Don’t Give Up!

Peninsula Community Church

July 19, 2017

Don’t Give Up!

Galatians 6:7-10 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

A number of years ago thieves broke into a posh clothing store in the heart of London, England. When the police arrived and subsequently the store owner, they could not find anything missing from the store. The cash was still in the drawer. Nothing seemed to be missing off of the racks or shelves and the storage room seemed to be intact. The police filed their report and the store owner went back home. It was not until the store opened and customers began to shop that they realized the crime that had been committed. The thieves had switched the price tags on most of the products in the store. Very expensive items were now priced at a very low price and those items that were not very expensive were now over priced.

The enemy of our souls has done a good job at switching the price tags in our life. It started in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of time. Since then, his goal has been to switch the price tags and to get us to go after what is not important. We have begun to add value to that which has no value and we have devalued that which is most important. The enemy in the beginning used doubt to get Adam and Eve to reevaluate what was important and what was worthy of value. He switched the price tags and cheapened that which was valuable. He did this by deceiving both Adam and Eve to give into temptation which caused sin to permeate our human nature from that point forward. In 2 Corinthians 11:3 Paul noted But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

That is why here in this passage Paul warns the church at Galatia not to be deceived. Paul warns them and he warns us about being deceived into believing what we do does not matter. The word deceived in this context means “to be led astray” or “to take a wrong path.” This is certainly what occurred in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were lead astray by the temptations that were exacted by satan. Paul did not want the church at Galatia to switch the price tags and go after those things that have a false value attached to them. The problem for us in our depraved state of mind is that it is easier to be deceived than we believe.

Scripture deals with the idea of deceitfulness in many ways. Listen to a couple of these verses. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise (1 Corinthians 3:18). Paul also states Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6). Let no one deceive you in any way (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

John also engaged in this conversation when he made the following comments. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous (1 John 3:7). Even in the Old Testament Moses dealt with the issue of deception. He warned the Children of Israel to take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them (Deuteronomy 11:16). Guarding one’s heart is critical as sin will take advantage of a deceitful heart. Listen to Paul in Romans 7:11. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

If the Bible develops a such a consistent view and ongoing discussion about deceitfulness then it behooves us to take notice. It is for this reason Paul deals with this topic here in Galatians. His desire is that the church at Galatia would not be deceived about the importance of what they sow in life. He wanted them to know that what they invest in is what they will receive in return. He knew they would reap what they sow.

Paul recognized that in this area of sowing we can do one of two things. First, we can sow to the flesh but that brings corruption and destruction. Paul noted that when we sow to the flesh, we reap the flesh. Here is the problem. We sow to the flesh and we reap the flesh and then we sow more to the flesh which leads to reaping more flesh. It is a vicious cycle of sin and destruction. The problem is that we keep sowing the same thing expecting different results. Sometimes we don’t recognize the futility of this until it is too late. The flesh represents that which is sinful and is outside the boundaries that have been established by God Himself. We could spend a great deal of time here discussing this but let us leave it at sowing to the flesh does not add value to our life. It is a means for satan to switch the price tags in our life and to devalue what is important.

The second thing is that we can sow to the Spirit which brings eternal life. To sow in the Spirit causes us to sow more of the Spirit. When we sow to the Spirit we reap spiritual benefits. When we sow righteousness, we will reap righteousness which ends in eternal life. That is the ultimate and most prosperous benefit of sowing seeds to the Spirit. We gain eternal life not just in some distant future but also in the here and now. Because we sow to righteousness, we reap righteousness and we have the privilege of living a full abundant life in Christ.

We must understand that there is a war going on for our souls. The enemy loves to deceive us into thinking that what we do does not matter. He will switch the price tags and make us believe that when we sow to the flesh, we will not suffer any negative benefits. That is a lie because when we live out of a carnal nature we receive the reward of doing that. It is broken lives, lost hope, and sorrow. But sowing in the Spirit brings righteousness and life to us.

It is for that reason, Paul challenges the church at Galatia, do not be weary in doing what is right because at the right time you will reap the benefits of doing good. One of my favorite sayings, when a person seeks my counsel on what to do under difficult situations, is to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. That to me is not some trite saying but one that requires us to do right even though it might cost us and we might get weary in the process of doing what is right. In essence, do not be weary in doing what is right and do not be deceived into doing what is wrong because it is easier.

You see we can become weary in doing the right thing because we do not see immediate results. Paul recognizes a couple of things here. First, reaping the rewards of sowing does not happen overnight. Paul knows the reaping process takes time and he does not want us to get tired and weary in the process. Secondly, we can become discouraged and tired when we do not see the benefits of doing the right thing. We can come to a place where we want to give up. We want to throw in the towel. We begin to believe there is no use in continuing to do the right thing.

Paul in this passage challenged the church at Galatia not to give up or to lose heart. Paul recognized how powerful a tool discouragement can be. We can be discouraged when we do not see fruit in our labors. We can become frustrated at a lack of movement in the right direction. We can be frustrated with our kids who seem to be doing their own thing. We can be frustrated when we have shared Christ with a particular individual and they never come to faith. There is so much that can discourage and frustrate us. But what Paul is saying is do the right thing, do good to others, be patient and you will see the fruit of your labors come to pass.

Too often we give up too soon. We throw in the towel! We fall short and we give into the pressures of life. We begin to believe the lie. In the movie “Facing the Giants” there is a scene where coach Grant Taylor challenges one of his star players, Brock, to step up and lead the team. He challenges him to do the death crawl with one of the players on his back! Coach Grant cheers him and challenges him not to give up. Because of this Brock thinks he can make it to the 50 yard line but ends up in the end zone.

