Thankful for His Plan by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR HIS PLAN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

His PlanIntroduction: How many of you think that you come from a dysfunctional family? Raise your hand. Keep raising them and look around at all the people who are lying! All of us come from a dysfunctional family. Some of us cover it up better than others. If you think your family tree is lush, green, and fruitful, just remember that all our roots are shallow and infested with worms. Don’t forget that we all come from a crooked landscaper and an ambitious diva, Adam and Eve. In this message we’re going to meet a person who grew up in a really dysfunctional family but he overcame that and thrived. The secret was his deep faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Instead of becoming bitter and vengeful, he was thankful to God for his plan. You can be bitter or you can be thankful. It all depends on your view of God’s sovereignty and goodness.

Genesis 50    15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” 16So they sentmessengersto Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17“Thus you shall say to Joseph: ‘I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” ’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him…19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for amI in the place of God? 20But as for you, you meant evil against me; butGod meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it isthis day, to save many people alive.

Question: How do you see your life? Are you bitter or are you thankful? Are you a victim or a victor? Are you saved? Without Christ, you will live to avenge or prove yourself?

Context: For the next 4 weeks, we’ll be in a series called THANKFUL that will not only prepare us for the Thanksgiving Season but also give us a biblical perspective on life and problems. In today’s message, we will look at the life of Joseph, how he grew up in a dysfunctional family but God had a divine plan and instead of being bitter and vengeful, Joseph demonstrated a deep faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Let’s begin:

I. A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY 

Joseph came from a dysfunctional family no doubt but how dysfunctional?

  • Even before we begin with Joseph’s immediate family, there were some skeletons in the family closet in previous generations. Remember, great grandfather Abraham had a child through his wife Sarah’s maid servant, her lady-in-waiting, Hagar! Should have waited on God. Also, don’t forget that his dad Jacob had tricked his brother Esau and later his father Isaac and stolen the blessing from his brother Esau, which was rightfully his. But, when Esau found out, he was angry and vowed to kill his brother Jacob once their daddy died. This is a messed-up family.
  • How about Joseph’s immediate family? His father Jacob had to run for his life from Esau and go to Uncle Laban’s house who had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel and asked for her hand in marriage. After making him work for 7 years, Laban gave him Leah on the wedding night! What a horrible shock! After 7 more years he got Rachel. Now Jacob had two sister wives who were actually sisters and they hated each other. To make matters worse, the wives also offered him their own ladies in waiting to get more kids from him! I don’t have time to go through the details. Altogether Jacob had 12 sons but he favored his “choice” wife’s firstborn, Joseph and gave him a special coat. By the way, it was not a “coat of many colors.” In Hebrew it is a “coat that extended to the palms and the feet.” It was a ceremonial coat that implied authority and power. Jacob may have sensed that God had great things in store for Joseph. Maybe he was thinking that the promise may come through Joseph. How did brothers take this? 10 of them hate him. Listen to Genesis 37:4“But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.” Then Joseph made matters worse by sharing with them his dreams. Now they hated him even more.
  • You know the rest of what happened. Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers as they were moving the herd and when the brothers saw him coming, they decided to kill him. One of the brothers counselled them instead to thrown him in a pit. When he was gone, another brother, Judah, suggested selling him to a caravan of Midianite traders, who in turn sold him into slavery in Egypt and went home and lied to their father. What a mess!

Application:Are their skeletons in your family closet? Do you think that you are the only one who grew up in a dysfunctional family? Think again.

II. THE DIVINE PLAN 

Now Joseph is a slave in Egypt but pay attention to God’s divine plan in his life:

  • Genesis 39:1 “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there.” Think about it, he could’ve been sold into cheap labor to build one of the pyramids in the Valley of the Kings or work on one of the farms in the Nile Delta Valley. Instead, he is working for Pharaoh’s chief officer.
  • How is work going?Listen toGenesis 39 2“The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3And his master saw that the LORDwaswith him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand.”Meaning:Even though bad things have happened to Joseph, God has worked them together for good.
  • Life is never that simple.Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph but he rejects her advances which makes her mad and she has him thrown into prison. But, guess what kind of a prison? Genesis 39:20“Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisonerswere” Potiphar could’ve had Joseph’s head but he knew that he was innocent and that God was with him. So, he put him in a Federal Prison where he met high profile people and learned Egyptian politics. Genesis 39:21“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Every step of the way God was with Joseph and blessed him.
  • I don’t have time to go into all the details but through a turn of events, Joseph ended up interpreting Pharaoh’s dream that none of his magicians and wise men could interpret. Pharaoh was so impressed that he not only made him in charge of the famine problem but he also made him ruler over his house and his people. Not only that but he also gave Joseph his signet ring, clothed him in fine garments, put a gold chain around him and paraded him in his chariot crying before him – “Bow the knee.”Oh yes, he also gave him the daughter of priest of On as his wife.

Personal Story:The year was 1993 when I was waiting by the Pennsylvania turnpike at 2am waiting for a ride. It was cold and I was standing inside a telephone booth to stay warm. I had lost everything. I don’t have time to go into all the details. I remember praying and telling God that without him I was done. Look where God has brought me.

Application:Can you see God’s divine plan in your life? Can you see only the bad or can you see the divine hand of God guiding you?

III. A DEEP FAITH

Let’s fast forward 27 years. Joseph saved Egypt and the world through the horrible famine. His brothers came looking for food and eventually realized that Joseph is the second in command in Egypt. They repented and reconciled and brought their father Jacob to Egypt. They were a family again for the next 16 years and then Jacob died. The brothers became concerned that Joseph would take revenge for what they had done to him 39 years ago. They probably made up the story about their father saying on his deathbed “Please forgive your brothers for what they did to you.”

Human nature is tit for tat. It is bitter and vengeful. But what was Joseph’s response? Genesis 50    19 “…Do not be afraid, for amI in the place of God? 20But as for you, you meant evil against me; butGod meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it isthis day, to save many people alive.” Joseph saw what his brothers did to him from the lens of God’s sovereignty and goodness and he showed grace and mercy. He was actually thankful for what he went through.

Application:How do you see your past? Are you bitter and vengeful? Can you see God’s sovereignty and goodness in working “all things together for good,”as Paul says in Romans 8:28? Are you thankful? Are you saved?

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Outcast) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

encounters2_outcastIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner had an encounter with Jesus.

John 4   3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

Bridge: Have you ever been thirsty, I mean “really thirsty?” Maybe it was after cutting grass on a hot day or after a long walk or playing a sport, you were parched! People drink all kinds of drinks to quench their thirst but there’s no substitute to a glass of cool water.

