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 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?

WHEN GOD SEEMS HELPLESS

 WHEN GOD SEEMS HELPLESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When God Seems HelplessIntroduction: It’s good to see all of you here this morning! Also, we want to welcome our radio audience! We are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Matthew 2 for our message titled: “WHEN GOD SEEMS HELPLESS.” Most of us would not admit it but at some time in our life that thought has gone through our minds – “Is God helpless?” We may never say it out loud but we have wondered in our heart – “If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He stop the evil in this world, protect the innocent, the weak, and the children? Why doesn’t He even take care of His own?

Matthew 2 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14   When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Overall Background: So far everything we have looked at in the birth of Jesus has been wonderful, joyful, and according to divine plan but now we come to a rather dark chapter in the Christmas narrative. The magi had been instructed by King Herod to inform him when they had found the baby – the King of the Jews. But that night they had a dream that they should not go back to Herod and they went home another way. When King Herod got the news that the Magi had deceived him, he was furious and Matthew 2:16 says “…he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” In some Christian traditions, this is referred to as the “Massacre of the Innocents.” Depending on which tradition you come from, either December 27 or 28 or 29 is considered “Holy Innocents Day.”

Can you imagine what that massacre was like when Herod’s soldiers descended upon the little town of Bethlehem and the surrounding area and began brutally killing little boys? Matthew 2 tells us in verse 17 “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.’” You can almost hear the cries and the screams and the wails of the mothers and I’m sure the fathers too for their innocent children. I can’t help but remember Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were brutally killed just two years ago. We all remember the shock and the pain we felt.

Back to Matthew 2:13, God knew what Herod was about to do and what was His response? 13 Now when they (magi) had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” Have you ever stopped to examine this passage carefully? There are many problems here –

  • Is God telling his son to flee from a mere mortal?Massacre of the Innocents by Léon Cogniet
  • Is God too powerless to deal with King Herod? Can He not just kill him?
  • If not kill him, why not change his heart to receive Jesus as his Savior?
  • Forget about baby Jesus for a moment – how about the innocent children? Why didn’t God send His angels to protect the innocent children from the soldiers?
  • If not, why didn’t He just transform the soldiers’ hearts? Then no one had to die.

Have you ever thought of these questions? You may say – “not really.” Actually, you have. The question underlying all those questions is –

  • Where is God when bad things happen?
  • Where is God when evil people hurt the innocent, the weak, and the children?
  • Where is God when His own people suffer?
  • Where is God when it appears that His own grand plan is in jeopardy?

Bottom line: How can I trust a God who is Himself on the run?

When you raise questions like these, there are several different responses:

  • Some people are afraid of these questions because they feel that it may weaken their faith. “Just don’t question.”
  • Some people admit that they have these questions but they are trying to have faith. “I’m trying hard to have faith.”
  • Some people have already answered these questions with the conclusion that either God is not powerful or not good (doesn’t care) or doesn’t exist (Atheist).

Sadly, some of those people are here this morning. This morning we do not have the time to deal with every question on this topic but at least answer the ones that come from this passage. There is a reason why God allowed this tragedy to happen:

1. REMIND US OF THE REALITY OF SIN AND EVIL.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

Background: Herod questioned the Sanhedrin if what the Magi were saying was the truth. The Sanhedrin – the central Jewish authority – did not get along with Herod. But, in this situation they told him the truth. They quoted from two different Old Testament passages – 2 Samuel 5:2 and Micah 5:2. Listen to verse 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Meaning: Both the Jewish leaders and King Herod knew the truth about Jesus. There was no confusion, doubt, or surprise. Nonetheless, they rejected it enough to try to kill it. Why? Because of sin and evil.

We love everything about Christmas – Buying gifts, decorating the tree, Santa Claus, and singing Christmas carols like “Joy to the World,” “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Grandma got run over by a reindeer.” It’s wonderful but there’s another side we cannot forget. This side is evil and sinful and it did everything it could to sabotage, quench, and destroy the truth of God.

Christmas is not only a reminder of joy and peace and goodwill to all but it is also a reminder that there is real sin and evil in this world. Tragedies like the Newtown shooting, and September 11, and the killing of the innocent people in the Middle East as we speak reminds us that there is real evil and sin in this world. Let me go a step further – that same sin and evil that is in the convicts in prison and those out in the streets and those terrorists and those despots throughout history is also in you and is also in me. It does everything possible to quench and destroy the truth of God.

Tragedies in life remind us that Jesus did not come to die because he had nothing better to do. Jesus did not come to die because people are basically good and they just need to be better. Jesus came to die for a real world that has real evil because of real sin.

Application: Do you believe that there is real sin and real evil in this world? Do you believe that Jesus had to come to set us free from the power of sin and death? Do you recognize the sin and evil that is in your own heart?

