The Greener Grass Syndrome (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

THE GREENER GRASS SYNDROME (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 18, 2018)Greener Grass Syndrome,

Have you ever driven past a herd of cows grazing in a lush green field and seen that one cow sticking its head through the fence, nibbling in the pasture next to it? Why is it doing that? Is there not enough grass in its own field? Is the grass any greener on the other side? Is the grass any tastier? None of the above. The cow is falsely assuming that the grass must be better on the other side. Humans do the same thing but worse. We buy into the myth that our lives are not as good as others’. We say things like: “I can’t wait to get outta here and move somewhere else,” “It was so much better back home,” “If only I looked like her, I would be so much happier,” “If only I had him, life would be so much better.” We see the perfect selfie and conclude that the person’s life must be better than ours. When in reality, that photo was retaken twenty times and tested by multiple filters. This delusion has become magnified in recent years with the rise of social media. As a result, some people have become paralyzed in self-defeat and some have slipped into the abyss of depression. Others have even walked away from a good job or a marriage, with tragic consequences.

So, how do you combat this “greener grass syndrome?” We can follow the example of God’s people in the book of Jeremiah. They were in exile in Babylon, pining to go back home to Jerusalem. They had forgotten that it was their sin that had caused them to be driven out of the land. Instead of repenting and seeking God’s will, they were wallowing in self-pity and longing for the “greener grass” back home. God sent Jeremiah to tell them to “bloom where they were planted.” Listen to Jeremiah 29:5-7 “Build houses and dwellin them;plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters…and seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive…” In other words, “Make yourself at home. Dig some foundations. Get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Become a productive member of the society. Make the place better by your presence.” At first, the people did not want to hear this but God warned them that things would not change for the next seventy years. But, if they were obedient to plant themselves where God had placed them, then his promise to them would be“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) People often quote this promise but neglect to realize that it was contingent on them flourishing where God had sent them.

There may be times when you have to change locations or jobs in order to improve your life. This is not “the greener grass syndrome.” Rather, it’s moving from a famine infested land to a fertile valley. But, just remember, bad habits don’t disappear by changing zip codes or job descriptions. Unless, the old nature has been transformed by Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will still be you even if you move to the other side of the moon! So also, being inspired and motivated by the successes of others is not always bad as long as it doesn’t trap you into envy. There is a fine line between copying and coveting. King Saul crossed that line when he began to despise young David and his successes. It launched him into a horrible depression and provoked within him the desire to kill God’s Anointed.

Ultimately, the challenge to all those seeking the “greener grass” is to make sure that what they think is a better place is not actually astroturf or a septic tank. But, if we let God guide our lives, our Babylon may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Anointed by Pastor Abidan Shah

ANOINTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Annointed

Introduction: People often ask me about my name. “What kind of name is ‘Abidan?’ Is that an Indian name or an eastern name?” Growing up in India, people asked me that question too. It’s not an Indian name. It’s actually a biblical name. It’s not the Abaddon in the book of Revelation. That’s the Angel of the Abyss. My name, Abidan, is found about 5 times in the Old Testament book of Numbers. It’s the name of one of the heads of the tribes of Benjamin. It means “My father is the judge” or “God is my judge.” It’s the reverse of Daniel. But, all through people have asked me about my name. By the way, my brother didn’t get any of those questions because my parents named him “Fred.”What’s the point of all this? Biblical names have meanings, especially the names of Jesus. In today’s message we will learn that one of the names of Jesus means king. When we say that “Jesus Christ is my Savior,” we are actually saying “Jesus the King is my Savior.”

John 20    30“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Question: Have you believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Do you have life in his name? Are you saved?

Context:  For those who’ve been away or visiting for the first time, we’re in a series on what is the true gospel. If you ask people in church, even those who have been in church for a long time, what is the gospel, they can’t tell you! It’s like having a car but no key. You can clean it as much as you want. You can argue over the color and the engine size. You can even decide who you will let ride in the car and where you will go. But, without a key, it’s useless. The gospel is the key that gets our salvation going! In fact, it’s more than that. It’s the title deed. Many people are actually sitting in stolen cars!