Context: In the passage we just read, Jesus used the imagery of thirst to convey the gospel to a woman of Samaria. Keep in mind that in this series we’re looking at 4 individuals between the two brackets in John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 and 41. The first individual was a religious man named Nicodemus (we met him last weekend), the second individual was a woman of Samaria with an embarrassing past (we’re going to meet her today), the third individual was a brash rich man, and the fourth was a sick hopeless patient. Four very different people from different walks of life and Jesus, the Master soul winner did not use some one size fits all approach with them. Instead, He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel in a way they could understand, and left all four of them transformed. Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner woman from Samaria had an encounter with Jesus that changed her destiny forever.

Question: How do you see people? Do you only notice their skin pigmentation or the kind of clothes they wear or the background they come from? Or do you take the time to see below the surface, try to understand them, and meet them where they are? Do you see the thirst in their hearts for the Living Water? Are you the one who is thirsty for the Living Water? Are you the one who needs an encounter with Jesus?

In this message we will meet the woman of Samaria. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

I. WHO WAS THE SAMARITAN WOMAN? 

3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.

Background: On the map of Israel, Judea is in the South and Galilee is in the North. There has been much debate over why Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Was it for theological reasons or geographical reasons? Was it because He wanted to reach out to the Samaritans with the gospel or was it because it was the easiest, quickest, and safest route through a Roman territory? I personally think that it was simply for geographical reason. By the way, you often hear things like – “The Jewish people back then would not have gone through Samaria.” That’s not true. We have plenty of evidence that they did.

Here’s the point: Sometimes we expect God to direct us through some supernatural impulse and intuition. That’s not always the case. Many times God simply uses the ordinary, mundane, and common sense decisions of life. Don’t always be talking about how you had this feeling that you had to do this and that and God showed up. Many times it is just the simple choices of life that God uses to do the amazing.

5 “So He came to a city of Samaria…”

Background: Right there we can begin constructing the profile of this woman:

  • Samaritans – Just like the Pharisees, there is considerable debate over who were the Samaritans. If you were to ask the Samaritans (only about a thousand exist today in Israel), they would tell you that they are the direct descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that Israel began to depart from God during the time of Eli, the high priest. Remember Eli who saw Hannah praying and thought that she was drunk but God blessed her with a child named Samuel? This Eli, they claim, messed things up by moving the worship center of Israel from Gerizim to Shiloh. They’ll tell you that they, the worshippers at Gerizim, are the original Israel.

But if you read the Bible you get a different account. It’s found in 2 Kings 17 when God sent the Assyrian Empire against the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples under which they would take the people from the conquered territory and move them to another part of the empire and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Listen to 2 Kings 17:24 “Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel…” These people somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were not resettled. So the Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. You can sense the tension between them in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah when the Jewish people tried to rebuild the temple and the city walls. The Samaritans tried to sabotage their building projects. There’s more that I can go into but if this woman was a Samaritan, she has a historical religious chip on her shoulder.

  • Verse 5 “So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” Meaning: This was not just any part of Samaria but a special place in Samaria. She probably had a sense of spiritual pride. Do you know people like that who have spiritual pride but they still haven’t encountered Jesus?
  • Verse 6 “Now Jacob’s well was there…” Archaeology takes us to a deeper level of understanding here. Jacob’s well is a deep well near Shechem. It is still there to this day. But Sychar, the best archaeologists can tell, is probably near the modern day Arab village of Askar, which is 1 mile from Shechem. Ancient sources tell us that there was a spring there in Sychar. So the question is why did she come to Jacob’s well if there was one right where she lived? 6 “…Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Noontime is not the time to draw water. Could it be that she was searching for the God who met Jacob in the wilderness?
  • Verse 7 “…Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. She is an outspoken, fearless woman, and truthful!
  • By the way, later we will also learn that she had been through 5 marriages and was working towards number 6 now! I think if she hadn’t met Jesus, she would have gone beyond Elizabeth Taylor’s record of 7 men, 8 marriages! This means she was an independent woman who didn’t care what anyone thought of her. By the way, don’t think that she was a prostitute. They were her husbands.

Application: Do you know some Samaritan women or men? Do you judge them or pray for them? Do you like Jesus try to reach them with the gospel or do you run the other direction from them?

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HER? 

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Again, what’s amazing to me is that Jesus used His surroundings as a lead in to the gospel! She’s at the well and Jesus offered her the living water. Also, He did not get offended by her tone. Be prepared for people to lash out at you. Love them anyways.

What’s her response? 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir…” Now she’s talking to Him with a little more respect. “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” Just like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman has no clue what Jesus was talking about. Once again, don’t assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo. 12 “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Now she turns into a lay theologian and even defensive over her people’s beliefs. Don’t underestimate people’s personal beliefs.

John 4:13   Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Meaning: Jesus is talking about a whole different kind of thirst, not physical but soul thirst. Not only that but that Jesus is offering is not just running water but a fountain of water. Later in John 7 Jesus gave the identity of the spring, this fountain 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive. All this will lead to the same eternal life that Jesus promised Nicodemus. But even more than what He told Nicodemus – this life will be abundant, continuing, and self-replenishing!

Listen to her response – 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Either she still does not understand or she is being sarcastic or she is just being skeptical. 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” Don’t misunderstand – Jesus was not talking down to her. He was simply revealing to her His omniscience. When you draw closer to the light, you will see the blemishes in the light. But please don’t mistake this for salvation. Here’s a greater point: If the Christ you’ve met does not know you through and through, you’ve got the wrong Christ. Listen to the woman’s response – 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Meaning: Now she has elevated Jesus’s status from a common Jewish man to a prophet.

Listen to Jesus’s response – 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” What’s her response? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. Many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus. Listen to what they said to her – 42 “…Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

ethel-waters-and-billy-graham

Ethel Waters and Billy Graham

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters

Conclusion: When I was preparing for this message, I couldn’t help but think of Ethel Waters, Black singer from the early part of the twentieth century. Her mother was raped at knifepoint at the age of 13. Of her childhood she said, “No one raised me; I just ran wild. I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” She went through extreme poverty, daily hunger, stealing, and shuffled from one place to another. She got married at 12 and that was a very abusive relationship. But by the age of 17 she entered show business as a singer and dancer. She won awards and sang on Broadway. She was the first black singer on a coast-to-coast radio show and even made it into the movies. In 1929, she was making $1250 a week! But something was missing in her life. One day in 1957 she walked down the aisle at a Billy Graham Crusade in Madison Square Gardens, New York City. She began to sing for the Billy Graham Evangelist Crusade. Her most famous song was “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” But one thing she often said – “I know I’m somebody because God don’t make no junk.”

