Living Hope by Dr. Abidan Shah

LIVING HOPE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Have you ever been disappointed? You were hoping for something but it didn’t turn out that way. As a kid, I remember when my mom would make my favorite desert. Before I would leave for school the next day, I would slide it behind the milk carton in the fridge. I was hoping that no one would find it until I got home. The moment I got home, the first thing I would do was to go look for it. Many a time I walked away so disappointed because someone got to it before I could. We all get disappointed over various things – friends, family, politics, culture. Today we will learn what the Bible has to say about a hope that doesn’t disappoint. We are in our series on 1 Peter and our message is titled LIVING HOPE. Please turn to 1 Peter 1:3. Main point: Unlike earthly hopes, the hope that comes from God never disappoints. Biblical hope is not based on earthly expectations and fears. It is based on the solid foundation of God himself. In other words, the hope that God gives is much more than the anticipation of something in the future. It is a deep personal trusting relationship with God.

1 Peter 1     3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Context: As you may remember from last weekend, Peter was writing to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Most of them were probably Jewish background believers who had lived in that part of the world for centuries. As Jewish people, they had already been ostracized; but now, because some of them had become believers in Jesus, their own communities had also ostracized them. Not only that, but many of them may have also lost their inheritance. I can only imagine how hopeless they must have felt. Also, based on the rest of the letter, some of them were probably locals who had converted to Christianity and they were also facing similar treatments. I think of my own dad who lost his inheritance when he became a Christian. I have often thought about the hopelessness he must have felt. Peter was writing to encourage such people to stay strong in their faith. He wanted them to know that even though the world and their own were rejecting them, God had chosen them. He wanted them to have their hope in God. He had a special inheritance for them in the future.

Let’s read verse 3 again. By the way, as we walk through this passage, notice how all the fundamental building blocks of our faith are tightly put together in these 3 verses – 3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” The Greek word for “Blessed” is “eulogetos.” This is different from the Greek word for “blessed” in the Beatitudes – “Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are the merciful.” The word there is “Makarios,” which means “happy” or “to be envied.” Here the word blessed is actually translated “praise.” Keep in mind that “eulogetos” gives us the English word “eulogy,” which comes from the compound Greek words “eu” (well/good) and “logos” (word). The word “eulogetos” means “to say a good word about someone.” Peter was calling on his readers to say a good word about God. By the way, this was not a good word about some generic God, but very specifically – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The point is that Peter was calling on his readers to praise the living true Triune God in the midst of their difficulties.

Principle: If you find yourself overwhelmed by your situation, turn your attention away from the situation and yourself and start praising God. Take time to praise God for who he is and what he has done for you. Listen to David in Psalm 61     1 “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Application: Are you overwhelmed by your problems? Are you overwhelmed by what’s happening in our world? Are you praising God right now?

Now Peter gives the reason for this praise – 3 “…who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The pilgrims of the Dispersion had been rejected by their own families. They had been cut off from their family trees. Peter was reminding them that God had brought them into his family by his abundant mercy. The word he used was “anagennaw” (begotten us again), which means “to give new birth.” It is similar to “gennaw” in John 3 where Jesus told Nicodemus in verse 3 “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This rebirth does not just happen. It requires resurrection life, the power that brings life into a dead person. I Corinthians 15:45 “And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” God compassionately chose to rebirth us into his family through the resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. God the Father delivered his Son out of the clutches of death and thus made the way for all sinners born dead in trespasses and sins to be delivered from the clutches of sin and death as well. This begins with spiritual rebirth and is completed with our own resurrection one day.

Application: Have you been born again? Have you experienced the resurrection life of Jesus? If you prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King, you have. Do you know that there is a resurrection coming for you in the future?

What is the result of this rebirth? 3 “…who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope…” Something very interesting here about that word “hope.” It has an adjective “living.” Where does this concept come from? The world offers hope but it can be conditional or uncertain. The hope that Peter was talking about was living because it was rooted in God himself. This is the biblical understanding of hope. Here are some examples from the psalms in the Old Testament – Psalm 38:15 “For in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.” Psalm 71:5 “For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth.” Psalm 130:7 “O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there ismercy, And with Him is abundant redemption.” Paul talks about this as well – Romans 5:5“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Here’s the point: God’s hope is not rooted in some human expectation or fear. It is built on the character of God himself. In other words, hope is not just what may happen or what may not happen. It is a deep personal trusting relationship with God. Because we are part of Jesus’ resurrection life, we have this living hope.

Application: What is hope to you? A better life? Your party in power? Streets of gold? Mansions in heaven? All that is fine to desire, but, ultimately, our hope should be God himself. It’s not that you cannot hope for those other things. You can but only if the ultimate source of your hope is God. Is God your hope?

It’s about to get even better – 4 “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”

Background: This living hope is leading us to an inheritance. In this life, the pilgrims had lost their inheritance, but there was a real inheritance waiting for them that was indescribable.By the way, Peter was reaching in the Old Testament tradition to find the true meaning of inheritance. Listen to Psalm 16:5 “O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.” Peter describes it in negative terms because nothing compares to it in this life. Paul would whole heartedly agree with Peter here. Listen to Paul quoting from Isaiah 64 in 1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’”

3 negatives:

  1. Incorruptible (aphthartos) – In this life everything faces corruption because of sin, even our bodies.
  2. Undefiled (amiantos) – In this life everything is tainted by sin.
  3. Unfading (amarantos) – In this life everything fades. The second law of thermodynamics (entropy) is constantly working to pull things down.

Philippians 3    20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

This does not mean that we cannot fight for the incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading in this life. We can and we should because we know what it looks like. Having said that, we know that it is available on the other side.

What is the guarantee that all this will happen? 5 “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

  1. God is responsible.
  2. We need to trust him.
  3. It will be revealed in his time.

Invitation: Do you have this living hope? Are you looking forward to the inheritance? Are you born again?

