Empowered for the Mission

Peninsula Community Church

April 15, 2018

Empowered for the Mission

Acts 1:6-11 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

I love this passage. I love the fact that the Bible does not hide the difficulties and the lack of understanding the disciples exemplified in regard to the mission of Christ. Last week we discussed the issue of having a crisis of faith. Once again, here in this passage, the disciples seemed to fall short in their understanding of the purpose and plan of Christ. They continued to have the false understanding that Christ was going set up an earthly kingdom ruled by political aggression. 

The problem is that they did not comprehend that their timeline did not match Christ’s timeline. So it is with us, our timeline does not always match God’s timeline either. The disciples failed to understand this as they were still concerned about the events that were to come. They in essence wanted it to happen now, while God’s plan was something much different. This was in part because they were still struggling to face the truth that Jesus was not living up to their idea of what they thought He should do. It was a problem then and it continues to be a problem today when we try to force Jesus into our box, or into doing what we think He should be or do. While they continued to debate these issues, Jesus continued to remind them that He did not do anything outside of the will and authority of the Father. Therefore, it was His timeline and not theirs.

I am reminded that God has a timeline for your life as well. No matter what you are walking through, He will see you through every situation. The problem for us is that we are confined to time, as time as we know it, was created for us as created beings. That is why we want God to do things now, or at least by Friday. For that reason, we must be reminded that God does not need time, as we know it. He does not move by chronos time, but rather He moves by Kairos time. 

In the Greek language, in which the New Testament was written, there are two words for time. There is chronos time which is measured by our watches, clocks, calendars, and iPhones. Secondly, there is Kairos time which relates to the right, critical, or opportune moment. When we understand that God is not defined by time, but rather by opportunity and the right moment for His will to be accomplished, we will make the connection that at the right time He will show up. Peter understood this when he stated But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8). Peter understood that at times a day seems like a thousand years and vice versa. 

In the passage before us today, Jesus reminds the disciples and us that they did not need to know the “when” or “why” as much as they needed to know the “what.” It is the what that changes us. It is the what that focuses us on His plan and purpose. Until the timeline was fulfilled, Christians were called to be witnesses. That is a huge what. This is what He wanted them to do until He returned, which He will in His on time.

In Jesus final words we are called to be witnesses. A witness is one who tells a story about what they know about a person and or an event. We most recognize this when it comes to court and the legal system, especially when one is called to be a witness for the prosecution or the defense. As a witness, they must present the truth they know about a person or an event. When it come to being a Christian witness, we tell the truth about Jesus. Witnesses testify to what they know is truth and that which is real. Listen to this exchange “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name’ (Acts 22:12-16).

The disciples certainly had much to share about Jesus. They had a story to tell. As we see in the balance of the Book of Acts, they told that story. It was and is the story of redemption. They were preaching and teaching about the work of Jesus and His saving power and grace. We see this in particular with Peter, Paul, and Stephen. Every opportunity they had, they related the story of the work of Christ to those with whom they encountered. The result was changed lives and the expansion of the church and His Kingdom.

Secondly, witnesses have experiences to share. The disciples had watched as Jesus healed the blind, touched the lepers, made the lame to walk, and He reached out to those undeserving of the grace of God. They saw how Jesus had knelt in the sand and how He rebuked the Jewish leadership, that were ready to stone Mary Magdalene for adultery, when they themselves were dealing with their sins perhaps those which were just as serious in nature. He released her with the command to go and sin no more. Not only had they witnessed Jesus heal and give grace to those who did not deserve it, they also experienced the amazing grace of God, personally. After all, these were the same disciples who had rejected Christ. They were absent from the events at the cross. They ran to hide in fear, doubt, and desperation. But, when Christ rose, He came to them so they would know He loved them, had a plan for them, and accepted them right where they were. They knew His love and they knew His grace. They had much to share. Throughout their ministry together, Jesus forgave them and continued to accept them as His disciples even though they failed, they sinned, they judged others, they walked in doubt, and they never fully understood Jesus.

Not only did Jesus call them to be witnesses, He also defined the scope of their mission. They were to go into all the world and preach the gospel. While this certainly relates to the world at large, it also refers to the world in which we live. As individuals we may not have the capacity to reach the whole world per se, but we can reach the world we are in and the one God has given us. Wherever we live and whatever sphere of influence we have, we are witnesses of Christ. God has placed you in a community, you have a specific job, you volunteer for various organizations, and so on. We share through our words, our actions, and our attitudes. I can guarantee you that people are watching you and they will know what kind of witness you are. So are you a witness for Christ, or for the persecutor of the people.

Finally, Jesus not only calls us to be witnesses, He not only gives us the scope of our mission, but He also empowers us to accomplish the task we have been called to. Christ promised us that He would fill us with the Holy Spirit and He would empower us to be witnesses. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Jesus did not just give them the command to be witnesses. He did not just give them the responsibility to do so, He gave them power to fulfill what they needed to do. They were given the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill their mission. 

As a kid I loved super heroes. As some of you, I grew up with Batman & Robin, Superman, the Green Hornet, and others. Each of this superheroes either had special powers, or they had unique tools that made them special heroic crime fighters. As believers, we have been given supernatural power to be witnesses for Christ. Unlike the super heroes of yesteryear, we do not need a special costume or a Bat mobile to have power. We have been given a power to accomplish the task we need to do each and every day and at every moment.

So what does this power do? It leads us to truth. To be a good witness we must speak the truth. Even before a witness takes the stand they are sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Listen to the words of John. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:12-15).

