Grief: Lessons of Grief

Peninsula Community Church 

Grief: Lessons of Grief

February 17, 2019

Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

As we have been doing for the last couple of weeks, I want to continue our study in grief. For this session we will focus on some of the lessons of grief that will help us in our journey toward a new normal. We will focus on how to begin to move forward in our grief so that we can begin a transition toward a place of a new normal. The question therefore is “How do we get to where we need to be in order to do what God has called us to do.” 

In preparing this, my heart was moved by this passage and I felt it applied perfectly to our discussion. As we consider this we find that Habakkuk is dealing with an empty heart and one that is fruitless and barren. There is an emptiness that is measurable and deeply felt. It is noteworthy the Book of Habakkuk begins with a cry of desperation (Habakkuk 1:2-3). O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.

While the book begin with such pain and agony, here in this passage we find that Habakkuk has an epiphany, a vision of truth. Therefore, we could say that our text was inspired by the Holy Spirt for one purpose. It was given to us to provide the opportunity to look beyond the pain and barrenness of loss to what really matters. And what matters is that God is with us and He is giving us strength and help in our time of need. Habakkuk is saying is that no matter what your circumstances are, look around and you will find God. No matter how empty you are, you will find God is there to fill your emptiness and the longing of your heart. No matter how barren you are, you will find that God will make you fruitful and vibrant again.

Did you catch it the wording of this passage? Habakkuk recognized that things were barren in his life, but that did not sway him from the truth. He is saying I might be barren, but I will worship God. I may be filled with deep grief, but I will praise the Lord. I will be grateful. I will have joy not in circumstances, but in the joy that is mine through Christ. I will not focus on my weakness, but on God’s strength to help me, because when I am weak He is strong. He is all powerful. 

I found this as I was studying for this message. It is from a pastor named Geoff Thomas. He had this to say. In this passage Habakkuk makes an extraordinary affirmation… I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. In his tone there is a note of determination. Habakkuk is joyful. This joy is not based on a perfect harvest, or herds of sheep filling the fields, or the end of hostilities and peace with Babylon. It is not dependent on a change of circumstances. There is still a famine all around; there are still armed marauders stealing one’s possessions; the cupboard is still bare; the possibility of slavery in Babylonian exile still hangs over this family, and yet the people are not despondent. They are rejoicing. How can you explain this? It is simply that their joy was in the Lord their God and their Savior. How powerful is that truth?

Corrie ten Boom knew something about tragedy and suffering. She lived with a courageous faith. Upon emerging from a Nazi concentration camp she said, “There is no pit so deep that God isn’t deeper still.” She picked an apt analogy because pain, tragedy, and grief can be a dark pit. For some, it may seem like a bottomless pit or as David suggested, it is a miry bog or a slimy pit (Psalm 40:2). Many experience a falling, a disorientation, a terror, as they grab for walls that are out of reach. They see only blackness, and hear only echoes of the life they used to know. For many, they claim that God is not present. But Corrie ten Boom, like Habakkuk, reminds us that even in the pits of tragedy, God is still there. He is present.

With that said let me give you a couple of ways this is worked out in our lives. First, we must consider that we cannot let our grief define us. Because of grief’s pain and the attention we get from our grief, there are times where can we begin to be defined by our grief. But, it was never God’s purpose for us to be defined by grief or pain. We must also understand that this does not just apply to grief, but to every problem we face whether good or bad. While our past experiences might shape us, these experiences cannot define us.

You see, some people can begin to rely on their grief and it can become a crutch to excuse their failures. They can become so stuck in their grief that grief begins to define them and rule their life. I would, and you fill in the blank, but I am grieving. I would serve more, but I am grieving. I would develop more relationships, but I am grieving. I would go back to church, but I am grieving. I would get up and make my bed, but I am grieving. This is not an argument against grieving or how long we should grieve, but rather that we must be careful and not allow grief to dictate our future. We are never defined by our past. Loss does not define us. Death does not define us. Divorce does not define us. Broken hearts do not define us. We are defined by God to be more than our experiences and our pain. We are His children and we are called by His name. 

In preparing for this message I realized something amazing. The goal in the journey of grief is to reach a new normal. This week my attention was drawn to the story of Ruth and Naomi. Because of her grief and pain Naomi wanted to change her name from Naomi to Mara which meant the “Almighty has dealt bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:19-21). She had been through so much. Her family faced a famine. She lost her husband and her two sons. She was in a foreign land. Her one daughter-in-law abandoned her in her weakest moment. She was grieving and was filled with loss. She wanted to change her name so that she would be identified by her experiences but God never allowed that to happen. 

If you look in the Book of Ruth you will find that no where is she referred to as Mara, she is only known as Naomi. Her name did not change because God would not allow her to be defined by her past. Instead, He wanted her to focus on what was in store for her and what He was going to do in her and through her. God wanted to use her. He had a plan for her. She was to return home to her country so that Ruth her daughter-in-law could meet Boaz. And why was that? It was because Ruth was to be the grandmother of David who served as a direct descendent of Christ. The craze today is to have one’s DNA done so we know where we come from. If Jesus did that, he would find He was related to Ruth. That would not have happened if Naomi wallowed in her pity and did no allow God to bring her to a new place in her journey.

It is for that reason that we must not get bogged down in grief so that we never move forward to a new normal. To get bogged down means we can never move to the place God has for us. I think of Joesph who could have wallowed in His pity and shame. In some people’s eyes, he would have been justified because of the experiences in his life. Job could have been swallowed up by his grief, but he refused to get bogged down by the pain and sorrow of his grief. If he had, perhaps he would not have been open to the blessing that came from God at the end of his life. I think of the apostle Paul who could have been bogged down by the grief of prison, ministry rejection, and the failure of people around him; but he continued to be focused on the God who would direct his steps and keep him focused on what God had planned for him. 

