Pious Thieves by Pastor Abidan Shah

PIOUS THIEVES  by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Pious Thieves

Introduction:  A $1 bill met a $20 bill. He hadn’t seen him in a while and he said – “Hey! Where have you been? Haven’t seen you in years.” The $20 replied – “I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. I’ve been to the casino, went on a cruise, went to a baseball game, to the mall for Christmas shopping, fancy restaurants, beach, mountains. I’ve been living the high life. How about you?” The $1 replied with a sigh, “Me? Same old stuff…church, church, church.” Today’s message in our series on Malachi is called “PIOUS THIEVES.” Hopefully, it’ll do more than figure out where the $20 bill has been hiding. It’s about the state of the heart.

Malachi 3    6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

Question: I know that some of you have already made your assumptions about this message – “Here we go…Pastor Shah is gonna hammer on money since the new building has to be paid for.” Not really. We grew the most through the worst financial crisis this nation has ever faced. I’m not a least bit worried about money. The message is not about what you give. The message is about what you believe God has done for you. What has God done for you? How much you have belongs to God? Are you saved? This message is for you not from you.

Context: As I mentioned last weekend, the Book of Malachi is written like a courtroom drama where the people of Israel were on trial and God was their judge, their prosecuting attorney, their witness, and their executioner. But don’t think that all this was only one-sided and negative because God was also their public defender who was trying to negotiate a plea bargain that would greatly benefit them. Listen again to verse 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change…” When God said “I am Yahweh,” he was reminding them of his covenant name. In other words, God was showing them the old contract papers to remind them that the agreement he had made with them had not changed. Which agreement? 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” This is the 4th time God mentioned Jacob. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Abraham?” Because Abraham was also the father of the Ishmaelites. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Isaac?” Because Isaac was also the father of the Edomites. God was telling them that unlike the Ishmaelites and the Edomites who had perished or vanished, they were still alive because he had kept his covenant. Their entire existence was because of him.

Application: I mentioned to you a few minutes ago, the message is not about what you give but what you believe about God. The message is not about how much you give but how much you believe belongs to God? Do you believe that everything you are and everything you have is because of God? If you have reservations there, of course, you will have reservations about how much you give. It will be like tipping after a meal. Imagine if I were to tip Nicole after a meal!

Here comes the plea bargain. 7 “‘Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” In other words, admit that you messed up and come back. God is not finished with you. Repent. Refusal would be the unpardonable sin. This is the main message of all the prophets in the OT. Listen to their response – “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?” God answers –  8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Background: Many of us know that tithe means “ten percent.” The word tithe is an Old English word that means “tenth.” Where does it originally come from? From the Bible, from the Old Testament. Actually, there were 3 kinds of tithes:

  • First, the general tithe of the land. Leviticus 27:30 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.” Where do you give it? Numbers 18:21“Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.”
  • Second, the eating of a portion of the tithe at the sacred meal when the first/general tithe was given. Deuteronomy 14  22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, (Jerusalem) the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
  • Third, the tithe collected every three years for the poor. Deuteronomy 14 28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Why were the people keeping back their tithes and their offerings? Think about it. It was an agro-pastoral economy. Most people were poor farmers. This was not by choice but by necessity. They had just returned from exile, maybe a generation or two. We’re not even talking about drought, locust infestation, and neighbors who were angry that the original inhabitants were back. Life was very tough for them. Many were also shepherds. Again, not by choice. Then there were those working for the imperial bureaucracy (the Persian empire) who were doing very well. They were wealthy landowners. So also, the priests appeared to be doing well. The lending and borrowing system made life very difficult for the common person. Usury (lending money at excessively high interest rates) was also being practiced at the time. This was debt slavery. Fraud, bribery, and corruption were also prevalent. Bottom line: Most people felt entitled not to give.

Some people think that all that is in the OT Mosaic Law and we’re no longer under it. Who came first Abraham or Moses? Genesis 14   18 “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him (Abraham)…” And what did Abraham do? 20 “…And he gave him a tithe of all. Another question: Who came first Jacob or Moses? Genesis 28:20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” I believe that the idea of giving a tithe was only ratified in the Mosaic law but it was established since the beginning of time. Does the New Testament obligate us to tithe? Some people bring up Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law” and Galatians 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law…” Yes, we are no longer under the obligation of the traditions and rituals in the law but the principle of the law still stands. By the way, tithing is just the starting point. We are really under grace giving, which is much more. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

Question: Are you tithing? $20/month implies that you are making $200/month; $50/month implies that you are making $500/month; $100/month implies that you are making $1000/month.

Now listen to what God said: 9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.” 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; 12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts.

Personal Testimony: When I first came, I didn’t have anything but I remember my parents telling me to give and I did. God has done above and beyond for me. I don’t give because he gives back. I give because it’s all his.

Are you tithing? Are you grace giving? Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll start caring about this place. Whatever you buy stock in, you’ll care about. Start giving and you’ll see God open the windows of heaven for you. Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll look forward to giving more. If you question my motives, give to another church!

For some reason God has decided to use money as the acid test of our faith. He’s asking us – “How much of what you have do you think belongs to you?” It’s really a matter of the heart.

Are you saved?

