Breaking the Power of Offense

Peninsula Community Church

March 17, 2019

Mathew 5:21-24 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

This morning I want to deal with the issue of offense and anger in our life. Over the last few weeks I have been encountering this topic in many different ways. In our men’s study we have been dealing with the Biblical principle that we do not have the right to be angry or least stay angry. I also heard a message from Steve Furtrick from Elevation Church about letting go of our offenses. It seems that wherever I turn, this subject has been popping up. So, it seems to me that God is saying something to us, or maybe He is just communicating with me personally.

I love our passage this morning because Jesus does an incredible thing as He speaks to His disciples. He turns up the heat if you will. He infers here that our hearts are critical to everything we do. It is not just the actions we take, but it is the motivation of our heart that makes the difference. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” In this passage, Jesus raises the bar on murder when He says that it is not just a matter of the act of murder that makes it murder, but if we hold anger against another person we are guilty of murder. Why did Jesus do this? He knew that if we allow anger and offense to fester it will result in emotional, mental, and verbal murder. 

You see. Jesus understood a powerful principle that effects us as believers in Christ. Jesus communicated through this passage that the horizontal and the vertical relationships in our life must be in sync. The vertical relationship is our relationship with God. It is the specific connection we have with Him. It is how we respond to Him and how we show Him our love. The horizontal relationship is our relationship with those around us. As believers, the way we deal with people must match our love for God. We need to show love, forgiveness, and grace just as Jesus did to us. The problem however is that there is a disconnect between our relationship with God and our relationship with others. We cannot say we love God and hold anger or offense in our heart when God has forgiven us of so much. 

Steve Furtrick has suggested and this is confirmed by Scripture that we need a mirror more than we need a magnifying glass. We need to look within and deal with the condition of our heart before we look outside ourselves to control or judge others. The problem with living with a magnifying glass mentality is that we attempt to deal with everyone else’s problems and do little to fix our own problems. As we talked last week, if we are not careful, we will try to fix the speck in someone’s eye while we are walking around with a huge log in our eye. Too often, we think that everyone else is sick and we are offering others the solutions to problems which are actually within us. Jesus words speak deep into our spirit and tells us to get our act together before we judge others or hold onto an offense. 

Jesus continues this discussion by saying that when we are angry we tend to say things and react to things in unhealthy ways. Jesus speaks of insulting our brother. He stated that in the cultured His day you would be liable to the council. Even more hateful is to call someone “Racca” or fool. I do not know exactly what Racca means but it was the very worse thing you could say to someone. In fact, Jesus says that it was so egregious that the one using the word would be condemned to the fire of hell. That seems drastic but it illustrated how powerful offense and anger was. Jesus is saying that if we do not deal with our anger a living hell will erupt within us. What starts in the heart does not stay in the heart. What starts in the heart often flows from the heart and hurts others. In fact, when we are hurt, angry, or offended we probably have said or at least thought of saying some things that would cause us to be judged if anyone heard us. 

If we do not deal with an offense we will build a fence that will divide us and separate us.

Do not forget that this is the primary tactic of the devil. He is the enemy of righteousness and real relationships. Remember it is John 10:10 that reveals the mission of the devil. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. The enemy’s role has been and continues to be to divide and destroy. If he cannot destroy, he will divide. He often uses the smallest of offenses to divide us and eventually destroy us. 

You know how it works there is a small offense and you feel you handle it quite well or so you think. But not too far down the road there is another small offense that is added to the previous offense. Then there is another small offense that is added to the previous offense and suddenly the offense has grown and is now bigger than life. The garbage was not taken outside. The underwear was left on the floor, again. You did not say I love you. You did not acknowledge me. Whatever the incident, we become offended and if we do no deal with it that offense begins to grow into anger which leads to bitterness, resentment, and hatred. The result is that we shut people off and we shut them out because we are hurt and do not want to deal with them anymore.

The progression is one that moves from small offensives until we are walled in by offense. When this happens the enemy has been successful in dividing and destroying us. It happens in families, on the job, with neighbors, friends, and it happens in our marriage. When you think about marriage it is the prime example of the kingdom of God. That is why the enemy is so ready to divide and destroy marriages. Someone has said that many divorces are not a sudden act but a series of offenses or wrongs that are never dealt with. It is a death by a 1000 cuts. This happens in all of our relationships when we do not positively respond to the offenses we encounter. 