God’s call today is don’t give up! You might be weary! You might be tired! But don’t give up. The answer is on its way and you will receive the fruit of righteousness. Do not be weary in well doing! Like Coach Grant, God is cheering us on! He is for us! If He is for us who can be against us. Press on and don’t give up.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Cure for Pride

Peninsula Community Church

The Cure for Pride

July 16, 2017

Galatians 6:1-5 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Last week, we dealt with the issue of pride and how pride causes us to push God out of our lives and brings us to believe we do not need God. Today, we will explore the cure for pride. First, restoring others to a right standing in Christ helps one deal with pride. In this passage Paul uses an example of someone who has fallen into sin and that sin has been openly revealed. There is no discussion of the specifics. The sin could have been an act of adultery. It could have been an act of stealing. It could have been one caught in a lie. While we may not know the specific sin or even the specific person, we do know that Paul encourages believers in Christ to respond in a way that is different from what we might be inclined to do. He encourages the spiritually mature to restore the sinner to their right place in Christ with gentleness.

I do not know about you but this can run so counter to what I really want to do. When someone is caught in a sin my human flesh wants them to get what is coming to them. My flesh wants to judge, criticize, and condemn their actions. My flesh wants to reject them and push them away so that I am not tainted by their sin or influenced to commit a similar sin or worse yet a greater sin in terms of its consequences.

But notice something in this passage. Paul suggests that it is those who are spiritual that should restore the sinner with a sprit of gentleness. Too often, we love gotcha moments. We love to hear when others get caught in sin because it makes us feel better. That was not God’s plan or purpose in this thing called Christian community and life. This passage reminds me of the opportunity Jesus had to model this for us. He encountered a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. As we read in John 8:1-11, the religious leaders of the day had brought an adulterous woman into the city square. She had been caught in the act of adultery and the religious law of the day required that she be stoned to death.

Think about this picture. The religious leaders had gathered around her with stones in hand. They were ready to punish her for her sin and exact the penal code upon her. From a legal standpoint they had every right to do that. But in the midst of this, Jesus showed up. He assessed the scene and in so doing He found that those who were gathered around this woman were just as guilty of sin as she was. In that moment, Jesus made a profound statement. He stated that those who where without sin should cast the first stone. He stood nose to nose with her accusers and challenged them with their own spiritual condition. If there was anyone without sin, they had His permission to throw the first stone. Sadly, all of these leaders silently slid into the crowd and disappeared under the weight of their own guilt.

Now lest we think that Jesus did not deal with her sin and that He was somehow soft on sin, look at what Jesus did. He approached her to ask where her accusers were and if there was anyone left to condemn her. Of course, no one was left as they had sin which they needed to be deal with. In that moment, Jesus modeled for us what we need to do. He ministered gentleness and He gave her grace. Rather than get on the band wagon of judgment and guilt, He set her free. He lovingly cared for her. He never condemned her but He never justified her sin either. He walked in truth and grace.

You see the religious leaders were more about the law than they were grace. They wanted to punish others while ignoring their own sinful hearts. This is the highest mark of pride possible. Remember that Jesus reminded us to get the log out of our eye before we try to remove the speck in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). That was the problem with the religious leaders that day and that was Paul’s point here.

In our passage, Paul uses the word “restore.” The word means to make things right. It was used in Jesus’ day of repairing one’s fishing nets. The idea was when the fishing nets had holes in them, much of the catch would get away. This would negatively impact their life as fishermen. To repair another’s nets meant they were looking to help make others as effective as possible. Sin is a breakdown in the machinery of life. It has to be repaired. In other words, if you find someone that is broken down do what you need to do to help restore that person back to a good working order. Ultimately it is Christ’s responsibility to forgive and restore but we can be a tool to assist in pointing the person in the right direction. Yes we are to admonish, rebuke, and warn each other about attitudes and plans which are wrong but we do so with grace and love. Then we point them to the one who is able to restore and renew them. Helping others keeps us humble.

The second cure for pride is bearing one another’s burdens. The truth is we all deal with issues in life. Sometimes it is easy to bear another’s burdens when they are sick, have financial issues, or have relational issues. But it becomes more impossible to bear one’s burdens when it comes to sin. Rather than bearing one’s burdens, we tend to load up the sinner with guilt and regret. We cast stones rather than gently restoring and or helping to heal the heart of the sinner. Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 11:46. “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. And then Paul had this to say in Acts 16:10-11. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

In our passage today notice that in bearing the burdens of one another we are in fact fulfilling the law of Christ. What is the law of Christ? Remember when Jesus was asked what law was most important? He gave an answer that befuddled the Christian leaders who posed the question in the first place. He stated in essence that no one law is greater than another but that the law could be summed up by two commandments: love God, love others. That is the law of Christ. If we love God with all of our hearts and we love others as we love ourselves, we cannot go wrong.

In essence, the law of Moses was powerless to change our hearts so we could freely obey God’s law. When Christ summons us to obey the law of love, He offers us Himself to slay the dragon of pride, change our hearts, empower us by His spirit, and to fulfill His law in us. The law was powerless but through Christ we can do anything, including bearing the burdens of others so that they are restored in Christ and they are healed of their sin.

