Facing Old Foes by Pastor Abidan Shah

FACING OLD FOES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Facing Old FoesIntroduction: There have always been famous rivalries. In ancient times it was Athens vs. Sparta. In sports there are plenty of rivalries – Alabama vs. Auburn, Georgia vs. Georgia State, Duke vs. Chapel Hill. In soft drinks, Coke vs. Pepsi. There have been family rivalries like the Hatfields and the McCoys. But the worst kind is when it’s within the family. Sometimes our very flesh and blood can be our worst foes. This morning we will learn how to face old foes.

Genesis 32   6 Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7 So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed…9 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant…11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children.

Question: Who are you afraid to face? More specifically, who in your family are you afraid to face? What has happened between you and this person that the very mention of his/her name fills you with fear? The very thought of coming face-to-face with this person makes you sick to your stomach. It may not necessarily be a fear for your life but it’s a kind of a mental and emotional fear. Are you saved? Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” If you are saved, God can help you face this foe with power, love, and a sound mind.

Context of the Message: If you remember from last time, Jacob had enough of Uncle and Father-in-law Laban in Haran and he was headed back to his parent’s home with his wives and children. But coming home was complicated. He didn’t exactly leave on good terms. In fact, his last exit from home was more of an escape for his life. Twenty years had passed but his old foe Esau, his brother, was still there and, if I may add, stronger than ever. I’m sure Jacob had not forgotten Esau’s last words for him – “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Isaac, their father was still living but Rebekah, his mother, the one who always stood up for him and protected him, was dead. Jacob wanted to go home. He needed to go home. But, going home meant facing his brother whom he had deeply offended 20 years ago. As Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city…” This message will help us learn from Jacob how to face the old foe.

Let’s begin in Genesis 32   1 So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. If you remember, 20 years ago when Jacob was running for his life, he had a vision of a ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. So he woke up next morning and named the place Bethel, the house of God. Jacob was struggling with homesickness and God reminded Jacob that even though he was far away from the steps of his earthly home, he was always near to the steps of his heavenly home. In other words, when Jacob was away from his home, God gave him the key to his own heavenly home. But this time he calls the vision the “Camp of God.” Keep in mind that this camp was not like a tent in the woods. This was the base camp of the angelic army of God. Because Jacob was afraid for his life and family, God gave him a glimpse of his power and his presence all around him.

Application: What fear is plaguing you today? Jesus can meet you right where you are. He will replace your fear with his presence if you ask him. Have you done that?

Even after the vision of God’s army camp of angels around him, Jacob is still afraid of facing his brother Esau. So he begins to do several things to appease him. I’ve heard many messages condemning Jacob for his fear. Here’s the problem: The Bible never condemns him for doing what he did. What does he do? Genesis 32   3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 And he commanded them, saying, “Speak thus to my lord Esau, Several things are worth pointing out here: First, Jacob addresses Esau as “lord” or “master.” That does not mean “god.” It’s simply a designation of respect and honor. When it comes to facing an old foe in the family, watch how you address them. If you begin by calling them a name or treating them with disdain or reminding them of how you’re better than they are, it will only cause them to despise and resent you even more. Proverbs 15   1 A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

This is very hard for people today who are living in the social media world where every post, picture, and snap chat is meant to make our own self look better than we are.

What else did Jacob say? 5 “I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’” Jacob is offering gifts to appease his brother Esau. He is doing what Solomon tells us to do in Proverbs 12:14a “A gift in secret pacifies anger…” But the word still comes back to Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. 7 “So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed…” I would be afraid too because that was a sign of battle. So he divides up his livestock and the people into different groups, hoping that if Esau attacks one, the other may be able to get away. Here’s a question: Is Jacob failing to trust God by doing all this? Not really. He is doing all he can to protect the promise of God to his grandfather Abraham. How do we know? Listen again to his prayer in Genesis 32   11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, “I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” His prayer is focused on the promise of God.

Principle: Prayer is indispensable in times of crisis.

How does God answer Jacob’s prayer? Genesis 32:24 “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” How strange! Just when you’d think that God would send a cool breeze and give Jacob a good night sleep with dreams of angels protecting him and fighting for him, a stranger jumped on him and tried to pin him to the ground! This went on all night and when the stranger realized that he couldn’t win against him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it went out of joint.

What in the world is God doing? This stranger is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus. He’s wrestling with Jacob for several reasons. First, to test him and see if he still wants the blessing of being part of the promise of God to his grandfather Abraham. Jacob refusing to let go until the stranger blessed him proved that he still wanted it. Next, it was to break him. God knows that if Jacob went out there looking all big and bad, it would only aggravate Esau more and this time he would really kill him. What’s the outcome? Instead of making him strong, he made him weak. Why? Same reason that he made Paul weak in 2 Corinthians 12   7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. God way is through brokenness and weakness.

