Refining Fire by Pastor Abidan Shah

REFINING FIRE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Refining Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alive: What Jesus’ Resurrection Means for Us

ALIVE – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

aliveIntroduction: Have you ever had a bad day? I mean, a really really bad day! There are so many funny pictures on the web of people having a bad day. Sometimes you have to be careful because they can be raunchy and some are even photo shopped. But there’s only one man I know who had the worst day of anybody in the entire history of our world and it was definitely not funny…One morning, a gang of thieves raided his farm, killed all his workers, and stole all his farm equipment. On the same day, a fire burned up his dairy farm and killed all his employees. On the same day, a rival business stole all his vehicles and killed all his drivers. On the same day, his children and their spouses were having a party at the older brother’s house and a big tornado tore through the house, destroyed it, killing his entre family. If that wasn’t enough, a couple of days later, he was struck with horrible sores all over his body like poison ivy and poison oak on steroids. He was so miserable that he went outside, sat on the ground, and scratched himself with a piece of dried pottery just to get some relief. To make matters worse, his wife told him that the only way out of his misery was to commit suicide. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I am referring to Job in the Old Testament. In this message we will learn that in the midst of his trials Job found hope in the resurrection of his Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Job 19   23 “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! 24 That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, 27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Trials have a way of clarifying what we really believe about God, life, and the future. Difficult seasons of life have a way of giving us a deeper understanding of God’s plan, grace, and hope in our lives.

Question: How do you see the trials in your life? Do you lose heart? Do you get angry? Do you become cynical? Do you run out on your marriage and your family? Some people start playing the blame game when trials come into their lives. They blame themselves. They blame their past. They blame someone in their lives. They even blame God. Do you see the Resurrected Christ in your trials like Job did? Do you see hope in Christ at all? If not then you need to be saved?

2 things you need to do:

I. REJECT FALSE VIEWS 

Job 2:11 “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.”

Background: Word began to travel about what had happened to Job. His friends connected with each other and decided to visit Job in order to comfort him. Thank God for true friends who come to us when we are down. But in this situation each one of them came with their opinion about why Job was going through all these trials. Unfortunately, their opinions hurt Job more than help him. Let’s look at them briefly:

  1. Eliphaz the Temanite: He was the oldest one of the bunch and seemed to have more sense than the others. Even though he showed Job respect, he didn’t have much compassion on him. In his wise view, his friend Job was a good man who had lost his way and that’s why bad things were happening to him.
  2. Bildad the Shuhite: In his view, Job was committing blasphemy by questioning the justice of God against him. He told Job that his family got what they deserved and if he keeps running his mouth, then he will also get what he deserves from God, which is more pain and suffering.
  3. Zophar the Naamathite: Out of all three of Job’s friends, he was the most caustic, abrasive, and hateful in his tone. In his view, Job should either repent or die because that’s what happens to wicked people. In others words, Job was a wicked man who was getting his due from God and needed to repent immediately.

Question: Which kind of friends are you listening to in your life? Do they bring only pain, shame, fear, and guilt to you? Sometimes they are not friends but family members. It is time to cover your ears from such false counselors. By the way, such people don’t have to be currently present in your lives. Sometimes they can be people from your past who have since moved on or even died but you are still listening to them. Sometimes they can be people on a TV program or in a book who are giving you wrong advice. It is time to purge your board of advisors. They are not bad people just bad counselors.

II. REDIRECT YOUR FOCUS

How does Job respond to his false advisors? After trying to defend his integrity and innocence in vain, Job redirects his focus. Let’s carefully examine his words in Job 19   23 “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! 24 That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever!” Two things here: First, Job wants people to remember forever what he is about to say because it is very important. Second, Job knows that what he is about to say might not happen in his lifetime. He may be 6-feet under the ground before it finally happens. In other words, Job is saying – “Put this on my tombstone.”

Principle: Some of you want justice in this life. Like the woman who was abused told me, “I feel like he’s going to get away with it.” She felt that death would end all hope of vindication. Don’t forget: Death is only a temporary interruption of your physical existence but your story is not yet complete. The final chapter is still to be written for those who know God.