Thirdly, to remove pride we must have a proper perspective of who we are. Paul recognized that we are susceptible to pride and we can begin to believe that we are more than we are. We can puff ourselves us with a spiritual slap on the back when we are just as guilty of sin as the one we are encountering. The Bible is replete with warnings about pride and warnings about the potential to fall into the same sin that we judge in others. For that reason Jesus warns us not to judge others because we will be judged by the same judgement we exact on others (Matthew 7:1-2). Jesus knew that the enemy of our souls loves for prideful judgement to be the hallmark of our life. In contrast, Jesus showed us that we are to respond to others with a spirit of grace and love. For that reason, Paul issues this warning, those who are spiritual must guard themselves from the legalism of law and ignoring their own sin.

This idea of restoring another who had been caught in a sin was brought home to me when Michelle and I attended a conference at Gateway church in Dallas Texas. At the conference was Mark Driscoll. Mark had been a pastor for several years. His church had grown to several thousand and he had touched many lives. That all came crashing down when he revealed that he had been guilty of plagiarism, bullying his staff and coworkers, and fits of anger. While he had not been guilty of moral failure per se he acknowledged that his actions were as much a sin as anything else. There were two responses to his resignation.

One part of the body of Christ wrote excoriating letters. His family faced death threats and people confronted his children on the streets. It was a difficult time for him and his family. His children lived in fear and they were forced to move to a new state to start over. But there was also a second response. At the conference, Pastor Robert Morris brought Mark up before the 1500 plus pastors and leaders attending the conference. It was here that Mark admitted the error of his ways and expressed his desire for healing and restoration. Rather than being excoriated the body stood and prayed for him. They did not ignore the accusations but there were more concerned about the person than casting stones. The result was the beginning of healing in his heart and in the heart of his family. Because of the ministry of gentleness and healing, he has been restored and his family has been healed.

Pride causes us to condemn. Pride causes us to ignore other’s needs. But when we follow Paul’s advice healing comes and people are restored. Remember, we are in the restoration business. We are more of a hospital as a church where we restore the wounded and less a day care where we simply maintain. When we restore others in gentleness we change lives. That is God’s plan.

Today there are two types of people who will receive this message. You are either the condemned or the condemner. In being condemned we fall short of Gd’s plan. We are burdened by the guilt of sin and feel that there is no hope. We have had those around us who have and continue to throw stones at us rather than lovingly restore us. On the other side of the there are those who stand with stones in their hands ready to condemn and destroy. The good news is there is grace for both. God sent His son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). May we receive His grace and love today.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Keeping In Step With the Spirit

Peninsula Community Church

Keep In Step With The Spirit

July 9, 2017

Galatians 5:16; 25, 26 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

We closed the message last week with the thought that we are to receive the freedom that is ours. We must personalize it and make it a part of who we are. This works for us as a nation but it also works for us as individuals who follow after Christ. We must receive and accept the work of the Holy Spirit into our lives. As we read last week, The Lord is a spirit and where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). We walk in the Spirit and He gives us freedom. Through Him, we are liberated from the bondage of sin and the bondage of misplaced emotions. Rather than freedom, too often we are constrained by fear, regret, worry, and unconfessed sin. That was never God’s plan for us. With that in mind, I would like to explore this idea of freedom some more.

I will begin with a personal illustration. When my children were younger we loved to go hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains and in the Catskill Mountains. While hiking, I would instruct our kids to follow directly behind me. My job as a father and the leader of our little band of hikers was to make sure that I was choosing a safe path and a good experience for them. When we encountered tough terrain I would make sure that we navigated the terrain as safely as possible.

 

On the journey through the mountains there were many distractions. There were beautiful vistas, wildlife, flora, and other people on the trail. All of these served to distract and cause us to veer off course at times. With the amazing beauty all around us, there were unseen dangers that could cause us to lose focus and could possibly cause us harm. Loose rocks, exposed tree roots could easily cause us to stumble and fall. Many times we would get off the trail to explore. Sometimes we would take detours in order to explore things not seen on the regular trail. Even when we were off of the trail, I would always be in the lead. I knew that I had a role to play and that was to get my family safely to the end of the journey but I also needed them to enjoy the journey.

 

As we look at the passage before us, we find a truth that will save us from many of the pitfalls and difficulties we face in life. Paul encouraged the believers in Galatia not to wander aimlessly through life but to “keep in step with the Spirit.” Keeping in step with the Spirit, helps us to avoid many of the dangers lurking around every corner in this journey called life. When we recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we can feel much like the experience I had with my kids. The Holy Spirit helps us navigate the path of life and if we will follow Him, we will navigate life more successfully.

 

As we review this passage, we also find a couple of issues that prevent us from keeping in step with the Spirit. Paul understood that becoming conceited is one way we can get out of step with the Spirit. Conceit has been defined as vanity, narcissism, conceitedness, egotism, self-admiration, self-regard, pride, arrogance, hubris, smugness, and big-headedness. Pride has been and continues to be one of the biggest problem we have on our journey. Pride certainly effects how we stay in step with the Holy Spirit and it prevents us from accomplishing much that God has for us. Solomon, one of the writers of the books of wisdom, had much to say about pride. Just two of these remind us of the power of pride. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom (Proverbs 11:2). Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

 

You see when we walk in pride we tend to depend on God’s spirit to save us but fail to depend on Him to sustain us. Max Lucado shares the following story that illustrates this. A Welsh woman who lived many years ago in a remote valley felt it was worth the cost and trouble to have electricity installed in her home. Several weeks after the installation, the power company noticed she had barely used any electricity. A meter reader went to see her. “Is there a problem?” he asked. “Oh no,” she responded. “We’re quite satisfied. Every night we turn on the electric lights so we can light our oil lamps.” She had the power but continued live in the old ways.

