistrate now.” This was a threat. By the way, he put a similar sign in four other places in the city! Every time people walked through the marketplace, they had to see those signs. This was part of the Corinthian culture – people were being provoked and they knew how to provoke others.

Now, there is a similar inscription nearby that we did not get to visit. It reads, “Erastus, in return for his position as aedile, laid the pavement at his own expense.” Again, this man Erastus was also a former slave who became the city manager. He was also sending a message to his critics that he did all this of his own money. Here’s something interesting – We don’t know about Babbius but Erastus was actually part of the Corinthian church. Paul actually mentions him by name in Romans 16:23 “…Erastus, the treasurer of the city greets you…” (Keep in mind that Paul wrote Romans from Corinth.)

Here’s my point: Provoking and being provoked was not only part of the Corinthian culture. It was also in the church! Paul mentioned this because there was a lot of jabbings and pokings going on in the church. You would hear a lot of – “Did you see how he looked at me?” “I know why she said that to me.” “One of these days, I am going to show her.” There was a lot of thinking and mulling over and planning and plotting evil happening. People didn’t trust each other. They only saw the evil in others. They only remembered the evil others had done to them. The Corinthian church was not a safe zone.

Sadly, this is true even today in churches, marriages, families, community, workplace. People are constantly constructed their subtle and not so subtle Babbius monuments and their Erastus inscriptions to provoke each other or respond to someone’s provoking. Are you the one who is provoking someone? Are you the one who is being provoked by someone? Are you the one who is constantly looking for the bad in others or thinking about the bad others have done to you? You constantly have your guard up.

What is the solution? To start with, remember how God loves you – He gives you a new identity in Jesus Christ. Listen to what Paul says in I Corinthians 7:22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise, he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.  If the world calls you a slave, God calls you free in Christ. If the world calls you free, God calls you his slave in Christ. Either way, God has given you a brand-new identity. You don’t have to live by your past or what the world says about your past.

So how are you to love others? 23 “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” In other words, stop giving in to the opinion and treatments of others. Stop worrying about what they are saying or thinking about you. If you have a lot of time on your hands, guard your mind. If not, you will pout, get upset, and start problems and then refuse to stop until those problems are resolved according to your personal satisfaction. You will become paranoid and build a Babbius monument to yourself. I’m not suggesting that you drop your guard against evil people. Instead, learn to be vulnerable. Disarm. Admit when you’ve messed up. Admit when you’re frightened. Admit when you’re lagging behind. Admit the truth about yourself.

For e.g. Swindoll gives the illustration of Uncle Zeke from Muleshoe, Texas. One of Uncle Zeke’s buddies was the blacksmith. They would spend time together and talk about stuff old guys talk about. One day, the blacksmith was working on a horseshoe before Zeke got there. He kept sticking it in the fire, pulling it out and hammering it. He did it again and again. It wasn’t cooperating so he tossed it on the sawdust on the ground just about the time Zeke walked in. Zeke didn’t know it was hot. He walked in, looked around, saw the horseshoe, reached down, picked it up, and dropped it right away. The blacksmith said – “Kinda hot, ain’t it Zeke…” Zeke said, “Nope, Just don’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.” How true that is of so many of us… Instead of saying, “Yeah, that was kind of dumb of me to pick that up” or “I should’ve checked with you first,” we say something similar that keeps us from looking vulnerable.

I think about Erastus who had his inscription on the ground. Why didn’t he remove it after he got saved? This is just my imagination. One day, Erastus and Paul were walking through the Agora and they came to that inscription on the ground. It was filled with bronze and fastened with lead. Erastus turned to Paul – “Paul, every time I look at it, it reminds me where God has brought me from. That’s how I used to think and live. Always telling my opponents how great I was and how I had climbed the ladder of success and power. But now, I walk on it and I remind myself that God has called the foolish, the weak, and the base things of the world so that ‘no flesh should glory in his presence.’” Later that evening when Paul was finishing his letter to the Romans and warning them to “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17) and as he lists the names of his fellow ministers – Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Tertius, Gaius, he says, “Oh yes, Erastus, the treasurer of the city greets you.” If he wasn’t a changed man, God would not have included him in his Word.

Are you saved? Are you provoking or easily provoked by others?

 

Love is Maturing by Abidan Paul Shah

LOVE IS MATURING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

love-is-maturing

Introduction: Have you ever said about someone – “He/she is so immature”? Why do we call someone immature? Because they do something that is improper. When little kids do something improper, we just laugh and call it childish. As a little boy I was fascinated by superheroes (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America, Flash Gordon). What is one thing all Superheroes have in common? They all wear their underwear on the outside. They’re really underwear like shorts over their leggings, kind of like circus athletes and wrestlers of the time. One time we had some people visiting our home and I decided to impress them with my superhero outfit. Unfortunately, they just laughed at me. But, if I were to do that today, you wouldn’t just laugh at me. You would call me immature. Unfortunately, many times, immaturity is not funny but frustrating and hurtful to others. Today we’re going to learn why immaturity and love cannot coexist. Turn to I Corinthians 13 for our message titled, “LOVE IS MATURING.”

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian church was unlike any church in Paul’s ministry. They were very immature, spiritually, and Paul was frustrated with them. Listen to how he addressed them in I Corinthians 3   1 “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes (children/infants) in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able…” Meaning: You’re just as spiritually immature as before. Why? 3 “for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” Meaning: “You’re still spiritually immature because you are so inconsiderate, hateful and rude to each other. You haven’t learnt how to treat each other with honor, dignity, and decency.” Did you know that spiritual maturity is connected to your treatment of others? This is in the context of the church, home, and life. Today’s passage on love takes it one step further – “love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own” – if you love someone, you will treat that person with honor, dignity, and decency. In other words, love and maturity are one and the same. That’s our message today.

Question: Are you a spiritually mature person? Have you grown in your maturity in Christ or are you still pushing, shoving, and pulling at those around you? How do you treat the people you are supposed to love? Are you saved? Before you can grow, you have to be born. Before you can spiritually grow, you have to be born again.

