Discipleship 3: Together by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – TOGETHERNESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Together

Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Resources, did a Twitter survey sometime back on the really strange reasons people give for not attending church. Here are a few of my favorites:“We were out of peanut butter.” “My wife cooked bacon for breakfast, and our entire family smelled like bacon.” “The pastor stays in the Bible too much.” “The worship leader pulls up his pants too often. It’s distracting.” “The church is too close to drive, and too far to walk.” “We got burned out at church and have been taking a break for the past seven years.” I’ve been pastoring this church, my only church, for the past 20 years and I’ve met people who are always looking for reasons to skip church. Today’s message is on the importance of togetherness in discipleship. You can grow alone in a flower pot for only so long. True and ultimate discipleship is long term and it happens only in the soil of community. You need others to be a true disciple.

Acts 2   42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Question: The early church understood the value of togetherness. Do you understand the importance of being together in the body of Christ? Are you a part of the body of Christ? Are you saved? What binds us together is the same Holy Spirit? Is he in you?

Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. We’ve already looked at the first two letters W and A and, in this message, we will focus on the third letter T = Togetherness. 3 main things we need to understand about Togetherness:

 I. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS TRAINED IN TOGETHERNESS BY JESUS.

Background:When people read in Acts about how the early church was together, loving and caring for one another, and putting each other first, they assume that it was some organic movement that just happened. Not true. For e.g.When you watch your favorite ball team play a great game, you know that it didn’t just happen. You know that the coach has been training them.So also, Coach Jesus had been training his disciples on the importance of being together and they were simply living it out.

I want us to look at a major training session that Jesus had with his disciples towards the close of his ministry. You remember in John 13, after the Last Supper, how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Itwas unthinkable for a master to wash his disciples’ feet.Peter even tried to stop Jesus but he warned him that this was a must if he was going to be his disciple. Why was this so important? Listen carefully to how Jesus explained to them the meaning of what he had done for them – 12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 14If I then, yourLord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”Don’t misunderstand:This was much more than “Y’all get along when I’m gone. Wash each other’s feet until I return.” Listen carefully –34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Loving one another was the mark of a disciple before the watching world. The key words here are “one another.” I can wash my own feet but that is not keeping this commandment, that is not proving my discipleship before the watching world. I can even try to wash the feet of the world (feed the hungry, house the homeless, take care of the needy) but that is still not keeping this commandment and proving my discipleship before the watching world. This commandment can only be obeyed in the context of “one another.” This is why the early church was doing what they were doing!

Application:If you are a disciple of Christ, the same commandment applies to you. Do you love others in the body of Christ? Do you care to prove your discipleship to the watching world?

II. IT IS NATURAL FOR DISCIPLES TO NEGLECT TOGETHERNESS. 

Background:Very early on in the church’s life, the disciples began to drift away from each other. They forgot Jesus’ commandment of being together. A major evidence for this is found in the book of Hebrews. By the way, a key phrase in this book is “let us.”Listen to chapter 10verse 22let usdraw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let ushold fast the confession of ourhope without wavering, for He who promisedisfaithful. 24And let usconsider one anotherin order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, asisthe manner of some, but exhortingone another,and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Why did the writer of Hebrews have to exhort the early Christians to keep meeting? Or why did the early Christians stop meeting? I believe for the same reasons that Christians or disciples stop meeting even today. Here are a few that I’ve come across:

  • I don’t have to be in church in order to be a Christian.If you say that, you do not understand what the church is. It is not a building. In fact, it is described in different ways. Paul gives several ways in his letter to the Ephesians. He calls it the body of Christ.Ephesians 1 22And He gave Him(Christ)to behead over allthingsto the church, 23which is His body…” What if I told you, “I love you very much but I hate your body”? Other times, he calls it the family of Jesus. Ephesians 2:19“…you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your family”? Sometimes, he calls the church the bride/wife of Christ. Ephesians 5:25“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your wife”?
  • I’m very busy and Sunday is my only day off.We always find time for things that are important. Time is not the problem. Understanding is. If you understanding the value of being with other believers, you will make time for it. Also, we have services several times on Sunday mornings and even on Saturday evenings.
  • There are a lot of hypocrites in church.What’s your point? In fact, what better place for hypocrites to be than at church where they can hear the truth. By the way, be careful about pointing fingers at others. As a pastor once said to someone who said that – “Come on in. We have room for one more.”
  • I did until something bad happened to me.I’m very sorry for what happened to you. This is one I do understand. When I first came here from India, I went to church. Little did I expect what was about to happen or not happen. This church was known as a good church and bible believing church but no one shook my hand. I was so hurt that I didn’t go to church for almost 2 years. God had to use circumstances and people to bring me back. Here’s my encouragement to you – When you stop going for one reason or another, no matter how legitimate your reason is, you are no longer able to demonstrate your discipleship.

Application:What is your reason for rejecting togetherness with other disciples? Are you willing to give that hurt to God and forgive that person or church and let God prove your discipleship before the watching world?

III. TOGETHERNESS IS A MEASURING STICK FOR DISCIPLESHIP. 

In the first message in this series on discipleship, I explained to you how Jesus moved people through 3 concentric circles.Outside the circles was the CROWD, the vast majority who were not following Jesus. Then came the first circle, the CONGREGATION.These were the multitudes that followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Then came the second circle,theCOMMUNITY. These were the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 from Luke 10as well. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Finally came the third circle, the CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. From these, Jesus expected much more. What I want you to understand is that to each of this groups Jesus had a different call:

  • To the crowd, it was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • To the multitudes, it was “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
  • To the disciples, it was “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • To the inner circle, it was “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

This applies to us today:

  • Crowd (people out in our neighborhood, workplaces, friends) – get saved
  • Congregation (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) – commit yourself;
  • Community (disciples – Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Studies) – love one another, learn to be together;
  • Circle (Accountability groups) – help each other.

Invitation:Which group do you belong to? Do you understand the value of togetherness? What are you doing to move through these circles? Are you saved?

Steadfast by Pastor Abidan Shah

STEADFAST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Steadfast

Introduction:  A little boy was trying to sell his horse at the county fair. The horse was no good except for eating oats. An old farmer came by. He could tell the horse was no good and he teased the boy saying, “Son, can that horse run fast?” The boy replied, “No sir, but he can sure stand fast.” In the message today, we’re going to learn how to stand fast or be steadfast as a Christian. But, more specifically we’re going to learn how to be steadfast along with other Christians. There’s a difference.

