Fulfilled: Time of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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Introduction:  Sometimes pastors get some funny letters! Here are just a couple written by kids – “Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there,” “Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister,” “Dear Pastor, Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class.” I get some funny letters too but sometimes I get some really thought-provoking ones, like the one I’m about to read from a young man in our church. I’ve asked for his permission. He wrote — “Hi Pastor Shah! …I greatly appreciated your message today. I’ve been working on several questions lately that I can’t seem to find an easy way to answer. Questions of faith, I have found, can’t necessarily be resolved by scientific journal databases! Your sermon today, on the other hand, helped me in getting one of those questions to an articulate state. Would you mind either helping me with one of these, or pointing me towards some reputable resources where I can research the topic? Thank you.” I answered, “Of course. I’ll do my best.” “Awesome, thank you! Alright, here’s my main question at the moment: What evidence is there for the supernatural?” Meaning: How do we know that there is a world beyond what we can see and touch? Tough question but a great reminder that our young people have not given up on Christianity. It’s just that they have questions that we need to answer. It’s not enough to say “We believe it and that settles it.” We also have to explain “why we believe it.” I’m preaching our Christmas series “FULFILLED” in the hopes that it will answer some of those questions about the supernatural birth of Christ. Our ultimate goal is to capture our young generation.

Matthew 1:17 “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.”

Question: That’s probably the oddest opening scripture I’ve ever read. Now, you may not know it but that verse is considered the John 3:16 of the Gospel of Matthew. One scholar called it “the gospel in miniature.” We’ll look at it in detail in just a minute but it gives us the timing of the gospel. If you notice, it begins with Abraham with whom God made his covenant promise to bless all the families of the earth. Then, it proceeds to David through whom God blessed the people of Israel. Then, it falls into the Babylonian exile because the people rejected God. Finally, in God’s timing, Christ came to save his people from their sins. Promise – Blessing – Rejection – Salvation. This is the story of God’s people in a nutshell. Is that your story? Is Christ your Savior?

Context: The passage we just read has been a thorn in the side for many evangelical scholars. In fact, many who are against Christianity have pointed to this verse to prove that the Bible has errors. Some of ya’ll are wondering what exactly is the problem in that verse. Listen to it again – Matthew 1:17 “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.” There are several issues here:

  1. To start with, the time between the three sections is not equal. Between Abraham and David, there was at least 1000 years. Now, from David to the Babylonian exile, the there was only 400 years, less than half the time between Abraham and David. Then, from the Babylonian exile to Christ, there was 600 years. So, the sections are 1000 – 400 – 600. If there were 14 generations in between each section, that would make the average generation in the first section about 70 years, the average generation in the second section 28 years, and the average generation in the third section 42 years. It’s all over the place. By the way, the average generation is typically only 25 years.
  2. In the first two sections (from Abraham to David and from David to the Babylonian Exile) there are 14 names but in the last section (from Exile to Christ) only 13 names. One seems to be missing unless you count the last one from the second list again in the third list, then it’s 14 again. It appears so subjective and contrived.
  3. When you compare Matthew’s genealogy with the genealogies in I Chronicles 1:28, 34; 2:1-15, and Ruth 4:18-22 and the list of the kings in I and II Kings, Matthew skips over certain names in his genealogy. In fact, he omits as many as 5 kings between David and the Exile. Plus, you can also compare with the genealogy in Luke 3 and notice several more names there than in Matthew.

What exactly is going on? Does Matthew not know how to count? Did he not have an accurate list from which to copy? Is he manipulating the list to fit his purpose? Does the Bible have errors? Of course not. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. It is given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is God-breathed. If God is perfect, then whatever he breathes out is also perfect. Plus, we have plenty of other places that stand true so we can say “Let’s look for reasons that prove that this one will stand true as well.” For e.g. What happens when a traffic light goes out? Do you reject the entire signal system everywhere? Of course not. They send someone to figure out what’s wrong and repair.

There are 2 possible solutions:

  1. The number 7 is a very important number in the Bible. Many many times it is mentioned: Genesis 2:3 “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 8:4 “Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.” Exodus 13:6Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord.” (Passover) Leviticus 4:6 “The priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil of the sanctuary.” Numbers 28:19 “And you shall present an offering made by fire as a burnt offering to the Lord: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish.” I don’t have time to look at every mention of 7, here’s just a couple more. Psalm 12:6 “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.” Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”

Seven is the number of completion. So, 7 + 7 = 14 means double completion. In the first section, there are 1st 7 and 2nd 7. In the second section, there are 3rd 7 and 4th 7. In the third section 5th 7 and 6th 7. With the coming of Jesus we now have 7th 7 which is total completion. He is it! There’s no one else.

  1. The number 14 is also a very important number in the Bible. Many time it is also mentioned: Numbers 28:16 “On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the Lord.” Numbers 29:13 “You shall present a burnt offering, an offering made by fire as a sweet aroma to the Lord: thirteen young bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs in their first year. They shall be without blemish.” 1Kings 8:65 “At that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days and seven more days—fourteen days.” There is a reason why I focus so much on the Old Testament. Because, the New Testament is grounded in the soil of the Old Testament. Without a proper understanding of the OT, we will misunderstand the NT.

Something else under 14, David’s name, according to a system called Gematria (where each Hebrew letter has a numeric value – A = 1, B = 2, G = 3, D = 4, H = 5, V = 6; An example is 666 in Revelation 13:18 – “Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” Probably, Nero Caesar) had the numeric value of 14 where D = 4, V = 6, and D = 4. If you remember from last week, David is very important in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew begins his gospel by saying Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Even though Abraham was chronologically first, David was as Jewish as they get. Remember the illustration of John Smith and George Washington. The second is far more American. Also, in the list of the genealogies, David is number 14. Bottom line: Matthew is not trying to give us the biological genealogy of Jesus. You can go and find that out like Joseph did when he went to register in Bethlehem. He is far more interested in giving us the dynastic genealogy of Jesus. Matthew wants us to understand that Jesus came from the line of David to claim his rightful throne. He is the true fulfillment of the promise that God had made to David. Jesus is the true king of Israel, the true king of the Jews. Where David messed up, Jesus won’t and didn’t. By the way, we need to remember that those kings who were omitted were all cursed. Read the rest of Matthew and you will realize how much emphasis there is on the title “Son of David” for Jesus!