What is the final chapter? 25 “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” Now begins one of the most disputed sections in Job or even the whole Bible. Job is saying here that even though he will die before he gets justice, vindication, and defense of his character, someone will speak for him. Job tried but his friends told him that he was biased. Job argued but his friends out argued him. Now Job’s only hope is to look to someone who would be willing to stand for him, who would be capable of speaking for him. Someone who would declare with authority, “Job is innocent. I have rock solid proof.”

Who is this someone? Job calls him “my Redeemer.” The word in Hebrew is “goel.” It had 2 meanings in the Old Testament. First, it had a criminal meaning. If someone were to kill a person, the nearest family member was responsible for bringing justice (not revenge) to that person. Second, it had a civil meaning. If a person died and lost their inheritance, the nearest family member was responsible for buying back and retrieving the property. If you remember, how Boaz married Ruth to save the family of Naomi because Elimelech her husband and their two sons had died. This “goel” had taken on a very special meaning for the people of Israel throughout history. God had become their Redeemer, the nearest family member who would bring justice to them and retrieve what was lost for them, even if they were not there to see it. Listen to these verses: Exodus 6:6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: “I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” Proverbs 23   10 “Do not remove the ancient landmark, Nor enter the fields of the fatherless; 11 For their Redeemer is mighty; He will plead their cause against you.” Psalm 103   2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction…” Isaiah 43:1 But now, thus says the LORD…O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” Jeremiah 50:34 “Their Redeemer is strong; The LORD of hosts is His name. He will thoroughly plead their case…”

Listen again to that line – “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” “Lives” here is much more than being alive. It has the idea of permanent existence. In other words, death cannot stop this Redeemer. There’s only one Redeemer who has conquered death. His name is Jesus. Listen to Peter in Acts 2   22 “…Jesus of Nazareth…24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Listen to Paul in 2 Timothy 1   8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling…10…who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”

But Job is not through yet – 25 “…And He shall stand at last on the earth…” Literally, it can be read as “in the end he will stand on the dust.” Which dust? The very dust that covers the grave of Job. What right does Jesus have to stand at my grave? Acts 20:28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock…to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood.” Ephesians 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” I Peter 1   18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…19 but with the precious blood of Christ…” Revelation 5:9 “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…”

Now comes the climax 26 “And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God…” Meaning: Job will be present at his vindication! He will be there at his final trial and the first face he will see is that of his Redeemer God. How awesome to think that Jesus will be present at the resurrection of every one of his children! Isn’t it awesome that on the day of resurrection he is personally going to call each one out of the grave! When life comes back into our decayed decomposed body, the first face we will see is the face of his Redeemer God Jesus! Finally – 27 “Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job is eagerly anticipating this day!

Folks, we have moved past the need of vindication that Job had. Now we have a great commission given to us. 2 Corinthians 5   14 “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again…17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we are no longer looking for vindication but reconciliation. We are no longer victims of our circumstances but ambassadors for Christ.

Are you saved? If you are the victim, have hope. If you are the perpetrator, seek forgiveness. Instead of anger, bitterness, and defeat, have hope, confidence, and ministry.

When God Tests Us by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD TESTS US by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whengodtestsusIntroduction: We’re back in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father” and today’s message is titled – “When God Tests Us.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: We have come to the last and probably the hardest petition in the Lord’s Prayer – “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Unlike the other petitions, this is the only negative request that is asking God not to do something. This morning we will be answering some very important questions from this passage but first let me say – Both trials and temptations are a normal part of the Christian life. 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” Men and women of God through the ages have gone through them. They’re not fun in the least. But God has a purpose in them for us and He is faithful to deliver us and refine us through them if we let Him.

Questions: Are you going through some trials in your life? Does it feel like it just keeps coming? Does it feel like the Enemy keeps winning in your life, your home, and your world? Have you prayed for God’s deliverance? Are you submitting to God’s will in your life? Are you saved? If not, then you are already in the clutches of the Evil One?

3 Questions we will answer this morning:

I. DOES GOD LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION? 

“And do not lead us into temptation…”

Background: When you think about it, this petition seems to go directly against James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” Typically, some people have tried to solve this dilemma by pointing out that the same Greek word “peirasmos” is used for testing and temptation, which is true. They suggest that the translation should be changed to “Lead us not into testing” and the problem is solved. That’s not true. Actually, it creates some new set of problems. Again, James 1 says, 2 “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” It means – testing is not harmful but helpful and we should be joyful in the face of it. If that were the case, why would Jesus teach us to pray against something that is helpful for us?