Last weekend we learned that the gospel should include the idea of the kingdom of God.Jesus came preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.” This is important because when we drop the idea of the “kingdom” from the gospel, following Jesus becomes optional, discipleship becomes a choice.In today’s message, I want us to go further in our understanding of the gospel. I want us to look at an important name given to Jesus. Listen again to the verse we just read – 31“but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”We know what Jesus means – “Yahweh or God Saves.” What does Christ mean? It’s not Jesus’ last name! It was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” The Hebrew word “Messiah” meant “Anointed One,” someone who had been consecrated or set aside for a special task.When the Jewish people translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the LXX, they used the word “christos,” which comes from the Greek word “chrio,” that carries the idea of “to anoint or smear with oil.” That’s the best they could do! So, Christ or Messiah meant someone set aside for a special task. By the time Jesus came, it was a very important title and had deep meaning for the Jewish people. It referred to God’s Promised Savior for the world. In fact, the word “Messiah” is found about 39 times in the OT and9 of the 39 cases were about that someone who was coming in the future to be God’s king.Here are a few of them:

  • I Samuel 2:35“Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priestwhoshall do according to what isin My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before Myanointed
  • Psalm 2:2“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed.”
  • Psalm 132:10 “For Your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.”
  • Habakkuk 3:13“You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for salvation with Your Anointed.”
  • Daniel 9 25“Know therefore and understand, thatfrom the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah(Anointed One)the Prince, there shall beseven weeks and sixty-two weeks. . . 26“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah(Anointed One) shall be cut off, but not for Himself. . .”

These verses and some others led to the development of the understanding that one day God’s chosen king, the Messiah or the Christ, would come to set his people free and rule over them. By the time Jesus came, the title of “Messiah” or “Christ” was very well known.Listen to how Matthew begins his gospel – Matthew 1:1“The book of the genealogy of JesusChrist, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Few verses down he says inMatthew 1:16“And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is calledChrist.” Matthew 1:18“Now the birth of JesusChristwas as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Luke tells us in his gospel that the angel told the shepherds – Luke 2   10“. . . Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Mark does the same thing in his gospel. He begins in Mark 1    1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the Prophets:“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,who will prepare Your way before You.”3“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the LORD;Make His paths straight.’”Mark is calling Jesus the Messiah and Christ and quoting Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. He is saying that Jesusfulfilled all the prophecies regarding the Messiah or the Christ.

In John’s gospel, people keep confusing John the Baptist with Jesus and he kept telling them that he was not the Christ. Andrew brings his brother Peter to Jesus and says in John 1:41“We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).Later Jesus changes the life of the Samaritan woman at the well and she invites her whole village to come hear him. Listen to what they say to her inJohn 4:42“. . .Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

Later in Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They told him John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, 16“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus was very pleased with him and said, 17“. . . Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealedthisto you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” All because he acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God. Listen to what Jesus said in his high priestly prayer – John 17:3“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and JesusChristwhom You have sent.”

Finally, in Mark 14, at his trial, the high priest asked him,61“. . . Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Mark 14:62  Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” They condemned him for blasphemy. I don’t have time to go through the rest of the New Testament and talk about every time the early church referred to him as Christ.Here’s one from Romans 1    1“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, calledto bean apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son Jesus Christour Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4anddeclaredto bethe Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faithamong all nations for His name, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.”

What does all this imply?It implies that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Promised King of the Old Testament. Inherent in his name “Christ” is the understanding of King and Ruler. He commands our obedience and our allegiance. It takes years for some of us to get to the place of total obedience and allegiance and maybe never completely on this side. But, the desire should be there. No desire, no salvation.

Invitation:Have you received Jesus as Christ, God’s Chosen King? Are you saved? Are you obedient to your king?

Guaranteed by Pastor Abidan Shah

GUARANTEED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

GuaranteedIntroduction:  Have you ever had to follow up on a guarantee only to find out that the Guarantor was no longer in business? This happened to me recently. On our date days, I usually end up at bookstores. Somehow my truck usually finds one! We went by a used bookstore where I had a discount card that also gave me points each time I used it. We pulled into the parking lot and there were no cars. The sign wasn’t lit up either. I knew something wasn’t right. So, I walked up to the door and there was a handwritten sign that said – “Thank you for your business. We’re out of business.” I almost cried! The discount card with the free points was now useless. Thank goodness that it was just a few free points towards some used books. But, imagine, if it was something much more important. Unlike that bookstore, God never goes out of business. He always stands behind his guarantees, especially when it comes to his work in our lives. That’s the title of our message, GUARANTEED, in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1     3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 

Question: Has God begun a good work in you? In other words, are you saved? Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? If you have, can you see his work daily in your lives? Some believers may have more work in their lives than others. No work, no salvation.