Philippians 1   27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Question: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Before your conduct can be worthy of the gospel of Christ, you have to receive the gospel of Christ. The word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good and “spell” means story or news. What’s the good news? “You and I are stuck in sin with God’s judgment of ultimate death waiting for us. But God sent his Son to take our sins upon himself and die in our place. All you and I have to do is ask him to be our Savior. He not only forgives us our sins but just as he came alive, we are also made spiritually alive in him.” Have you received this gospel?

Context: The passage we just read begins with the word “only” – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel.” It has a tone of warning in it. Think of this warning as a caution not a threat. So far Paul had nothing but good to say about the Philippians:

  • 4 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” The Philippians were a faithful church.
  • 6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The Philippians were an inspiring church.
  • 7 “…you all are partakers with me of grace.” The Philippians were a gospel supporting church.
  • 9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…” The Philippians were a loving church.
  • 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ…” The Philippians were a worshipping church. I can go on.

But, here’s a caution – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Meaning: You have a lot of good but don’t neglect your conduct. To understand what Paul meant by conduct, we have to go the original Greek. He used a verb here that he did not use anywhere else in his letters. It is the verb “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Keep in mind that the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were still trying to live by their Roman standards. They would have understood very well what Paul was implying – “Just as you are Roman citizens living in Greece trying to maintain your Roman values, you are also Gospel citizens living in this world, don’t neglect to be a Gospelian.”

For e.g. When I became an American citizen, I had to take a test on American history. I read our foundational documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Those became the values by which I was going to live. So also, when you became a Christian, there are certain values that go with that citizenship.

What are those standards? 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ (live out your citizenship to the gospel), so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” Paul told them that he will check up on them, in person or through others, regarding their conduct. Then he lists 2 major ones, one positive and the other negative:

Positive – “that you stand fast…” We immediately think that this “standing fast” is my personal individual steadfastness. Not really. Here standing fast is “hoti stekete” which is a Roman military term that describes a unit forming a line together in the face of the enemy. “Come what may, stand fast. Don’t break rank.” “that you stand fast in one spirit…” People have debated if this is just the spirit of unity or is it the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is similar to what Paul said in I Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” and Ephesians 2:18 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” It’s the same Holy Spirit in me and you that creates a bond between us that is much greater than any superficial likes or dislikes. Few verses down in Philippians 2   1 Paul says, “Therefore if there is…any fellowship of the Spirit…2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” Paul continues in verse 27 “…that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” “Striving together” is literally “striving side by side.” It is an athletic term that implies being of one soul. Paul was telling the Philippians to be “souls together for the gospel.” A mark of a Gospelian is that we strive for unity in the Holy Spirit and seek to be of one mind. If I may add, being a Gospelian is not an individual sport but a team sport.

Application: Do you understand how critical unity in the Holy Spirit and being of one mind is to the church family? There are 3 natural born killers of this unity – Lostness, Isolationism, and Divisiveness. Titus 3   10 “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” Bottom line: If individually we are not right, it will affect our unity.

Negative – 28 “and not in any way terrified by your adversaries…” The word terrified here is the Greek word “pturomai,” which is again a verb that Paul does not use anywhere else. In Classical Greek it was used to describe a horse getting spooked in battle. It would get startled by loud noises or shrieks and it would bolt through the battlefield, stampeding anyone in his path. A mark of a Gospelian is not to spook or get spooked but stay calm and help each other stay calm and united in the Holy Spirit. Who are our adversaries who spook us? Anything or anyone who is opposed to the gospel. It may be people or policies. How should you respond other than stand fast? “which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” Remember that it proves that they are headed for destruction and you are saved by God.

Somethings more Paul said here – 29 “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Don’t misunderstand. This is not individual personal suffering. Although, that is also true. In this context, it is collective group suffering. Not only that but we are to look upon suffering just as we look upon salvation. It is a gracious gift of God. Ultimately, suffering, and, more specifically, collective suffering is proof that we belong to God. 30 “having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” Meaning: Even though we know this, it doesn’t make sense at times.

Be steadfast together in the Holy Spirit with one mind. Be steadfast together in the face of suffering, refusing to be intimidated. It is a mark of the greatest believers. Are you saved? Are you steadfast together?

When the Body Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN THE BODY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When the Body Grows

Introduction:  Back in 2009 our family decided to take a trip out west. We were all able to get in my truck with our luggage under the bed cover. We all had plenty of room. It was a trip of a lifetime! The other day I said to Nicole – “That was so much fun! Maybe we can do that again one day.” To which she replied – “If we all tried to get in your truck and ride 5000 miles, we would kill each other.” So also with our church body. There was a time when 20 people on a Sunday morning was a good Sunday. The children’s ministry had 2 kids, that’s Rebecca and Abigail. We would count anything that breathed. Things have changed since then. God has truly blessed us and our church body keeps growing. If were not careful, we would kill each other. With that said, let’s turn to the book of Ephesians for our message titled “WHEN THE BODY GROWS.” We will do a series through this book soon but for now just a few verses from chapter 4.

Ephesians 4   14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Question: How do you relate with others in the body? What is your role in this church body at Clearview? Are you helping to edify this body in love? To be a part of this church body, you have to be saved. Are you saved?

Context: Before we can understand the meaning and application of the passage we just read, we need to first ask “Why did Paul write this letter to the Ephesians?” Although there is no clear consensus, most scholars believe that Paul’s main purpose was to promote unity and love among the Ephesian Christians. He wanted them to love one another with the same deep love with which they love God and Christ. Those two are interconnected. Why did he feel that this was important? Maybe because he sensed that they were losing their grip on love. Was he right? Yes. Just a few years later, listen to what John wrote in Revelation 2   1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: (that’s Jesus) 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” What will people say of our church a few years from now?