The Holy Spirit will lead us to truth. He will allow us to speak in the authority of God. He will give us the words to speak when we need them. He will glorify Christ and point to the Father. He will give us all we need to accomplish His purpose in life and ministry. So are you ready? People today need to hear the message of hope that Christ’s brings, so will you share it?  

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

Peninsula Community Church 

Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

April 8, 2018

Matthew 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This week I have been dealing with this question. After the resurrection what do we do? How do we deal with all that transpired? How do we get past the celebration of the event and move to an ongoing celebration of life? Last week, we celebrated the festivities of Easter, the clothes, and of course all of the food. Last week we had a great service. We focused on the power and the truth of the resurrected Lord. But here is a truth, we do not and we cannot continue to stand at the empty tomb and expect life to change. We must begin to live in the reality of the resurrected Lord. We must move beyond the tomb to live life to the fullest. While this is true, as I was preparing this message, I could not help but focus on the fact that while some worshipped Jesus others doubted. This occurred after His resurrection. It is that doubt that keeps many from moving forward to live a resurrected life.

Our tendency might be to judge or criticize those who doubted. This is so easy to do. In reality, doubt is often a result of difficult circumstances and problems. It is interesting that the word doubt means “to be hung in suspense.” It means that we are at a crossroad of decision making. Decision making can negatively impact us because the results of our decision are unknown or undecided. From a spiritual standpoint, doubt is a place where God seems to be distant or seems to be unaware of what we are going through. It is a place where have more unanswered prayers than ones that have been answered. It is my guess that we have all faced this kind of doubt. We have all encountered issues that seem to have no answers or at least any easy answers. We are faced with trusting God, and the promises of God, because we do not have solid answers and there is no hope found in the circumstances we face. 

For some of the disciples, as well as others, who followed Christ, the events of the last few days and weeks had left them in doubt and struggling with a crisis of faith. They were hung in suspense as to what had happened and what was going to happen. They were hung in the suspense of wanting to have the right answers. They wanted to believe but everything that had transpired for them was a bit more than they could handle. Some of those who doubted agreed with what Christ had done but they struggled with who He was. Others knew who He was, but they struggled with what He had done. Their vision of Christ did not match up to the reality of their heart or the teachings of Christ. What they knew and believed about Jesus had been shaken and now they were struggling to keep everything in perspective, even though He had risen from the dead. You see they were face to face with Jesus, and yet they still had doubts.

We too can face a crisis of faith when the trials we encounter cause us to struggle with prayers that go unanswered. We face the pressure of circumstances that seem to not change or in fact they get worse. This can cause us to be be shaken to the core of our faith. We can even begin to question the validity of our faith. We can begin to question whether or not we have been betrayed by God Himself. We can reason that we are doing our best but He is not doing His part. These unanswered questions nag at our hearts: Is God really who He says He is? Can God do what He says He can do? We have taught others that God is good, loving, and faithful and now we wonder if that is really true.

As we consider one’s crisis of faith, I believe there are some benefits to dealing with a crisis of faith. If we choose to follow God by faith and in obedience to His Word, our crisis of faith will lead us to a deeper understanding of God and who He is. Sometimes we need to choose to follow Him by faith, even when we do not have all the answers much less all of the questions. I love what we find in 1 Kings 18:21. Elijah made this challenging proclamation “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

The first benefit is that a crisis of faith forces us to take a hard look at what we believe. What a benefit that is. In our humanness, we can become comfortable with a belief system that may or may not be correct. For example, my faith in Christ has been tested many times. There have been times where I have needed a divine intervention from God but it did not seem to be happening. It seemed that He was delaying His answer and that He was not concerned. My faith crisis was in believing that God did not really care. I had the feeling that He had forgotten me? I began to question if I was good enough. When God did answer in His time, my view of God as the faithful One was strengthened, and thus what I believed about God was confirmed. 

Secondly, a crisis of faith leads to more authentic convictions. When we experience a crisis of faith the last thing we need to do to is deny it. Instead of denying the issue, lean into your crisis of faith and face your doubts. As a result, authenticity will be a characteristic of your life. Here is the deal, God knows your doubts already, so you might as well be honest with Him about them. Only when you face the truth about your doubts are you able to move forward toward a more authentic faith. If we allow fear to rule and we deny our doubts, our faith will not be as strong as it should be. God honors truthfulness and He already knows what we are thinking. 

Third, a crisis of faith invites you to a stronger and more deeply-rooted faith. By accepting that we are in a crisis of faith, we have the capacity to admit we need God. Can you imagine the children of Israel standing before the Red Sea? Behind them was an army rushing at full speed toward them. Ahead of them was a river that was impossible to cross with a million people or more. Their leader was an old man who has nothing but a stick in his hand. Do you think they had a crisis of faith? These and other stories have been recorded through Scripture to give us hope and help us to navigate life when doubt comes and we struggle with our own crisis of faith.

When the events we face cause us to believe we cannot go on serving God, what do we do? How do we keep the Easter story alive in our heart? I believe this passage gives us some answers. This may be a different look at this passage than we are use to, but here we go. First of all, we worship. Worship is a key component to living in the reality of the resurrected Christ and moving beyond our crisis of faith. The word worship is a great word. This word comes from the old English word “weorthscipe” which means to ascribe or give value to something or someone. As we give value to something or someone, we tend to worship or value that thing or person. When it comes to Christ, He is already worthy but we must value the gift He has given us. We must ascribe worth and value for who He is and what He is about. 