FUTURE AND HOPE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

FUTURE AND HOPE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 12, 2016)

future-and-hope“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Last month Americans all across the land proved with their ballots that they were dissatisfied with the direction of our country. What is being called “one of the greatest political shakeups in history” is a glimpse into the soul of the real USA. Americans have overwhelmingly declared that they do care about the economy, security, and morality of their country. They do want a better world for their children and grandchildren. Once again they are seeing a future and a hope. These are indeed exciting times in our nation’s history. Along with the other positive changes, here are some more that we cannot afford to ignore:

  1. Unite as Americans – It’s obvious that we are more divided as a nation today than we’ve ever been. Wicked forces have done everything they could to tear us apart along cash, class, and color lines. It is vital that we bring about a healing in our great nation. We will have to reach out to each other and show love and compassion. The world is watching to see if we are still the “United States.” The wise king Solomon wrote, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  2. Equip our next generation – It’s imperative that we train our kids in politics, economy, and morality just as much as we train them in sports, dance, and music. We cannot shelter them from the issues facing our nation and the world. Instead, we should prepare them to change the world for the better. If they are to continue the good changes that are coming, we will have to teach them to lead with wisdom and courage. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
  3. Prepare for a spiritual awakening – The recent shakeup proves once again that God is not through with our nation. When we study our nation’s history we notice that He sent the greatest spiritual revivals when things were really low. He loves to work in dire situations because it brings all the glory to Him. We cannot forget to give Him thanks for giving us a second chance. But that’s just the beginning. We will have to return to the promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Abraham Lincoln said, “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” The dream is still alive.

WHY I BELIEVE THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR AMERICA

WHY I BELIEVE THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR AMERICA by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Running From God  (1)We are in our series on the Book of Jonah, called, “RUNNING FROM GOD” and this morning we are in Jonah 3 for our message titled “WHY I BELIEVE THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR AMERICA.” One question that I am frequently asked is – “Is God through with America?” Or “Is America under God’s judgment?” This morning’s message is very critical for all of us.

Jonah 3:3b-6, 10 3b Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city belonging to God, a three-day journey in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes… 10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Overall Background: We are at that point in our study of the book of Jonah where the focus has shifted from God working with Jonah as an individual to God working with the Ninevites as a people. So far we’ve seen how God disciplined Jonah when he disobeyed Him. Now we will see how God dealt with Nineveh because they disregarded Him.

This morning’s message is very critical for us to hear. In some ways, America is where Nineveh was 2700 years ago. We are in the middle of an economic, moral, and spiritual bankruptcy, just like the Assyrians. God is speaking to us today just as He spoke to the Ninevites of Assyria. He is giving us the answer to our problems as a nation. The question is – “Are we going to listen?” Before we get into the message, let me ask you this morning – “Do you care what’s happening in our nation?” Sadly, many people – young and old – think that as long me and mine are okay, I don’t care. Hopefully, this message will make you aware of what is at stake. If you do care, this message will give you the hope you are looking for our nation.

There are 3 things we will see in this message: First, the Morality of Nineveh; Second, the Message of Jonah; and finally, the Mercy of God.

 I. THE MORALITY OF NINEVEH.

Listen once again to verse 3…Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, belonging to God. Four times it claims that Nineveh was a great city. It even adds that it belongs to God. Why did He say that? Let me give you 3 reasons for that:

#1.It was great in size.

It took 3 days journey to walk through this city. It was not just one city but also a conglomerate of two or three cities, like RDU. Altogether it was a distance of 60 miles. The walls were 100 feet high and broad enough to let three chariots ride side by side. The city was big enough to have large spaces for farming and pasture. This would keep them self-sufficient in case they were surrounded. It had beautiful palace for the king. It is claimed by archaeologists that the population was somewhere over a million people.

#2.It was great in sin.

They were cruel in their treatment of their enemies. They did things that I cannot describe to you. All that we know of torture techniques fails in comparison. Historical records talk about pyramids of human heads after the defeat of the enemy. Boys and girls were burnt alive. Listen to how Nahum describes Nineveh – Nahum 3:1-5a 1 “Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery. Its victim never departs. 2 The noise of a whip And the noise of rattling wheels, Of galloping horses, Of clattering chariots! 3 Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear. There is a multitude of slain, A great number of bodies, Countless corpses—They stumble over the corpses— 4 Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, The mistress of sorceries, Who sells nations through her harlotries, And families through her sorceries. 5 “Behold, I am against you,” says the LORD of hosts.” Not a place that you and I want to go on a vacation.

#3.It was great in history.

The first time we hear about Nineveh is in the Book of Genesis 10. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Shem’s son Asshur founded the nation of Assyria. He left Babel and moved out and obeyed God. But the sons and grandsons of Ham were rebellious before God. Listen to Genesis 10 and verse 8 onwards. Ham’s son “Cush begot Nimrod.” Nimrod = marad (Hebrew) means to rebel. In essence, it means, “let’s do as we please.” “he began to be a mighty one on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.” It means “rebellious one before the Lord.”Early historical documents tell us that Nimrod was like the first Antichrist. He was a dictator. He tried to turn people away from God and to follow him. He was a hunter – not of animals but of men.

10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. In Babylon, he led the people of the world, at the time in the land of Shinar, Babylon, the land of modern day Iraq, to build “a tower whose top is in the heavens.” It was a temple dedicated to the worship of the heavens, the worship of the constellations, the worship of the sun, the moon and the stars (zodiac). This was sun worship. Today, all throughout the world you will find sun worship.But Nimrod did not stop there. 11 From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh…” What was his purpose? Maybe he was trying to infiltrate and corrupt Assyria like Babylon. This was how Nineveh got started.But for some reason it says in 3b Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city belonging to God, Meaning: God cared about Nineveh.