In the final analysis, God secures us and gives us the power to move forward. Look at our passage today. We do not have to be bogged down because we have been given Hind’s feet. Hind’s feet or deer’s feet is a picture of agility, quickness, and sure-footedness. A hind deer is a female deer that can place her back feet exactly where her front feet stepped. Not one inch off! She is able to run with abandonment! In times of danger, she is able to run securely and not get “off track.” The hind deer is able to scale unusually difficult terrain and elude predators. It is the most sure-footed, focused and agile mountain creature, and it is the only animal that can scale mountains such as these. Look at this slide of hind deer. 

When we feel barren, lost, and destitute God comes long and gives us the feet, the stability, we need to navigate whatever is thrown at us. David echoed this sentiment in Psalm 18:31-33 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.  He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. Yes, we will face grief and we will face sorrow but God will steady us and provide security as we press ahead into the future. So do not let grief define you and do not get bogged down in grief to the degree that you cannot move to the new normal that God has for you. This does not mean that we forget or that we do not ever grieve again. It means that we focus on what God has for us and where He is leading us. 

Here is the deal as we close. We do not deserve it but His grace finds us and strengthens us so that we are given the power we need to overcome every situation. His grace is so amazing and powerful. That is why and how He gives us the stability we need. His grace finds us. 

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Grief and the Question Why?

Peninsula Community Church

Grief and the Question Why?

February 10, 2019

Job 3:1-15 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said: “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. That night—let thick darkness seize it! Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months. Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it. Let those curse it who curse the day, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan. Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none, nor see the eyelids of the morning, because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hide trouble from my eyes. “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?  For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest, with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves, or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver.

Today, we continue our study of grief and its effect on us. As we have stated already grief is a normal part of loss. While it is normal each person will experience grief differently and in different ways. We have determined that grief is not a linear process, but it is a bundle of tangled emotions. We have noted that in time we will come to a new normal, and that new normal will guide our lives to a new place of hope and adventure with God, the one who loves us deeply. 

As we begin this study today, let me tell you a story. Many years ago there was a man who was a successful businessman. He was a spiritual giant. He was blameless in his actions and his deeds. He had a happy family. He was healthy and most of all he was a passionate follower of God. But one day his life was turned upside down. In a few short hours his children were tragically killed, his business was destroyed, he developed a serious illness, and within days of these tragedies his friends and his wife failed to understand the magnitude of what he was going through. They attempted to deflect the issues and attempted to make him the bad guy. They encouraged him to do things that were not in his wheel house of thinking. 

The man I am talking about is Job. In this story satan issued a challenge to God, that if Job were to be tested, he would fail. God agreed because He knew Job’s heart. He knew that Job would endure whatever was thrown at him. As we read the story we see that the Sabeans came in and stole his oxen and donkeys and they killed the servants in charge. This would be like someone coming onto one of the farms around us and stealing the tractors, combines, hay balers, and other equipment and then killing those who operated the equipment. At the same time, we find that his sheep and cattle were burnt up in a fire. This would just like a local farmer’s crops being burnt up and destroyed. The last dagger he received was the word that all of his children had been killed by a sudden violent wind storm. This godly, righteous man according to Scripture faced grief on many levels and on several fronts.

While Job was a faithful and blameless man, he reached the point that we all reach many times when we face heartache and pain. He began to ask the question we all ask! “Why God!” “Why did this have to happen?” “Why did this happen to me?” “Why were my innocent children caught up in this mess?” “Why did I lose everything?” The questions seem to go on and on. As Job did we also have endless questions with little or no answers. In fact, the why question is not just a question we ask at someone’s death, but we ask “why” when we are confronted by many issues in life: divorce, crime, words and actions people take against us.

The question why is a natural question to be ask but it is a question that is much easier to ask than to answer. At first, we find that Job is rejoicing and proclaiming the sovereignty of God. Listen to his words. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:21-22). In a moment that praise is turned the reality of grief and his heart swells with the questions. 

When you think Job has had enough, we find that he is infected with horrible sores from his feet to his head. His whole body was affected by these sores and open wounds. Then we find the most painful thing of all. His wife instead of supporting him wanted him to curse God and die. She in essence wanted to get the pain over with. To be honest we might want to judge her, but we must remember that she is dealing with her own grief and pain from the loss of her family. Remember we all respond to grief differently. Then there are Job’s friends. Initially they just sat and did not do anything. Later we see they began to accuse Job of sin and wrong doing. They were blaming Job and they were trying to fix him. How many times have you been walking in grief or experiencing pain and people try to fix you? But, God is the only one who can fix us. 

It was at this point where we see Job begin to ask the great question of all time. Why? Why was I born? Why did you not just kill me at brith and be done? This was more than Job could bear. While these are Job’s questions your questions may be totally different. The focus of your grief may be different. Your loss and the circumstances surrounding your loss will drive your questions you ask. With that in mind, let us look at a couple of things about the why question and its relationship to grief. 

First of all, it is totally okey to be honest with God about your questions. David was honest. Job was honest. Many Biblical characters we read about were honest with their questions. We can be also honest because God knows our heart and He knows the pain of the unanswered questions that reside deep within us. Sometimes the pain of grief is experienced through the turmoil of unanswered questions, and it is for that reason we need to be honest with Him. 

It is here that we are drawn to the words of David in Psalm 22:1-2. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Why have you forsaken me? Why were you not there? Why did you not intervene? But in Psalm 56:8 he reminds us that God does care. You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Think about this, we have a Father who keeps track of the tossing we do and He catches every single tear we cry in a bottle. When we begin to grasp the depth of that truth, we can say with confidence just as David did, This I know: God is on my side (Psalm 56:9). While it may not seem like it at times, God knows your pain. He knows your hurt. He knows the questions you have.