Let’s begin by examining the words that Paul used to describe love – “(love) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own.” The first one “does not behave rudely” is the Greek word “askhemonei.” This word belongs to the family of words that convey inappropriate behavior, shameful attitude, repulsive acts, vulgar actions, and unattractiveness. When the Jewish people translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek (LXX), they used this word group to translate the idea of nakedness, private parts, and even sex. In the New Testament, Paul used this word several times with the same idea. A prominent one is in Romans 1 where he used it to describe homosexuality as indecent and shameful. So why did Paul use it here in I Corinthians 13 to describe love? I believe that Paul had much more in mind than just – “love does not behave rudely.” He wasn’t saying, “if you love someone, you’ll be polite to them, hold the door for them and say please and thank you to them.” You can do all that for someone and never truly love them. If you take the real meaning of the Greek word (inappropriate, indecent, and disgraceful), Paul was telling the Corinthians that if you love someone you will respect them – give honor, show dignity, and act decently to the other person.

Why did Paul say this to the Corinthians? Because the Corinthians were disrespecting each other. Let me give you a few examples of where they did this:

1 Corinthians 5:1 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!” Even though the word “askhemonei” is not used here, Paul was telling them that this was inappropriate on so many levels. To start with, it was dishonoring for this man to do this to his own father. Next, it was degrading to this woman. She was no longer a respectable woman. Now the couple was sitting in church without any sense of shame. This was disrespectful to the church family. You can imagine the negative impact this was making on the young people. How about the community? People in Corinth were shocked by this behavior as well. Overall, this was a sexually shameful behavior.

I Corinthians 6:6 “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!” Again, the word “askhemonei” is not used here, but you can tell from Paul’s tone that this was a disgraceful behavior. One Christian was suing another Christian in the Corinthian church. Can you imagine the impact this must have had on the church? Families were probably avoiding each other in the church. One would sit on one side of the sanctuary and the other on the other side. This one was probably trying to rally others to their side and that one was talking trash about the other person. How relationally shameful this must have been to the church body.

1 Corinthians 11   20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others.” The early church used to have a love feast (fellowship dinner) every week along with the Lord’s Supper. They used to have a “better room” known as the triclinium (lit. three couches), which was a formal dining room in Roman buildings. Some of the Christians would get there early to beat the rush and get the better seat in the dining room while the latecomers had to crowd into the Atrium. “…and one is hungry and another is drunk.” While people were in the Atrium waiting to get in, many of them were taking their time eating and drinking and actually getting drunk! 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. Paul was exposing their spiritually shameful behavior.

1 Corinthians 12   14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?…21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” Can you read between the lines and see their collectively shameful behavior?

Why did they behave this way? Paul clarifies “(love) does not behave rudely” with “does not seek its own.” This is word for word in the Greek. They were acting rudely because they were selfish and self-centered people. They only cared about their own concerns, pleasures, and gifts. They did not care about others.

What was the solution? Grow up. Remember, how God loves you. Remember, how important you are to him and remember how important others are to him.

I want us to see how Paul handled the issue of selfishness at the Lord’s Table. 1 Corinthians 11   23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

The point is – God loves us in laying down His life for us. Now we are to do the same for others. 1 Corinthians 11   33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment.

Next, listen to how Paul handles the situation of various gifts and ministries. 1 Corinthians 12   4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all…18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body…22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

This is not just in the context of the church but also our daily relationships.

Let me suggest a few statements that should become a part of our vocabulary if we want to be mature:

I need you.

What do you think?

Let’s work it out.

Together, we can make it.

I am thankful for you.

I’ll help you.

I won’t say it because it will not build him/her up.

I won’t do it because it will hurt him/her.

Are you saved? Are you mature? Are you loving?

Love is Serving by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS SERVING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love-is-serving

Introduction: Many of us have heard the name Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach. He was known for his diehard determination to win, especially in tough situations. He also had a big ego. There are lots of stories about him, some true and some not. They say that once he was in championship playoffs and for some reason his wife Marie couldn’t go. It really disappointed him. Green Bay won in spite of the incredible odds. Lombardi was on cloud nine. He got home and his wife was asleep. He tried to slip into bed quietly but his cold feet touched her legs. She exclaimed – “God, your feet are cold!” To which he instantly replied – “When we’re in bed, just call me Vince.” In this message, we’re going to learn why love and pride cannot coexist. Turn to I Corinthians 13 for our message titled, “LOVE IS SERVING.”

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: Once again, keep in mind that Paul was writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth. Unlike Athens, that was just an old college town, and Sparta, that was just an old military town, Corinth was a happening place at the time of Paul. It was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia, sitting on two ports, one to the east and the other to the west. The Agora (marketplace) was the largest in Greece. You could buy anything you wanted. I can go on and on. What kind of people lived here? If you remember, Corinth was a Roman colony populated by freed slaves, army veterans, many original Greeks, and business people and laborers. Have you been around people like that? People who have pulled themselves up by their boot straps; people who think they are tough and hardcore; people who think their family tree goes back to some big shot; people who have struck rich and have a lot of money. What is one thing they all have in common? PRIDE. Unfortunately, this Corinthian sense of pride and arrogance had crept into the church and was destroying the unity of the church. Paul had to address it. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1   26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. Paul is being sarcastic here. He is telling them, “Don’t forget where you came from.” 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. What is pride? Pride is forgetting where we came from and self-glorying in God’s presence.

Question: Do you have a pride problem? Don’t be too quick to deny it. Pride is an equal opportunity employer. It infects Christians as well as non-Christians. It infects the rich as well as the poor. It has killed more marriages, destroyed more friendships, and sabotaged more hopes than anything else. Are you saved? Refusing to be saved is saying that you are good enough and don’t need Jesus to save you. Leave your pride behind and come to him today.