With that in mind, let’s return to the passage but let’s begin in Ephesians 4 verse 1 to truly understand what we read. 1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord…” Meaning: He is bound to Christ. He goes where Christ goes, does what Christ tells him to do, and says what Christ tells him to say. In other words, he is not writing on his own authority but Christ’s. What does Christ demand? 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” Paul begins this section by urging the Ephesians to remember the Christian graces. They are given in 2 Peter but some are here as well. Lowliness means humility. Nothing will destroy unity faster than pride. Gentleness means meekness. It is not weakness. Instead, it is knowing when to be angry and when not. Longsuffering means patience. It means don’t say what comes to your mind and your mouth. Bearing with one another in love means learn to tolerate each other and do it with “agape” love. Don’t resent the other person. What’s the goal? 3 “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It makes a difference in how you treat and interact with each other.

Application: Are you marked by Christian graces?

Now, if I were to end the message here and tell you to remember the Christian graces and be nice, kind, and loving to each other, it probably won’t last 10 minutes. Our Christian graces are linked to our foundational beliefs. We stand upon a 7-layered foundation:

  1. One Universal Church – 4 “There is one body…” Paul was dealing with issue of Jews and Gentiles coming together. So also today, there are many churches and denominations but if you are willing to receive Jesus Christ as your only Savior and God, then we are part of that one body.
  2. One Spirit4 “There is one body and one Spirit…” The same Holy Spirit indwells you who indwells me.
  3. One Hope – 4 “…just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” We have the same expectation that God will work his plan out for us and this world and Christ will ultimately come for us (the blessed hope and glorious appearing).
  4. One Master – 5 “one Lord…” The same second person of the godhead who became man and died for me and rose again on the third day is your master as well.
  5. One Faith – 5 “…one faith…” There is one settled body of truth which Jude calls 3 “…faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
  6. One Baptism – 5 “…one baptism…” This refers to the baptism Paul talks about in Romans 6 where we “were baptized into His death,” “buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised with him to “walk in newness of life.” The water baptism is the demonstration of this inward spiritual baptism.
  7. One God and Father – 6 “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Through Christ we have the same God the Father and we belong to the same family. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my father” but “our father.”

If you are willing to stand on this 7-layered foundation, we can work out any other disagreements we may have. If we step off any of these layers, no amount of pretend niceness is going to hold us together.

Application: Do you know our foundational beliefs?

Remember our Christian graces. Remember our Foundational Beliefs.

Remember our role in the body.  7 “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, (established churches along with signs and wonders and miracles. Today we don’t have this gift but we do have missionaries) some prophets, (communicated the divine revelation of God. Today we don’t have this gift because we have the New Testament but we do have revivalists) some evangelists, (preach and explain the good news of salvation like Philip the evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch but today Billy Graham) and some pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping (katartismos = “mending” restoring, putting things right) of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (This is my goal as the pastor/shepherd of Clearview) 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” It’s like a spiral. The more it turns the deeper the unity grows.

Our church body is growing but we need to be aware of our Christian graces, our foundational beliefs, and our role in the body.

Are you doing your part in the body? Are you in the body? Are you saved?

Foundation: God’s Vision for Clearview by Pastor Abidan Shah

FOUNDATION: GOD’S VISION FOR CLEARVIEW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Foundation

Introduction: Last week was very exciting in the life of Clearview. After months and months of waiting, we got word from the building contractor that the concrete was going to be poured Wednesday morning at 4am. We decided to get here by 9 to film it but unfortunately it was all over by then. But imagine if the whole church would have shown up at 4am Wednesday morning. Imagine if I was dressed up in my suit and tie ready to preach. Imagine if Ryan was ready with his announcements and John was ready with his guitar. What if the moment they started pouring the concrete, the praise team starting leading the people in worship. What if we all stood on the side and had a church service the whole time with singing, preaching, and everything while the concrete was being poured! That would be odd, wouldn’t it! That’s exactly what happened 2500 years ago when God’s people returned from exile and laid the foundation of the temple.

Ezra 3   10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Before we begin this message, here are a couple of questions to consider: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Some of you are saying, “Oh, I see the new building coming,” or “I saw the plans on the way in this morning.” Folks, I’m referring to much more than brick and mortar. I’m referring to the building up of lives, marriages, families, young people, and communities. I’m referring to changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? Can you see that? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read from Ezra describes the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. You may remember when I preached a series on Nehemiah couple of years ago how in 587 or 586BC Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the walls of the city, and especially destroyed the ancient temple of Solomon. Not only that but he also dragged the Jewish people 700 miles away into exile to Babylon. They had no hope of ever returning back and there was nothing left to return back to. Everything was gloomy and hopeless. But God had promised them that in his timing he would bring them back and he did. In 539BC (about 50 years later) Cyrus the king of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire and set the people free to go back home to Jerusalem. Not only that but Cyrus even returned the items that had been taken out of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and placed in the temple of his gods. He also provided support and commanded the people to do the same for those who were going back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. How amazing that a pagan king would do that!

Here’s a principle worth remembering: No matter what is happening in the world, no matter who is in charge, God is still in control. He is still sovereign and he never abandons his people.

Personal Reflection: Eleven years ago in 2007 when we stepped out on faith from the old church building, little did we realize what was about to happen. We had no clue that the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s was about to hit our country and the world and here we were without a church building! But here’s something amazing – we didn’t miss a single service! God took care of us as a church! He knew what was going to happen and he was perfectly in control.

I love this quote from Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (now OMF): “Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.”

Application: Do you believe that God is faithful and that he’ll take care of you? Are you God’s work in God’s way? Can you see God’s hand upon Clearview?

Ezra 3   1 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem.

Background: About 50,000 returned in the first wave to Jerusalem and they were united in their mission and vision.

So also at Clearview, we’ve been united and we need to stay united. What is our motto at Clearview? “MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE.” What is our mission? “To lead all people into a life-changing, ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” What is our vision? If you’ve been to the new members’ class, you’ve seen our list. It includes – seeing marriages healed, homes transformed, young people following Christ, communities transformed, God’s people digging into his word and worshipping him in joy, and on and on.

2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.

Background: The first thing we see is that they built the altar. This was very important because the one thing they were unable to do in Babylon was offer any sacrifices. This was similar to what David had done when he had captured the same ground about 500 years earlier. He also built an altar to God. Why was this important? Because the altar was a reminder to God’s people that they could not get near to God without sacrifices.

So also at Clearview, we are centered upon the cross of Christ. We believe that without the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we cannot come near to God. Hebrews 13:10 reminds us that Jesus is our altar. What do we offer on him? 15 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Two things we offer on the altar of Jesus –our sacrifice of praise (worship) and the sacrifice of giving to God’s work and sharing with those in need.