In looking at the question of why we must always also remember that we are living in a fallen world. This world is corrupt and therefore it is filled with sin, disease, and people who make bad decisions. People choose to eat the wrong things even though they have been diagnosed with heart disease or high blood pressure. They choose to drive drunk and cause accidents that take innocent lives. Because of sin, disease has come into the world. In God’s plan for the world there was no sin. There was no disease. There was no evil. Unfortunately from the time of the fall of mankind sin came, disease came, and now people make bad decisions that affect others. That is why sometimes the pain of death is so great. The one we love was taken by someone who made a bad decision and our loved one was innocent. That is painful.

This may be difficult to grasp but God does not owe us an explanation because He is God. In the story of Job we find that he is looking for answers. You see we often look at Job as this guy who never wavered and was stalwart in his faith, but he had questions just as much as we do. In Job 38:4-7 God answers his questions but it was not the answer Job was looking for. God says “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? We are reminded that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). They are past finding out. In essence, on this side of heaven there will be things that happen that we will not understand but we must trust Him. Job expressed this sentiment in Job 13:15. Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.

Finally, even if God gave us the answer to our why questions, we probably would not understand. We would still have more questions, and most often we would probably not agree with the answer or reasoning God would give anyway. If we had all of the answers we would probably still not be at peace or find that our grief is less than it is right now. In the end, we must trust God. I know that we keep coming back to this, but it is the truth of the matter. While it is hard to trust anyone when we are in pain, we must recognize that God provides and His ways are far above our ways. Only then can we trust Him and surrender our pain to Him. 

With all of this in mind perhaps we are asking the wrong question. Perhaps we need to ask how is this going to be used in my life to make a difference in others? What does God want to do with this event and the grief I am facing? Remember Job. God used his losses to focus him on the redemption of God. In the end, we find that God will restore us to a new normal and He will open doors for us to speak into the lives of others. Job found that to be true. God restored him and brought him to a new normal. Now your new normal will be different, but you will reach a new normal. We know this because of Job’s own words. In Job 19:25 he stated For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. Job knew that weeping may endure for the evening but joy will come again. We will get through this with a new revelation of truth about who God is and what He can do in and through us. 

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Grief: Reactions to Grief

Peninsula Community Church 

Grief: Reactions to Grief

February 3, 2018 

Psalm 13:1-6 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

As we communicated last week grief is normal. When we love and lose a loved one, we will grieve. The truth of the matter is that grief and love go hand in hand. We also saw that everyone will deal with grief differently as no two people are alike and no two experiences are the same. The problem for most of us is that grief is a multifaceted bundle of emotions where we do not always know where one emotion begins and the other ends. Grief is messy. It is painful. To grieve is to take a journey that has no time limit or a preplanned path to take. For this week, I would like to look at some of the ways we tend to deal with grief and how to deal with grief in a healthy way.

The first way to deal with grief is to isolate ourselves. Because of the deep pain we have experienced it is a natural to want to isolate and hide. The truth is we do not want to deal with the grief. This is in part because we do not understand the grief nor we do we know how to deal with the grief we are facing. As a result we can shut ourselves off from the outside world, our friends, and even our family. We build walls so as not to let anyone in because we are afraid of being hurt in a deeper way. We can isolate ourselves to the point we will not allow anyone in, even those who are close to us. We shut everyone out. While this may seem protective, this can in fact prolong the pain and the healing process.

In the journey of grief, it is normal for us to want to run and hide. This is due in part to the emotions we are experiencing and the need to avoid contact with people because it can be too painful. For many of us, we find that we are retelling the story over and over again. We find that people want all of the gory details, while we just want to be silent and move on.

Isolating ourselves is a way to avoid the unfortunate things that people say and do in such times. I believe that most people mean well even when they say what they say and do what they do. As you know, I have grown to dislike the phrase “I know exactly what you are going through!” Or, “now you can move on and get on with your life.” Others will criticize those in grief that they cry too much, they are too sad, they are not getting their act together, they are not getting back to normal fast enough. This is by no means a complete list, but you get the idea of the things that people say and push us to do when we are not prepared to do so. 

During this time of grief we can feel depressed. We can be in a place where we do not feel like working. Fear can grip our hearts, it can blind us, and it can keep us from moving forward with life. We can also feel overwhelmed by our emotions and by all that we believe we have to do after the loss of a loved one. We can also face regret because there are things we wish we had done. We wish we had spent more time together. We wish we had been more loving. We wish we did not have a specific reaction to them. All of these can drive us to isolation, as we do not want to hurt anymore. We do not want to fail in another relationship. This can also be a situation where we do not want to hurt again so we do not expose ourselves to love, or what we think might bring us joy.

I should clarify here that isolation or solitude can be a beneficial resource when we are experiencing grief. Being alone allows us the opportunity to process our grief, deal with the pain we have experienced, and begin to regroup in a way that helps us focus on the new normal that is ahead of us. While being alone can be a positive response for grief, continued isolation and closing one’s self off can be detrimental to one’s health and can slow the healing we need. We cannot hide forever because there is still a world and a life to be lived. 

For those of us who may experience grief we must learn that we might not want to be with people and that is okey. We may not want to do holidays and that is okey. We may not want to go to church and that is okey. In time, you will. In time, you can do what you need to do again.