Let’s begin by examining the words that Paul used to describe love – “love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” The first one “does not parade itself” is the Greek word “perpereuetai.” This is the only time it is found in the Bible and only one time in secular literature. It has the idea of bragging by talking a lot about one’s self in big lofty words. Its noun form is “perperos,” which means a “bragger.” I don’t have any solid proof for this but if you just listen to that word “perperos,” the stem of that word is being repeated – “perper.” Think about the word “murmur.” It is the sound of someone repeatedly grumbling. Or the word “barbarian” originally referred to people who were not sophisticated in speaking and sounded like the were repeating “barbar.” So also, in my opinion, “perperos” is someone who is repeating things about themselves. After a while, it just sounds like a repetitive obnoxious noise.

Illustration: Sometime back I was at a meeting and this one gentleman began talking. Every statement was prefaced with “Let me tell you how I am,” “Ya’ll gonna learn something about me,” “The kind of person I am,” and “When you get to know me.” He was not a bad person at all but he didn’t realize that after a while we were simply hearing the same noise being repeated. Unintentionally, he had become a “perperos.”

In the Corinthian culture this was kind of normal. You had to assert yourself and prove that you were better and more powerful and wealthier and had deeper roots than the other person. But in the church culture, this was abnormal. Now you had to acknowledge your spiritual poverty, lower yourself, serve others, and put the needs of others before yourself. No wonder the love in the Corinthian church was dying out. It is very hard to love others when you are busy telling them why they should love you.

Paul adds“love is not puffed up.” The Greek word is “phusioutai.” It literally means “to blow up, to puff up, or to inflate.” It’s found 6 times in this letter. Each time the idea is of someone being full of pride and self-importance but not necessarily with their words. It is more about the demeanor than about the speech. It is pride without sound.

Illustration: Sometime back I met this young lady who was with a young man I knew. As I was talking to him, I realized that she had a “don’t care to be here” look on her face. I thought it must be because she didn’t know anyone and that we were leaving her out of the conversation. So I turned to her and asked her where she was from. She gave me a one-word answer. So I tried to extend the conversation by telling her about someone I knew from the same city. She abruptly responded – “Yes, someone said that already.” It had a sense of finality to it like, “I’m not interested in prolonging this conversation.” I observed her the rest of the time. She sat by herself, avoided any eye contact with anyone in the room, and had a look of disdain. I also noticed that people left her alone. She was sending a message without words and people were hearing it loud and clear.

In the Corinthian culture this was also kind of normal. You had to assert yourself and prove that you are stronger, wealthier, and better than others by your attitude and your demeanor. But in the church culture, this was abnormal. You had to put aside your pride and reach out to the other person in genuine love, care, and understanding. No wonder the love in the Corinthian church was dying out. It is very hard to love others when you are busy telling them that you are too good to associate with them.

Here’s a statement worth remembering: Sometimes pride struts around and everyone can see it. Other times it struts sitting down and everyone can sense it. The solution is – Pride with words has to step back and serve and pride without words has to step up and serve.

How does God love us? He doesn’t strut around in pride. Neither does he sit puffed up in pride. Instead, He serves us in true humility. Paul makes a powerful statement about God in the introduction of his letter to the Corinthians that almost seems blasphemous. I Corinthians 1   25 “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” There are some verses in the Bible that are too deep for my finite mind to grasp. This is one of them. Think about it – How can God be foolish? How can God be weak? God is not foolish and neither is he weak. What is Paul saying here? To understand that read the previous 3 verses – 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. The cross made Jesus appear foolish to this world and the incarnation made Jesus appear weak to this world (per Tertullian). They both go against pride. But God was willing to appear foolish and weak to this world so that he could save us. That is true love! In other words, while the Corinthians were strutting and puffing in pride, Jesus was willing to become a servant in order to save us.

How we should love others? Don’t strut and puff in pride but be willing to step back and step out and serve others in humility. Paul didn’t just talk about this. He demonstrated it in his work among the Corinthians. Listen to some of his statements to them:

  • 1 Corinthians 2   3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 9  9 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

Can you hear the servant humility of Paul towards the Corinthians?

How do you see those around you? Do you see them the way Christ sees you? Are you willing to serve them the way Paul served the Corinthians? Sometimes people say, “I’m just an extrovert. I can’t help it.” It’s one thing to be outgoing and it’s another thing to talk only of self. Sometimes people say, “I’m just an introvert. I can’t help it.” It’s one thing to be a quiet personality and it’s quite another to have an air of superiority that says, “If you want to talk to me, you make the effort to come to me.” In a marriage, if one person is always getting his/her way, that’s pride. In a marriage, if one person is always pulling back and making the other reach out to them, that’s also pride.

life-togetherHere’s a totally different question: How do you see those who are proud? Are you willing to serve even those who strut around or strut around sitting down? I mentioned 2 different incidents, one about the man who only talked about himself and the other about the girl who sat in her pride and refused to talk with others. Guess who had a greater pride? Me. Because I sat back and judged both of them. Listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book “Life
Together” – “He who is bearing others knows that he himself is being borne, and only in this strength can he go on bearing.”

Are you willing to serve others? Are you saved?

Love is Cheering by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS CHEERING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love-is-cheering-2Introduction:  As you know, we’re in our series – LOVE IS THE GREATEST. Many of you have commented to me about how much you have loved this series and how much you are looking forward to the messages coming up. Thank you! This morning we come to the third message from I Corinthians 13 titled “LOVE IS CHEERING.”

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Bridge: I remember the first ball game I went to in America. It was a basketball game. What fascinated me the most were these students on the sidelines who were jumping up and down, holding up placards, blowing the megaphones, and telling us to clap our hands, stomp our feet, and shout some slogans. I asked the guy next to me. “Why are they doing all that?” He told me that they were cheerleaders. My question: “What if they stop cheering?” He replied: They play better when we cheer them. People in our life also play better when we cheer them. In this message, we’re going to learn how love is cheering the other person, not envying them.