3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. Meaning: In spite of the threats of the enemies around them, they kept on worshipping God. No better time for me to say than today – “Thank God that we live in this great nation where we have the freedom to worship according to the dictates of our conscience.

7 “They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.” Meaning: This was not all just talk but people actually supported the work financially. We will hear on that in just a moment. 8 Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites. All these names remind us that all of us have a part to play in the future of our church.

Then came the day for laying the foundation. As the builders got ready to lay the foundation of the temple, the priests and Levites lined up in their attire with their trumpets and their cymbals and they led the people of God in worship and praise. 11 “…Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.” Something else happened12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.” In other words, not everyone had the same reaction. Some wept and some shouted and people heard it!

Lot of things are happening at Clearview – Everyday I hear from someone how God is using this church to touch their lives. Friday, a man told me that God used Clearview to save his marriage. Another person told me that they wish they had found Clearview much earlier. A young person told me that he looks forward to get here. It’s his favorite place in the world! We have people who are tuning in to the services all over this community. We have people as far away as Arizona who watch us. The other day I called my parents and they told me that people tell them what I preached on that morning. As you know my messages are on my website. We have people who are coming from all over the world!

Let me re-ask the questions I asked in the opening: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Can you see how God is building up lives, marriages, families, young people, and our community? Can you see the changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

FUTURE AND HOPE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

FUTURE AND HOPE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

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

America Tomorrow by Pastor Abidan Shah

AMERICA TOMORROW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

americatomorrowIntroduction: This morning I am preaching a special message in light of all that is transpiring in our nation and across the world. It’s called “AMERICA TOMORROW.” It is different than how I typically preach but it’s a message we desperately need to hear.

2 Chronicles 29   1 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old…2 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. 3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. 4 Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, 30:1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the LORD God of Israel…10…but they laughed at them and mocked them. 11 Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.

Bridge: In recent days many of you have shared with me how troubled you are over the state of our nation and our world:

  • Islamic Terrorism continues, as we saw couple of days ago in Nice, France where innocent people were killed at a national celebration. Then last month, in our own country, a terrorist killed people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
  • In the age of Internet and social media, people everywhere are more divided today than they’ve ever been. Even in America we’re divided by our skin pigmentation where one group feels that they are negatively stereotyped and mistreated.
  • Then the recent anger against law enforcement and the senseless violence in Dallas, Texas where 5 police officers were murdered.
  • Morally and spiritually our nation and world seems to be on a downward spiral.
  • Governments, even our own, seem too week and unconcerned to handle these problems and some are even unstable, as we’re seeing in Turkey with the military coup.

Question: What’s the answer? What is God doing? Is this the end of the world? Is there any hope for the future of our country and this world? Today’s message will challenge and encourage you to turn to the only one who has given us the answer – God. He has given us the answer in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. 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.” But before we can see that how this works for our nation and world, the question is “Do you know Him personally?” “Have you received Him as your Savior?”

There are 3 things we’re going to learn from the passage we read that will help us with the problems were facing nationally and globally:

I. LEADERSHIP MATTERS. 

29   1 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old…2 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.

Background: If you read that casually, you will miss a very important point. The writer of the Chronicles is telling us – “Hezekiah’s father was David.” But that’s not biologically accurate. David lived about 300 years before Hezekiah! It’s like if one of you claimed – “George Washington is my dad.” We would laugh because he lived almost 300 years ago! So who was Hezekiah’s father? Two verses earlier in 2 Chronicles 28:27 it tells us “So Ahaz rested (died) with his fathers…Then Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.” King Hezekiah’s father was King Ahaz. Did the Chronicler make a mistake? No. Hezekiah’s Father, Ahaz, was an ungodly and wicked king of Judah. He had made images of Baal, practiced child sacrifices and idolatry.

What did God do? He gave him and his kingdom into the hands of the Syrians but that didn’t change him. Then God gave his kingdom into the hands of Israel and that still didn’t change him. Instead of turning to God, Ahaz turned to the king of Assyria for help, gave him the vessels from the temple but he still didn’t help him. He even sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, which made things worse. 24 So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the LORD God of his fathers. This was Hezekiah’s real father Ahaz.

When the Chronicler says that Hezekiah “did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done,” he was saying – “Hezekiah chose to follow David as his father instead of his own immediate father.” He began by opening the doors of the temple, repairing the damage his father had done, calling the priests and the Levites to return, and telling them to sanctify the house of God. For the first time in many years, people came together to sacrifice and worship again to the living true God.

Leadership matters. I hear people say – “Politics don’t matter.” Part of the reason we are in the mess we are collectively, financially, defensively, and spiritually is because of leadership. Everything rises and falls on leadership. What if people don’t listen? Someone said – “You cannot lead the orchestra unless you turn your back to the crowd.”

Application: Do you care about politics? Do you care about the issues facing this nation? Do you speak out on critical issues? Do you care about who gets in the office? Do you pray for our nations leaders? Do you inspire our young people to strive to be future leaders?

II. UNITY MATTERS. 

30:1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the LORD God of Israel.

Background: Remember, Hezekiah was only the king of the Southern kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been taken into exile and just a mix bag of people remained. Furthermore, the Northern Kingdom did not have a good relationship with the Southern Kingdom. If you remember, the Northern Kingdom had captured the Southern Kingdom under Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, and his people had been taken as servants to Samaria. So things had not been good between them. Nonetheless, Hezekiah knew that to rebuild the people of God, there had to be unity. Not only that, but he also sent letters to Ephraim and Manasseh. These were the descendants of Joseph from his Egyptian wife. The half tribe of Manasseh had refused to go into the Promised Land. In fact, Joshua had to plead with them to help the other tribes fight when they entered the Promised Land. It appears that they never truly felt part of the people of Israel. They even failed to drive out the Canaanites as God had told them. Nonetheless, Hezekiah reached out to them as well. There can’t be true unity unless there is a real attempt at unity.