 

We can do the same! We have the power of God in us but only turn to Him when we need Him. We turn to Him to help us get started on the journey as a believer but after that we try to continue in our own strength. It is for that reason Paul urges us to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25)We can not coast in pride but must stay in step and stay connected to the Holy Spirit who wants to not just save us but wants to sustain us in everything we do.

 

Pride also leads us to believe we do not need God. What a sad commentary but it is the commentary of so many today. Society as a whole has rejected their need for God. They are self sufficient and so smart they no longer need God’s help. This same pride has entered the church as well because too many live disconnected from God. Many claim to be believers but live without God. Many believe they do not need faith because they have been blessed in so many ways. Many believe they do not need His word because they are busy reading Facebook and Twitter. They are so busy, they do not have time to read His Word which is His instruction manual for our lives. They would rather read about man’s opinion about God than read His words directly. In so doing, they have missed being in step with God. In so doing, they have pushed God to the margins because they do not need Him.

 

As I was preparing for this I realized something. The difference between the words trial and trail is where the “i” is positioned. This is a simple illustration and may be a slight stretch but I hope you see what I am talking about. Notice that in the word trail the “i” is after the “a.” To me the “a” represents almighty God. In the word trial notice the “a” comes after the “i.” Heres the deal when we put “I” before God we will face greater trials and tribulations. When we walk in pride we can miss what God is doing. This does not mean that we will not face trouble when we follow God, it just means that God takes our trials and turns them to opportunities to show Himself strong.

 

What a sad commentary to think that we have reached a point where we believe that we do not need God. We isolate and push God out of the equation. No wonder we live with anxiousness, fear, and depleted lives. No wonder sin abounds and the absolutes of truth have been cast off. Sadly, we are seeing a great attempt to remove God from the fabric of our nation. But in the end it all falls apart without God. When we remove God, we remove His power and His spirit from directing our lives. Remove God and we remove His favor and His grace. Maintain a God focused life and we experience His favor and grace in deeper ways.

 

Thirdly pride leads us to compare ourselves with others. We become so concerned about what others think we end up compromising our walk by pleasing others. You see God never called us to be like someone else but we are called to be like Christ. We are originals created by God with a plan and purpose. Here is the problem however. When we compare ourselves to others we can feel we do not measure up because we are using the wrong measure. God is and must be the measure of our success and accomplishments. When we keep in step with the Spirit we will be less likely to compare ourselves to others.

The problem with comparing ourselves with others is that we can begin to seek the applause of man rather than the heart of God. John Piper stated that we do not seek the applause of men or the glory of man but to know that we are pleasing and honoring God in all we do. The great problem in contemporary Christian living is not learning the right things to do but how to do the right thing. The problem is not to discover what love looks like but how to love by the Spirit. For Paul it is absolutely crucial that, if we come to life by the free and sovereign work of the Spirit, then we must learn to walk by the free and sovereign work of the Spirit as well.

Finally, the answer to the issue of pride is to recognize that the Holy Spirit’s primary role is to point us to Christ and transform us into Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18). By His spirit, we can be transformed from having a spirit of pride to one of humility. After all, Jesus modeled forgiveness for us by going to the cross. Jesus humbled Himself and offered Himself as an obedient sacrifice for our sin and our sins. Accepting the work of the Spirit into our hearts transforms us. It changes us. Too many say they follow Christ but there is no change. There is no transformation.

Our transformation into the image of Christ is more important than our ministry. It is more important than our spiritual experience. It is more important than our spiritual gifts or even the knowledge we may have. If we are not being transformed and changed by the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Gospel, we are not living up to the desire God has for us.

So today, we are being called to keep in step with the Spirit. In so doing, we live in victory and the freedom given to us by Christ. Give up pride and we will find that it is easier to keep in step with the Spirit. We will be sustained through every difficulty. We will be transformed. We will be free and victorious.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Price of Freedom

Peninsula Community Church 

The Price of Freedom 

July 2, 2017

Galatians 5:1,13; 1 Peter 2:16 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

This is the week we set aside to celebrate our freedom as a nation. As a result I have been thinking a lot about our freedom both as a nation and as a believer in Christ. As I was thinking about this I have a couple of thoughts about freedom I would like to share with you.

The first of these is freedom is never free. Throughout our history as a nation, wars have been waged and lives have been sacrificed for freedom. The men who founded our nation loved their freedom. They were weary of the constraints and the bondage the state and the church had on them. In that day the Church of England controlled its members and the state controlled the church. They wanted their freedom from an oppressive state of rules and laws of the state and church. That is why in our constitution it states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

They wanted a separation from a government run church but their goal was not to remove God from government but rather it was to remove the state’s control over one’s religious beliefs. They had a conviction that mankind should be able to worship freely however they may choose without constraint from the government. Because of their convictions these men were willing to pay whatever price necessary to make their freedom a reality. In the end, they sacrificed their lives, their homes, and their finances to secure this new freedom. What a price to be paid!

Our freedom as believers is no different. We were under the constraints and bondage of a spiritual force that was set on keeping us bound with guilt, regret, and sin. Something needed to be done, so the Father of all creation devised a plan. He would send His son to pay the ultimate price that would secure our freedom. He was no ordinary man. He was the very son of God who came to this world for one reason. He would give His life and every drop of blood to secure our spiritual freedom. He died so that the curse of sin would be lifted and we would be free from the chains that bound us and held us back. He did what man’s law and religious rituals could not do, He died to purchase our freedom. And oh what a price!