Context: Once again, Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians because there were a lot of selfish and self-centered things happening in the church. The worldly mentality was creeping in. They were treating each other hatefully. They were becoming more and more divided. They were falling into worse and worse sins. When Paul got news of it, he wrote this letter to them. The message of this letter was not just “don’t be selfish” or “don’t be hateful” or “don’t be divided” or “don’t fall into sin.” The message was “love each other the way God has loved you.” Why? The root of all their problems was the love problem. Last weekend we learned that “love is calming” and today “love is cheering.”

Question: But before we do that, would you agree that at the root of a lot of our problems is the love problem? Would you agree that many of the problems we are facing in our marriages, homes, churches, communities, nation, and world is because we don’t know how to love others? Are you a loving person? Are you saved? Have you accepted the love of God in your hearts through Jesus Christ? You can never love properly until you have properly accepted God’s love in your hearts. Have you done that?

What did Paul mean when he wrote, “…love does not envy…” If you remember from last week, “Words have inherent meaning only to a certain extent. They get their true and full meaning from their context. For example: the word “oversight.” “She has the oversight of that project.” It means “she is in charge of that project.” “I’m sorry. That was my oversight.” It means “I accidentally missed something when I was going over it.” The context helps you understand the true meaning. Biblical words also have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning from the biblical context.”

Let’s look at the true meaning of the Greek word that Paul used to describe love – “…love does not envy,” the Greek word for “envy” is “zeluo.” It literally means “to burn” or “to boil.” It can have a positive or a negative meaning. Positively, it means to “deeply desire,” “eagerly desire,” or “zealously strive.” It’s like when we say, “He was burning with energy” or “She was burning with excitement.” For example: In I Corinthians 12:31 Paul says, “But earnestly desire the best gifts.” Meaning: Passionately and earnestly seek after the best gifts that God wants you to use in the church. But this same word can also have a negative connotation. Sometimes it can mean “jealousy” and other times it can mean “envy.” People often confuse them. There’s a difference between them.

What is “jealousy?” It’s when “I have something that I will not share with you.” Human beings are often uman Hujealous over someone or something. “He’s such a jealous guy.” Meaning: He’s so possessive over his girlfriend or something else.” Here’s something very interesting. The Bible tells us that God also gets jealous. In the Old Testament God repeatedly becomes jealous over his people. In Exodus 20 he told the children of Israel – 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” Did you know that one of the names of God is “Jealous?” Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).” The Hebrew word for jealousy and envy in the Old Testament is “kanah,” which is literally “to become intensely red.” When the Jewish people translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek, they used the word “zelou” to translate “kanah.” What God is saying here is that he turns intensely hot when we give his honor to someone else. He will not share our allegiance with anyone. Please don’t misunderstand – God shares many things with us. He shares his love, his power, his authority, and even his glory with us. Someone might say, “Oh no, not his glory. Doesn’t God say in Isaiah 42: 8, ‘I am the Lord…And My glory I will not give to another?” Keep reading – “Nor My praise to carved images.” That passage is against idol worship. But listen to Romans 8   16 “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Isn’t God so gracious and generous towards us?!! The only thing that God will not share with anyone is our loyalty to him.

Why am I going so deep? Christianity in America has become simplistic. There’s a difference between simple and simplistic. Simple: “This is the day the Lord has made.” Simplistic: “Have a nice day.” There’s a reason why people are struggling with their convictions. Because of ignorance, they have become shallow. It’s time to move from simplistic to simple.

As I was saying, the word “zelou” can also mean envy. There’s a difference between jealousy and envy. What is envy? John Piper gave a great definition for it – “Envy is desire mingled with resentment.” In other words, “You have something I really want and now I resent you for it.” Let me clarify: You can like someone’s dress and that’s not envy. You can desire someone’s success and that’s not envy. You can model yourself after some person and that that’s not envy. Envy is not admiration. Envy goes a step beyond. It is desire plus resentment. By the way, God is never envious towards us. There’s nothing in us that he desires or resents us for. Envy is exclusively a creature problem and it has been around since the beginning:

  • It got Lucifer in trouble – He began to envy God.
  • It was the cause of the first sin – Eve envied God and wanted to have His knowledge.
  • It was the cause of the first murder – Cain killed his brother because he envied his offering.
  • Down through the ages brothers have envied each other – Ishmael envied Isaac, Esau envied Jacob, Joseph was envied by his brothers, David was envied by his brothers, even Jesus was envied by his brothers.
  • Someone might say “this must be a man thing.” Not true – Sisters have envied each other as well – Rachel envied Leah in the OT. Martha envied Mary in the NT. Aaron and Miriam were envious of Moses.

All of us at some point have been bit by the “green eyed monster”:

  • A friend of yours has a boyfriend/girlfriend and you don’t. You wish you had someone like they have in your life. That’s okay. But now you begin to talk bad about that person. That’s envy.
  • You want to play sports and then there’s that kid who is better than you. You wish you had their talent. That’s okay. But now you begin to badmouth them. That’s envy.
  • You wish you could sing but so and so is amazing. You can admire that person’s gift and that’s okay. But now you begin to spread rumors about her. That’s envy.
  • You have children who are average or sick but then there are other families that have healthy children and great performers. They always seem to come out on top. You can pray and ask God to bless your children as well. That’s okay. But you begin to make snide remarks about them. That’s envy.
  • Then the big one – how you look. Why do I have a weight problem, height problem? I don’t like my nose, my chin, my eyes and on and on. We often feel like God is so unfair in giving looks. On a scale of 1-10, we think God goes around saying “Everyone is 10, you are just 1-2.” When you see someone who is a 10, you look for faults in their life and secretly wait for them to fall. That’s envy.
  • Someone has a better husband/better wife, better job, better house and the list goes on and on. To desire to have those things is not wrong. It becomes envy when you begin to malign the other person.
  • Don’t think this doesn’t happen in ministry. it happens more in the ministry than in any other field. How do I know? I have been both the perpetrator and the victim of envy. I have felt the intense dislike for a person just because they had a bigger church, ministry, and influence. Several years ago Nicole and I went to the SBC convention. On the way back, something happened. I wasn’t talking much. Nicole asked me if I was okay and I said “yes.” But she knows if something is wrong and she won’t let me rest until I share it. Envy had its ugly grip on me. I lost my passion, lost my prayer life, lost my joy. I was envious of someone I had never met and he did not know I existed. I have also felt the intense dislike of others towards me because I pastor a bigger church, have a bigger ministry, and wider influence. I was elected to be the moderator of our Association. After the meeting, one pastor came to me and said – “you know they asked me first but I told them that I was just too busy for stuff like that.”