For those who have friends or family who are grieving. I suggest that we engage them. In today’s environment, we have the ability to text, email, facebook, phone call, and we can still send a card or letter. While we may not have a direct presence, we can communicate our love and support for our friends. Never allow a person go without some communication. When you communicate, do not judge their isolation, but simply let them know they are loved and you are there for them. Maybe take them a meal. Babysit their child. Stop in to help them with yard work or grocery shopping. Do not force them to grieve differently than they are in the moment, but allow them to take this journey in their time and they will. 

While some people isolate, others can busy themselves in order to avoid grief. The belief is that if we are busy enough then grief will go away and we will not have to deal with it. Doing so, however, often delays the inevitable. We will deal with our grief one way or another. It will come out in other ways and most often when you least expect it. Instead of running from grief, David and Nancy Guthrie, directors of GriefShare Ministries have stated that we must lean into our grief. We need to take it all in. Yes, you may cry in front of people. That is okey. You do not have to live like you have it all together. Do not allow your self to be deceived into thinking that you have to put up a front when you are hurting. It is never healthy to hold it in.

This also means that we cannot turn to unhealthy means to cope with our grief like excessive alcohol, drugs or medications, sex, and other addictions that do little to alleviate our grief. These things serve only to mask our grief and to delay the inevitable. But know this, the pain will not last. Once again we hear the heart of David when he makes this powerful statement in Psalms 30:5. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Here is the deal. We may not know how long our night might be, but I do know that joy comes in the morning. You will experience a new normal, and you will come to a day where you will live again. 

While we can isolate or busy ourselves, we can also focus on the unchangeable and unmovable love of God. In our grief, we can become closed off to God. Sometimes in our grief we can believe that God has left us and is not concerned about us. Sometimes our pain can be so deep that we cannot pray. We cannot read the Bible. We cannot listen to Christian music or any other kind of music for that matter. We are numb and feel lost in the darkness. 

But listen to David’s word. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. , because he has dealt bountifully with me. Let me ask you have you ever proclaimed those words. Have you ever exclaimed how much more Lord do I have to take.

But also listen to David’s reply to his own question. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD. It is here that David is sharing the pain of his heart and suddenly he seems to take a turn. He is saying yes all of this is true, but I have realized that I can trust in God’s immovable and unchangeable love. His love for me is not contingent on how I feel or what I have experienced. His love never changes. He loved me before the grief. He loves me in the grief. He will love me as I establish a new normal in me life. 

It is for that reason that David wrote these words in Psalms 23:4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. In the valley, the shadow of death encompasses us. It floods our hearts and effects our spirit. But, when we trust God even in death we do not have to fear, because He is with us. He is there for us and He is there to direct our steps through the valley. Notice that David did not say that when we stay in the valley of death, but rather He made it clear that we walk through the valley of death. There is hope, there is a new normal, and there is a new day ahead.

Finally, let me read one more passage from David’s writings in Psalm 34:17-20 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

Not matter what you are experiencing God is with. He is our delivery. He is our healer. Our grief speaks to us one thing but God speaks another. We can be healed and reach a place where a new normal is realized. Watch this video with me and then we will pray. “I Say.” by Lauren Daigle. 

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Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness

Peninsula Community Church 

Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness

January 27, 2019 

Psalm 31:7-10 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

Today, we begin a new series. The reason for this series is that we have all been affected by the power of grief at some point in time. If you have not, you will. To focus our attention I have entitled this series “Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness.” Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at grief, and how God can use grief to bring us to a new normal. We will see how God can bring us to a place where can trust in His grace and His power again. To be honest, there is much to cover so fasten your seat belts and let’s get started. 

To begin this study it would be helpful to define grief. Grief is a multifaceted and natural response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which there has been a bond or deep affection. While our focus will be on the grief that comes from losing a loved one, we recognize that grief can come from several different areas in life. It might be a lost job, financial disaster, loss of a home, a pet, and more. Grief is grief no matter what and everything we discuss here applies to every circumstance.

The question often asked in the process of dealing with grief is why does the loss of a loved one hurt so much. I think the answer is found in the fact that we grieve because we have loved. To love and lose is to encounter grief. Grief must be understood as a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away.

Along with our definition stated above we also find that the Bible does a good job of defining grief. David grieved on multiple occasions and he did not shy away from writing about his grief. As we read his stories, we find his spiritual, emotional, and mental condition expressed through the pages of the Psalms. He knew the power of grief, but he also knew how to navigate grief to establish a new normal. We are also reminded that Jesus grieved. He grieved the loss of Lazarus, His best friend. The Bible says He wept. He cried bitterly. I love that Scripture does not shy away from giving us insight into the heart of Christ. We find the one who created all things, and knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, still mourned and grieved over his death.

In this passage, David does a good job of defining and painting a picture of grief. Did you catch his description? My eyes, my soul, and my body are wasted from grief. David is saying I am spent. I have nothing to give because I am so worn out from my grief. I am consumed by the pain and agony of my grief. There is nothing left. Do you see his pain? Do you feel his anxiety? He is worn out. He goes on to say that his life is spent with sorrow and his years with sighing. Have you experienced such grief? Perhaps you still do? At some point we will all have an encounter with grief that is beyond our ability to understand or cope. David had such an encounter. 

David knew the agony of grief on many levels. If you remember the Biblical account of Saul and David, Saul had targeted David and was trying to kill him. David had been anointed as king and now Saul was trying to do everything he could to take him out because of jealousy and fear. David grieved over the loss of his son when he had taken Bathsheba and set her husband up for death. David grieved when his best friend Johnathan died. David’s life was filled with grief and sorrow. He knew grief, but he also knew his Lord would sustain him. 

