Operation Safeguard by Dr. Abidan Shah

OPERATION SAFEGUARD by Dr. Abidan and Nicole Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  As you’ve probably noticed, the stage is laid out a little differently this weekend. For the next 2 weeks, we’ll be doing a subseries from 1 Peter titled “OPERATION SAFEGUARD.” I’ll explain what it’s about in just a moment, but first, I’m going to invite my wife Nicole to join me up here. As many of you may know, Nicole and I have our date day every Monday, when we get away for a few hours. This is something we began 13 years ago after we went to a “Weekend to Remember” Conference. It’s our time to reconnect, talk about our lives, and just relax. Lately, we’ve been talking about the state of marriages in our church and society. It’s been hard to gauge where marriages are since the pandemic and the shutdowns. According to some researchers, people are not divorcing, but its more for practical reasons than anything else – “let’s stay together so we can weather this crazy time.” Maybe, something good did come out of 2020. But, there is a different problem with regards to marriage that has been emerging for a long time. The rate of marriage has been dropping. In 2019, it hit an all-time low of only 33 for every 1,000 unmarried adults. It may help if you have a reference point – it was 35 in 2010 and 86 in 1970. I would say that it has dropped even more in 2020. In this message, we will see what is happening and what are some steps that we can take even today.

1 Peter 2     11 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Context: We’ve come to the second main section of 1 Peter. In the first section, the overall focus was on how the believers in Asia Minor saw themselves. In the second section, the focus is on how the believers should live before the watching world. In making the transition to the second section, Peter used 3 important words that lay out 3 important building blocks on behavior in verse 11:

  1. Beloved: The Greek word is “agapetoi.” It is hardly found outside the Greek New Testament. It has a tone of endearment. Peter was not talking down to them but lovingly calling them to action. So also, in the Christian life, and especially regarding marriage, we are to humbly help each other. We all have our struggles.
  2. Sojourners and Pilgrims: The Greek words are “paroikos” and “parepidemos.” The first means a resident alien and the second means temporary alien. These designations were not their civic statuses but spiritual status. In other words, they were just passing through.
  3. Spiritual Warfare: As we go through life, the world will try to conform us into their mold. We are to recognize that this will be a war. This is not some internal war but external culture war.

Once Peter laid this out, he applied this to government, workplace, and marriage. Because Valentines is here, we are skipping over to marriage, but we will be coming ack to it. How do you war against the fleshly lusts regarding marriage? Here, Nicole will explain how to safeguard our marriage:

NICOLE: Abidan and I get asked many times how we met; how our parents felt about us dating and getting married because we are from two different countries and cultures. My parents were born and raised in Georgia and except for 3 years living in Costa Rica and Chile and one month in California; that’s where I grew up. My dad was a pastor for about 25 years, so I was a PK and an MK. Abidan was born and raised in India until he came to the United States at the age of 17. As you know, his father was a pastor, as well, of the same church for almost 60 years. I know the question going through many of your minds is “How could two people from opposite sides of the world, who were raised in different cultures, make it 26 years and counting?” By the grace of God, first of all. There’s also one very important component in making a marriage work: the way you were raised. What I mean is your family’s values and convictions. What Abidan and I discovered is that our fathers had very similar beliefs and convictions. When your families are very similar in those areas, marriage works. I’m not saying that it’s easy. In fact, the first several years of our marriage was hell on earth; probably due partly to the fact that I wasn’t living as I should as a Christian.

When I say that our families have similar beliefs and convictions, the first one is that marriage is a commitment between you, your spouse, and God. Both sets of parents were married until death parted them. My parents were married for 34 years when my father died of cancer, and Abidan’s parents were married for 55 years when his father recently died. They understood what it meant to be committed to each other for life. I’m not saying that if you or your spouse comes from a broken home that your marriage is doomed. I do believe that we are shaped by our environment, especially as children, but there comes a point where you can make a choice not to let your past define you. With the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, you can have a successful marriage even if your parents did not. Both of us watching our parents’ commitment being fleshed out in front of us had a profound influence on both of us. Also, our families having the same convictions was vital: you have to be born again to be saved, the belief in baptism, the belief that the Bible is the perfect Word of God, the belief that Jesus came to earth, died on the cross for our sins and rose on the third day, the belief in eternity in heaven with God, and the belief that all human life is precious are a few of them. When there is common ground like I just listed, then the cultural differences are incidentals.