The second solution is to recognize that we have been called to a higher purpose. Notice that Jesus did not distinguish between the disciples who worshipped Him and the ones who doubted. He called them all with the same purpose and calling. No matter who you are as a believer, He is calling you to find a purpose. This gives us a reason to look beyond where we are and allows us to refocus on something greater than ourselves. Perhaps one reason we are facing a crisis of faith is that we have not determined our purpose in Christ’s Kingdom. 

What does He call us to do? Here Jesus issued this command. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Notice a couple of things here. First, we are to go. This speaks of action. We are to go people and not wait for them to come to us. To go means we have an outward focus on evangelism. He called them all to go into the world. Let me make a critical point here. We are all called to share Christ with those we encounter. By going our focus is shifted from our struggle with faith to seeing those who need of Jesus and those who need hope for a better day. 

 

The third way to counter our crisis in faith is to remember, He is with us all of the time. He never leaves us. He is, has been, and always will be with us. That brings us hope and inspiration to face a better day. It encourages us to move in obedience to touch those lives we encounter. 

So how are you today? Are you living with a crisis of faith? Are living with doubt? Maybe today God wants to show you are new purpose and a new reason to focus on Him. Maybe today, He wants you to worship Him regardless of where you are circumstantially. What about it? Are you ready to soar with faith?

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Resurrection is no Joke

Peninsula Community Church

The Resurrection is no Joke

April 1, 2018 

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

This morning we celebrate Easter which is Resurrection Sunday. It is interesting that this particular Easter falls on April 1 which is April Fool’s Day. The last time this occurred was in 1956. That was sixty-two years ago. Easter will not happen on April 1 again until 2029 and after that in 2040. Following that, we will not see Easter fall on April Fool’s Day again this century. The reason for this is that Easter is set as the first Sunday after the first full moon after Spring begins. That is why Easter is on a different Sunday each year.  

Historically, April Fool’s Day has been known as the day we play practical jokes on one another. There have been some interesting practical jokes through the years. One of the funniest for me was when the BBC ran a report that they had found trees responsible for growing spaghetti. In fact, they showed a photo of workers harvesting spaghetti from the trees in order to prove the news story. Following the report, they were immediately inundated with calls from people wanting to know where they could purchase the spaghetti trees and if they could buy them with penne or lasagna. Another interesting one to me was the April Fool’s Day that Burger King offered a left handed whopper for those who were southpaws. They advertised that all of the condiments had been turned 180 degrees to accommodate those who were left handed. 

While we might laugh at these stories, there were some in Jesus’ day, and today as well, who try to classify the story of Christ’s resurrection as a hoax, a joke, or a made up story. But as we will see today, the story of the resurrection is no joke. For a moment, let me review some of the excuses and the reasoning given against the resurrection, and then we will look at the truth of the resurrection, and how we benefit from the greatest miracle ever to occur. 

After the resurrection, some tried to say that Jesus had not actually died, He had just fallen asleep and had passed out due to the severity of His injuries. In their minds, He never rose, because He never actually died. Others suggest that His disciples had stolen the body of Christ and thus made up the story of the resurrection to hide the truth. Another theory proposed is that the disciples and His witnesses so loved Him and were so distraught they actually hallucinated His resurrection. Others suggest the disciples were so overwhelmed with sadness and regret, they only imagined that He had risen. Still others questioned the validity of the witnesses and what they actually saw. If the witnesses could be discredited, then the news of the resurrection could be discredited.

We hear a lot today about fake news but this is not a new idea. This goes back to Jesus’ time where false news stories were being filtered through the town to cover up the truth of the resurrection. The stories go on and on, but these stories beg the question that if these things were true, then why would the disciples put their lives on the line the way they did. To propagate such a lie cost them so much. The message of the resurrected Christ cost them their lives, their homes, and their future. So, why would anyone propagate such a story knowing that it would cost them everything. The reason of course is that this was not a lie, it was the truth and they continued with this message because it was a message of life and hope.

With that said, let me give you three reasons why the resurrection is no joke. First, of all our faith is based in the truth of the resurrection. Paul stated, But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. Paul tells us that if there was no resurrection then our preaching and our faith is all in vain and is useless.

Here is the fact, by faith and through the preaching of the word, we know life’s disappointments, injustices, and failures can be overcome, because He is alive. Remember the story. On Friday, there was a lack of hope. There was not too much to celebrate. Christ was dead and was now lying in a borrowed tomb. The disciples were filled with regret and fear. Their faith had been shaken. And now rather than being strong and passionate about Christ, they were hiding in the darkness of a closed room. 

But on the third day, He arose and immediately went to the disciples. Why? He wanted to strengthen their faith and refocus then on the mission He had called them to. They did not have to cower in fear, regret, or lost hope any more. They now could walk in faith that is empowered by the risen Lord. 

For us today, because He is alive, we are assured we can have a relationship with Him. You see you can not have a relationship with a dead man. He is alive and wants to come to us. He wants to move us from fear to hope, from regret to promise, and from lost mission and to new assignments. Everything Jesus taught and lived for depended upon his death and resurrection. All the promises and prophecies in the Bible depend on the resurrection. The whole history of God’s plan to restore his relationship with man and woman depends on the resurrection. It is not overstating the fact to say the resurrection of Jesus is the single most important event in the history of the world. Your life and mine depends on it. Thank God it is no joke.

Secondly, the resurrection is no joke because through the resurrection we have power to overcome the work of sin. Paul states, And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Jesus not only overcame death but He overcame the power of sin. Through the cross we have forgiveness of sin. That is an awesome proposition but we need more than forgiveness, we need deliverance. The resurrection not only reminds of this, but it also paves the way for us to conquer sin. The power of sin can be broken because of the resurrection. 