Identity by Dr. Abidan Shah

IDENTITY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Everybody wants an identity. We want to belong to a group that will include and affirm us. We see this early in life at school – the popular kids, who have the latest clothes and styles, the jocks who live for sports, the brains/nerds, who are more concerned about their grades than they needed to be, the goths, who always wear dark clothes and crazy hair; the country kids with trucks high enough to walk under; then there are the loners, the different ethnic group kids, the floaters, and the potheads, who are usually very friendly. This doesn’t change as we grow up. We still want an identity, a sense of belonging. As we begin our series on the actual text of 1 Peter, we will learn what should be the ultimate identity of every believer. Please find 1 Peter 1:1. Main point: Our identity should be ultimately rooted in God and his salvation in our lives through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:1 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…”

Context: For the past 3 weeks, we have been focused on Peter’s character. The reason for this is because the more we understand Peter, the better we will understand his letter. Of course, the Holy Spirit was behind the letter, but he used the personality, the experiences, and the gifts of Peter. Peter begins his letter by identifying himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ,” which means a “representative” of Jesus. This did not happen overnight! Jesus had to do a deep, painstaking, and unrelenting work in Peter’s life:

  • Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, from being religious to rock-solid.
  • Jesus took him from being a fisherman to becoming a fisher of men.
  • Jesus took him from being the impulsive one to becoming a pillar of the church.

Is it any wonder that he stood up on the Day of Pentecost full of the Holy Spirit and preached his first message and 3000 men, not counting women and children were saved, altogether 10-15,000! Is it any wonder that even his shadow could heal people! Is it any wonder that he could go toe-to-toe with the religious leaders and chief priests and not back down! By the way, Peter was not perfect. If you remember from last weekend, Paul admonished him openly when he messed up. But, Peter was spiritually mature enough to receive the admonishment and not become bitter. Now, he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Here’s an interesting point: The higher you climb in your spiritual life, the more concise your identity becomes. You don’t have to list your entire resume of accolades and accomplishments. For e.g. Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.

Application: What has God done in your life? How will you identify yourself at the end of your life? The first step towards that journey is to move from a sinner to a sinner saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. Are you saved?

Let’s go further. Peter now identifies the recipients of his letter. 1 Peter 1:1 “…To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Where are these places in the world? All of them are located in modern day Turkey, a vast area of approximately 129,000 square miles. That’s as big as California or North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia combined. The history of this region goes back to thousands of years to the Hittites, the Phrygians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, the Goths, the Celts, the Byzantines, etc. This was a very diverse part of the world with regards to land, ethnicity, cultures, religions, and languages. There were big cities and small towns. There were Roman colonies to the South and more Celtic people to the North, generally speaking. I can go on and on.

Who were the pilgrims of the Dispersion? The word for “pilgrims” is “parepidemos,” which means someone who does not hold citizenship where he lives. They may have been born and raised there. They may dress like their neighbors. They may eat like their neighbors. They may even look like their neighbors. But, they are outsiders. Peter even qualifies their identity with “foreigners of the Dispersion.” The word “dispersion” is coming from the LXX and Jewish literature. It referred to the people of Israel who had been scattered away from their homeland of Israel. This dispersion goes back to the time of Solomon when some moved there because of trade. A major dispersion came with the Assyrian exile when the Northern kingdom of Israel was forcibly relocated by the Assyrians. Couple centuries later came the Babylonian exile when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was also temporarily exiled but some came back but many didn’t. They were foreigners and outsiders wherever they went. Even though many generations were born and raised there, dressed like their neighbors, and ate like their neighbors, they were never totally accepted. Hence, they would return to Jerusalem for their Jewish festivals. Maybe some of them were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2     5 “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia…” Peter was now writing to encourage them as they were not only Jewish people scattered abroad, but they were now Christians, which means they were also being ostracized by their own Jewish community. Peter understood how it felt since he grew up in Bethsaida, a minority Jewish town. He even understood how it felt when his own people rejected him because he was now a disciple of Jesus. I believe all this may be true, but I also believe that Peter was referring to all Christians (Jewish background and Gentile background) who were scattered as a minority all over that region. Even Gentile background believers were now like the Dispersed Jewish people. Even though they were citizens, they were now being treated as foreigners. We will see that as we go further in this letter.

Application: Have you been ostracized because you are going to church? Has your own family and friends left you out because your priorities have shifted? I think of my own dad. His own family kicked him out because he followed Jesus Christ. In fact, we were all cut off from the family tree.

How do you encourage people like that? So, Peter gave them a new identity—2 “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” There are 3 prepositional phrases here that connect to each member of the Trinity. This is deep!

  1. “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” – “Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” The culture around them may have rejected them but God had chosen them through his “prognosis” to include them in his family. That’s the first person of the Trinity.
  2. “in sanctification of the Spirit” – “Chosen by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.” Yes, they had a choice to receive Christ as their Savior, but the Holy Spirit was stirring their hearts, opening their understanding, and drawing them to salvation. He actively does that for everyone who is open to Christ. That’s the third person of the Trinity.
  3. “for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” – “Chosen for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” This was not some election to walk around flaunting your new religion. This was an election unto obedience. What is the “sprinkling of the blood” mean? This is referring back to Exodus 24  7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”Even though they said the words, they couldn’t follow through. But, we can through the blood of Jesus Christ. We have been set free from the power of sin. Sin is still present but through Christ, we can conquer. By the way, that’s the third person of the Trinity.

These people really got the message. These people reached their culture and that entire region became the cradle of Christianity. This is where we find Constantinople, Nicaea, and Chalcedon. Here were held the famous councils were the deity of Christ and the Triunity of the Godhead was affirmed! Unfortunately, these parts have been lost because Christians failed to reach the next generation and prepare them to stand strong. Just this year, the Hagia Sophia was once again declared a mosque after 90 some years of being a museum. It was one of our flagship churches!