Whether we know it or not, we bring baggage from our childhood into our marriages –

  • How we were loved or not loved (even our perception of that as children)?
  • Did we feel like we belonged in the family? For example, were you the perfect child or the black sheep of the family?
  • Sometimes, this baggage could come from the parent that we are most like. For example, how do we react when we see something in someone else that is a flaw in our own personality? We don’t like it.
  • Our sense of worthiness also comes from our parents. For both girls and boys, it mainly comes from their father. So, when the father is absent, emotionally or physically, it has a profound effect on our sense of worth.

Taking all this into account, there are 10 kinds of homes that people grow up in:

  1. The healthy home – where parents model a godly marriage, not a perfect marriage. When mistakes are made or conflict happens, the children see the healthy and biblical way to deal with them.
  2. The abusive home – this one speaks for itself. This is any type of abuse: physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, or neglect. Results in marriage – victim mentality.
  3. The legalistic home – where there were extra rules other than what the Bible says that can be very oppressive. Also, there is usually hypocritical behavior on the part of the parents as well. Results in marriage – judgmental of spouse if not as religious.
  4. The affair home – this is usually a home where even though there was infidelity on the part of one or both spouses, the parents stay together; but there is no trust in the home. The absence of trust in our childhood home can have devastating effects. This creates adults who don’t trust their spouses.
  5. The impoverished home –the effects of this home are the children determining to never be without money or certain things that we did not have while growing up. Results in marriage – money is everything.

ABIDAN:

  1. The divorced home – this one speaks for itself, and no matter when divorce happened, when the children were young or older, divorce has a profound effect on the children. It is worse than death. If a parent dies, they didn’t want to leave their family, but in divorce they chose to leave. Divorced homes lead to feelings of guilt, abandonment, anger and depression in children. Results in marriage – divorce in either always or never on the table.
  2. The rage-filled home – the home where at least one parent could become angry at any time at anything. Results in marriage – pleaser or avoider.
  3. The abandonment home – this does not have to be as bad as it sounds. This could be being a latch key kid because both parents worked all the time to no quality or quantity of time. Results in marriage – crave connection.
  4. The perfection home – everything had to be perfect from the tidiness of the home to the behavior of the parents and the children. Results in marriage – become a pleaser, a controller, unrealistic expectations.
  5. The unemotional home – our parents showed no emotion, so therefore we could not show emotion. It was frowned upon. Results in marriage –uncomfortable with emotion from spouse or children.

How do you handle coming from such homes?

  1. We have to choose to forgive our parents. I know that this is easier said than done, but I think it’s easier when we become parents and realize how hard of a job it is. When we understand that our parents were doing the best they knew how with what they had, it is easier to forgive them. It will not be a once and done thing either. We may have to forgive them many times. Forgiveness will take much prayer and obedience to God.
  2. We also need to understand our love language and our spouse’s love language. Many times, what we lacked in childhood will become our primary love language.
  • If our primary love language is quality time, we may have come from an unemotional home, an abandonment home, a divorced home, or an affair home.
  • If our primary love language is physical touch, we may have come from an unemotional home, an abandonment home, or an abusive home.
  • If our primary love language is receiving gifts, we may have come from the impoverished home.
  • If our primary love language is words of appreciation, we may have come from a perfection home, a rage-filled home, an unemotional home, a divorced home, an ultra-religious home, or an abusive home.
  • If our primary love language is acts of service, we may have come from an abandonment home or an abusive home.