From the beginning of time the lie propagated by the enemy was that we would die. There is truth to that when we live without Christ. In Christ, however, we do not have to face death, at least like others might. Because of the resurrection, all of the trials and injustices of Good Friday were redeemed! All of  the things that bring us death were redeemed by when Christ rose from the dead. The greatest evil ever done by mankind, the created crucifying the creator, has been redeemed to be the greatest good the world will ever know, the resurrection. Jesus is alive and that makes all the difference in this world! No matter what you experience whether pain, sin, mistreatment, or whatever it might be can be redeemed and be made right. The resurrection is no joke.

Thirdly, the resurrection is no joke because it gives us hope for the future. We have eternal life with Christ. Paul stated Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. This life is not it. To believe that suggests that we are to be pitied. Paul is saying it is so sad to believe that there is nothing beyond our life here. So many believe we live and then we die, but we are promised life beyond our current existence. We have a life beyond this world. 

You see while the miracles of the gospels were powerful, they pale in comparison to what is to come to those who are believers in Christ. At times, we can look at this world today and see that there is not much to get excited about. Think about this. Every person who ever received a miracle from Jesus died as we all will some day. His greatest victory was not the miracles He performed, but His resurrection. Miracles are only temporary, but the resurrection gives permanent hope. He comes for us that we might have life beyond this life. 

Too many in the world today do not have hope. A part of the problem is that many tend to only see things through the lens of the present. Others have lost hope and do not trust Christ. But He can and should be trusted. He promised He would rise and He did just that. It is the resurrection that sets Christianity apart from the world’s religions. We serve and celebrate the risen Lord today because He is alive. This also means that when He makes other promises in His word that He will keep those promises.

One of those promises is that if we turn our hearts and lives to Him, He will accept us and receive us. He will move us from hopelessness, regrets, frustration, to having a life filled with hope and peace. That is His mission and that is the work He accomplishes in each of us. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Triumphant Entry – Jesus Showed Up!

Peninsula Community Church 

Triumphant Entry – Jesus Showed Up!

March 25, 2018

Matthew 21:1-9 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

I love this time of year! For one, I love March Madness. One reason I do is the way the NCAA handles their basketball tournament. Every year they include teams that would not be considered under other circumstances. This allows teams that are not very strong on paper to play those who are much stronger. We have seen this played out this year when the sixteenth seeded team UMBC (University Maryland Baltimore County) beat UVA (University of Virginia) the number one seeded team. The tournament was stunned by the win by UMBC and more stunned by the loss of UVA. This was the first time a sixteen seed team beat a number one seeded team. Because of the many upsets they say as of the second round, of this year’s tournament, every bracket has been busted.

The triumphal entry of Christ reminds me of March madness in the sense that the unthinkable occurred. This man, who came as the Savior of the world, showed up not as a warrior, as some had hoped for. He did not show up as a King, as the Jews had wished. He showed up, but in a totally different way than anyone ever thought or had believed He would. In some people’s minds, Christ was a sixteenth seed who did not have a chance to win, but He did and that is the beauty of this story. He showed up! He gave Himself! And by the way, He won the tournament!

The steps taken by Jesus were somewhat strange, but it was all in the design of God and a part of His plan. Jesus asked the disciples to go into the town and get a donkey for Him. He told them where they would find it and what they would say when they found it. The disciples obeyed and found the donkey tied up and as instructed they asked the owner to loan it to them, which he did.

For some, this seemed to be strange, but as Jesus did so often, He wanted to communicate the truth of the Gospel in a purposeful way and in a way we would never forget. He was specific in His choice of a donkey rather than a white steed. He chose not only a donkey, but this was a fold of a donkey, so in essence, He rode an untrained, unbroken donkey baby. It symbolized two things: humility and peace. The very act of riding the donkey was amazing as you cannot ride an animal before it is broken. This is especially true of a baby donkey that is to be ridden through a yelling crowd! Humanly speaking, no rider could do this, but Jesus showed up and in the midst of all of this, an unbroken young animal remains totally calm under the hands of the Messiah who controls nature, and stills the storm.

First, the donkey was symbolic of humility. As we know in reading about Christ, we find that Christ’s entire life was characterized by humility. He was known as being meek and lowly. He stated. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). While most people confuse meekness with weakness, that is not the character of Christ. Rather than weakness, meekness is in reality strength under control. His act of entering the city was just that, it was an act of strength under incredible control. He could have rushed into the city with proclamations of His greatness, but He chose instead to enter the city with humility. He could have overcome the opposition with a word, but He chose instead to walk out the events of the next week without anger or revenge.

Secondly, the donkey resonated the symbolism of peace. When a warrior would return from battle He would normally ride a grand horse and would be followed by a processional of soldiers as well as prisoners in chains. This would symbolize the victory and battle won, but instead of a steed Jesus came riding on a donkey which was a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Jesus showed up. He came. He came with humility and He came in peace.

It is noteworthy that some have suggested that this act by Jesus was no accident. Historians have suggested that as Christ was entering Jerusalem, Caesar was arriving back into town with his own triumphant entry, but his looked so different. He rode a steed with a large army following him and behind them was the mass of enemy soldiers that had been captured. While Caesar came into town with the fanfare of a warrior, Jesus came with the fanfare of a servant. Christ rode this colt and those around Him began to honor Him by placing their coats on the donkey and then proceeded to throw their coats and palms before Him. They began to shout Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 

As awesome as this was, there was some problems. The problem is that they were worshipping Him for all of the wrong reasons. Many of those in the group had a mob mentality rather than a personal acceptance of who Christ is. Many in the crowd wanted a super champion. They wanted a king to rule them. They wanted a warrior to fight for them. The problem was that they were projecting onto Jesus what kind of God they wanted, but that has never been effective. Rather than trying to recreate and reinvent God, we must surrender to who He is already. He is God and that does not change. He showed up, but not as a King or a warrior. He showed up as a servant, ready to give himself on their behalf.