To understand what Jesus really meant, we need to understand 2 things – First, the word “peirasmos” and the verb “peirazo” have been consistently used in a negative sense in Matthew. When Jesus gave this petition, he had the negative “temptation” and not the positive “testing” in mind, especially since He even brings up the Evil One. Second, we may have problem with this petition but the Jewish people didn’t. In the Talmuddic prayers, we come across a similar petition – “Lead my foot not into the power of sin, and bring me not into the power of iniquity, and not into the power of temptation, and not into the power of anything shameful.”

Here’s the point: Jesus meant what He said and His original audience had no problem with the statement that sometimes God leads His people into situations where the Enemy is allowed to tempt them. Several examples from the Bible come to mind here:

Job and his friends by Ilya Repin

Job and his friends by Ilya Repin

In the opening chapter of Job, we see God bragging on Job to Satan. Job 1   8 “…Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?…11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” After Satan wreaked havoc in Jacob’s life and Job didn’t deny God, God again bragged on Job. Again, Satan tells God that it’s because it’s not hot enough. Job 2   5 But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”

We see a similar situation in the life of David. 2 Samuel 24:1 Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” We don’t know exactly why God tested David in this way but look at the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:1 “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” Very strange! On the one hand, God is testing David but, on the other, Satan is tempting David.

Christ in the wilderness - Ivan Kramskoy

Christ in the wilderness – Ivan Kramskoy

Turn to the NT to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew 4:1 says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” It’s as clear as day.

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus has an eerie conversation with Peter. Luke 22   31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” There is a sense of finality in Jesus’ statement of what was about to happen in Peter’s life.

How about Paul? 2 Corinthians 12   7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Here’s the point: God does not tempt us but He does allow us to go into situations where the Enemy can tempt us. It is part of His grand design to purify and humble us.

Application: Are you facing temptations in your life? Are old habits, attitudes, and behaviors resurfacing in your life? Don’t panic. Don’t lose heart. Realize that God is allowing the Enemy to tempt you. He has not abandoned. He is with you. He has a purpose for you. Trust Him. Do you believe that in your worst moments God has not abandoned you but He is very near to you?

II. HOW SHOULD WE PRAY DURING TEMPTATION? 

13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Background: Some people say – “I get it. Satan wants to tempt me but God wants to test me. I guess I should be glad that I am going through this. I am just going to grin it and bear it because it’s all going to work in my favor when it’s over. After all, doesn’t James 1:2 say, ‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.’ To be honest, we should be looking forward to testing because it’s good for us! In fact, God – bring on some more! Also, doesn’t I Corinthians 10:13 also reminds us that, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” God knows my limit and He won’t put any more temptation on me than I can take.”

Here’s the question: If temptation is productive and God knows my limits and will not put on me any more than I can take, why did Jesus teach us to beg God not to lead us into temptation? To start with, Jesus’ original readers did not have any problem with this petition. In fact, this kind of petition was not uncommon in Jewish prayers of the time. Listen to Psalm 155 from Qumran. It says, “Remember me and do not forget me, and do not lead me into situations too hard for me.” In other words, God, please don’t let me get into situations that will produce overwhelming temptation. Here’s the point – if we ignore the context, we will miss the intent. This prayer is a conversation between a child and the father. How does the prayer begin? “Our Father in Heaven” Jesus is teaching us how to come to God as our heavenly father, something the Jewish people understood very well. This prayer is not a discourse on systematic theology, which the Jewish people were not so keen on – bringing passages from here and there on a subject and constructing a doctrine.

Illustration: Sometime back I was watching our boys playing on the soccer team and this little kid got hit with the ball in the face. It was pretty hard. All of us went “whoa!” collectively. The coach ran up there and the mom ran up there. By this time, the kid was crying and when he saw his mom, he ran up to her and hugged on to her. Let me ask you – why did he go hug his mom? She’s not the coach. She cannot ease the pain. She didn’t cause the pain. Why? To a child, the mother is a symbol of safety and comfort. By the way, he stopped that real quickly when he realized that all his teammates and all of us were watching him.

