A Joyful Heart and the Will of God

Peninsula Community Church

A Joyful Heart and the Will of God

November 19, 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

For those who are passionate followers of Christ, one of the issues that concerns us is knowing  God’s will. What is His will for me personally? What does He want me to do? Here in this passage, Paul presents an argument for one aspect for understanding God’s will. Specifically, this passage focuses on three primary aspects of our attitude and mindset toward life and the issues we encounter. We see here that he commands us to rejoice always. We must pray continually. We must give thanks in every circumstance. In so doing, we fulfill the will of God. Today and next week, we will review these three principles to understand how they apply to our life.

For today, let us look at the command to rejoice always. Rejoice! Always! When you hear that what is your initial response? If you are like me, you might ask a few questions. First, Paul, do you really mean that? Do you know what I am going through? Do you know what I have experienced? Paul, if you knew all that I am going through, you would understand that I cannot rejoice with all that is going on in my life right now. You must know that my situation is different! But that is the paradox of this command. Rejoice always! Rejoice when things are going great. Rejoice when things are turned upside down. Rejoice when things are normal. Rejoice and keep on rejoicing. In our natural self, this seems impossible and may seem like a contradiction but through Christ we are empowered to rejoice in every circumstance.

Because of Paul’s command to rejoice always, you might look at Paul with a bit of disdain. You might think that he is disconnected from reality. But listen to Paul’s own words in regard to what he experienced in his ministry. Paul stated Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).

Did you get that? Paul had been beaten five times. He had been beaten with rods three times. He was shipwrecked three times. He faced all kinds of dangers where ever he went. He had experienced hunger and thirst. He had gone without food. He experienced extreme heat and coldness. Every day he carried with him the anxiety of leading the churches he was given. I think we could agree that Paul had suffered his share of difficulties. And yet, this was the same Paul who commanded us to rejoice always. For us, while we may not have experienced anything to this degree, when we do have difficulties, and it can feel like a beating and an attack.

So with all that Paul experienced, how could he rejoice? How could he call us to rejoice? What was his rational for such a command? As you study Paul’s life, you will find that he issued this command because he understood that his joy was a not response to his experience or his circumstance, but was a response to the One whom he served. The fact is, he could rejoice because he knew who he served and all that Christ had accomplished on his behalf. He recognized that his strengthen came from God. The truth is the work of God within us allows us to face difficult times with a heart of rejoicing.

With that in mind let us make a couple of observations about rejoicing. First of all, joy is a matter of the heart. It is based in the truth that I can trust God in every area of my life. Therefore, an attitude of rejoicing is an outcome of trust. When we trust, it is much easier to rejoice in all things. Trust is the confidence that all things will work out for God’s pleasure. That is why Paul could state And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). When we trust God with our life, we will be less likely to complain and to grumble about the issues we encounter. When we trust God, we will be more faithful to His purposes.

Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:8-12. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. It is through this passage that Paul details the reason we can rejoice in Christ.

Paul was convinced, no matter what came his way, he could endure and he could do so with a joyful heart, because he was convinced that God would keep what had been entrusted to him. The word convinced carries the idea having been settled in one’s mind of a truth or an outcome. You see rejoicing is not just a feeling, it is a truth that supports our reaction to life’s difficulties. Paul could rejoice and could encourage others to rejoice because he had settled in his mind that God would come through for him. To understand this, we must look at the meaning of the word in the original Greek. The basis of the word convinced means “to trust” or “to be worthy of trust.” The word also means “reliability” or “certainty.” It is the root of the word “faith” or “to have faith in.” You see when we trust God and we have a certainty that He has our best interest in mind, we will be convinced Christ will complete His work in us.

How do we develop our trust in God? We read the Bible and allow the bible to change our hearts and our outlook on the future. In Scripture, we find so many who we were in deep trouble but each time God made a way for them to escape. We pray. That is why Paul also commanded the church to continuously pray because it is through prayer that we focus our attention upon the one who can help us navigate whatever we are facing. Lastly, we share testimonies with one another because it is through our testimonies that we overcome and therefore that gives us hope. The result is that we have the power to rejoice in every circumstance not as a feeling but as a truth.

Secondly, this is not some sadistic or head in the sand view of God but rather it is seeing our circumstances through the eyes of God. Rejoicing is not just an act of positive thinking nor is it the denial of the truth. Real faith begins at the point of truth and reality. So we do not rejoice just to rejoice but we do so because we are confident of the power of Christ to see us through every circumstance of our life. Too often, we develop a stoic approach to life where we will not allow ourselves to be effected by the issues of life.

This does not not mean that we dance through life proclaiming that I am rejoicing! We do not communicate that I am happy when the world is falling apart around us. That mindset does not help us but in fact most often causes us to complain and gripe rather than rejoice. To deny the issues of life does nothing to move us forward in faith. In fact, it harms us and keeps us from experiencing the healing of God. So this is not a command to negate emotions and refuse to acknowledge those emotions, but rather is it to envelop those negative situations with a mindset of joy that is based in a unswerving trust in God.