Secondly, freedom must be preserved! Our freedom as a nation cannot be taken for granted. We have been so blessed as a nation but too often people find a way to complain, grumble, and find-fault. They would rather complain than actually do something. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot to complain about. Politicians promise one thing and do something else. There are those who obstruct what is right and march in the streets and bring violence to the streets in the name of liberty and freedom.  We have become selfish and have sought political correctness and financial gain at the expense of truth and righteousness. The problem we have is that when freedom is not preserved it leads to bondage.

Spiritually, Paul warns us that we are to be careful and not become slaves again to sin. We can never coast so to speak. We must continue to move forward by allowing God’s truth to permeate us. You see there is a battle for your soul. It is a fierce battle that is being waged at all levels of our life. This hit home this week when the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, stated that he envisions Facebook becoming the entity that will mimic religion’s role in society.

But why not, especially since many in modern Christianity have settled for less than God’s best. The church in many ways has abrogated its role in society. It seems that there is one of two extremes that occur. There is the legalistic arm of the church, where the rules and law are paramount. Sin is managed through a list of do’s and don’ts rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to bring change and transformation. They bind people up in rules and regulations rather than through grace and love. They demand legalism but cannot obey all the rules themselves.

The second extreme is to compromise one’s lifestyle and Biblical truth. It is here that anything goes. There is no moral high ground and there are no absolutes of truth. The gospel is watered down in an effort to attract people but in so doing it becomes powerless to bring change. John Wesley the founder and leader of the methodist movement understood this when he made the following observation. I am not afraid that the people called Methodists (add whatever church you want here) should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out (from Thoughts Upon Methodism, 1786). Sadly for many churches this has become their commentary. They have a form of religion but one absent of God’s power. I read this week that one church is removing God from its vocabulary as it has become too offensive.

You see the overarching question today is whether or not we will be transformed by society or we will transformer the society in which we live. That was Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome when he stated in Romans 12:2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. You see it is easy to be conformed and shaped by society. It is easy to go with the flow. It is easy to settle for less than God’s best. It is much harder to go against the flow and be a transformer. To be a transformer we must do more than just talk about freedom we must live as freedmen. Freedom requires accountability and it requires responsibility. Without these elements we tend to drift. Without these we risk losing our freedom.

The third concept here is that freedom has never been a license to do whatever we want! The greatest misunderstanding about freedom is that we can do whatever we want to. Some believe that freedom gives them permission to act and to say whatever they may choose. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. We must have a system of reasonable laws and boundaries. For example, how many would say to your child or grandchild “go be free.” There are no boundaries or rules. Go ahead run with those scissors. Go ahead stick your finger into the electrical outlet. Go ahead cross that busy street without looking. Do not worry about it because you are free to run and roam. The truth is none of us would consider doing this as we have an understanding that there are some non debatable rules for us to have a long life and a full life. At the same time we would not place our child in their bedroom never to venture outside the door in fear of something happening to them. You see, there is a necessity for man to have real boundaries in which to live. It is in these boundaries that one is the freest.

As a believer, we have been freed from sin but we have also been called to righteousness. Therefore, we cannot live any way we want to because there is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to destruction. We are saved by faith alone but salvation leads us to obedience. God has given us reasonable boundaries in which we can live. It is in those boundaries that real freedom exists.

One of the problems is that too many promise freedom but the result is bondage to a greater degree. Notice here that whatever overcomes a person is what they become enslaved to. This can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental issues. What we give ourselves to is what we become ensnared by. In 2 Peter 2:19 Peter stated, They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. Peter also understood that we must never use our freedom to cover up evil. We see that today in our society. We see so much that is allowed because we use freedom as a means to do whatever we decide.

Fourth freedom is to be received! 2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. The Holy Spirit’s presence brings the freedom we need. When we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we are exposed to the power of freedom. That is God’s plan. We receive Him and He gives us freedom. He convicts of sin. He speaks truth. He warns us of impending trouble. We always have the right to refuse but if we allow Him to He will guide us into truth and real freedom of heart, mind, and spirit.

The Holy Spirit never seeks to bring us into bondage but chooses to free us from the power and guilt of sin. Christ frees us from the power of sin. He frees us from the cringing fear of God. He frees us from the fear of man. He frees us from the fear of death. He frees us forever. We never have to go back to the way was. As Jesus said “Whom the son sets free is free indeed!”

How are you doing? Are you living as a free man? Do you allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct your steps? He wants to and He will if we give Him full reign of our hearts!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What Action Will You Take

Peninsula Community Church

What Action Will You Take 

June 25, 2017

Luke 5:17-20 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

This is an amazing story when you think about it. As usual wherever Jesus traveled there was a crowd of people. In this case the crowd had grown so large there was no room to get close to Him. It was in this context that the paralyzed man came to Jesus. He needed a miracle. He was ready to receive but he could not get close enough to get His blessing.

Before we look at some specifics let us take a quick look at the characters in the story. First, we have the crowd who was pressing in so they could be close to Jesus. They were so focused on their needs that they did not see this man and his needs. Their own interests blinded them to the needs of this man. Then we have the friends of the man. They were concerned about their friend who had been sick for such a long time. It is possible that he had lost hope and was at the end. Because of their friendship, they were willing to do whatever it would take to see him healed. Then we have the man who in some ways has a passive role in this story. We do not know why he was paralyzed. We do not know how long he was paralyzed. We just know he had a problem and he needed to get to Jesus. The power of God was moving in Jesus to heal. That is why this man needed Jesus.

Because of the crowd, this small group of men could not get close to Jesus. As a result, they had to make one of three choices. The first choice was that they could give up and go home. After all the crowd was too big. After all there was no way for them to get close enough to Jesus. They could have given up but nothing would have changed. He would remain paralyzed. He would continue to depend on his friends to help him get around for the rest of his life.