Like the crowd, we can celebrate Jesus for the wrong reasons. We can try to pigeon hole Jesus into our vision of who He should be and what He should do. When He does not live up to our expectations, we hold that against Him. We can turn against Him, as the crowd did, when He does not live up to our expectations. Remember one week He was being praised, four days later He was rejected and there were calls to crucify Him.

He showed up! He showed us the way of victory. He did not come to fight the war we wanted him to fight, but to fight the war that we did not even know we were in. And so, we call this the triumphant entry of Jesus, not because He came and conquered nations and empires, but because He came and conquered sin and death. He showed up in all of his humility to bring peace, not from a military or political perspective, but from the soul. He showed up to give us life, eternal life with Him.

He still shows up today to lead us in triumphant processional as found in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. Colossians 2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

He still shows up today in the most interesting places. He shows up on our job, in our home, our car, our schools, and more. He shows up in our need and desperateness. He did it then and He still does it now. He shows up to change our lives. He shows up to make a difference in us. He shows up to conquer death and all sin in us.

There is an action on our part that is required. If we are going to trust God with our lives, we must receive Him for who He is, and not what we project Him to be or want Him to be. Perhaps we need to get off our high horse, and get onto our donkey. Instead of pride and arrogance, we need to humble ourselves in peace. To do so, we have to move away from fame and power, and move towards service. We have to step away from self-centeredness, and move to treating others how we would want to be treated. It means we choose humility over arrogance. Gentleness over violence. Generosity over greed. And then, we will begin to change.

When we are riding a donkey, it becomes much easier to not take ourselves so seriously, to laugh at ourselves, to honestly evaluate our brokenness, to find rest from trying to constantly prove ourselves as powerful and worthy. When we step down from our high horse, and onto our donkey, we relinquish our entitlements, our preferences, and our selfish desires. What entitlements can we hold on to, if Jesus, as the King of the World, gave them all up. He showed up and He still does today. Do you see Him? Has He shown up for you?

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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To Find Yourself, You Must Lose Yourself

Peninsula Community Church

March 18, 2018

To Find Yourself, You Must Lose Yourself

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

In the text that leads to the passage we just read, we find some insight as to why Paul uses the words he does. Listen to 1 Corinthians 6:1-10 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases.  Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

While he defines one’s life before Christ in verses 1-10, Paul makes a powerful statement in verse 11. And such were some of you. Paul is saying you did these things but not any more. You were sexually immoral, you were greedy, and you walked in ways that did not honor God, but not any more. You were, but not now. You did, but no more. You have been changed and now walk in a way that honors God. This was the basis of Paul’s word of hope in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he stated “we are a new creation in Christ.” We are not just becoming, we are, because of what Christ has done in us.

Here Paul suggests three key actions that have taken place in our life that position us to live this new life in Christ. We are washed. We are sanctified. We are justified. Let’s take a look at these for a moment. First, Paul states that we have been washed. What Paul is saying is that sin defiled us. It created a sense of dirtiness in us, but Jesus has washed us and has purified us. We see this in Isaiah 1:18.“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

The idea of washing represents the salvation that is ours through Jesus Christ. The reason we no longer do the things we use to do is that we have been washed by the water of salvation and by the blood of the lamb. The undeniable truth is we are clean. We are restored. You see, unless we are washed, we will continue to be governed by the old ways of doing things. Recently, I replaced the filters at our house for the heating system. All of them were clean except one. That filter was clogged and dirty. The result was that it prevented air from flowing through the filter the way it should. The system was not as effective, as it could be, as a result of the dirty filter. So it is with us when we have been soiled by the sin and the cares of the world. We become ineffective. We must be washed so that we do not live as we did, but as Christ now sees us.

Secondly, Paul states that this is not you any more because you have been sanctified. John Piper has stated that ”Sanctification” is a very irrelevant word, but it is not an irrelevant reality. It’s like a hundred technical medical terms. Nobody but doctors use them, but your life depends on the reality they stand for. The word “Sanctification” comes from two Latin words: sanctus which means holy, and ficare which means make. So to sanctify means to make holy. 

In Biblical sanctification there are two components. First, we are purified and cleansed, but we are also set apart for service. We are not just cleansed to be put on a shelf, but we are cleansed to be used in the Kingdom of God. We are set apart for a purpose. Oswald Chambers said this about sanctification. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the nature that controlled Him will control us. And then he asks Are we really prepared for what that will cost? It will cost absolutely everything in us which is not of God.

You see sanctification calls for us to change our behavior and our ways. It calls us to act differently and to conform our ways to God’s ways. To be sanctified is to be set apart and to be cleansed from sin and wrong attitudes. Sanctification is something that happens to us but it is also a choice. We choose to die to the old ways of doing things. We die to self, so we become alive with Him. We cannot live unless we die. We cannot truly live life completely until we give up our failures, our sin, and our attitudes that prevent us from accomplishing God’s will. That is why we are not them. That is why we do not live like them any more. We are sanctified.

Thirdly, Paul stated that we are justified. To be justified is to remove the penalty of sin and the guilt associated with sin. Too often, we try to carry the weight of past sin. Instead of freedom, we live in the bondage of past sin which has already been forgiven by Christ. We are not them nor do we live like them because we are justified and are free to live the way God planned. In the movie US Marshall we see the infamous Sam Gerard going after Mark Sheridan who was framed for the murder of two government agents. In the end, Sheridan was found to be innocent and at the end of the movie he proclaims “I am righteous.” In other words, I have been justified. The false guilt is no longer mine to carry.