Thirdly, Paul realized that it is easier to rejoice when we have an eternal perspective about life. Again, listen to Paul’s words. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Why is an eternal perspective important? It is important because the trials we experience now are limited in their impact when we compare our total existence to eternity and the glory that is to come. It is important because the things we seen and experience are transient. They are in flux and cannot be trusted but God can be trusted in every circumstance. What is a problem today will cease to be a problem tomorrow. The difficulty we face today will be the answered prayers of tomorrow. Th absence of hope will the intervention of the Holy Spirit in days to come.

John Piper had this to say about joy. Our joy is based in the knowledge and acceptance of knowing that our sins are forgiven now and that we can experience the kingdom of God now. That knowledge sustains our ability to strive toward a future entrance into His eternal kingdom. Our joy is a result of not what we experience but what we hope for. It is anchored in a life and a way of existence that has been promised to us.

Fourthly, our joy becomes a testimony to God’s grace in difficult times. In effect, our joy becomes a tool for evangelism and a witness to the power of God. we do not deny the existence of difficulty, but we embrace the power of God to help us endure every difficulty. You see too many Christian’s today want people to believe they do not have any issues. Somehow, they believe that it detracts from who they are. Somehow they believe that it diminishes who God is. But the opposite is true. People are looking to know that the God we serve is real. People want to know that this stuff works. Having a realistic view of God, and the joy that comes from knowing Him, we become witnesses of how to negotiate life to the fullest.

As we close, we must know that joy is not manufactured. It is a result of who we know. It is a result of His work in us that is being worked out through us. In knowing Him, we are strengthen and we are filled with a joy which is an attitude of being convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. That is worth rejoicing.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Second Chances

Peninsula Community Church 

Second Chances

November 12, 2017

Jeremiah 18:5-8 Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at the potter and the clay. In our study, thus far, we found that God has a purpose and He has a plan for each of us. The question today, however, is what happens when that plan goes awry. What if we fail? What if we fall short? What if we blow it big time? What if we become unfocused and fall into sin or into a failure that feels insurmountable. The reality is, if we are honest, I am sure that we would all have to admit we have been in need of a second chance. We have needed a do over.

I believe this passage shows us, there are two ways to approach God. I also believe how we interpret this passage will be determined by our view of God. If we view God as a mean, angry God, then we will focus on the destruction God planned. If we view God as a loving, forgiving God, then we will focus on His forgiveness and His power to give a second chance. For me, I choose the later and I choose to see God as the God of the second chance.

Through this passage, we come to a conclusion that, sometimes, God allows difficulties to come in order to move us toward His purpose and His plan. These difficulties can overwhelm us and can cause great pain. The truth is, these difficulties come most often because we failed to follow God’s plan, His will, and His way. We also see that these things are never meant to destroy us, but to direct us back to Him. That is where our view of God makes a difference in our approach to God.

When we view God as a loving and forgiving God, we will know that when we see failure and hopelessness, God sees new beginnings. We see mistakes and failures that throw us off track and derail our dreams, but God sees fresh starts. We see the mess we have made, but God sees an opportunity to renew and rebuild us. The enemy’s lie has been and continues to be that we are unforgivable and that we are too far gone to receive God’s grace and love. The enemy’s lie is that we will be forever in the place of despair, because that is just the way it is.

As I was preparing for this message, I thought about the game of golf. In golf, there is what is called a mulligan. A mulligan is a chance for a do over. For those who are golfers, you know how it works. You hit a bad shot and you have the right to hit another ball. The goal is to make your second shot much better than your first shot. It is a second chance. It is a do over. Just like golf, God offers us a mulligan in life. He overs us a do over. He offers us a chance to get it right and do a better job by His grace.

As we think about this subject, we find that Scripture is filled with those who experienced second chances. Let’s take a moment to look at a couple of these. First, we have King David who was a murderer, a liar, and an adulterer (2 Samuel 11). David the called of God. David the one who had it all, failed big time. He took Bathsheba and through an ungodly relationship, she became pregnant. To make matters worse, he tried to hide the sin by having her husband come home and give him some time with his wife, so he would think it was his child. When that did not work, he arranged to position her husband on the front lines where he was sure to be killed. Then the “kind and gracious king” could take her as his wife, thereby hiding his indiscretion.

As we read the story, we find that his sin grew deeper and began to effect more and more people. That is the problem of sin. It grows deeper and it has a larger reach than we might ever imagine. But, here is the amazing thing, although his sin seemed to be too great, he was able to experience the grace of the God and was given a second chance. How do we know this? We find that God sent Nathan to speak into David’s life to bring change (2 Samuel 12:1-15). God used Nathan. David came to his senses when he realized the magnitude of his sin.

Here, David was at a crossroads. He could receive the message of grace or he could reject God. I often wonder about David! What was his mental state? Had he reached a point where he felt he had made it into the clear and that he was successful in his ruse and cover up. Too often, we think we have done a good job of hiding our sin only to find it is exposed later, and sometimes it is exposed when we least expect it. For David, I wonder if he was dealing with the weight of what he had done. I wonder if he felt the weight of his sin. Regardless, what we do know is that David confessed, repented, and was given a second chance (Psalms 51).