Ultimately, what Matthew is trying to tell us is that Jesus is the completion of God’s plan of redemption. The true king has come in God’s appointed time. Is he your king or are you still living as if you are your own king? Is he your Savior?

Fulfilled: Family of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Day by Pastor Abidan Shah

DARK DAY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Dark Day

Introduction:  On August 21, 2017, people who lived in that 70-mile-wide ribbon all the way from Oregon to South Carolina experienced what is known as the total solar eclipse. It was the first time in almost 38 years that this natural phenomenon was going to pass through the United States. From our church, we had two van loads of people who travelled down to my old college in Georgia to see this incredible celestial event. We found us a nice shady spot from which we could glance at the sun wearing those eclipse glasses. We had looked up the time when it would be total solar eclipse and it was going to be at 2:37pm and last no more than 1 min 59 secs. As the appointed time began to draw near, everything turned eerie – the leaves did not look as green, the stream flowing by did not look as clear, the sky took on this dark and dreary color, and everyone felt as if the end of the world had come. the moon lined up directly in front of the sun, leaving a bright ring in the sky, and everything went dark. Even the birds stopped singing and the crickets began chirping. When it happened, involuntarily we all began to shout and cheer! I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. As incredible as that was, there’s coming a day much much scarier than anything we can ever imagine. That’s the title of our final message in our series through Malachi – “DARK DAY.”

Malachi 4    1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the Lord of hosts.

Question: Some people think that this world is just floating as some abandoned ship in the middle of the ocean. Not true. God set this ship to sail when he created this world and he is guiding it to its appointed destination. Make no mistake that it will reach its destination on the day that he has decreed. Are you prepared for that day? Are you prepared to face your maker? Are you living each day as if this could be the day? Are you telling others about Christ? Are you saved?

Context: In this final chapter of the Book of Malachi, God gave the people of Israel a glimpse of the future. Listen again to Malachi 4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.” God was telling his people, the people of Israel, that there was a day coming when he will execute his judgment on those who they were saying were the “proud but blessed” and the “wicked but successful” and it will destroy them. This was the same day that God mentioned 2 verses earlier in Malachi 3:16-17 where he listened and heard those who feared him and desired to please him speaking to each other about him. He says, “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels…” In other words, on the very day that God will proudly display those people of Israel who love him and desire to please him, he will crush those wicked who appear to be blessed in this life and seem to get away with wickedness.

 The OT is filled with many references about this “day.” Sometimes it’s called the “Day of the Lord,” sometimes the “Day of Tribulation,” other times the “Day of Judgment,” “Day of Wrath,” “Day of Jacob’s Trouble,” or even the “Day of Vengeance of the Lord.” Obadiah, Joel, Zephaniah, Isaiah, Ezekiel – they all talk about this day. It is spoken as “one day” but if you study it carefully, it represents the idea of God’s many judgments upon the wicked throughout history, culminating in a final ultimate judgment, the Day with a capital D. If you’ve studied biblical prophecy, we call it the “Great Tribulation.”

Let me pause here: I’ve spent a lot of time studying prophecy and eschatology (the study of the end times) and this is what I’ve found – Some people become obsessed with prophecy and others become adamant and argumentative over some view in prophecy. They begin to suffer from what’s known as the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” Abigail sent me a quote from them yesterday. By the way, David Dunning and Justin Kruger are social psychologists and professors who published a very interesting study in 1999. In a nutshell, the study proved this – “The less people know, the more they think they know.” Have you ever heard the statement – “Little knowledge is dangerous.” When it comes to prophecy, I have found a lot of dangerous people. They read a book or two and listen to some series from some favorite preacher and they become experts on the end times! I’ve preached many sermons on prophecy and this is what I’ve found – “The more I read and study prophecy, the more complex it becomes!” So, should we not study it? Of course not. We should study and teach prophecy but do it with humility and the right focus. Revelation 19:10 “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

What can we make of this prophecy? First, it is given to the people of Israel. Malachi was written to those Jewish people who were back in the land after their exile. It was written to confront their sins and to commend those who were pleasing God and speaking to one another about him. This prophecy will be fulfilled for the people of Israel in the end of times. In other words, God still has a purpose for ethnic Israel. Sometimes people have a problem with that. They think that the church has replaced Israel. They quote passages like Romans 9   6 “…For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham…” That’s a big misinterpretation of that passage in its context. Read the verses prior starting in Romans 9   2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. Paul is saying that he is so burdened for his people, the people of Israel, that if he could, he would go to hell so they could get saved. Later he says in Romans 10   1 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not…2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” Why is he saying all this? The Jewish people had rejected Jesus their Messiah so the question was “Is God through with them?” Listen to Romans 11   11 “…Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” Then he gives a powerful imagery of Israel being the olive tree and the Gentiles being the wild olive tree. Paul says in verse 17 “if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them…” 18 do not boast against the branches…remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” What does all this mean? God is not finished with the people of Israel. There’s coming a day when he will once again exalt his people and work through them. The reminder to us is to never turn our backs on the Jewish people.

Let’s return to Malachi – 2 “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…” The question that is often asked at this point is “where will the church be at this point?” Will we be there to see the Sun of Righteousness? I believe the imagery for the church is not the “Sun of Righteousness” but what Revelation 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” Does that mean that we will be raptured? Also keep in mind Revelation 2   26 “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations…28 and I will give him the morning star.” It could be that we may be gone before the day dawns or we may have to overcome and Jesus will guide us as the morning star.

“…And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.” But at the outset 144,000 Jewish people will be saved and they will go out as missionaries. All of them like the apostle Paul or the prophet Jonah or the apostle Peter. They will be filled with the Holy Spirit, not having to learn any language and they will go to the uttermost parts of the earth. There will be persecution. Israel will be attacked but God will save them. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the Lord of hosts. Today many countries are trying to destroy the Jewish people. Make no mistake, they will ultimately win. God will be faithful to the covenant he made to his friend Abraham.

4 “Remember the Law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Meaning: One major sign of the fulfillment of God’s timing is when there is no generational gap. Also remember, the plan of salvation has always been the same – Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Dr. Vance Havner said, “You can give a Bible and a candle to a child of God then put him in a dungeon. Even there, he will know more about what is going on in this world than all of Congress and the Pentagon put together.”

When will all this be? 1Thessalonians 5   1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

Be ready now. Get saved. Tell others. Live pleasing to God.