As we look at this subject we must understand that we will encounter offensive situations but to be offended is a choice. Here is the point. We can be offended or we can choose to let go of the offense. Unconfessed offense and anger leads to a life that is less than we should have, but a life that surrenders offense is ready to let go of every sin. For that reason Jesus tells us that we are to leave our gift at the altar and go be reconciled with our brother. The solution to offense is forgiveness. Notice this occurs while we are at the alter. Why do we communicate with God? It is because in our communication with God, our hearts are exposed. That is why it is critical that we spend time with God.

This week I had a number of opportunities to be offended. Some were bigger than others but some were small. For example, I was in line at the checkout and the lady in front of me cut me off to get into the line. I felt my blood pressure start to rise when she began to pull stuff out of her cart and she had 31 items in the 12 item lane. And then, she needed a pack of cigarettes and began to discuss the kind of cigarettes she wanted after the cashier brought the wrong ones to her three times. After all of this, she fumbled with her pocketbook and could not find her money. Then the credit card she finally used was not any good. Meanwhile, there I stand with my two little items that I wanted to buy, get out of the store, and get back home. 

My initial response was to feel the hair on the back of my neck begin to bristle but then I remembered our study on Tuesday night, and listening to Steve Furtrick’s sermon. I realized that I had to let it go. Was it an opportunity to be offended? Yes! I had every reason to be angry and offended that this was going on right there in front of me, but I had to make a choice. Rather than being offended I chose to let it go. I admit that it was not easy, in fact I wanted to be angry but knew I could not based on what God had been teaching me. 

The question sometimes is what if I cannot resolve the offense or hurt. This could be because of a death, a divorce, or other major separation that may have occurred. The principle for us is that what we cannot resolve, we can release. This is not always an easy thing to do. But it is necessary. We cannot always resolve every problem, but we can release the hurt and pain. That is the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to let go of the offense and the anger we confront. That is why Paul made the following statements. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:31-32. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. And then in Colossians 3:8. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

The final point I wold like to make today is that once you are free do not go back. Paul in Galatians 5:1 paints us a picture. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Since this is a decision, we must decide that we will not go back to the offense. The temptation for us is to return to that offense because in the offense we can justify our anger, bitterness, and hurt. That has a binding effect on us. God wants us to be free and released from the burden of offense so that we can live free and whole.

As we consider this we must remember the One that is our greatest example. He was offended. His friends denied Him. His closest ally betrayed Him. He was falsely accused. He was beaten for a crime He did not commit. But when it mattered and He was about to take His last breath, He communicated this line that challenges us and convicts us, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Forgive them! That sometimes is the hardest thing we can do or request of God. Forgive them. But it is Jesus that empowers us to speak those words. They are words of power and grace and they are freeing. He died so that we could be free from our offense and from the power that offense holds over us. Let it go and be free. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Liberalism and Legalism Balanced by Grace

Peninsula Community Church

Liberalism and Legalism Balanced by Grace

March 10, 2019

Romans 6:10-14 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Over the next few weeks I would like to look at a couple of subjects that I believe will inspire us and help us in our growth in Christ. It will help us in our ability to reach people with the lifesaving message of the Gospel. Through these studies, I would like to look at what the men have been focusing on in their study on Tuesday nights. The challenge will be to let go of offense. We will look at the idea of reaping what we sow. Finally, we will look at the power of fear and how that can keep us from being the person God wants us to be.

Today, however, I want to focus on four ways to deal with the culture we encounter. First, we can compromise our beliefs to address the culture. Second, we address the culture by cloistering ourselves and moving to the margins by way of legalism. Third, we can address the culture by becoming apathetic about what is going on around us. This can produce an attitude of giving in and giving up as there is no faith or hope that things will change. I will also submit to you a fourth way to address the culture and that is through God’s grace. That will be our focus today.

Before we begin let me share some critical information that is a wake up call for the church. I have been reading many reports that show that most churches in the US are declining or or they are stagnate. In fact, I just read a report from the North American Mission Board of the SBC that reported that 85% of their churches are stagnate or declining. The consensus is that North American churches as a whole are declining or stagnate. 

Fortunately, there is another side to this story that must be considered. It is a sobering thought that those churches that are growing are growing because they are engaged with the communities they serve. They are not just a church in the community but they serve the community around them. This does not mean they are standing on the corner preaching but rather that they have a heart to see culture change one person at a time. They are reaching the unreachable. They are praying for their community. They are speaking God’s love. They resist judgement toward those they encounter. And, they sincerely love those in their community. They practice Christ’s last commands to His disciples. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” Go is the great commandment. 