The second illustration is Jonah who walked in disobedience. Remember Jonah. He was called to the people of Ninevah, but rather than obeying, he ran to Joppa (Jonah 1:1-3). Now to be honest, his reason for running was justified in one sense. Ninevah was one of the major cities in the kingdom of Assyria. The people of Assyria and the city Ninevah were horrific people. They were brutal people. They would skin people alive. They would cut their enemies up in pieces and then send them to their families and cities with notes warning that this would be their fate, if they messed with them. They would cut the heads of the opposing kings off and parade them around their victory celebrations.

In Jonah’s rebellion, he boarded a ship and headed to Joppa. He ran from God, but God sent a storm. The men on board, who were not believers, began to call to their gods, as the storm was more fierce than any storm they had faced. The decision was made to throw Jonah overboard when they recognized his disobedience had caused the problem (Jonah 1:4-16). Then God brought a whale along to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17). Three days he was in the whale’s belly. For three days, Jonah had an opportunity to think about his future and his destiny. On the third day, the whale had gotten tired of Jonah and he was vomited upon the shore (Jonah 2:10). Jonah then ran to Niniveh, preached the word of the Lord, and the whole city came to know God (Jonah 3:4-5). He was given a second chance.

And then we have Peter, who was filled with fear. How many times have we fallen short or failed to accomplish God’s will because we are filled with fear? Peter was overcome by the fear of the people in Jerusalem. He was worried about his future and he was worried about how the judgement against Christ would impact him. Although he failed and was motivated by fear, he was given a second chance. Jesus went to him specifically after the resurrection and called Peter to feed his sheep (John 24:15-19). We see the fulfillment of that throughout the Books of Acts.

So, how should we respond to the second chances of our lives? First, we must repent. To repent means that there is a change of action that leads to a change of heart. We must remember there is a big difference between repentance and confession. Confession is important, but it is not the end all. Confession puts things on the table, but does not bring healing. We live in a nation of confessors, but not so many repenters. Repenters not only confess their sin, but they work toward change. When God honors you with a second chance, by His grace, we need to take advantage of that and change, so that the recurring sin or issue does not continue to happen. Billy Graham noted that we cannot know the God of the second chance unless we recognize the wrong we have done or the sin we have committed. We also need to be aware that God’s grace is not a get out of jail free card. We must never cheapen God’s grace by continuing to recklessly commit acts that diminish who we are in Christ and wound ourselves or others.

Second, we change what we can change. Too often, we are trying to change things that are beyond our power to change. We expend a lot of energy trying to change that which is outside our ability and scope to change. We try to change people and we try to change their actions, but this can be a frustrating adventure. We cannot change others, but we can certainly change ourselves. In the end, it requires personal responsibility to change what is wrong in ourselves.

Third, sometimes we need encouragement and help along the way to recognize that God is at work and He is giving us a second chance. We can miss what God is doing in us and through us. Paul reminds us to help restore those who have been caught in a sin (Galatians 6:1). Perhaps you need a Nathan. Perhaps you need a boat load of unbelievers to set the record straight. Perhaps you need a personal encounter with Christ to motivate you to change. However it comes, we must change. Know this as well, while we cannot change others, we can be a resource for encouragement and hope as others navigate the results and the stigma of sin they face.

In all of this, I am reminded of Lamentations 3:21-23 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. His second chances come by way of His mercy which is a response of His faithfulness. Listen to Jeremiah, he calls this to remembrance and it brings him hope. There is hope in God no matter what I do or fail to do. His mercy is always there. It reminds us that no matter what I might have done yesterday, I have a fresh start today, because His mercies are new and His faithfulness is great. He is a God of the second chance. So today, where do you need a second chance? Is it a sin you have committed? Is it a broken relationship? Is it a failure that you have experienced? Is it a mistake? God knows and is already sending you His mercy, if you receive it.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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He has Plans for You!

Peninsula Community Church

He has Plans for You! 

November 5, 2017

Jeremiah 18:1-6 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.God is working on the clay. What is God doing? Potter’s house is the church. Where the father is molding and making vessels of honor. God wants to fill you and pour you out every day.

This morning we continue to look at the potter and the clay. For this time our focus will be on the potter and His work in our life. In this passage, we must once again consider that God is the potter and we are the clay. As such, we know the potter has a purpose and design in every vessel He forms and shapes. We are those vessels. We are vessels with a purpose.

As the clay, we must have an understanding that the potter has a purpose for every piece of clay in His hands and that means God has a plan for each us. Too often, what we see is the lump of clay. What the potter sees is a flower pot, a cooking vessel, or other useful vessel. We see clay, but He sees a vessel that has a purpose. We see brokenness, but He sees wholeness. We see age and health issues, but God sees a purpose. We see retirement, but God sees a new beginning. Therefore, we can be assured that He has a plan for us, and we can know that He has a purpose for our life. The difference is in our perspective. The difference is in what we focus on. Do we see ourselves simply as clay, or do we see ourselves as having great potential and worth no matter where we are in life?

Here is a truth we can bank on, you will never be happy until you fulfill the purpose you were created for. To accomplish this, we find that life is more rewarding and it is certainly more exciting. You see God did not take up pottery as a hobby. He did not set out just to make a few varied pots or vessels. He was purposeful in how He designed each and every one of us. Know your purpose and you will be blessed. Know what God is doing in you and you will be more satisfied with life.