Trash Talk by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRASH TALK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Trash Talk

Introduction:  Some years back couple of our kids were complaining to Nicole about how much we make them work around the house and how much we should pay them. They didn’t realize that I was in the other room listening to their griping. So, I pulled out a piece of paper and started writing down everything we did for the kids and how much they owed us: Rent – $200/month; Food – $200/month, Gas – $100/month; Clothes – $75; Field trip – $30; and on and on. When we added it all up and tallied it with what they said we owed them, they owed us money! So, the kids wisely decided that it was better not to talk about getting paid. In Malachi, the people were also complaining against God about how much they were serving him and getting nothing for it. God heard them trash talking his name and he confronted them. That’s the title of the message: TRASH TALK.

Malachi 3    13 “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the Lord, “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ 14 You have said, “It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’” 16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.

Question: What do you say about God? Do you trash talk his name? Do you fear him? Do people hear you talking about God or do they hear you talking about others? Do you trash talk others or do you edify others? Are you saved?

Context: Throughout the book of Malachi God was holding the people of Israel in contempt for their words. It appears that they were trash talking about God behind his back but when he confronted them through Malachi, they didn’t repent and ask his forgiveness. Instead, like ungrateful children they restated their grievances against God to his face! Listen to these verses:

  • 1:2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” Probably they were going around saying “God doesn’t love us and care about us.” But when God confronted them, they were not afraid to say it again to his face!
  • 1:7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’”
  • 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’”

These people had become so used to God that they were not afraid to talk back to him. “What’s he gonna do to us? Hurt us? Hasn’t he done enough of that?” You can call this a sin of excessive familiarity. They had lost sight of who God was. They had forgotten Habakkuk 2:20 “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Zechariah 2:13 “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!”

Application: Are you infected with the sin of excessive familiarity towards God? Have you have lost sight of the fact that you are in the presence of the almighty eternal sovereign God? Never forget that you are just a creation. Be silent before him.

The pattern continues in Malachi 3:13 “‘Your words have been harsh against Me,’ Says the Lord.” The Hebrew word for “harsh” is “chazek,” which actually means “stout” or “heavy.” You could almost translate this as “Your words have been too heavy/too much against me.” It means that the people of Israel were not only speaking against God and to his face but they were also trying to force their words, their theology, and their false ideas about God upon him. People do that even today. With no biblical basis, they try to create God in their own image and preference – “I think God is like…” It doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is what God has said about himself in his word.

When God confronted them, they replied as expected – ‘What have we spoken against You?’ God reminded them – 14 You have said, “It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’” Nothing new here. They’re saying the same things they said previously – “There’s no benefit to serving God. You can do all you can to please him but it doesn’t matter. You can even walk around in all black (Kedar) to show your grief but it doesn’t matter to him.” In fact, they were even being sarcastic here – “Say hello to Mr. Proud but Blessed and Mrs. Wicked but Successful. They can even tempt God and nothing will happen to them but all we have to do is one tiny thing against him and he’ll send us off into exile!” How sad that people would talk this way about God…

Now listen to God’s response – 16 “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them…” Something has changed. Previously, God would’ve argued with the trash talkers and pointed out their fault and told them to make some changes. Not anymore. God is done with this group. He has decided to leave them to their own demise. Make no mistake, he will deal with them for their trash talking against him but he is no longer going to work with them. By the way, that’s a very scary place to be when God leaves us to our own demise. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Romans 1:24 “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness…”

Now, instead of working with those who were bent on trash talking against him, God turned his attention to another group who are doing just the opposite16 “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them…” Don’t misunderstand the word “feared.” It doesn’t mean fright. It is the Hebrew word “yare’” which means “reverence, honor, and respect.” Here’s an example: “By the time the year is over, I will do 7 weddings! Most of the time the bride does not want the groom to see her until she’s ready to walk down the aisle. At one of the weddings, they were having issues because where the bride was coming from, she was in line of his vision before she could even get to the aisle and she said, “I’m afraid he’s going to see me too soon.” Afraid? What’s he going to do to you? “Oh, not that way! I want everything to be just perfect for him so that when he sees me it’s me and no one else.”

While the trash talkers were busy bad-mouthing God, there was another group that wanted to please God and give him their best and spoke to each other. What did God do? “And the Lord listened and heard them…” Can you picture God leaning down and eaves dropping over this group! What did he hear? “God really spoke to my heart through today’s message.” “I know you’re going through a tough time. I’ll be praying for you.” “We need to pray for that young man. I think God is doing something in his life.” “God has been so faithful to my family.” “Have you ever studied this verse? I wonder what it means.” “We need to spread God’s word into our community. So many people need Christ.” What was God’s reaction? “So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord…” Recording Angel! Write it down! Two people came out of Clearview and instead of asking where were going to eat or “was so and so still with so and so,” they talked about my word. That couple over there stopped and prayed for another couple who is going through a difficult time in their marriage. Those group of men are coming together to decide how they can spread my gospel in their community.

Most people find more joy in gossiping and trash talking than talking about the things of God. As someone once said, “Little people talk about people; bigger people talk about things; but the greatest people talk about ideas.” Now don’t misunderstand. This does not mean that you never talk about people. It means that you don’t trash talk people. We’ve all been guilty of wasting time talking meaninglessly about people. Jesus said in Matthew 12   36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Someone might say, “But it’s not as much fun talking about the Bible as it is talking about others.” Two verses earlier in Matthew 12:34 Jesus told the Pharisees, “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” It reflects what’s inside.

Application: When the Lord leans over you, what does he hear? Does the Recording Angel walk away from you shaking his head? Are you the kind of person who edifies others by their words? There’s something else that this group was doing“So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.” They were also thinking about God. Do you think upon him, upon Christ? Someone might say, “That’s so arrogant of God for wanting us to think of him!” Not really. As Donald Grey Barnhouse once said, “God is perfection and perfection is always glad when imperfection is interested in perfection.”

Now listen to God’s response – 17 “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels…” The word for jewels is “segullah” which means “prized possession. Meaning: God will display them proudly as a king displays his beautiful and precious diamond ring. “…And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” 18 Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God And one who does not serve Him.

Invitation: Are you his precious jewel? Can people discern easily that you serve God? Or do you trash talk God and others? Are you saved?

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?