What was the result? Jacob is now sleep deprived, physically exhausted, and limping in incredible pain. 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip…Genesis 33:3 Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. You can see the silhouette of a truly broken man. What was Esau’s reaction? Genesis 33:4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. What a beautiful sight! He even refuses the gifts that Jacob had sent to him but Jacob insists and Esau reluctantly takes them. But when Esau offers to hang together, Jacob refuses because he knows that ultimately Esau was not on the same page as him.

Here are some suggestions in dealing with an old foe:

  • Trust God’s Presence
  • Show humility
  • Offer gifts
  • Pray
  • Be willing to be broken
  • Don’t compromise God’s plan for your life

Are you saved? Are you a foe of God? He is willing to reconcile with you

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 7, 2017)

bef00a78-d76b-461a-be58-7037520c4569This is the time of the year when many people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to some surveys, about 70% are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions like growing in Christ, reading the Bible, praying, serving in church, etc. Another year comes and goes and there’s zero progress. In Luke 9 Jesus met three such individuals who were buried in the graveyard of excuses. Let’s see if we can learn something from their encounters:

  1. Grave of Comfort – Verse 57 “…Someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple willing to follow Jesus anywhere. In actuality, he was a young man looking to tag along Rabbi Jesus for a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices. Jesus knew his heart and bluntly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not calling him to give up his Sleep Number bed or his Tempur-Pedic pillow and wander around and live under some tree like a hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble. Instead, Jesus was telling him – “To follow me, you have to choose the uncomfortable life. Previously, it was comfortable to tolerate some old sin, habit, grudge, behavior, or desire in your life but following me will require giving them up. How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
  2. Grave of Obligations – Verse 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” What a strange request! Was the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! No. What the man was really saying was “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I will follow you.” He was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s heart too and responded trenchantly – 60 “…Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How could Jesus be so harsh?! Was he actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Again, don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. But in this situation, the man was using his obligations to keep him from obeying God. Jesus was telling him – “Life will never settle down. There will always be another obligation. Follow me now or never.”
  3. Grave of One Last Glance – Verse 61 “…Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’” This sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? – “At least my loved ones deserve to know that I’m leaving.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s real intention. He wanted to take that one last look to make sure that this was a right decision. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who took that fatal glance and like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What do they see? Some see pain and feel they can’t leave until they’ve healed; some see regrets and feel they can’t leave until they’ve fixed things; some see failures and feel their past would repeat again; and some even see the disappointed faces of their loved ones and feel they can’t let them down. Jesus warned him – 62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church told me that when he used to plow with a mule, he would find a fixed point in front and keep his eyes on it. When he looked straight ahead, he had straight rows behind him but if he turned back, he was all over the place. If your spiritual life is all over the place, it’s time to look ahead to Jesus.

By the way, before you can leave your grave of excuses to follow Jesus, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death by asking him to be your Savior. Happy Resurrection!

SECRET TO THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE (Article)

SECRET TO THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 10, 2015)

According to popular research, this year’s resolutions were no different than the years before – “Get More Sleep,” “Save Money,” “Quit Smoking or Drinking,” and, top of the list as always, “Loose Weight.” Oh yes – there was also “Flossing!” I guess nobody wants a “Bridge Over Troubled Molars!” But sadly, most people’s resolutions go in one year and out the next. Why is that? It’s because of a three-letter word that has all but disappeared from American Christianity. It only brings up images of Bible thumping preachers in tent revivals. It conjures up feelings of guilt and condemnation. I’m talking about the word “Sin.” Now before you throw down this paper, I urge you to suspend your judgment briefly and keep reading. This may hold the secret to the best year of your life! Here’s why –