In this regard, let me make a couple of quick observations on the value of having a life filled with purpose. When we have a purpose, we are able to focus more on what is important. When we have a purpose, we can be more effective in what we do. When we have a purpose, we are less likely to be distracted. When we have a purpose, we are less likely to lose hope. Finding our purpose is critical as studies have shown that people who lose their way and have no purpose in life can be more susceptible to suicide, depression, and moral failure. They can begin to believe the lie that they do not have a purpose and therefore do not have a reason to live. Therefore, without purpose, we die emotionally, mentally, and yes, even physically.

I am amazed at how much the Bible says about how God created us. You see, we do not just simply exist, we exist for a purpose. We exist as a vessel created by God for the purposes of God. Find that purpose and you find joy. Find your purpose and you will find your passion. It has been said do what you enjoy, you will never work a day in your life. God knows what makes us tick and what you can achieve when you partner with Him and look at what He is doing around you.

Jeremiah encapsulates this in Jeremiah 1:4-5. Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Notice three things here. First, Jeremiah was formed in His mother’s womb. In the womb, he was formed and within him was all of the DNA Jeremiah needed. He was a mixture of his mom and dad. He certainly was the combination of the genetics from all those who have gone before him. But, God also added His purposes and His calling to the mix.

Second, God consecrated Jeremiah. God set Jeremiah on a course of action where he would could fulfill the plans and purposes of God. To consecrate, means to dedicate formally to a divine purpose. God not only consecrated Jeremiah but each of us have also been consecrated for a divine purpose. This divine purpose comes in all sizes, shapes, and ways but it comes. This answers the why question, and the what are we here for question!

Third, Jeremiah was appointed to a task. He was called to be a prophet that would be in place to guide the people of Israel. There is no doubt that God has gifted us and wants to use us in His kingdom. The amazing thing is that when we are obedient to what we know to do and we are obedient to fulfill the calling of God upon our life, He will add to us and may call us to different places and different things.

We are also reminded in Psalms 139:13 that it was God who formed our inward parts and that it was Him who knitted us together in our mother’s womb. Here is the amazing thing, while we are certainly formed by our DNA and the coming together of an egg and seed, God is able to add into the mixture special gifts, abilities, and talents. You see from the beginning of time He has a purpose and plan for us.

And then in Isaiah 44:1-5 we find “But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”

Again, as we consider these words we find that the One who formed us in the womb will help us. That is why there is an ongoing process of being placed back on the Potter’s wheel to shape us into the person we are becoming. When we follow Him, the promise of God is that He will strengthen us. When we are faithful to fulfill the plan God has for us, we will be like water being poured out on a thirsty land. We will be refreshing to those we encounter. Those around us and our families will be impacted in a positive way. God will bless and He will accomplish His will.

While we know we are formed and shaped by God and He continues to do that work, we have a problem. It is called sin and it is called life. After birth, we are influenced to behave and act a certain way by those around us. Words are spoken! Negative events occur! Pain happens! Problems occur! We are discouraged, beaten up, and the issues of life begin to pile up! The result is that we become distracted, and we begin to miss out on what God is doing. These things begin to reflect how we respond to the purposes of God. We are driven to seek out other purposes, but it does not work when we try to set our own priorities apart from God. So, we must find out what He is doing in us, celebrate that, and embrace God’s purpose for our life.

To keep us focused on His purposes for us, He is continuing to form and shape every vessel in His hands. When we are falling short or life is effecting us negatively, God graciously puts us on the wheel to reform us and shape us into the vessel that can be used for His Kingdom. We can resist this process because we somehow think that God is mean, and He is only concerned about breaking us, harming us, or causing us pain. But this process is not intended to harm us, but to give us value and a purpose. He is lovingly shaping us so that we become a vessel of honor. We can become bitter and angry, or we can learn and grow by His grace and power at work in us. That is why Jeremiah speaks to this and reminds us of His plan. Listen to His words.

Jeremiah 19:10-14 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Finally, notice that in the illustration of the potter and the clay that He always works from the inside out. He puts his hand down in the pottery where he is pushing and stretching us. He is after our heart. You see unless we have the right heart, we will continue to seek out things that are not in alignment with His purposes. Because of the absence of character and integrity, we may be prevented from getting the things we want. We settle for less than God’s best. Take care of the heart and the mind will follow. Our actions will follow our heart, as our words are a testimony of what is in our heart. So how is your heart? Is it leading you to follow God’s plan? Perhaps if it leading in a different direction you need to check your heart and allow God to put you back on the wheel of formation and transformation.

Finally, let me share a story I read just this week. Thomas Edison came home one day with a letter from his teacher. His teacher told him that only his mother was to read the letter. When he asked his mom what it said, she stated that it said that he was a genius and that the school did not have the capacity to train her child. For that reason, he should be taught at home. As we know he went on to become one of the greatest inventors of our time. When his mom passed away, he found the letter from the school. As he read the letter he was amazed that it said “Your son is mentally deficient and we cannot allow him to attend our school any more. He is expelled.” We all have a purpose and God has called us to make a difference. You may not be a Jeremiah. You may not be a Thomas Edison, but you are you and that is all that counts.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Brokenness to Wholeness

Peninsula Community Church

Brokenness to Wholeness

October 29, 2017

Jeremiah 18:1-6 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Today, we will continue to look at the subject of the potter and the clay. We will focus on a couple of lessons we learn from this story. To appreciate these lessons, we must recognize that we are the clay. This is confirmed by Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. There is no doubt that we are the clay and He, the Father, is our potter. Whether we realize it or not, we are the works of His hands. Even from the beginning of time, He has been forming us and shaping us.

