Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

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PRAYER – DOCTRINE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Kids have some very interesting prayers! I found a few online:

  • Dear God, If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set. Raphael
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Larry
  • Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. Joyce
  • Dear God, Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. Peter
  • God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. Love, Chris.
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. Sam

Unlike kids, who pray with a childlike faith and innocence, adults have a complex and sometimes even an unbelieving attitude towards prayer. Today we begin a 2-part series on prayer: first, we will focus on doctrine, and then, on practice. Here’s the main point of the first message on the doctrine of prayer: Our prayers reflect our understanding of God’s providence. In other words, our understanding of how much God is in control and how much free will we have will directly impact how and how much we pray.

1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Background: The Greek word for confidence is “parresia,” which can be translated as openness, confidence, boldness, and frankness. This is the kind of spirit we should have when we come to God in prayer.

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for my dad. We were not a perfect family, but we were a praying family. From an early age, I remember watching my mom, my dad, and my grandma pray. In church, I remember listening to adults pray, just like we do here. We even had home prayer meetings twice a week. We had 2 different language services (still do) and we would meet at different people’s homes each week to pray; Wednesday evening was people of the Hindi language service and Thursday would be of the English language service. As a little boy, I remember praying all the time—for a baby sister, for a new bike, for new shoes, for good grades in school, for being able to win a race with the other boys. I believed in prayer. But then, it happened. When, I can’t pinpoint the time, but I began to become more “realistic” and “grownup” about what I asked in my prayers. I began to lose the childlike faith and innocence in my prayers. I still prayed, but it wasn’t the same. I believe I have just described the prayer life of most of you here.

Why do we experience such a shift in our prayer life? Short answer: We grow up and face real life. We go through suffering and loss. Our hopes get dashed. Our prayers remain unanswered. We even come face-to-face with evil. Now, there is a change in our view of God and our prayers. It’s like the child who has a toy doctor kit and one day he gets a little cut. Instead of using the instruments (thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure kit) in the box, mom and dad take him/her to a real doctor or nurse who have real instruments. That’s when the child realizes that the instruments are simply toys. They are just pretend. Now, the child does play with the kit but it’s only pretend.

Long answer: Real life jars our view of God’s providence, and, with that, our prayers change as well. Let’s begin with defining the word “Providence.” For starters, that word is not found in the Bible but the concept is everywhere. Basically, it is the answer to how much is God in control of the world he has created and how much can we influence him. When we begin to seriously deal with the matter of God’s providence, a lot of complex and deep questions rise up. I don’t have time to deal with all of them here. There are some wonderful books out there like “Providence and Prayer” by Terrance Tiessen. Here, I just want to bring out a few of the major ones (they are interconnected): Is God timeless or is he bound by time just as we are? Because if he is in the same boat as we are, then, how can he really be prepared for what is coming around the corner? Does God know the future? How much does he know? If he does know the future, why doesn’t he do something about bad things? Does God allow evil to exist? Is he helpless to combat evil? Is he allowing evil to bring about something good? How about when it brings a lot of pain? Do I have any free will? Can people interfere with the plan of God? Does God change his mind? Bottom line: Does prayer change things?

If such questions about God’s providence are not answered, our prayer life will suffer.

Here’s how the proper view of the providence of God can help our prayer life:

  1. God’s providential control is comprehensive, detailed, capable, loving, and best.

There is much about the providence of God in creation in the Book of Psalms and Job. But, here is a classic passage from Matthew 6     26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 10     29 “…And not one of them (sparrows) falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Miracles are also part of his equation, but they are rare.When they don’t happen, we have to trust his perfect plan.

  1. People act freely within God’s overall will.

The best way to understand that is to imagine a road trip growing up. Mom and dad will get to the destination but it’s up to us as to how we will enjoy the trip. When it comes to humans, his sovereign will is always done, even if his moral will may be rejected. God’s purpose was to bring the people into the Promised Land. This was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah one day. Nonetheless, they all had a choice in how they would live in the land.Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Even evil has been allowed to exist temporarily but the boundary is set, as in Job. In his divine wisdom and care, he allows it. Through his foreknowledge, God already knows what we or evil will do, but everything is always within his reach and control. Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

  1. God works in us to bring us in partnership with his will and he uses prayers as a major means.

This happens through scripture, prayer, (personal and corporate) and fellowship with other believers. 1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Moses prayed for God’s people and miracles happened. The early church prayed and circumstances changed. Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Jesus wanted his disciples to participate in prayer. John 16      23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This applies to our personal lives as well because we are connected to his comprehensive plan. James 4:2 “…Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” Can we change the mind of God? In his perfect wisdom and plan, he has even allowed for that. His overall plan is always intact, but it does impact the immediate plan of God.