Context: Last weekend we learned that Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was based upon Trust, Joy, and Hope. In today’s message, I want to focus on the last point of “Hope” a little bit. Paul had the hope, the solid assurance, based on his positive relationship with the Philippians, that God was working in their lives and that he would finish the work that he had started. Listen again to verse 6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” What is the good work that Paul is talking about? How does it apply in our lives today? The message is deep but those are the 2 main points:

I. WHAT IS THE GOOD WORK THAT PAUL IS TALKING ABOUT?

6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work…”

Background: The “good work” that Paul is referring to in this verse is God’s work of salvation, more specifically, God’s work of grace in the life of a believer. Paul tell us this in 1 Corinthians 1:4 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” Don’t forget – Salvation is God’s good work of grace in the life of a person. It is God who initiates this work and it’s always by his grace and it’s always good. Some people think that if I get saved, it’ll be bad. I’ll lose friends, fun, and freedom. It’s just the opposite. You gain so much more.

Application: Has God’s good work of grace happened in your life? Have you experienced what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”? Have you received God’s gift of salvation?

Something else here – Paul refers to 2 days when it comes to someone’s salvation: The First Day and the Day of Jesus Christ. Listen again to verse 5 “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day…” What is this “first day?” It’s the day that you and I get saved.

Application: You need this first day. What if you can’t remember? Are you not saved then? No. Just pick today as the day.

The second day is the Day of Jesus Christ. Listen again to verse 6 “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. This second day was very important to Paul. He mentions it again in Philippians 1:10 “…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” Philippians 2:16 “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ…” This second day is the day when Christ will return for us. For a Christian, those are the only 2 days that truly matter. We think that it’s our birthday and our death day but not so for a believer. Here’s the point that Paul is making – Between the First Day (Born Again Day) and the Day of Jesus Christ (Jesus Returning for us Day), God will complete what he has begun in our life. In other words, our salvation is ultimately God’s responsibility. The Guarantor of my salvation is not me. The Guarantor of your salvation is not you. The Guarantor of our salvations is God himself. Salvation from start to finish is God’s work and he never leaves a job half-done. He will finish what he has started.

Some people object to this. Some will say – Yes, God is responsible for your salvation but you are responsible too. They will quote passages like Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” When people bring up that verse, I remind them to keep reading – 13 “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” In other words, working out your salvation is understanding what God is doing in your life which should lead you to fear, which is humility, and trembling, which is obedience. Let me give you couple of more references to help you understand how God is working in you “both to will and to do for his good pleasure” – Romans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” 2 Thessalonians 2    13 “…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

There are some other objections as well. What if the Enemy tries to steal you away? 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” What if the temptation is too much? I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Romans 8    37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What about passages like I Corinthians 8:11 and Romans 14:15 which talks about a weak brother perishing or being destroyed. The context here implies “self-condemnation,” “defilement,” and “wounding of the conscience” not hell or loss of salvation. How about in Galatians? Galatians 5   2 “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing…4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Paul is frustrated with the Galatians because they were going back to the law, to circumcision. He’s telling them that if they do that, it’s a waste. He does say something very harsh and it’s exactly as it sounds. He tells them that if they go back to the law (self-effort), they’ll be lost. What do we do with this? Again, you have to look at the context. Go to Galatians 5:10 “I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind…” Paul is giving them an “impossible possibility.” Like a parent telling a child – “If you do that, you are no child of mine.” Let’s say the child does that anyways. Does that mean that he is no longer a child? Even if the parent disowns, it is not possible. By DNA, it cannot be done. What about 1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” This is about the end of times. I Timothy 2:12 “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him”? This is again a warning about the end of times. Overall, the abandonment will be by those who never heard the true gospel.

II. HOW DOES IT APPLY TO US TODAY?
  • Grow in the Spirit – Think about the Galatians. Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
  • Free to Serve – No need for unnecessary sorrow or self-condemnation. (Imagine if you had to fight for a nation while trying to prove your citizenship. How tiresome!)
  • Hope for self and others. Less judgmental on self and others.
  • More Grateful to God

Are you safe? Are you secure?


