Dedication by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEDICATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson Dedication

Introduction: How do you gift something to someone when it already belongs to them? I remember as a little boy wrapping things up around the house and giving it to my parents on their birthday. I would wrap up a flashlight and give it to my dad on his birthday. I would wrap up a pen and give it to my mom on her birthday. By the way, that was when I was very young. They would act all happy and excited to get a gift from me but later I realized that it wasn’t really a gift because it already belonged to them. In this service we are dedicating this new sanctuary to God but, in reality, it already belongs to him. So, what are we doing? We are really dedicating ourselves to God. We are committing ourselves to using this place to worship God, to magnify his son, to allow the Holy Spirit to work freely, to preach the truth, to encourage and edify one another, to reach the lost, and to be a lighthouse in our community and our world for Jesus Christ. The dedication is not of brick and mortar but of hearts and lives.

2 Chronicles 6    41“Now therefore, Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness. 42“O LORD God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; Remember the mercies of Your servant David.” 2 Chronicles 7  1When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house. 3When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying:“For He isgood, For His mercyenduresforever.”

Question:  They saw the fire and the glory and they fell on their faces before God. When was the last time you fell on your face before God? When was the last time you dedicated yourself to God? Are you saved?

Context:  The passage we just read comes from a very high point in the history of God’s people. After years of delaying and deferring, they finally got around to building the temple in Jerusalem. It came from a deep conviction in King David’s heart. 1 Chronicles 17:1“Now it came to pass, when David was dwelling in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORDisunder tent curtains.’” This is powerful to me because it tells you why David was a man after God’s own heart. He saw what many couldn’t see that there was no single place for God’s people to worship him. Even though David’s desire was noble, God knew the future and he told him that he was not going to build the house but his son will. Later we hear from David himself in 2 Chronicles 22    8but the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “You. . . shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. God saw what would happen with Bathsheba and Uriah her husband.9Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest. . .” Remember that. “. . . His name shall be Solomon. . . 10He shall build a house for My name.”Ultimately, God had one greater than Solomon in mind. (Matthew 12:42)

When we see paintings of the temple in Jerusalem, it’s not Solomon’s temple that we are looking at but Herod’s temple. Herod’s temple was beautiful! It was actually more than twice the size of Solomon’s temple. It was very impressive but no match for Solomon’s temple for many reasons. For starters, Herod’s temple was elaborate but Solomon’s temple was ornate. I don’t have time to go into all the details but listen to this – 1 Chronicles 22   14“Indeed I have taken much trouble to prepare for the house of the LORD one hundred thousand talents of gold (3,000 tons; rough calculation – $128 billion)and one million talents of silver (30,000 tons; rough calculation – $14 billion), and bronze and iron beyond measure, for it is so abundant. I have prepared timber and stone also, and you may add to them.15Moreover there areworkmen with you in abundance: woodsmen and stonecutters, and all types of skillful men for every kind of work.16Of gold and silver and bronze and ironthere isno limit. . .”Keep in mind that the temple, even though smaller than Herod’s, was roughly 40 ft wide, 130 ft long, and 50 ft tall. That’s a lot of walls to overlay with gold and silver.

For the cedar and the stones for the temple, Solomon gave Hiram, king of Tyre, twenty cities in Northern Galilee! He in turn also sent his best craftsman. There were 2 bronze pillars in the front entrance. One called “Jachin” meaning “God establishes” and the other called “Boaz” meaning “In God is strength.” Inside the temple, the walls are covered with precious stones and beautiful imagery of floral patterns and cherubs. All the sacred objects inside – candelabrum, tables, lamps, etc. – are all made of precious metals and wood. They did not spare anything in building the temple of God.

Here’s the point: The church is not a temple. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Neither is the building the church but it’s the place where the church meets. Having said that, it’s a shame when you see a church building in shambles and people living in mansions. Something is truly wrong. It’s a reflection of the spiritual lives of the people who attend that church. It tells how much they truly care about the things of God. How much do you care about the things of God? Do you give the best or what’s left over?

I want us to focus for the next few moments on Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple. 2 Chronicles 6    12Then Solomonstood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and. . . knelt down on his knees before all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven).” So also, when we come into this place, we are to humble ourselves and come with open arms.

14and he said: “LORD God of Israel, there isno God in heaven or on earth like You, who keepYourcovenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. 15You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; So also, when we come into this place, we are to come in faith and take hold of God’s promises.

22 “If anyone sins against his neighbor, and is forced to take an oath, and comesandtakes an oath before Your altar in this temple, 23then hear from heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, bringing retribution on the wicked by bringing his way on his own head, and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.” So also, we need to come knowing that God sees and knows everything.

24“Or if Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and return and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this temple, 25then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to them and their fathers.So also, we need to come repenting before God.

28“When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sicknessthere is;29whatever prayer, whatever supplication is madeby anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: 30then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men), So also, we need to come seeking help from God in times of trouble.

2Chr. 6:32  “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple; 33then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as doYour people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name. So also, we need to realize that this place is for all people.

41“Now therefore, Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness. 42“O LORD God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; Remember the mercies of Your servant David.” What Solomon saw through a telescope, we see clearly. Jesus is the ultimate Son of David, chosen King of Israel, whose kingdom shall have no end. We are now the priests and the holy nation before God. We are to rejoice in goodness.

Ephesians 2   19 “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Are you part of the temple of God? Are you saved?

Discipleship: Intercession by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – INTERCESSION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Intercession

Introduction: Have you ever had to get someone to intercede for you? That word “intercede” is a Latin word that’s a combination of “inter” = “between” and “cede” = “go.” Intercede means “to go between for someone.” I had to get someone to intercede for me back in 1994. I was a junior in college down in Georgia working security. It was the start of the new semester and the guy working with me came back from making his rounds and said, “Man, there’s a new girl on campus and she’s real pretty! I’m going to marry her.” Later I went for my rounds and saw this new girl and I could see why he wanted to marry her. She was pretty. She was walking down the steps from the gym. I remember that like yesterday. That girl doesn’t remember that. Few months later we met and we talked here and there. I wanted to ask her out but I didn’t know how to go about doing that. So, I asked my friend Dan to help me out. He could have said no or asked her out himself but he didn’t. He interceded for me. Long story short, we were married a year later. What does this have to do with discipleship? We can pray to God anytime for our needs and desires. But God also loves to hear from our friends as to what we need and desire. That’s intercession. In fact, intercession is a very vital part of discipleship. That’s our message today.

Philippians 1    9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,11being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Question:What do all those passages have in common? They are passages on Intercessory Prayers, where we pray not for ourselves but for others. Who intercedes on your behalf? Who are you interceding on behalf of? Do you understand the importance of Intercessory Prayers? Are you saved?

Pray: Holy Spirit – Teach us to pray. Teach us to pray for others. Help those who have never prayed the sinner’s prayer to call on the name of Jesus and be saved today.

Context:For a long time, I had been praying that God would show me how to lead the people at Clearview to become more than just hearers of the Word and to become grounded in the truth, grow spiritually in Christ, walk with integrity in public and private life, and become fruitful in winning others to Christ. The answer came through years of studying the Bible, talking to experts in the field, observing what successful churches were doing, and a lot of trial and error. This series on discipleship has been that answer and it’s been exciting to see how well it’s been going. In this final message in this series, I want us to look at a very important ingredient of discipleship – Intercessory Prayer, praying for the needs and desires of others.