In many ways, we are where Nineveh was 2700 years ago. We are a great nation and we are also a sinful nation. CNN did a poll recently on how Americans view morality. If you compare it with a similar poll done in 1987 by Time magazine, it tells us how far we have come. Everything from “having an abortion, engaging in homosexual behavior, looking at pornography, smoking marijuana, and living with someone before marriage” has become more acceptable!

First Landing - Abidan and Nicole

First Landing – Abidan and Nicole

Shah Family - Chesapeake Bay

Shah Family – Chesapeake Bay

There is one area where we are very different from Nineveh. Our nation’s history goes back only 400 years. In fact, last week we were at Cape Henry on Fort Story – a joint expeditionary military base. We stood at the place known as the “First Landing.” This place, by the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, is where the first English colonists arrived at 4am on Sunday April 26th, 1607. It is now marked by a granite cross, put there by the Daughters of the American Revolution. They did this in memory of the cross that was set up by the colonists on April 29th, three days later. What took them three days to plant the cross? Because the pastor Robert Hunt had called for three days of prayer and fasting, saying, “From these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World but the entire world.”

If God cares for Nineveh, a city founded by one who hated God, how much more does He care about America.

Application: There is a great attempt to rewrite the history of our nation. When you study history, it is obvious that our nation was founded as a Christian nation. Does that mean that everyone always acted in a Christian spirit? Of course not. But, because some lived contrary to the Bible does not mean all did. Nonetheless, we are a nation that is turning away from God. We are becoming greater and greater in sin. Unlike Nineveh, Christians are still a strong majority in this nation.

II. THE MESSAGE OF JONAH

4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Background: Just an 8 word sermon! Actually in Hebrew it is only 5 words! I think Jonah gets the Guinness Book of World Record for the shortest sermon. I call it the turn or burn sermon.

What was the result in Nineveh?

Jonah 3:5-9 5So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.

People wonder how can a nation or city like Nineveh respond so easily? Things were not going too well for Nineveh about this time. They had faced some military and diplomatic losses recently. They were also facing famine. There were some riots and uprisings among the people. Not only that, but they also had faced an earthquake and a solar eclipse in 768BC. Needless to say, God was working on Nineveh for sometime.

6Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

The formula for revival is there in the Bible.

2 Chronicles 7:14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Several times in our nation’s history it seemed that we had hit bottom.

  • First time around 1730’s – The American Colonies were going downhill and God sent the First Great Awakening.
  • Second time was around 1790 – People were moving west and the country was going downhill. God sent the Second Great Awakening in the east and west.
  • Third time was in 1857. A man by the name of Jeremiah Lanphier led the prayer revival and countless many were saved. God raised up men like D.L. Moody and others.
  • Again in the 1920s and 1930s it seemed the morals of our nation were gone. God raised up the Billy Sundays and the Billy Grahams and many others.
  • In the 60’s and the 70’s it was the Jesus Movement where disillusioned young men and women turned towards God.
  • Now again in 2014.

Application: What message are we bringing to the world? As a church, are we actively sharing the good news?

III. THE MERCY OF GOD.

Jonah 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Background: Some people have a problem with that – “God relented.” How can God change His mind? In the OT, 9 times we hear that God does not change His mind but 27 times it says that He changes His mind.

2 Peter 3:9-13 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. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Where do you stand with God? In Christ He has made a way for you. Do you know Him?

CHANGE OR DIE: A HUMBLE PLEA TO FELLOW CHURCHES (Article)

CHANGE OR DIE: A HUMBLE PLEA TO FELLOW CHURCHES (Article) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

(Published in the Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 18, 2014)

I’ve never been more conflicted about writing an article than this one. After much prayer and consultation with my lovely wife, I felt that I must write what God has laid on my heart.

Sometime back I did an online search of church buildings for sale. What I found was shocking! There were hundreds upon hundreds of church buildings – big and small, old and new – for sale all over the United States. The tragedy is no different even here. Not a day goes by that I don’t meet someone who laments – “People don’t come to church like they used to.” “If things don’t change, it’s a matter of time before we lock the doors for the last time.” Frankly, they’re right! The average church in America has fewer than 30 people on a given Sunday morning, most of them being senior adults. It won’t be long before they too will be on the real estate market.

When people ask me – “What can we do to get more young people in our church?” My answer to them is—“Change or Die.” Here are the 4 C’s that I suggest:

1. Convictions: Every church that wants to come alive must have solid convictions on key doctrines. If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then this article is not for you. If you have trouble with Jesus being the Only Way, Truth, and Life, then we’re not on the same page. If you think the Bible has errors, then there is no faith worth contending for. A church without convictions is like a ship without a rudder. It will float around until the supplies run out or the big storm hits.

2. Concern: Do you think the church is a hotel for saints or hospital for sinners? If you think the former, then you will care about your comfort and your pleasure. If you believe that the church is here to seek and to save that which was lost, then you will do whatever it takes to win every man, woman, boy, and girl to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we shouldn’t care about the needs of those in the body. It simply means that our focus should be outward. No person should be too different, no music too sacred, and no clothing too spiritual. Here’s a test: Ask yourself – Are my children and my grandchildren in church with me? Are they glad they came to the house of God? If the answer is negative, its high time you do whatever it takes to get them. If they don’t live nearby, reach others and God will send someone to reach your family, wherever they are.