 

Fulfilled: Location of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fulfilled 4

Introduction: There are towns in our United States with some really funny names! For e.g. Accident, Maryland; Chicken, Alaska; Cut and Shoot, Texas; Embarrass, Minnesota; Experiment, Georgia; Frankenstein, Missouri; Imalone, Wisconsin; Nothing; Arizona; Pie Town, New Mexico; Santa Claus, Arizona; Tightwad, Missouri; Two Egg, Florida; Uncertain, Texas; and Why Not, North Carolina. I actually looked this one up. It’s in Randolph County, South of Asheboro, where the NC Zoo is located. Story goes that when the first settlers were trying to decide on the name, they kept debating “Why not this” and “why not that,” until one man who had enough of it suggested, “Why not name the town Why Not and let’s go home?” This actually pleased everyone! In this message, we will be looking at another small town which compared to Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and Babylon was nothing but it was the place God chose for the birth of his son. Because, God loves to work through insignificant people and insignificant places. This is our 4th and final message in our series “FULFILLED: THE LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH.”

Matthew 2    1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Question: Do you ever feel insignificant? Do you ever feel unworthy? Do you ever feel that you are too little or unsuitable to be used by God? I have and I still do. Here’s the good news! God loves using the insignificant and the unworthy, the little and the unsuitable. Why? He specializes in using those through whom he can get the most glory. But, whether significant or not, you have to be saved? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read has so many things that we can focus on: the identity of the magi or the wise men (Who were these strange visitors from the East); the meaning of the star (Was it a comet? Was it a supernova?); the significance of the gifts (Gold, frankincense, and myrrh). For time’s sake, I would like to focus just on the significance of the little town of Bethlehem in Judea in the coming of Jesus. Listen again to Matthew 2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…” The reason Matthew specifies Bethlehem of Judea is because there was another Bethlehem in the North about 7 miles Northwest of Nazareth. For e.g. If I were to write something like “Wilbur Hardee, the founder of Hardees, was born in Greenville, North Carolina.” Why did I specify “North Carolina?” Because there’s a Greenville, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, California, and about 26 more in the United States! Why do I bring this up? When people claim that the Bible is just a fictitious book made up by the church to control the masses, they haven’t taken the time to carefully examine the historic details in it. Let me say it again: The Bible is unlike any book in the history of the world. It was written by men who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” You can trust it!

What happens next? Wise men (magi) from the East come to Jerusalem and their question is “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” That title “King of the Jews” is very important. It implies “Where is the descendant of King David?” The magi may not have understood what they said but the people of Jerusalem surely did. Listen to their reaction – 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’” It was no secret at the time of Jesus’ birth that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. In fact, listen to John 7   40 Therefore many from the crowd…said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” The reason they knew this is because 800 years earlier a prophet by the name of Micah had prophesied the location of the Messiah’s birth. Who was Micah? He was a younger contemporary of Isaiah the prophet who primarily preached to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Just like Isaiah he also warned the people of Judah that it was foolish for turning to the Assyrians for help because after they were done destroying Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, they would come for them in the South. Just as he had warned, it happened. The Assyrians destroyed the North and sent them into exile, never to return. Then they marched into the South. Listen to his words in Micah 3   9 Now hear this, You heads of the house of Jacob And rulers of the house of Israel, Who abhor justice and pervert all equity, 10 Who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity…12 Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.” Micah pronounces 3 sets of judgments against them but in the midst of declaring God’s wrath and discipline, he gives them some rays of hope. Listen to Micah 5    2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah (An ancient name for Bethlehem), Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” A better translation would be “whose origins are from of old.” In other words, although this ruler would be a descendant of King David, he will be unique in that he is eternal. He doesn’t have a descent. 3 Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel.” In the midst of sure judgment under the Assyrians, God promises his people that he will not abandon them. Just the way God promised, he miraculously saved his people from Sennacherib’s armies. Read 2 Kings 19 of how when the Assyrian army lay siege to Jerusalem that the angel of the Lord went through the Assyrian camp that night and killed 185,000 of them. God delivered.

Listen carefully: Even when we mess up, He is still merciful.

But that was just a down payment on a much bigger prophecy. One day the true deliverer would come to set his people free from the bondage of sin. He will actually come from the but from Bethlehem of Judea. Where were Joseph and Mary living when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit? In Nazareth of Galilee in the North. I preached on this couple of years ago. Until the 1800s, people denied that there was any such place called Nazareth in history but then through archaeology scholars found inscriptions about Nazareth. It was a tiny village of maybe 250-300 people who claimed to be descendants of King David. Some of them had priestly lineage. Where did they come up with the name “Nazareth?” It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” These people were probably from Bethlehem, the city of David, in Galilee in the South. Why did they move to the North? Maybe because of employment. Maybe because of the Herodians who were crazy to say the least. They had moved up and began this settlement of Nazareth, trying to preserve themselves for the coming of the Son of David, the King of the Jews, the Messiah.