Remember the story of Genesis, the beginning of all things. In Genesis 2:7 the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Someone has stated that we are nothing more than dirt and water mixed together. He formed us and shaped us into the distinct person we are today. We are set apart from all other parts of the creation because God breathed His breath into mankind. It is that breath of life that sustains us. It is God who continues to shape us into what we are becoming.

Robert Morris, of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas, stated that the word “formed” carries the idea of being molded by squeezing into shape. When God formed man, He squeezed him. Man was formed out of the dirt. He molded and shaped our physical body. Today, He continues to mold and shape us, but He works more with our character and personality. For that reason there are times we can feel like we are being squeezed. Does it feel that way to you?

One of the themes evident in this passage is that God uses the pain of brokenness to grow us and develop us into what He desires. The presupposition is that in brokenness, we actually grow, if we allow God to work is us. So, if you will bear with me, I would like to make some observations regarding this discussion. I must admit that the basis of this comes from a message from Robert Morris. I am using his skeleton but adding my thoughts to the skeleton.

First of all, clay can only be molded by water. During the time of this writing, water was the primary source to keep the clay wet. From Scripture, we understand that water represents the Word of God. When Jesus stood before the woman at the well, He stated that if she knew the gift that stood before her, she would never thirst again. He was referring to the water of salvation and the fact that He was that water (John 4). He, being the Word, is what we need to be molded and shaped by God.

We must also recognize that it is the water of the Word that is the only thing that can mold us into a vessel of honor. Without the water of the Word, we will dry out and begin to crack and fall apart. We must also realize that while we are saved by God immediately, the process of being molded takes time. In fact, it is a lifetime of molding. Note in our passage that when the clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand he put it back on the wheel again and reworked the vessel into something even more usable. Truthfully, we are always in the process of being molded and shaped by a loving potter who knows the outcome and purpose for which we are being formed.

The second observation is that the clay has to be separated before being molded. To produce a usable vessel, the potter cannot leave any junk in the clay. If there is something left in the clay, it will cause problems later in the process. It could be small rocks, sand, or tiny limbs. If these things are not removed, they can cause huge issues down the road.

You see, God must pull everything out of us that does not look like the vessel He is forming. He is also taking everything out that will cause weakness later. He knows if He does not remove the junk then we will not be as useful as we could be. Without removing the junk in our life, we are susceptible to failure and breakdowns later. Within us are anger, pride, jealousy, insecurity, fear, and so on. Pride is one of the biggest issues, because we must admit we need Him. If you allow pride to remain in your life, you will fall.

The third observation is the vessel that is formed comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors. We have different influences, talents, desires, and experiences. We must stop judging other pots and comparing ourselves to other pots. It is pride for a pot that is not finished to talk about another pot. We must know that we are not the potter and, as such, we do not know the purpose or plan the potter has for the other pots around us. We must trust that the potter knows what he is doing. We judge others on so many levels. We judge people on their race. We judge people on their social and financial status. We judge people on how they look or do not look. We must not arbitrarily judge others, as we do not know what God is doing in them. Besides that, we have enough to worry about in our own pot to worry about what they are doing.

The fourth observation is that clay has no input to its outcome. Listen to this interesting passage in Isaiah 29:16. You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding?” Sometimes, we try to exchange roles with the potter. We attempt to tell the potter what we want Him to do. In Isaiah 46:9, we find people often try to argue with God. In this passage we do not see the clay speaking to the potter. It never says “What are you doing?” Or, “I know a better way!” Some of us need to stop telling God what is best for us. We need to stop telling God what is best for the pots around us. Sometimes we do not like the pots around us, so we ask the potter to take a little off here, squeeze a little more here, and do a little more there. But we must remember that the Potter is in control of every pot. We must yield to Him. So, stop resisting and saying you know a better way.

The fifth observation is that the clay must go through the fire. The clay in its natural state is soft and the clay gets real muddy when the water is added. To resolve this, the clay must be cured and perfected through fire. For us, this happens through the difficulty of life. When we go through a fire, we are not to be surprised. If you put gold in a fire, the impurities come to the top. When the impurities come to the top, the refiner scoops out the impurities so that the gold is continually purified. So, how do you respond to trials? How you respond may define the impurities of your heart. When the impurities are revealed, we must allow God to remove these impurities so that we are made stronger. After this is complete, then God turns up the heat a bit more. We go from the wheel to the fire, back to the wheel, and then to fire.

The sixth observation is that the clay has a breaking point if it stays in the fire. If it gets away from the water too long it will dry out and be negatively impacted. The problem is that in the trials of life we can resist God, but if we are without of the word we dry up. If we are out of His presence, we dry up. We dry up physically. We dry up emotionally. We dry up mentally. If the common things of life are irritating us, then we might be dried up. We need to add the water of His word to our hearts.