In many marriages, each spouse is expressing love in the way they want to be loved, not how their spouse wants to be loved. A great resource to understanding our love languages is the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

NICOLE:

  1. Also, a good exercise for us and our spouse is to figure out 5 values that we want our marriage to be known for. Write them down, post them somewhere in your home where they will be visible to all family members. These values will be a great legacy to pass on to your children. Think back to your childhood. What kind of legacy did your parents pass down to you? Do you want to pass that same legacy on to your children? Or a different one? I remember one thing that my dad did that left an impression on me. My dad had my name and each one of my siblings’ names inserted into the scripture verse 3 John 4. He posted these in each our rooms where we would see them. Mine said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that Nicole walks in the truth.” A few years ago, I found a photo frame with this verse imprinted on it. I have pictures of our children in it, and I hung it in the hallway between their rooms, so they will see it often.

When we begin to look at our marriages as God intended them to be: a picture of Jesus Christ and the church, an example of God’s unconditional love for a lost world; we will see how important our example of a godly marriage is. I don’t know about you, but I really have never thought that my marriage would be a witness of a loving Savior to a lost world. I want to close with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy institution through which God wishes to preserve the humanity until the end of time. In your love you see only each other in the world; in marriage you are a link in the chain of generations that God, for the sake of his glory, allows to rise and fade away, and calls into His kingdom.

We have created posters that you can purchase in the Resource Center and write your values from the list of 45 values.

Advancement Happiness Respect
Adventure Honesty Responsible
Balance Impact Security
Comforting Integrity Selflessness
Compassion Intuitive Servanthood
Content Joy Spirituality
Courageous Knowledge Stability
Creativity Laughter Steadfast
Discerning Love Success
Disciplined Loyalty Supportive
Enduring Patience Togetherness
Faith Peace Transparency
Finish Well Persistence Trust
Fun Protective Unified
Genuine Purposeful Life Wisdom

Invitation: How are you safeguarding your marriage? What are your values? Is Christ the center of your marriage? Do you know Christ as your Savior and King?

Episode 36: Staff Retreat 2019

Episode 36: Staff Retreat 2019

In this episode, the Clearview staff sit down to talk about the importance of spending time together as a staff relaxing, having fun, and getting to know each other more. If you have any topics you’d like for us to discuss, be sure to email us at carpemanana@clearviewbc.org!

Episode 36: Staff Retreat 2019
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Bad Start, Good Finish by Pastor Abidan Shah

BAD START, GOOD FINISH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Bad Start Good Finish

Introduction: Does it matter how you start a race? If you ask Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, he’ll say, “Absolutely, it matters.” Back in 2011, he made a false start at the World Championships in South Korea and was disqualified. At the same time, Bolt confesses that he’s a poor starter. So, once the gun goes off, the first 30m is what he calls his “drive phase” where he puts his head down and drives himself forward. After that he goes into his “tall phase” where he gets as straight as possible. It’s time for top speed. At 50m, he glances left and right to see where he is in the race and at 60m he becomes a beast. He gives his everything. The last 15-20m of the race is his strongest. He checks one more time in the final 10m but at this point no one can catch him now. He knows that he’s won. Here’s the point: Yes, it matters how you start the race but no, the start doesn’t ultimately determine how you finish the race. You can have a good finish even with a bad start if you do certain things right along the way. That’s the title of the final message in our family series on the – “BAD START, GOOD FINISH.” In life and marriage it helps when you have a good start but it’s not everything. You may’ve had a bad start but you can still have a good finish if you do certain things right along the way.

Genesis 50   22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees. 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Question: For the past 9 weeks we’ve been studying the life of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. We’ve looked at their good decisions, their bad decisions, and the impact of those decisions on their later generations. In this final message, we’re going to see what things helped this family to finish well. There were so many negatives but what were the positives that gave them a good finish. But before we do that, here are some questions to consider: Do you think that you will finish well? Do you believe that your marriage will finish well? Do you believe that your kids will finish well? Or, do you believe that it’s too late? Do you live in regrets? Have you lost all hope for the future? Are you saved? When you receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and brings hope where there is hopelessness. If no hope, then either no Holy Spirit or he’s being quenched.