Socrates said, “Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of murder and revenge, the begetter of secret sedition, the perpetual tormenter of virtue. Envy is the filthy slime of the soul; a venom, a poison, a quicksilver, which consumes the flesh and dries up the bones.”

How does God love us? He loves us without envy. He wants the best for us. He wants to see us to grow and mature and live in joy and peace. He even sends trials in our lives to help us, never to hurt us. He not only sent His Son to die for us but now he also lives in us through his Holy Spirit and cheers us on from the right hand of the Father.

How should you love others? Love them without envy. It begins when you cheer others in their success. It’s when you rejoice when you see them win. It’s when you pray that they won’t fall. It’s when you encourage them when they seem to struggle. Do you ever conquer envy? Probably not. But you learn to repent and refocus faster and start cheering that person in love.

By the way, when you see that person fall, don’t misunderstand what is happening. One way God deals with envy is that He crucifies the one being envied. If I were God, I would crucify the one who is envying – right? Not really. Just the opposite. Someone said, “God never makes the path of greater fruitfulness enviable.” When you have a problem with someone because of envy, God says “I will crucify that guy for you.” Cain – you have a problem with Abel, I will take him early in life; Ishmael – you have a problem with Isaac, I will take him up on Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him; Esau – you have a problem with Jacob, I will keep him running all his life; Joseph’s brothers – you have a problem with Joseph, I will have him sold into slavery; David’s brothers – you have a problem with David, I will keep him running from cave to cave hunted by Saul. James – you have a problem with Jesus, I will crucify him.

Are you saved? Are you cheering others in love?

Love is Calming by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS CALMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

love-is-calmingIntroduction:  This is the second message in our new series – “LOVE IS THE GREATEST.” As Valentine’s Day is approaching, we’re looking at what the Bible has to say about love. Again, please don’t misunderstand, the series is not just about romantic or marital love. It’s about love in general – in our families, church family, community, nation, and world.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Bridge: Kids have a way of saying things that make us laugh and think at the same time. A group of little kids were asked what they thought about love. Listen to what they said (This list has been floating on the internet for a long time):

  • “I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn’t supposed to be so painful.” — Manuel, age 8
  • “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy – age 6
  • “Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss” Emily – age 8
  • “During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8

In this series, we’re going to learn what true love is all about and how to show it.

Context: If you remember from last week, Corinth was the place to be in the ancient world. It sat on the crossroads between the north and the south and the east and the west, on the isthmus connecting Mainland Greece with Peloponnese. People from all over came there to make a life, to do business, or to watch the games. Paul purposefully chose to go there because plenty of lost people were there. After 18 months of working as a tent maker and preaching Christ, the Corinthian church was born. Paul moved on to other places but he began to hear that the church in Corinth was having problems. So, he wrote this letter to them not only to deal with their problems but to deal with a deeper problem – misunderstanding and lack of true love.

Question: Before we go any further, do you agree that at the root of a lot of our problems is a misunderstanding and lack of love? Do you understand what true love is really about? Are you truly a loving person? Will people around you say that you are a loving person? Are you saved? If not, today is the day to let God’s love into your hearts.

Today we’re going to look at the first description of love in verse “Love suffers long and is kind…” Before we start analyzing what the Greek word is for “suffers long” and “kind,” we need to step back and try to understand how words get their meanings. Many times people misunderstand what biblical words mean and they base their lives on some misinterpretation. I’ve seen it often and it’s very costly.

Here’s a very important statement: “Words have inherent meaning only to a certain extent. They get their true and full meaning from their context.”

Here’s a simple example, a silly example – think about the word “hotdog.” The context tells you that it’s not some hot canine. It’s a favorite American food.

Here’s an interesting example – think about the word “oversight.” “She had the oversight of that project.” It means she was looking over that project. It’s positive. “It was my oversight.” It means I missed something when I was going over it. It’s negative. Again, the context helps you understand the true meaning.

Here’s an extreme example – think about the word “set.” The Oxford English Dictionary gives 464 meanings for that word! Here’s just a few of them – the stage is set; I did a set of exercises; we had a setback; set it down over there; he’s set in his ways; get set go; we can go on and on. The context helps us to understand which use it is.

Here’s a cultural example – think about the word “smart.” Where I grew up, if someone was intelligent, you’d say – “He/she is really smart.” When we came to the NC, people would tell our children – “Now be smart.” I wanted to ask – “Why? Do they look dumb?”

The point is that words have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning by how they’re used in their context. Here’s another very important point – biblical words also have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning from the biblical context. In other words, many times, words in the Bible take on deeper and richer meaning than how they’re normally used outside the Bible.

Paul said to the Corinthians “Love suffers long and is kind…” To understand what “suffers long” and “kind” really mean, we have to go the biblical context. The Greek word for “suffers long” is “makrothumeo.” It comes from two Greek words “makros” = long and “thumos” = wrath or passionate longing. When you put those two together, it means “long wrath.” In English, you’ve heard of someone with a “short fuse.” It means someone who doesn’t take long to get angry or blow up. Long wrath is someone with a “long fuse,” someone who takes a long time to get angry or blow up. You may say – “Oh I get it. Love suffers long means love doesn’t get angry quickly.” True but there’s more to it.