The point is this – God is the source of comfort in our trials and He wants us to come to Him as a child to his/her father and plead for “mercy and grace to help in time of need.” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1   3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation…” Jesus was not laying out the doctrine of theodicy (Why God permits evil). He was simply laying out the attitude of prayer. Listen carefully – Proper theology leads to proper intimacy but don’t let your theology get in the way of your intimacy with God. In other words, stop teaching God the Bible and just pray.

Application: How do you pray? Do you pray like that little child, flinging himself in his mother’s arms? Or do you let your theology get in the way of your intimacy with God? Do you come to Him in in the midst of your struggles and just fall upon Him and ask Him for relief? Or do you presume to teach God the Bible?

III. WHAT IF OUR PRAYERS REMAIN UNANSWERED? 

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Background: The word “but” implies that if we have to go through temptation, then please “deliver” us from the Enemy. The Greek word for deliver is “hruomai” which means, “to rescue someone from a fate from which he cannot escape on his own.” In other words, the battle is on and the Enemy is in control and the disciple is too weak to free oneself. Someone else is needed to fight the Enemy and set them free. Now the battle is in the Deliverer’s hands.

Jesus gave the perfect demonstration of this in the Garden of Gethsemane – Luke 22   41 “…and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; “Wait a minute. What are you talking about? You came for this very purpose? You know you had to do this.” The pressure is so high that right now it’s only a son talking to his father. But then listen – “‘…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Meaning: Jesus submitted Himself to the trial. 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. He prayed as a child but submitted as a son.

Real Trial. Real Prayer. Real Answer. Real Submission. Real Victory.

Invitation: Are you going through some temptation right now? Are you praying for help? Are you praying for deliverance from the Enemy? Are you saved?

When It’s Hard to be Grateful

WHEN IT’S HARD TO BE GRATEFUL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whenitshardtobegratefulThanksgiving is upon us and we often hear things like – “We have so much to be grateful for” or “There’s always something to be thankful for.” Although that’s true, sometimes it’s just hard to be grateful when you are going through a difficult time. So, I want to preach a message titled, “WHEN IT’S HARD TO BE GRATEFUL.”

Psalm 13 1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Overall Background: Psalm 13, the psalm we just read, is known as an individual lament. It is the desperate cry to God of one individual who is going through a very difficult time. Who is this individual? If you take the superscription (the first line) “A Psalm of David” as authentic (which I do), then this psalm was written by David. Apparently, David was going through some great trial and suffering and he wrote this psalm as a prayer and a praise to God. What was David going through that was so difficult? We don’t really know the answer to that. Maybe it was when he was running for his life from King Saul. Maybe it was when David and his men were busy fighting the Philistines and the Amalekites had attacked their base camp and taken their wives and children as hostages. Maybe it was when David was fleeing his own son Absalom. We’re not sure exactly what was happening but one thing we know is that David felt like he was dying and there was no one there to save him, not even God.

Question: Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been in a trial when you felt like God was just not coming through? Have you ever cried – “How long O Lord? How long?” Listen carefully: Just because you are saved doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the fiery trials of life. David was saved and yet he felt as if God had abandoned him. It’s easy to praise God and be grateful when things are great. It’s very very difficult to be grateful when things are not great.

Are you going to a difficult time? Has it been hard for you to be grateful? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this psalm. As Joseph Parker, the great Victorian preacher of City Temple Church in London in the late 1800s said, “The psalm begins with winter and ends with summer.”

I. THE PRESSURE OF LIFE 

1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?

Background: The psalm begins with a series of rhetorical questions known as “erotesis.” It means asking questions back-to-back without expecting any answer. Listen again – How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? The Bible is such a true to life book, isn’t it? Many of us have been in a similar situation when we have cried – “What are you doing God?” “Why are you allowing this to go on?” “Can you not change this situation? “Can you not answer my prayer?” “Why do you let my enemies win over me?” Many times people compare the Bible to other religious books. There is no comparison! This book is so real and applicable.