If there is one person in the New Testament who took discipleship seriously, it was Paul. He prayed for those he partnered with in the gospel. I want us to look at his prayer for the Philippians in Philippians 1starting in verse9.Before we do that, let me ask you – How is your prayer life? Do you pray daily? Before we can intercede for others, we need to “cede” our own selves to God. The word “Cede” also means “to yield” or “formally surrender” ourselves. Prayer is the act of yielding and surrendering ourselves before God.It is humbling ourselves before God and acknowledging that we need him every day and without him we’re nothing. It is telling God that only he can give us what we need and then thanking him for what he has done for us. Do you pray daily? persistently? Do you pray believingly?

7 things to keep in mind when interceding for others:

9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…”

  1. Love– What is very interesting here is that there is no object given for the love. Paul does not say “your love for God may abound” or “your love for each other may abound.” He is talking about comprehensive love in every area of life. He is praying that their whole life would be marked by love – for God, for Jesus, for each other, for the truth, for those in the ministry, and for those who are lost. But, Paul has much more than a hint of love in mind here. He wants them to be overflowing with love.

What we understand from this is that love is not some human effort. It is something that God has to pour supernaturally into our hearts.He has to make it abound and overflow. Love is the mark of a disciple. Listen to what Jesus said in John 13    34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Paul declares in1 Corinthians 13:13“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of theseislove.”

Would you agree that what you and I need more than anything in this world is love?I Peter 4:8“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for“love will cover a multitude of sins.” That’s why we need to pray that each of us will overflow with love. Like a torrential rainfall washing away all the leaves, pine straw, and dirt from the pavement into the drain. More love, More coverage of sins.

But this is not some sentimental emotional high – 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge. . .”

  1. Knowledge –The Greek word is not “gnosis” but “epignosis.” When the word is used with “epi,” the idea is one of knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the Spirit, and knowledge of being conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, this knowledge is not information but conformation to the likeness of Christ. It is understanding the work of God in our lives.

Would you agree that what you and I need is this understanding of how God is working in our lives? Without this understanding it is so easy to get discouraged and start doubting.

 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment…”

  1. Discernment –This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations. Yes, we are to love and be aware of who we are in Christ but there’s no “sloppy agape” here. Again, there is no clear object here so it can refer to both doctrinal discernment and daily discernment. Recognize that someone is not teaching the truth and recognize that someone is about to pull wool over your eyes. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Being a Christian means being gracious and forgiving but not gullible and foolish.More than anything, it is recognizing when someone is pulling away from God.

9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent…”

  1. Choose what matters – The Greek word “dokimazein” is used in other contexts for the testing of the quality of precious metals or money. It means choosing the best. Romans 12:2“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove whatisthat good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Daily we need to pray that our kids will not settle for the good enough or the mediocre things of life but the better and the best that God has for them.

“…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”

  1. Pure and Blameless– Life is full of snares and temptations. Stay away from sin and finish well is the prayer. So sad to see people mess up in the final minutes of the game of life. They get comfortable and arrogant and that’s when they get struck down. Luke 2231“And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may siftyouas wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail. . .” But the word for “offense” is not restricted to personal failing but it also implies the failing of others. Here’s the question: “Is what I’m doing going to make someone else stumble?”

11“being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ…”

  1. Fruit of Righteousness– Paul is not talking about self-effort here. He is talking about the promise that Jesus made to his disciples in John 15:5“I am the vine, youarethe branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”When we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit produces the righteous conduct in us that no amount of self-effort can ever produce. Paul gives us the list of them in Galatians 5 22“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control.”

“…to the glory and praise of God.”

  1. Glory and Praise of God –Ultimately, God should get the glory and praise from our lives.

These are the 7 elements of intercessory prayers. This is how you pray for others. This is how you pray in the Inner Circles. Warren Wiersbe said, “Perhaps the deepest Christian fellowship and joy we can experience in this life is at the Throne of Grace, praying with and for one another.”

Are you willing to be an Intercessor for others? James 5:16“Confessyourtrespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Are you praying? Have you prayed the sinner’s prayer? Are you saved?

Partners by Pastor Abidan Shah

PARTNERS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Partners

Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay, did a Twitter survey couple of years ago on “Silly Things Church Members Fight Over.” Here are just a couple – “Arguments over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard,” “Church dispute over whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women’s restroom,” A fight over which picture of Jesus to put in the foyer,” “A disagreement over using the term ‘potluck’ instead of ‘potblessing.’” Today we will learn from the Apostle Paul how to be partners not fighters in the ministry, more specifically how to pray for those who partner with you in sharing the gospel with the world. That’s the title of our message today, PARTNERS, in our series called GRATEFUL on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

 

Philippians 1    7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.

Question: The Philippians were partakers with Paul of grace. It means they were partners with him in sharing the gospel. Are you partnering with others in sharing the gospel? Are you joining hands with this church to win the lost world? Before you can be a participant, you have to be a recipient. Have you ever received the gospel? Are you saved?

Context: Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was one of trust, joy, and hope. Last weekend we learned that Paul had the hope, the solid confidence, that what God had begun on the first day in the lives of the Philippians, he would complete it on the day of the Jesus Christ. How could Paul be so sure of this? In our last message titled “GUARANTEED,” we examined verse 6 and Paul’s other letters and we learned that this is a very important biblical doctrine that Paul explains and defends repeatedly. Salvation from start to finish is God’s responsibility and he always finishes what he starts. He never leaves a job half done. Yes, we may stumble and yes, we can fail but our salvation is God’s good work of grace in our lives. We can trust him that he will see us to the finish line. This is not a license to sin but an exhortation to walk in the spirit, to grow in grace, to serve in freedom, to be less judgmental of self and others, to walk blameless, and to be more grateful to God for what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do in us.

But there’s another reason why Paul was so sure of this. He tells us in verse 7 “just as it is right for me to think this of you all…” In other words, Paul is saying, “Don’t think that I am just giving you some cold lifeless doctrine. Don’t think that this is just some superficial cordial remarks. Don’t think that this is just some cheap pep talk. What I’m telling you is the honest truth.” How do we know that Paul? 7 “…because I have you in my heart…” When you read Paul’s letters, it is very important that you also read the emotional undertones and overtones. The reason is so intent and fixated on convincing the Philippians that God will finish what he has started in their lives he loves them deeply and cares for them. In other words, because he loved them from his heart, he was reminding them of God’s best for them from his heart. It’s like a loving parent telling their child in the face of a difficult challenge: “You got this. Don’t worry. I believe in you.”

Listen carefully: When you truly love somebody, it reflects in the way you speak to them. When you truly care for someone and want the best for them, you don’t just talk from your head. You also talk from your heart. With everybody else, you may only talk with your head. But with those who are really close to your heart, your heart reaches up and joins your head. In turn, your speech, tone, demeanor, and countenance become much more real, sincere, and heartfelt. You truly want them to understand God’s best for them. This is the ideal towards which every church family should strive. This is my desire and vision as the pastor for Clearview Church. Because we love each other from the heart, we care for each other and what we say and how we say comes not just from the head but also from the heart. You can tell when someone genuinely cares for you and when someone is just talking. You can tell when someone truly loves you and wants the best for you and when someone just tolerates you and could care less. How do you relate with each other in this church? Do you really care for each other? Can they tell?