3. Think Differently: You noticed that I didn’t start with a C. Aren’t we all creatures of habit! We hate change. We like things to be predictable. Now, I’m not suggesting that we tear down every tradition. As Proverbs 22:28 reminds us, “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” But we do need to set aside senseless traditions. Think about Jesus Christ – He honored His Holy Father and the Scriptures but He rejected the traditions of the scribes and the Pharisees. If you will allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in your church, He will open new opportunities and avenues for ministry that you never imagined! Rest assured that He will not bring confusion but always magnify Jesus Christ. It’s time you tip your hat to the past and roll up your sleeves to the future.

4. Commitment: Nothing happens overnight. Like that old saying – it takes 25 miles to turn a battleship around. But, if the pastor is committed to staying and the people are prayerfully willing to follow his leadership, then that church will rise from the ashes. There is incredible power in a church that loves one another and is united in vision. Oh, before I forget, let me warn you – Be prepared to be criticized, ostracized, and stigmatized. People will question your motives and doubt your ability but have faith. As Jesus promised, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

May all who come behind us find us faithful.

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 4)

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

How to behave this Christmas seasonYou know Christmas is here when: it takes you an hour to drive somewhere that normally takes 15 minutes; you can’t find a parking place at the mall; and people who are normally congenial snap at you. This series is to help us have the right attitude, not just during the Christmas season but also in every season of life.

Romans 12:9-13  9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;  11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;  13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Overall Background:  So far we have seen three messages in this series – 1. “How to Have Love Without Hypocrisy.” 2. “How to Hate Evil and Cling to Good.” 3. “How to Outdo Each Other in Showing Honor.” This morning we come to verse 11 and 12not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;” On the one hand, that verse seems like quite simple. But, pause and study it carefully and you will see that it is a message we desperately need to hear in America today. The title of this message is How to Stay Ablaze for God. Christianity in America is suffering:

–       Not because the gospel is weak (it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes),

–       Not because people are more sinful (people are just as sinful today as they were in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah),

–       Not because we don’t have the knowledge (we know more today than we ever did before),

–       Not because we don’t have the resources (never before has the church had all the literature, technology, and knowhow at its disposal),

–       Not because we don’t have the man power (we have more Christians today than any other time in history),

–       Not because we don’t have the time (there are still 24 hours in a day),

–       Not because we are more persecuted than before (study the early church that had to face the lions)

We try to pass the blame on this, that, and the other. The real problem in America is that most Christians have become anemic, lifeless, and weak. What is needed is the spirit of a Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla, men and women on fire for God.

This morning if the spiritual temperature of our nation troubles you, stop looking to Washington or Hollywood and start looking in the mirror. Are you ablaze for God?

The passage breaks down into three parts:

I. BE ON FIRE FOR GOD.

11 not lagging in diligence, A better translation of that would be “in zeal, do not be lazy.”

Christianity in America is suffering because we have lost the zeal, the fire, the passion, the urgency, the energy, the boldness, and the forthrightness that moved the world for God in previous generations.

Anytime you say that, immediately we think of someone who is pushy and obnoxious, trying to cram the gospel down our throat. No one wants that. That does more harm than good for the kingdom of God. People run when they see you coming. What we are talking about is “being in a spirit of revival.” It’s not that we have the gospel but the gospel has us. We are driven by our convictions regarding the lostness of every human being, the eternal judgment that is waiting in the end, the salvation through Jesus Christ being the only hope for them. The church is not a cruise liner. It is a rescue ship.

For e.g. Many years ago, when I first began in the ministry, I actually prayed to God for convictions. I had seen too many pastors and church people having a good time on a cruise liner while all around them there were people drowning in the water. It didn’t happen overnight but little by little God began to remove the complacency of my heart and replace it with His convictions.

Guess who was instrumental in this? The Holy Spirit. Listen to the next phrase – fervent in spirit, Again a better translation would be “boiling by the Spirit.” In other words, Ask the Holy Spirit to set you on fire. Our zeal for the gospel is not some self-induced passion but the Holy Spirit Himself sets us on fire. What you and I try to light ourselves on fire we fizzle out but when the Holy Spirit lights us up we begin to burn with an incredible unquenchable zeal.

That phrase “boiling by the Spirit” was used of Apollos in Acts 18:25 “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.”

Meaning: Set on fire by the Holy Spirit does not mean that you have all the answers and you have arrived. All is means is that moment and time you are completely under the authority and direction of the Holy Spirit

Any heart that is willing can have the Holy Spirit. He will empower whoever will honor Him.

Application: Many of us are on fire by the wrong spirit.

Now here comes another phrase that is critical for being on fire for God – serving the Lord. My paraphrase would be “with Jesus as Our Master.”

The purpose of the Holy Spirit is never to glorify Himself or you. His purpose is to glorify Jesus. Jesus Himself said in John 16:13-14  13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

Now we begin to walk, talk, think, and behave as Jesus. Now when we meet people, they see Jesus in us. There is no place for sin and self.

Robert Murray McCheyne, “Above all things, cultivate your own spirit. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear and your heart full of God’s Spirit is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin.”