But how does this all happen? Colossians 3:1-3 gives us insight into what needs to happen. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. In Romans 6:6 we find that We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. In Galatians 2:20 Paul reminds us that I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The real issue here is we must reorder our lives in alignment with God’s will and His ways. Prior to salvation, we lived in alignment with the enemy’s purpose and plan, but no more. Now we are in alignment with His word and His purposes. The problem sometimes is that we fail to envision what it means to be a passionate follower of Christ, thus we make little progress toward living the life we have been called to. The undeniable truth is that the ruined can be made right. The evil can be turned into a testimony of grace. Our failures become a doorway to grace and mercy.

The goal in denying self is to totally surrender our hearts, minds, lives and more, so we no longer live but Christ lives and reigns in us. What does that mean to us? We must deny ourselves. We must make choices and decisions that honor God. Self denial in fact summarizes the entire Christian life. In considering self denial, it must never be confused with self rejection.

The Scripture reminds us of the power of this process. Matthew 10:39 states Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. And then in Matthew 16:25-26 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

The problem is that when we attempt to master our life apart from Christ, we actually lose our life. However, when we die to self and live for Christ we will for the first time be able to do what we want to do or should do. This means we are free to steal, lie, and murder all we want to but we will not have a desire to do so. Conversely, we will be truthful, transparent, helpful, sacrificially loving, and will do so with joy and will be motivated by the desire to do so. Our life will be caught up in God’s life and we will now want what is right and whole.

This means we will come to the place where we will trust that His way is right. We will keep on entrusting ourselves to the One who judges righteously (1 Peter 2: 23). That is, we lose our life and so in reality we save it. Erich Fromm rightly said, “The most widespread misunderstanding is that which assumes that giving is ‘giving up’ something, being deprived of, sacrificing. People whose main orientation is a non-productive one feel giving as an impoverishment.” What he is saying is that we have a tendency to look at what we might be giving up rather than what we might gain.

Let me explain it in this way. To live a healthy life I must make choices about what I eat and what I do with my life. I must die to my desires. Years ago my idea of a snack and sometimes even lunch was a bag of potato chips and a large soda. As I wanted to improve my health, I chose to not eat chips and drink soda any more. Prior to this decision I did not even consider this, I just did it. But after the decision, I would often struggle to make the right choice, but now I do not desire those things. They do not tempt me any more, as I have died to that desire.

When we die to self and God begins to control our existence we are more aware of what brings pleasure to God and what honors Him. Being dead to self is the condition where the mere fact that I do not get what I want does not surprise or offend me and has no control over me. We will, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.”

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What is Hidden Will be Revealed!

Peninsula Community Church 

What is Hidden Will be Revealed!

March 4, 2018

Genesis 3:8-13 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

How many played hide and seek as kids? We probably all did this at some point in time. It was fun to run and hide. The one who was it had to hide their eyes and then count to fifty or whatever the predetermined number would be. Once the counting was over, the person who was it would try to find those who hid. The goal for those who hid was to make it back to base before they were found or tagged. I remember a time when we were playing hide and seek with our kids. Michelle had hidden so well we could not find her. So, the kids and I went downstairs to watch TV and one of them would run upstairs from time to time, as if they were looking for her. She was not happy with us because we did not look for her. While this is a game, hide and seek in real life has a different consequence. This is especially true when we play hide and seek with our sin and our shortcomings.

This morning we continue to look into the subject of spiritual transformation by focusing on the sin that is in our hearts. This discussion is important to transformation as sin causes us to do strange things. It causes fear and shame, it causes us to hide from the realities of our life, and it causes us to blame others for our circumstances. But, “how did we get this way?“ To understand this we must turn our attention to the Garden of Eden. It is here God in His wisdom created mankind with the ability to choose right from wrong. He created us with the ability to decide what we will choose to do. Because of the ability to choose, we must not under estimate the power of free will. Because of free will, we have the ability and freedom to make bad choices and do things that are opposed to God’s way of thinking.

The natural outcome of our wrong choices or sin is seen in this story. The natural inclination is to hide our sin and shortcomings as a result of fear and shame. The problem revealed  is that we are afraid we will be exposed for who we are rather than for what we want people to think we are. When it comes to the transformation of the heart, we cannot be truly transformed until the hidden things of the heart are revealed. We cannot stop at just knowing the truth without setting into action the inward changes that redeem our mindsets and give us a new hope.

As we review the passage before us today, we find that Adam and Eve were frightened, they covered up their shame, and they try to hide from God. What a statement! No one taught them this, but they were motivated to do so because of their sin. This was amazing because as a creation of God they had ever thing they needed. As a creation of God, they had no concerns or cares. As a creation of God, they lived in the Utopia most people only dream of today. They were  a creation of God and were created as a perfect being, but now they were filled with fear.

This action exposed a process that is so common to the work of sin. We see something we want. We covet that thing, person, or attitude. We take hold of the item and then once we have indulged in that pleasure, we try to hide the results of our actions and the sin we have committed. It is amazing how skilled we can be at hiding sin. We are so good there are times we hide our sin so deeply, we believe we have taken care of it, only to find it has festered which effects us later. Unfortunately, when sin is hidden it can be exposed at the most inopportune time. Scripture reminds us that we can be assured that our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

Notice four reactions of Adam and Eve to the sin they committed. First of all, they hid. The first response to sin tends to be to hide the sin rather than expose it. The greatest way to hide is to deny. Dallas Willard suggests that denial is a form of rationalization. We rationalize our sin and try to justify its existence. We try to suggest that it is not hurting any one but ourselves. We try to suggest that everyone else is doing it, so, it is okey for us to indulge. We even try to say that no one will ever find out about it so it is okey. We regionalize our sin, but I want you to know that if you are renationalizing your sin, you probably need to expose it and deal with it.