Refining Fire by Pastor Abidan Shah

REFINING FIRE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Refining Fire

Introduction:  One night a chemical plant outside the city limits caught on fire. The alarm went out to fire departments for miles around. Here came all the big fire trucks from the city and started fighting the fire but it was no good. After about an hour the president of the company went to the fire chief and said, “We have some secret formulas in a vault in the center of the plant. I’ll give $50,000 to the engine company that brings them out safely.” The chief told his men – “C’mon, we need that money!” They strengthened their attack but two hours later it was still no good. The president raised it to $100,000. Just then they heard a long siren and a fire truck coming towards them. It was from the volunteer fire department out in the country. The truck looked like it should’ve been in a museum 50 years ago! The guys were bunch of retirees in their sixties and seventies. To everyone’s shock they drove right into the flames of the chemical plant. From the distance the other fire fighters with their shiny big trucks and all the public watched in amazement as those old guys hopped off their rig and began to fight the fire with intensity. In about half an hour, the blaze was out and the vault was safe! The president was so impressed that he raised the reward to $200,000! He walked over to thank them – “Wow! That’s Old School right there! What’re y’all going to do with the reward money?” The fire truck driver replied – “Old School? Phoo…The first thing we’re going to do is fix the brakes on that truck!” In this message we’re going to talk about a different kind of fire, not a destroying fire but a refining fire.

Malachi 2:17 “You have wearied the Lord with your words; Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,’ or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ 3   1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap.”

Question: Are you in God’s refining fire? Are you going through a tough time physically, mentally, financially, relationally, spiritually? Could it be that God is using that fire to refine you, to purify you? Are you saved?

Context: The book of Malachi has a fascinating literary style. Scholars have given it different names: judicial speech pattern, disputation speech, dialectical style. Bottom line: It reads like a courtroom drama where the people of Israel are on trial for falsely accusing God of being unfaithful to them, not coming through for them. What they didn’t realize was that God was their judge, their prosecuting attorney, their witness, and their executioner. So, welcome to God’s court. Let’s listen in on the trial – Malachi 2:17 “You have wearied the Lord with your words…” The people of Israel were bringing their leftover, rejected sacrifices to God and murmuring under their breath. What were they saying? “…Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,’ or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ Why were they talking like that? Bad things had happened in their lives and they were comparing themselves to their ungodly neighbors and saying, “Look at them. They don’t go to church but they don’t get sick with cancer. They don’t give their hard money in tithe but they seem to buy a new car and a new boat. They didn’t raise their children in church but they seem to be doing just fine. There’s no benefit to following God. Looks like bad people have a better life than we do. God must love them more. He’s not just. He’s not fair.” They were calling God’s character into question.

Listen carefully: I’ve been there. Let me warn you – If you look at life only through your natural eyes, you’ll talk like that too. If you compare yourself to your neighbors only by earthly standards, you’ll also become bitter towards God. In fact, Satan’s greatest temptation against believers is that “God is holding out on the best for you” or “God is not giving you what you deserve but I will.” He did that with Adam and Eve – “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He even tried that with Jesus – “If you fall before me, I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world.” He was implying that his father won’t!

Application: Are you comparing yourself to someone? Have you allowed bitterness to come into your life? Are you going through the motions but inside you have become angry towards God? You need to humble yourself, repent, and seek God’s forgiveness.

How did God answer their false accusation? 3   1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. What an unusual answer! Before we try to understand what all that means, let’s identify the different personalities mentioned in that verse:

  1. “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Who is the “I” and the “Me” here? This is God the Father. He is the one saying all this.
  2. “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Who is this “Messenger” who will prepare the way before God? Malachi gives his identity in 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Does that mean Elijah the prophet will come back from the dead? Not really. It means a person like Elijah the prophet will prepare the way before God when he comes. (We’ll come back to this in a second.)
  3. “…And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. Who is this “Lord” and this “Messenger of the covenant?” They are one and the same. The Hebrew word for Lord is “ha adon” which is God. The word messenger is “malech” which is also “angel.” This “angel of the covenant” is none other than the “angel of the Lord” who led Israel out of Egypt, went before them as they crossed the Red Sea, led them through the wilderness, and filled the temple with his glory. He is the pre-incarnate Christ. In other words, the Lord who will suddenly come into his temple and the Angel of the covenant are none other than Jesus. What is this covenant? It’s the same covenant that God made to save the world. He made it with Eve, with Shem, with Abraham, with Moses, with David, and on to the renewed covenant in Jeremiah. Hebrews 12:24 says “Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” What will he do? 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? Meaning: They thought God would come to fulfill all their desires and wants. Instead, when he comes, it will be unbearable. He will come in judgment.

Let’s put all this back together. The people of Israel were murmuring because God was nowhere to be found. God said, “I hear you and I’m coming but I’m sending my Son Jesus, the same one who made the old covenant with you. This is how you’ll know that he is the One – there will be a messenger who will clear his way first and then he will come without warning into his temple. And don’t think for a moment that this will be all fun and games. You won’t be able to stand it.” 2000 years ago John the Baptist came crying in the wilderness. Was he Elijah? In a sense, he was. If you remember, the angel told Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist in Luke 1:17 “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah…” by which he meant that the same spirit and power that energized Elijah in the Old Testament will also energize John the Baptist. Jesus also said in Matthew 11:14 “if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come,” meaning in spirit and power John the Baptist was like Elijah. What did John preach? Matthew 3   11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Some of y’all are thinking “But Jesus didn’t do that.” Read the gospels carefully and you will see how many times he pronounced judgment on the religious leaders – Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Then he called the temple a “den of thieves.” Then he cursed the fig tree as a representative of his people. Listen to him in John 9:39 “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

Listen carefully: The mistake we make is in thinking that all Jesus came to do was to be our Savior. Don’t forget that he also came as our Judge. Ever since then he has been doing both in our lives and he will complete his task with the people of Israel at his Ultimate Coming. If you want to know what his work now looks like, try to understand what it will be like at his Ultimate Coming – 2 “…For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.” Growing up I remember ever so often my parents would take me along to the goldsmith and silversmith shops. There was an entire row of these shops. It was always fascinating for me to watch them as a kid. Nowadays it’s all sophisticated but back then they used to sit on the ground in front of this small portable furnace. They would place the silver into this pan and hold it over the fire. After a few moments, the silver would turn into molten state. As the ore melted, the dross (impurity) would rise to the top. The silversmith would then take a small scalpel like instrument and remove the impurity and stoke the fire even more. Some more impurities would rise to the surface and he would keep scraping them off. Occasionally, he would sit up and look into the pan. What was he looking for? Silver in its purest form turns into liquid mirror. When he could see his face reflected in the pan, the silver was ready. Same way with us, God allows trials to come into our lives. Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, loss of health, financial troubles, family problems. What is God doing? He is turning up the heat. If he let him, he is removing the dross from our lives. How does he know when we’re ready? When he can see the face of his Son Jesus reflected in us. Is Jesus your Savior?