There is a reason why the Philippians were in Paul’s heart so much. 7 “…inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” The reason Paul and the Philippians could have this connection is because they were partakers of grace, they were partners in the gospel. Remember, grace is a synonym for the gospel. This partnership was not some superficial, on paper relationship. They were battle buddies with him. In the army, they have battle buddies. They’ve learned that it reduces suicide and sexual assaults. It raises morale, decreases stress, improves safety, and promotes cooperation and communication. In the same way, the Philippians were battle buddies with Paul when he was in prison and they were with him when he had to defend the gospel, not just against those on the outside but also sometimes those in the inside.

Listen carefully: When a church’s bond is based on skin tone or standard of living or family origins, it will be superficial and unstable. But base it on the gospel, it takes on an eternal bond. Our motto at Clearview is “Making Christ Visible” and our goal is “to lead all people into a life-changing, ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Paul’s love for the Philippians continues to overflow – 8 “For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.” I don’t have time to dwell on this long. The word for “affection” is “splanchna,” which mean the organs like heart, liver, and longs. If you notice carefully, these are not Paul’s organs but Christ’s. Someone once said, “It is not Paul who lives in Paul, but Jesus Christ, which is why Paul is not moved by the organs of Paul but by the organs of Christ.” (Johann Albrecht Bengel)

Listen to verse 9 “And this I pray…” Earlier in verse 4 Paul had said, “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.” Paul picks up that thought and tells the Philippians – “Let me tell you why it is a joy to pray for you.” Listen carefully to his prayer. By the way, there is a pattern to Paul’s prayer for his partners in the gospel. When you compare the prayer for the Philippians with that in Colossians, they are point by point similar. This should become our prayer for each other at Clearview and for those who are partners with us in the gospel and for those close to our hearts (husbands, wives, children, friends, family, etc.) 9 “And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more…”

  1. Love – For God, for each other, for those in the ministry, for those who are lost.

“…in knowledge.”

  1. Knowledge – Knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the spirit, and the list is endless. “Knowledge is the way of love.” – Moises Silva

“…and all discernment…”

  1. Discernment – No “sloppy agape” (as someone once said) here. This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations.

10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent…”

  1. Choose what matters – Understand how to go from good to better to best.

“…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”

  1. Pure and Blameless – Stay away from sin and temptation. The higher the level, the higher the devil.

11 “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ…”

  1. Fruit of Righteousness – Righteous conduct, fruit of the spirit

“…to the glory and praise of God.”

  1. Glory and Praise of God – Ultimately, God should get the glory and praise.

Listen carefully: When you truly understand the detail and depth of Paul’s prayer, the more you will understand how much Paul was a man of prayer and how much his life and ministry depended and moved under the power of prayer. Prayer is not just ritual, some perfunctory gesture, and some cliché. It is our rudder in life. It is our wind. It is water beneath the ship. It is our journey. It is our destination. It’s not enough to say “I’m praying for you.” It’s not enough to be praying for someone. If you truly believe in the power of prayer, you also need to learn “how to pray,” especially for those who are partners with you in the gospel.”

Are you a partner in the gospel? Are you praying as you should for your partners? Are you saved?

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah 

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 19, 2017)

It was a perfect end to a busy week. I had accomplished everything on my agenda, which is rare. Now it was time to head home and catch up on some well-needed family time. My face was smiling, my shoulders were relaxed, my mind was clear, my steps were unhurried, and I was humming Old Satch, “What a Wonderful World.” Then it happened. In a matter of seconds, the smile vanished, the shoulders became tense, the mind turned muddy, the swag was gone, and I think I began humming Old Hank, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” The family time was nothing like I had envisioned. If truth be told, it was a rather miserable weekend. You ask, “What brought such sudden and miserable change?” Well, I ran into a toxic person. You know the type who pushes you into Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, the fictional bog in which a person sinks under the weight of sin, guilt, shame, and discouragement. Have you ever been a victim of a toxic person? Let me share with you how to handle them:

First, recognize them for who they are. Toxic people come in all types. Dr. Travis Bradberry (double PhD in Clinical and Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence 2.0) identifies 10 kinds of toxic people: The Gossip, The Temperamental, The Victim, The Self-Absorbed, The Envious, The Manipulator, The Dementor, The Twisted, The Judgmental, and The Arrogant. Most of these designations are self-explanatory except for maybe the Dementor and the Twisted. The former are the kind who suck the life out of the room by their negativity and pessimism and the latter are out to hurt you, make you feel bad, or get something from you. Bradberry warns, “toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs…Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.”

Next, always be prepared to face toxic people. To think that we can avoid them completely is unrealistic and naïve. They might be in the family, neighborhood, workplace, or social organizations (even church!). Trying to ignore them or keep them at arm’s length will only aggravate the situation and attempting to mirror their behavior will only lead to disaster. Instead, learn their behavior patterns and establish the appropriate emotional boundaries in your mind. Don’t get smug like me and stumble into a bad weekend. Also, avoid any toxic song, show, movie, book, or event in your life. Such things only add unnecessary toxicity to your life.

What if the damage has been done? Many years ago I allowed a toxic person to steal my joy. It took a toll on my health, family, and spiritual life. God in his mercy sent a mature person into my life who immediately recognized my distress. He pointedly asked, “Do you want this toxin out of your system?” At first I pretended to be fine and then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride. This godly person told me that he too struggled with it and he found help in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” He said, “Start praying that God would bless this person who has been toxic in your life. Pray for the next 20 days for physical, spiritual, and financial blessing in their life. Be aware that the first time you pray that it will be impossible to mouth those words. Do it again the next day and you might feel sick to your stomach but don’t stop. Eventually, it will become easier and easier. Then, there will come a day when you will pray and actually find yourself praying sincerely as if for a friend. Somewhere towards the end of the 20 days, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you are free. The toxin has cleared out of your system.” Guess what! It actually worked!

Ultimately, sin is the toxin and only the grace of God through Jesus Christ can heal your life. Give it a try today.

Prayer at the Law Enforcement Memorial Ride by Pastor Shah

PRAYER AT THE LAW ENFORCEMENT MEMORIAL RIDE by Pastor Shah

(On May 8th 2017 on the steps of the Vance County Court House, Henderson, NC. The ride was to raise awareness and honor those law enforcement individuals who lost their lives in line of duty. The funds raised were to go towards the Officer Down Memorial Page – www.odmp.org)

To watch the video click here

Heavenly Father,
You made this world and you desire justice and peace in your world. Because of sin our hearts are set against you and your will for us. But you sent your Son Jesus to change all that. He gave his life on the cross so that we may live in peace and harmony with you and with those in this world. We thank you for his sacrifice.
But when we look around, every crime reminds us that sin is still powerful. It causes men and women to disrupt peace, steal property, and take life. So God you appointed “law enforcement” to maintain justice and peace in your world. As your word tells us, “there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” We thank you for giving us our law enforcement all over this land that put their lives on the line so that we may live in justice and peace.


Today, we are gathered to pay our deepest honor to those of our officers who were killed in the line of duty. They remained true to the oaths they swore to protect and serve, to make this world a safer and better place. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. We pray today that their sacrifice would not be in vain. We pray that their memory would never be erased by time. We pray that their faithfulness would strengthen their fellow officers to continue their task without bitterness or fear. We pray that their lives would be an inspiration for the next generation of law enforcement that you are raising up. We pray that their loved ones will receive your peace and encouragement to keep their memories alive.