Now we have a problem. It’s time for the Messiah to be born but he’s in the wrong location! I can imagine Mary and Joseph wondering something is not right. We should be in Bethlehem if all that angel has said is true. I can also imagine Gabriel going to God and saying – “Everything is ready for God the Son to land but he’s in the wrong location! Would you like me to take a couple of angels with me and just airdrop them into Bethlehem? We could do it so fast that they won’t even know what happened. Or maybe a strong wind could just blow the city of Nazareth to Bethlehem.” God the Father says, “Nope. I already put my plan into motion about 50 years ago. There’s a megalomaniac who goes by the name of Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome. He thinks he is a god and the savior of the world. He is building up his empire, rebuilding the temples and the public buildings. He is really popular with the masses. But, he’s running out of money because of his 28 legions, each with 5000 soldiers. So, he’s about to do something that will transport Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Listen to Luke 2   1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David. Don’t you love the way God solves problems. Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” How frustrating and uncomfortable for Joseph and Mary but there was no better way.

Don’t forget: “Man’s interruption is God’s providence; human disruption is divine arrangement.” There’s no reason to be frustrated and bitter in the Christian life. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Application: Are you struggling with some situation or some decision someone has made? Have you been handed a bad deal? Do you feel insignificant? Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit. God is still in charge.

God is a God of Mercy. He’s always been merciful to his people. Mercy has a name. JESUS. Have you received him?

Fulfilled: Manner of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: MANNER OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fulfilled 3Introduction:  Every Christmas time the major news magazines carry some article or cover story about Christianity. It’s all about selling copies. This year, the December edition of the National Geographic has on its cover page “The Real Jesus: What Archaeology Reveals About His Life.” Listen to what it asks, “Might it be possible that Jesus Christ never even existed, that the whole stained glass story is invention?” This is nothing new. People have forever tried to deny the existence or the deity of Christ. Our series titled “Fulfilled” will hopefully strengthen our faith in Christ that he did come and he is the one who fulfilled all the promises and prophecies of God.

Matthew 1    18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Question: People have asked me “Does a person have to believe in the virgin birth in order to be saved?” I answer them, “No. The thief on the cross didn’t know a thing about the virgin birth when he got saved.” But, let’s suppose that thief on the cross were given a second chance, taken off that cross, and then someone told him about the virgin birth. What should he do? He better believe. Do you believe? I’m not just asking just about the virgin birth. Do you believe that Jesus is God’s only hope for you?

Context: In the passage we just read Matthew gives us the very unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ. He tells us that Mary became pregnant without having any physical interaction with Joseph. He attributes Jesus’ birth to the Holy Spirit. Of course, Joseph does not believe her and wants to divorce her but the angel of the Lord warns him in a dream that the child is indeed of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Mary is pregnant but she’s still a virgin. By the way, we need to clarify something here – “Virgin birth” is actually a misnomer. It implies that Mary was still a virgin when she had Jesus. Although this could be true and, I believe, is true, the real implication here is that Jesus was conceived without Joseph and Mary coming together. In the early church, some actually believed that Mary had a painless birth in which her hymen was not ruptured. So, the actual title should be “virginal conception.” While I’m on the subject, let me also clarify that the “Virginal Conception” is not the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity or the Assumption:

  • Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This idea was an invention of the medieval church and even the Catholic Church did not recognize it until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. It is not a biblical doctrine.
  • Perpetual Virginity or “aieparthenos” teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. This idea has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century. It is not a biblical doctrine either.
  • Assumption of Mary teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven before she died. It is also not a biblical doctrine. Neither is the Dormition of Mary that teaches that Mary died and after three days she rose again.

Let’s return to verse where Matthew writes 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” In verse 23 Matthew is quoting Isaiah 7:14“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” This is one of the most debated Messianic prophecies in the Bible. One scholar remarked, “Probably no single passage of the Old Testament has been so variously interpreted or has given rise to so much controversy as the prophecy contained in these verses.” (Walter Kaiser) Why is there so much debate?