With that in mind let’s look at these issues. First, there is legalism. Legalism can be defined as the effort to control and manage sin. The truth of the matter is that we were never called to control or manage our sin or someone else’s sin for that matter. We were to called to forgive and allow the grace of God to fill us with the righteousness of Christ. That is what Paul is saying in the passage before us. Just because God calls us to be instruments of righteousness does not give us the right to control sin, especially the sin in others. Legalism leads to the judgement and criticism of others. We must use the instrument of righteousness correctly. Write this down. True righteous is not what we do as much as what we are. Here is the point. We can dress right, talk right, act right, and yet our hearts can be far from God or His purposes. This is most critical as we attempt to reach our culture. Remember the story that Jesus told. 

In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus had this to say on this subject. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Notice what He says. We are trying to get the speck out of the other person’s eye while we have a log in our own eye. It never works. We need to deal with the log in our eye before we can consider the speck in someone’s eye. Legalism seems to always points out the sin of others and judges others for their sin rather than recognizing one’s own sin.

The other problem with legalism is that it tends to cause us to cloister together and make it hard for anyone to get into our little circle. We make it hard because we are quick to judge and beat our chest that we are not like the tax collector who was in humble prayer at the altar of God. Listen to Jesus’ words. ”Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:9-13)!

The second way we can address the culture is to compromise. Here we try to minimize sin in an attempt to reach the culture. You might say that legalism over emphasizes sin while liberalism under emphasizes sin. We ignore sin or worst yet we begin to engage in sin thinking that we will somehow be better positioned to reach our culture. The problem however is that we lose our influence in the very culture we are trying to reach. The problem is that without recognizing sin and wrong we cannot change or move toward a healthy environment. If there is nothing to change why would anyone want to become a Christian. 

We do not have to look very far to see how this is effecting our culture today. Whether we are looking at the abortion issue, euthanasia, gender identity, legalization of drugs, legalization of prostitution, and so much more we find that there is a minimization of sin and a distortion of truth. We find many who have a form of godliness but they deny the power of God to bring change and bring salvation. They would rather compromise than speak truth in love. They would rather look more like the culture than be in a position to bring change.

The third way to address the culture is to become apathetic. The problem here is that we come to the place where we do not care about people. We can lose our love for people and come to the place where we do not care if they are hurting or need help. We are in our own little world and that is all we care about. Sadly, we do no believe that God can bring change or bring salvation. This is really a state of faithlessness. 

But there is a better way and that is through the way of grace. Grace is a powerful tool and a powerful means to reach people with the gospel and make an investment in our community. Through grace we do not judge because we know that except for the grace of God we would be lost. If we are honest we would have to admit that we just sin differently than others because the fact is all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Roman’s 3:23). 

In our passage today we find that Paul issues a challenge to us and that is the consideration that we are dead to sin and alive to God. Think about that idea! We are dead to sin but alive with God. In our sin we are dead but in God we have life. Because of that we are commanded to present ourselves as instruments of righteousness versus instruments of unrighteousness. That is what it means to walk in grace. 

Let me ask you a question. Are people drawn to you, or are they pushed away when it comes to spiritual discussions? Jesus is our model. Sinners and saints were drawn to him because He was a real man dealing with real issues. That was grace. He met them where they were without judgement or condescension. He loved them enough to give everyone seeking grace that gift. 

In life, I find that the instruments we have can be powerful and bring life or they can bring destruction. The same instrument can cause life or it can cause death. It is for that reason that I believe that God gave us grace in order to use the instruments of righteousness the way we should. 

Through grace we will have a correct view of sin. Rather than cloistering ourselves together and maximizing sin, we will walk in grace. Rather than compromise and minimizing sin, we will develop a proper perspective of sin. Rather than apathy we are awakened to a new reality and a new way to live and connect with our community. We are grace receivers and we are grace givers. 

Let me close with a story I read just this week. A man went to church. He forgot to switch off his phone and during the the prayer time his phone accidentally rang. The pastor scolded him. The worshippers admonished him after the prayers for interrupting the silence. His wife kept lecturing him on his carelessness all the way home. One could see the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation on his face. After this he never set foot in church again.  