But there’s something more – there’s another figure of speech here known as “anaphora,” which means repeating the same words at the beginning of a series of statements. 1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul…? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? David is really struggling with the time that God is taking to respond. He’s asking – “Why is God just sitting there and watching me suffer?” “If He loves me, why doesn’t He do something?” By the way, there is no mention of sin and need for repentance. This means that this was not some punishment for sin.

Question: How many of y’all have wondered that at some point in your life? If God is all loving and all powerful, why doesn’t He do something about my situation? If I’m not sinning, why is God delaying His answer?

Illustration: When I was going through pain, I remember asking the same questions.

Listen carefully: It’s not a sin to ask that question. Jesus also did from the cross. As he hung on the cross for sins He did not commit. He was paying the penalty of your sins and my sins and the sins of every human being. He was fulfilling what He had agreed to do even before the foundation of the world. Nonetheless, Matthew 27 says in 45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Application: Are you going through a difficult time? Do you know that God understands? Jesus is our “merciful and faithful High Priest” who sympathizes with us. It’s alright to cry before Him? David did. Jesus did.

II. THE PRAYER OF DESPERATION 

3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;

Background: Even though David has been praying for a long time and has questioned God for delaying His answer, yet he does not give up on prayer. Instead, he prays again. Unfortunately, when we go through tough times, we stop praying. “Why pray when God is not even going to hear.” This is the time when you should pray all the more. What is interesting to me is that now David refers to God as “my God.” It is personal. One reason God allows us to go through difficult times is to bring us closer to Him.

What does David pray for? “Enlighten my eyes…” Job said the same thing in Job 17:7 “My eye has also grown dim because of sorrow, And all my members are like shadows.” Our greatest need in times of trials is vision. “God help me to see what you see.” From my perspective, it is hopeless. But then he says, “Lest I sleep the sleep of death.” What is at stake? David is so worn out that he thinks it’s going to kill him.

How many of y’all have said that at some time in your life – “This situation is going to kill me.” What’s the answer? Pray.

What else? 4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. One of the hardest things to face is our enemy doing well while we suffer. It is tough to watch the Enemy winning over our lives. By the way, the first enemy is singular and the second is plural. Meaning: We have one “The Enemy” and then we also have many “enemies.”

Once again, Jesus understands this. Listen to the Messianic Psalm 22 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

Application: Are you praying through trials? How are you addressing God? Are you praying for His vision in your desperation? Are you asking God to bring life into your dead situation? Are you reminding Him how the enemy is mocking you?

III. THE PRAISE OF VICTORY 

5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;

Background: Just when you feel as if all hope is gone and there is no sign of God, answer comes. David prayed for vision and God answered him. He always does! But His answer came in a very different way. It doesn’t say that God just removed the problem or that God vanquished David’s enemies. Instead, God changed David’s perspective. He is able to see life in a wholly different way. Now David is not as concerned with God’s power as He is in His mercy, His loving kindness. He understands that God does not owe Him anything. He understands that all he deserves is God’s judgment. Instead, God chooses to be merciful to David.

Many of us have too high a view of ourselves. Trials have a way of humbling us. They have a way of showing us who we really are and what we really deserve.

What’s more – My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

Previously, David’s joy was built upon his circumstances. Now, he rejoices in God’s salvation. What is this salvation? It is salvation from sin. It is salvation from self. It is salvation from Satan. It is also salvation from our circumstances. Maybe it has already happened or David is beginning to see the faint light of God’s intervention in his life. We don’t like to wait on God’s timing – Abraham had to wait for 25 years for Isaac to be born. Isaac had to wait for 20 years for his children. Joseph had to wait for 13 years before he became second in command in Egypt. Moses had to wait for 80 years before He could lead God’s people to the Promised Land. Jesus had to wait 33 years before He could do what He came to do.

What is David’s response? 6 “I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Now David breaks out in a song and says – “The Lord has dealt bountifully with me.” Before prayer David felt that he was falling into the sleep of death. He cries out to God in prayer. There is a change in perspective. Now he realizes how merciful God has been to him and all he can say is that “God has dealt bountifully with me.” Meaning: God is better to me than I deserve!

Question: How do you see your life? Do you feel that God is not giving you what you deserve? Do you feel that God is holding out on His best for your life? That is the Enemy’s greatest lie. He used it against Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and he still uses it against God’s people, especially when they are going through a difficult time.