  1. Providence, Prayer, and everything else are ultimately connected to our salvation through Jesus Christ.

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 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.”

Invitation: What do you believe about prayer? Does God answer? Can he answer? Have you prayed to invite Jesus into your life to be your Savior and King?

True Gains by Dr. Abidan Shah

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TRUE GAINS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Before the COVID-19 shutdown, our Clearview staff would meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at our local Y to workout. One of our codewords was “It’s time for some gains.” By that we meant, “It’s time for us to gain some muscles.” Some days, it was tough to get up early on a cold morning and drive to the gym. It was such a good feeling to sleep in, but, compared to the good feeling of working out, it was loss. By the way, one of us did a lot of looking in the mirror and admiring his gains but we’re not going to talk about that! So also, in the Christian life, we have to decide what really matters. What are the true gains in the Christian life? True Gains for a believer are knowing Christ and being found in him. Unfortunately, we substitute these gains for things that only lead to self-righteous pride and disunity. Our message today is titled “TRUE GAINS” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

Question: What things do you consider as gains in your life? What would you be willing to give up in order to gain Christ? Before you can gain Christ, you have to find Christ. Have you found Christ? Are you saved?

Context: So far, in this series on Philippians, we have learned that the Christians in Philippi were struggling with both internal and external problems. Internally, they were struggling with disunity in the body. Externally, they were facing persecution from their neighbors. This was very detrimental to their existence. Paul wrote this letter both to settle their disputes and to strengthen them. His answer to their situation was “have the mind of Christ.” Philippians 2:5, “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” In other words, if they were going to get along and survive the persecution, they needed a mind-renewal to match the mind of Christ. Developing a mind like the mind of Christ was another way of saying, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13). So, how should they behave if they’ve had this mind transformation, this working out of salvation? Here’s a checklist in Philippians 2    14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, (Do you do all things without complaining and disputing?) 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, (Have you become blameless and harmless?) children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Are you a child of God without fault, shining as lights in the world?) 16 holding fast the word of life, (Are you holding fast the word of life?) so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Are you giving others opportunity to rejoice in the day of Christ?)

But, Paul didn’t stop here. He went on to address the source of their conflicts. If there is a crack in the wall, we can keep patching it or we can find the problem and do some real fixing so the crack doesn’t come back. Paul wants to fix the problem under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not just for the Philippians but for all of us. Let’s look at how he does that, one verse at a time:

3     1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. It seems that Paul is about to end his letter, but wait! 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Between verses 1 and 2, there is a radical shift in tone. Scholars have debated this section to no end. Some have even said that there must be some other letter by Paul that got inserted here. I believe that this is one and the same letter. You have to read it in its rhetorical context. Remember, Paul was trained by the best of both Jewish and Greek worlds. What is the purpose for the shift in tone? Paul wants to deal with root problem of disunity among the Philippian Christians—Pride through self-righteousness. Paul doesn’t just come out and accuse them of pride and arrogance. That would be too much in your face or misjudging the wrong person, which we often do.

Instead, Paul lays out the example of those who demonstrate pride through self-righteousness: the Judaizers. These were people who were claiming to be Christians but still wanted to practice the Old Testament practices like circumcision. They contradicted and opposed Paul’s ministry, and they must have infiltrated the Philippian Church. Listen again to how he describes them in verse 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” The Greek word for dog “kuon” is the word from which we get our word “canine.” In Latin, it would be “Cave Canem” = “Beware/Watch for Dog.” Was Paul being hateful?Here Paul is using the word that was reserved for the Gentiles. Also, mutilation is the word “katatome.” Here again the word was used to describe those Gentiles who tried to practice circumcision (peritome) but they were only mutilating themselves. There was no covenant with God in their ritual. Unfortunately, the Judaizers had the same attitude even in the church towards those who were not circumcised. They would act uppity with them, as if they were privileged. What a sad thing to do? It could very well be that some of the people in the Philippian church had some Jewish background or they may have picked up some of these bad behaviors.

Principle: All pride is bad but spiritual pride is the most destructive. It is nauseating to the lost world; it demoralizes younger believers; and it angers God.