In the final analysis, God is control and He has a plan for you. He is working in you, even if you do not see it. He is molding something new and fresh out of your life. God works in us and sometimes it is through brokenness that we grow the most. It is through brokenness that we become more pliable and more available for God to deposit His grace and His power in us. Sometimes, there are some impurities in our life and through brokenness God delivers us from those things. We experience what appears to be a crushing blow and we feel the pain of the moment. But, God uses the pain and when we accept His grace and we surrender to His way, He produces in us an enlarged capacity to understand God’s will and purpose in us.

In 2 Timothy 2:20-21 Paul states Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. There are honorable vessels and there are dishonorable vessels but even the must dishonorable vessels can be redeemed and positioned for honorable usage. The enemy loves to deceive us into thinking that whatever state we are in now and whatever we have done is what defines us, and nothing will ever change, but we are always being shaped and molded into something better than what we are in the present. In the end, His goal is for us to be like Him, being a reservoir for His presence.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Potter and the Clay

Peninsula Community Church

The Potter and the Clay

October 22, 2017

Jeremiah 18:1-6 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Last week, we discovered that we have a great treasure in jars of clay. What a powerful realization! We have His treasure, the treasure of grace and mercy, in clay pots which are fragile and easily broken. This was done so that we understand the power within us, a power that surpasses all other powers. It is the power of the living Christ. He chooses to fill us with His power, so we are empowered in our weakness to do the impossible and do the unimaginable.

Over the next couple of weeks, I would like for us to look at Jeremiah 18 and the story of the potter and the clay. In this process, we will look at the calling of Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house. We will look at this story from the perspective of the potter and then from the perspective of the clay. In so doing, the goal is to establish our identity in Christ and understand the calling we of God on our life so that we are able to accomplish all that He has for us.

To be honest, I wanted to jump right into the subject of the potter and the clay, but as I was reading this and was preparing for the message, I was struck by the calling of Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house to see what God was doing. One of the things that struck me about this is that God uses the everyday mundane things to teach us about His love and His grace. He wants to use the everyday things we encounter to show us deep spiritual truths. The problem, however, is that we can miss things in the busyness of life. We can ignore the instruction of God, because we are blinded to the truth being revealed. We can miss what He is saying, because our focus is on our problems and not on the will of God.

So with that in mind, let us take a few moments to look at this passage. First of all, note that Jeremiah had been given a word from the Lord. Here is the deal, God spoke and He continues to speak to us today. He speaks through His word. He speaks through the impressions of our hearts that are confirmed through His word, in prayer, and through counsel.

God calls Jeremiah to do the following. “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” It is interesting that in the ESV that God says He will “let” Jeremiah hear His words. Notice this, the word of the Lord was spoken to Jeremiah to arise and go down to the potter’s house so that he could hear God’s word. In other words, I am speaking to you to go to the potter’s house where I want to teach you a powerful lesson.

In this regard, let me make a couple of comments for our inspiration and spiritual growth. First, we must know that God speaks but let us be sure it is God speaking. I have had people come to me to say they have a word from the Lord about doing certain things. This may or may not be true, but we must use the phrase “a word from the Lord” sparingly, as we can potentially blaspheme the name of God if we use this term lightly or under false pretense. The problem I have is that we use this phrase as spiritual blackmail, by using it to leverage our will against another’s will.

We must be careful and know that God is speaking when we infer that He is. Using this phrase unwisely is a form of control, as we believe that if we say we have a word from the Lord then it forces the hand of the person to which we are communicating. It is a form of pride, as we can present this in a way that infers we have a corner on hearing God, while others do not.

We see here that the first thing that God calls Jeremiah to do is to arise. It is my belief that God is asking Jeremiah to be attentive to what God is calling him to do. The word arise is a word that calls for action. In other words, do not be passive. Do not sleep or slumber when God speaks and shares a word that will forever transform our life. The Bible warns us about being asleep and missing what God is doing in us and through us. In 1 Thessalonians 5:6 Paul warns us So then  let us not sleep, as others do, but let us  keep awake and  be sober. Therefore, arise in this instant speaks of having a listening ear and an open heart to what God is doing.

Then Jeremiah was called to go down. To understand that God is calling us, requires an action on our part. God wanted to position Jeremiah so he would hear and receive a word. This was an act of obedience. Notice Jeremiah did not move until he was called by God. He heard and he responded. He went where God called him. So many times, we have the nudge from the Holy Spirit. We have that voice that is calling us to do something and act on God’s plan for our life. We can hear from God, but we must also be positioned to obey what He is calling us to do.

To go down is the very essence of faith in action. Notice that Jeremiah did not know what the end result was, He only knew that he was to respond to the calling of God. This is not a passive faith where we sit back and wait for something to happen. When He speaks, we act. We are obedient to what He calls us to and no more. We do not do anything, unless we hear His voice.

The third part is that God promises that if Jeremiah does this, God will let Him hear His words. Here we find a couple of lessons. One, if we listen, God will speak. The question is do we have ears to here what He is saying. Are we too busy, self absorbed, or uninterested? If so, then it will be extremely hard to hear God’s voice. His voice will get lost in the noise of life.