That evening, he went to a bar. He was sill nervous and trembling from his earlier adventure. He spilled his drink on the table by accident. The waiter apologized and gave him a napkin to clean himself. The janitor mopped the floor. The female manager offered him a complimentary drink. She also gave him a huge hug and a peck while saying, “Don’t worry man. Who doesn’t make mistakes?” He has not stopped going to that bar since then. We have the chance to give grace to others and touch this world with the gospel, the good news. 

So how is your grace today? Are you just a receiver or are you a giver of grace? 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Give Honor Where Honor is Due

Peninsula Community Church 

Give Honor Where Honor Is Due

March 3, 2019 

Romans 13:7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

We have dedicated this day to say thanks to all of those who serve our communities so faithfully. To our firefighters, EMS providers, paramedics, police, fire police, and dispatchers we say thank you for your dedication to keep us safe and provide care when we need it most. So today we give honor where honor is due. 

As we honor our first responders today, I am proud to consider myself among those who serve this community. As a member of the Selbyville Fire Department and chaplain for the Sussex County Paramedics, I am pleased to be a part of this elite group of men and women. For that reason, I know just a bit of what they go through and the difficulties they face on any given day. 

For the members of our fire departments, we often forget that they are volunteers. During the night when a call goes out they are aroused from your bed to answer the call. They respond willingly and quickly so as to come to the aid of those within this community who are in need. Let me illustrate this for you. Just two weeks ago there was a fire in Bishopville and because of the conditions at the fire, ten or more fire companies were alerted. Oh did I mention that it was 3:00 AM Monday morning with rain and near freezing temperatures outside. But they responded. Three EMS crews responded as well as they had to transport four patients from that fire to the hospital. They could have slept in and allowed the alarm to go unanswered, but they responded. And many of those who responded went home just long enough to shower, change clothes and go to their full time jobs on Monday. 

The paramedics represented here today while they may be full time never know what they will be called to and when they will be called. It could be a difficulty breathing, a cardiac arrest, a diabetic emergency, or the fourth call that tour to the same frequent flyer. They are called and. they respond. Once they have responded they return back to the station to complete their reports and if they have a busy night or day they may have several reports to be completed which means overtime and perhaps missed time with their families only to come in for their next shift.

Our police officers serve us tirelessly. You may not like it when one of them requires your signature because of an infraction but these men and women respond to calls day and night. Many times there is no way to know what is ahead of them and yet they respond faithfully because they are called to serve. I chuckle because many think that Selbyville is a quiet little town, but you might be surprised what goes on around town that requires a police response.

Then there are the unsung heroes, our dispatchers. They are that calming voice that settles our nerves and talks us through a difficult situation until help is on the way. Not long ago I spoke to a dispatcher who stated that the toughest part of his job was to be on the end of the phone and feel like there is so little that they could do. They felt frustration in those times.  

Over the last year the fire companies, paramedics, and police have responded to things that would make many of us in this room cringe. They have responded to suicides, fatalities in car accidents, assaults, fire calls where they found people who had expired because they could not get out of the house. They have been to dog bites and people bites. They have responded to altered mental statuses, cardiac arrests, and more. The EMS services have responded sometimes to the same house multiple times over a given period of time just to help someone up off the floor because the patient has fallen. They respond to the drug addict that has overdosed three times that week. But they serve and they answer the call willingly and faithfully. 

In Scripture, I am reminded of a passage that says Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. Our first responders have that kind of love for our communities and they have that kind of willingness to serve us. They put themselves on the line every day. They do so physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Our passage today is an important one because it speaks of giving honor to those who deserve honor. I am convinced that our first responders deserve that from us so I ask that you stand and show them honor today.  

As we show you honor today I would summit that as a first responder the best way to receive honor is to honor yourself. This is not just a matter of being a first responder but a matter of life as a whole. As a First Responder, we all witness and see things that we we cannot unsee. I am sure that we all have that call or two that has forever been etched in our minds and it does not take much to bring that memory to the forefront of our minds. 

Statistically, first responders are more susceptible to PTSD and Vicarious trauma than any other people group or profession. In fact, first responders exceed the threshold of PTSD than any other population group including war veterans. Death by suicide is more prevalent in First Responders than in any other people group. Why is this? In part, I believe it is because as first responders we tend to be type A people. You have to be in order to survive. That is why you can rush into a burning building when everyone else is rushing out. That is why you can do C-Spine on the patient inside the car that has been demolished in a crash and blood is running down their face and covering your turn out gear. 