It’s no secret that we as a nation are more divided today than we’ve ever been. The slogan on one side is “Black lives matter” and on the other side is “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.” In my opinion, all these slogans drive the wedge even further between us as a people. We need to first recognize that each side is saying something that the other side is not hearing. One side is saying – “How come mostly black men keep getting shot?” and the other side is saying, “Why are mostly black men committing crimes?” I don’t claim to have all the answers but my heart goes out to two groups:

  • First, to the law enforcement. Last year the Police Department sent me to attend a Post Critical Incident Seminar designed to help officers who were involved in some kind of shooting, either they had to shoot someone or someone shot at them or they witnessed a shooting or had to deal with the aftermath. I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. The facilitator asked each individual to share his or her experience. I was thinking – “This is cool stuff!” The same gruff and tough men and women began to share how they were struggling with those deaths and many broke down crying. None of them were wearing their story as a badge of honor. Each of them was deeply impacted by those shootings. Not only them but also their wives and children and friends were struggling with them. I’m not dismissing the bad apples but, as a whole, we need to be grateful to our law enforcement.
  • Second, to the black men, especially young men. Several years ago I was helping a young person from the black community who had made some bad decisions early in his life and had to spend some time behind bars. Now he was trying to find a job but because of his record he couldn’t. One day I was telling him to be patient and have a better attitude. He broke down crying. He said – “Do you know how hard it is to go through life without any direction? No male figure to get on to me and guide me. I’m angry at why this happened to me.” Then he said to me, “Even my very existence is a mistake.” He was born due to incestual rape. I’m not suggesting that all go through the same situation but I could finally see the despair and hopelessness in his life. Someone might say – “If they would pull up their pants, act nice, and appreciative, maybe we would try to help them.” Do you really think people in need will come to you in humility seeking your help? How did Ephraim and Manasseh respond to Hezekiah? 10 “…but they laughed at them and mocked them.” Think about how God reached out to us. Did a human coalition approach God in humility, acknowledging that we were hell bound sinners in need of a Savior? No. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Unity matters because there are elements in this country and outside who want to see our law enforcement weak and the discontented angry. Like Hezekiah we will have to reach out to all of our own.

Application: Do we appreciate our law enforcement? We are planning to provide a lunch and we will be taking a love offering for that purpose in the next two Sundays. Will you give? Have you prayed for the young people, especially those from the black community? Kindle is just one step in that direction but more has to come.

III. REPENTANCE MATTERS.

11 Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.

Now they did something very very important – 30 14 They arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and they took away all the incense altars and cast them into the Brook Kidron. Then the priests, the Levites, and the people cleansed themselves. They repented. 18…Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement for everyone 19 who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.” 20 And the LORD listened to Hezekiah and healed the people. It was supposed to be a 7 day feast but it became a 14 day feast. 25 The whole assembly of Judah rejoiced, also the priests and Levites, all the assembly that came from Israel, the sojourners who came from the land of Israel, and those who dwelt in Judah. 26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.

This is what America needs! Leadership Matters. Unity Matters. Repentance Matters. Without Jesus, nothing matters

Unity in the Body

UNITY IN THE BODY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Closeup image of hands of businesspeople on top of each other as symbol of their partnership

This morning we will be observing Communion. Turn to I Corinthians 11 for our message titled, UNITY IN THE BODY.

1 Corinthians 11   23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Upper Room 1

Upper Room 1 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Upper Room 2

Upper Room 2 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Upper Room 3

Upper Room 3 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: About 10 months ago, Nicole and I stood in the very place where these words were spoken. It’s known as the Cenacle, the upper room, where Jesus celebrated the last supper with His disciples. How do we know that? Because, during the early centuries of Christianity, the church on this site was the center of Christianity in Jerusalem. Tradition claims that it was also the site where Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection and where the Holy Spirit came upon them on the Day of Pentecost. Even though the rib vaulted bay (ceiling), columns, pillars, and walls have been rebuilt many times, parts of the floor are claimed to be original. I cannot describe the feeling I had when we stood on the very ground that Jesus and the disciples possibly stood or sat on for the Last Supper.

Picture with me that night when Jesus was with His disciples in this upper room. Earlier in the evening Luke tells us in Luke 22:24 “there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.” Jesus knew that and so in John 13 after the regular meal had ended Jesus began to wash the feet of His disciples. Why? To teach them what it meant to be humble. It was a demonstration of how they should be towards each other. They got it because when He revealed to them that one of them would betray Him, instead of being defensive or pointing fingers, Matthew 26:22 says, “they were exceedingly sorrowful…” and Mark 14:19 says, “they began…to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?”…“Is it I?” Meaning: They were not judging each other but themselves. Now, Jesus explained to them about the bread and the cup.

What’s the point? Before the disciples could understand the meaning of the bread and the cup, there had to be a change in attitude from pride and self-righteousness to humility, sorrow, and self-examination. A change in attitude had to come before a change in understanding. Unfortunately, by the time Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church, they were anything but that. They were pushing and shoving each other at the Lord’s Table. They were divided.

Question: How is your attitude this morning? Is there pride in your heart? Is there sorrow in your heart? Have you taken the time to think about what Jesus went through for you 2000 years ago? Have you examined yourself and asked – “Is it I?” or are you too busy judging others? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this passage that will prepare us for Communion today and also bring unity in the body.

1. THE SOURCE OF DISUNITY 

To understand the context in which Paul wrote the words, we should begin in verse 17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, (Paul is telling them the reason for these instructions. It is to correct them.) since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.

Background: What is Paul talking about? The Corinthian church was divided. Why? They had a lot of problems. You have to read the previous 10 chapters to understand that. They were filled with envy, strife, sexual immorality, idolatry, stealing, cursing, and the list goes on and one. They were living in the flesh. You cannot be united as a body of Christ and have this behavior on the side. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. In other words, it was no longer about the Lord’s Supper but their own supper. In other words, how the Corinthian Christians were acting at home is now how they were acting at church. Their personal sins were infecting the church body. What they were doing behind closed doors was now being done inside the church. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. Instead of the Communion being a time of humility, sorrow, and self-examination, they were having food fights! Who brought more food? Who brought less food? Who got in line first? As a result, some people were walking away hungry and some were walking away drunk. It was embarrassing! By the way, not much has changed, most church fights happen over food!

Here’s the point: Show me a church with a lot of problems and I will show you people living in sin. How you live Monday through Saturday will sooner or later show up Sunday mornings. “You can cover up only so long. Sooner or later it’ll come out in public.”

Application: How is Sunday worship for you? If Sunday worship is a sign of Monday living, how is Monday living? Is there trash in your life that you haven’t dealt with? Are you bringing your trash into the church body?