Are you bringing people to Jesus, the Savior of the World? Have you had an encounter with Him? Are you still thirsting for something?

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Intellectual)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 I. WHO WAS NICODEMUS?

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

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

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

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

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

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steer Your Thoughts by Pastor Abidan Shah

STEER YOUR THOUGHTS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

steeryourthoughtsIntroduction: This is our 5th message in our series “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and this one is called “STEER YOUR THOUGHTS.”

Matthew 6   25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 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? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Bridge: Would you agree that worry is the result of unguided thoughts? Think about it – what happens to children who are left to themselves without proper guidance and discipline? They become monsters. So also our thoughts, if they are left to themselves without proper facts and supervision, they become monsters.

Background of the passage: So far in this series, which began in verse 19, Jesus told us that to deal with worry we have to change our thoughts: change our thoughts about wealth – “Don’t hoard but share”; change our thoughts about other people’s success – “Don’t let your eye be evil but good”; and change our thoughts about who controls your life – “Don’t have two masters. Only Christ.” But all that was to lead us to this section. To get to the heart of worry, we have to change what we fundamentally think about our relationship with God.

Question: What do you believe about God? Do you believe that He cares for your needs? Do you believe that He is a good Father who cares for His children? Do you believe He is a sovereign God who has the best in store for us? Are you saved? Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son…how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

So how do you steer your thoughts?

I. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT LIFE. 

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.”

Background: When Jesus made that statement, He was not advocating some vagrant life, with no responsibilities. Neither was He suggesting some monastic life, all detached and otherworldly. Instead, He was teaching His listeners how to have the proper perspective on the daily necessities of life. Think about Jesus’ listeners. Most of them were the common people from first century Palestine. For food, they had to depend on the rainfall and even if they had adequate rainfall, insects, locusts, and wild fire could destroy their crops. For water, they had to rely on wells and springs but what if there was a drought? For clothes, the poor people generally wore woolen garments. At the most they would have one change of clothing but what if there was a fire? By the way, this is how most of the world still lives at this very moment, just day to day.

Jesus was not telling them not to plan for their lives. He was only telling them not to be overcome by “merimnaw.” It’s a Greek word for “worry” that’s much more than daily care. It is “paralyzing anxiety.” We find it used in Psalm 55 in the LXX where David is describing a time of deep trouble and anxiety in his life. In verse 22 he says, “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you.” The word for burden is “merimnaw”. The only way He could rid himself of this paralyzing anxiety is by casting it on God. We could substitute that word here. Jesus was saying – “Do not be burdened about your life.”

Question: Are you burdened about your life? Are you living under this paralyzed anxiety? With the election year upon us, many are wondering what’s going to happen. Is there going to be another financial crisis? Will we lose our jobs, our homes? Will we be able to meet our daily needs? What’s going to happen to our children, our grandchildren?

What is Jesus’ solution? “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Seems like an odd response but think about it for a moment – “Is not life more than our basic necessities?” Animals live only for their daily necessities, minus clothing. We human beings were created for things far greater. We were created in the image of God and with the ability to relate with Him. We were given the gift to create new things and solve problems and improve our standard of life. We were created with godly attributes of love and justice so we could help those who are weak and abused. We were created with a sense of purpose in life so we could go out and build God’s kingdom. One verse that comes to mind is Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Application: What do you think about your life? Do you look beyond your daily necessities? Have you ever stopped and asked God – “Why did you create me?” “What would you have me to do in this world?” Most human beings will never ask that question. Have you? Are you living this life of paralyzed anxiety? Stop asking, “Are we going to make it?” and start asking, “What am I made for?” It’s only when your mind is on greater things that you can deal with the lesser concerns of life.

II. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR SELF.

26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Israel Raven 1

Israel Raven 1 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Here Jesus appeals to nature to make a very important point. God didn’t just create this world and leave it to fend for itself. He’s not just the Creator of life but He’s also the Sustainer of life. It’s like in our culture today – “Any man can be a father but a dad is someone who sticks around to take responsibility and provide care after conception.” By the way, Luke in his gospel is even more specific about Jesus’ words and he identifies the birds as ravens. These were unclean birds but God cares for them too. The conclusion Jesus draws is “Are you not of more value than they?”

Israel Raven 2

Israel Raven 2 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If that wasn’t enough, Jesus gives another illustration from nature. By the way, one of the best cures for anxiety and worry is nature. People think that rest and relaxation is watching TV or going shopping or working in the yard or playing golf. All those things are fine but that’s just substituting one activity for another. True rest is when you actually sleep and true relaxation is when you stop all activity and allow your body to return to zero. Spending time in nature will do that for you more than anything else.

Israel Raven 3

Israel Raven 3 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Israel Raven 4

Israel Raven 4 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Listen to verse 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? Again, the point is that if God cares for the less desirable and less worthy things in creation, will He not care for the crown of His creation? This may be hard for some of us to understand. We’re living in a world where every effort is made to neutralize any distinction between the creation and us. I love animals and we need to treat them with kindness and compassion. Having said that, there is a world of difference between animals and us. Please don’t blur the lines that God has drawn. God made everything by the word of His mouth but He created us by His own hands. Yes – He gave them life but only we are made in His image. We are of far more value than animals and plants.

Question: Do you know how valuable you are to God? Psalm 8 says, 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen—Even the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea… Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This is biblical self-esteem.

Application: How is your biblical self-esteem? There’s a difference between self-esteem and biblical self-esteem. Self-esteem only asks – “What do you think of your self?” Biblical self-esteem asks – “What do you think God thinks of you?” Do you believe He cares for your daily needs? Do you believe that He has the best in store for you? Do you believe that He won’t abandon you?

III. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT BEING A BELIEVER. 

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek.

Background: The biblical concept of God as our Father is without parallel in other religions. Sometimes I hear people from other religions trying to claim it but they are forcing their view on their religious texts and making them say something they’re not. It’s only in the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) and Judeo-Christian writings that we find the belief that God is the Heavenly Father of His people and as their Heavenly Father He provides for them and protects them. Since Gentiles or unbelievers don’t truly believe that God is their Father, it affects how they live their daily lives. They are vexed with worries and anxieties. They are burdened with paralyzing fears over daily necessities of life. They are out there fending for themselves, trying to survive.