  1. Our fundamental problem is Sin – We have renamed and redressed our problems but sin “by any other name” still reeks of sin: selfishness, pride, envy, jealousy, anger, hate, bitterness, lying, control issues, insecurities, bad habits, addictions, sexual sins, lust, pornography, lack of discipline (food, time, thoughts), lack of obedience, lack of commitment, and everything that’s anti-God. Unfortunately, we are both sinners by nature and sinners by choice. We are born in iniquity and sins (Psalm 51:5) and then we deliberately choose to go astray (Isaiah 53:6).
  2. Sin destroys our life – Initially, sin is not a big deal but “its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Take for example something as seemingly harmless as “time-management.” So many people have made resolutions to manage time better in 2015. Here’s a question: Why do we waste time? First, we think it’s our time. That’s a lie. It’s God’s time. He has given the same amount of time to the President and the man living on the street. When we waste time, we are wasting His time, which is a form of stealing. That’s a sin. Second, we spend countless hours in mindless entertainment, trolling on Facebook, sticking our nose in other people’s business, or fighting endlessly in marriage and relationships. We have lost sight of God’s purpose for our lives and do not care to seek first His kingdom and righteousness. That’s a sin. Third, we waste time because we presume that others will pick up our slack. In essence, we look down on other people’s schedules and lives. That’s a sin. Fourth, we take on too many things and then we cannot manage our time. Somehow we think too highly of our selves. That’s a sin. Fifth, we waste time because we do not value our own selves. As someone said, “If you value your self, you will value your time.” If you are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” then so is your time. Lack of self-worth comes from believing what we or someone else have said about us rather than what God has said about us. That’s a sin. Need I go on!

If you open your eyes, you will see that sin is destroying marriages, goals, success, health and everything that is wonderful.

  1. Sin needs a Savior – Even though sin is the ultimate culprit behind all our problems, it is ultimately against God. God is Holy and He cannot tolerate even a speck of sin. Hence, Jesus came and took the penalty of sin upon Himself by dying on the cross. By receiving Him as your Savior you don’t have to face the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9) But there’s more! Jesus “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age.” (Galatians 1:4) Of course, one day we will be permanently free from the presence of sin but even now we have been set free from the power of sin. As we look to the Holy Spirit, He helps us to reject sin and walk in righteousness (Romans 8:2-4). In the famous hymn “O for a thousand tongues to sing,” Charles Wesley writes, “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free.”

Repentance Anyone?!!

ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING

ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

One New Years Resolution Worth Keeping

We’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Luke 3 for our message titled, “ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING.” According to a recent research, here are the popular New Year’s Resolutions in 2015 – 10. Get More Sleep; 9. Volunteer; 8. Travel; 7. Floss; 6. Save Money; 5. Reach Goals; 4. Learn a Language; 3. Go Green; 2. Quit Smoking or Drinking; 1. Lose Weight. There’s one that I have a feeling is not on anyone’s list but it holds the key to all the rest: True Repentance.

Luke 3   7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Overall Background: The Word of God came to John in the wilderness. If you remember, it was not just a geographical wilderness but also political, moral, and spiritual wilderness. God hadn’t spoken to His people in 400 years and suddenly there was a voice crying in the wilderness. This voice was a lone voice, a simple voice, and a voice full of holy conviction. And people began to come. Matthew tells us in chapter 3, verse 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. That’s powerful! What’s even more powerful is what these people did! They confessed their sins – they repented.

Unfortunately, repentance is a foreign word in American Christianity today. We talk about how to find God’s will and how to have our best life and how to be happy but repentance – no time for that. But this is where it starts. The closer you draw to God, the more you begin to see your sinfulness and the need for repentance.

Application: May I ask you – Are you tired of sin ruling your life? Is it the sin of a habit/addiction? Is it the sin of an attitude – selfishness, anger, control, or insecurity? Is it the sin of lack of discipline – food, time management, or thoughts? You say you are saved – is there a difference between you and those who are lost? Then, there’s one solution – Repentance. Here’s an important question – Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? If not, then you need Conversion not Confession.

This morning let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the truth about Repentance so this could really be your best year ever. 3 things we will see in this passage:

 I. SIN MAKES US AN ENEMY OF GOD.

7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

John the Baptist - crowdBackground: Good gracious! Why did John say something like that? Isn’t that what he wanted? Weren’t people (some Pharisees and Sadducees) responding to the voice crying in the wilderness? If it we’re me, I would’ve put together a welcome packet with all the ministries for every need in your family. I would’ve organized a welcome committee with the friendliest people to serve as ushers. Instead, he calls them “sons of snakes.” Because vipers throughout the Old Testament refer to God’s enemies. Imbedded in here is a powerful principle – Sin puts us at enmity with God. When you and I come to God (lost or saved), we are immediately confronted by God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Psalm 5:4 “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You.” Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you.” The closer to get to the light, the more you see the dirt in your life.