So for today let me give you a couple of points that will help us understand the journey of grief. The first point is that grief is chaotic and it is more like a tangled ball of emotions than a linear process. There has been some research that suggests that grief is linear and moves from one stage to the next. Rather than being linear, grief is one big ball of emotions that impact us on a daily basis. While it is true we deal with denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance these are not stops along a path to healing. In fact, we can experience one or more of these at any given moment or any given day. Sometimes we revert back to the areas we feel we have already conquered and are familiar to us. 

The second point is that grief is normal. Too often when it comes to grief we try to remove the process from our life. We tend to want to get rid of it. Somehow, we think we are different. Somehow, we believe that no one else is experiencing grief like we do. Somehow, we are deceived into thinking that what we are going through is so different and is not normal. But from the onset of our discussion know this, grief is normal. To love and to lose causes grief to come. 

Too often, we try to avoid grief because we think somehow we should be immune to its effects. Sometimes we are confused at the effects of grief upon our life. A case in point is when my mom died 4 years ago. To give some background, my mom and I were separated when I moved in with my dad in 1969. I had been living with my mom and stepdad for five years prior to this. Those years had been very difficult as my stepdad was a very violent man because of his alcoholism. 

Later in life, I found out that my stepmom had destroyed letters that had been sent to me by my mom. But through a miraculous set of events, nearly 25 years later, my mom and I we were able to reunite. God knew what He was doing because shortly after that my mom had a major brain tumor that required her to have surgery. What appeared to be a successful surgery turned into a struggle for her as she had multiple seizures, and quickly developed dementia and Alzheimer’s. I lost her again as she was no longer cognizant of anything going on around her. When she was moved to a nursing home I lost total contact with her, as my stepbrothers did not keep me in the loop. So for another 10 years or so I lost contact again.  

At Christmas four years ago I received a call from my stepbrother that my mom was not doing well and did not have long to live. This was surprising because we had not had any contact prior to his call. I booked a flight for New Year’s Day to fly to Austin, Texas where she lived, but on New Year’s Day morning around 4AM I received a call from my stepbrother that she had passed away and that I did not need to come to Texas. They would not be doing a funeral service for her. Now to my point. Because of my separation and not being very close to her, I had often wondered how I would respond to her death. What surprised me when she passed is that it did a number on me. What I thought would be an easy path to travel turned into a difficult journey. I believe that my grief was enhanced because I struggled with regret and many other emotions. I began to believe that I was alone and that no one else experienced such things. But as I would later find out everything I experienced was normal. It was a part of the journey toward healing that I needed to process. So my friend know this, grief is normal.

Thirdly, everyone will experience and deal with grief differently. Too often we try to pigeon hole people into dealing with grief a certain way. Too often we tend to judge how people deal with grief from how we ourselves deal with grief. But here is a fact we need to understand and accept. No two people experience grief the same way. In fact, we do not experience grief the same way with different losses in our life. The point is do not ever let anyone tell you how to grieve. The fact is even within a family different members of the family will experience the loss differently. Personally, we will respond to different losses in different ways. No two losses and no two people will be the same. Each person will navigate grief differently. Therefore, we cannot allow ourselves to be placed in a box, nor can we place others in a box in regard to the way grief is handled. 

Fourth, and this is critical, you can take your grief to God. In the midst of grief you do not always sense His presence. In fact, sometimes in grief God feels distant and far away, because we are numb physically, spiritually, and emotionally. This makes grief a difficult process, but we can know that regardless of how we feel; God is always there and we can take our grief to Him. 

Stephen Viars, counselor and pastor, had this say about grief. “I can’t understand God as my rock unless I am willing to acknowledge that I’m feeling overwhelmed. To be able to talk to God and to other people in my life about it is an important step in processing grief with truth.” Look at David’s words here in this passage. David who knew grief well called out to the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress.

When we are in the midst of grief, it is hard to navigate grief, but never hesitate to bring your grief to God. We can do that because God loves us no matter what we experience. His love for us is steadfast which means it is unmovable and unchangeable. Additionally, we can be assured that God knows and sees our affliction and the stress we experience. This is not a surprise to Him. Finally, trust God because He will deliver you and help you establish a new normal in your life. Are you ready? Are you ready to take this journey together?

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It is a New Day

Peninsula Community Church

It is a New Day

January 6, 2019

Isaiah 42:5-9 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

As we enter a new year I trust that you are as excited about the prospects of what God will do in and through us as I am. The question for us is one that is simple. How will we respond to what God has for us? What we will do with His will and purpose in our life? Will we respond to Him as He leads us, or will we be wrapped up in other ideas that prevent our success in Christ?

As a church, 2018 has been a great year in many ways. We have grown as a body numerically, spiritually, and financially. In terms of attendance, we have seen a 40% growth with the added attendance increasing our giving by 15 – 20% over 2017. If we include all giving we have seen a 27% growth. This includes monies donated for the roof and parking lot as well as the memorial gifts given for the sign. That totals $40,000 in additional income with another $20,000 still outstanding that is yet to be donated to the sign. This will allow us to get three major projects completed early this year: the roof, the parking lot, and the installation of a new sign. 

While this is exciting, there has also been an exponential growth in opportunities for spiritual growth, fellowship,  and outreach. I am more blessed by this than anything else. Including the worship time, we have opportunities each week for our adults to get together with other believers to grow in the Lord and to grow relationally. These include Sunday School, Ladies Tuesday Book club, Ladies Thursday Morning Bible Study, BSL on Thursdays, Men’s Study on Tuesday nights, Wednesday men’s lunch at McDonalds, and Life Groups. We have also seen an increase in our Life Kids and younger adults. Two years ago the average age of our attendees was 56 years old. Our average to date is approximately 45 years of age. That is awesome. That is a 20% drop in the average age of our attendees. 