  1. Historical context of the prophecy is complicated: This prophecy was given by the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. They were facing an attack from all sides: from the South from Edom; from the West from Philistia; from the North and the Northeast from Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom, also known as Israel) and Syria. Keep in mind it was already determined and prophesied that Jesus would come through the tribe of Judah, through the line of King David. God was going to protect his promise. So, he sent Isaiah to Ahaz to comfort him and give him a sign but Ahaz had other ideas. He had already sent off his ambassadors to King Pul (Tiglath-Pileser) of Assyria, the kingdom north of Syria to get help. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We also look here and there instead of the Lord. Instead of asking for a sign as God had instructed, Ahaz acts condescendingly towards Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah 7:13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?” This is very important how Isaiah addresses Ahaz. He calls him “O house of David.” Meaning: This prophecy is not going to be limited to just the immediate context but has far important significance. First, what is the immediate significance? Isaiah 7:14“…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Meaning: Maybe King Ahaz’s wife or one of his harems was pregnant. This was a sign that the kings to the north will not be successful and that the line of David will continue through Ahaz’s son. I believe that it was probably his son who became King Hezekiah. Second, what is the far important significance? One day in the future another young woman would bear a son who would be the Ultimate Son of David. There’s a difference between the first woman and the second. The first was virgin until conception and the second was a virgin even in conception. And what would be his name? Immanuel. In Isaiah 8:10 it gives us the meaning, “For God is with us.”

Either way, whether to Ahaz (the faithless king) or to sinful us, God’s promise is that God is with us. He is here to save us. Jesus has come to save us.

  1. Liberal scholarship has claimed that the virginal conception is nothing more than a pagan myth and the word for “virgin” could be variously interpreted. First one about the pagan myth, it is claimed that it is only another example of a “hieros gamos” like Zeus and Semele or Isis and Osiris. In all these instances, there are gods and goddesses mating with each other or somehow impregnating human beings. There is no such thing when it comes to the “Virginal Conception” of Mary.

Second, some claim that the word for virgin in the Hebrew text at Isaiah is “almah” which doesn’t have to mean a virgin and that the true word for virgin is “betullah.” Again, this is not true. To start with, there are 5 different words in this debate: 3 Hebrew and 2 Greek. The first Hebrew word is “issha.” It simply means woman or wife. Then the word, “almah.” When you examine every use of the word “almah” in the Old Testament, it actually means “virgin.” Then there is the word “betullah” which does mean “virgin.” But when you compare their uses, “almah” is found in those passages where there is “something other than a normal child birth” (R.T. France) is involved. In fact, when the LXX translators came to this verse, they could have easily translated this “neanis” if it was just a young woman. But, they knew that there was more involved and hence they made it “Parthenos,” which is explicitly virgin. Words change meanings over time. For example: Bachelor – young knight, then lowest rank in university, and unmarried men. Bachelors are not “College educated Knights.” Or Hussy – housewife, then mistress of a household, then disreputable woman today. Don’t call your wife that!

I wish I could say “this is how people outside the spectrum of Christianity believe” but unfortunately, there are people in the ranks who don’t believe in the fundamental doctrines of the faith. They practice what is known as “double-speak” where they use the common terminology but when pressed, they reveal a very different understanding.

Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? To prove that He was sinless, to prove that He was both fully God and fully man, to prove that He came through the Holy Spirit, to be a sign as prophesied by Isaiah.

Are you saved? Only through Christ you can be.

Why didn’t God make it clear, why all these other stories other meanings and fulfillments? Why did God allow such discrepancies and tough issues? Why do we do Easter Egg Hunts? God gets joy out of seeing us discover. All of life is like a drama just like what Shakespeare said. What part of the story are you in?

Fulfilled: Family of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: FAMILY OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fulfilled 1

Introduction:  We are a Christmas loving family! We look forward to Christmas all year long! In our home, Nicole starts playing the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving! One year she actually started in October and by the time December rolled around, we were all sick of Christmas. We put our collective foot down and told her that she can’t do that anymore. She tries but we keep an eye on her. Christmas should be the most exciting time of the year! It was on God’s calendar ever since the beginning of time. Throughout the Old Testament God promised to his people that His Son was coming. In fact, the first two chapters of Matthew repeatedly use the word “fulfilled” to announce that he has come and that’s the title of our new series for Christmas: FULFILLED.