The second response to their sin was that they were afraid. Hidden sin leads to a distorted view of God. When we refuse to confess our sin and wrong doing, we often have a view of God that is less than what God intended. We believe that God is a God that punishes us and is just waiting to wipe us off the face of the earth. Rather than accepting the forgiveness of God, Adam and Eve were guilty of walking in fear and trying to hide their sin.

The third response is they were ashamed of what was up to that point a natural way of life. Because they recognized their nakedness for the first time, they were now ashamed. The remedy they chose was to cover themselves in an effort to remove the shame. As then, shame has always had a powerful effect upon us. It demoralizes us and causes us to be ineffective in many ways. It can also cause us to overcompensate for the hidden areas of our life.

John Piper in dealing with the subject of shame had this to say. “Because sin is alive in our bodies and because we are beset with weakness, the kind of shame we often experience is a potent combination of failure and pride. We fail morally (sin), we fail due to our limitations (weakness), and we fail because the creation is subject to futility and doesn’t work right. We also fail to live up to other people’s expectations. And because we are full of sinful pride, we are ashamed of our failures and weaknesses, and will go to almost any length to hide our sin from others.This means pride-fueled shame can wield great power over us. It controls significant parts of our lives and consumes precious energy and time in avoiding exposure.”

The fourth response is they blamed others. Notice a critical factor here. Rather than take responsibility for their sin, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. They refused to take ownership of their sin and their part of the issue. Please note you might be hiding your sin, if you are blaming others. In blaming others, we try deflect our problems from ourselves. If we can make someone else be the cause of our sin, then we can put that on them and therefore we fail to take responsibility.

So what is the answer? Let me give you two things for your consideration this morning. First, we must allow the light of the Gospel to shine into the darkness. Rather than hide from God and hide the sin in our hearts, we must expose the sin and bring it into the light. Dallas Willard stated that “The only path of spiritual transformation today lies through illumination. The prophetic illumination of the human soul in its lostness is emphatic, starkly clear, and is repeated over and over again, from Moses and Samuel to Jesus, Paul, and John. This illumination must be gratefully and humbly accepted and applied to oneself above all.”

To do this, we must take ownership of our sin and not deflect or hide it. We must allow the light of the Gospel to penetrate the darkest areas of our hearts. It is not by accident that Scripture is replete with verses that speak to the power and necessity of letting the light shine into our hearts. The only path to transformation lies in the power of illumination to expose the hidden areas of our hearts.

In Psalm 119:11 we find the Psalmist proclaim I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. And then in Psalm 119:105 he states Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. John in his writings also addressed Jesus as being the light in John 1:4-5. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. In 1 John 1, John says This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Secondly, we must understand that sin does not make one worthless, it only causes us to be lost. The problem with hidden, unconfessed sin is that it can create a mindset that we are failures and there is no hope but that is not God’s plan. Listen to the promise of Scripture. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1). And finally, James stated, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16). There is healing and there is power in bringing our sin into the light.

Ruth Graham, Billy’s daughter, during Billy Graham’s funeral, stated that she had failed big time in her life. Her first marriage ended in divorce. She fell in love with a second man. She married this man after being warned by her family to not marry him. She married him and within 24 hours she knew something was wrong. In less than five weeks she left him. She knew she had to go home and face her dad. She took the long two day ride home and as she wound her way up the road to the house, she found her dad standing there. Rather than condemning her, he took her in his arms and welcomed her home. There was no guilt and no shame exhibited. By Billy’s reaction she experienced a better understanding of who God was. That was her father and that was her God.

Today Jesus is standing with open arms to receive you. There is no guilt, shame, or condemnation only acceptance and forgiveness. He invites you home to receive His love and grace.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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First Responders – Some Step Up when Others Step Back

Peninsula Community Church 

First Responders – Some Step Up when Others Step Back

February 25, 2018

In preparing for this message this week, my heart was turned to this passage in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Paul had this to say Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

First Responders are an amazing breed of people. They rush in when others rush out. They run to when others run away. They provide care to those who they do not know and they seldom get the honor and praise they deserve. In fact, in our world today, we find an environment that has become increasingly more threatening for our first responders. It might be a paramedic/EMT being put in a choke hold or being attacked physically when answering a call. It might be firefighters in Baltimore being shot at when answering a call for help. It might be police officers who are attacked more often than ever. We have seen this played out in my home town of Mobile, Alabama where an officer was shoot and killed. And now even closer to home, this week an officer was killed when he came to the assistance of someone in need while off duty.

Today, while others may not honor you, we pause to say thanks. We pause to say that we are grateful that you faithfully serve in your assigned duties. Most people do not understand the world of first responders. They so not understand that with a volunteer fire department system that you are not at the station waiting for that person’s call. You are home sleeping or having dinner with your family. For the police officer or paramedic, you may be at the end of your twelve hour shift when you get that priority call that now puts you into overtime and tons of paperwork, only to come back and put in another twelve hour shift later that day or the next day or evening. It might be the Ambulance crew who runs all night, only to come back and do it all over the next night. That is why we say thanks this morning.