All of this should be seen in light of the fact that statistics say that 1200 churches a month are closing their doors. That is also in view of the fact that 1500 pastors a month are leaving the ministry. For those churches who continue to existence many are experiencing stagnate or declining growth. I give God the praise that we do not fit into any of those categories. 

With that said, this is not a time to puff ourselves up but to give God praise for all that He is doing and has done. In fact, we cannot rest on our laurels and the good things we have seen occur thus far. While this is exciting, we must continue to seek God’s will and purpose for the ministry of PCC and all that God has for us. We must not settle for the good and fail to move toward finding God’s best. We must never be guilty of worshipping the ministry we have and failing to worship the God of the ministry. If we are not careful, it is possible to transform Godly victories into spiritual traps, because we begin to idolize and worship the ministry and our successes, more than we worship God. As we consider this, I am so glad for those passages that cause us to focus on what is important and critical to our success as a church and as individuals. The Isaiah passage we just read is just such a passage.

The first truth is He is the Lord! I love the language in this passage. “I am the Lord!” This is a declarative statement of fact. This means that He is in charge and that He never changes. His character is constant and His ways are so far above our ways. No matter when you encounter Him or experience His Grace, He is or to use incorrect English “He am.” He never ceases to be. He never stops being the Lord! And, because He never stops being the Lord, His character does not change. His love does not change. His grace does not change. His willingness to forgive does not change. The bottom line is “He is” and will always be.

As we look ahead to this new year, I have come to an important conclusion. While everything has changed, the truth is nothing has changed. Now before you get too excited or worried, let me explain. While our circumstances change and we cannot control the events of our life, the one constant in life is God. He never changes and He is always with us to help us and direct our steps. I believe this passage tells us that and shows us that God never changes but is always with us. It is only as we recognize this that can we move ahead to a new day and a new adventure with God. Here is the fact. No matter what comes in 2019, God’s got it and He has you because He is the Lord!

Secondly, the Lord proclaims that I have called you in righteousness… As Lord, He has called us to righteousness! The problem with our interpretation of righteousness is that too often we relate righteousness with a list rules and regulations. Most of these rules and regulations have little or nothing to do with salvation and eternal life. When we understand the righteousness given to us by Christ, we find that our righteousness has little to do with us and everything to do with the one giving the gift. We are righteous because He has made us righteous. We do not have to work to be righteous because we are already righteous through Him. 

Notice something here. It is the Lord that has called us righteous. For too long we have tried to live up to what others think of us and what others perceive as righteous living. Too often we become stymied by feelings of trying to please others and to get others to recognize us for who we are. The Lord is the only one who can call us righteous. He is the only one who sees us for who we are. We are called to righteousness and we must now live in the righteousness He has called us to.

Thirdly, He will lead you and He will keep you! In this passage, we find that the Lord says I will take you by the hand and keep you… Did you catch that? I have called you in righteousness and I will also lead you and keep you through whatever you face or encounter as you live your life. Here is a fact. I do not know what 2019 will bring you. I do not know what may come to you, but I know that He will be there. He will guide you by His hand and He will keep you. There is nothing that can destroy you. Through good and bad we are guaranteed that God will be with us.

I love how the New Living Translation treats Psalm 32:8 The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. If we trust God and lean upon Him He will guide you along the best pathway for your life. If we listen and obey He will give us the best He has for us. So we must let go of the reigns and give Him control over our life. Do not make Him your copilot, but rather put Him in the pilot’s seat. 

Fourth, you are in Covenant with Him in order to draw others into covenant relationship with Him. Listen to the words of Isaiah. I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. Notice the wording here. It is so powerful when you realize what God is saying. God has purposefully placed you where you are as a means to lead people by the light that is resident in you. 

He calls us to righteousness and He will keep us and hold our hand not so that we can become self serving and self focusing, but so we become the light in a dark world. We are called to give sight to the blind, to release those who are in bondage. We have a mission. We have a purpose. There are people who need what God offers. We are advocates for Christ and we are His instruments of service. The question today is what kind of light are you emitting. Is it one that draws people to Christ or is it one that pushes them away? Are you an instrument to free people from their bondages, or do you not care, or even worse are you contributing to the bondage people share? We are in covenant with Him so that we draw others into a covenant relationship with Him.  

Finally, He wants your commitment to Him. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. One of the things we find about God is that He is a jealous God and He does not want His glory to go to another person or being. God wants to be first in your life. He wants you do what you do to honor Him and bring His praise. He wants to know that He holds a spot in your life that no one else can hold. Choose to serve Him. Choose to follow Him with all of your hearts. Choose to make Him number one and all else second.  

God has a plan for your life and He has a plan for your 2019. What was is now passed but we now have a new future. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

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Taking Inventory

Peninsula Community Church

December 30, 2018

Taking Inventory!

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

For eleven years I worked for Grumman Aerospace as a business operations manager. I can remember that at the end of each year we had to produce our goals for the upcoming year. Also, we had to evaluate the previous year’s goals and accomplishments. The goal of this process was to assure that we were accomplishing the goals that we set. It also was a means to assure us that we were taking the necessary steps to accomplish what we had set out to do and to establish a new set of plans for the new year. In essence, this was a means to take an inventory of our department and to establish our plans for the future. The purpose of all of this was to build on our strengths and to strengthen our weaknesses. 

As we come to the end of another year, this is a great time for us to take inventory of our life, our goals, and our accomplishments in the past year. This season affords us the opportunity to look at the blessing of God in our successes and in our failures. It is a great season to look at what God has done in us and through us. It allows us to ponder the difficult times and take inventory of how God has helped us navigate the difficulties. Sometimes, we do not see what God has done until we pause and do an inventory of our personal life. This is critical as sometimes we can miss what God has done because we are too busy doing life. We can be so busy that we fail to realize that we have been blessed abundantly in this life regardless of the circumstances we encounter.  