How many times do we face problems in life and we find ourselves giving up? Whether we realize it or not it is always easier to give up than it is to move forward and get things accomplished. It is easier to do nothing but doing nothing changes nothing. By giving up there is no healing and no future. There are a number of reasons to give up so easily.  For one, we tend to settle for less than God’s best. Sometimes we settle even for the good rather than His best. Secondly, too many times we are not willing to put in the hard work. We get overwhelmed and rather than pressing in we give up and give into the pressures of life. Thirdly, we can be so distracted by the issues around us that do not even realize that Jesus wants to touch us. Being distracted causes us to go after perceived solutions in a hope that hoping we will find an answer but never do.

The second choice we can make is to hang up. It is so easy to get hung up on what we do not have. We can get hung up on the belief that nothing will ever change or be any different than it is right now. When we get hung up on the problem or situation a couple of things happen. For one, we can become critical and judgmental. We are critical because we see everyone else getting blessed but we are not. We are critical because we think we deserve better but we are not willing to make the changes necessary for permanent change.

Newt Gingrich on Fox News made a valuable statement a few weeks ago. He stated that it is much easier to criticize than to actually do anything. We can get hung up on criticizing the issues and complaining about what is not changing but we never engage in a way to bring real change. Criticism is easy, but change is much harder. For me, I have found this to be so true. I can criticize people, plans, circumstances, and issues around me but fail to step up to the plate to bring any real solutions to the table. I must ask myself, “Am I a part of the problem or am I a part of the solution.” Your answer will determine your outlook.

When we get hung up we can begin to focus on the problem so much that we lose hope and faith. We see the problems but do not see anyway out. The result is that we make mountains out of mole hills when God wants to make our mole hills and for that matter our mountains fall into the sea. I remember in the story of Nehemiah that the Israelites become discouraged because they saw all of the rubble. They were so focused on the obstacles that they missed opportunities to respond to God. They became frozen with fear and anxiety.

While we might chose to give up or hang up we can also choose to stand up and move forward. Notice that in this passage the paralytic man and his four friends chose not to give up or to get hung up. They chose to stand up and make a difference. They saw the problems. They saw the crowd. They saw the obstacles but that did not stop them. The desire to see their friend healed far outweighed the obstacles and the problems. Their faith in Jesus moved them to action. They pushed through all of the obstacles to find another way.

Remember the old adage, when a door is closed a window is opened. The door here was closed but a roof opened. They took their friend upon the roof. They tore the roof open. They let him down into the crowd. Strange idea but that is what they did. They were not willing to settle or give up. They did not run away. They chose not to stand around and criticize but they chose to take action.

They needed faith to do what they were about to do. You see change comes by our faith being put into action. Jesus saw their actions and He responded to the man’s need. The Scripture says that Jesus saw their faith. Here is the principle of Biblical faith. We act God responds. We act and God will meet us in the process. Listen to the words of Jesus! “Man your sins be forgiven.”

This may seem to be a strange statement. The man needed healing not forgiveness. Or at least that is what he thought. The reality is that Jesus often gives us what we need and not just what we want. This man needed healing but he also needed forgiveness. Sometimes God knows that the best way to heal the body is to heal the heart. When Jesus touches us He can and will touch the whole man and not just part. Jesus heals and saves. He delivers us from the physical bondage of illness and sickness and He can deliver us from the power of sin. Sometimes, He does both at the same time. That is certainly what Jesus did here.

So the question is how does this apply to us. The fact is we are all confronted with impossible issues. Most of the issues we face are bigger than us and seem to be more powerful than we are. But when we are confronted with such things we can make a choice about what we will do. Will we give up? Will we get hung up? Or, will we stand up and press in to do the impossible by faith.

I suggest and encourage you to stand up and do the impossible. One of the things that has baffled me about this passage is how did Jesus see their faith. Certainly they pressed through the crowd. Certainly they had broken through the roof. Certainly they did not settle for the status quo. Certainly they took action but I think they did one more thing. When they lowered the paralyzed man through the roof, I believe they let go of the ropes. That was faith in action. They did all they could do and now they left the rest to Jesus. I encourage you to do your part and then let go of the ropes and giving your cares and issues to Jesus. Their part was that they sought Jesus. They drew near to Him. He saw their faith and He answered the man’s need.

The story is told of a mountain climber who set off all by himself to conquer a mountain he had always wanted to conquer. This was not a good idea because the protocol was to always climb with a partner. In a moment of arrogance he took off to make the climb. When he had climbed almost to the summit he slipped and began a rapid descent. All of a sudden the rope reached its end and he snapped to a stop. Because darkness had come, he lost all track of where he was. It was in that moment that he prayed. From the darkness he heard the voice of God. Cut the rope and let go. He argued and refused to cut the rope. The next morning, the park rangers found him. He had frozen to death. They found him tightly holding onto the rope. It was there he died. If he had obeyed the voice of God, he would have lived, as he died hanging only two feet off the ground.

Perhaps, today Jesus is calling you to let go of the rope and by faith give what every you struggle with over to Jesus. It is time to let go. It is time to stand up and push through the obstacles. Do so and Jesus will meet you where you are.

Let’s pray.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Let Your Light Shine

Peninsula Community Church 

Let Your Light Shine

June 18, 2017

Luke 11:33-36No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

In our passage today, although Jesus is not speaking directly to dads, He is speaking to believers and those who desire to be passionate followers of Christ. In this passage, Jesus does what He does so often. He uses a word picture to teach a spiritual truth. In this particular case, He is using the word picture of light. This is an important discussion as light refers to the work of Christ in our heart and the influence of that light shining through us.