Question: Are you constantly living in worries and anxieties? Then you are living more like Gentiles and unbelievers, than as the people of God.

So how should you live? “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The Greek word for “seek” is “zeteo” and in this context it has the idea of “eagerly seek.” Meaning: Eagerly seek after what God is doing in your life and in this world. Submit to His will and purpose. Join Him in building His kingdom and spreading His righteousness in your life and in the world. As you work for Him, He will take care of you.

Invitation: Whose kingdom are you building? Yours or God’s. If it’s yours, then you will labor and sweat and worry and panic. If it’s God’s, then, as you work for Him, He will take care of you. Are you working for Him? Are you saved? Do you belong to Him?

Secret Religion – Prayer

 

SECRET RELIGION – PRAYER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

secretreligion_prayerIntroduction: Today we’re in the second message in our series – “SECRET RELIGION.” Again, Jesus calls us to be the salt and light of the world but He warns us not to do it for public praise but for the praise of our Heavenly Father who sees in secret.

Matthew 6   5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read, once again, Jesus is taking the hypocrites to task. Just like in the previous passage where some people gave charity in order to be applauded by others, these people prayed in order to be admired by others. For e.g. Growing up we knew a man who made long prayers but it was all a show. He wanted people to flock around him and call him spiritual. Listen to what Jesus says – “For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men.” In reality, these hypocrites were not praying to the Almighty but they were praying to their audience. What is the result? “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Meaning: some gullible people may love these prayers but God sees the heart. He knows the real intent and He refuses to answer all such prayers.

Listen carefully – Prayer is vital to our daily life. Prayer is central to our Christian life. Prayer is essential to everything that happens in this life. But, prayer that is misused and prayer that is misdirected is artificial before people and remains unanswered by God.

Question: Do you pray? Do you pray for show? Do you pretend to be more spiritual than you really are? Are your prayers going unanswered? Are you saved? Someone may say – “That’s right – God doesn’t hear the prayer of the unsaved.” Not true. Psalm 65:2 “O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come.” If a homeless child says, “I’m hungry,” will I say, “No. You’re not my child?” Of course not! But there’s a big difference in what I would do for my child. If he needed my heart, I would give it to him. God answers the prayer of everyone but that doesn’t mean that everyone is a child of God. If you’re lost, the first prayer He is longing to hear from you is the sinner’s prayer.

Today, we will learn 3 things from this passage about Secret Religion and Prayer:

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF TRUE PRAYER 

5 “And when you pray…”

Background: Again, it is important to remember that Jesus did not say “if you pray” but “when you pray.” God expects us to pray to Him daily. Prayer, by definition is a daily conversation with God. It’s a daily dialogue with God in which we ask Him and receive from Him. Prayer has been around since the beginning of time.

  • Adam and Eve prayed everyday. It was a little different than our prayer today where Adam and Eve actually saw and felt God’s presence. We’re not sure if it was the actual presence in a human form or a strong whirlwind. Either way, God talked to them. (Genesis 3:8)
  • Abraham prayed overlooking Sodom and interceded for His nephew Lot. “God, would you destroy the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, and 10?” (Genesis 18)

———-I don’t have time to go through every example in the Old Testament———-

  • Moses The Bible says – “the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)
  • Hannah was “in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.” (I Samuel 1:10)
  • David prayed and many of his prayers are recorded in the psalms. One of the famous ones is Psalm 51, his prayer of repentance. Listen to verse 10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Wow!

———-For time’s sake, let’s jump over to the New Testament————-

  • Jesus Mark 1:35 says, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary
    Cave of Eremos

    Cave of Eremos, Mount of Beatitudes (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    place; and there He prayed.” We went up the Mount of Beatitudes to film for the video and there was a cave on the side of the hill known as “Eremos cave” which is considered the place where Jesus often prayed on the mountainside.

  • Paul

————–I can go on and on—————-

The point is this – prayer is extremely important in the Christian life.

Jonathan Edwards said, “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith, as breathing is of life; and to say a man lives a life of faith, and yet lives a prayerless life, is every bit as inconsistent and incredible, as to say, that a man lives without breathing…he that lives a prayerless life, lives without God in the world.

Application: Is prayer important to you? Do you complain rather than pray? Do you make decisions and then pray or do you pray before you make any decisions?

II. THE DISTORTION OF TRUE PRAYER

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets,

Background: To understand this passage, we have to understand a little bit of the historical context. After the Jewish people had returned from their exile, they were serious about religion. So, the priests and the scribes created this elaborate ritual of prayer and liturgy. For example, the Daily Prayer was a list of petitions. Each of them opened with the statement “Blessed are You, O Lord” and ended with the statement “The whole world is full of His mercy.” All these petitions became standardized, even before the coming of Jesus, into 18 petitions known as “Shemoneh Esreh.” The first 3 expressed praise, the next 13 expressed requests (6 personal, 6 communal, and 1 that God would accept the requests), and the last 3 were thanksgiving. 3+13+3 =19. One more was added for the Jewish people of Babylon. You had to pray this prayer standing up. Hence, the daily prayer is also called “Amidah.” You had to pray facing the “Aron Kodesh,” the ark that houses the Torah scrolls. Observant Jewish people begin by taking 3 steps backwards and then 3 steps forwards. The steps backwards symbolize moving away from the material world and the steps forwards symbolize approaching the King of Kings. During the prayer there is a certain way of bowing – Baruckh Atha Adonai. Make sure to come back up when you say Adonai. Then when you say Kadosh, you have to get on your tippy toes about 3 times, with each time rising a little taller. Again, not everyone follows this. There are many variations. When it’s over, you bow to the left, then to the right, and then to the front and say – “He who makes peace in the heavens, may He make peace for us and all Israel, and let us say, Amen.” Then you had to do the same stuff after the prayer – take 3 steps backwards and 3 steps forwards.

How does this tie in with this passage? Listen again to what Jesus says, “For they love to pray standing in the synagogues…” Can you imagine Jesus watching this ritual with their tallit and tefillin and thinking, “What a show…You’ve lost the purpose of prayer. It has become a game as to who is more pious and who prays the loudest and who is more spiritual.” Then Jesus also adds, “For they love to pray…on the corners of the streets…” Jewish people were not expected to pray in the streets. What is happening here? They would be on their way to the synagogue and be running late. It was time for prayer and it must happen right now. So, they would stop in the street corner and start their Amidah. Many times they would be running late so they could stop at the street corner and put on their show. It was forbidden to interrupt praying the Amidah unless it was a safety issue or you had to go. It was forbidden to interrupt someone praying the Amidah. You can use your imagination how they would jab the listeners in their prayers – Looking at the shopkeepers – “God, we have sinned with greed!” Looking at the prostitute – “God, we have sinned with adultery.” Looking at the young people – “God, this generation is so foolish and immature and ungodly.” Jesus knew their hearts and confronted their hypocrisy. “You’ve lost the significance and seriousness of prayer. You are doing it for show. You are doing it to jab people. You have your reward. God will not answer your prayers.”