In some ways, that’s where we are as Christians in America. We need to wake up and reach the culture around us. If we don’t, we will ultimately find ourselves driven out. That’s why how we vote in this election matters! We need to vote for that party and candidate that will make this nation pleasing to Jesus Christ.

Application: What are you doing to make sure that our nation continues to stand strong? Are you aware of what is at stake? Do you understand your new identity? You are not an accident. You are not an outsider. You have been drawn by the Holy Spirit. You have been chosen to obey.

Finally, Peter ended with “Grace to you and peace be multiplied.”

Invitation: Do you have God’s grace and peace? Are you saved? Through Christ you can have grace and peace.

Unsearchable by Dr. Abidan Shah

UNSEARCHABLE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: One Sunday morning after church, as the family was driving home, the mother began, “The choir was awful this morning. They were so off-key, weren’t they?” To this, the dad added, “The service was too long and I still don’t know what the minister was talking about.” The mother replied, “And, can you believe they’re going to spend all that money on that mission trip to Guatemala? Don’t we have plenty to do around here?” Their 16-year old daughter chimed in, “Why do the Jones’ always sit in front of us? They act like they are so better than us.” After a few seconds’ pause, their 10-year old from the back seat remarked, “Are we going back? Because, I thought it was a pretty good show for a dime.” Many Christians have a very low view of the importance of the church. Even before the current crisis, many had a take it or leave it attitude about the church. Now, with the current crisis, church has been shoved under the “non-essential” category. As you know, we began a mini-series through Ephesians on the role of the church. Here’s the main point of today’s message: The church is essential. In God’s divine plan, he has chosen the church to make known his mystery and wisdom to the principalities and powers of the evil domain. When the church is the church we are supposed to be, united and holy, then the spiritual rulers and authorities behind the power brokers of the world know that Jesus is in charge and they are not. For the church to shut down its activities is to give free reign to evil in the world. Today’s message is called “UNSEARCHABLE.”

Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Context: The verse we just read is part of a digression by the Apostle Paul. He often does this in his letters, but, unlike our digressions that are losing our train of thought, his digressions are the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to take us deeper into the wisdom and purpose of God. If you remember from last weekend, most believers had been playing on the shallow end of the pool, never learning how to swim in deep waters. All of a sudden, we got slammed by a pandemic tsunami and now we are stranded all over the place, clutching on to whatever we could find. If we’re going to make it moving forward, we will have to step into deep waters and learn how to swim.

Until the end of chapter 2, Paul was explaining to the Ephesians how the Gentiles had been brought into the family of God by Jesus Christ. Listen to Ephesians 2  19 “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” In other words, every believer—regardless of his/her ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or nationality—has an equal status in the family of God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Then, Ephesians 3:1“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles…” Meaning: Paul’s calling from God was to help Gentiles come into the family of God and become one body, the church.

Just when we want to say, “It’s great how there is no more division between the Jewish people and the Gentiles. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Good work Paul!” he stops and takes a digression to help us understand that this one body is much more than just a holy huddle. There is a powerful purpose behind it. Listen to Ephesians 3     2 “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).” What is the mystery of Christ? In some sense, Paul was using a term that the Ephesians would have been familiar with because they had mystery religions with secret knowledge. But, it is more likely that Paul was appealing to Daniel 2 where the Hebrew word “raz” or the Greek word “musterion” was used to refer to God’s secret plan of bringing Jesus into the world to save humanity. Paul was referring to the coming together of the believing Jewish people and the Gentiles into one body as the mystery of Christ. In the Old Testament, Gentiles could join God’s people, but they had to become Jewish first. Now, Gentiles did not have to become Jewish and Jewish people did not have to become Gentiles. Instead, both Jewish people and Gentiles could come together into a new community through Jesus Christ. This was the mystery of Christ. It was not as clear in times past. 5“which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” Now comes the verse we read in the opening – Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” What are the unsearchable riches of Christ? Christ has incredible wealth that we cannot fathom! It includes his grace, his mercy, his goodness, his love, his promises, his glory, etc. All that is now available to each of the Gentiles who have entered into the family God. Verse 9 “and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.”

Question: Are you part of this mystery? Have you been brought into the family of God? Are you saved? Do you value the unsearchable (unfathomable) riches of Christ?

Now, starting in verse 10, Paul goes deeper, explaining to us the critical nature of this new body, the church—10 “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God…” The Greek word for manifold is “polupoikilos,” which means “multifaceted” or “many faced.” The more you get to know Christ, the more multifaceted he becomes! Once again, verse 10 “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Let’s pause here for a moment and ask “What are principalities and powers?” The Greek word for “principalities” is “archei,” which means “angelic rulers.” In our context, it refers to “evil angelic rulers.” The Greek word for “powers” is “exousias,” which means “spiritual authorities.” In our context, it refers to “evil spiritual authorities.” There are 2 other times, they are mentioned in Ephesians:

  • Ephesians 1   19 “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power…20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power…” When God the Father raised his Son from the grave, he also raised him higher than all evil angelic beings.
  • Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly” Here Paul commands us to “Put on the whole armor of God” because we are in a battle against evil angelic beings.

Here’s the point: The mystery of Christ was also kept hidden from all the evil angelic beings. The coming of Jesus not only brought redemption, but it also broke the power of these wicked beings. Even though they know that Jesus is King, they still try to usurp his power. When the church is the church we are supposed to be, united and holy, then the spiritual rulers and authorities behind the power brokers of the world know that Jesus is in charge and they are not.

Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that the church has to proclaim a message to these evil beings. This does not mean that the church has to rebuke the enemy and his cohorts. It simply means that we make known “gnorizo” that we are the body of Christ, united and holy, and evil begins to back off. The Enemy has always used the tactic of “divide and conquer,” starting with Adam and Eve. When we come together in unity and holiness, we are making known to him and his cohorts the manifold wisdom of God.

Question: Isn’t it amazing that the same time evil has raised its ugly head in the past few months that the church has dropped her head and gone into hiding?

Ephesians 6     13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Invitation: Are you part of the mystery of Christ? Are you saved? How important is the church to you? Are you aware that we are in a spiritual battle?

Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

Prayer Doctrine.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

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

Abound by Dr. Abidan Shah

Abound

ABOUND by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction: One sign that a baby is becoming a toddler is that he/she will say, “I do it” when it comes to feeding, putting on their shoes, or other activities that they previously relied on the parents. It’s a good thing because it’s an indication that the child is growing up and becoming independent. It can also be a sad time for some young parents, but I tell them, “Don’t worry. It reverses when they become teenagers!” In our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we come to the often-quoted passage from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” People claim that as a life-verse. They wear T-shirts with that verse. Athletes even tattoo it on their arms. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that they are talking it out of context. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that when it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” it’s not talking about overcoming incredible odds or reaching ambitious goals. It’s a declaration of the Christian’s ability to thrive whether one is down or abound. Turn in your Bibles to Philippians 4:10 and our message is titled “ABOUND.”

Philippians 4:10 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.” What exactly was Paul saying here? To correctly understand this, we need to keep in mind the context of the Philippian church. Externally, they were facing persecution. Internally, they were at odds with each other. Fears without and fightings within. In the midst of all this mess, they had stopped supporting Paul’s ministry. How was he faring? Listen to his description of a similar situation in I Corinthians 4     11 “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands…” By the way, since he was incarcerated, he couldn’t even work! If he ran out of food, maybe a soldier had pity on him and gave him some scraps. If he was freezing, maybe he found some old rags that he used to keep himself warm. Only eternity will reveal how much Paul suffered for the gospel. Then, there was a knock on the door and there stood a man by the name of Epaphroditus from the church in Philippi. Listen to Philippians 4:18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” As Paul said in Philippians 4:10 “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly,” he began celebrating on receiving the help from the Philippians.

Was Paul desperate for help from the Philippians? 11 “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” The word for learned is “manthano.” Here, it has the idea of a disciple learning how to follow the master. He has learned how to come to the place of being “content” = “autarkeia.” Content is not about be satisfied with you have and don’t get a better phone or an upgraded boat. The way this word is used implies complete readiness to accept whatever God has in store.

What does this kind of life look like? Verse 12 “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” Abase = “tapeinos,” which implies having a lowly mind like that of Jesus. Abound = “perisseuo,” which meant to be full, beyond, exceed. “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” This time the word for learned is “myeo” which has the idea of learning how to grow spiritually. Now he says in verse 13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The secret to his contentment is that “he has the strength to deal with all situations through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” This is not about being 5 foot 3 and being able to dunk, unless you are Muggsy Bogues with a 44-inch vertical jump!

So, yes, Paul rejoiced greatly that the money had come, but, no, he wasn’t desperate.

Now, listen to Paul’s clarification: 14 “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” Did Paul depend on the Philippians for money? To answer that, we need to turn again to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians because here he gave us information on how ministries were to be supported. Listen to I Corinthians 9      7 “Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?9 For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain’…10…For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?…13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” In Judaism, every Jewish male was obligated to pay a half-shekel temple tax, along with the sacrifices. All this was used to support the priests, the Levites, and their families. 14 “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” In other words, those who work in the church are supported by the tithes and offerings of those who are benefitted by the church, just like in the Old Testament temple. Now, Paul did not take any money from the Corinthians because of their bad attitude towards him. Listen to 2 Corinthians 11     7“Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.” Nonetheless, Paul did not shortchange them. Listen to 2 Corinthians 12    14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you…15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls…” The only place Paul did not ease up with the Corinthians was the collection for the poor in Jerusalem. 2 Corinthians 9:7“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Some of you may be wondering, “Why is Pastor Shah talking about all this?” Sometimes, people wonder why we take up tithes and offerings. We are following the pattern set for us by Paul in God’s word. We take up money to support the operation of the church, pay the staff of the church, provide help for those who are struggling near and far, and help missionaries and church planters all over the world to share the gospel and help the needy. We are an exceptional church where people give generously and wholeheartedly. Having said that, not everyone gives and not everyone gives as much as they should. How about you?

Did Paul benefit from his relationship with the Philippians? 17 “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” Paul was saying that even though he needed the help and he was grateful for the gift, he was not depended on them for survival, nor was he trying to look for the gift. But, by sending their gift, the Philippians have pleased God and now have a share in Paul’s ministry. 18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” Paul described their gifts with the same words that he used to describe the sacrifice of Christ in Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Finally, verse 19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” In fact, Paul added, God will meet your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

What was Paul really trying to say here? Even though he was depended on them, he was not obligated to them. Even if they supported him financially, he was under God’s control not theirs. So also, people coming from a different church tradition think that since we pay the pastor or staff, he/they does/do what we tell him/them to do. Maybe even, he better do as we tell him to do. Sorry friend. You need to give because it is the right thing for you to do and it is good for you to do. You cannot control God’s ministers with money. If that happens, we will tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear.

Have you learned how to abound in Christ? It’s not about having things or not having things. It’s about being content in Christ. Is Christ enough for you?

Are you saved? Do you have Christ?