Rotten Blessings by Pastor Abidan Shah

ROTTEN BLESSINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Rotten BlessingsIntroduction:  Sometime back someone gave us some Georgia peaches. I love peaches! I had a couple and I put the last two in the fruit bowl in the kitchen. The next day Nicole went grocery shopping and bought a bag of oranges. One of the inhabitants of our home put the bag of oranges right on top of the peaches. I forgot all about them. Couple of weeks went by until we got to the last of the oranges and I felt something pulpy and slimy underneath. Buried under there were those two peaches. They had rotten. What caused them to rot? To start with, they began dying the moment they were plucked from the tree, the source of life. Then, under the weight of the oranges, their thin skin was easily broken which made it easier for the elements to take over. When the inside of the peaches became exposed to air, then microorganisms began to use them for their own purposes. I can go on and on but losing their source of life was the first step towards rottenness. So also with us, God blesses us with many blessings. But, when we detach ourselves from him, the source of our blessings, those same blessings become rotten. That’s the title of our message “ROTTEN BLESSINGS.”

Malachi 2   1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart… 9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law.”

Question: Are you detached from the source of your blessings? Have you lost sight of God in your life? Have your blessings turned rotten for you? Are you saved?

Context: In our first message in this series on Malachi we learned that the Jewish people had become ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards God. God sent Malachi to shock them back into reality. That’s why our series is called “Counter-shock.” As much as God was disappointed with his people, he was really angry with the spiritual leadership, the priests and the Levites. Listen to Malachi 2:1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.” God was holding the priests accountable for the behavior of the people. Never forget – We will all have to give an account at the judgment seat of Christ but those who are in leadership will face a far stricter judgment as James 3:1 warns us. Now listen to verse 2 “If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, (How do you give glory to God’s name? Praise him, Fear him, Represent him with truth and integrity) “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart. What does that mean that God would curse their blessings? It has 2 meanings:

  • First, it refers to the blessing that the priests would pronounce twice daily in the temple, one in the morning and the other in the evening. It’s found in Numbers 6 23 “…This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’ 27“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” God was telling them – “When you say those words, you’re actually cursing the people.” By the way, Malachi 3:11 tells us that their crops were failing terribly at this time.
  • Second, it refers to what the priests and the Levites considered to be their personal blessings (their financial compensation, food, and their children). They too had become a source of shame and suffering.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my favorite preachers from yesteryears, gave an excellent illustration of this in modern day America. Our nation was founded upon biblical values. Let me say here: There are elements in our country right now who are working very hard to tear down our foundations. Make no mistake, the attacks against our flag and our national anthem are symbolic of a much sinister attack against us as a nation. At least on September 11, 2001 we saw the planes flying into the World Trade Towers. This to me is worse because we cannot see that we are under attack but our foundational values are being torn from under us. Anyways, one of our foundational values as a nation was that Sunday was a day of rest, a day set aside to worship God. Six days we could do as we pleased but then the 7th day was to be the Lord’s Day. In the old days, everything slacked off by Saturday evenings to get ready for church the next morning. As our country departed from God, Saturday and Sunday became the weekend, the time to unwind. Saturday became the party night and still is and Sunday became the day to sleep in, especially if you had a hangover. Statistics tell us that 1 out of every 5 Americans are involved in an alcohol-related car crash and the day on which those injuries occur the most is Saturday and the second is Sunday.

Back to our illustration: After our Navy was destroyed in Pearl Harbor, our Congress held several hearings of the Joint Commission investigating the attack. There were as many as 9 investigations. Several books are there on it: At Dawn We Slept; Dec 7, 1941; Pearl Harbor Papers; etc. Our people went into the war department in Tokyo and found out that the Japanese espionage had been spying on America for years and that Admiral Yamamoto, the mastermind of the attack, had deliberately chosen Sunday morning as the day to attack. Why? Several reasons – the ships would be in the docks, most sailors would be out on leave because of pay day but more than anything, it was the one day that most people would be down with a hangover. Bottom Line: The Japanese had determined that if America was attacked early Sunday morning, it will find it most vulnerable! As you know, Sunday morning (Dec. 7th 1941) Japanese fighter planes came in. The man at the radar reported but the officer in charge didn’t do anything because of his hangover and the bombs were dropping and destroying our navy. Did God cause it to happen? Absolutely not! We took God’s blessing of the day of rest and turned into a day of hangover and our blessing became a curse. In other words, our Day of Rest became a Date which will live in Infamy, as FDR called it.

This is exactly what God is saying to us today. Every blessing comes from him but when you take him out of the blessing, it becomes a curse – Money (take God out and it becomes our Master); Education (take God out and you have school shootings); Technology (take God out and it becomes a distraction); Freedom (take God out and it becomes a liability); Marriage (take God out and it becomes a misery); and even Children (take God out and they become a nuisance) 3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants…” I would even add Church to that list (take God out and it becomes a meaningless ritualistic burden, a relic of the past). Have your blessings become your curses?

But God is not through – “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it. What’s going on here? To understand that you have to understand how sacrifices were done by the priests in the temple. It’s all laid out in the Book of Leviticus. When a person sinned, they would bring a lamb for the sacrifice. The priest would first examine the Lamb to make sure that it didn’t have any blemish. Keep in mind that all this was pointing to Christ. I Peter 1   18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things…19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Then the person bringing the lamb would place their hands on the head of the lamb. It symbolized the imputation/transfer of the sins of the individual to the animal. Again, it was a picture of Christ, the Lamb of God taking our sins upon himself. Then the priest would take the lamb by the wool and lift it on top of the altar. The altar was sitting North to South with the northern end towards the Holy of Holies. By the way, the cross was located on the north side of Jerusalem. Now, with one stroke of the knife the priest would cut the jugular vein of the lamb and the blood squirting out was caught in a bowl which was then placed on the North side of the altar towards the Holy of Holies. The Blood was to becoming the propitiation for our sins. So also Jesus poured out his blood as an atonement for our sins. Someone might say, “Isn’t that barbaric?” Leviticus 17:11 “…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Hebrews 9:22 “. . . without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Remission means “Cancellation of debt.” God will punish sin. Either he will punish it in the individual or he will punish it in the substitute. Jesus became our substitute. All you have to do is ask him to be your Savior.