Having been to Israel twice, I’ve seen it many times. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting that they are doing it for show or jab others. But it’s not what prayer was originally intended to be. Someone asked me – “Doesn’t that just inspire you? Don’t you want to do it too?” Not really…it amuses me. Listen to Paul in Colossians 2 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Ever seen a child play with shadows? It’s not inspiring, just amusing! Colossians 2:23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 3   1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Application: Are you pretending to be more spiritual than you really are? Are you more interested in what people think than what God thinks of you? Are you really praying to your Father in heaven when you bow your head?

III. THE RESTORATION OF TRUE PRAYER 

6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Background: Now, don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not saying, “Don’t pray in public.” In He prayed in public many times. What He was saying is – “Before you pray in public, make sure you’ve prayed in private.” Public prayer is like the edifice, the visible part of a building, and private prayer is the foundation. You don’t start building an edifice before you have dug the foundation. Before you can jab the rich man for bring greedy or the prostitute for being lewd or the young soldier for being violent or the person who did something wrong to you, have you prayed for them in private?

Don’t use your public prayer to pat your pride or to settle your personal score. Instead, handle those issues in private with God. In fact, here are some questions to consider: Have you prayed for that person before you spoke about them in public? Have you prayed for the person before you tore them to pieces before others? Have you been to the secret place?

Coming up in a month we will be having a 24-hour prayer vigil. We will set up a room for prayer and you will be able to sign up a 30 min slot for prayer for yourself, your family, your children, our church, our community, our nation, and our world.

Do you believe we need it? How about starting right now? Are you saved

KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING

KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did Nehemiah do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THERE’S ONLY ONE WHO CAN SET US FREE

THERE’S ONLY ONE WHO CAN SET US FREE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

THERE'S ONLY ONE WHO CAN SET US FREESome people mistakenly think that getting saved will solve all their problems. All I have to do is to get Jesus in my heart and all my problems will just fly away. Such is often not the case. When people find out that their old hang-ups keep hanging on, they get discouraged, get disappointed with God, and even start doubting their Christian life.

Nehemiah 9:36-38  36 “Here we are, servants today!
And the land that You gave to our fathers,
To eat its fruit and its bounty,
Here we are, servants in it! 37 And it yields much increase to the kings
You have set over us,
Because of our sins;
Also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle
At their pleasure;
And we are in great distress. 38 “And because of all this,
We make a sure covenant and write it;
Our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”

Overall Background: The passage we just read is the conclusion of a 6-hour long revival service. We don’t know how the day began; we don’t know how the word got out; we don’t know exactly how many people were gathered. All we know is that a large number of Jewish people gathered together in fasting and brokenness, read from God’s Word, confessed their sins before God and revival came.

What is revival? Revival is not just a series of meetings that follow the homecoming service. Revival is not just some out of town guest speaker preaching fire and brimstone. Revival comes when God’s people see their sinfulness. They see God’s holiness. They are convicted of their sins. They repent and acknowledge that God is God and they are not. They affirm some fundamental truths about God. So far we have seen just that in Nehemiah 9. The people affirmed 6 fundamental truths about God.

This morning we come to Truth #7 – “There is Only One Who Will Set Us Free.”

Listen to verse 36 “Here we are, servants today!
(The word “servants” is actually slaves.) And the land that You gave to our fathers,
To eat its fruit and its bounty,
Here we are, servants (slaves) in it!

Application: This morning’s message is probably the most important sermon in this series for us individually, as a couple, as a family, as a church, and as a nation.

Again, 3 questions come to mind.

I. WHY DID THEY MAKE THIS CONFESSION? BECAUSE SIN HAD DISCOLORED THEIR VIEW OF LIFE

Background: Once again, verse 36, “Here we are, slaves today!”
Slaves??? These people were no longer slaves. King Cyrus of Persia had freed them almost 100 years ago. For a century, they were able to come back to their homelands, rebuild their lives, rebuild their temple, and rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. They were not slaves.

What else? Listen to verse 37 “And it (meaning = the land) yields much increase to the kings
You have set over us.” Think about that carefully. Can the land decide if it will yield more to the king than to the Jewish people? The land is neutral. As long as you till the land, seed it, fertilize it, water it, you will get a harvest, whether you are a king or a slave. These people were getting a harvest. They were prosperous. If you remember, they gave generously to the building project. Nehemiah 7 tells us, “the heads of the fathers’ houses gave…twenty thousand gold drachmas (400 pounds of gold) besides other stuff…. And the rest of the people gave…twenty thousand gold drachmas (400 pounds of gold) besides other stuff. That’s a lot of wealth for a bunch of slaves!

Why exactly were they referring to themselves as “slaves” and feeling that they were being cheated? Read the last line of verse 37
“Because of our sins;” Meaning: Their sins were making them feel like slaves and failures. Even though they were free, even though they were successful, sin had colored their perspective on life. Even though they were God’s chosen people living in God’s promised land, they were feeling like God forsaken people in a God forsaken land. That’s what sin will do to you.

By the way, what was their sin? Their sin was not just some action or some bad thing they had done. Their sin was their refusal to acknowledge God. That’s why they were making those confessions – You Alone are God; You Alone are the Creator; You Alone can Save us; You Alone have heard our cry; You Alone can Freely Forgive; You Alone can Discipline and Deliver. Sin is not just habit or action or behavior. It is a rejection of God.

When you and I reject God, our successes feel like failures. No matter how much you have, you will always feel like you are empty. No matter how much fun you have in the day, there is a hangover waiting for you at night. No matter how much you do right, you will only remember what you have done wrong.

For e.g. We are celebrating 4th of July in America. We have so much in this nation and so much to be thankful for. Yet, we feel like we are a nation of slaves with an impending doom hanging over our heads. We are slaves to our finances, habits, passions, and lust. We are obsessed with the end of the world. Why? Because God is no longer God.