II. THE MEMORY OF THAT NIGHT 

Background: What is interesting to me is that Paul does not just reprimand them about their behavior at the table or give them a long lecture on the dangers of discord in church. Instead, he takes them down memory lane to that night when Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples. Listen to verse 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

That phrase – “in remembrance of Me” is very important. What Paul is saying here is that the reason you all are acting this way is because you have forgotten that night when Christ washed the feet of His disciples and when their hearts were humbled, He explained to them about the bread and the cup. You have lost sight of Christ and not just any Christ but the Christ who gave His body to be broken for us.

Again, verse 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Once again, there is that phrase – “in remembrance of Me.” You have forgotten your Master and God Jesus who allowed His blood to flow out for you.

What is the point? The antidote to disunity is a return to the night when Jesus revealed to His humble disciples the suffering that He was going to face. The reason churches are filled with pride and self-righteousness is because they have forgotten that night when Jesus was the focus and His sacrifice was the subject. Humility, great sorrow and self-examination was the only response. If there’s pride and hate in your life, bring the cross back into your memory.

Application: When was the last time you reflected on what Christ did on the cross for you? When was the last time you reflected on His death for your sins? When was the last time you told Him – “I’m not worthy of anything. It’s only by your grace that I stand.”

III. THE TIME FOR SELF-EXAMINATION

1 Corinthians 11   27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

The consequence of their personal sins was weakness, sickness, and even death. Could it be that the church in America is weak, sick, and dead is because we have lost sight of the sacrifice and death of Jesus for us.

Now, this is the crux of the matter – What do we do now? Listen to verse 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. The place to begin is to deal with sin in my own heart. What is the promise? If I do it, God won’t have to.

Application: Have you examined your life lately? This does not mean that you need to do introspection on yourself—go looking for sin. Let God expose your sin. Let God decide what is sin in your life. Then deal with it harshly.

What’s the result? It will bring unity in the body.

Are you part of the body of Christ?

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 2

MARKS OF AN ENCOURAGING CHURCH – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Marks of an Encouraging ChurchIn this message we will come face-to-face with many different characters from the early church. They were flesh and blood human beings just like us. But, they were worthy enough to be mentioned in the Bible because they were a great source of encouragement to Paul and to each other. Our generation can definitely learn from these personalities were about to encounter in this passage.

Romans 16:1-5   1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,  2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,  4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.  5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.  7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

Overall Background:  Most people, when they come to Romans 16, just skip past the names mentioned by Paul and their description along with it. To them, they are no different than the genealogies that are found in the Old and the New Testaments, just some names that are hard to pronounce. Who cares? Let’s get to the good part. But as one scholar noted, “for those few who are especially interested in the socioeconomic composition of the early church, it is a gold mine.” (Douglas Moo) Meaning: If we want to know what the early church looked like, study these names and their descriptions. In these 16 verses, we come face-to-face with 26 Christians who lived 2000 years ago. These were common people with common problems. They probably had the same struggles we do, same weaknesses we have, and same trials we face. But, there were three things that qualified them to be included in the Bible – first, they knew Jesus Christ as their Savior; second, they were a great source of great encouragement to each other; and three, they were in the business of ministry – reaching people for the kingdom.

We need to hear this message today – many of us have such a distorted view of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be a member of a church, what it means to serve God as a body. This message teaches us what our church should look like. It teaches that what our focus should be. It teaches us how everyone has something to offer in the church. Let this message be a mirror for you this morning.

Without further due, let’s meet these Christians. There are 7 different personalities.

I. MEET PHOEBE – A SERVANT

1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,

Background: Keep in mind that Phoebe was not from Rome. She was coming to Rome and Paul was writing this letter as a commendation, asking the Roman Christians to help her. For starters, Phoebe was probably a Gentile believer. Her name Phoebe comes from Greek mythology – the goddess of prophecy, who held the oracle at Delphi. We don’t know how she got saved but she did. Paul knew her from Cenchrea. He probably met her when he was in Corinth for 18 months and Cenchrea was was only 8 miles from Corinth. Maybe Paul started the church in Cenchrea and led her to the Lord. We don’t know that for sure. What we do know about her is her reputation. Paul calls her a “servant.” He does not use that term lightly. Several times he used it to refer to himself:

Ephesians 3:7 “…I became a servant according to the gift of the grace of God.”

Colossians 1:25 “…I became a servant according to the stewardship from God…”

He encourages Timothy in 1Timothy 4:6 to be “a good servant of Jesus Christ.”

In Romans 15:8 he even refers to Jesus as a “servant to the circumcision for the truth of God.”

The word servant is not an ordinary title in Paul’s vocabulary. It was someone who gave their life for others. Can you picture Phoebe? If someone is sick, she is the first to bake a casserole or a pie. If there is a fellowship dinner, you can count on Phoebe to cook, to clean, and to wash the dishes. If there is need for helpers in a class or at an outreach ministry, Phoebe will gladly volunteer.

Listen to what else Paul says about her in verse 2 “…receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, (What a great complement! Treat her like you would treat the saints – Moses, David, Peter, James, and the other) and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.” What is amazing to me is that Paul is putting his own credentials on the line for this woman!

Application: What is your reputation? Servant or Helper. Or is it selfish, troublemaker, or gossip. Would someone like Paul put his credentials on the line for you? Praise God for the servants. Our church has many care-givers who work behind the scenes.

II. MEET AQUILA AND PRISCILLA – RISK TAKERS

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,

Background: Who were these two? They were a husband-wife missionary team. Paul first met them at Corinth. At that time, they had to leave their home in Rome because the Roman Emperor Claudius had kicked out the Jewish people from the city. They were also tent makers like Paul. They were fellow workers who helped Paul in Corinth and later in Ephesus. They were instrumental in discipling Apollos. They did not do that publicly or proudly but Acts 18:26 notes that “they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” What a beautiful picture of spiritual maturity!

But there’s more – verse 4 who risked their own necks for my life. Meaning: They were not just great Bible teachers and discipleship leaders. They were risk-takers. They were willing to put their lives at risk so that the gospel would go forward. Nothing significant is ever done without a certain amount of risk. Most Christians say “Give me some proof” or “Give me some guarantee.” Clint Eastwood – “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” Most churches are like a toaster. You go in fluffy and come out jammed or burnt.