What’s next? The priest would then take the blood from the North side of the altar and sprinkle it 7 times before the veil. It would signify God’s acceptance. Now he would come out and apply the blood to the altars. It was a symbol of the way being opened from God to us. Next, the priest would take the knife and quickly flay the lamb. The wool was used for clothing. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The skin was cured and the Bible would be written on it. Christ is the Word of God for us. The meat of the lamb was eaten by the priests. We feed upon Christ daily. Nothing of the lamb was wasted just as everything of Christ is essential for us. Then something else would happen. The priest would remove the intestines which was filled with unexpressed dung and put in a bowl on the south side of the altar. Later, that bowl along with the “offal,” which were the waste parts of the animal, were taken out the dung gate on the south side of the city and dumped on the ash heap outside the city walls. This place was called Gehenna, a place of constant burning. It became a symbol of Hell.

Listen again to verse 3 “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.” Do you get the imagery! God is saying, “If you reject the blood of the Lamb on the north side of the altar, I will smear your face with the dung of the Lamb on the south side of the altar and you will be sent to hell. By the way, this was not just any feast but the solemn feast, the Feast of the Passover. In other words, if you refuse Jesus as your Savior, you will have him as your Judge.

Invitation: Have your blessings become a curse? Have you removed God from your blessings? Have you received the Lamb of God? Is he your Savior or your Judge?

Cold Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

COLD LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Cold Love

Introduction:  Years ago there was a cartoon of an old farmer and his wife riding down the road in a pickup truck. The first frame showed the old farmer sitting behind the wheel with his arm out the window and the wife sitting up against the door on the other side. The second frame showed a young couple passing them. They were sitting so close to each other that you couldn’t tell which one was driving. In the third frame the old woman says to her husband, “Pa, you remember when we used to ride like that…What happened to us?” In the last frame the old farmer replies, “Ma, I ain’t moved…” It’s the same thing when it comes to our relationship with God. If you find that your love for him has grown cold, guess who moved? Not him. This is our first message in our series on the Book of Malachi. It’s called “Cold Love.”

Malachi 1    1 The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord.

Question: “Oh what a weeriness!” Some translations say, “Oh, what a burden!” It has the idea of exhaustion behind it. The people had become tired of serving God. For reasons we will see this morning, they had become sick of God. Does that describe you today? Has the Christian life become a burden for you? Have the things of God become a drag for you? If so, then you need a revival, you need a countershock. As someone said, “before you can be revived, you have to be vived, you have to be saved.” Are you saved?

Context: The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It belongs in a collection known as the Twelve Prophets or the “Minor Prophets.” They’re called “minor” not because they’re less important but because compared to the bigger writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel they were much smaller. But even though Malachi is small in size, it has a big message. To really understand that, we have to understand the context in which it was written. From my study of the language and theology of the book, I believe that it was written sometime towards the end of Nehemiah’s ministry. For those of you who may not be familiar, here’s a quick timeline:

  • In 538 BC God raised Cyrus, King of Persia, to free the Jewish people. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had taken the people into exile and had destroyed everything. Under Cyrus they were able to return and rebuild.
  • Some returned and by 515 BC (23 years later) the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt. God sent his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the people to rebuild the temple.
  • In 458 BC (60 years later) God sent Ezra the scribe to come and read his law to the people and call them to spiritual, moral, and social renewal.
  • In 445 BC (10 years later) God burdened Nehemiah to leave his high-profile position in Persia and rally the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem and they did it in 52 days! He also led them in revival. But then Nehemiah had to go back to Persia and spiritually and morally things began to go downhill again.

This is the time period in which God sent Malachi the prophet to his people. It was God who had brought them back into the land. It was God who had helped them rebuilt their lives. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the temple. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem. You would think that the people would be grateful to God and willing to serve him and obey him. Instead, they were becoming ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards him. Why? They were angry with God over why he had allowed them to go into exile in the first place. Why did so many have to die? Why did so many have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be turned upside down? They had forgotten that it was their sin that had brought the judgment of God. Now they were doubting the power of God, the love of God, and even the existence of God. As a result, some had turned towards atheism, others towards Epicureanism, and yet others had become reluctant believers. In other words, they were simply going through the motions but inside they were defiant towards God.

Illustration: Like the little boy whose daddy made him sit. He sat down with his arms crossed and said, “Fine. I’m sitting on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside.”

Application: Is that you? Have you become cynical and sarcastic towards God because of some bad situations? Are you simply going through the motions? Do you come to church but it’s a duty rather than a desire? Are you angry with God?

So God spoke to his people through Malachi– 1 “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” Some translations have it as “the oracle of the word of the Lord.” I believe that burden is a better translation because the word “massa” in this context has a sense of heaviness. The words that God is about to say to his people are heavy. Every message I preach I ask God to give me a burden for the people, a sense of urgency.

Now listen to the dialogue between God and his people. It’s in a “charge” versus “counter-charge” format – “God Speaks, Israel Speaks” 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. The word for love is “ahab” which has the idea of a sovereign, unconditional, and personal love. It represents covenant love. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” You have to read that with a tone of sarcasm and scoff. They were doubting the character of God.Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” What was God saying? Jacob and Esau were brothers. God in his divine sovereignty had chosen Jacob and his descendants to fulfill his plan of redemption in the world. There was nothing that special about Jacob. It was totally divine election. What God was saying to them is “Don’t you remember that I chose you to be my people? Don’t you remember that I am the reason for your existence?”

Application: Have you forgotten where God has brought you from? Have you forgotten that everything you have is a gift from God? We don’t go back to Jacob but to Jesus.