As we consider this, I would like to take our time to suggest some lessons that encourage us to consider this kind of thinking today. I would suggest that there are at least four areas of inventory we must consider by way of Paul’s words in this passage. We should also note the circumstances that motivated Paul to write these words. As we review the details of this book, we find that Paul was in prison. It was from prison that he penned these words. He was not a free man. He was in chains. But while he had lost his physical freedom, he had not lost his spiritual freedom.

Paul wrote this letter to warn the Church of Philippi about those who would seek to discourage and hamper their growth in Christ. Paul did not want anything to get in the way of them being able to live in total and complete joy. Paul understood this and He knew that no matter the circumstances of one’s life they could live in joy. 

So let me share a couple of thoughts from this passage with you. With each of these I will begin with a statement and then move to how we can use that statement to take inventory of our life. First, we are on a journey to obtain all that Christ has for us. We are on a journey to get to know Christ better. In this passage, Paul made this powerful statement. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. As Paul does so often, he uses an athletic term to express a spiritual truth. Paul is saying here I have not finished the race and I have more to go and I am not giving up. It may be hard at times, but I will never stop running and pressing forward to the goal. 

I love the idea expressed by Paul in that he states that he presses in to make it his own. He does not stop no matter what happens. When running a race the one running a race pushes himself to the finish line. It has been said that the 26 mile marathon is one of the hardest races to finish. At the end of the race, the muscles are aching and the body is tired. But the true racer will push to the end. He will not give up.

The question here is what is it that Paul has not obtained? To find the answer to this question one must go back a few verses to see why he makes this challenging assertion about the goal of his life. Philippians 3:7-11 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Here is the deal. Paul wanted to know Christ not from some intellectual high ground or through his heritage or pedigree. He wanted to know Christ without any of the encumbrances of the world around him or the expectations that unbelievers and religious leaders were trying to press him into. He wanted the purity of a personal relationship that was based in a knowledge of who Christ was and not by any other means. 

So here is the inventory question for us. Are we continuing to obtain all that God has to offer or are we settling for less than God’s best? 

Second, we must be moving forward and not getting bogged down in past failures and mistakes. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead… Paul did not allow his past failures and mistakes to delay or hinder his growth in Christ. Paul realized something that we must realize as well. The enemy of our soul is good at getting us to look at the past and not to the future. There are three ideas to consider here. We cannot change the past. We cannot do much about the future because it is ahead of us, but we can affect the present and make decisions today that will positively impact the future.

Someone has said that we learn more from our failures than our successes. That may be true but we must be careful and not live in those past failures. The problem with constantly looking back and living in the past is that we will not move forward. If we are not careful, we will begin to be defined by our past rather than the potential of our future. When we live in the past we live by what I call the should have’s and could have’s. We begin to live by the “what ifs” and the difficulties more than the promises of a better day to come. 

So the second inventory question for us today is where have you gotten bogged down with past failures, issues, and problems? Perhaps it is an issue of not forgiving someone who has hurt you. So, where are you bogged down? What do you need to do to get unstuck?

Third, we must be aware that God’s character does not change with the problems of life. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. One of the things I love about God is that He does not move the goal post as we get closer to Him. He has a plan and that plan is for us to grow in our knowledge of Him so that we become more like Him. 

I am reminded of the Peanuts comic strip. If you remember the cartoon, Lucy would pull the football away when Charlie Brown would run down the field to kick the football. Sometimes we can feel that way in life. We are pursuing our life goals and we feel the goal is moved. We feel that things are going well when something knocks us off course, but we continue to press toward the goal regardless of what happens in life. 

Our third inventory question is this. Who has been moving the goals on you? Are there broken promises that you have to deal with? What do you need to change?

Fourth, the way we think determines where we go in life. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Rick Warren has stated that the way we think determines how we feel and how we feel determines how we act and react. What Paul is saying is that because we are maturing we do not think like others think. The way we think affects our attitude and our attitude determines where we go in life. 

Now to fully understand this we must know this is not just a matter of positive thinking, it is so much more. It is to have our thinking and attitude firmly secured in what God has revealed to us and what we have already learned and understood about God. 

In Proverbs 23:7 the King James Version tells us that how a man thinks is what he becomes. The promise however in Philippians is that if we are off track in our thinking, God will help us reestablish a new way of thinking. … and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to youI love this fact. Those of us that are mature should think in a way that pushes us and brings us closer to God and His ways. When we get off track God will reveal our inerrant ways and will help us to get on track again. 

So, the fourth inventory question is how is your thinking? Where do you have thinking that is placing you on an alternative course that needs to change? 

So, if you would take an inventory of your life where would you stand? What changes would you make? What would you do differently? I would suggest that you take some time and consider what you would do differently or what would you continue to do to grow in that area of your life. Now is the time! 

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The Person of Christmas

Peninsula Community Church 

What does Christmas Mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.

December 23, 2018

Matthew 2:1-6 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

I am not sure that you have had experienced this but we have on a few occasions. We love to get in the car and drive around to see what is around us. Being a lover of Civil War history we had heard about Harriet Tubman’s birthplace in Maryland and thought it would be fun to visit this site. So off we go. We traveled past Cambridge into the middle of nowhere and into a very desolate area. Upon arrival, we found a placard that stated that they thought this was the location. There was no home and all that was in front of us was an open field. As we were standing there taking in this moment suddenly we began to hear shooting in the field adjacent to us. It was in that moment that we decided it was time for us to leave and leave quickly. How disappointed we were as our journey did not produce the results we had hoped for. While our journey was disappointing, the wisemen’s journey was anything but disappointing. They found the Savior. Your journey does not have to be disappointing either as you will find the Savior if you seek Him. 