But that same zeal and emotion that causes us to rush in can cause us to close up and not communicate what is going on in side of us. We believe we are tough and we are. That toughness  can cause us to believe that we do not need to talk to anyone. Too often we are taught to suck it up and move on but the memories of the trauma are still there. The nightmares continue. The thoughts of self destruction begin to surface. It is in that moment that we need to turn to someone and do the scariest of all things and that is to ask for help. Take that desire to rush in and use that to get the help you need. None of us are invincible. This includes not just first responders but everyone under the sound of my voice today.

With that in mind let me give you a couple of things that can help us through these moments. First, we need to talk to someone. Talk to a friend. Talk to a counselor. Talk to a pastor. Talk to God. In my life, personally, I have found that God is always open to hear us. Sometimes we believe that we have to be just the right kind of person for God to hear us, but Scripture tells us that if we will call upon Him, He will answer. God is only a call away and it is the best 911 call you can ever make. The problem too often is that we either think we are not worthy of asking Him for help, or we believe that He will not listen because of a lifestyle, actions we have taken, or a belief system we might hold to. But let me let you in on a little secret, God loves you. He has loved you. He loves you now. He will never stop loving you. So what do we need to do. We need to accept His love and ask Him for help. 

Second, the feelings we experience are normal. The feelings we have and the emotions we express are normal in terms of the work we do. The Scripture speaks to this in a powerful way. In 1 Corinthian 10:13 Paul states No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. The point is this. What we experience is normal and we should therefore not wait to get help, because we feel we are different or what we experienced is an isolated event. 

Finally, it can be hard to ask for help. As first responders the very thing that causes us to be able to do the job we do so well can also prevent us from getting the help we need. It is called pride. The scripture tells us that pride comes before the fall. As a whole First Responders, nurses, and EMS providers in particular are the world’s worst patients. I am included in that number. 

Two years ago I had a pain in my side. It was an excruciating pain that would not go away. So, I thought about it. I knew that the ambulance would take about five minutes to get to me by the time I called, it was dispatched, and a crew responded. And then I thought why should I take an ambulance out of service to transport me to the hospital when I could drive myself. I was also listening to the scanner and knew that 105 and 103 were already out on a call so that meant that extra time was needed to get them on scene, so I did what I counsel everyone else not to do, I drove myself to AGH. By the time I got there, I realized I had just done the craziest thing I could have. I was pouring in sweat, my heart rate was up, and my pain was getting worse the closer I got to the hospital. When they took my blood pressure in triage it was 210/110. I was at stroke level.  You see I thought I was keeping an ambulance in service but it was really my pride that caused me not to make that call. Plus I think I did no want anyone else to know I was in pain.

I challenge you today that if you need it, get help. Speak to one of the chaplains at your fire house. Speak to your peers. Get counseling. Be your own first responder and get the help you need. It will be the most important call you will ever respond to. Speak to God, speak to someone. I say this because I love and appreciate all that you do and I am proud to be counted as one of you today. You are my brothers and sisters as a First Responder. Know that I pray for you regularly and know that you have a church community that supports you and prays for you. We are here for you. We desire to see you be the best you can be. Let us pray!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Grief: Heaven Awaits

Peninsula Community Church

Heaven Awaits 

February 24, 2019

Revelation 21:1-4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Well today we come to the end of our grief series. We have covered a lot of territory in a short period of time and yet there is so much more left unspoken in our discussion. Although there is so much more we could share on about this subject, we will leave this discussion for now. Before we do however, I need to share for one more piece in the journey of grief: Heaven awaits us.

As we consider this discussion, we must understand that Heaven is the reward for those who have accepted Christ as their personal Savior. Listen to the words of John. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. This action presupposes that heaven is reserved for a chosen people. There is only one way to receive the reward of heaven. It is through the shed blood of Christ and our acceptance of Christ as our personal Savior. The truth is we cannot get to Heaven by our works, but we gain entrance by simply asking Christ into our hearts through faith. 

Do you remember the exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3. Nicodemus had a legitimate question. How do I enter heaven? Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). But in the mind of Nicodemus that only posed more questions.  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:4-5). Can imagine Nicodemus’ dilemma? He was puzzled because he did not understand the water and spirit aspect of birth. His honest question was “How I do I enter back into my mothers womb again in order to be born again?” Jesus helped Him with his confusion by clarifying that you are naturally born by the water, but are reborn by the Spirit by God. 

Despite some teaching that you will hear today, even in some Christian circles, not everyone will go to heaven. It is not about doing good things or being good enough because there is no way to ever do enough good to be worthy of heaven. There is only one way and that is through the work of Jesus Christ. Let me remind you of the words of Jesus to Martha after Lazarus died and she was worried about seeing him again. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:25-26).