Now we pray for those in this memorial ride who are giving their time, resources, and energy. Bless them, protect them, and honor them. Bless also our local enforcement, especially our Sheriff and Police Chief.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

When Ministry Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN MINISTRY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whenministrygrowsIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series – NO BENCHWARMERS and this one is called – “WHEN MINISTRY GROWS.”

Nehemiah 4   6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. 7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

Bridge: How many of you would agree with the statement – “Anytime something good begins to happen, the Devil always shows up”? It is true in our personal lives, in our families, in our workplaces as a Christian, and even in our church.

Nehemiah - Gustave DoreContext: The Book of Nehemiah is a perfect example of this. The Jewish people led by Nehemiah were trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 587 BC, destroyed the Temple, and the city walls. In 539 BC God had brought the people back into the land and commanded them to rebuild. They rebuilt the temple by 516 BC but the city walls lay in ruins. A city without walls is a city without security, stability, and identity. So God sent a man by the name of Nehemiah in 445 BC to bring the people of Jerusalem and Judah together to rebuild the city walls. If you do the math, that’s almost 100 years after they were back to the land! It’s easy to tear down a work but it’s very hard to rebuild one. By much prayer, Nehemiah rallied the people to begin the work but it wasn’t long before the opposition showed up. In today’s message, we’re going to see what happens when ministry grows and opposition shows up.

Question: Are you part of God’s rebuilding project at Clearview? Are you even aware of what God is doing here at Clearview? Can you see how God is rebuilding lives, homes, marriages, young people and our community? Have you asked Him where He wants you to be in His building project? Are you saved? Are you a citizen of the Heavenly City?

4 things we will learn about what to do when a ministry grows and opposition comes:

I. EXPECT OPPOSITION.

Nehemiah 4:1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews.

Sanballat the HoroniteBackground: Literally it means – this man named Sanballat was hot and irritated when he saw the Jewish people rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and he began to mock and make fun of the people rebuilding the wall. Who was Sanballat? Archaeologists tell us that he was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He was Nehemiah’s chief enemy. The wall was a threat to him. So what does he do? He begins to ridicule the Jewish people. Ridicule or mockery is Satan’s choice weapon to discourage and dishearten God’s people. Shakespeare called ridicule “paper bullets of the brain.” Scottish Philosopher Thomas Carlyle once called ridicule “the language of the devil.”

Tobiah the AmmoniteWhat did Sanballat say? 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? (He mocked them physically.) Will they fortify themselves? (He mocked their construction knowledge.) Will they offer sacrifices? (He mocked their faith) Will they complete it in a day? (He mocked their determination.) Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” (He mocked their resources) 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him…” Who was Tobiah? He was the governor of Ammon to the east of Jerusalem. He came from a family of very powerful Jewish aristocrats. He wasn’t happy either because the wall was also a threat to him. “And he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.’” Chuck Swindoll remarked – “Critics run with critics.”

Application: Have you ever had to deal with Satan’s mockery? I’ve had to. Sometimes he uses people who appear very close to you. You would think that it would be easy to brush it off but its not. Warren Wiersbe said, “Some people who can stand bravely when they are shot at will collapse when they are laughed at.” Have you abandoned some God-given dreams because someone ridiculed you? Let the Holy Spirit help you refocus and get back to the task God has called you to. As a church, we have to be aware of Satan’s opposition. Be aware of his ridicule through some Sanballat or some Tobiah.

II. REMEMBER TO PRAY.

4 “Hear, O our God, for we are despised…”

Background: Nehemiah could have become angry; he could have argued with Sanballat and Tobiah; he could have believed them and given up. Instead, he did what he did when the work first began. He turned towards God. Listen to his prayer: 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5 Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He prayed what is known as an imprecatory prayer, where he prayed for God’s judgment upon the enemy. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t they have prayed like Jesus – “Father forgive them for they not know what they do”? Keep in mind that Nehemiah was not praying for personal vengeance. He was reminding God that the enemy had dishonored Him. They were provoking Him. Nehemiah knew that ultimately this was God’s work. And did prayer work? 6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

Application: At Clearview we believe strongly in the power of prayer. Every Sunday morning we have the Sunday Morning Prayer Zone where men pray for the service. Every Tuesday morning the ladies come together for a time of prayer. Wednesday evening before Bible study we have a time of prayer. Then this weekend, Friday noon to Saturday noon we will be having our prayer vigil. If you haven’t signed up, go by the welcome room and sign up. Men – we need you to sign up for the night hour so the women can come in and pray during the day hour. The only way we as a church still have “a mind to work” is because God keeps giving us the strength to persevere in the face of opposition.

III. GUARD THE MISSION. 

Nehemiah's enemies7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, Keep in mind that the Enemy never gives up. God is blessing Clearview. Lives are being transformed. Do you think the Enemy is happy? Absolutely not. Once he knows that we’re not going to respond to his ridicule, he will return with another weapon. 8 “and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.” Another of the Enemy’s choice weapons is confusion. He likes to come in and get the people all confused about their roles and the direction“I don’t know what I am doing…” “I don’t know where we are going…” What happens when people are confused about those two things? They turn on each other and before you know it the work is over.

What did Nehemiah and the Jewish people do? 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. Meaning: They prayed and actively began to guard the work against any confusion from the enemy. They were clear about who they were and what they were doing.

Today we had our first annual praise team retreat. The one thing they discussed more than anything else was the mission of Clearview. Do you know the mission of Clearview? Our mission is to “lead all people into a life-changing and ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Our slogan is “Making Christ Visible.”

Application: Do you guard yourself against the Enemy? Do you reject his attempt to bring confusion into our church family? Do you know what is the mission of our church? Do you know what your role is in the body?

IV. DIVIDE THE WORK.

Nehemiah guards vision10 Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” Who is Judah? It is another designation for the Jewish people. It was a way of saying that all the Jewish people began to lose their momentum. The task seemed too big. Plus, verse 11 And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” The Enemy is relentless, especially when people are tired.

Can this happen at church? Oh yes! The 20% gets tired and wants to quit. They start hearing a negative comment here and an attitude there and they want to give up. What was Nehemiah’s reaction to all this? 13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. Nehemiah is dividing up the work and every family is involved in doing their part. But, there’s something more – 14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” Nehemiah does not tell them to build the wall. He tells them to see the big picture. Fight for your loved ones.

Application: How do you see your role at Clearview? Is it “I got to teach Sunday School. I have to keep nursery. I have practice tonight. Is it Kindle again this week?” Or do you look at what you do as fighting for your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, and husbands?

16 So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. 17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Nehemiah continues to divide the work and guard the vision.

Application: Have you been praying and asking God where He wants you to work? The title of the series is “No Benchwarmers.” Are you a benchwarmer?

Just so we don’t walk away thinking that Nehemiah was a very skillful project manager, listen to these verses – 19 Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

In the end Nehemiah reminded them that God was going to give them victory. In the end God will work everything together for good at Clearview. Our best days are here and even better days are coming ahead.

Are you trusting God to fight for you? Do you know the Living and True God? Are you saved

Ask, Seek, Knock by Pastor Abidan Shah

ASK, SEEK, KNOCK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

askseekknockIntroduction: We’re in our series through the Sermon on the Mount and today we come to Matthew 7:7 where Jesus again talks about prayer and the message is titled – ASK, SEEK, KNOCK.

Matthew 7  7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Bridge: How many of you believe that prayer is powerful? How many of you believe that God answers prayers? How many of you admit that you don’t pray like you believe?