2. REMIND US OF THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS.

13 “…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word…”

Background: This passage is interesting to say the least. Why is Jesus unaware of Herod’s plot and why doesn’t He just zap him from the manger? Because of the Reality of the Incarnation. Jesus chose to restrict his divine attributes. He chose to hold back his omniscience and omnipotence. As Philippians 2:7 tells us, “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” In order to become just like us He refused to exercise His all knowledge and His all power. He didn’t lose them. He didn’t empty them. He didn’t leave them with the father. He always had them but chose to be like us. Why? Hebrews 2 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings…17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest…18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. He was fully God and yet as fully man He restricted himself but He never lost what He had as God. You may ask – “How does all that work together?” It worked for Him.

Application: The real question is do you know when Jesus went through for you? Do you know how much He had to restrict Himself to be like you? Do you also know that there is no suffering that you have been through or are going through or will go through that Jesus does not completely and totally understand? By becoming helpless He is able to help us.

3. REMIND US OF A DEEPER TRUTH.

14   When he (Joseph) arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Eugene Alexis Girardet -Flight Into Egypt

Background: This event is known as the flight to Egypt or in some traditions as the second of the “Seven sorrows of Mary.” Matthew explains to us that this episode fulfilled the statement of the prophet Hosea. Egypt represented sin and depravity, not the land but a state. God led His people Israel out of bondage but they repeatedly longed for it and talked about it. They longed for the leeks and garlic and the pots of meat. Compared to them, Jesus came out of Egypt and He never went back (again not the land but the state).

When we are saved, we are in Christ. Because He came out of Egypt, we too have come out of Egypt. We don’t have to live in defeat and captivity. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Now all we have to do is keep our eyes on our Captain Jesus. Hebrews 12 1 “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? How are you handling your suffering?

WHEN IT’S HARD TO WAIT

WHEN IT IS HARD TO WAIT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When it is hard to waitWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels called – “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” This weekend I’m preaching a message titled – WHEN IT’S HARD TO WAIT.” Most people quit in the last quarter, the last 25%, of the race, whether in marriage, ministry, education, business, or some other goal in their life. They give up, give in, compromise, take shortcuts, and quit. This morning’s message is not just to teach us to wait but to teach us to wait for God.

Luke 1:5-11  5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. 8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

Overall Background: Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke introduces us to the extended family of Jesus. In the passage we just read we meet some relatives of Mary, the mother of Jesus. These were not any ordinary relatives. They were to become the parents of John the baptizer. Now, Luke could have just given us the names of John the baptizer’s parents and focused on the coming of Jesus but, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he chose to give us more information about them. It’s almost as if he went off on a tangent. But I’m sure you will agree – in the geometry of the Holy Spirit, even tangents come together. Luke chose to tell us more about Zacharias and Elizabeth to teach us the value of waiting on God. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. In other words, they were waiting.

Here’s the purpose of this message– Any time God wants to do something supernatural, He makes us wait. That’s just his way. By making us wait He ensures that we will not interfere or claim credit. By making us wait he ensures that only he will get the glory and only His purpose will prevail. In other words, waiting is not a punishment but a preparation for God’s great purpose.

Application: Are you in that holding pattern right now? Have you prayed for something and work hard for something and have questioned why nothing is happening? You’re not in a bad situation. In fact, you are right where you need to be. But here’s a warning – while waiting, some people have the tendency to give up, give in, compromise, take shortcuts, and quit. If you do that, you lose what you’re waiting for. But here’s something very important – there’s one thing you don’t have to wait for. You don’t have to wait for your salvation, your forgiveness of sins, and your eternal life. You can receive Jesus right now and have that this instant.

Let’s see through the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth what to do while you wait for God:

1. BE BLAMELESS 

5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias…

Background: There’s so much that is packed in this one line. For starters, in the days of King Herod the priesthood of Israel was in terrible shape. As you know from the Old Testament, priests belonged to the tribe of Levi and had to be descendants of Aaron. Through the centuries, priesthood in Israel had continued a downward spiral. In 174 BC, a man by the name of Jason had bribed Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, to become the high priest. Three years later, a man by the name of Menelaus, who was not even a Levite, also bribed his way to the position. After that, the Hasmoneans family of priests controlled the position. Then in 37 BC, with the coming of Herod the great, the high priesthood became a political appointment under Rome’s supervision. Gone were the days when holiness and righteousness and integrity where the qualifications for the priesthood. Now it was political savvy and power plays and big pockets. This was the reason why some Jewish people actually built a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt; this was the reason why some Jewish people left to form the Dead Sea community at Qumran; this was the reason why Jesus preached against the Temple and even cleansed it at one time. In short, the people went to the temple but inside they knew it was corrupt.

Now listen further – a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. Abijah was, of course, a descendent of Aaron but he was the chief of one of the 24 orders of the priesthood as set up by David the king. They had earned somewhat of a bad reputation because they did not return immediately after the exile. They were missing for a while.

Let’s summarize: the priesthood was corrupt and his own lineage was a disgrace.

But there’s something more – His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Meaning: Zacharias’s wife, Elizabeth, was also from a priestly line.