Matthew 1    22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Matthew 2   14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Matthew 2   17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Question: The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. Ever since the beginning of time it was on God’s calendar and repeatedly he sent word through his prophets that “he was coming, he was coming, he was coming.” That’s why when Matthew wrote his gospel, he began with “it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled.” What does that mean for you and me? Jesus is God’s only promise of salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life. Has he fulfilled those promises in your life? Are you saved?

Context: Unlike the other gospels, Matthew began his gospel with Jesus’ genealogy. In ancient times, it was not unusual to begin the biography of a famous person with their genealogy. It was a matter of pride to be able to list one’s pedigree. But Matthew’s purpose was much deeper. He was not giving us just a pedigree of Jesus. Neither was he just trying to impress us with big names. In fact, listen carefully to how he began his gospel Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Both David and Abraham had been promised a son from God and Jesus was that Son.

How was Jesus the Son of David? 2 Samuel 7   12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, (We think Solomon. Yes and no.) and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (Solomon only ruled for 40 years.) 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. (Unfortunately, Solomon also messed up and God had to take it from him as well.) 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” This promise was made to David 1000 years before the coming of Jesus. Here’s another promise made to David after he was dead for 400 years. Jeremiah 23:5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.” This promised was made posthumously to David 600 years before the coming of Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of David.

How was Jesus the Son of Abraham? Genesis 12   1 “Now the Lord had said to Abram: (When God called him, his name was just Abram, “Exalted Father,” but he and his wife Sarai couldn’t have any children.) Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As you know, Abram obeyed God and in time God changed his name to Abraham, “Father of many,” and at the age of 100 he and Sarah finally had Isaac. Did Isaac become a blessing to all the families of the earth? Unfortunately, he was more interested in eating wild game than being a blessing. This 2000-year-old promise to Abraham was actually about Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of Abraham.

By the way, why did Matthew say “Son of David” before “Son of Abraham”? Because Salvation is of the Jews. You cannot get anymore Jewish than David. For e.g. Who is more American? John Smith or George Washington. But then, he went back to Abraham who would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Never forget: Salvation was always for the whole world. Listen to Matthew 1:2 “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.” In this verse 2 names are mentioned that also received the promise that Jesus would be coming.

  1. Jacob: His older brother Esau despised his birthright but Jacob wanted it badly. So, he deceived his brother because he knew the significance of the promise. He even wrestled with God and had his name changed from Jacob to Israel. Listen to the promise God made to him in Numbers 24:17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” This promise was made about 1900 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is that Star in Jacob’s line and that Scepter (Rod or wand that signified royalty) in Israel’s (Jacob’s name given by God) line.
  2. Judah: He was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Listen to the promise God made to him through his father Jacob in Genesis 49 9 Judah is a lion’s whelp (cub); From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? Jesus is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5) 10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet…” Jesus is that Scepter and the lawgiver. “…until Shiloh comes; (Lit. Until he possesses that which belongs to him.) and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” This promise was made 1800 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, the scepter and the lawgiver, and his final words to his disciples were “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

What does all this mean? The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. It was all according to God’s Providence. He supernaturally engineered the coming of his Son into this world. Thank God for his providence!

Application: Do you understand what God has done for you in Jesus? He has been preparing the plan of salvation for you since the beginning of time. It’s his Providence. In our own life, we can also see the Providence of God guiding us and giving us good parents, education, and a great nation to live in!

But, unlike typical genealogies, Matthew does something very odd. He lists 4 women in the genealogy and, may I add, women with a questionable past. All of us want to claim some royalty in our past but none of us want to admit that we also have some nuts hanging on our family tree. Someone said – “I shook my family tree and a bunch of nuts fell out!” Who were these 4 undesirables? I’ve preached a whole series on them. Besides being women of questionable past, they each had a gentile connection.

Matthew 1:3 “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar.”

  1. Tamar – She was a Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her because he had refused to let her marry his third son.

Matthew 1:5 “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab…”

  1. Rahab – She was an Amorite/Canaanite, a citizen of Jericho and a madam (rich prostitute) by trade. She had helped the spies and in exchange she asked for her family to be saved.

Matthew 1:5 “…Boaz begot Obed by Ruth.”

  1. Ruth – She was a Moabite (enemies of God’s people) whose husband was an Israelite. They lived in Moab until he died and then she followed her mother-in-law Naomi back into the land of Israel.

Matthew 1:6 “and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” Actual wording: “David the king begot the Solomon by the of the Uriah.” “Wife” has to be added and “the” has to be omitted twice.