Application: Are you on fire for God? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Are you living every moment to magnify Jesus Christ?

II. BE HOPEFUL AND PATIENT

12 rejoicing in hope,

What is HOPE? There are 2 ways people use the word hope: One, I sure hope it works out. Meaning = I don’t think it will get better; Second, Hope is on its way. Meaning = Don’t give up. There is help coming. It is the expectation of something better to come.

The Holy Spirit is the harbinger of hope. Listen to Romans 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Again, 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.”

Show me a person who is hopeless and I will show you a person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Anytime I hear I don’t think it’s going to work or I’m afraid it’s not going to work and I see a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit. The problem with our nation and our community is hopelessness. You can talk about hope and you can make hope your campaign slogan but if there is no genuine hope, nothing will happen.

Now someone might say, but you don’t realize how bad it is. Listen to the very next line – patient in tribulation. First the word tribulation refers to pressure to the point of breaking. Why are we surprised? Jesus said in John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation…”

How are we to face tribulation? Be patient. It is not some passive putting up with things but actively standing and enduring.

Someone might say “that’s hard to do.” Listen again to John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Application: Are you rejoicing in hope? Are you patient in the midst of trouble?

III. BE IN CONSTANT PRAYER

continuing steadfastly in prayer; Literally – busy yourself in prayer

Most of us busy ourselves in worry, in doubt, and in complaining.

Our prayer is our communication with the home base.

Stop praying and one by one like dominoes it will all crash. First to go is patience in trouble, next to go is joy, because there is no hope. Then, you are no longer following Jesus, no longer filled with the Spirit, and now you are simply existing with passion and zeal.

E.M. Bounds “Short devotions deplete spiritual vigor, arrest spiritual progress, sap spiritual foundations, blight the root and bloom of spiritual life. They are the prolific source of backsliding, the sure indication of a superficial piety; they deceive, blight, rot the seed, and impoverish the soil.”

In other words, your spiritual life, for practical purposes is dead. You can put up the tree, hang the wreaths, buy the gifts, sing Christmas carols but it doesn’t do anything for you or anybody else.

Application: Did this message describe you? Are you ablaze for God? Or, are you burned out for God?

John Wesley “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.”

Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING (article)

KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING, Pastor Shah, Henderson

(Article in the Local Newspaper – The Daily Dispatch, Henderson, July 20, 2013)

Keeping your Spiritual Fire BurningOne of the saddest sights for me is to see a Christian person or a church or a ministry that began in a fire but now living in a smoke. William Booth (Founder of the Salvation Army) once said to a group of new officers, “I want you young men always to bear in mind that it is the nature of a fire to go out; you must keep it stirred and fed and the ashes removed.”

The Book of Nehemiah is a great example of how the fire went out in the life of the Jewish people. You may remember the story – Nehemiah came to help them rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. It was a monumental task. They had to face opposition from the local rulers – Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. Nonetheless, they looked towards God, worked round the clock and completed the project in only 52 days! It was clear testimony to the hand of God upon their lives. The people were full of joy and faith. They stood for hours and read the Bible and confessed their sins before God. They made a covenant with God never to turn from Him. It was a real revival!

But, by the time we get to the final chapter of the book, we see a completely different picture. Everything that Nehemiah had worked for in twelve years had fallen apart. In fact, if I were writing the Book of Nehemiah, I would have left out chapter 13. Such is not the case with the Bible. It is the Word of God and it never tries to air brush the character flaws of its heroes. How did this spiritual decline happen? It began when Nehemiah had to leave Jerusalem and go to Persia for a year. While he was gone, the old enemy Tobiah saw his opportunity to sneak back in. The priest had allowed Tobiah to set up office inside the holy temple. Keep in mind – this was the same Tobiah who had who mocked the Jewish people and tried to discourage them. Now that he was allowed in, he was doing everything possible to sabotage the work. No wonder the temple was in disarray; no wonder the people were not giving and assembling; no wonder the spiritual fire had burned out.

How did Nehemiah react to all this? In his words, it grieved me bitterly.” (Neh. 13:8) All his hard work had gone to waste. He was outraged. It didn’t take him long to recognize the root of the problem. He immediately threw Tobiah’s belongings out of the temple and had it cleansed. Next, he brought back the articles of the house of God along with the grain offering and the frankincense. He chastised the rulers for neglecting the house of God and failing to pay the Levites. He challenged the people to start giving their tithes and offerings to the Lord. He did not mince words in confronting the people about their failure to assemble and intermingling with the pagans.

What is the lesson in all this for us? It is very easy to slip back to the same old in the Christian life. The place to begin is to recognize where we have allowed some Tobiah to creep back into our lives. Remember – this Tobiah can be a person, a habit, an attitude, or some sin. They may appear to be spiritual and friendly but they are the devil in disguise. Unless you deal with them harshly, your spiritual fire will continue to die. The next step is to restore your first love. Bring back your worship, your giving, and your allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, “You are doing a lot of good things. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING

KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING

Keeping your Spiritual Fire BurningOne of the saddest sights for me is to see a Christian who began in a fire or a church that began in a fire or a Christian work that began in a fire but now living in a smoke. William Booth (Founder of the Salvation Army) once said to a group of new officers, “I want you young men always to bear in mind that it is the nature of a fire to go out; you must keep it stirred and fed and the ashes removed.”