But the real point that Luke wants to bring out is in verse 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Background: I think there is a play on words here. The Sadducees controlled the Temple, claiming to be descendants of the high priest Zadok from the time of David and Solomon. His name comes from the Hebrew “sadok” which means righteous. So, the Sadducees are the righteous ones going all the way back to Zadok, the righteous high priest. But if you remember, Jesus had nothing but negative to say about the Sadducees.

Zechariah’s and Elizabeth were the true zadoks – the righteous ones before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

What a testimony! While everyone around them was compromising and corrupted, Zechariah and Elizabeth were walking blameless before God. As God was preparing to send his Son and he looked around to see who was righteous, guess who he found?

The problem with many people who are waiting is that they are not righteous, not blameless. Instead, they have compromised and indulged in some habit, some sin, some corruption, and have become vessels of dishonor.

Application: Let me ask you a question – when the eyes of the Lord come upon you, what does He see? Does He see a young person who is involved in some sin? Does He see an adult indulging in some bad habit? Does He see a couple or a family, behind closed doors, living a life of hypocrisy and disobedience? If so, you are disqualifying yourself from the waiting process.

2. BE FAITHFUL

8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 

Background: Historians tell us that there were as many as 18,000 to 20,000 priests and Levites at the time. As I mentioned earlier, the priest were divided into 24 courses and each course had to serve two weeks per year and the major festivals. Most of the priests lived in other towns and villages and they came up to Jerusalem when it was their time. They had normal jobs and occupations to support themselves along with their priestly responsibilities. It could’ve been very tempting to forget about their Temple responsibilities and focus on their job or business. After all, many of them struggled to make a living.

9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. Because of the large number of priests, they used the custom of casting lots, which occurred twice a day, to decide who will burn the incense for the whole burnt offering. This was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Why do I bring this up? Zacharias could have dodged his responsibilities, blamed the corruption, stayed home complaining his back or his knee was hurting, or some other excuse but he was there when it was his time. In other words, he was faithful and God made the lot fall in his favor.

In a parable in Matthew 25:23 Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

Application: As you wait, are you faithful? I’m talking to those in full-time ministries and those not in full-time ministries. Are you waiting for God to drop the answer to your prayers in your lap while you are asleep? Are you waiting for God to open the door for you while you’re busy fooling around?

3. BE FAITH FILLED

You know how it happened – the Angel appeared to him; Zacharias was afraid; the Angel promised him that the answer to their prayer had come; Elizabeth would bear a child and they shall call his name John; he will be filled with the Holy Spirit; and prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah.

What was Zechariah’s response? Verse 18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Even though Zacharias was a man of integrity and a man of faithfulness, his faith was running low. Even though he was a godly man he was saying to the angel – “Come on let’s be realistic. Bible study, prayer time, good messages, serving the Lord, and all that is wonderful but we got a be realistic.”

Folks – what is realistic? What you know or what God says in his Word?

How did the Angel respond to this? Verse 19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. In other words, Gabriel is ticked. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

As an individual, as a family, as a church, if you want to please God, you have to believe God. The worst way to dishonor God is to doubt God and doubt his Word.

So what is the consequence? 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

Application: If there is one point I want to stress more than others, then it’s this one. Do you trust God? Are you trusting him right now in your life? Are we as a church Clearview trusting God for future? When there is no faith element, there is no place for God to step in. Are we trusting God for big things? Someone might say – “It’s hard to trust God at times, especially with money.” One time someone asked R.G. LeTourneau, “If you know a thing is the will of God and you do not feel you have the faith, what do you do?” He said, “I go ahead and act like I have the faith.”

4. BE HUMBLE
Luke 1:23
  So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.

Background: What amazes me about the Bible, the Word of God, is not only what it says but also what it leaves unsaid! Imagine what happened when he got home. Elizabeth sees him walking towards the house and she walks out and greets him – “So honey how was Jerusalem? Lot of people at the Temple? How was your journey?” I can visualize Zachariah – “Elizabeth – pull up a chair. You won’t believe this.” Then he goes on to tell her everything. If I could I would love to get a picture of her face at that point. “Does that mean we have to…?” “I think so…the Angel didn’t say anything about a virgin birth.”

You get the point! They had to trust God’s word and now do something about, just like Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah, Manoah and his wife, they had to do something by faith.

24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Why did she hide herself? She understood that this was no ordinary child. He was the Herald, the messenger, the forerunner of the Messiah. She spent those five months preparing herself to be the mother God wanted her to be.

Application: When you wait upon God, he not only gives you the desires of your heart but he gives you so much more. Don’t rush out there and start bragging about it. Spend some time basking in his glory. Spend some time thanking him for his mercy. Spend some time asking him to prepare you to receive his blessing.

What have you been waiting for God to do in your life? Are you still looking to him in faith? Have you ever received God’s gift of Jesus Christ?

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The passage breaks down into three parts:

I. BE ON FIRE FOR GOD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. BE HOPEFUL AND PATIENT

12 rejoicing in hope,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. BE IN CONSTANT PRAYER

continuing steadfastly in prayer; Literally – busy yourself in prayer

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

Our prayer is our communication with the home base.

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

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