Listen to Paul’s response: 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

Application: Are you worshipping God in the Spirit? Are you rejoicing in Christ Jesus? Do you have confidence in the flesh? Is it about how long you’ve been in church? Is it about your spiritual pedigree? Is it about your Bible knowledge?

Paul now gives his own example: 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Instead of taking pride in any of this—7 But what things were gain (“kerdos”) to me, these I have counted loss (“zemia”) for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” The word for “rubbish” is “skubalon,” which refers to “unspeakable filth” or “dung.” Keep in mind: Paul did not say that these things are rubbish. But, compared to gaining Christ, they are rubbish.

What did Paul consider as his gains now? 3 things:

  1. His Justification (that event by which we are set or declared to be in right relation with God): 9 “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
  2. His Sanctification (that event that God is daily working in our lives to make us more like him): 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Grammatically, to know Christ is to experience the power of his resurrection and to join him in his sufferings.
  3. His Glorification (that event that God will one day welcome us into what he has prepared for us): 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Here are the true gains? Justification – saved from the penalty of sin; Sanctification – saved from the power of sin; and Glorification – saved from the presence of sin.

Invitation: How are your gains? What do you think of your justification, sanctification, and glorification? Are you saved?

 

 

A Marriage Made in Heaven by Pastor Abidan Shah

A MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

amarriagemadeinheavenIntroduction: This is the fourth message in our series on the Trinity from John 5 titled – “BATTLE OF THE GODS.” With each message we’re going deeper in our understanding of the triune god. Today we’ll focus on the order within the godhead and how that applies in our marriages. The message is called – “A MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN.”

John 5   18 “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God…30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.’”

Bridge: Several years ago we were traveling to visit Nicole’s family in Georgia. We had just gotten on the highway when I saw the dreaded red and blue lights behind me. I glanced at my speedometer and I was speeding. I had many justifications – just got on the interstate and didn’t have time to adjust speed, 2 little kids in the backseat being a distraction, other people are driving just as fast or faster. I got out my license and registration and watched in the mirror as the officer made his way to me. Guess what?!! He was even younger than me, probably just out of BLET! What right does he have to give me a ticket? Is he more important than me? Listen carefully: Even though I had many justifications and even though I may have been superior to him in some ways and even though we were equal in many ways, in the order established in our society, he had authority over me. Equality and Order are not opposed to each other. They are 2 sides of the same coin. You need both to have a stable society.

Context: This balance between equality and order is prominently seen in the Trinity where all three persons of the godhead are equal in every way but they are different in order. Even though the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal, the Son submits to the Father and not the Father to the Son. The Holy Spirit submits to the Son and the Father and not vice versa. Someone might say – “So what?” Men and women are made in the image of God and therefore we also carry an order in our earthly relationships, especially marriage. Conflict in marriage is a consequence of confusion in order. If you want a marriage made in heaven, you need God’s divine order in your marriage.

Question: How is the order in your marriage? Husbands – do you understand your role in your marriage? Wives – do you understand your role in your marriage? God has designed you equal but distinct when it comes to order. Are you going by God’s order or by your own ideas and feelings? Are you saved? Is Christ the head of your marriage?

3 things we need to understand if we want a marriage made in heaven:

I. THE ORDER BETWEEN THE FATHER, SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT

18 “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Background: The main reason the Jewish religious leaders had a problem with Jesus, other than His miracles on the Sabbath, is that He repeatedly referred to God as His Father, making Himself equal with God. He could have easily retracted His statements and apologized but He didn’t. Jesus repeatedly affirmed His equality with the Father. At the same time, He also affirmed His distinction from the Father – 19 “…Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” Wait a minute Jesus…didn’t you say you are equal with the Father? Again in verse 30 “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”

If Jesus is equal with the father, why does He have to do the will of the Father? He is equal in essence with the Father but He is not equal in order with the Father. As the Son, He is eternally submissive to His Father’s authority. Someone might say – “It’s only when Jesus became man that He had to submit Himself to the Father. It was a temporary submission during the incarnation.” Not true. Listen to John 8:29 where Jesus said, “…I always do those things that please Him.” Later Paul says it very clearly in 1 Corinthians 11:3 “…the head of Christ is God.” Someone might say – “It’s true that Jesus was subordinate to the Father before He came and when He came but now He is just as equal with the Father and in the future He will be equal to the Father forever.” Listen to I Corinthians 15  24 “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power…28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” Yes, the Son has always, is always, and will always be subordinate to the Father.