Nehemiah 13:6-9 6 But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.

Background:  If I were writing the Book of Nehemiah, I would have left out Nehemiah 13. After all, what better way to close than with Nehemiah 12, with the description of the joy and celebration of the Jewish men, women, and children as they dedicated the wall of Jerusalem to the Lord. What better way to close than with Neh. 12:43, “that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.” Just like all the fairy tales of the world – “And they lived happily ever after.”

Only difference – the Bible is not a fairy tale. It never tries to paint a false picture. It never tries to air brush the character flaws of its heroes. No matter the consequence—as someone once said—“The Bible never flatters its characters.” (Alan Redpath).

In Nehemiah 13, we find the most anticlimactic ending to an otherwise glorious book. Nehemiah had finished his twelve-year term in Jerusalem and had returned to Persia to report to the King. He was probably gone for maybe a year but when he returned, nothing could have prepared him for the tragic decline that he found—the priesthood had become corrupt; the people had neglected to pay the Levites and they had to leave the temple and go back to the fields; the people had forgotten the Sabbath and had stopped assembling; and furthermore, they were once again mingling with the pagan peoples around them (intermarrying with the enemies of Israel). In short, they were spiritually back to where they were before the revival of Nehemiah 9. In fact, they were worse than when they first started. How did that happen? As William Booth said, “It is the nature of a fire to go out,” whether it be personal revival or revival in your marriage or church or nation. “You must keep it stirred and fed and the ashes removed.”

Application: This morning’s message is probably the most important message in the entire series, in fact, the most important message ever.

3 things we will see here: Why revival dies? What is the result? What is the solution?

I. WHY REVIVAL DIES? OLD ENEMIES ARE ALLOWED BACK IN.

4 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah.

Background: Who was this Tobiah? Tobiah was the governor of Ammon to the east of Jerusalem. When Nehemiah first came to help the Jewish people rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, he was part of the group who mocked Nehemiah, questioned his motives, and even threatened him. Neh 2:19 tells us,“when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?” Unlike Sanballat and Geshem, who were straight outsiders, Tobiah was somewhat of an insider. His name was actually Hebrew, meaning “Yahweh is good,” but Nehemiah described him as an Ammonite. Instead of helping his people, Tobiah taunted Nehemiah and the Jewish people, saying, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.” You don’t need an army to bring down the wall. A little fox can do that.

How did Nehemiah deal with Tobiah? He replied in no uncertain terms, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.” Meaning: Nehemiah turned towards God; He prayed earnestly to God; He renewed his vision and refused to be distracted by the taunts; and, more importantly, he distanced himself from him. But, Tobiah never gave up. In fact, Neh 6:17 tells that “in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them.” In Neh 6:19, Nehemiah says that some of the Jewish people would even “reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him.” Then he adds, “Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.” Tobiah was a wicked snake of a man, pretending to be spiritual; he did everything to sabotage the vision of God’s people.

Application: In life, you will have many Tobiahs. They come across very spiritual but they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Deep inside, they are not happy to see you loving and serving the Lord. They are not happy to see your marriage going well. They are not happy to see your children walking with the Lord. They are not happy to see your church on fire for God. Somehow they appear spiritual but they are really not. Somewhere they have allowed Satan to get into their life. People like that do not change unless they allow God’s grace to radically transform them.

What do we find in Neh 13:4? Eliashib, the high priest, was allied with Tobiah and verse 5 “And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests.” Why? Did he not have anywhere else to stay in Jerusalem? This is conjecture but I think I am very close to the truth. A Jewish High Priest would not dare allow just anybody in the inner courts of the temple. As I mentioned, Tobiah was one of those spiritual snake in the grass types. When Nehemiah left for Persia he found his opportunity to sneak back in and what better place to set up office than in the temple.

Watch out for such spiritual types. They could not help you in the past. They cannot help you in the present. Somehow they like to sneak back in and control your life.

For e.g. We had someone like that in our church growing up. He appeared very spiritual but his motives were not clean. He would have special bible studies in his home. In the end, he turned many people away from the church.

Application: What brought you to Clearview? Your spiritual life was non-existent. Your marriage was in trouble. Your family was falling apart. God healed your life. You have grown spiritually. God has blessed you. May I ask you? Are you going back to the same old people. “Oh, I am wiser and stronger now. I know better.” You are allowing the same old habits, attitudes, and behaviors back in your life. Remember, Tobiah is not just a person from your past. He represents all the old enemies in your life. You think – its all water over the dam. Maybe it’s over your dam but not theirs.

II. WHAT IS THE RESULT? WE THINK WE KNOW BETTER.

Neh 13:10 “I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field.” Meaning: Levites were the worship leaders. Because of Tobiah the Levites were without support and were kicked out and had to go work in fields in order to survive.

One of the first thing to go when revival dies is Worship. Your heart is no longer in it. The words don’t make any sense. You just stare at the screen.

Neh 13:11 So I contended with the rulers, and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their place. 12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse. Meaning: The temple officers in charge of the gifts had left and gone home. Why? Nobody was brining any tithes into the house of God.

Another thing to go when revival dies is Giving. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Warren Wiersbe said, “Giving to others is one secret of staying alive and fresh in the Christian life.” Someone asked that great preacher, Phillips Brooks (who wrote “O Little Town of Bethlehem”), what he would do to resurrect a dead church. He replied, “I would take up a missionary offering.”