Context: The passage we just read is the final words to the Book of Genesis. We see Joseph lying on his deathbed giving his final instructions to his family. By the way, twice (verses 22 and 26) it tells us that Joseph was 110 years of age. Why? Because in the Egyptian culture and society, 110 years was considered to be the ideal age for a person to live. Joseph is the picture of a good finish. This is very important because Joseph’s good finish is symbolic of the good finish of the family of Abraham and Sarah. In this final message we’re going to see what helped them have a good finish:

  1. THEY HAD A CHAIN BREAKER.

If you remember the first message in this series, we looked at Terah, Abraham’s father. Terah was the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan…” Terah was the first chain breaker. He had to leave behind a comfortable and successful life, abandon his ancestral gods, and step out into the unknown.

For e.g. My father left Islam and became the chain breaker for us.

Application: Who has been the chain breaker in your life? A father, mother, grandparent, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. Sometimes, you have to be your own pioneer. There’s no one who has broken the chain in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. If you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the chain breaker and pioneer for your family.

  1. THEY FACED THEIR SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET.

In the second message we learnt about an embarrassing secret in the life of Abraham and Sarah. He had made a deal with his wife that everywhere they went she was to say that he was her brother. They did it in Egypt and if that weren’t enough, 25 years later, he did it again in Canaan. Listen to how the King of Gerar spoke to Abraham at 100 years of age. Genesis 20:10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?” Translation: “What’s wrong with you?” When confronted, he admitted that Sarah was his half-sister. Later, like father, like son, Isaac did the same with his wife Rebekah and claimed that she was his sister, which, by the way, was a lie. There were other incidents that were just as embarrassing like Sarah offering her maidservant Hagar to Abraham, Jacob ending up with two wives, Judah sleeping with his own daughter-in-law by mistake.

Here’s the principle: There are no perfect families. We all have some skeletons in our family closet. We all have some rotten fruits hanging somewhere on our family tree.

Application: What are you doing with your family skeleton? Are you pretending to be perfect? The more you try to hide your secret, the more it controls your life. Or, do you blame your skeleton for all your mistakes? Turn them over to God today.

  1. THEY REFUSED TO BE COATTAIL HANGERS.

In a message titled “Keeping Your Kids Out of Hell,” we met Lot, Abraham’s nephew. He attached himself to Abraham in Haran and followed him everywhere he went. He was the proverbial coattail hanger. When there was a conflict between Abraham’s herdsmen and his, Abraham gave him the option to pick which direction he wanted to go and he picked the plain of Jordan towards Sodom and Gomorrah because it reminded him of Egypt. This was more than the terrain. It was the culture he loved. What was the cost? He not only lost his testimony but also his family, including his wife, when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m sure you also remember the incident of how his daughters had him drunk and slept with him. Even if Abraham and Sarah’s family was not perfect, they were not coattail hangers. They were willing to stay in tents and wait on the city that had foundations. Hebrews 11 9 By faith he (Abraham) dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Application: Are you a coattail hanger? How do you make decisions in your life? Do you go after the exciting and the alluring or after those things that please God?

  1. THEY ACCEPTED THE ROAD OF BROKENNESS.

In a message titled “Facing Old Foes,” we saw how Jacob had to face his brother Esau after 20 years. If you remember, Esau didn’t care for his birthright and had sold it to Jacob who had stolen his rightful blessing from his father Isaac. God never condemned Jacob for that. Later Esau wanted it back but he couldn’t and his last words for Jacob in Genesis 27:41 were “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” On that fateful night before he came face to face with his brother, Jacob prayed and asked God to deliver him. Instead of giving him a good nights rest and strong arms or sending his angels to fight for him, the pre-incarnate Christ came down and wrestled him all night and when he realized that he couldn’t defeat him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it went out of joint. Now a sleep deprived, physically injured, and emotionally spent Jacob hobbled along towards his brother. Genesis 32:31 “Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.” How did Esau respond? God used Jacob’s brokenness to pour his grace upon him and move Esau’s heart to forgiveness.

Here’s the principle: Those weaknesses that we find to be a hindrance to our growth and prosperity are actually the thorns in the flesh that Paul talks about. They are opportunities for God to pour his grace upon us.