Second, in heaven there will be infinite joy and peace. Joy will never end. Peace will come to those who long for His appearing. God promises us that there will be no more tears or sorrow in heaven. The things that bring us sorrow, pain, grief, and hurt in this life will not exist in heaven. All of the tears of our heart and spirit will be wiped away. Grief will be dissolved. John knew this promise when he penned these words. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Here is the promise we can take to the bank. There will be a day that our tears and pain will be removed not just for a night but forever. 

Third, heaven is more about being in the presence of God than about a specific place. Here is what I love about heaven. While it is certainly a place, it is in reality more about being in the presence of the living God. That is why I love the passage where Paul states to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Look at the words of John in our passage that confirms this. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us. Some have suggested the place He is preparing is a mansion but a more correct interpretation of the word is that He is preparing us a dwelling place. The word for mansion comes from the Greek word that means “remain.” Therefore rather than a mansion we will remain in the presence of God. Jesus said this. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-4). Therefore, what makes heaven so awesome is not the streets of gold or jewels that are found on the gates. It is not about the sea of glass or the angels that we will experience, but it is all about the presence of God. He will be there and that is what is most powerful and welcoming to us. We will get to enjoy His presence and power for an eternity.  

Randy Alcorn the author of the book Heaven references two stories about heaven in his book. The first is the movie What Dreams May Come where Robin Williams plays the role of Chris Nielsen who is unhappy when he arrives in heaven and finds that his wife is not present. The problem with the movie is that God was not found in Chris’ heaven either. The second reference is found in the best selling novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. The story is about a man who feels lonely and unimportant. He dies and goes to heaven where he meets five people who tell him his life really mattered. Through this he discovers forgiveness and acceptance. The problem is that all of this is done without God or Christ as the object of saving faith. 

The problem with both of these movies is that God is left out of the picture. It is a portrayal of heaven that leaves out the most important part of Heaven. They omit God and the need for us to have a relationship with Him. It focuses only on human beings and our relationship with each other but heaven without God is not heaven at all. Someone has said that heaven without God would be like a honeymoon without a groom and a palace without a king. 

Teresa of Avila stated that Wherever God is, there is heaven. The opposite to this is that Where God is missing there is hell. We must never lose sight of the fact that the best part of heaven will be knowing and enjoying God. Todd Burpo, the author of Heaven is For Real, stated that heaven is “God’s house.” Todd thinks it is easy to get sidetracked by the pearly gates and the streets of gold. “What really makes heaven heaven,” Todd said, “is that God is there.” How true that is. 

Fourth, the greatest joy we will receive is that we will be reunited with those we love and who have gone before us. I long for the day that we will see a child that we never met because Michelle had a miscarriage. I will get to hug my brother who was killed when he was 13. I will be able to thank my grannie McElwain for her love and prayers for me. There are those in our church family I long to see again. And with the promise of God we will see them again and that will bring us joy, peace, and hope. I long for the day that I get to see Carter and as I see him in the distance I see his hands raised to welcome me and give that smile that could melt anyone in a moment. I long for the day that I see Jim Koons, Doug Faulls, Ellen Rudolph, Arlene Marvell, Bill, Nancy, and Billy Parramore, Bob and Dale Zabit, Gene and Mary Bunting, and so many more. I have a promise and that brings me hope. And now this week I will get to see my sister-in-law Barbara and one of our best friends Al in heaven.

In the meantime, while we wait for the day that we will enter His presence we can only imagine what heaven will be like. While we can suggest and surmise what heaven will be, the truth is we cannot even begin to imagine the beauty and glory of Heaven. There is no way in our human understanding to comprehend all that heaven means or what it will look like. We can only see it through human eyes. We do catch a glimpse of heaven through the Scripture but even then we are only looking through a glass darkly or dimly. That is why Paul stated “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

That is why the song “I Can Only Imagine” is such a powerful song of praise to God. Heaven will be more than we can imagine because it is beyond our ability to understand and comprehend. Listen to the words of this song.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Grief: Lessons of Grief

Peninsula Community Church 

Grief: Lessons of Grief

February 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Grief and the Question Why?

Peninsula Community Church

Grief and the Question Why?

February 10, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Grief: Reactions to Grief

Peninsula Community Church 

Grief: Reactions to Grief

February 3, 2018 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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