Neh 13:15 “In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions.” Meaning: The Sabbath was a day dedicated to the Lord; a day to rest our bodies; and a day to restore our relationships. Now it was business as usual.

Another thing to go when revival dies is Attending Church. We don’t keep the Sabbath but we do have a day to come together with other believers, be it Sunday or Saturday. We are starting a Saturday evening service to offer another opportunity to assemble.

Neh 13:23-24   23 In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. Meaning: The people of God were intermarrying with pagan neighbors.

How sad to see Christian boys and girls marrying someone who is lost. He comes from a good family. She is such a nice girl. He has a good job. She is real smart. Maybe she’ll get saved as she starts coming to church. She will pull him into the world. They will have children who cannot speak the language of Judah.

III. WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE.

What did Nehemiah do?

Nehemiah 13:8a, “And it grieved me bitterly;” Maybe this message this morning has grieved someone’s heart – some husband, some wife who knows things are not right. Some father, some mother who knows that your family is not where they were last year or year before. It grieves your heart.

Nehemiah 13:8b-9, “therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. 9 Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. Maybe this message has challenged someone to throw out that habit, addiction, and attitude. It has challenged someone to ask the Holy Spirit to sweep clean your body – the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Nehemiah 13:11-12  11 So I contended with the rulers, and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their place. 12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse. Maybe this message has convicted someone that you have been robbing God in your tithes and offerings.

Nehemiah 13:22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Maybe this message has reminded someone to return to worship and guard their day with the Lord.

Nehemiah 13:25 So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Maybe this message has reminded some of you to be thankful that you have me, and not Nehemiah, as your pastor!

What is the point? As a pastor, my heart’s desire is to see revival come to Clearview. My heart’s desire is to see every boy, every girl, every man, and every woman living for Jesus, obedient to Jesus, sold out for Jesus, and loving Jesus. As Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, “You are doing a lot of good things. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Who is the Tobiah in your life? Sometimes you have to take radical steps to turn from the Tobiahs and return to Jesus.

THERE’S ONLY ONE WHO WILL DISCIPLINE AND DELIVER

THERE’S ONLY ONE WHO WILL DISCIPLINE AND DELIVER

God the Father Disciplines and DeliversPeople, when they are going through a difficult time, will say something like “maybe God is punishing me for all the bad I have done” or “I’m getting what I deserve.” Listen carefully: God never punishes His children. He disciplines them. There is a big difference between punishment and discipline. The end result of punishment is fear, guilt, resentment, and anger. The end result of discipline is love, growth, respect, and security.

Nehemiah 9:3-8  3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one–fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God….22“Moreover You gave them kingdoms and nations,
And divided them into districts.
So they took possession of the land of Sihon,
The land of the king of Heshbon,
And the land of Og king of Bashan. 23 You also multiplied their children as the stars of heaven,
And brought them into the land
Which You had told their fathers
To go in and possess.…26 “Nevertheless they were disobedient
And rebelled against You,
Cast Your law behind their backs
And killed Your prophets, who testified against them
To turn them to Yourself;
And they worked great provocations. 27 Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies,
Who oppressed them;
And in the time of their trouble,
When they cried to You,
You heard from heaven;
And according to Your abundant mercies
You gave them deliverers who saved them
From the hand of their enemies.

Background:  For the past 5 Sundays we have been studying the 9th chapter of the Book of Nehemiah, known as the Levites’ Psalm. It tells us of the spontaneous revival that broke out among the Jewish people during the time of Nehemiah. They began by fasting, wearing sackcloth and pouring dust on their heads. Then, they stood and read the Bible for three hours and confessed their sins before God for the next three hours and worshipped Him. These people were truly broken over their sins. It was quite a sight!

It was true revival. We have signs in front of our churches announcing “revival in progress.” They had no sign but this was a real revival in progress. If you ask me as a pastor “what is my heart’s desire for Clearview at this point?”, it is to see revival come to our church. I want to see men and women, boys and girls, married and single, of all backgrounds broken before God and seeking His face.

These Jewish people affirmed 5 truths:

–       Truth #1 – There is Only One God;

–       Truth #2 – There is Only One Creator who Made Everything;

–       Truth #3 – There is Only One Plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ;

–       Truth #4 – There’s Only One Who Hears Our Cry.

–       Truth #5 – “There is Only One Who Will Freely Forgive.”

This morning we come to Truth #6 – “There is Only One Who Will Discipline and Deliver.”

Once again 3 Questions come to mind:

I. WHY DID THEY MAKE THIS CONFESSION? BECAUSE THEY HAD FORGOTTEN THE SOURCE OF THEIR BLESSINGS.

Listen to 22 “Moreover You gave them kingdoms and nations,
And divided them into districts.
So they took possession of the land of Sihon,
The land of the king of Heshbon,
And the land of Og king of Bashan. Meaning: When the people of Israel entered the Promised land, they asked Sihon, the king of the Amorites, to allow them to pass through their land. They even promised not to go off the main path into their fields and vineyard. But Sihon refused to let them pass through and, instead, went to battle against them. The people of Israel were not experienced in battle but they fought and won against Sihon and took the territory of the Amorites. Again, the people of Israel tried to pass through the land of Bashan. This time Og, the king of Bashan, went to battle against them. Again, the people of Israel defeated them. Both times they gained control of the territory east of the Jordan River and north of the Arnon River.