For starters, this word was used many times to translate Hebrew words for patience in the Old Testament. (As a side note, prior to the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, it is found only once before!) Let me give a couple of examples: Proverbs 19:11 “The discretion of a man makes him (makrothumein) slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.” Meaning: A wise man does not get angry quickly and is willing to overlook someone’s fault. But there’s another use for it – Proverbs 25:15 “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, And a gentle tongue breaks a bone.” Meaning: If you want something done by a ruler, wait patiently for him to make up his mind. The point is “makrothumeo” has the idea of not getting angry but its more than that. It’s also about waiting patiently for someone to get to where they need to be.

This is especially true in how God relates with us. Listen to Exodus 34:6 “And the Lord passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” Here God is meeting Moses for the second time on Mount Sinai. The first time God gave him the Ten Commandments, the people had already built the golden calf for themselves and 3000 died because of that sin. God didn’t give up on His people but told Moses to get a second set of stone tablets so he could regive his law to them. Then God passed before Moses and declared that he was “makrothumia,” meaning “willing to work patiently with people who were not ready to follow him.” This same idea about God is presented in Proverbs 103   8 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.”

This same idea is found in the New Testament. When Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18 how many times he should forgive his brother, “up to seven times?” Jesus answered him “up to seventy times seven.” Then He gave the parable of a servant who owed a lot of money to his king. When it came time to pay he begged the king, “have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” The king had compassion on him and forgave his massive debt. But this man’s fellow servant owed him a fraction of the amount he owed to the king and he begged him with the same words, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you” but he wouldn’t and threw him into prison. When the king heard about it, he was angry. He caught the man and delivered him to the torturers until he would pay it all back. The point is, Jesus said, 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Meaning: If you’re unwilling to wait patiently on others like God waits patiently on you, then God will no longer wait patiently on you. The same idea is found in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The point is that the word “makrothumew” tells us not to be angry but wait patiently for others, just the way God does not destroy us in anger but waits patiently for us. Meaning: Yes, God is a god of wrath against sin but he’s not some cantankerous unreasonable old man – “Y’all better get your act together or I’m about to lose it and destroy all of you!” Instead, picture a loving father who patiently helps his little boy/girl ride the bike. The child falls again and again but the father does not get angry or give up but patiently helps him/her.

If all this isn’t enough to understand the true meaning of “makrothumeo,” Paul adds a word to it that is not found anywhere else. It is the word “chresteuomai.” It means “to show kindness.” It is connected to the word that Jesus used in Matthew 18 where He says, 28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy (chrestos) and My burden is light.” I can go on and on, but here’s the point – God could burn us in His anger but because He loves us, He waits patiently for us and shows kindness to us.

I can imagine that when Paul heard of the divisions, the pushing and shoving that was happening in the Corinthian church, his heart was broken. How could those who were filled with love of God act this way towards each other? How could those whose sins had been forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ hold grudges against each other? How could they be so impatient and unkind towards each other when God has been so patient and kind towards them? He tells them – “Love waits patiently and shows kindness.”

Question: How do you feel when someone waits patiently for you and shows kindness to you? I can tell you in the definition of the 8-year-old I read in the opening – “During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8 Why wasn’t she scared anymore? Her dad’s love was calming.

Here’s a test: How do people feel around you? Do they feel judged, stressed, and misunderstood? Or do they feel calm? Someone might say – “Does that mean that I should tolerate anything and everything?” Does God tolerate anything and everything you do? Absolutely not but he works with us to bring us where he wants us to be. You can sense the calm assurance of His presence in your life. By the way, generally speaking men and women show love in different ways. Men may not say all the sweet things that women are able to say. Here’s the test: Did you feel the calm sense of their presence in your life. That’s love.

Invitation: Is God’s calming love flowing through your life? Can you people around you sense that same love flowing through you? Is our church a place where people feel that calm love of God flowing through us?

Love is the Greatest by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS THE GREATEST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

love-is-the-greatestIntroduction:  We’re going to take a break from our regular series on the Life of Christ and go to I Corinthians 13 for the next few weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. It’s a series on love titled “LOVE IS THE GREATEST.” Don’t think that this series is only about romantic or marital love. It is about love in general in our family, church, and community.

I Corinthians 13    1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Bridge: Would you agree that the word “love” is probably the most used word in the world? Would you also agree that the word “love” is probably also the most abused and misunderstood word in the world? People love everything from hamburgers to hairstyles and spouses to spinach. We sing about love, write about love, and tell each other “I love you” or “I don’t love you.” The question is – “do we truly understand what love is?” In this series we’re going to learn what love really means and how to show it.

Question: Before we go any further, let’s have a heart to heart talk. Do you truly understand what it means to love? I’m not talking about just romantic or marital love but also loving people in our church and our community. Are you saved? If not, you are loving with a weak, inferior, and selfish love. It’s only when we receive Christ in our hearts as our Savior that the Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts.

In this message we’re laying out the groundwork for this series. 3 things to understand:

 I. THE CONTEXT OF CORINTH

Background: In the first century, there were three prominent cities in Greece. First was Athens, known for its great history, architecture, and ancient schools of learning. By the time of Paul, it was just a tourist town where people send their children to study. Second was Sparta, also known for its great history and military tradition. By the time of Paul, it was also just a tourist town known for its ancient battle stories. The third city was Corinth. Unlike Athens and Sparta, it was anything but ancient. Yes, it went back hundreds of years but it was more alive than ever during the time of Paul.