Are you facing a tough time? Are you having a tough time praying? Are you saved? If you are saved, then when you can’t pray, the Holy Spirit is there to pray for you.

Romans 8   26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT

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HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUITOnce again, it’s good to be back home. Nicole and I had an amazing time in Israel! We were concerned, as many of you were also, about our safety. After we checked in the hotel in Tel Aviv, we decided to walk down to the ancient site of Joppa on the seashore, which was just 10 minutes from the hotel and it was only 8 o’clock in the evening. Since Joppa was not on our itinerary, we figured if we quickly walk there we could say we’ve been to the place where Jonah boarded the ship to go to Tarshish instead of Nineveh and where Peter had the vision of the unclean animals to teach him that the Gentiles were also welcome into the kingdom of God. So we crossed the street and got on the boardwalk that led to the site. It was well lit for couple of hundred yards and there were people there so we felt safe. Five minutes into the walk we realized that the streetlights didn’t go all the way to the site. In fact we had to walk through this dark road for a couple of miles. We said to each other let’s go a little bit further and if it gets worse we will turn right back and there’s the hotel. Just then I heard someone running behind me. I’m thinking all the worst. I turned to look and it was a girl jogging with her dog. Next thing – I see somebody else jogging from the direction we were going and it was a woman. As we kept walking, we saw men and women walking together leisurely and children playing around. It was more than safe. What was amazing was that it was about 10 o’clock when we headed back from Joppa and guess what – more people were just coming to the boardwalk to jog and exercise. We saw women by themselves and families and couples. The next day I asked the guide about it and he said – “The media paints a very negative picture of Israel. What you saw is normal. What you didn’t see was that there were plain-clothes policeman everywhere. Because we have to deal with terrorism so much, the result is that we’re probably the safest country on earth and our people know it.”

We saw a lot of sites and took as many as 5000 pictures and videos and plan on passing it along to you but we also had loads of fun!

This morning we’re back in our series on the Life of Christ and I’m preaching a message from Matthew 4 on the temptation of Jesus titled – HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT. I’m going to read this passage right from the wilderness of Judea where Jesus was tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Judean Wilderness

Judaea Wilderness (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: The wilderness of Judea extends from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. It is 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. It is an area of yellow sand and crumbling limestone. Even to this day there’s nothing out there but wild animals. As we drove through it, I tried to imagine what it was like for Jesus to be out there, isolated and hungry, tormented by the devil himself. He didn’t have to go through that but He did. Why? He did it to teach us how to overcome temptation in our own lives.

This morning we will learn 4 things from the life of Jesus on how to deal with temptation or the forbidden fruit:

I. TIMING: USUALLY FOLLOWING THE MOUNTAINTOPS. 

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Background: To understand the seriousness of this passage, you actually have to read it in its context. In the verses directly preceding this passage, we read about John’s baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. By the way, we’re skipping over this message that I preached right by the banks of the Jordan River. You’ll get to watch it in a few Sundays. But this baptism was a very important event in the life of Jesus. As Matthew tells us that when He came up out of the water – 16 “behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Wow! Jesus was fully God but also remember that He was fully man. This was a mountaintop moment in His life. Gone were the days of just being a carpenter’s son in Nazareth; gone were the days of saying “My time has not yet come.” Gone were the days of waiting patiently. Luke tells us in Luke 3:23 that Jesus was thirty years of age at this time. His Heavenly Father had acknowledged him. You would think that the next thing would be for Him to find a pulpit and preach a thundering message or put up a sign up sheet of who wants to be my disciple or march into the temple in Jerusalem and declare that He was the Son of God here to save the world.

Instead, the very next verse says – 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. I actually love Mark’s rendition in Mark 1:12 “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”

King David's Tomb

King David’s Tomb (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

There’s a powerful principle here that you cannot afford to miss – “Be careful about the mountaintops in the Christian life. It’s right after a great message, a great service, a spiritual victory, and some positive experience in our lives that we face some of the worst and the lowest moments of our lives.” In fact, we are the most vulnerable right after we have seen God’s glory. We had the opportunity to see the tomb of David. I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 23 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Now the very next verse – 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Application: Are you dealing with the wilderness of temptation? Do you feel that the enemy is after you? Are you on the mountaintop?