Community by Dr. Abidan Shah

Community

COMMUNITY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: The history of our world is littered with countless obsoletes. Think about the technological obsoletes of the past few decades—phone booths, calling cards, pagers, palm pilots, floppy disks, Kodak films, calculator watches, Sony Walkman, etc. Many of the things we use today will probably become obsolete by tomorrow. Lately, in light of the current crisis, some people are claiming that even how we interact with each other (shaking hands, gathering in crowds) is going to become obsolete and they are applying this even to the church. They are claiming that we won’t necessarily come together physically. Instead, we may do all this over technology with small groups of people gathering here and there. Please listen carefully: No matter what will become obsolete in this world with regards to technology and cultural habits, the church of Jesus Christ will never become obsolete. God has said in his word that his church will remain no matter what and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Throughout the history of Christianity, peoples and governments have prognosticated the death of the gathered church. They died but the church still gathers and lives on. Today’s message is heavy on my heart. We’re going back to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We’ve studied portions of this letter before but now we’re starting a new series titled COMMUNITY.

Philippians 1     1 “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Question: What do you believe about the gathered church? Do you belong to the church of God? Are you saved?

Background: Those of you who’ve been at Clearview for some time may remember that, in 2018, we went through the first chapter of Philippians, and then, last year (2019), we covered the second chapter. That series was called “MIND (RE)SET.” For the benefit of those who weren’t here last year or the year before, I want to quickly mention 2 things as background information:

First, the Philippians were Paul’s pride and joy. He had founded the church in Philippi. If you remember, Paul had come to Philippi in response to the Macedonian Call. Acts 16 tells us of 3 dramatic conversions: first, a business woman named Lydia by the Zygaktis or Krenides River (I’ve been there); second, a slave girl who was demon possessed; and third was the Philippian jailer and his whole family. If you want to know how Paul felt about the Philippian church, listen again to Philippians 1:3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…”

Question: Do you thank God every time you think about the church? Do you miss the time we had together? Do people say that about you?

Second, this was not just an ordinary letter. Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell in Rome. How do we know that? Philippians 1:7 “…both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel…” Again, verse 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” More than likely, Paul was in a house arrest situation since he was able to send letters and receive friends. Nonetheless, this was a serious situation. Listen to Philippians 1:20 “…Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Meaning: There was a strong possibility that Paul will not make it alive out of this prison. In the midst of such grave uncertainty, Paul took the time to write to the Philippian church. Why? When we read the letter carefully, we find 2 hints that help us understand the purpose for the letter:

  1. Paul mentions the word “chara” joy about 5 times in various forms:
  • Philippians 1:4 “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.”
  • Philippians 1:25 “…I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.”
  • Philippians 2:2 “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded”
  • In Philippians 2:29 Paul wants them to receive Epaphroditus, one of his companions in ministry, with joy.
  • Philippians 4:1 Paul calls them, “…my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown…”

Paul also uses the related word “chairo” meaning rejoice about 7 times in various forms. The most famous one being Philippians 4:4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Because of this some people have assumed that Philippians is Paul’s letter to teach us the importance of Joy in the midst of trials. This could’ve been true if it wasn’t for the second hint.

  1. Paul repeatedly talks about division among the Philippians.
  • Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
  • Philippians 2:2 “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded
  • Philippians 2 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
  • Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without complaining and disputing.”
  • Philippians 3:16 “…let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.”
  • Philippians 4:2 “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”

What exactly was happening in the Philippian church? There were divisions in the body and because of that joy was leaking out. Please listen very carefully: Nothing will deplete joy in the Christian life faster than division in your life, your marriage, your family, and your church. All it takes is for one divisive person to start something and before you know it, the whole body is infected with a spirit of division.

The current crisis has scattered the church. That doesn’t have to be bad if we try to use it as a limited time opportunity to spread the gospel of God in creative ways. Then, it’s time to come back together as a church. Technology can never be a substitute to the actual gathering of the people of God in a physical location. Pockets of people meeting online or in someone’s home is not church. How about Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them”? Have you read the context? Let me read to you Matthew 18:17 “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” That passage about 2 or 3 is given in the context of church discipline! Don’t get me wrong. We want small groups, Sunday School groups, and inner circles, but they are not to become a substitute for church.

Let me go back to where we began: No matter what will become obsolete in this world with regards to technology and cultural habits, the church of Jesus Christ will never become obsolete. God has said in his word that his church will remain no matter what and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

  • Jesus is the founder of the church. Anything he has founded cannot be destroyed. In fact, the church is referred to as the “bride of Christ” (Revelation 19 and 21).
  • The church is not just a group hanging out here and there. It refers to the assembly in Jerusalem, Antioch, Derbe, Lystra, Ephesus, Philippi, etc. 1 Corinthians 10:17 “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”
  • When Paul talks about the church, he is referring to the “concrete assembly of those who have been baptized at a specific place.” (J. Roloff) The model were the early synagogues of the Jewish people. Yes, the church are the people primarily but the places they met is also the church. It was a visible representation of their presence in a city or town. That’s why I like the steeple.
  • Listen to the imagery of the church in Ephesians 2 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The famous theologian John Stott said, “The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history.”

Throughout the history of Christianity, peoples and governments have prognosticated the death of the gathered church. They died but the church still gathers and lives on.

Hebrews 10    24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhortingone another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Conclusion: What do you believe about the church, the physical gathering of the body of believers in a physical location? Do you think God has stepped away from the church, saying, “this Covid-19 really got me; y’all going to have to figure this one out”? If you care about the Lord, then you will care about his bride, the church. Are you allowing someone to create division in the body? Are you a member of the body of Christ? Are you saved?