The passage before us defines the life of a first responder in many ways. Let me explain. Paul lists five characteristics of those who have courage, and it certainly takes great courage to be a first responder. Paul tells us that the first characteristic is to be on your guard or to be watchful. Being on guard and watchful is critical to the life of every first responder. Their life, the life of those serving along side of them, and the public demands it. As I have learned, one of the most valuable pieces of training a first responder receives is to do scene size up as they approach the scene. Whether it is entering a home on a medical call, heading to a fire, or being called to a motor vehicle accident, first responders must evaluate and do scene size up to assure their safety and the safety of those around them. They must be on their guard.

Not only are first responders to be watchful, but Paul calls for us to be watchful and to be on our guard each day for our lives. We are to be on guard against those things in life which seek to destroy us. We are to guard our ourselves from those actions and mindsets that often cause more harm than good. We are to guard our hearts so that we protect our families and those we love. In essence, we are to size up the scene of our hearts to see if there is any wicked way in us that might hinder us from being the person we need to be. In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon reminds us to Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

The second characteristic is to stand firm in the faith. First responders all have faith. In fact, without faith, it would be impossible for a first responder to do his or her job adequately. While there are first responders who do not focus much on religion, there is a need for faith in caring out their job. Every first responder has learned to have faith in their training, their equipment, and their partner or fellow first responder. Without that faith, they would not be able to do their job! Without faith, first responders would be paralyzed and left wondering if they were taught correctly! They would hesitate using their equipment. They would wonder if their buddy has their back! The hesitation could cost them their lives or the lives around them.

I would submit to you today that while we have faith in these things, there are some situations where one’s training, one’s partners, or one’s equipment is not enough. It is in those times we will need faith in God to do what only God can do! In our spiritual walk, we must have faith in our training, and faith in our brothers and sisters in Christ to be there for us, but there will be times when even with all the book knowledge and training, we are not going to understand what to do next and we are going to have to rely on a faith in something bigger than ourselves. I suggest that is Almighty God!

A third characteristic is to act like a man or have courage. In Biblical times, the phrase “act like a man” meant to have courage. In the language of today, it means to put on your big boy or big girl pants and face the challenge before you. In other words, be courageous. Courage has been defined as “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.” If you are on your guard and standing firm in the faith, then you will have the ability to do difficult and even dangerous things, because you will know you have done all you could do to be prepared and be ready. You will know you have trained for as many scenarios as possible, and you will have faith in that training and those who work beside you. However, all of that training is no good if you never put it into action.

I submit to you this morning that trusting God with your life allows you to have a courage to face things you would not be able to face alone! Sometimes our human pride keeps us from admitting we need God. Somehow, we think it is not cool to depend on anyone else but ourselves! This kind of thinking is not only dangerous spiritually, but is very dangerous in the first responder community.  A person who is not a team player and decides to go it alone, is at a huge risk of hurting himself or someone else. Sometimes, the courage we need is the courage to admit we need each other and that we need God!

The fourth characteristic is to be strong. If we are going to be men and women of courage, we will have to be strong. Physically strong, mentally strong, and spiritually strong! Many times a first responder is called upon to do things that take great physical strength. They need to stay physically fit and strong! As we have already stated, they also need to be sharp mentally. First responders have to make quick decisions and judgments that can literally mean the difference between life and death at times. First Responders must also be spiritually strong! They see so much! Without a spiritual and moral center they can be quickly overwhelmed and become cynical and can lose hope. There are many things that first responders wish they could unsee or unexperience but they cannot. They need a strength beyond themselves to make it. That strength is available in a relationship with Christ.

Now we come to the last characteristic of our text which is is to do everything in love. The truth is, the job of the first responder can be a tough one. It is easy to grow hard and callous and not care any more. When you have run that third or fourth call for an overdose only to find it is the same person you gave Narcan to and transported just the week before and then three times before that, it can begin to work against you. The problem, however, is that when we stop caring, we stop doing our best. If you are not motivated by love, you cannot do your best!

I realize first responders have to have a certain toughness emotionally when dealing with things, especially while on scene. The problem is that many times first responders cannot let their emotions take over or they will not be able to do their job. This does not mean they do not care. It does not mean they do not have feelings. It does not mean they think about and even lift a prayer for those they have helped. But from within there is an attitude of that can literally make the difference between life and death! Because a person who loves what they do and the people they serve, will go out of their way to do the best job they can. On a side note, I can tell you that those that serve this community care and desire the best outcome for your life.

As I close, let me tell you that courage is a Christian character trait. This means that courage was a character trait in the life of Christ. One day He stepped up when others stepped back. He did this because He loved those He came to serve. Jesus stepped up when everyone else fled the scene. Remember the story at the end of Jesus’ life. His disciples were nowhere to be found when He needed them the most, but He stepped up and gave His life for all of us and He would do it again and again if it would help. Jesus knew what was coming and He willingly laid down His life in order for us to be saved. I like to call it the ultimate rescue.

Jesus was and is a first responder. At the appointed time in history, He was called to deal with a messed up world. Rather than change the world per se, He came to change our hearts. He came and He did all that to save us and bring salvation to our hearts. It is noteworthy that while every one else ran, He rushed in and put His life on the line so you might live. That has not changed and He is ready to rush in and make a difference today, whatever you need.

He rushes in to give us peace when we live in turmoil. He rushes in to bring strength when we are tired. He rushes in to bring hope when we have lost our way. He comes as the first responder to rescue us no matter where we are. All we have to do is place that 911 call and invite Him to come and He will respond. Do you need Him to come as the first responder of your heart to minister to you, today? He is here and is ready. Just sound the alarm of prayer and He will respond.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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