It’s the same for our individual life, marriage life, family life, and church life. Sin will override your successes in life. Sin will make a freeman or woman feel like a convict. Sin will make a prince feel like a pauper; sin will make a warrior feel like a weakling. Sin will make a victor feel like a victim. You may have everything and yet feel like you are empty. You will constantly fill yourself and yet be empty. Sin will keep you from enjoying the blessings of life.

Application: May I ask you this morning? Are you free or are you a slave? Don’t just answer that question. Think about it. Jesus said in John 8:36 “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Are you enjoying the blessing of being born again? Are you enjoying the blessing of being married? Are you enjoying the blessing of having children? Are you enjoying the blessing of being part of this church family?

II. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A COVENANT? TO BECOME SLAVES OF GOD RATHER THAN SLAVES OF SIN.

Background: Having identified their predicament, how did the Jewish people respond?

–       They did not try to ignore their sins. That’s what many Christians do. Just ignore your sins and justify them. Just pretend like nothing is wrong. Just be positive. Just say that everybody does it. That is superficial and temporary. That’s what Satan wants you to do.

–       They did not launch once again into repentance. They had already done that. That’s also what many Christians do. They immediately begin the process of self-autopsy. They try to dig deep to locate all their sins. That is a process of utter defeat and discouragement. Again, that’s what Satan wants you to do.

Instead, listen to verse 38 “And because of all this,
We make a sure covenant and write it;
Our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.” What does that mean? They made a covenant—a binding agreement—with God. They realized that either they can sit back and let sin discolor their lives or they can fall into the hands of God. So they entered into a voluntary agreement with God to acknowledge Him, glorify Him, trust Him, and obey Him. This was no half-hearted promise to do better.

Listen to the covenant in Nehemiah 10:28-29  28 Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding— 29 these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes: Meaning: Either they could be slaves of sin or they could be slaves of God. They made a covenant with God that they would obey Him no matter the cost. They were yielding themselves completely to Him. Sink or swim they were going to obey God.

Application: What are you doing about your sin? Are you simply trying to justify it? Do you sit and mourn and grieve over it day and night? Or Are you willing to enter into a covenant with the Living God to obey Him regardless the cost. You say – “what if I fail?” Then fail trusting Him.

III. HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME? DELIVERANCE FROM SIN COMES WHEN WE OBEY FROM THE HEART.

Many Christians are in the same predicament as those Jewish people. Sin has discolored their lives. It has dampened their enthusiasm. It has stolen their joy. It has left them in guilt and remorse. What is the answer? The Jewish people entered into a covenant with God. What are we as Christians to do? Listen to Romans 6:17 “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” What does it mean to obey from the heart that form of doctrine? It means to receive Christ with no reservation and no stipulation and no conditions. It is all the way. At that very moment, the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell in that person. God makes that person’s spirit a new spirit and that person’s spirit becomes one with God’s spirit. As long as this new believer is obedient to the light that God has given to him/her, the Holy Spirit has access to flow through that life, body, and environment and reproduce the life of Jesus Christ. Why? Because that person obeyed from the heart.

Now this person is going to grow in grace. Now one-by-one the Holy Spirit wants to set this person free. If that person hesitates and breaks that covenant, they are right back to being a slave of sin (not lose their salvation).

For e.g. Manley Beasley would give this illustration – if I owned 40 acres of land and I decided to sell 39 acres and keep one. You could build a house as big as 39 acres but now I own one and you have to give me right of way to my property. I can come back and make him so miserable, confuse him, ridicule him, and defeat him.

Satan does not care if we have given 39 acres to the Lord as long as he can keep 1 acre. He will let you do religious work (sing, bible study, serve) in church but beyond that you have a horrible temper and you act like the devil. The Devil has control over you. All he has to do is wait until he has you in the right place and then push the right button and you act like the Devil.

The Jewish people finally realized that it was time to go all the way.

Invitation: Are you ready to go all the way with God? Are you tired of being a slave to sin? Are you ready to go with Christ all the way?

THERE’S ONLY ONE WHO WILL DISCIPLINE AND DELIVER

THERE’S ONLY ONE WHO WILL DISCIPLINE AND DELIVER

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

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

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

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

These Jewish people affirmed 5 truths:

–       Truth #1 – There is Only One God;

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

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

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

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

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

Once again 3 Questions come to mind:

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

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

Now there are two ways to look at this:

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how you can know the difference:

PUNISHMENT

DISCIPLINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you a child of God?

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

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

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

READ THE MANUAL – THE BIBLE

READ THE MANUAL – THE BIBLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Read the Manual - The BibleMen are notorious for throwing away the instructional manual. It comes in the box but who needs it. But as they say, “when all else fails, read the manual.”The Manual for everything in life is the Bible – the Word of God. “When all else fails, read the manual – the Bible.”

Nehemiah 8:1-3 “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”

Overall Background: Until Chapter 7, Nehemiah’s focus was on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. But starting in chapter 8, he shifts his focus to a different kind of building project. This project was not about repairing broken walls; it was not about brick and mortar; it was about rebuilding the broken lives of the people of Israel. Nehemiah knew that as wonderful as it was for the people to have well-protected cities, thick walls and high gates, none of them could repair their spiritual brokenness. The answer to their deepest needs was found in the BIBLE. So in chapter 8, Nehemiah re-introduces them to the Creator’s Manual. Listen to verse 1 “Now all the people gathered together as one man (meaning: it didn’t matter who they were, what they looked like, and where they came from) in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.

Application: This is the same message for all of us this morning—There is nothing wrong with having well-protected cities, nice houses and good jobs but none of them can rebuild broken lives. You and I come into this world broken. The answer to all our problems is found in this book – the Creator’s manual – the Bible. What we need, what our community needs, what our nation needs, what our world needs is to hear from God. This is the Book that tells us about Him; this is the Book that gives us the plan of salvation.

If you find yourself broken this morning, listen every carefully to this message. Three important things we will see in this passage.

I. THE PEOPLE WERE HUNGRY FOR THE WORD OF GOD.

Ezra Reads The LawThen he (Ezra) read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand;

Background: First of all, the people did not care for their comfort. They did not look for the most shaded place. They did not grumble that the reading was not inside the temple. They stood from morning until midday, which is about 5-6 hours.

What else? and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”

Meaning: No one budged. No one skipped out. They all listened with rapt attention.

Why were they so hungry for the Word? In 587 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the temple and shut down the sacrifices. He had taken the people of Judah into captivity to Babylon. They were in exile where they did not have the Word of God. They had to rely on their memory. They had to rely on the songs of Zion they had memorized growing up. But they didn’t even want to sing those old psalms about the Lord. Psalm 137: 1-4  1“By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion. We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land?