Secondly, God is always communicating. I love this. He is communicating through His word. He is communicating through the people we encounter. He is communicating through our experiences in life. He is communicating through nature. God is in the communications business. He is communicating and He wants to communicate with us in very real terms. The question to be addressed is, are we listening? Are we listening to the noise around us or to the voice of God? Have we become deaf to the voice of God? Notice too that it is “my words!” It is God’s words and not man’s word. It is not the pastor’s words. It is not a friend’s word. It is His word. Now God can use all of these, but we must be sure that it is God’s word confirmed through Scripture.

In all of this, there was a required action. Once Jeremiah understood the call, He had to act on that calling, one step at a time. There is a tendency in the church to speak about the sin of commission, but do not address the sin of omission. The sin of commission are things like lying, stealing, murder, and the like. The sin of omission is knowing God’s will, or knowing what God’s word says about a certain thing, and failing to react to that word in a positive way.

James reminds us whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin (James 4:17). If we do not respond to that which we know to do, then for us it is a sin. Remember the quote; The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. So sin is not just in the doing, but it is neglecting that which we know to do and that which we have been called to do. Like all sin, there is redemption and forgiveness at the cross for those sins committed and those that come by way of omission.

There is no neutral ground, we are either actively obedient or disobedient. We are never neutral. We cannot be on the fence. We must decide what we will do. That is why Jesus stated that we will be either cold or hot but we cannot be lukewarm. Lukewarm water is spewed out of the mouth of our Lord (Revelation 3:16). Joshua understood this principle when he stated that Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:14-15) Joshua confirms we are to decide whom we will serve and then serve that person with all of your heart in obedience to His will and purposes for our life.

Notice that Joshua states, whatever you choose, it does not matter, but I am going to choose to serve God with all of my heart. May it be with us also. No matter what everyone else does we will choose to follow after God. We must choose whom we will serve and why. Will we, like Joshua, make a decision to fully engage our lives in obedience? If we do, the benefits will be out of this world. If we do, God will show us some amazing things in our life. He will reveal things to us that we could not achieve on our own. So, are you listening the voice of God? If so, are you hearing and responding to that voice?

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Treasure in Jars of Clay

Peninsula Community Church

Treasure in Jars of Clay

October 15, 2017

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Before us today is an awesome picture of the reality of life and the power of Christ within us. When we look at the phrase, jars of clay, we find that it is an interesting phrase. Jars are containers. They serve a purpose. In this case, Paul tells us that it is a container for that which is most valuable. We are the jars of clay and within us is the presence of God.

Through the years, I have seen some interesting ways people hide their treasures. I have seen people put money in the freezer. The idea is that a thief would not look in the freezer and in the case of a fire the money would be safe. I have seen people who would paint an old mayonnaise jar white and place their valuables in the jar. One of our friends would place their valuables in a tucks pad container as they said no one would consider looking in there.

Paul wanted his readers to know that we are a jar. We might be imperfect and we may be fragile but we are a container created by God. We see this in Jeremiah 18 in the story of the potter and the clay. What we find is that the container itself is not as critical as why the container was created. It is also important to know that what the container looks is not as important as what is inside the container. Scripture also tells us that outwardly we are wasting away but inwardly we are being renewed. As clay pots we can be broken, damaged, and cracked.

Throughout my life, I have been guilty of dropping things and breaking things. In fact, my friends have at times called me “grace” because of my clumsiness. Perhaps you have had one of those moments where you have broken something? Perhaps it was a vase, a planter, or a pot. Perhaps the item you broke appeared to be strong and durable, but as you knocked it over, you realized the exterior was fragile. How many times have we broken something and then attempted to glue it back so no one would find that we had broken it? In this passage, Paul is reminding us that as a vessel of clay we are a fragile vessel, but it is a vessel that houses the presence of God.

Here is a fact that we know through Scripture. While we are weak and fragile, He is strong. It is in our weakness that He is manifested most. Too often, we can believe that weakness is a negative character flaw. I am sure you have heard the statement do not let them see your weakness. Or, do not let them see you sweat. In other words, do not be honest about who you are and what is going on in your life. Hide your emotions. Hide your pain. But that is not God’s word and that is not God’s way. When we are weak, His strength is revealed in us in ways that we cannot imagine. There is strength in weakness when we turn to God.

Look at what Paul says about all of this. He says, we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. This is an amazing statement and one that fills us with hope and faith. Notice what Paul says. First, we are under great pressure, but we are not crushed. How often do you feel the weight of the affliction you are under? When afflicted we can feel knocked down and devastated by the issues we face. Too often, it seems like there is an endless barrage of problems, and we reach the point where we are waiting for the next shoe to drop.

To understand this, we must know that we all have problems. We will face issues. We will encounter difficulties. We have been instructed to not be surprised when you face these things (1 Peter 4:12). Difficulties are a part of our life and there is no way to avoid them. I love the “Rocky” movies. I know that it is just a movie, but it illustrates the power of this concept. How many times do we find Rocky beaten to a pulp, but somehow he finds an inner strength to rise up and continue the fight? In the movie Creed, the latest addition to the Rocky series, Creed has been knocked down and on the mat. His mind is racing through history and the events of his life. He gets up and goes on to win the round. That is what Paul is saying here. We are afflicted. We are beaten up, but we are not crushed. We are knocked down, but we are not knocked out.