What made Corinth so unique? To begin with, it was its geographical location. It was sitting on the crossroads or intersection between the east and the west and the north and the south. It was sitting on the isthmus. What is an isthmus? It is a narrow strip land joining two large lands, with sea on either side. If you want to go north and south, you have to go across this isthmus. Also, on the east side, there was a harbor and on the west side, there was a harbor. They created a shortcut across this narrow strip of land called diolkos. It was a paved track, something like a railroad track. They would empty the ship of its cargo at one harbor and then drag the ship across the diolkos to the opposite harbor, reload the ship, and keep sailing. You say, “that’s crazy!” Because the journey around the Peloponnese was so dangerous due to the sudden heavy winds and jagged rocks, it was safer and cheaper to do that than to sail around and destroy the ship and lose all the cargo. Corinth was a major crossroad for trade in the ancient world.

Let me back up a little bit and say a word about the people who lived in this place. In 146 BC the Romans had destroyed Corinth because of their rebellion but in 44 BC Julius Caesar rebuilt this city and populated it with former slaves, army veterans, business people, and laborers. Yes, there were people there who were original Greeks but most probably were not. Picture in your mind, not only a major crossroad of the ancient world but also populated by people who had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Someone said that this was like San Francisco during the California gold rush! People were making money and moving up the social ladder.

By the way, what kind of people do you think were passing through this town? Sailors, merchants, troops. You can only imagine the immorality and debauchery that went on in this place. This was a place where people came if they wanted to have a good time. And as they say – “What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth!” Remember, when I told you to keep an eye on the big mountain behind me. It is called the “Acrocorinth.” By the time of Paul, the temple of Aphrodite was up there. Some say 1000 and some say 100 girls served as priestesses in the temple. This was nothing but religious cover for prostitution. Corinth had a high death rate due to infectious diseases. There’s something else, Corinth was also the location of the Isthmian Games. They were just like the Olympic Games but held every other year and Greeks from all over would come to watch and participate. You can imagine the crowds of people that would come to the city.

I find it amazing that Paul did not stay in Athens or go to Sparta? Instead, he went to Corinth. Why? This is where the people were. This is where lostness was at its max. This is where people were drawn to sexual lusts and selfish pride. This is where people needed to hear that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” This is where people needed to hear “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul came to Corinth sometime in March AD 50. Here he met a Christian couple, Aquila and Priscilla. He stayed with them and worked with them. What did they do? They were tentmakers. I find this very fascinating. Paul was literate and he could have easily got a job as a translator or a scribe. He could have earned good money working at the tax table by the docks or at one of the money lending shops. Instead, he chose tent-making. Why? Any common person coming into the town for a short business trip or to watch the Isthmian Games would need a tent. Guess what? They had to come to Aquila and Priscilla’s shop and who would they meet? The greatest evangelist who ever lived! Paul. I believe that many of them probably got saved at the tent shop! How amazing! And the church was born.

Application: Have you taken the time to look at our own community? Sometime we talk so bad about our community. Do you think God has placed you where you are for a reason? Are you sharing the love of God with your community?

II. THE CONDITION OF THE CHRISTIANS

Background: Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months, teaching them, and encouraging them. After the church was up and running, Paul put right leaders in place and left to go back towards Asia Minor and Jerusalem. Then two things happened: First, he began receiving letters from the church in Corinth, asking for guidance in certain matters. Second, he began hearing reports from people that the church in Corinth was having problems. People were divided. They were fighting with one another and they were even reverting back to their old sinful lifestyles.

What were some of the things that Paul was hearing? To answer that, you simply have to read between the lines of Paul’s letter:

I Corinthians 3   3 For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? The Corinthian church was splitting into groups.

I Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! Some of the Corinthians were turning against Paul and calling him a fool.

I Corinthians 5   1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!  Sexual immorality had entered into the church. What’s worse is that they had no problem with it! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.

I Corinthians 6   5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Some of them were dragging fellow believers into the court.

I Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. Some couples were no longer being sexually intimate. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

I Corinthians 11   20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? They had brought the social divisions of the world into the church, even into the communion service.

The Corinthians were acting spiritual but they had zero love. I Corinthians 13   1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Application: How is your spiritual walk? Is your life marked by love in your home, church, and community? Is your understanding of love shallow, weak, and incomplete like the Corinthians?

III. THE CONTENT OF LOVE

Now we come to the passage we will focus on in the next couple of weeks: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…” Paul was going back to the basics with the Corinthians and teaching them what true love looked like. These former freedmen, army veterans, business owners, sailors, shipyard foremen, common laborers, and even prostitutes were saved but their old way of life was seeping back into their new life.

Sometimes people say, “So and so must not be a Christian because I don’t see any love in them. If you are saved, you will be a loving person. Sometimes they even point to Romans 5:5 “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Listen carefully: Just because you’re saved and you have the love of God poured into your hearts does not mean that loving others will be automatic. If that were so, we wouldn’t need this passage. You need both. You need to be saved and have the Holy Spirit pour God’s love into your hearts. But because we have lived so long in a loveless world, we need to learn and then practice actions of love. Again, the Holy Spirit is there to help us. Without obedience, there will only be love within and selfishness, self-righteousness, pride, wrath, lust, and greed without.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you practicing love

Letting God Guide Your Love Life

LETTING GOD GUIDE YOUR LOVE LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

lettinggodguideyourlovelifeIntroduction: Today being Valentine’s Day, I’m deviating from our series on the Sermon on the Mount and I’m preaching a message titled – “Letting God Guide Your Love Life.”

Genesis 2   18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.

Overall Background: Today’s message is unlike any I have ever preached. It’s been brewing in my mind for a long time. It addresses the common misunderstanding that many people have that all God cares about is our salvation. All He wants to do is get us from hell to heaven. That’s it. Rest of the stuff like relationships and finding someone to spend the rest of our lives with is our problem. Just don’t mess up and find someone out of God’s will. Then you’re doomed! Then you are out of God’s will. Sometimes we get such messages the loudest through Christian books on dating which communicate that all this relationship stuff is way down on God’s list of priorities. What He really wants to do is draw you closer to Himself. But don’t bother Him with all that trivial stuff like finding the love of your life and finding true love. That’s so unspiritual. By the way, when they do offer some principles on dating and love, they raise a standard that is totally unrealistic and unbiblical. The world loves this. They say – “That’s perfect. You get them saved and we’ll help them find love.” Today’s message is to help clarify all this.