Will Rogers – “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”

Paul goes on to say, “to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.  5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

Application: What is your reputation? Firm as a pillar, hard as a rock, favorite song is “I shall not be moved.” Are you the safe player? Or, are you a risk taker?

III. MEET EPAENETUS – SAMPLE

Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.

Background: Some people say “firstfruits” means that Epaenetus was Paul’s “first convert in Acahaia. Could be. But then Paul could have said “first convert.” He specifically uses the term “firstfruits” to refer to Epaenetus. What are “firstfruits?” Before the Israelites harvested the crops, they were supposed to bring a sample to the priest as an offering to the Lord. It was a sample of the greater, fuller harvest to come.

For e.g. When we go to the mall and then go by the food court – they offer you samples. “If you like this, you can have more.”

Epaenetus was a constant reminder of the greater harvest still to come. New converts are a must in every church. They are a reminder that more harvest can come.  tweet this button A church with no firstfruits is a dying, defeated, and discouraging church.

Vance Havner – “We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.”

How is our reputation? Do we have firstfruits? Do we welcome firstfruits? Is this a place where firstfruits are seen as a sign of more to come?

IV. MEET MARY, ANDRONICUS, AND JUNIA – FAITHFUL PARTNERS

6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.

Background: The Greek word for “labor” is considered by some scholars to be a designation for early missionary enterprise. People like Mary have been in the trenches for a long time. The emphasis is on “much.”

Again verse 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

The emphasis there is on “before me.” There were people like Andronicus and Junia who were tried and true fellow Christians in the church. You can count on them. It’s great to have new people but it’s also beautiful to be around people who have been there through the thick and thin. They don’t bail out, back out, jump ship, walk out, “take their toys and go home.” I tell people who threaten to take their toys and go home, “Your replacement is already in the wings.”

Application: Is this your reputation? Tried and true, consistent, faithful, and trustworthy, dependable, reliable.

V. MEET AMPLIAS, URBANUS, STACHYS, APELLES – VALUABLE

8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.  9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved.  10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ.

Background: Not much is said about them, just a word on each. Based on their names, more than likely they were either slaves or freedmen. But Paul found it necessary to greet them because they were valuable. Like the description of Apelles – “approved in Christ.” Meaning = they were people who proved their value in time.

There are people in church that are very valuable. If they did not show up, something would be missing. From greeters, to audio-visual, to kitchen, to nursery, they make a difference.

Application: May I ask you a question? – When you miss a Sunday or a Wednesday or another event, are you missed? Or do things go on as usual? People say – “If I knew what to do, I would get involved.” Start showing up. Start reading the bulletin, monthly newsletter, and weekly newsletter. Ask to volunteer. Get started somewhere. It may not be the end ministry but it’s a step in the door. You don’t have to preach, sing, or teach but there’s something you can do that makes all this work.

VI. MEET FAMILIES OF ARISTOBULUS, HERODION, AND NARCISSUS – INFLUENTIAL

10…Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.

Background: Many scholars have held that this Aristobulus was none other than the grandson of Herod the Great and brother of Herod Agrippa of Judea. This is a very wealthy and influential family. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Meaning: This person was also connected to the family of Herod. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Narcissus was a wealthy and powerful freedman under Emperor Claudius.

Bottom Line – There were wealthy, resourceful, influential people in the church. The church is not just a place for the poor and the downtrodden but also for the wealthy.

Application: Are you using your resources for the Kingdom of God? Are you being a good steward of what God has given to you?

VII. MEET THE REST – SAINTS

I’m going to read the names even though we will not examine them in detail, like the rest. They deserve to be mentioned.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord.  13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.  14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them.  15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

The word that Paul uses in the end to designate all of them is “Saints.” He doesn’t call them laypeople, church folks, or church members but saints, meaning set apart ones.

Invitation:

–       What do you see in the mirror?

–       Did you see yourself in one of those categories?

–       Do you see yourself at all?

If you don’t see yourself, it’s because you are not in Him. You need to be saved.

Maybe, you do see yourself but all you see is someone sitting on the sidelines. You walk in and walk out, no contribution, no ministry, and no service. It’s time to get up and get involved. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in what He wants you to do.

DARING TO CONNECT

DARING TO CONNECT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Body of ChristWe are not called to be Lone Ranger Christians. As Nicole’s dad would say, “Even the Lone Ranger had Tanto with him.”

Romans 12:4-8  4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,  5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.  6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;  7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;  8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Overall Background:  From Romans chapter 1 to Romans 12:3, Paul has been focused on the individual Christian life –

–       What does it mean for you to be saved?

–       What does it mean for you to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord?

–       What does it mean for you to be a slave of righteousness?

–       What does it mean for you to be led by the Holy Spirit?

This is very important. Unless you have this personal, vital, living relationship with Jesus Christ, nothing else will matter.

But now Paul is shifting gears. Now he begins to talk about the larger group of Christians. Now he begins to talk about our place and purpose among other Christians. Now he begins to deal with our role in the church – the body of Christ. God did not save us just so we can get our ticket to heaven. As they say – “get our fire insurance.” He has called us to interact and relate with the church.

Application: This message is easy to preach but hard to apply. Why?

–       Many people have been burnt by the church (bad experiences, conflicts, hurt feelings, control issues, ego mania, inner circles, hypocrisy, judgmental spirit). Why go to church if all it’s going to do is make you feel bad?

–       Many people have found the church to be an interruption, time-consuming, demanding, and exhausting (another item added to their already overloaded life). Why go to church and add more on your plate? Why be responsible for more?

–       Many people have found the church to be outdated, irrelevant, pointless, a relic of the past, ineffective, inefficient, powerless, answering questions that no one’s asking, and making no difference. Why go to church if there’s no difference?

Voltaire

Voltaire – French Enlightenment thinker, writer, and philosopher (1694-1778)

I titled this message “Daring to Connect” because contrary to all the things I listed, the church still matters and will remain until Jesus comes for her. Throughout history – atheists, agnostics, and those who have hated the church claimed that it was the end of the church in their generation. That French skeptic Voltaire, who lived in the 1700s was sure that within hundred years, Christianity and the church would be a relic of the past. Did you know that, after his death, his house in Geneva was purchased by the Swiss Bible Society? Did you also know that on the same printing press that Voltaire printed his anti-church literature, the Bible was printed?