Now there are two ways to look at this:

  • One way is to say – “No one can stop us.” “Whatever we set our minds to, we can do it.” “You mess with us and we break you in two.” This is the earthly way. This is the fleshly way. This is how even many Christians look at life. Before the doctor’s visit, please keep me in prayer. After the doctor’s visit, thank goodness it all worked out. Before the crisis, please pray that this problem will go away. After the crisis, that was no big deal. I don’t know why I was so worried.
  • There is a second way. This way says in verse 23 “You also multiplied their children as the stars of heaven,
And brought them into the land 
Which You had told their fathers
To go in and possess. 24 So the people went in
And possessed the land;
You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land,
The Canaanites,
And gave them into their hands,
With their kings
And the people of the land,
That they might do with them as they wished.” Meaning: God is the source of all our blessings. He wins our battles. He gives us all good things. This is a life lived on gratitude for what God has done for us.

Application: How do you see the good things in your life? Do you see them as your personal accomplishments or do you see them as God’s blessings? Take our nation for example. Somehow people have to come to think that we have created this nation and we can do whatever we want to with it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listen to verse. 25 And they took strong cities and a rich land,
And possessed houses full of all goods,
Cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves,
And fruit trees in abundance.
So they ate and were filled and grew fat,
And delighted themselves in Your great goodness. Do we realize the source of our blessings? Have we forgotten what God has done for us?

II. HOW DOES GOD DEAL WITH HIS DISOBEDIENT CHILDREN? HE DISCIPLINES AND THEN DELIVERS

Listen to verse 26 “Nevertheless they were disobedient
And rebelled against You,
Cast Your law behind their backs
And killed Your prophets, who testified against them
To turn them to Yourself;
And they worked great provocations. What a sad commentary on the people of Israel! They forgot what God had done for them. They disregarded His Laws. They killed His messengers. And, they provoked God with their sins.

So what did God do? 27 Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies,
Who oppressed them;
Meaning: God gave permission to their enemies to come against His people. This seems harsh but it was not punishment. It was discipline. As our heavenly father, God disciplines us when we stray away from Him. Let me remind you that there is a world of difference between punishment and discipline. He does not punish because He has already punished Jesus Christ who took our sins upon His back. For Him to punish us who are saved would be “Double Jeopardy.”

Here’s how you can know the difference:

PUNISHMENT

DISCIPLINE

 GOAL – INFLICT PENALTY  GOAL – PROMOTE GROWTH
 FOCUS – THE PAST  FOCUS – THE FUTURE
 ATTITUDE – ANGER & BITTERNESS  ATTITUDE – LOVE & FAITH
 ACTION – TORTUROUS & LEAVES PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL SCARS.  ACTION – PAINFUL BUT LEAVES NO SCARS. IT IS GIVEN CALMLY, QUICKLY, CONSISTENTLY AND SPARINGLY.
 RESULT – FEAR, GUILT, RESENTMENT AND MORE ANGER  RESULT – SECURITY, RESPECT OF AND FOR AUTHORITY

Does God leave us in our trouble forever? Of course not! Listen to the second half of verse 27 “And in the time of their trouble,
When they cried to You,
You heard from heaven;
And according to Your abundant mercies
You gave them deliverers who saved them
From the hand of their enemies. 28 “But after they had rest,
They again did evil before You.
Therefore You left them in the hand of their enemies,
So that they had dominion over them;
Yet when they returned and cried out to You,
You heard from heaven;
And many times You delivered them according to Your mercies,

Application: Maybe you are going through a situation right now where God is disciplining you. Don’t lose hope. Hang in there. Cry out to Him. He will deliver. He will not forsake you. Let me add something to this – you can only tell if you are going through a time of discipline. You cannot judge if someone else is being disciplined. Leave them in the hand of God.

III. HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME? DISCIPLINE IS THE PROOF THAT WE BELONG TO GOD

Listen to Hebrews 12:7-8    7If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  8But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 

Discipline is the proof that you and I belong to God.

Are you a child of God?

Story of Ben Hooper (the former governor of Tennessee) – A little boy was born in the Newport Tennessee, which is set in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. He was born out of wedlock and even though his father later adopted him, he struggled as a child due to the stigma attached for being born out of marriage. In those days kids who did not know who their fathers were were ostracized. People would not even let their children play with that child. It was as if they blamed that child for his/her own birth. In school kids wouldn’t play with him so he would stay in his desk and study. At lunch he ate by himself. Then he heard about a new preacher who had come to town and he heard good things about him. So he went to hear him but he got there late, sat in the back, and left early. He didn’t want anyone to know him. But for the first time in that child’s life, he heard the message of hope. He kept going back and after 6th or 7th Sunday, he was so engrossed that he forgot to walk out early. Then the service ended and Ben got up to walk out but he couldn’t leave because of the people in the aisle. Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the preacher. He asked, “Who do you belong to?” It became quiet. Then the preacher said with a smile. I know who you belong to. In fact, the resemblance is quite clear. You are a child of God. That little boy went on to become the governor of Tennessee and wrote his autobiography titled, “The Unwanted Boy.”

Invitation: All of us come into this world as orphans. Through Jesus Christ we are brought into the family of God.

John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

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