But before we begin, here’s a question – “do you believe that God actually cares for all your needs, even love relationships?” Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? This means that in the midst of running the universe, He is just as interested in my love life. Here’s another question – Are you saved? You need this relationship first.

4 things we will learn about letting God guide our love life:

I. GOD CARES ABOUT OUR HAPPINESS. 

Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

Background: After 7 times saying – “it is good,” “it is good,” for the first time God said, “it is not good” when He saw Adam sitting by Himself. He could have gotten on to Adam and told him to go work in the garden. He could have encouraged Him to go and explore the wonderful world He had created. He could have even told Him how much He needs to find His need for companionship in God – “Adam, I am sufficient for you.” Instead, God says – “The poor boy is lonely. He needs another person who is like him and yet different from him.” By the way, God did not leave Adam to figure things out for himself. Instead, verse 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. In other words, God created the solution for Adam’s loneliness.

What was Adam’s response? 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” What Adam is saying is “Thank you God! She’s like me but she’s different.” In other words, he didn’t need another Adam – a buddy to climb Mount Everest with or go scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, or discover the wheel. He needed someone to cuddle up with. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. That’s why marriage is between a man and a woman. No matter what the law says, that’s the truth.

Bottom Line: God cares about your need for companionship just as much as He cared about Adam’s need for companionship. Don’t listen to the lies of the Enemy that God has bigger things to worry about or God has forgotten you.

Application: Do you believe God cares about your need for companionship? Do you believe God has forgotten you? Ask Him to forgive you for not trusting Him.

II. PRAYER PLAYS A HUGE ROLE. 

Genesis 24:12 Then he said, “O LORD God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham.”

Background: Here we come across the account of how Isaac met Rebekah. Abraham sent the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all he had, to find a wife for Isaac.

Let me say something here – I feel for young people in the West, especially in America. Parents have such a hands off policy when it comes to their children finding a life partner. We have much to say about where they go to school or what sports they play or what career they choose but when it comes to dating or marriage, we leave them up the creek without a paddle. “Whoever makes them happy,” “as long as he/she treats him/her well,” and maybe something about his ethnic background. Earlier Abraham had made his servant swear to him – 3 and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; 4 but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” In a sense, they prayed. Meaning: We need to teach our kids the value of finding someone who is on the same spiritual wavelength as them. We need to pray for them and with them.

What did the servant do? When he came to the city of Nahor, he prayed – “O LORD God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham.” But he went a step further in his prayer – 14 Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, “Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.” Sounds like he is putting God to test but He’s actually looking for a sign from God. He’s looking for a young lady who will be godly enough and kind enough to give water to his camels. Sure enough – God answered his prayers and Rebekah did just that. Let me ask you – What if Rebekah had not done that? What if she had been lazy or self-centered or fooling around with her friends? We would have never heard her name. Prayer does not work in isolation from personal responsibility.

63 “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening…” Apparently, Isaac was a deeply spiritual person. He was praying. “…and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. Do you see how prayer is intricately woven in this account?

Application: How is your prayer life? Parents – are you praying for your children? Young people, singles – what are you praying for? Are you praying for the right one or are you praying – “God, make me the right one?”

III. LOVE IS A COMMITMENT.

Genesis 29:18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”

Background: Just like Abraham had counselled his son Isaac to marry someone on the same spiritual wavelength, Rebekah had also counselled Jacob the same way and he met Rachel and fell in love with her. He loved her so much that he was willing to work 7 years for her. In other words, he was committed to her. 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

Unfortunately, in our culture today, boys and girls bounce from one relationship to the next like bumblebees. Did you know that a bumblebee visits as many as 5,000 flowers in a single day?!! It may be great for a bumblebee but not for humans. It’s not a virtue. The world may call you a player but God looks down on it. It only reflects the emptiness of your heart. Then you know the rest of the account of how Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel’s older sister. 26 And Laban said, “…we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.” Now Jacob served another 7 years for Rachel. How would that go in our culture of instant gratification? 14 years!

Love is a commitment. It’s not based on feelings but on facts. Jacob had found someone who had similar convictions. He fell in love with her and was willing to stay the long haul.

For e.g. When Nicole and I were engaged, her dad asked us this question – “What if tomorrow either one of you is in a serious wreck and they are no longer the person you fell in love with, what would you do? Will you be just as much in love?

Application: What do you believe about love? Is it just a feeling or is it commitment? Is it only about what makes you happy or is it about what makes the other person happy?

IV. GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS. 

Ruth 2   5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.

Background: As you know, we are talking about Ruth. She was married to an Israelite living in Moab. When he died, she chose to move to Israel with her mother-in-law. Keep in mind – she was a Moabites. Moab was the land on the eastern shores of the Dead Sea. I’ve been there. They were descendants of the incestual relationship between Lot and his older daughter. The people of Israel were not to have any relations with them because they had opposed them when they came out of Egypt. Nonetheless, now she’s in Israel with her mother-in-law trying to survive and she goes into the field of a man by the name of Boaz, who shows her favour. Listen to how Ruth responds to him – 10 So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” Did you notice the humility in her words? Later, Ruth showed interest in him even though he was older than her and listen to how Boaz responded – Ruth 3:10 “Blessed are you of the LORD…For you have shown more kindness…in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich.” Just like Ruth, Boaz was also humble and he redeemed her and she became his wife. But the narrative does not end there. Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David. God does work in mysterious ways.

Application: Do you believe that God can work just as mysteriously in your life? Do you trust Him or have you given up on Him?

The greatest love story in the Bible is not Adam and Eve or Isaac and Rebekah or Jacob and Rachel or Ruth and Boaz. It is Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…”

Jesus gave Himself for His bride the church. He is our model of how love should be. He didn’t wait for us to be perfect but He made us perfect.

Are you saved? Are you letting God guide your love life?

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