Application: How do you receive the painful events and incidents in your life? Do you realize that those things that you consider to be a hindrance are actually God’s blessings in disguise?

  1. THEY REFUSED TO LOSE HOPE.

So many other things happened in this family: Simeon and Levi killing the men of Shechem and stealing and enslaving the women and the children; Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery; Judah defrauding his own daughter-in-law and then being tricked by her into sleeping with her. But, this family did not lose hope in the promise that God had made to Abraham that in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed, that they are the carriers of the promise of salvation. Listen again to final words to his family – 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” Joseph’s end is not the end. It is the promise of a new beginning in the near future. They were words of hope. They were words full of the Holy Spirit.

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

Invitation: Do you have this hope for yourself, for your family, for this church, for our community, for our nation, for this world? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you saved?

Love is Liberating by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS LIBERATING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love is Calming by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children That Bring Delight by Pastor Abidan Shah

CHILDREN THAT BRING DELIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Children That Bring Delight.jpgIntroduction: This is the fifth message in our series on the Trinity called “Battle of the Gods.” These messages are deep but they are teaching us that the doctrine of the Trinity is not some stale concept from some forgotten councils but it’s the key to many of our problems today. In today’s message we’ll learn what the Trinity has to say to both children and parents and the message is titled “CHILDREN THAT BRING DELIGHT.”

John 5   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…36 “…for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

the-collapse-of-parenting-by-leonard-sax

The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax

Bridge: Would you agree that children today are not like children 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago? In his recent book “The Collapse of Parenting,” noted family physician and psychologist Leonard Sax (By the way, I don’t agree with everything he writes.) talks about a six year old whose mother brought him because of a sore throat. When he told him that he would have to take a look at his throat, the mother asked the child’s permission – “Do you mind if the doctor looks at your throat for just a second, honey? Afterward we can go and get some ice cream.” Of course, the child told no and had to be restrained so the doctor could examine his throat. Sax says, “It’s not a question. It’s a sentence: ‘Open up and say, ‘Ahh.’ Parents are incapable of speaking to their children in a sentence that ends in a period. Every sentence ends in a question mark.”

What is happening to our children? Obedience has become optional or nonexistent. Parents are no longer authoritative or in charge. They are more like facilitators and advisors. Instead of teaching their child the difference between right and wrong, they are focused on making their children happy and boosting their self-esteem. Parents are afraid of being the bad guy. It’s not that they don’t spend time with their kids. They do but its not time having family meals or teaching about life. It’s time shuttling them from one extracurricular activity to the next. They are trying to give their children everything they didn’t have. If one of the parents tries to do what is right, the other plays interception and the one trying gives up. What parents don’t realize is that they are actually harming their children rather than helping them. Sadly, in some homes, the parent is more like the kid than the kid. Why would the kid obey? This happens in the projects as well as million dollar mansions. No wonder they seek the approval of their peers. Sax cites several researches to prove that this lack of parental authority is the cause of rise in obesity, anti-anxiety and ADD medications, disrespect (especially towards adults), why kids seem so fragile, and, if I may add, a sense of entitlement in the children. I don’t have time to analyze all the causes for this, which includes the breakdown of the marriage, mental and physical abuse, overdose of psychology, and lack of biblical truth. The point is this: Both children and parents in our culture desperately need help and the good news is – the answer is found in the triune God Himself. Just as Jesus brought delight to His Father, so also our children can bring delight to us when we follow Him.

Question: Has this hit a nerve for you? Has it struck a chord for you? Do you need God’s wisdom and guidance in your family? Are you open to God’s Word? Are you saved?

3 ingredients that help us raise “Children That Bring Delight”:

I. THE TRUE MODEL FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN

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…”

Background: Last weekend we learned that the Triune God created us in His image and designed us to reflect both equality and order in our marriage relationships. Just like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in essence but distinct in order, the husband and wife are also equal in essence but distinct in order. But there’s more. The Trinity is also the model for how parents and children ought to relate with each other in the family. Listen again to Jesus in verse 30 “…I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” Even though the Father and Son are equal in essence, the Father tells the Son what to do and He does it. Our earthly families were designed to reflect the order in the heavenly family. Paul laid this out for us in Colossians 3   17 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Meaning: Keep the Trinity in mind in everything you do. Now comes the application – 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” Meaning: The Trinity is not just the model for the husband-wife relationship but also for the parent-child relationship.