Illustration: Back in college, I lived in a dorm where the ground floor had a break room with some video games and vending machines. One time this coke machine had a glitch. All you had to do was hit a selection and it would give you a coke! When a few of us found that out, we kept that a tightly guarded secret. We made sure no one was around when we went down to get a drink. Every time we would walk past the break room, we would glance to make sure no one else had figured it out. And mind you – this was a Christian college! When you’re in college, 55 cents is a lot of money! We had convinced ourselves that God had done this! But…all good things come to an end. They fixed the glitch. But even months later, we would walk by and just tap a selection, just in case…

Prayer is like that vending machine. You don’t need any change, just need to tap a selection. But unlike that coke machine, God gives you much more than you tap for. By the way, prayer is not a glitch that may get fixed tomorrow. Prayer is a lifelong privilege for every believer.

Context: In the passage we just read, Jesus once again returns to the topic of prayer and encourages His listeners to pray and pray continuously and pray confidently.

Question: How is your prayer life? Do you pray daily? Do you pray confidently? Do you pray expecting God to answer your needs? Have you stopped praying? Have you given up on prayer? Could it be that you don’t pray like you used to because you are disappointed with God? You asked and He did not answer. You pleaded and He did not answer the way you wished He had. Today’s message will help clear some of those misunderstandings so you can pray again and pray better than before. But the prayer that God wants you to pray more than any other is the prayer of salvation. Have you ever prayed to ask Jesus to save you and come into your life? Do it now.

You may not know but there are 3 questions often raised about this passage on prayer. We will try to answer them and in the process understand the importance of prayer:

I. WHY DID JESUS BRING UP PRAYER AGAIN? 

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find…”

Background: For those of you who have been following this series on the Sermon on the Mount, you may remember that Jesus talked about prayer earlier in this sermon. In chapter 6, He told His disciples not to pray like the hypocrites, standing in the synagogues and the street corners. He taught them to pray in the secret place and without vain repetitions. He taught them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come…” Then it seemed like He was done with the subject of prayer and went on to talk about treasures and serving two masters and worry and anxiety and judging others. Then abruptly and randomly He starts talking about prayer again! What’s going on?

Listen carefully – Jesus was not revisiting the subject of prayer. He never left it to begin with. He was still on the subject of prayer. Everything that He talked about after teaching “The Lord’s Prayer” was still in the context of talking to the Father:

  • “Treasures on earth and treasures in heaven” was about trusting the Father.
  • “Not serving two masters” was about remaining loyal only to God.
  • “Not to worry” was about taking all our cares and anxieties to God.
  • “Judge not” was about prayerfully confronting and not condemning others.

The point is that Jesus never left the subject of prayer. In His own life, prayer undergirded everything that He did. He prayed late into the night. He prayed early in the morning while it was still dark. He prayed before meals. He prayed before He chose His disciples. He prayed before the miracles. He prayed after the miracles. He prayed when He was busy. He prayed when He was tired. He prayed by Himself. He prayed with others. He prayed in the face of disbelief. He prayed in the face of temptation. He prayed for Himself. He prayed for others. The point is this – Prayer marked Jesus’s life. In other words, Jesus was constantly in a state of prayer.

The problem with us today is that we compartmentalize our life between sacred and secular, devotion and duty, and prayer and practice, but Jesus didn’t. We tack on prayer to our day or sprinkle it once in a while when prayer should be interwoven throughout our daily life. Every moment, every step, and every decision we make in life should be approached with prayer. You should always be in a spirit and a mindset of prayer.

Application: Does prayer mark your life? Can it be said of you what was said of Jesus in Hebrews 5:7 that “in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear…” Or do you bring up prayer only when things get rough?

II. WAS JESUS TELLING US NOT TO GIVE UP ON PRAYER? 

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Background: A common misunderstandings about this passage is that Jesus was simply reminding us to persist in prayer. I’ve heard messages on this passage and I’m sure you have to where the speaker said that the reason Jesus used the triple imperatives – Ask, Seek, and Knock – was to emphasize the need to pray. Although, we should “pray without ceasing,” as Paul tells us in I Thessalonians 5:17, this passage is not about persistence in prayer. Some even claim that a better translation would be “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.” To me it would be an overtranslation.

What was Jesus’ intent in using the triple imperatives – “Ask, Seek, and Knock?” Listen to the verses following – 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Think about the illustration. Jesus is using sarcasm, a form of humor. Picture Dad or mom – your son or daughter comes to you and says, “I’m hungry. Can I have a sandwich?” You answer – “Here’s a rock sandwich. There’s more where that came from!” Or, they come to you and say – “Can we have some fish?” You answer – “Sure. Here’s a Copperhead. Try it with some BBQ sauce.” How ridiculous does that sound? Now if sinful human parents will give good things to their children, will not the perfect Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him.

What’s the point? Jesus is not advocating persistence in prayer that but assurance in the nature of God. In other words, don’t give up on prayer not because you shouldn’t give up on prayer but don’t give up on prayer because you have a Heavenly Father who will always give you the very best. Meaning: Don’t just believe in the power of prayer but trust in the nature of God. So the real question is not “Do you believe in the power of prayer?” but “Do you trust in the nature of God?” This brings up another question – “What do you believe about God?”

Illustration: Many years ago at a very vulnerable time in a life when I was going through some doubts and discouragements about my life, I heard a message by Warren Wiersbe. In this message, he made a statement that has stayed me and come back to me time and again when I needed it – “Satan will try to tell you that ‘God is not giving you what you deserve’ or that ‘God is holding out on the best for your life.’” If you think about it, this is exactly what he told our grandparents Adam and Eve in Genesis 3“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Her response – “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” His response – “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Listen carefully – People stop praying because somewhere they start believing the lies of Satan and start trusting in the true nature of God. They start making rash, erratic, and prayerless decisions because they have believed some lie about God.

Application: What do you believe about God? Do you believe that He is a good good Father who always has the best in mind for His children? Have you fallen for the enemy’s lies? Have you given up on prayer because of something that has happened in life?

III. WAS JESUS PROMISING A HEALTH AND WEALTH PRAYER? 

11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Background: This passage has been abused and misused by people, especially TV evangelists in our era – “God wants you to have health and wealth.” Nothing is wrong with health and wealth and you can pray for those things as well but there’s more that God wants to do in your life and through your life than health and wealth. For example, think about Job and Moses and Ruth and Paul and so many others in the Bible who endured tragedy and pain and wants and needs for a greater purpose. Good gifts are not just more self-gratifying pleasures but the kingdom of God.

God is a Heavenly Father who knows what is best for His children and He loves us too much to answer any and every prayer. We have a very limited and finite view of life but God sees the big picture. Only eternity will show how good of a Father He really is!

Think about Jesus – Philippians 2   7 but (Jesus) made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Application: What are you asking God for? Are you willing to say with Jesus – “Not my will but Yours be done.” Are you willing to pray again with confidence in the nature of God? Are you saved? If not, pray that prayer now and ask Jesus to save you

How to Close a Prayer by Pastor Abidan Shah

HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtocloseaprayer

Introduction: This is our final message in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father.” At the end of the service, Ryan will be making an exciting announcement about it so stay tuned. Today’s message is titled – “HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: Would you agree that how you end a conversation matters? There are conversations that end on a high note and then there are some that end on a low note. Some end with hope and anticipation while others end with doubt and despair. Some end with joy and gladness while others end with tears and sadness. Prayer is also a conversation and it matters how you end it. Jesus ended the “Lord’s Prayer” with the doxology – “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” By the way, according to Jewish custom, prayer was always followed by a conclusion, a doxology. In the Mishnah (m. Ber. 1.4) it says, “In the morning two blessings are to be said…which they ordered to be concluded (with a benediction) must not be left without such a conclusion…” In the Old Testament, you see this repeatedly at the end of prayers. Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

Question: How do you end your prayers? Is it with hope and anticipation or is it with doubt and despair? Is it with joy and gladness or is it with tears and sadness? Do you pray? Are you saved? It’s hard to have a conversation with someone you don’t know.