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

hosannaIntroduction:  This past Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. Due to the coronavirus situation, parades all across the country were cancelled. Needless to say, a lot of people were disappointed. I don’t think they were disappointed because they couldn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s life, but it was because they couldn’t get out and have a good time with their family and friends. 2000 years ago, there was also a parade and some people tried to cancel it but they couldn’t. It was the parade for Jesus as he came into Jerusalem. Instead of clover leaves, the people held palm branches in their hands. Instead of Irish drinking songs, the people were singing Hosanna to the Son of David. As we draw closer to that time of the year, I want to preach a 4-week series titled “HOSANNA.” Here’s the message in this series: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

John 12    12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” 14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” 16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

Question: Did you know that God desires to save you? I’m talking to believers. He wants to rescue you from your predicament, whatever trials you are facing. Are you saved? I’m talking to unbelievers now. Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Context: When people first come to Clearview, they are somewhat amazed at how much I talk about being saved. Some have even come to me and asked if that was a Baptist thing. I try to explain to them that it is not a Baptist thing but a Bible thing. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about being saved, being delivered, and being rescued by God. In fact, that word Hosanna is literally the combination of “hosiah” and “anna,” where “hosiah” means “save us” and “anna” means “now” or “please.” It’s referring back to Psalm 118 where the psalmist says in verse25 “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.” This was usually prayed after the harvest season celebration. They would even wave and beat the ground with branches of willow and palm trees. Later on, this was also done during times of great needs and burden. In the weeks ahead, we will focus on all that. In this message I want to focus simply on the idea of being saved or rescued by God. It is all over the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus’ name in Hebrew is “Yeshua,” which is Savior! With that said, let’s look at it quickly in the short time we have:

  1. Let’s begin by going to what is considered the oldest book in the Bible, Job:

Job 5:11 “He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”

Job 40:14 “Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.” Here God is speaking sarcastically to Job. He asks Job if he can do all the mighty things that God does. “If so, then you can save yourself Job.”

  1. When God’s people were in slavery in Egypt, he sent Moses to rescue them:

Exodus 14    13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

  1. After they settled into the Promised Land, God sent judges to save his people:

Judges 7:2 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’”

Keep in mind that Gideon’s army was 32,000 men and they were outnumbered. Then 22,000 left when given the choice. Only 10,000 left and only those who drank like dogs were allowed to stay and that was only 300! God said, “Now that’s perfect!”

  1. After the judges came the kings but the formula didn’t change:

1 Samuel 17    45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give you into our hands.”

When the kings trusted in the Lord to deliver, they won. When they trusted in themselves, they fell.

  1. In the wisdom books, it is not cunning and strategy that saves but the Lord:

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I will recompense evil”; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.

Proverbs 28:18 Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, but he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.

  1. Over a hundred times, the prophets call upon the people to look to the Lord to save:

Isaiah 45    21 “Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. 22“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!”

Jeremiah 15:20 “And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you and deliveryou,” says the LORD.

Hosea 14     1 “O Israel, return to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; 2 Take words with you, and return to the LORD. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us…”

Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

  1. Finally, in the psalms, it is everywhere that God is our Savior:

Psalm 28     8 The LORD is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed. 9Save Your people, And bless Your inheritance;

Psalm 44     6 For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. 7 But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. 8 In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever.

Psalm 80:3 “Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”

Psalm 119:94 “I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts.”

Psalm 144     9 “I will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, 10 the One who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David His servant from the deadly sword.”

Let me repeat again what I said in the opening: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Are you saved?

The Witness Stand by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE WITNESS STAND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Witness Stand

Introduction: How many of you remember watching legal shows on TV? Let’s say that you were falsely accused of murder but everything pointed in your direction, which TV attorney would you like to fight for you in court? How many of you would hire Perry Mason? How about Ben Matlock? Mason was a prosecuting attorney and Matlock a defense attorney. I remember how Matlock would cross-examine a phony witness and before long he/she would blurt out “Ok, fine, I didn’t see it!” The Bible repeatedly uses the language of the courtroom, especially in the New Testament. Every believer is a witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The first disciples were eye-witnesses. We are faith witnesses and we have an obligation to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. That’s the message today called “The Witness Stand.”

Acts 26     12“While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It ishard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.

Question:If Matlock were examining you today on the witness stand, would you turn out to be a true witness or a phony witness? Are you truly saved? Are you sharing your witness? Are you telling people what Christ has done in your life?

Context:This is our final message on the foundational beliefs of Clearview Church. A major foundation of our church is that all of us are called to be witnesses. We are called to tell the world what we have seen and heard about Jesus. Our motto is “Making Christ Visible.” In fact, the mission of our church is “to lead all people into a life changing, ever growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” This is based on Jesus’ final words to his disciples in Acts 1:8is “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This command was not just for the first eye-witnesses but also for all faith witnesses who would come later. The passage we just read is about the conversion of Paul and the call that he received from Christ himself. Listen again –16But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witnessboth of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.” The key word for us is the word “witness.” What does it mean?

Witness – That word comes from the Greek word “marturia” or “martureo,” which is found in various forms around 200 times in the New Testament. It has a legal meaning. It refers to someone who can certify facts, especially in a court of law. Of course, Greek writers like Homer, Pindar, and Plato used it in this legal way, the legal idea behind that word depends heavily on its use in the Greek Old Testament. It is used when God is called as a witness in his covenant with Israel or when Israel is called to be a witness to the nations for God. The witness is not just a reporter of what they have seen or heard but they are also responsible to bring the other person around to the truth. In other words, a witness is more than just a reporter of facts in a court, they also have to be convincing. In the New Testament, that word is used again and again to verify and authenticate the person and work of Jesus. I don’t have the time to look at all the references, but here are just a few:

  • John 1 6There was a man sent from God, whose namewas 7This man came for a witness, to bear witnessof the Light, that all through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, butwas sentto bear witnessof that Light.
  • Luke 24 46Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And you are witnessesof these things.”
  • Acts 4:33And with great power the apostles gave witnessto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
  • 1 Peter 5:1“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witnessof the sufferings of Christ…”
  • Revelation 20:4“Then I sawthe souls of those who had been beheaded for theirwitnessto Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image…”

As witnesses we are called to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. Are you?