Today, we finish our look at the meaning of Christmas through the eyes of the wisemen. Over the last few weeks we have looked at the journey of the wisemen. We have looked at the gifts of the wisemen. We have looked at the worship of the wisemen. Today, we will focus on the One that made this journey possible and is in fact the destination of their journey. You see from the beginning of their journey, the focus of the story has been and continues to be on Jesus. Over the last couple of weeks we have learned much about the Christmas story through the eyes of the wisemen. 

As we read through this passage, we find three illustrative word pictures used to define the work and mission of Christ. First, we find that He is a baby. In this, we see the innocence, purity, and promise of His birth. The Jewish leaders had a different experience. They were looking for a warrior. They were disappointed and disillusioned at the news that the Messiah was born as child in a manger because that is not how a king would come. While they thought that their king should come on a white steed with regalia of a King. What they found was a placard in the middle of an empty field.

I am not sure about you, but I have often wondered if this was one of the reasons God did not call the religious leaders to the manger. If sent, I wonder if they would have missed Christ as they were misguided in their focus and in their purpose. It is amazing to me that instead of the religious leaders, God called, the shepherds, the lowliest of all people in society to find Jesus. He called those who were unbelievers, the wisemen. In the process they all believed and walked away with a new found faith. You see God was not calling the religious but those who needed Christ and were genuinely seeking Him. 

Secondly, there is the picture of Jesus as a shepherd. What a visual picture for those of Jesus’ day. What a statement for Christ’s ministry. For us, we may not see or grasp the value of this designation, but those who witnessed Jesus’ birth and lived in that area knew the incredible value of this designation. It is a powerful illustration of the work of Christ in our life. He is the shepherd. He is our shepherd. As shepherd, Jesus’ birth was a fulfillment of Micah 5:2. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

David caught a vision of this work of Christ when he penned the words of Psalm 23. After all remember David too was a shepherd who became a king. In this Psalm, the work of the Lord, as the Shepherd, is defined. It is in this Psalm that we find His mission. Listen to David’s words. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

How amazing is the ministry of Jesus as the shepherd? He was and continues to be our shepherd. He is our provider so that we do not lack what we need. He leads us to a place of rest and peace as pictured in the green pastures and the still waters. He is a restorer of the soul. When we are distraught and feel we are losing it, He comes and restores us. Notice, that He restores the soul which is that inner part of our being that only God can touch and revive.

As the Shepherd, He leads us down the path of righteousness. This righteousness is worked out in our thinking, our actions, and our feelings so that His name is glorified. Because He is the shepherd, even when we confront the worst of all circumstances, He is there. He is walking with us through death and the greatest fears of our life. He brings reconciliation even with our enemies. The reconciliation is so great that He invites us to dine with our enemies so we can move forward with our life rather than being stagnated by a lack of forgiveness. He anoints us and leads us into His mission, so we find fulfillment and a fresh perspective.

The third description is that of a king. The wisemen saw Jesus for who He was. They saw Him as the King of the Jews. They traveled the distance they did to find the King. What they did not see in Herod, they saw in Jesus. What they did not see in themselves, they saw in Christ. Because of their experience, they knew He was more than just the King of the Jews, He was and still is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Jews missed the opportunity to find Jesus. This was in part because they had a misunderstanding of God’s intent and purpose in establishing His kingdom. Most Jewish leaders had political aspirations. They wanted political power and position. Jesus on the other hand wanted their heart.

From the beginning, the political and ecclesiastical leaders did not trust Him. His ethical teachings, His irreproachable moral character, and His undeniable lineage constantly jeopardized the security and aspirations of the Jewish leadership of that day. Herod needlessly feared Jesus. Pilate was unnecessarily suspicious of Him. They lost sight of the fact that Christ had not come to set up an earthly kingdom. He had come to be the King of redemption. His Kingdom was to be a spiritual kingdom. He was to reign in the hearts of men and women. You see they had never bargained on a spiritual kingdom. They missed the fact this was a heart issue and not a political or religious issue.

As we think about His kingdom, we are aware that His kingdom is present now but there is also a kingdom that is to come. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray your kingdom come; your will be done. As such, we invite His kingdom into every situation we encounter. The truth is nothing matters apart from His kingdom. Just as Christ penetrated the hustle and bustle of His day, so today Christ can and will invade any and every situation we have to make a difference.

The wise men of old inquired, “Where is He who has been born King?” Today, many are asking the same question. “Where is He?” For some, they are on a path to find Him and others are just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They are ignorant of His purposes and His calling. They for searching for a Jesus that does not exist. They want power and position  but that is not the intent of God’s heart. But we will find Him when we seek Him. And seek Him we must.

The Bible says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He was King yesterday, He is King today, He will be King tomorrow. By virtue of His kingly office, He was the only One in Heaven qualified to redeem a lost world. Had Jesus Christ been less than He was, He could not have made atonement for our sins. Fully aware of our inability to pay the price of redemption, Jesus Christ gave Himself as a ransom for us. At the end of every presidency one of the last things they enact is clemency and a pardon of crimes committed by certain people. One greater than any president or ruler did that for us upon the cross. 

But that was yesterday. What about today? Many people are asking, “Where is the Kingdom of God today? If He is a king? If so, where is His kingdom?” His kingdom as then now reigns in the heart of man. So the question for us is “Does Christ reign in your heart?” Is He Lord and King of your life? The Bible says, “If we confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus as Christ, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we will be saved” Romans 10:9. You may say, “I believe in Christ.” But have you made Him King of your heart. The reason for this is that if He is not Lord of your heart then, He does not have complete control of your life.

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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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