  1. Bathsheba – She was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David forced her into committing adultery, had her husband killed, and got her pregnant. The punishment the child died.

Why did Matthew include the illustrious and the not so illustrious in the genealogy of Jesus? To show us that in the birth of Jesus we find both God’s Providence and God’s Grace working together. Jesus truly came to bring God’s salvation to the least of the least. No one can ever say that Jesus is just for the elite few. He’s for all.

Invitation: Has Jesus fulfilled the promises of God in your life? Are you saved? You feel undeserving. Jesus is for you as well.

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

DIGGING DEEP 10 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 10 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

Biblical Theology of the Old Testament: 

Why is it needed? To help keep the study of the OT from being fragmented by biblical exegesis; “to describe the inner unity of the Bible on its own terms”; and to “deepen our understanding of the shape, complexity, and unity of Scripture on its own terms.” – Kevin Vanhoozer

History of biblical Theology – It began in 1787 through a speech given by Johann Philip Gabler. Although the concept existed prior to it, he distinguished between biblical theology and systematic theology.

Is there a key to the OT theology? Were the OT writers aware of the key? The key or center of OT theology must satisfy four conditions simultaneously (Walter Kaiser):

  1. The subject of that unity must be everywhere in evidence throughout the whole OT corpus;
  2. The object(s) to whom the action, plan, or ideas pertain also must be clearly in the limelight;
  3. A predicate that links the subject and the object must be clearly stated in key teaching passages that acts as sedes doctrinae (i.e., chair passages) and that set the grand goals and objectives for everything the subject is going to be and do for the object(s) specified in the text; and
  4. The linking of the previous three conditions must be set forth explicitly in the OT rather than brought in from external sources, such as philosophical grounds, historical considerations, theological preferences, or critical allegiances.

Promise-plan of God (Kaiser):

  1. Subject is Yahweh;
  2. Object is primarily Israel, and then, secondarily, all the nations of the earth;
  3. It’s predicate involves both who and what God will “be” and what He will “do” (in His verbal declarations and in His mighty saving acts in the history of Israel); and
  4. It is strategically placed numerous times in the OT in large blocks of teaching texts, but best epitomized in Genesis 12:1-3.

Terms used for the key:

In the OT – word, oath, covenant, house, kingdom, etc.

In the NT – promise (Acts 26:6-7; Romans 4:13-14, 16-17, 20; Hebrews 6:13-15, 17; 11:9, 39-40). This is how the early church saw the OT – Acts 2:38-39; 3:25-26; 13:23, 32-33; Galatians 3:22). The promise was not just to Israel but also to the whole world – Galatians 3:8, 14, 29; Ephesians 1:13; 2:12; 3:6-7; 4:23, 28).

How does OT theology help in studying the Bible? It adds the necessary depth to the study and interpretation of each passage in its context. Based on where a person is studying in the OT, the key/center will help in shedding light on the text in a whole new way. It will open the understanding of the text in its proper larger context of God’s promise-plan. This will prevent the student from running to the NT or other passages in the OT and allow that passage to speak in its theological context.

Kaiser offers the following 11 stages of the Promise (The book assignments are mine):

  1. Prolegomena to the Promise: Prepatriarchal Era (Genesis 1-11, Job)
  2. Provisions in the Promise: Patriarchal Era (Genesis 12 – end of the book)
  3. People of the Promise: Mosaic Era (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers)
  4. Place of the Promise: Premonarchical Era (Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges)
  5. King of the Promise: Davidic Era (Ruth, Psalms, Samuel, Chronicles, Kings)
  6. Life in the Promise: Wisdom Era (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
  7. Day of the Promise: Ninth-century Prophets (Joel, Obadiah)
  8. Servant of the Promise: Eighth-century Prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, and Jonah)
  9. Renewal of the Promise: Seventh-century Prophets (Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Jeremiah, Lamentations)
  10. Kingdom of the Promise: Exilic Era Prophets (Esther, Ezekiel, Daniel)
  11. Triumph of the Promise: Post-exilic Era Prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah)

 

Test Passages: 

  1. Genesis 4:1

 

  1. Exodus 19:5-6

 

  1. 2 Samuel 7:16

 

  1. Proverbs 10:27; 14:27; 19:23; 24:4

 

  1. Joel 2:11; 3:14-15

 

  1. Habakkuk 2:4

 

  1. Daniel 7:9-14

 

  1. Malachi 3:1-5
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