I can also say much about how the Spirit is equal in essence with the Father and the Son but subordinate to both the Father and the Son but hopefully you get the point.

Application: Like the Son, are you submissive to God the Father? Are you willing to pray as Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father in Heaven” – “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Are you obedient to the Father’s Word?

II. THE IMAGE OF GOD IN MEN AND WOMEN

It is important to understand the equality in essence and distinction in order of the Trinity because we human beings are made in the image of the Triune God. Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…”

Background: How are human beings created in the image of God? 3 possible answers:

  1. Structural: Like God we have memory, intellect, will, reason, etc.
  2. Relational: Like God we can relate with and love God and others.
  3. Functional: Like God we are to rule His creation. We are to represent Him. This is it if we read the rest of the passage from Genesis 1 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Twice the image of God is connected with having dominion over His earth. In other words, to be made like God is to rule on His behalf and to represent God over His creation. How does this work for men and women? Together we represent God’s equality in essence and distinction in order.
  4. Just like the three persons of the godhead, both men and women are equal in essence. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Paul says the same thing in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In 1 Peter 3:7 Peter calls husbands and wives, “heirs together of the grace of life…”
  5. Just like the distinction between the three persons of the godhead, both men and women are distinct in their roles. How did God create human beings? Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” That’s just Adam. How about Eve? He didn’t create her from the dust of the earth. Genesis 2   20 “… for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. The woman was not an independent creation. She was made from man for man. Paul affirms this in I Timothy 2:13 “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Again in 1 Corinthians 11   8 “For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”

Here’s the point: Just like the Father, Son, and Spirit are equal in essence but distinct in role, so also men and women are equal in essence but distinct in roles. Just like the Son comes eternally from the Father and the Spirit comes eternally from the Father and the Son, so also the woman derives her life, her constitution, and her nature from the man. 1 Corinthians 11:7 “For a man…is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.”

Application: Ladies – In our world of ultra-feminism, are you willing to accept the priority given to the man in creation and order? This is not some token acceptance. You represent God the Son. Men – Are you willing to accept the responsibility given to you to represent God in creation and order? This is not some prop up your feet on the coffee table and demand a drink theology. You represent God the Father.

III. THE ORDER BETWEEN THE HUSBAND AND THE WIFE

Now that we understand the order between the Trinity and how that reflects in how men and women are created in God’s image, equal and yet different, we are ready to talk about marriage – 1 Corinthians 11:3 “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

Background: This verse makes the connection between the Trinity and marriage. Father is the head of Christ. Christ is the head of man. Man is the head of the woman. Please do not misunderstand this. It does not mean that all men have authority over all women. According to the Bible, it is only in the context of marriage and church. In this message we’re just focussing on marriage. Listen to Paul in Ephesians 5   22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” In many homes, there is a constant struggle over who is in charge. Lest you husbands misunderstand what it means to be in charge, listen to the rest – 25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.” What happens if a husband doesn’t care to understand his wife? 1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Then here’s the final word to both husband and wife – Ephesians 5:33 “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Is there divine order in your marriage? Conflict in marriage is a consequence of confusion in order. We are living in a culture that hates submission and responsibility. Are you reflecting God’s image in your marriage? Is Christ the head of your marriage? Through the Holy Spirit you can.

Are you saved?

Favorite Books on Marriage – Marriage, Family, and Beyond Vlog by Abidan and Nicole Shah

Favorite Books on Marriage – Marriage, Family, and Beyond Vlog

by Abidan and Nicole Shah

Marriage Vlog 3This is our third vlog (Video Blog) on daily life issues. We don’t claim to have all the answers or even the best answer but we hope to give a biblical perspective on life issues. This one covers the books that have made the biggest impact on our marriage. Let us know what you think.

Click on the image or on this link – https://youtu.be/KUv-2FFCTHA

 

“Passion and Purity” for a New Generation by Abigail Ruth Shah

“Passion and Purity” for a New Generation by Abigail Ruth Shah

(Book Review of Elisabeth Elliot’s classic book)