Before Paul became a witness, he had been several other things:

  1. Spectator – Acts 7 57Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58and they casthimout of the city and stonedhim.And the witnesseslaid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen as he was calling onGodand saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
  2. Accomplice –Acts 8:1“Now Saul was consenting to his death…”
  3. Criminal –Acts 8  1“…At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2And devout men carried Stephento his burial,and made great lamentation over him. 3As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committingthemto prison.
  4. Mastermind – Acts 9 1Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
  5. Most Wanted – Acts 9 3As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.4Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It ishard for you to kick against the goads.”

Jesus took him from the Most Wanted Criminal to becoming a Chief Witness to the gospel. Has he done that in your life?

Some people are occupying other spots in the courtroom:

  1. Judge – Questioning other people’s motives and casting judgment.
  2. Prosecutor –Always attacking and condemning people.
  3. Defense Attorney – Always defending people instead of witnessing to them.
  4. Spectator –doing nothing, just enjoying the show.

Are you a witness? Are you saved?

Kingdom Here by Pastor Abidan Shah

KINGDOM HERE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonKingdom Here

Introduction:Since I’m preaching on the kingdom of God, I went looking for some king jokes and this is what I found. Caution: They’re really bad – When is a stick like a King? When it’s a ruler; What’s the diagnosis when a King has back problems? An aKING back; Why did the King put a bank machine in his castle? So, he could make Knightly deposits; Why did the King go to the dentist? To get his teeth crowned; What does the King do after he burps? He issues a royal pardon. Those are really bad! This morning we will see how the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus and that is not a laughing matter. In fact, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. It’s a false gospel. We’re in our new series on the true gospel and what it means. As we read our scripture today, pay careful attention to a certain phrase that’s being repeated.

Matthew 4:23“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 9:35“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 24:14“And thisgospel of the kingdomwill be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Mark 1   14“…Jesus came to Galilee, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, andthe kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Question: Did you catch the common phrase? “Gospel of the Kingdom.” For some reason we have dropped “of the kingdom” and retained only the “gospel.” As I mentioned earlier, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. Jesus is not just your Savior, he should also be your king. Is he your king? Does he call the shots in your life? Are you saved?

Context: A few weeks back, when we were in our series on discipleship, I preached a message on the importance of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus. I shared with you that more than a hundred times he mentioned it during his ministry. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king.Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. Unless we get this “kingdom” idea back into the gospel, discipleship will never happen. It will always be optional to obey God and follow him. So, 3 things that we need to understand about this kingdom gospel:

I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A SPIRITUAL AND INTERNAL CHANGE.

Background:  As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish people were very familiar with the concept of the kingdom of God/heaven. It was God’s sovereign rule over the whole world. They saw it as indirect and limited at the present time but they believed that one day in the future it would be direct and eternal. It will put an end to all wickedness and bring glory, justice, and righteousness to his people Israel. But, when Jesus began his ministry, he preached – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) This was very confusing and frustrating for them because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting and there was no physical evidence of the rule of God. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when this kingdom would come, he replied in Luke 17    20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have it as “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, it’s aready here. What did he mean by that? Several things:  One, he was referring to himself. The kingdom is where the king is and he the king is here. Second, he was telling them that this kingdom is not external but internal. They couldn’t see it but it was here. To explain this, Jesus often used parables – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13). His purpose in using parables was to conceal the meaning from those who opposed him and to reveal the meaning to those who believed in him. Bottom Line: The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It is not external and visible but internal and invisible which then manifests in the external and visible. Has there been an internal and invisible change in your life that now manifests itself in the external and visible?

II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS SUBMISSION TO KING JESUS.

Background:Unlike our gospels today, Jesus’s gospel demanded submission to him and his words as the requirement to enter into his kingdom:

  • Matthew 21:31“Assuredly, I say to you (chief priests and elders) that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Trusting in self-righteousness will not work.
  • Mark 9:47“if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Reluctance to let go of sin will not work.
  • Mark 10:25“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Trusting in earthly treasures will not work.
  • Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Giving lip service will not work.
  • Luke 9:62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hesitation to follow Jesus the King will not work.
  • Luke 18:17“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Stubbornness to obey Jesus the King will not work.
  • John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unwillingness to let God remake us will not work.

Don’t misunderstand:This does not mean that you have to be spotless before you can come to Jesus. If that were possible, you wouldn’t have to come to Jesus. What it does mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the king demands of you when you come to him. It may take years for you to be free from certain sins and struggles but the willingness is there from day one. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who helps you to become willing.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It demands total and complete surrender. Have you done that? You might say – “that’s so hard!” Here’s a question: “Are you willing to be made willing to surrender?”

III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF RESTORATION.

Background:Sometimes Christians find it confusing that Jesus talked so much about the kingdom in the gospels but the apostles writing the rest of the New Testament do not talk about the kingdom. Actually, they did but they used other terms and language.

Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyoneisin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Galatians 6:15“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”

2 Peter 3:13“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a newearthin which righteousness dwells.”

Revelation 21    1“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Here’s the point: The Kingdom Gospel is a life-long journey of being set free from the bondage and damage of sin and restored to the glorious and gracious rule of God. The more you and I understand that, the more we submit to him, the more we become disciples, not less.

Are you willing to surrender to King Jesus? Are you willing to re-surrender to King Jesus?