In a time like this, we are called to be “Connected” with the Church – the Body of Believers.

There are 3 things that we will see in this message –

I. RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ARE INTERCONNECTED. 

4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,

Background: Paul uses the imagery of the human body to make a very significant point. My arm is connected to my torso. My head is connected to my neck. My ears are connected to my head and so on. We are born connected.

For e.g. How many of y’all remember having Mr. Potato Head growing up? All the parts came together but you could take them apart and then use different accessories. They still sell those.

Paul does not say that you ought to go get connected. He does not say that it will good for you if you were connected. He says – “You are connected!”

Listen again to verse 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ,

The moment we are born again, we are not only saved but we are also connected to a larger group of Christians.

What’s more? Listen again to verse 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

Once again, the eyes cannot exist independently of the brain. The fingers cannot function independently of the arm. Every cell is connected to the other cell. What is cancer? Cancer is an out of control cell growth. When cells begin to divide uncontrollably and form lumps or mass of tissue called tumor. A tumor can interfere with the normal body functions. When it starts moving through the body through the blood or lymph systems and starts making new blood vessels, it has become malignant. Then if it starts invading and destroying other healthy tissues, we call that metastasis.

I am being very simplistic but the point is this – that cell is no longer “individually members of one another.” If I start despising you and try to do away with you, cancer is on the way. Don’t misunderstand – As long as we live this side of heaven, there will be conflict.

For e.g. Ever accidentally poked yourself in the eye? Ever hit your funny bone? The door jamb didn’t jump up and thump you on the funny bone. You walked into it. By the way, I don’t know why they call it funny bone. I’ve never laughed after hitting it!

There are Christians who hop from church to church. They have no intention of ever connecting with other Christians. Why? They got thumped. I call them funny bone Christians. You can’t keep running from other Christians. You are connected.

Let me add one more thing to this – when one part of you hurt, everything else hurts. Try breaking your little toe, it will give you a headache. There’s nothing you can do with a broke toe but wear it.

Application: Did you get the point? We are already interconnected. We are individually members of one another. Are you saved? I am connected to you. You are connected to me. We are individually members of one another.

II. REMEMBER THAT YOU HAVE AN IMPORTANT ROLE. 

6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:

Background: I know I used the word “role” instead of gift. I did that because we are more familiar with that than the other. Bottom line: You have something that God has ordained for only you to do. No one else can do. I can’t do your task as well as you can. You cannot do my task as well as I can. Just as the kidneys cannot walk and the eyes cannot digest food. Don’t envy the gift that God has given somebody else. Also, make room for others to use their gifts. It’s all by His grace.

Now Paul gives us a sample list at the end of verse 6 “…if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;  7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;  8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Background: What’s the use of these gifts? Every single gift represents a ministry that Jesus did on earth.

–       It reminds us that we are cooperating with God (leading someone to Christ means you have changed their eternal destiny).

–       It fills us with great joy and purpose that we are helping others (Kindle ministry last summer)

–       It teaches us to respect and appreciate each other (the ladies helping out in the nursery are just as important as the people on the stage).

Application: What has God called you to do that you have refused to cooperate with Him? Where is the body suffering because you are not doing your part?

III. REPRESENT JESUS TO EACH OTHER.

he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Background: The word for mercy (eleeo) is found 9 times in the book of Romans. It is found most here than any other book in the NT.

What is the point? Don’t miss this – at the end of the day – show mercy to each other.

We are living in a very cruel world. They want to see Christ in us. Are you Christ do those around you?

Who does not have to be merciful? All of us.

It works when you have the Spirit of Christ in you.

DIVIDED…..WE ARE FALLING

DIVIDED…..WE ARE FALLING

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” The slogan first appeared in the fourth verse of “The Liberty Song”—a patriotic song written by John Dickinson in protest of the Townshend Acts of 1767. The laws were meant to show the colonists that the mother country was still in charge and could levy taxes as she pleased. Just like the Stamp Act earlier, it was also met with boycotts. The “Liberty Song,” especially the fourth verse, quickly became a favorite at political meetings and celebrations. The colonists understood the importance of unity to their struggle for independence. In the years since, the slogan “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” has appeared in many songs, public speeches and state seals. Americans have come to believe that a nation as large and diverse as ours can survive only if we remain united.

At a time when our nation is facing financial storms, it is paramount that we remain united as a people. It doesn’t help when some politicians use divisive speech to gain votes. Recently, class warfare has been the choice method to boost the election polls. At a time when Americans are losing jobs and facing financial hardships, any rhetoric that pits the poor against the wealthy or vice-versa only breeds fear and suspicion among fellow citizens. Never before have Americans been more divided on the issue of wealth than now. Add to this moral and social issues and the divide is even greater! What Americans desperately need is a leader who will unite our people in a common struggle to improve our economy. We need to fight a common enemy and not each other.

The Bible records a similar time in the Old Testament. Morale was at an all-time low. Israel had suffered two humiliating defeats at the hands of the Philistines. In the first, four thousand had died and in the second, thirty thousand had died. The Ark of the Lord had been captured by the enemy. This was a terrible blow for the people of Israel, for whom the Ark represented the presence of God. One woman even named her newborn “Ichabod”— meaning the “glory has departed from Israel.” Such was the description of the times. The people of Israel were divided with no leader and no vision for the future.

But God had raised a leader named Samuel. This man knew that before any change could happen, the people had to be united. It was no use trying to rally them against the Philistines until they could put aside their petty disagreements and become one people. So for twenty years, he travelled up and down the country, urging the people to put aside their idols and turn to the living God. Anywhere he could gather an audience he would speak to them, calling them to repentance and unity. It worked! The people threw away their false gods and turned from their sinful behaviors to the living God. 1 Samuel 7:2 “. . . And ALL the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.” For the first time there was unity among the people. They were one voice in their cry to God. Not only was the Ark returned but God Himself fought their battle against the enemy.

Following their victory, Samuel erected a stone at the very place that they had been defeated twenty years ago and called it “Ebenezer”—“thus far the Lord has helped us.” This was to serve as a reminder that God is faithful when we call on Him as one people. America needs a leader who will unite the people to call upon God. “United We Stand Before God, Divided We Fall Before the World.”

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