Meaning: For seventy years they lived in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!Babylonian Captivity Pucinelli

In 539 BC, Babylon fell into the hands of the Medo-Persians. The new king Cyrus freed the Jewish people and gave them permission to go back home. About 50,000 returned to Jerusalem and tried rebuilding the temple but gave up when they faced opposition. For the next 16 years, the temple remained unfinished.

Meaning: Again, for the next 16 years they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!

At the end of the 16 years they tried again and after altogether 20 years, they finally finished the temple.

Meaning: For another 20 years they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!

Now the temple was ready but still there was no one to give proper leadership.

Meaning: For the next 60 years, they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!

Finally Ezra came and helped them but the walls of Jerusalem were still down. Without the walls, there was no stability, no security, and no hope for the future until Nehemiah came in 445 BC and rebuilt the wall and brought some security and stability to their lives.

Meaning: For another 13 years, they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!

Meaning: From 587 BC to 445 BC—that’s about 140 years—the people hadn’t heard the Word of God. They were in a spiritual drought. They were hungry for the Word!

That is a long time to go without the Word of God. Is it any wonder that they did not move and listened with rapt attention!

For e.g. Even today there are people in some villages in India and parts of China who will walk miles and put their own selves in harm’s way just to hear God’s Word.

Why is it that we are not hungry for the Word of God?

For e.g. When kids come home, they immediately go to the fridge or the pantry and look for a snack. We have to warn them to get only one because they will spoil their supper.

The reason we are not hungry is because we have no appetite for the Word of God. We are so full of the junk of this world so when a home-cooked, hot, delicious, nutritious meal of the Word of God is offered we have no appetite. We are up on every TV program and every new movie and every new song but we have no deep concept of the Word of God. We get mad when we cannot find the remote but our Bibles are usually on the dashboard collecting dust.

So what do we have now? Spiritual Hypertension, High Cholesterol, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke, Gallstones, Gout, and the list goes on and on. Even though many of us are saved, we look just like the world.

Application: Are you hungry for the Word of God? Are you desperate to hear the truth?

II. THE PEOPLE WERE SUBMISSIVE TO THE WORD OF GOD.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people (he was on a platform/pulpit); and when he opened it, all the people stood up.

Background: Isn’t that powerful? They all stood up. This was a mark of respect. This was not just Ezra the scribe reading some book. Ezra is just the mouthpiece. This is the Word of God that was about to be read.

This is why we stand up when we read God’s Word at the opening of every message. It visually demonstrates that God is about to speak. His word is inspired; His Word is inerrant; His Word is Authoritative; His Word is Clear; His Word is Necessary; and His Word is Sufficient.

Application: What attitude do you bring to the church? If you’ve already made up your mind that you will not agree with anything that is preached, more than likely, you will walk away hating the Word.

There’s more – 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

Background: The Word “Amen” simply means “So Be It” or “I Agree.” Furthermore, they lifted up their hands, bowed their heads, and worshipped God by getting on their faces. Can you picture that?!!

  • Some churches are all emotions and no Word.
  • Other churches are all Word and no emotions.
  • Here is the ideal – As the Word is being read, the people respond to the authority of the Word and they are not afraid say Amen, lift their hands, bow their heads, and get on their faces before God.

Bottom line: They were completely submitted to the Authority of the Word of God.

Application: Are you submissive to the authority of the Word of God? Do you come with objections or do you come with obedience?

III. THEY WERE TRANSFORMED BY THE WORD OF GOD

Background: It was not enough to just read the Bible. It was also important to understand the Bible. What was the result? And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

Why were they weeping? They realized for the first time how guilty they were before God. They were mourning for their sins. They saw themselves in the mirror of the Word of God. Romans 3:20  “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” For the first time they realized that they had broken their covenant promise of love to God.

Application: As you read this book and as you hear these messages, there will come a time in your life that you will come face-to-face with your utter sinfulness. When that happens, you can either harden your hearts or you can respond with godly sorrow. What happens if you harden your hearts? You will have to weep one day. What happens if you respond with godly sorrow? Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

That’s exactly what happens here – 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Background: In just a few days they were going to celebrate the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This was a day of national mourning, fasting, and repentance. What were special about this day were the two goats. One was sacrificed and the blood was applied to the mercy seat in the temple. The second was kept alive and the sins of the nation were symbolically laid on its head. Then the goat was taken out of the city and driven away, never to return. This was the “scape goat.” Since the Day of Atonement was on the way the people had no need to mourn any more.

So also with us – if Jesus Christ is our Atonement; if you have received Him as your sacrifice for our sin, there is no need to mourn any more. Now all you need to do is live in the Joy of the Lord – that is our strength.

Are you joyful when you should be mourning?

Are you mourning when you should be joyful?

GETTING A HANDLE ON MONEY

GETTING A HANDLE ON MONEY by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Nehemiah 7:70-73 70 And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas, fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments. 71 Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the treasury of the work twenty thousand gold drachmas, and two thousand two hundred silver minas. 72 And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments. 73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities. When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.

Nehemiah's original wall

Overall Background: Nehemiah led the Jewish people to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem. To this day, you can see the remains of that old wall and it is nothing short of a miracle! How could these people do all that and that too in only 52 days! Clearly, it was a work of God. God brought them together, protected them, guided them, and gave them the strength to work together to finish the wall in record time. No doubt it was the work of God. But if we just stop there, we will have an incomplete picture of what really happened. In chapter 7, Nehemiah gives us a report of the number of people who were involved in the project and the amount of money they gave to the building project. Meaning: Even though the whole building project was a work of God,

  • The mortar had to be purchased. It did not just fall out of the sky.
  • The stones had to be ordered. They did not just chisel themselves.
  • The tools had to be bought. They did not just appear out of thin air.

Getting a Handle on Money

The people had to work together and give money towards the cost and expenses of the project. This is very important to understand. Just because God did a powerful work does not mean He violated natural laws and human laws. Even though God was ultimately doing the work, the people also had to do their part.

Just because God is behind all that is happening at Clearview, it doesn’t mean that the concrete, bricks, and lumber will fall out of the sky; it doesn’t mean the trusses will build themselves and the roof will grow on it. It requires our financial support.


I titled this message – “Getting a Handle on Money” because how we give money towards God’s work has a direct impact on what happens to money in our own hands. In other words, how you give is how you keep.