At the moment you are confronted, if you raise up your hands and say – “Guilty as charged. I need Jesus,” it’s good. At that point John 3:16 goes into action – “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.” But if you come with anything other than the blood of Christ to cover you, now the wrath of God is upon you. Listen to verse 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ Meaning: Don’t trust in your pedigree. Don’t trust in your church membership. Don’t trust in the fact that you came. These people were sincere. None of that can save you from God’s wrath. Keep listening to verse 8 “…For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Application: How do you see yourself in light of God’s holiness? As a lost person, do you think God will excuse you based on some good you’ve done? As a saved person, you know God and that’s good but are you bearing good fruit or is there sin in your life? Do you realize how much God abhors our sin? These are very important questions. Unless you get this right, no amount of resolutions and promises will make the year blessed.

II. SIN DESTROYS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS.

10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

John the Baptist - Tax CollectorsIf you noticed, each of these commands has to do with their relationship with fellow human beings. Let’s look at each of them for a moment:

  1. The first one – “People – If you have 2 coats and see someone who is cold, share.” Sin has a way of making us insensitive to others. Nothing wrong with wearing well and eating well but there’s something wrong when our brother/sister is cold and hungry. Sin makes us care for our own comfort and well-being. Now, don’t immediately run out and start clothing the homeless and feeding the hungry. Start with your own home. Wives – are you known as a selfish person? Husband – are you known as a self-centered person who always gets what he wants?
  2. The second one – “Tax Collectors – Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” Sin has a way of making us greedy for a little bit more. Nothing wrong with making a profit and doing better in life but there’s something wrong when we care more about stuff than people. Sin makes us dissatisfied no matter how much we have. Sin creates a bottomless pit in our heart. In fact, we are even willing to throw our husband, wife, and children down the bottomless pit of greed.
  3. The third one – “Soldiers – Don’t intimidate or false accuse anyone.” Sin makes us a bully and do whatever it takes (lie and cheat) to get our way. Bullying happens not just on the school playground but also in the home. Words are said and threats are used that have no business in Christian homes. The past is held over the head and the future is used as a threat rather than something to look forward to.

Bottom line: Sin is not just a subject for theologs. Sin is not just the quirk of some Ole Timey preacher. Sin is not just the junk on TV put out by Hollywood. Sin is with us everyday and it affects our relationship with our loved ones, neighbors, and co-workers. Instead of avoiding the subject, it needs to be preached more! It is the problem.

For e.g. We make resolutions to lose weight. Why do we eat more? It’s all right to eat because you’re hungry or the food tastes good but its not all right as an emotional need. Why do our emotions go out of whack? Because of our relationships.

Application: Have you realized how real sin is in your life? Do you see how much it corrupts your daily relationships? Do you see that you can’t go forward and make resolutions and set goals unless you deal with sin? Are you willing to deal with sin?

III. SIN NEEDS A SAVIOR.

15 Now as the people were in expectation,

Background: What were they expecting? After all, they’ve been baptized, they’ve been confronted with their sin, and they’ve been told what to do and not to do. What more is there? Listen to the next line – “and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not.” They were still expecting the Christ! Why? Because the Christ was going to do something more for them. Listen to verse 16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. What exactly is John saying? He is drawing a line of demarcation between himself and Jesus. The people were starting to look at John as their hope. But John quickly put an end to that. Sometimes people start looking at pastors and teachers with adoration. Don’t get me wrong, there should be respect but don’t worship the man.

What will this Mightier One do? Listen to last line of verse 16 “…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” What does that mean? What is the difference between the baptism with water and the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire? They had been saved from the wrath to come but they had not been set free from the power of sin. By receiving Jesus as your Savior, you don’t have to face the penalty of sin but unless you truly appropriate what Jesus did for you, you will still be in bondage to the power of sin. That’s why some Christians keep going back to old habits and old attitudes and old sins and old hang-ups. They are going to heaven but it’s like hell all the way there. They’re still selfish, self-centered, greedy, intimidating, liars, and cheats. They feel guilty for their behavior and feel condemned. They make promises to do better but go back to the old ways.

So what’s the solution? Baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. Paul explains to us a little bit more in Romans 8 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Being baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire means that now I am under the command and leadership of the Holy Spirit. He is in charge over me. In order to sin I have to get permission from Him. I daily submit myself to Him and He leads me in right way. Listen to Romans 8:6 “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

And he also brings fire. What does that do? 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” For the lost, the fire is hell but for the saved person, the fire is a purifier. It refines us and cleanses us. It is just like the fire at the landfill versus the fire at the silversmith.

Illustration: Charles Wesley’s hymn illustrates this well –

O for a thousand tongues to sing,

My great Redeemer’s praise,

The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace!

…………

He breaks the power of canceled sin,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean,

His blood availed for me.

Are you saved? Has the power of canceled sin broken in your life through the Holy Spirit?

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