Matthew 613 footnote

Matthew 6:13 with a footnote

This morning we will look at the doxology or the end of the Lord’s Prayer and my desire is that it will encourage you to pray with hope and joy and faith. But before we jump in, there’s an important issue that we need to address. Some of your Bibles may have this statement next to this verse or at the bottom of the page – “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have these words” or “some late manuscripts add the doxology” or “the NU text omits the doxology.” In many translations the doxology is included but in brackets and in several Bibles it is not included at all. What exactly is going on here?

Matthew 613 brackets

Matthew 6:13 in brackets

Matthew 613 omitted

Matthew 6:13 omitted

My first encounter with this issue came when I was in elementary school. I went to St. Aloysius, a Catholic School, where every morning during school assembly we said the Lord’s Prayer. What was startling to me was how the nuns would end the prayer with “And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.” Wait a minute! You’re forgetting something! “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” Later on I learned that the Catholic Bible did not have the doxology. Why? Because it was based on the Latin Vulgate which also did not have the doxology. Little did I know at the time that one day I would pursue a PhD in the field of New Testament Textual Criticism (I don’t like to brag about that), which deals with these very issues. I believe that the doxology should be included in the text. Why? I don’t have time to go in depth but let me quickly give a couple of things to remember. But before I do that, let me be clear – I am not a “King James Only.” It’s a great translation but I’m not here to defend it.

  • It is true that the doxology is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts that have survived (Aleph and B) from the 4th It is also not found
    Gk Mss Dist Matt Doxology

    Greek Mss Distribution of Matthew’s Doxology

    in 3 manuscripts from the 5th century (D Z 0170). But one thing that many people don’t realize is that 4 out of those 5 seem to have a common origin, which narrows their weight.

  • But, what many people don’t realize is that the doxology is found in 1 early Greek manuscript (W) from the 5th century and 2 (sigma and phi) from the 6th
  • Furthermore, the doxology is absent from only 13 or so manuscripts and 10 of them after the 13th
  • But, from the 8th century on 1504 manuscripts have the doxology! One of my friends (Jonathan Borland) did the math and altogether 98.6% of all Greek manuscripts have the doxology, a few with some variations. They had to be copied from somewhere.
  • It is also true that the Latin version omits it (I just mentioned that) and so also the early church fathers (Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine).
  • But the doxology is found in an Old Latin, (k/1), some of the Old Syriac versions, some Coptic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Georgian, and Armenian.

I can go on and on but the question is why did some manuscripts drop it?

  • Maybe because Luke does not include it, some scribes may have felt that Matthew shouldn’t either. They should have remembered that maybe Luke left it out because the Gentiles didn’t see the need for a doxology at the end of every prayer.
  • Maybe because when the church collectively read the passage, they would stop at “deliver us from evil” and the priest alone would say the doxology. This could have become a norm and the doxology got left out by a handful of manuscripts.
  • Personally, I think its because some scribe thought that it was contradicting the opening of the prayer – “Your kingdom come.” It could be that the scribe felt that if the kingdom was still to come in the future, how can we say “Yours is the kingdom,” as if it is already in the present.

We don’t have all the answers but my conclusion is that the evidence is in the favor of the doxology. Please don’t misunderstand – this does not mean that people who don’t include it are liberals or unsaved. That’s not true. So, why did I go through all this trouble? Our young people are bombarded daily with allegations that the original Bible has been lost in transmission. That’s not true and cookie cutter answers won’t work. We have to, as Peter says in I Peter 3:15, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Back to our message – This doxology reminds us of 3 things about God as we close our prayer:

I. HE IS THE RIGHTFUL OWNER, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is the kingdom…forever.”

Background: If you remember the message on – “Your kingdom come” – the Jewish people knew that God was their eternal King. He was their rightful King. And one day He was coming to take His rightful throne over the world and rule forever. By ending with the doxology– “Yours IS the kingdom” – Jesus was saying that even now God was the rightful King. Even now He owned everything and everyone. It was very similar to the doxology that David prayed in I Chronicles 29   10 Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. If you remember, the people of Israel had rebelled against God and had demanded a king to be like other nations. Even though David was the king of Israel, He was humbly acknowledging that God was Israel’s true king. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. Is it any wonder that God repeatedly heard David’s prayer and established His kingdom forever?!

Here’s the point: No matter how we come to God in prayer, we need to remember that God owns this entire creation and everything in it, including all our problems and us. Like that old song—

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

……….

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:

Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and Heav’n be one.

………

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?

The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He owns it all? Do you proclaim Him king over your circumstances and over yourself?

II. HE CAN CHANGE CIRCUMSTANCES, NOW AND FOREVER.

“For Yours is…the power…forever.”

Background: This almost sounds like the last point but there is a difference. It’s one thing to be the rightful owner but it’s another thing to be in control. To say it differently – you can own something but still be helpless to change a situation. By ending with the doxology – “For Yours is the power” – Jesus was saying that the Father was not only in charge but He also had all the power to change all circumstances. By the way, Jesus demonstrated that when they brought a paralytic to Him on a bed. Matthew 9   2 “…When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’ 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house. 8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

Here’s the point: No matter what we are facing in this life, when we come to God in prayer we need to remember that God is perfectly capable of handling that situation, be it physical healing or spiritual healing.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He has power to work in your situation? Do you proclaim Him all-powerful and all capable?

III. HE GETS THE GLORY, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is…the glory forever.”

Background: The Greek word for glory is “doksa” from which we get the word “doxology.” At the end of it all, God wants to get the glory and He will get the glory. It means that when your prayers are answered, it’s not because of how strong or wise or patient or even prayerful you were. It was all because of God, for God, and to God. The best example of this is the healing of Lazarus. If you remember, Jesus was a friend of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from the town of Bethany. He often visited them. One day He got word that Lazarus was sick. Now you would think that Jesus would leave it all and go help out His friends. Instead, listen to John 11:4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. How strange?! He loved them and so He stayed 2 extra days instead of coming to them immediately! He finally gets there. The sisters are distraught and they get to the grave and Martha says to Him – “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” What was His response? John 11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” What was the result? Not only Lazarus was raised to life but many believed in Him. Ultimately, God got the glory.

Application: The real question is “Are you willing to give Him glory in your life and through your circumstances?” Are you willing to let God use you to draw people to Himself?

Are you saved? Are you praying? Are you praying for His kingdom, His power, and His glory?

When God’s Name is Lifted Up by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD’S NAME IS LIFTED UP by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whengodsnameisliftedup

Introduction: We are in the second message in our series through the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father” and it is titled – “When God’s Name is Lifted Up.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: This morning we will look at the second line of the Lord’s Prayer – “Hallowed be Your Name.” Now, before we jump in and start unpacking this line, there is something very important to note here: The Lord’s Prayer can be divided into 2 halves: the “Thou-petitions” and the “we-petitions.” Thou-petitions – “Hallowed be thy name,” “Thy kingdom come,” and Thy will be done.” We-petitions – “Give us this day our daily bread,” “Forgive us our debts,” and “Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from the evil one.” The first part of the prayer is about God’s name, God’s Kingdom, and God’s will. Then follows the second part about our needs, our sins, and our security.