By the way, why did God say “but Esau I have hated”? The descendants of Esau were the Edomites. They were cousins but they hated the descendants of Jacob, the people of Israel. In fact, when Babylon came up against Jerusalem, the Edomites helped them to destroy the city. God says, “I have — 3 “…laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.” And if they try to rebuild, God said, “I will tear down faster than they can build. ‘They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness.’” In other words, God was saying “I will deal with them for what they’ve done to you.” By the way, sometime in the fifth century a group of Arab tribes drove the Edomites out of their homeland. By around 312 BC the Nabateans took over the region and made Petra their capital city. Nicole and I went there 3 years ago. It’s beautiful but a wasteland to this day.

6 “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts…” They were defying the honor of God. By the way, the reverence of God is not “organ music and lofty prayers.” It’s uncompromised obedience to him. Who were leading the charge here? To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, “In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ The priests and the Levites had no fear of God themselves. When the people would bring defiled food (the leftovers) and rejected stuff to the altar, the show-bread table and the altar of burnt offering, they would not stop them. They would say, “Yeah, it’ll work.” 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. 9 “But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. What a powerful analogy! People still try to offer God their leftover money, time, and talent. We are so prone to give what hurts the least. God says, “If you’re going to give me something, it should cost you something.” Why? It should be a sacrifice. It cost God something when he gave his Son on the cross.

Application: Have you lost the fear of God? Have you lost the reverence of God? Are you still trying to offer God your leftover money, time, and talent?

10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the Lord of hosts. 12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. They were openly disgruntled in worship. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord. Weariness is when you go from “I get to” to “I’ve got to” – “I’ve GOT to go to church” “I’ve GOT to teach S.S.” “I’ve GOT to sing.” “We’ve GOT to tithe.” Listen carefully: If you’ve lost the joy of the Christian life, you might as well stop the work of the Christian life. There’s nothing more dull, dry, boring, and tedious than Christian work without the joy of the Christian life.”

14 “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the Lord of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.

How to know your love has become cold? Doubt the character of God, defy the honor of God, and openly disgruntled in worship. Are you saved?

The Soul-Multiplier by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE SOUL-MULTIPLIER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul Multiplier

Introduction: I enjoy fishing but I really enjoy fishing with my boys. It’s more fun for me to watch them fish than to fish myself. It’s funny to me how they start out at the opposite sides of the pond until one of them starts catching fish. Then, before you know it, the other one starts sliding in the direction where the fish are biting because he wants to catch fish too. So also in today’s miracle, the disciples had cast their nets all night and had caught nothing until Jesus came to them and help them and when he did, they could not pull in the net because of the catch was so big. In this final message in our series on the miracles of Jesus, we’re going to learn that God wants us to fish, fish for souls. He’s willing to help us catch, not just one or two souls but a net full if only we would listen to him. After all, Jesus is the great SOUL-MULTIPLIER.

John 21   1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

Question: Have you caught any fish lately? When was the last time that you won a soul to Jesus? Did you know that God wants you to catch a net full of souls in your lifetime? By the way, before you can catch, you have to be caught. Have you ever been caught in the net of God’s amazing grace? Are you saved?

Background: This final miracle in our series comes from the Gospel of John again. You’ve heard me repeat throughout this series that John the apostle (writer of the 4th gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. As you know, signs were more than just miracles. They also proved that Jesus was/is God. Having said that, this sign was different. All the previous signs were done before Jesus went to the cross. They were done to prove that he was the Promised One. But then, Jesus did the ultimate sign by rising from the grave on the third day. No more signs were needed to prove that he was the Promised One. Now it was time for a decision. Listen to the verse prior to this miracle – John 20   30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” In other words, the time for signs was over. Now it was time to believe him or reject him.

Application: Many of you have heard message after message. You’ve been given proof after proof but you have yet to receive Jesus as your Savior. What are you waiting for?

Now back to our miracle: If the time for signs was over, then why did Jesus do this one more sign? Listen carefully: This sign was not done by Jesus to manifest the glory of God. This sign was done by Jesus to motivate his disciples to carry out the mission of God. In other words, this sign was not about the person of Jesus. This sign was about the mission of Jesus. First, let’s clarify what was the Mission of Jesus. He had given it to them just a few verses earlier in John 20   21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Meaning: The disciples were to go out in the power of the Holy Spirit and tell the whole world about Jesus and how he had come to forgive their sins. The message of salvation was now in the hands of the disciples and they had a part to play in the eternal destiny of people.

Application: By the way, this is also our mission when we get saved and join the family of God. We have the same mission as the disciples to seek and to save the lost. How is the mission coming? Are you seeking and saving the lost? This is the mission of Clearview.

Now that we know the mission, let’s return to the miracle in John 21. What is the sign behind this miracle? Listen again – 1 “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat…” Why in the world did Simon Peter say, “I am going fishing”? Why did he go back to his old life? To understand this, we need to keep in mind that the disciples had just been through the worst mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical rollercoaster of life. They had been through a very traumatic time, to say the least. Think about: Their Master had been killed right before their eyes and just when they thought it was all over, he had reappeared! How do you think they were feeling?

  • They were in shock. I doubt if any of us here have ever seen someone being killed. These disciples had seen a person they loved and respected very much killed in the worst possible way on a cruel shameful Roman cross.
  • They were disheartened. Imagine if you knew someone as amazing as Jesus for 3 ½ years. Imagine if you had seen and heard things that were mind blowing and life-changing as the disciples had seen and heard from Jesus and just when you thought that this Jesus would become your King Messiah and change the world forever, he was ripped away from you and killed. All that for nothing…
  • They were confused. Again, think about it – your Master died a cruel unjust death. How sad! How wrong! But just when you were beginning to process all of that, he comes back! “What! Are we hallucinating? Are we losing our minds?” Plus, he’s not exactly like he used to be. Something has changed about him.
  • They were feeling inadequate. Jesus was back and saying things like, John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” All they could recollect was how they had abandoned Jesus on the night he was betrayed. They were probably thinking, “Why do you even care about us? We turned our backs on you.”
  • They were feeling embarrassed, especially Peter. Think about the last encounter that Peter had with Jesus before he was crucified. Just as Jesus had warned him, he had denied him three times before the rooster crowed.
  • They probably felt that the cost to follow was too much. They must have given thought to what it would take to follow Jesus and the road seemed too hard. It was so much easier to go back to the familiar, the easy, and the inconsequential.

Application: Which one are you? Maybe you don’t feel shock since Jesus died 2000 years ago but do you at times feel disheartened, confused, inadequate, or embarrassed? Do you feel that the cost is too much? Are you tempted to go back to your old life?