Passion and Purity

Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

Passion and Purity starts out with Elisabeth, a senior in college, questioning God, asking Him why she was still single. She touches on the topic of the difference between singleness and virginity, her view on how each was equally important to her. Elisabeth first learns of Jim through her brother Dave. Through the next few years after their meeting they struggle with being apart, being together, loneliness, and self-control. Elisabeth shares her personal struggles through journal entries and letters between her and Jim. While she fights against loneliness, doubts in Jim and in God, Jim struggles with the more physical restraint side. She also talks about what men and women want in a relationship. Men want to chase, while women constantly want to be in control. Men want femininity and vulnerability, but upon further conversation with college men, Elisabeth finds that they do not really know exactly what they want, and neither do women. From here, she concludes that only God can truly know what is good for each person. After years of meeting up for short periods of time, Jim and Elisabeth finally do get married while on the mission field in Quito. Elisabeth makes a good point towards the end of the book about how passion and purity does not end with marriage. You are pure by staying obedient to God and doing what he wants you and your spouse to do. The main point Elisabeth tries to drive home is that God will bring you the right person when He is ready. Not when you want it or feel like you can’t handle the loneliness anymore, but when God knows you and your future spouse are ready.

Abigail Ruth Shah

Abigail Ruth Shah

I personally enjoyed when Elisabeth would bring up stories of desperate, single girls writing to her for help. Many of them cried to her of how much they wanted God to bring them their “prince charming” or how much they loved this one guy but he acted like she didn’t even exist or how terrible a break up was. While these stories were amusing and kind of funny, I did genuinely feel bad for them. It was also interesting seeing how girls and guys and the struggles they face really never change through time. Maybe modern technology and generational views add a variety to the types of struggles, but for the most part, kids back then struggled with the same stuff. For example, one that really stuck out to me was the common, age-old question of: “How far is too far?” While I have not had a whole lot of experience with this myself, I have been contemplating over this question for quite some time. Elisabeth is very blunt with this question… there is no answer. There is no line that is THE line to stop at.

 

While I agreed with most of this book, a few things did not sit right with me. Elisabeth talks of how women should never ever make the first move. Sure, I get it, let the guys chase, but Elisabeth goes as far as to say you can’t even ask a guy friend for a chill Chinese takeout date. She basically says if one day you marry the guy you asked out, and he is unhappy in the marriage, he will ultimately be able to blame you for an unhappy life. I feel like with times changing, it is a little more acceptable for a girl to ask out a guy. I do agree with the man being the spiritual leader and stepping up as the initiator, but nowadays I believe it is more acceptable for girls to sometimes make a move. Another part of the book that I am a little iffy about is where she draws the line on the physical aspect. Elisabeth and Jim don’t flat out say there should be no physical touch, but they talked about physical restrictions like they believed there should be zero physical-ness until marriage. While it does sound good, I don’t know where I stand with the absolutely NO physical touch. Of course I believe there should be no sex before marriage, but stuff like kissing and holding hands that Elisabeth condemns aren’t necessarily sins. I do believe that things like holding hands and kissing can lead to further, more dangerous things and couples need to be careful and know what they can handle personally. I also had a problem with how she portrayed being single in such a bad light. She talked of how it would be such a curse to live a life without being married. I feel like she was being a little over dramatic. I wish she touched on the topic of being happy in Christ even without marriage and being happy in a state of singleness. Yes, being married is great and all and it is a wonderful thing to have somebody that loves you just as much as you love them, but it is not the end of the world if you don’t get married. You should find your happiness in Christ instead of your soul mate. But for her theology, I agreed with her 100%.

WINNING THE MIND BATTLE

WINNING THE MIND BATTLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

WINNING THE MIND BATTLEThis is the first sermon of the New Year. It comes from our series in the Book of Romans and it is titled – WINNING THE MIND BATTLE. I have to be honest – I really struggled with how to title this message. From one angle, this message seems to be about relationships. From a different angle, it is about overcoming evil with good. But the more I studied this passage, the more I felt that there is yet another theme that covers both of relationships and overcoming evil and that is the conversation in our mind. There is a battle that is going on here that is greater than any battle out there.

Romans 12:14-18   14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Overall Background:  Most of our struggle as a Christian is between how we used to think before we got saved and how we should think now that we are saved. How we used to think of our enemies? How we used to think of people in general? How we used to think of ourselves? And, how we used to think of God? Now that we are saved, how should we think of each of those categories? The passage we just read covers all the relationships in our life.

Would you agree that most of our problems are relationship problems? If only our relationships were running smoothly, everything would be just fine. Sadly, that’s not always the case.

This morning we will look at each of them carefully – first, with our enemies, then people in general, then ourselves, and then with God Himself. We will see how we need to change the way we think about each of them.

I. CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT OUR ENEMIES.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 

Background: When we read that only in English, we tend to miss the word play that Paul has intended. The Greek word for “persecute” is actually the same exact word that is mentioned in the previous verse forgiven to hospitality.” If you remember, the word for “given to” is “pursue.” Literally, “pursue hospitality.” The same word is used here again in verse 14. Here’s how I would translate verse 13 and 14 together – “Pursue hospitality with people; And, by the way, some will try to pursue you to hurt you, just bless them. Don’t curse them.”

It is easy to pursue hospitality with people who welcome us with open arms. How about people who are pursuing us to hurt us physically, emotionally, and mentally? In those situations, it is very easy to become self-righteous and curse them. We feel that we are justified to pronounce a curse on our enemies. After all, that’s the old way of doing things. Love your friends and hate your enemies.

But what did Jesus say – Matt. 5:43-45   43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, 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, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

For e.g. There was a time in my life when I was struggling with a hurt caused to me by someone who was close to me. I struggled for a while. Even though I had forgiven this person, the hurt was deep; the wound was still raw. Then God brought someone in my life that shared with me this very passage. He said – “Pray for this person who has hurt you for the next three weeks. Pray that God would bless them and do it sincerely. Let me warn you that when you first start praying for them, you will feel like throwing up. Everything in you will churn as you try to pray for their blessing. After the first week, it will be a little easier. After the second week, it will be much easier. Then there will come a day, when you will pray and when you are finished, you will feel like a sack of stones has fallen off your shoulders.” I tried it and sure enough he was right.

Every week I come across people who are struggling with hurt. Daily they are living under misery and pain. They can’t seem to break free. Here’s the answer – change the way you think about your enemies.

Application: How do you think about your enemies?

II. CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT PEOPLE IN GENERAL.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

How contrary is that to the old way of life! We want people to rejoice with us when we rejoice and weep with us when we weep. We are the center of the universe. We want the world to revolve around us.

For e.g. Like the man who was sitting on his front porch playing checkers with his dog. This man was driving by and he saw that and he turned around and came back. He said to the man with the dog – “Wow! I’ve never seen that! That’s a smart dog.” The man replied – “Smart…huh…I beat him 2 out of 3.”

Listen once again to what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 20:27-28  27 “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Meaning: Look around and see where people are find ways to share their joys and tears.

The problem comes when we sit around waiting for others to share our joys and tears. What happens when this does not happen? We get angry and disappointed and hurt. Change the focus from self to others and you will feel a weight lifted off you.

Someone may ask – Who will rejoice with me when I rejoice? Who will weep with me when I weep?

When you rejoice and there’s none to rejoice with you, listen to Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

When you weep and there’s none to weep with you, listen to Psalm 34:17-18   17 “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.”

Many of us miss the blessing of having God share in our joys and our sorrows when we turn to human beings instead.

Application: How do you think about people in general? (friends, family, and spouse)

III. CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT OUR SELF.

16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Background: Many are getting disappointed because they have such a high view of themselves.

Instead, we are to set our minds on the lowly, the less fortunate.

As you do that, you will find that what was once a big deal is no longer.

For e.g. I’ve seen people go on a mission trip. Before they left they are all concerned about their shoes and their pillows and their hair. By the time, they are half way on the trip, they cannot find their shoes, they have lost their pillows, and hair…well… let’s not go there.

The greatest therapy for your condition is to get involved with the poor, the homeless, and the hungry.

Philippians 2:5-8   5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  7 but 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.

Application: How do you see yourself?

IV. CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT GOD.

19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

What does that mean? Let God be God. He reserves the right to judge. He reserves the right to condemn. He reserves the right to repay.

Most of our problems come from trying to play God. Instead, listen to verse 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Some people have interpreted that to mean that when you do good to your enemies, it will feel burn them up.

To the contrary, listen to the very next verse – 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul began the application section of Romans with a clear emphasis on the mind. Listen to Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Mind Renewal is very important for our spiritual growth and victory. Before we get saved, our battle is mostly in the heart. After we get saved, our battle is mostly in the mind. If there is no life and peace in your personal life, marriage, and relationships, it is because you are still operating with the carnal mind. Now that you are saved and have the spiritual mind, you are to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Let your thinking/thought life be transformed. All the components have arrived in the box; now put it together.

Many Christians have been through a heart transformation but no mind transformation. That’s why they can’t get over old hurts and pains. That’s why they can’t seem to forgive and forget. That’s why they can’t seem to get close to people.

Application: Are you ready to win the mind battle? It begins with obedience.

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