Discipleship: Intercession by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – INTERCESSION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Intercession

Introduction: Have you ever had to get someone to intercede for you? That word “intercede” is a Latin word that’s a combination of “inter” = “between” and “cede” = “go.” Intercede means “to go between for someone.” I had to get someone to intercede for me back in 1994. I was a junior in college down in Georgia working security. It was the start of the new semester and the guy working with me came back from making his rounds and said, “Man, there’s a new girl on campus and she’s real pretty! I’m going to marry her.” Later I went for my rounds and saw this new girl and I could see why he wanted to marry her. She was pretty. She was walking down the steps from the gym. I remember that like yesterday. That girl doesn’t remember that. Few months later we met and we talked here and there. I wanted to ask her out but I didn’t know how to go about doing that. So, I asked my friend Dan to help me out. He could have said no or asked her out himself but he didn’t. He interceded for me. Long story short, we were married a year later. What does this have to do with discipleship? We can pray to God anytime for our needs and desires. But God also loves to hear from our friends as to what we need and desire. That’s intercession. In fact, intercession is a very vital part of discipleship. That’s our message today.

Philippians 1    9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,11being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Question:What do all those passages have in common? They are passages on Intercessory Prayers, where we pray not for ourselves but for others. Who intercedes on your behalf? Who are you interceding on behalf of? Do you understand the importance of Intercessory Prayers? Are you saved?

Pray: Holy Spirit – Teach us to pray. Teach us to pray for others. Help those who have never prayed the sinner’s prayer to call on the name of Jesus and be saved today.

Context:For a long time, I had been praying that God would show me how to lead the people at Clearview to become more than just hearers of the Word and to become grounded in the truth, grow spiritually in Christ, walk with integrity in public and private life, and become fruitful in winning others to Christ. The answer came through years of studying the Bible, talking to experts in the field, observing what successful churches were doing, and a lot of trial and error. This series on discipleship has been that answer and it’s been exciting to see how well it’s been going. In this final message in this series, I want us to look at a very important ingredient of discipleship – Intercessory Prayer, praying for the needs and desires of others.

If there is one person in the New Testament who took discipleship seriously, it was Paul. He prayed for those he partnered with in the gospel. I want us to look at his prayer for the Philippians in Philippians 1starting in verse9.Before we do that, let me ask you – How is your prayer life? Do you pray daily? Before we can intercede for others, we need to “cede” our own selves to God. The word “Cede” also means “to yield” or “formally surrender” ourselves. Prayer is the act of yielding and surrendering ourselves before God.It is humbling ourselves before God and acknowledging that we need him every day and without him we’re nothing. It is telling God that only he can give us what we need and then thanking him for what he has done for us. Do you pray daily? persistently? Do you pray believingly?

7 things to keep in mind when interceding for others:

9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…”

  1. Love– What is very interesting here is that there is no object given for the love. Paul does not say “your love for God may abound” or “your love for each other may abound.” He is talking about comprehensive love in every area of life. He is praying that their whole life would be marked by love – for God, for Jesus, for each other, for the truth, for those in the ministry, and for those who are lost. But, Paul has much more than a hint of love in mind here. He wants them to be overflowing with love.

What we understand from this is that love is not some human effort. It is something that God has to pour supernaturally into our hearts.He has to make it abound and overflow. Love is the mark of a disciple. Listen to what Jesus said in John 13    34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Paul declares in1 Corinthians 13:13“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of theseislove.”

Would you agree that what you and I need more than anything in this world is love?I Peter 4:8“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for“love will cover a multitude of sins.” That’s why we need to pray that each of us will overflow with love. Like a torrential rainfall washing away all the leaves, pine straw, and dirt from the pavement into the drain. More love, More coverage of sins.

But this is not some sentimental emotional high – 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge. . .”

  1. Knowledge –The Greek word is not “gnosis” but “epignosis.” When the word is used with “epi,” the idea is one of knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the Spirit, and knowledge of being conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, this knowledge is not information but conformation to the likeness of Christ. It is understanding the work of God in our lives.

Would you agree that what you and I need is this understanding of how God is working in our lives? Without this understanding it is so easy to get discouraged and start doubting.

 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment…”

  1. Discernment –This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations. Yes, we are to love and be aware of who we are in Christ but there’s no “sloppy agape” here. Again, there is no clear object here so it can refer to both doctrinal discernment and daily discernment. Recognize that someone is not teaching the truth and recognize that someone is about to pull wool over your eyes. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Being a Christian means being gracious and forgiving but not gullible and foolish.More than anything, it is recognizing when someone is pulling away from God.

9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent…”

  1. Choose what matters – The Greek word “dokimazein” is used in other contexts for the testing of the quality of precious metals or money. It means choosing the best. Romans 12:2“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove whatisthat good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Daily we need to pray that our kids will not settle for the good enough or the mediocre things of life but the better and the best that God has for them.

“…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”

  1. Pure and Blameless– Life is full of snares and temptations. Stay away from sin and finish well is the prayer. So sad to see people mess up in the final minutes of the game of life. They get comfortable and arrogant and that’s when they get struck down. Luke 2231“And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may siftyouas wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail. . .” But the word for “offense” is not restricted to personal failing but it also implies the failing of others. Here’s the question: “Is what I’m doing going to make someone else stumble?”

11“being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ…”

  1. Fruit of Righteousness– Paul is not talking about self-effort here. He is talking about the promise that Jesus made to his disciples in John 15:5“I am the vine, youarethe branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”When we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit produces the righteous conduct in us that no amount of self-effort can ever produce. Paul gives us the list of them in Galatians 5 22“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control.”

“…to the glory and praise of God.”

  1. Glory and Praise of God –Ultimately, God should get the glory and praise from our lives.

These are the 7 elements of intercessory prayers. This is how you pray for others. This is how you pray in the Inner Circles. Warren Wiersbe said, “Perhaps the deepest Christian fellowship and joy we can experience in this life is at the Throne of Grace, praying with and for one another.”

Are you willing to be an Intercessor for others? James 5:16“Confessyourtrespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Are you praying? Have you prayed the sinner’s prayer? Are you saved?

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