Here’s the point: Prayer is first about God and His purpose and then it is about us and our petitions. Many times we begin with what’s on our list and that’s fine but we should first begin by asking what’s on God’s list. Later Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Question: How do you see prayer? Do you begin with your own needs and wants? Are your prayers self-centered rather than God-centered? Is it any wonder that many of our prayers never get answered? Are you saved? If not, you will never understand what’s on the heart of God. It’s only when you receive a new heart and mind, you can do that.

3 basic questions we will ask in order to understand “Hallowed be Your Name.”

I. WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT GOD’S NAME?

Listen again – 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

Background: To understand the importance of God’s name, we need to keep in mind that in the biblical culture a person’s name was a description of his/her character. This is hard for us to understand in our culture today. We give names based on what sounds good or what is popular. We name our children after someone in the family or some famous person or even a street sign (like Nicole was named after a street sign in New Orleans!). But in the Bible, names were very significant, especially God’s names. If you remember, when God came to Moses and spoke to him through the burning bush, what did Moses ask God? Listen to Exodus 3   13 “…Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” That’s an odd question. If it is the God of your fathers, then why do you need to know His name? There’s something critical here. The question was not – “Who is this God?” The answer to that would’ve been “Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the Hebrews.” But, the Hebrew word is “mah” which means “what” not “who.” What they were asking was – “We know who He is but does He have a name that will tell us what He will do for us in this situation?”

For e.g. I’m one of the chaplains at the local hospital. Many times I run into some of you when you’re visiting someone in the hospital and you introduce me as “Abidan.” I have no problem with people calling me by my first name. I don’t get offended over that. Typically, when I am introduced by just my first name, the person just politely nods. That’s when people clarify – “Oh by the way, he’s Pastor Shah, my pastor.” All of a sudden there’s a change in their demeanor. I’m not just some friend who happened to be passing by but a pastor and many times they’ll ask me to pray for them, which I gladly do. By the way, I have other names: To my children – “Daddy,” as a former teacher and educator – “Mr. Shah,” and as an academic – “Dr. Shah.” (little too early for that)

So also with God – He is God but that’s too generic. He has many names that signify who He is and what He does in particular situations. By the way, what was God’s answer to Moses? Verse 14 “…I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” What God was saying is – “Tell my people ‘I am the God who was with them; I am the God who is with them; and I am the God who will be with them.’” 15 “…This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’” In other words, “I am the God who established you as a people; I am the God who allowed you to go into slavery; and I am also the God who will set you free.”

God’s names are very important because they teach us His character and His work in our lives. My challenge to you is go beyond the generic “God” and get to know His names:

  • If you are in need, He is “Jehovah Jireh: the God who provides.”
  • If you are sick, He is “Jehovah Rapha: the God who heals.”
  • If you are in turmoil, He is “Jehovah Shalom: the God who is our peace.”
  • If you are in the wilderness, He is “Jehovah Shama: the God who is close to us.”

I don’t have time to go through all of them. Jump over the New Testament and you find Jesus as Emmanuel, Son of God, Lion of Judah, and the Lamb of God.

Application: How well do you know God? Are you satisfied with the generic “God?” What difficult situation are you facing? I promise you there is a name of God in the Bible with your particular need. Call God by that name. He will meet you right where you are.

II. WHY SHOULD GOD’S NAME BE HALLOWED?

9 “…Hallowed be Your name.”

Background: The Greek word “hagiazein” is a rare word that means, “to sanctify.” It has the idea of exalting and lifting up God’s name. Daily in this sinful world, God’s name is being brought down and being tarnished. There’s no name that get’s as misused and misrepresented as God’s name. Do you remember your parents telling you – “Don’t drag our name through the mud?” God’s name gets dragged through the mud constantly.

At this point, we think of the atheist, antichristian, and the terrorists. Not true. It begins with God’s people. Jesus did not create the Lord’s Prayer but adapted it from the Kaddish, an ancient Aramaic prayer of the Jewish people. Listen to it – “Exalted and hallowed be His great name in the world which He created according to His will. May He let His kingdom rule in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the whole house of Israel, speedily and so on. And to this say: Amen.” The Jewish people knew how seriously God took His name. When He gave the 10 commandments in Exodus 20, the 3rd commandment said 7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Repeatedly, the people of God had broken this commandment. A perfect example of this is in Jeremiah 7 where God said to the priests in verse 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, 10 and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name…” (God is saying – “My name represents truth, justice, holiness, righteousness, etc. but you have the audacity to stand before Me, knowing who I am, claim to belong to me, and still do things that I hate”) 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes?…” says the LORD. Later, Jesus quoted the same passage when He cleansed the temple.

Here’s the point: Taking God’s name in vain is much more than saying G or GD. It’s about misusing and misrepresenting God’s name. It’s about claiming God’s name but living contrary to His will. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say – “I know so and so claims to be a Christian but you should see how he/she acts outside the church.” That is taking God’s name in vain. When a man claims to be a Christian but acts bitterly towards his wife, he is taking God’s name in vain. When a woman claims to be a Christian but hatefully towards her husband, she is taking God’s name in vain. When a young person claims to be a Christian but does the same thing as the world, he/she is taking God’s name in vain and God hates it.

Application: Are you profaning God’s name or are you exalting God’s name? Are you the one who keeps desecrating God’s name with your lifestyle? God expects me to be a righteous husband, a righteous father, and a faithful shepherd. When I fail to do that, I profane His name. Are you the one who keeps dragging God’s name through the mud?

III. WHO HALLOWS GOD’S NAME?

9 “…Hallowed be Your name.”

Background: We need to understand something very important here. The statement is addressed to God. We don’t hallow God’s name. God hallows His own name. Furthermore, all three of the “Thou-petitions” are in 3rd person. Remember “Person” in grammar class? 1st person – I, me, we, us; 2nd person – you, yours; and 3rd person – he, she, it, they, them. Some people mistakenly change the 3rd to the 2nd person – “God, please hallow Your name, please bring Your kingdom, and please do Your will.” That’s incorrect. Plus the verb is a divine passive. Instead, it should be – “May God’s name be hallowed; may God’s kingdom come; and may God’s will be done.” Each of them is more a declaration rather than a command to God.

Here’s the point: God doesn’t need a petition or a reminder to hallow His name. He is going to do what He needs to do about His name. Listen to Ezekiel 36   22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. 23 And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.

Sometimes people ask – “I don’t know what God is up to…all these atheists, terrorists, and antichristians keep profaning His name.” Every day God is abolishing everything that is contradictory to His holiness and one day He will abolish them permanently. Don’t worry about His job. Worry about your life because hallowing first begins in His own people. He wants His name to be hallowed in us first.

Question:

  • Are you taking God’s name in vain?
  • Are you misrepresenting God’s character?
  • What is in your life right now that maligns God’s name?
  • Are you saved

When God is Your Father by Pastor Abidan Shah

 

WHEN GOD IS YOUR FATHER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whengodisyourfatherIntroduction: This morning we are in our series through the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father” and today’s message is titled – “When God is Your Father.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: Along with Psalm 23, John 3:16, Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11 and a few others, the passage we just read is one of the most well known passages of the Bible. It is the Lord’s Prayer or the Pater Noster or sometimes even known as the Disciple’s Prayer. It is found twice in the Gospels – one here in Matthew 6 and a shorter version in Luke 11. It could be that Jesus taught the same prayer several times or it could be that Luke placed it at a different point in his gospel, as he often does. What is interesting about Luke’s version of the prayer is that he gives us the context in which Jesus gave this model prayer. Listen to Luke 11:1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” What is very interesting to me is that the disciples did not ask Jesus – “teach us to preach or teach us to evangelize or teach us to do a miracle” but “teach us to pray.” Why? Because they witnessed how important prayer was to Jesus.