Now don’t misunderstand: The Father-Son relationship in the Trinity is not some detached spiritual order but God the Father actively loves God the Son and wants the best for Him. Listen to John 3:35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” Again, John 5:20 “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” Meaning: God the Father is not some detached and unemotional father to God the Son. He genuinely and actively loves the Son and wants to lift Him up in every way.

How about the Son? He does not grudgingly submit to the Father but He actually loves God the Father and wants to please Him. John 8:29 “…I always do those things that please Him.” Later He says in John 17 25 “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Meaning: I know what a wonderful and loving father you are and I want everyone to know that too.

Application: What would happen if parents, especially fathers, were just like God the Father, loving and yet firm with their children? What would happen if the children knew that they were truly loved and honored their parents, especially their fathers, by obeying promptly, completely, and cheerfully? Fathers, do you actively love your children and truly seek the best for them as God the Father did for His Son Jesus? Children, do you ever brag about your parents, especially your fathers, the way Jesus did?

II. THE TRUE ESTEEM OF OUR CHILDREN

31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true…”

Background: Keep in mind that the Jewish religious leaders were accusing Jesus of not only breaking the Sabbath but also making Himself equal to God the Father. When He says in verse 31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true,” He is bringing up the Jewish law that you needed two witnesses to prove that someone was guilty or not guilty and you cannot be your own witness. Jesus was stating the obvious – “I cannot be my own witness.” Here’s the point: We’re living in a culture in which people are constantly justifying themselves and their actions. Jesus (being perfect) refused to justify Himself. He refused to self-validate.

But there was someone else who could justify on His behalf – John the Baptist. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man…” Jesus is saying here – “John the Baptist is telling the truth about me but I don’t need his help in clearing up my reputation.” Earlier in John 2, John the writer of the Gospel said the same thing about Jesus – 24 “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” Jesus refused to take the validation of the good and the bad. Here’s the point: We’re living in a culture in which, other than self-approval, people are constantly looking for the approval of others. They are looking for others to justify and validate their actions. What do my friends say about me? How many likes did I get on Facebook or Instagram? How many people are looking at my stories on Snapchat? If my enemies don’t like me, that’s fine as long as my friends speak out for me.

Whose validation is Jesus interested in? 36 “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” Meaning: My obedience to my father is my validation. Wow! In other words, obedience to my father is the ultimate testimony of who I am. I did what my father told me to do and that proves that I am who I say I am.

What would happen if our children were so eager on obeying us rather than validating themselves or seeking the approval of their friends?

Application: Are you constantly trying to self-validate? Are you constantly trying to seek the validation of others? How much does obedience to your parents matter to you?

III. THE TRUE APPROVAL OF THE PARENT

37 “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me…”

Background: Twice during Jesus earthly ministry, the Father declared that He was pleased with His beloved Son. First time it was at Jesus’ baptism by John when He came up out of the water. Matthew 3  16 “…behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Second time it was at the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah came to talk with Him. Matthew 17:5 “…Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” Here’s the interesting thing – neither of those events are mentioned in John’s Gospel. Jesus was not talking about either of those. Listen to the rest of verse 37 “…You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” Meaning: The voice is not audible as much as internal. If you had the same father, you would have known His voice and recognized it. Obviously, we don’t belong to the same family. How do we know that? 38 “But you do not have His word abiding in you…” The only way you can hear His voice is if you have His word in you.

Young people – The reason your friends cannot see why you don’t party with them and do the things with them is because they don’t have the words of your parents in them. Parents – the approval is not sitting on the sideline yelling and screaming at your kids or threatening other parents. True approval is when your kid is faced with the wrong choice and hears your voice in His heart.