Jesus begins the passage with an important statement. No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. This may seem to be a absurd picture but it speaks to the reality of our hearts. No one with any wisdom would take a light and hide it under a basket or put it in the basement. You see the purpose of light is to illuminate. Notice he says that we should put the light on a stand so that those who enter may see the light. Thus, the purpose of light is to light the way of those entering one’s home or one’s world. For us today this is a reference to our sphere of influence. Does our life illuminate the way of Christ?

As fathers and passionate followers of Christ we are called to influence those around us by letting our light shine. We are called to be a light to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and coworkers. Whether you realize it or not, you are influencing those around you in many ways. Our influence is never neutral. It is an active process in which we are engaged. To influence means we have “the power to change or affect something or someone.” It also means “the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.” Know today you are an influencer.

The light represents our influence but it also represents our involvement because we are called to be involved with those around us. That is why we do not put our light under a bushel or in the basement. The point here is that we are to be people of the light. We are to be people through which the light of the gospel shines bright. Too often those who want to go to the cellar or the basement want to hide. But to hide is to conceal the light and that is never good. Christ’s desire is that our life is a light and a beacon of hope to others. So, do not hide your light but let it shine.

A good friend told the story of how he would encourage his kids to get MAD. He stated that MAD meant Make a Difference. His desire was that they would make a difference in the environment they were heading into whatever the environment. Of course his kids were not as excited when Jack would yell from the front porch… “Get MAD today!” His point was that he wanted them to be engaged with their culture and their environment so their light would shine.

But how do we do this? First, we must make a choice to let our light shine. The question is how do you want to affect people? What legacy do you want to leave? How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered for the light you allowed to shine or do you want to be remembered for the darkness you share? It is your choice.

Secondly, remember that Jesus is in us and He is the light. When we walk in the light of Jesus then He will be revealed in us. The worldview of the day is that we are not suppose to let our light shine. This worldview says to us, be a good person but don’t let your light shine. Keep your religion to yourself is the mantra of the day by liberal thinkers. In other words hide your light or keep in the basement so no one wiles sees it. But the reality is those around us really desire to hear your thoughts and heart on Jesus. They are not as interested in your political position or spiritual arguments but they are interested in seeking answers to life problems. They need real answers for real problems. They need an everlasting hope and they need Jesus. So, let you light shine wherever you go and in whatever you do. Do not conceal the light but rather let your light shine brightly.

Thirdly, to know Jesus, the light, we must know the word of God. Jesus is the Word and we are challenged as believers to read the Word of God and allow the Word to be the guide of our life. As we hide the word in our heart, we become a lighthouse of grace where Jesus is revealed. By allowing the word of Jesus to affect us, we are changed and we begin to affect those around us. So let your light shine.

A third idea here is that we must be an inspiration. We are to be an influence, we are to be involved, and we are to be an inspiration. By letting our light shine we become an inspiration to those around us. Light dispels darkness. Light conquers darkness. As we let our light shine for Jesus, we find that the darkness in others is impacted. Sometimes they are convicted. Sometimes they refuse to listen. Sometimes they become more entrenched in what they are doing. But many will seek out the light for themselves. Our responsibility is to simply let our light shine. We are not responsible for the affect of the light on others. The light will take care of itself.

It is noteworthy that in this passage there is only one imperative noted. Jesus says “be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” This is a strange statement because how can light be darkness. The fact is there is much in the world that can be presented as a false light. There is much that seeks to negatively impact our influence, our involvement, and our inspiration.

I recently had to get my car inspected and I noticed that my headlights were not as bright as they had been. The problem was that road film had built upon the lens. The light was not able to penetrate the dirt and film build up. The light inside was the same. In fact, the bulbs were brand new. The problem was not the light it was the lens had been darkened and the light could not penetrate the dirt and grime on the lens. The solution was to clean the lens so that the light could shine brightly again.

You see there are things around us that try to mask the light and attempt to be the light. The enemy of our souls often disguises himself as a light. But when we go after that light the way ends in more hurt and more pain. Listen to Paul’s writings in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15. And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Notice here that satan, the enemy of our souls, disguises himself as a light. He is not the light but he presents himself as a light. It is for this reason that Jesus wants us to refuse to let our light be darkness. Cleanse your lens which are your eyes. They are the entry way into the mind and the heart. Purify your eyes and your heart and your light will shine even brighter.

So in the final analysis, we are called to let our light shine. By letting our light shine, we impact others. We become influencers for the all of the right reasons. By letting our light shine we make a big difference in others. That is our goal. That is our purpose. That is God’s plan for you and me.

Today, we need to get MAD. Today, we can make a difference. Let your light shine. Let your life mean something. It is in many ways easier than you think. Follow Him! Obey His word! Do not let the darkness overcome you and you will be empowered to make a difference. Your influence will be felt in your family, your job, your children, your community, and your sphere of influence. So as our friend Jack Crabtree use to say, “Go get MAD today.”

Let’s pray!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Radical Grace, Radical Forgiveness

Peninsula Community Church

June 11, 2017

Radical Grace, Radical Forgiveness

Colossians 3:12-13 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, Holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.

This week I read a story about a farmer who was plowing his fields. He was sweating and yanking on his mule to get him to turn and go the way he wanted him to go. This was all done without saying a word to the mule. His hands were bloodied from yanking the reigns so hard. He had exhausted himself and he was behind where he needed to be in planting his fields.