Three important observations in this text:

I. EVERYONE WAS EXPECTED TO GIVE. 

70 And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work.

Background: Who were the “heads of the fathers’ houses?” The father’s house is the extended family unit between the larger tribe and the individual family unit. The larger tribes would be the tribe of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. Under each tribe would be many extended families – the family of Arah, Elam, and Azgad. Under each extended family there were hundreds of individual family units of husband, wife, and their children. The heads of the fathers’ houses set the tone for their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren to give.

For e.g. Growing up mom and dad would always talk about giving our tithes and offerings in church. We saw them struggling but still giving faithfully. They set an example for us to give. Not like the guy who came to church with his family? As they were driving home, he was complaining about everything: “The music was too loud. The sermon was too long. The announcements were unclear. The building was hot. The people were unfriendly.” He went on and on, complaining about everything. Finally, his little boy in the back seat piped up, “Dad, but you’ve got to admit—It wasn’t a bad show for a buck.”

So the heads of the extended families gave but it doesn’t stop there. “The governor gave to the treasury” Some translations have the word “Tirshatah” which in Hebrew literally means “the one to be feared or respected.” It was the title for the governor. Who was the governor? I believe the governor was none other than Nehemiah. He was not there just barking orders but he invested his own money.

At Clearview, we believe that leaders should lead in giving. That does not mean that you should be the largest giver in the church but you should give proportionately to your income. Someone here makes $10,000 a month and they give $200 but another person makes $1000 and gives $100. Who is giving more? The one who is giving $100.

So the heads of the extended families and the governor gave but it doesn’t stop there.

72 And that which the rest of the people gave – Who are they? Everybody else.

Application: How is your giving at Clearview? Many of us have this idea – the rich guys are going to pay for this. I don’t have to give anything. Praise God for those who are wealthy and are giving so faithfully. But God’s order has not changed. Everyone should give according to what He has given to us. Young people—if you are getting paid, you should be giving your tithes and offerings. Single people—if you are working, you should be giving your tithes and offerings. Married Couples – if each of you is working, each of you should tithe. If you are on a fixed income – you should still tithe. If you are on a retirement, you should still tithe. I’ve heard people say – “I’m not a member so I don’t have to give.” Let me ask you—“Has this church changed your life?” “Has the preaching, ministry, and friendships at Clearview helped you and your family, then you should give.”

II. EVERYONE GAVE ABOVE AND BEYOND.

Gold Darics Persia

How much did the governor give? Verse 70 The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas, What is a “drachma?” It was actually aPersian gold coin called “daric.” The word “dari” was an Old Persian word for gold. It was 98% gold and 2% alloy for hardness. It weighed about 1/3 of an ounce. One Daric could buy you an ox or pay a soldier’s salary for a month. That is a lot of money!

How much did Governor Nehemiah give? 1000 gold drachmas = 20 pounds of gold besides fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments.

How much did the heads of the fathers’ houses give? Verse 71 twenty thousand gold drachmas, and two thousand two hundred silver minas. What is a “mina?” It was a Babylonian silver coin. One mina = 60 shekels. One shekel was the average monthly wage and so one mina would pay an average worker for 5 years. That is a lot of money!

How much did the rest of the people give? Verse 72 twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments. These people gave above and beyond what was expected of them. They had plenty of reasons not to give:

–       We have just returned from Babylon. We are just getting settled. We don’t have a stable job.

–       There is no guarantee if this project is going to work. What if it all fails?

–       We don’t live in Jerusalem. It’s not going to benefit us.

–       We are helping out at the building. We don’t have to give any money.

–       Nehemiah’s got all the money. Let him give. The heads of the families have all the money. Let them give.

These people could have made every excuse in the book but they didn’t. They gave above and beyond. They gave sacrificially. They gave overwhelmingly.

Listen carefully: I believe that Clearview is a loving church, praying church, singing church, going church but we have yet to be a giving church. I hear all kinds of excuses:

–       “Tithing is Old Testament” – Abraham gave a tithe way before Moses ever gave the Ten Commandments. In fact, in the NT, tithing is just the starting point!

–       “Just cause I don’t give doesn’t mean I don’t love Jesus”—Like the bumper sticker: “Honk if you love Jesus.” I heard of another one—“Tithe if you love Jesus.  Any fool can honk.” When John Wesley would visit his congregations he would often ask his assistants about their progress in the faith. He would often ask if their Christianity had affected their pockets. That is the real test of what we believe. We have yet to love God with our wallets.

–       “I would if I had some extra”—God instituted tithing to teach us that it all belongs to Him and that we are to give back a portion of what He has given us. It’s like the father who buys French Fries for his son. Then just like fathers do. He reaches over to take one and the little boy slaps his father’s hand. “Don’t touch my French fries!” Now the father knows that he bought the fries. He could take all of them. He could get angry with his son. He could throw them in a trashcan. He could do anything he wanted to with those fries. The problem is that his son is selfish. That is the same way with us when we refuse to give God our tithe. We slap God’s hand and say, “Don’t touch my money!”

–       “I give what I can”—You are to tithe on your gross not on your net. When you tithe on your net, you are in essence saying that the government not God gets the “first fruit” of our increase. If you are throwing in $5—are you only making $50 per month? I give $50; are you only making $500 a month?

Application: This is a tough message but it is desperately needed. Are we stealing from God? Are we playing safe? Are you hiding behind someone else’s giving?

III. EVERYONE BENEFITED FROM GIVING.

73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities. 

Background: Because the people gave financially, the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt. Stability, peace, security, and prosperity returned to the nation. Their enemies realized that the Jewish people were back in control and they were afraid to attack them and vandalize their cities and their properties. What’s more? When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.” Not only did they build the wall in record time but they also repopulated their original cities in record time! Just in time for the Feast of the Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of the Tabernacles. Isn’t that amazing?! Everything was a testimony to the hand of God upon His people.

When we give faithfully, God does things with our tithes and offerings that are way beyond our imagination. We get much more than we bargained for.

For e.g. The first check that Nicole writes in our home is the tithe check. Does it get tight sometimes? Yes it does. It is a sacrifice but God wants us to feel the pain when we give to Him. It is a reminder of the pain that the Father felt when He gave His Only Son to die on the cross for our sins. But every month God meets our needs in amazing ways. He always has. Not only that but He takes what we give back to Him and He multiplies it much much more.

How awesome it is to see God turning our community around and changing the hearts and minds of men and women, boys and girls!

Two decisions:

1. Is Jesus Christ your Savior?

2. Is in charge of your finances?

Corrie Ten Boom said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

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