What happened next? 3 “…They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” It never works out when you run from the call God has on your life. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. What’s amazing is that the Master doesn’t abandon us even when we abandon him. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. This was not about the fish. This was about their true calling. Don’t forget that each of us has been called by God to his mission. You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary but you have to be a soul multiplier.

Now watch how Peter responded – 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. Why? He was done running from God. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” How beautiful is that sight! When we mess up, Jesus doesn’t wait with a whip but with breakfast! Plus he wants us to join him in catching souls. 11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Why is the number significant? People have tried to come up with all kinds of ideas about it. Here’s my answer: Every soul counts in the kingdom of God. Let me draw some applications:

  • No matter our occupation, fishing for souls is our calling.
  • It never works out when you run from our calling.
  • Jesus expects from us on a large scale what he did on a small scale. John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
  • Our job is to cast. His job is to fill the net.
  • When we mess up, he waits for us with breakfast.
  • You have to be caught before you can catch others.

The Grave-Robber by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE GRAVE-ROBBER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Grave Robber

Introduction:  Graveyards are gloomy to say the least but some people have tried to lighten the mood by what they have written on their gravestone. Here are some of my favorites – “William H. Hahn: I told you I was sick”; “Robert Clay Allison: He never killed a man that did not need killing”; “Rest in Peace Cousin Heut: We all know you didn’t do it”; “Raised four beautiful daughters with only one bathroom and still there was love”; “Barbara Sue Manire (with a parking meter) – Our Mother…Her humor lives on”; Walter W. Stauffen: Uncle Walter loved to spend. He had no money in the end. But with many a whiskey and many a wife, he really did enjoy his life”; “Here lies Good Old Fred: A great big rock fell on his head.” I hope none of these were photoshopped. There is one gravestone that had to be carved twice. It was the gravestone of Lazarus. After 4 days in the grave, Jesus brought him back to life. He is the great GRAVE-ROBBER.

John 11   1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 

Question: Death is inevitable. Death is inescapable. Where will you go when you die? Jesus has not only brought us forgiveness of sin but he has also taken the sting out of death. Grave no longer has power over us. Have you received him as your Savior?

Context: The miracle we’re looking at today comes from the Gospel of John again. You know by now that John the apostle (writer of the fourth gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. Signs were more than just extraordinary events done by Jesus to help people in need. Signs also served to prove that Jesus was/is God. In this miracle, the word “sign” is used again. Listen to John 11:47 “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” In other words, the raising of Lazarus was more than just Jesus bringing a dead man to life. It was also a sign. What was the sign behind this miracle? The answer is found in John 11:43 “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’” The Greek words are “deuro exo,” where “deuro” is “come” and “exo” is “out.” Together, it is “Come Out!” Something else, when that word “deuro” is used with “exo,” you can actually translate the phrase as simply “Out!” Lazarus, even though he was dead, even though he was buried in the grave for 4 days, recognized the voice of Jesus, recognized the voice of his Savior and came out.

Let me illustrate: Imagine if were to stand in my driveway and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think Nicole or the kids would do? They would recognize my voice immediately and come running outside – “What’s wrong? What do you need?” How about if I were to stand outside your house and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What would you do? At first you may get startled but then you’ll recognize my voice – “That’s Abidan or Pastor Shah!” – and you’ll come outside and ask me, “Hey Pastor Shah! What’re you doing here? Is everything okay?” Now, what if I were to stand in someone’s driveway who doesn’t know me and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think they would do? Depends on who they are and where they live, they may start by dialing 911 and ask from behind the door, “Who’re you? What do you want?” or maybe even come out with a shotgun and tell me to get off the property. What is the difference between the first two and the last reactions? The first two recognized my voice and knew me but the last one didn’t.

To understand the sign behind this miracle, you have to back up to John 10 and get the context: John 10   2 “…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them….14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Then John tells us that they began to argue over whether he was crazy or had a demon. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” So, guess what they did. They tried to stone him again. Listen carefully to what Jesus said to them then – 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” In other words, if there’s a contradiction between my works and the Father’s (God’s), then don’t believe in me. But if my works lineup with the works of the Father (God), then believe the works and in turn believe that the Father is in me and I am in him.

What are the kind of works that the Father does? John 5:21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” John 6:39 “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” Repeatedly, Jesus told them that raising the dead and giving them life was the work of the Father (God). Jesus was sent by his Father to carry on his work.

With that in mind, let’s return to the miracle of Lazarus.

  • Jesus heard about Lazarus’ sickness but delayed coming for two days. Why? He said in John 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Meaning: Lazarus was going to be an object lesson to prove that Jesus was/is the Son of God. 2 days turned into 4 days and Lazarus died. Meaning: This was not going to be an ordinary healing miracle. This was going to be the big one, just like magicians do their toughest trick in the end.
  • When Jesus got there, Martha had lost all hope but Jesus challenged her in John 11 25 “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She replied 27 “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She was a sheep who heard the voice of the shepherd.
  • Mary also doubted and said to Jesus in John 11 32 “…Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” The words are literally “he got angry in his spirit and stirred up in himself.” Why? Because here was a sheep who was not hearing his voice but acting like those outside the fold. Jesus was so upset that when he got to the tomb, he wept. Now some people think that he wept because he loved Lazarus or he was moved by the sorrow of the family members. The word for Jesus weeping is dakruo while the word for Mary and the Jewish people weeping is klaio. These were not tears of sorrow but of anger.
  • As he made his way to the tomb, they continued to doubt him and verse 38 says, “Jesus, again groaning in Himself…” Same word as verse 33. Why? Because he was surrounded by those who were deaf to him.
  • When Jesus commanded them to move the stone, Martha objected in 39 “…Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Now the sheep who was listening to his voice is not listening either. Listen to Jesus’ response: 40 “…Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 “…And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Then he cried with a loud voice and the irony of ironies, the living people couldn’t hear the voice of Jesus but the dead guy heard it and came back to life.

Let me draw some applications:

  • Power over life and death belongs to Jesus.
  • His sheep hear his voice and follow him.
  • If you are a sheep and you cannot hear his voice, doubt has come in your life.
  • God takes doubts very seriously.
  • Once you belong to him, he will never let you go.
  • If you’ve never heard his voice, you don’t belong to him.
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