A fellow farmer stopped by and saw how strange it was that he never said a word to the mule. After all this was the customary way of controlling one’s horse or mule. He talked with the farmer and asked him if he thought it would be easier to give verbal commands like “gee” and “haw” to get the mule to turn. The old farmer said “yeah it would but that mule stepped on my foot a year ago and we have not talked since.” Now this is a crazy story and it is somewhat absurd I suppose, but it relates well to the topic of forgiveness.

Why is that? You see the farmer chose to hold onto the pain of the past. He refused to allow himself to walk in forgiveness. The farmer was hurting himself more than he was hurting the mule by his refusal to forgive. He also made his job much harder than it needed to be. He refused to forgive and he suffered the consequences of his actions or his inaction for that matter.

In our passage today, Paul reminds us that relationships matter and that forgiveness is the cornerstone of those relationships. Because relationships matter, forgiveness is a necessary action that must be taken by each of us. Without forgiveness, our relationships can be damaged but when we walk in forgiveness our relationships are healed and restored.

Paul made the statements in this passage because he knew that forgiveness has the power to liberate us from the suffering of the past and that it inspires us to be present in the here and now. There is a problem that occurs when we do not forgive others. When we fail to forgive others we tend to live in the past. We are locked in the past because of the words that have been spoken. We live in the past because of what someone has done to wound or injure us. However, when we live in the past it is hard to be effective in the present. When we live in the past it is hard to have a future vision of what could be in our life.

In addition to living in the past, when we live without forgiving others we allow ourselves to be under the control of the one who has hurt us or who has wounded us. The result is that our growth is stunted and we treat others differently. We become afraid of what people may say or do because of our hurt. We are afraid to deal with the realities of our life when we refuse to forgive others. It has been said that when we do not forgive others, it is like drinking poison and then hoping the other person will die.

To refuse to forgive is to allow others to have power over us. They become tied to us in our spirits and we begin to carry them wherever we go. They begin to effect everything we do. And the funny thing is that the other person is usually oblivious there is a problem. But when we walk in forgiveness we can take back the ground we have given to others. We can begin to walk in the freedom given to us through Christ.

A second thought about radical forgiveness is that it is undeserved by the one receiving it. It also means that radical forgiveness extends radical grace. It is noteworthy that a key part of the word “forgive” is the word give. Therefore we “give” forgiveness as a gift. It is a gift given especially when the person we are forgiving does not deserve it. That is radical forgiveness and radical grace. We give to others what they do not deserve. You might say that radical forgiveness is a bit selfish in the sense that by radically forgiving the other person and extending radical grace we are healed in the process.

Paul reminds us that we are to forgive just as Jesus has forgiven us. We do not deserve His forgiveness. We do not deserve His grace but He gave it any way. He gave it because the gift was from the one who was forgiving and not the one who was receiving the gift. Verbalizing the words “I forgive” can be easy but giving forgiveness is another struggle altogether. True forgiveness requires releasing the other person from the effects of their actions and their words upon our life.

A third thought here is that radical forgiveness is an act of obedience. The fact is radical forgiveness is not easy. Radical forgiveness must be a decision that is made on an ongoing basis. The truth is that our natural inclinations do not push us to forgive others. True forgiveness is outside our natural ability to forgive. Forgiveness seems impossible because we believe our feelings and hurts are justified. We feel justified for not forgiving a friend, a loved one, or a coworker because of what they have done to us. The problem however is is that too often we ask of others what we are not willing to do ourselves. That is where radical forgiveness comes into play in our life and that is where an act of obedience is required.

When we choose to act on forgiveness we are released from the power of guilt, judgement, and criticism. Have you ever found it is much easier to criticize, judge, and place guilt on others than it is to extend grace and forgiveness? It is not easy to offer grace and forgiveness as our natural inclination is to hold others at a place we ourselves are not willing to go. It is for that reason that we must act in obedience to God’s purpose and will as to forgiveness. We must forgive others because it is the right thing to do.

And finally, Jesus illustrated radical forgiveness on the cross. He hung on the cross and yet He was innocent of His crimes. He had been brutally beaten and abused emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Can you imagine the restraint, the calm, and the power He exerted on the cross? In the midst of one of the most horrific days of His life He uttered some of the most powerful words that still reverberate down through history. “Forgive them because they do not know what they do.” When reading these words we might shout “Wait a minute Jesus!” Don’t you realize what these people have done to you? Don’t you see the pain and the anxiety imposed upon you? How can you utter such words? Why don’t you just call 10000 angels and get this over with? After all you are the Son of God!”

The reality is that Jesus could have done any of these things. He had the power. He had the means. After all He was literally the most powerful man in the world. But there was a greater purpose in mind for Jesus’ death. His death was not just any death, it was a death that would change the world and empower us to be receivers and givers of this divine forgiveness.

It is noteworthy here that while He could have taken things into His own hands, He chose to exhibit the restraint necessary to control His actions and His responses. He acted not out of the reality of the moment but a heart that was filled with forgiveness and righteousness. Some would say that is weakness but the reality is that is strength under control. What radical grace! What radical forgiveness! He looked His accusers right in the eye and asked the Heavenly Father to forgive them. He extended grace and forgiveness to those who deserved it least. That is the power of radical, amazing forgiveness.

Today it may seem an impossible task for you to forgive that one who has hurt you. It may seem you cannot do that but I am convinced that if you will call upon the name of Christ and ask Him to help you then you will receive the power and grace you need to act upon your need.

Let us pray!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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