Invitation: Is Jesus the head of your family? Fathers and Mothers – are you walking with Christ? Children – Are you walking with Christ? Are you saved

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Intellectual)

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters1Introduction: Today I’m starting a brand new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” For those of you who are new, we’ve been studying the life of Christ from all 4 gospels. We began this series about 2 years ago and we’re not even half way through. Somebody asked me when do you think we will get to the crucifixion and resurrection? Maybe when I’m ready for the nursing home!

John 2   23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man…5 34 “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 “I do not receive honor from men.”

Bridge: Have you ever said – “I wish I knew how to reach so and so but I don’t” or “I wish I could understand how this person thinks or what it’ll take to win them to Christ but I’m at a loss.” In this series we’ll learn how Jesus engaged individuals with the gospel.

Context: The passages we just read are like brackets. The first bracket is John 2:24-25 which says, “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” 2 things are underscored here about Jesus. First, Jesus knew all men (plural). Meaning: He knew every single human being, their nature, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and deepest darkest secrets. Second, Jesus knew what was in man (singular). Meaning: He knew what was inside human beings. He saw the darkness of sin within. Immediately following the first bracket, 4 individuals have an encounter with Jesus – a religious man, a woman with a horrible past, a brash rich person, and a sick hopeless person. Jesus met each of them where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. Then comes the second bracket in John 5:34 where Jesus Himself says, “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 I do not receive honor from men.” Meaning: Jesus was not interested in their endorsement or their adulation. He simply wanted to save them.

Some of y’all are looking at me thinking – “What does this have to do with my life?” Daily God brings individuals in our lives that need to be engaged with the gospel. They’re all unique. They have their abilities and accomplishments. They have their quirks and curiosities. But one thing they all have in common is sin and the need for a Savior. It is our responsibility to engage them with the gospel and bring them to Christ.

Question: Are you engaging people around you with the gospel? When was the last time you actually encountered someone you knew needed Christ? What did you do? Did you run from them? Did you condemn them, maybe in your heart? Or did you engage them? Are you praying for them? Do you pray that God will bring lost people into your life? Are you that individual who needs an encounter with Christ?

In this 4-part series we will meet 4 characters that had an encounter with Jesus, starting with man named Nicodemus:

 I. WHO WAS NICODEMUS?

John 3:1 “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night…”

Background: Right there we have more than enough to construct his profile.

  • Pharisees – There is considerable debate in current scholarship over who were the Pharisees. From my studies I’ve found that the Pharisees were a popular sect of the Jewish people that had been around for a couple of hundred years by the time of Jesus. Some say that their name came from the Hebrew “paras” which means, “to separate,” as in separation from the sinners, the compromisers with the world. Along with the Torah (the Pentateuchal Law), they also had an interpretive tradition (oral and written) that had been “paradosis,” or “handed down” from their fathers. When you read the gospels you notice that they were particularly strict about purity issues, such as proper hand washing before meals, laws about food, and tithing. According to Josephus, the Pharisees were a lot more popular with the people than the Sadducees or the Essenes. Maybe, it was because they accepted the entire Old Testament (Law, Prophets, and Writings). Maybe, its because they believed in the resurrection of the dead, angels, and fate and free will. Maybe, it was because they challenged the people to live a godly life but also found loopholes to help them get around the system. Even though the Sadducees controlled the temple, the Pharisees also had a lot of say in the matter. Many of them were very wealthy and influential.
  • Ruler of the Jews – influential, powerful, and wealthy.
  • Came to Jesus – Sent to Investigate, Clarification, or Win Jesus over.
  • Came by Night – Maybe he was busy all day. Maybe he didn’t want to be disturbed. Maybe he was afraid of what someone might think. Maybe it was all of the above.
  • First Words“and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’” Maybe he was trying to flatter Jesus. Maybe he was being genuinely honest. I think he was being honest because a Jewish person would have been very reluctant to use God’s name in vain.

Many people around us are like Nicodemus. They are moral but empty. They are powerful but weak. They have what they want but not what they need. They are willing to check it out but leery and suspicious of charlatans and fakes. They are searching but guarded. They are not bad people just lost people. How does the church typically respond to such people? Either we condemn them or we ignore them.