Question: If you were one of the disciples, what would you have asked Jesus? How important is prayer to your daily life? Many of you shared with me this past week, how much you are looking forward to this series. Many of you have shared with me that you have begun to pray as never before. That’s wonderful! How about the rest of you? Here’s another question – Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior?

This morning we will be looking at just the opening line of the Lord’s Prayer, just the designation that Jesus uses for God – “Our Father.” I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes so you can see what that title represents. Also, if you don’t know God as your father that today you will believe in Christ as your Savior.

I. COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS:

  1. Jesus was the first to call God – “Our Father.”

Not true. This is a popular misunderstanding that was proposed by a German scholar by the name of Joachim Jeremias. Later on this same scholar revised his view but no one listened to him. It preached too good! Here are some examples of previous usage:

  • Moses said to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 32:6 Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?
  • In Isaiah 63:16 it says, “Doubtless You are our Father…You, O LORD, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.”
  • In Malachi 1:6 where God says to His people “A son honors his father, And a servant his If then I am the Father, Where is My honor?…”

The point is this – Jesus did bring us a special intimacy with God. Ever since the Garden of Eden, God has desired to have a close relationship with us as a father to a child.

  1. “Abba Father” represents a little child’s name for father.

Once again the same scholar was responsible for this misunderstanding and once again he tried to correct it but to no avail. When you study the literature from that time, the word “abba” is not just a little child’s word for father but also a grown child’s word for father. Just like a 4 year old and a 40 year old can use the word “daddy,” a little child and a grown child can use the word “abba.”

The point is this – We’ve tried to insert our modern psychology into the first century world. Yes – there is something special in how a little boy or girl looks up to his/her father but this is not all that Jesus had in mind when He said “Our Abba.”

Some of y’all are wondering – what are you trying to get at? When we understand the real reason why Jesus said “Our Father,” it will change the way we think about God and pray to Him. It will revolutionize our prayer life! So what is the correct understanding?

II. CORRECT INTERPRETATION:

  1. Abba Father means God is our Creator.

Listen again to Deuteronomy 32:6 – “Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?”

Here “Abba Father” has the idea of God being our Creator. When we say “Our Father,” what we’re really saying is “God, You are the source of our existence. We were created by you and we exist because of you. You’re not depended on us but we are depended on you.” Paul said the same thing in Acts 17:28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” Offspring means we are God’s children who depend upon Him. Paul goes on in verse 29 to say, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” Meaning: As God’s offspring, He gives shape and sustenance to us and not the other way around. He doesn’t depend on us but we depend on Him.

This is increasingly hard in our culture to understand where fathers have become dispensable. Fathers are nothing more than “sperm donors.” Mothers, on the other hand, have to carry the child for nine months, go through the pain of childbirth, and then provide nourishment and nurture for the child. Ladies – no disrespect to you but this is part of the reason why our society is so messed up today. We have pretty much told fathers – “We don’t need you. We can do without you. Just do your thing and get out of sight. We have the government, the school, and the church to raise the child. ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’” Growing up, my dad was everything to me. I know this is a tough message for some of you but this is not meant to hurt you or pull back the scab. This is not to blame you for some deadbeat dad. But we have to return to the standard.

Listen carefully – When we pray “Our Father in heaven,” we are telling God that we need Him and that we are depended on Him. He is our source and our sustenance. Without Him, we would not exist and without Him, we cannot survive.

Application: What do you think when you say “Our Father in Heaven?” Are you acknowledging that God is your creator? Are you admitting to Him that you are His creation? Are you reminding Him and your self how much you are depended on Him?

2. Abba Father means God is our Superior.

Malachi 1:6      “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.”

Here Abba Father has the idea of God being our Superior. When we say “Our Father,” what we’re really saying is “God, You are above us. You deserve all honor and respect. You are not subject to us. We are subject to You. You don’t obey us. We obey You.” We find this echoed several times. Ephesians 4 (There is) 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 1 Corinthians 8:6 “yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him.” By the way, the one person who lived this perfectly was Jesus Christ. He always honored and obeyed His Father. Hebrews 5:8 “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”

Once again, this is also increasingly hard in our culture to understand where fathers have lost all respect and authority. For several reasons – they are just as guilty or clueless or just another male-mom. Let’s look at each one of them briefly:

  • Just as guilty: If you yourself have issues, how can you tell your children to behave? No wonder your kids don’t honor you.
  • Clueless: If you are like the typical TV dad, can’t do anything right and always the last one to get it, is it any wonder your children don’t respect and obey you?
  • Male-mom: Please don’t misunderstand – Yes, 2 Corinthians 1:3 describes God as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” but we can do that without becoming a second mom. God designed every family to have only one mom, a caregiver and nurturer. Dad should invoke authority and respect. My kids know that I love them and I am gentle with them but they also have a healthy fear of me. So also with God.

Listen carefully – When we pray “Our Father in heaven,” we are telling God that He is the boss. He is in charge and He has authority over us. We will obey and respect Him.

Application: What do you think when you say “Our Father in Heaven?” Are you acknowledging that God is your superior? Are you willing to submit to Him and obey Him? Are you willing to affirm – “Father knows best?”

3. Abba Father means God is our Redeemer.

Isaiah 63:16 “Doubtless You are our Father…You, O LORD, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.”

Here Abba Father has the idea of God being our Redeemer. When we say “Our Father,” what we’re really saying is “God, You are our Redeemer. We are in a mess and we need you to rescue us and set us free. You are our only hope.” The greatest example of this is found in Exodus 4 when God sent Moses to free His people Israel from slaver in Egypt – 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.’” By the way, was God bluffing? No. When Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go, every male firstborn of man and livestock died the night of the Passover.

Once again, this is also increasingly hard in our culture to understand where fathers have checked out. So many children have no fathers to defend and recuse their sons/daughters.

Illustration: Third grade was a rough year for life. Mom got really sick and was in the hospital for months. Dad had to take care of her and preach and travel to make ends meet. It was a dark period in my life. To top it all, my teacher in 3rd grade was not nice. She was mistreating me, playing favoritism. I had lost all self-worth. I say that carefully because I am a teacher/principal and I have a very high regard for teachers. My mom was a teacher. Dad saw my report card and he wasn’t happy. He asked my why I wasn’t paying attention. I told him I was. He asked me if I sat up front? I told him that the teacher did not have a seat for me. She told me to see who is absent and take their seat for the day. He asked a few more questions. Nothing more was said. Next day, I saw him going to the office. I thought I was in big trouble. I wasn’t. In fact, the principal realized what was happening and what this teacher was doing. Things were different from then.

That’s how God our Father is. He killed His own firstborn to rescue us from His own wrath. He is our Redeemer. When you come to Him for help, He doesn’t sit back and judge you. He immediately comes to your rescue.

Invitation: Is God your Father? This prayer is not just about imitation but participation. When we are in Christ, this becomes our prayer. Are you in Christ

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