II. BAIT: NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED 

Background: The tactics of the Enemy haven’t changed much since the Garden of Eden. We’re going to follow the chronology of the temptations as given by Luke in his gospel. Matthew was not concerned about the order, which is fine.

First Bait – Luke 4:3   And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” He appealed to His appetite. Remember – he did the same to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” People will do almost anything just satisfy their taste buds and belly.

Second Bait – Luke 4:5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” He appealed to His eyes/pleasure. Once again remember he did the same to Eve. Genesis 3:6 “…that it was pleasant to the eyes…” The eyes are the windows to the soul.

Third Bait – Luke 4:9   Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ 11 and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” He appealed to His pride. Once again remember Eve. Genesis 3:6 “…and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

The baits haven’t changed – Appetite, Pleasure, and Pride. Listen to 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Does this mean we cannot enjoy good food, pleasure, and have ambitions? Of course not. The question is – “Is God the center and focus of your life?” 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Application: Are you letting food, pleasure, and pride rule your life? Are you aware of the enemy’s bait in your life?

III. DEFENSE: GOD’S WORD. 

Each times the devil tempted Jesus He replied with Scripture. He used the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)

#1 Food – Luke 4:4 Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

#2 Pleasure – 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:13.

#3 Pride – 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.

Most people (and I’m not exempting Christians from this category) tend to live by their emotions, intuitions, or experiences. As a pastor I do a lot of marital and premarital counseling. I explain to the couples that your emotions can be very misleading. You hear things like – “I felt I had to do that.” “I just had this feeling.” “You know when you get that feeling.” Men – You’re married but what if you were to come across this woman and immediately you feel a connection with her. It’s amazing! She’s the one! You can feel it deep within! I made a huge mistake and married the wrong person and I need to get with this one. You might wanna try Tums! And the same goes with you ladies.

One of my favorite quotes by J. Sidlow Baxter is “Your emotions are the shallowest part of your nature. God doesn’t do His deepest work in the shallowest part.”

So what is the surest way of handling temptations? It is the truth of the Word of God. Listen to Psalm 119:11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” That’s why at Clearview we focus so much on the Bible with adults and youth and children (Awana). By the way, you better know your Bible because sometimes the enemy may even use the Bible against you. Jerome the church father who translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate (we stood in the place where he worked and later his grave was) said, “Therefore if anyone is not feeding on the Word of God, that person is not living.”

Application: What is the place of God’s Word in your life? Are you feeding upon it? Are you reading it? Are you hearing it preached? Are your children coming to Sunday School, youth, Awana, etc?

IV. KEY: JESUS WAS MORE THAN OUR EXAMPLE.

It is very easy to misunderstand this message. “Jesus has given us an example on how to deal with temptation. All you have to do with temptation is know the timing, recognize the baits, and use the Bible.” Not true.

Israel wandering in the Wilderness

Israel wandering in the Wilderness (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Have you noticed that every time Jesus responded to the devil He quoted from Deuteronomy? These words were actually given to the people of Israel when they left Egypt and were headed to the Promised Land. God had told them to trust Him, look to Him, wait upon Him, and they will be all right. As you know, the people blew the test. They didn’t trust God, didn’t look to Him, and didn’t wait upon Him. They griped, complained, worshipped the golden calf, and disobeyed Moses. What was the result? They all had to die in the wilderness.

Jesus in those 40 went through what the people of Israel went through in 40 years and He showed how it is more than possible to walk with God in faith and obedience. But there’s more – He did it to become our provision as we walk through the same trials and temptations. Listen to Hebrews 2:18 “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Meaning: My job and your job in dealing with trials and temptations is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

In Matthew 14:22 we read how the disciples were in the middle of the Sea, tossed by the waves. We were on the Sea of Galilee and its quite frightening how it can go from being perfectly calm to a storm. As you know Jesus walked to them and they were afraid thinking it was a ghost. But Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous… Meaning: He took his eyes off Jesus. Immediately he began to sink. They key is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Invitation: Do you have your eyes on Jesus? Are you saved?

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