Question: Do you know some Nicodemus in your life? Can you see below the surface? How are you engaging him or her? Are you praying for him or her?

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM? 

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Typically people think that Jesus was blowing Nicodemus off by ignoring his complement and saying – “Stop flattering me. You’re lost and you need to get saved.” Not true. In actuality, Jesus accepted Nicodemus’ complement. Remember his first words – “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” How did Jesus reply? “Most assuredly, I say to you” which is actually “Amen, Amen.” What Jesus was saying was – “You’re right Nicodemus. Just as it’s impossible for me to do what I am doing unless God is with me, it’s also impossible for you to see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.” You cannot insult people into the kingdom of God.

John 3:4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Again, people assume that Nicodemus was just being sarcastic. Yes and no. Yes, he was pointing out the impossibility of being born again. No, he was not being just sarcastic. He truly did not understand what it meant to be saved. You cannot assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo.

John 3:5   Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Once again, “Most assuredly, I say to you” is actually “Amen, Amen.” But listen to how Jesus adapted to Nicodemus’ words – “Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Now Jesus used the word “enter” – “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” You have to adapt to the level of your Nicodemus. Not only that but Jesus also brought up another imagery that Nicodemus was familiar with – “water baptism.” Please don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not implying that you have to be baptized in water to be born again. He was saying that just as “John’s baptism” was the sign of a new beginning, so also Nicodemus will have to step into a new beginning. But, this is not an ordinary new beginning. It has to be one led by the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is not on water baptism but on the Spirit’s work.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.’ Something is lost in translation here. It’s not “You Nicodemus must be born again” but it’s “You (plural) must be born again.” Jesus was referring to all those people who believed in His name because of the signs He did but they did not believe in Jesus. Meaning: There was a detached belief there. It was more faith in His deeds than in His person. They were lost. You cannot assume that just because a person says he/she believes in Jesus that they are saved.

8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” This is a very interesting statement. The Greek word for wind and spirit is exactly the same. Jesus used play on words to tell Nicodemus that he cannot rationally understand how the new birth happens but it happens. You have to remind people that salvation may be mysterious but it’s real.

John 3:9   Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…” Here Jesus brought up the imagery from the OT when God sent fiery serpents in the Israelite camp because the people had spoken against God and Moses. Many died. But when they pleaded, God in His love also provided the remedy. Moses had to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. If anyone looked at the serpent, they lived. Jesus was giving Nicodemus a preview of how He was going to be lifted up on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” A Salvation without a cross is no salvation at all.

Finally, here come the most famous verse of the Bible – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus reminded Nicodemus that God loved him.

Illustration: D. L. Moody was probably the greatest soul winner who ever lived. About the same time as Moody was preaching a young man from England named Henry Moorehouse got saved, began preaching and God began to use him mightily. Moorehouse came to America to preach and offered Moody to preach for him. Moody didn’t think that Moorehouse could preach and just put him off. Moorehouse sent another letter and another letter. Finally, Moody had to be out of town and allowed Moorehouse to preach. When Moody returned, the church was powerfully moved. Moody’s wife told him that he had preached 2 sermons and both were from John 3:16. She added, “He preaches a little different from what you do. He tells sinners that God loves them.” Moody replied, “Well…he’s wrong.” She answered, “You’ll agree with him when you hear him because he backs everything he says with the Word of God.” Moody reluctantly agreed to go and hear Moorehouse. Sure enough, Moorehouse turned to John 3:16. Later Moody said, “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out, and I could not keep back the tears.” Moorehouse preached for several more nights from the same passage and Moody’s ministry took on a softer deeper turn. Henry Moorehouse is best remembered as the “man who moved the man who moved millions.” You can never underestimate the power of God’s love.

Are you engaging people with the love of God shown in Christ on the cross?

Have you received the love of God shown in Christ on the cross

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%.

Letting God Guide Your Love Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. GOD CARES ABOUT OUR HAPPINESS. 

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

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

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

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

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

II. PRAYER PLAYS A HUGE ROLE. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. LOVE IS A COMMITMENT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV. GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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