Secondly, Paul states that we are perplexed, but we are not driven to despair. We all have problems, but our problems do not have to drive us to a place of lost hope. It is noteworthy that the word perplexed means to be completely baffled. The word despair is defined as the loss of all hope. When we are baffled by the issues we face, we can be drawn to a place of hopelessness. We are blinded by the difficulties we face. In the moment, there is a real sense that this is the way it will be, and we will be at the mercy of the pressure of the trials in our life. Paul acknowledges that we all face issues that can perplex us, but we do not have to see our life degenerate to hopelessness. So, you might be perplexed, but you do not have to be hopeless.

Thirdly, Paul states that we are persecuted, but not forsaken. Loneliness is one of the toughest  emotions we can experience. Feeling forsaken can diminish our faith and hope. Persecution causes us to feel we are all alone and abandoned. In 1 Kings 19, we find that Elijah had been faithful to God, but is facing a time of discouragement and despair. He is feeling hopeless and lost. He is feeling alone. He makes this statement, “I am the only one left who loves you and is following you and now the others are trying to kill me.” Do you ever feel that way? You might reach a point where you scream, “God why me?” “I am doing everything I know to do and no one else is doing what is right? I am all alone.” Then God reveals a great truth to Elijah. Elijah was not alone as there were seven thousand in Israel that had not bowed a knee or kissed Baal. This was an important revelation of truth, as one of the great tactics of the enemy is to isolate us and deceive us into thinking that we are alone and no one cares. This drives us to isolate.

Finally, Paul states that we are struck down, but we are not destroyed. I love that Paul does not try to minimize the impact of the difficulties we face. He is honest and does not deny the fact that we will have difficulties and those difficulties can rock our world. Like Rocky, we can be knocked down, but we do not have to be knocked out. We may be damaged, but life is not over. We may have cracks, but our life does not have to be over. Our exteriors may be cracked and dented, but God uses cracked and dented pots.

The question for you might be how can this be? I am beaten up. I am in a great battle. I am weary. I am tired. Paul reminds us that we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, but it is okey because we are reminded of a powerful truth. We are clay pots that are fragile and easily broken, but it is to show that the surpassing power of God is at work in us. The choice of words here is important. Notice that Paul does not just say His power is at work in us, but it is His surpassing power. You know what that means? There is more power in God than any power in the persecution and the issues we face.

Listen to the words of 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. This is not a sadistic concept, but it is a recognition of the power of God working in our weaknesses. Notice that Paul prayed three times to have his thorn in the flesh removed. Rather than remove the thorn, Jesus stated that His grace was more than sufficient to get him through the issues. The question for us is where am I putting my faith and trust. Is our focus on the problem or is it on the Lord, who is more than sufficient than my problems? When we recognize the Lord as our source of strength, it is there that we are the strongest.

So what would happen if we embraced the fact that we are jars of clay? What if we did not ignore that, as a human, I really do get tired and weary sometimes? What if I had a biblical understanding of what it means to be weak? The response here is not to work harder or even do more, necessarily. Trying harder in our own power does not resolve our problems or our weaknesses. Generally, working harder leaves us more depleted and tends to destroy our joy.  Jonathan Parnell writes, “Embracing weakness brings more peace because we realize afresh that God loves us by his grace, not because we are strong. Our joy doesn’t rest in our ability, but in the approval God gives us in Christ, the one in whom he chose us before the ages began according to his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9).” For that reason we can rejoice in our weakness. For that reason we realize and accept that we are the containers for the all surpassing power of God.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Making Sense out of Suffering

Peninsula Community Church 

Making Sense out of Suffering

October 8, 2017 

John 11:1-8, 11-16  Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was… After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

I have always been fascinated with this story. It is an amazing story of faith, trust, and belief in something greater than ourselves. This story is as applicable to us today as it was in that day. Just like Mary and Martha we encounter problems in our life that are beyond our comprehension. We encounter problems that cause us to question “Where are you God?” “Why did you not do something to intervene? Why did You let this happen? When you look at the underlying heart of those in this story it seems that is the question that is being asked.

We are all too familiar with tragic stories and events in our life that leave us with more questions than answers. On Sunday night, a horrific scene unfolded in Las Vegas. This was a tragedy that was unprecedented. It revealed the amazing power of one man to take the lives of so many and wound hundreds more. That coupled with three major hurricanes and two major earthquakes in Mexico. There is so much that is present in our lives to cause fear, faithlessness, and hopelessness. There is so much around us that leads us to ask where is God in these times?

I am convinced that this story sheds light on the difficulties we face and the problems we encounter even today. Notice this is not a parable, which is a word picture or story that is used to express a theological or Biblical insight. This is a real life story experienced in real time. The pain felt here is very real. The death of Lazarus for the characters in this story was final and there appeared to be very little hope for a different ending.

We find Mary and Martha’s brother was sick and was about to die. If you remember it was Mary and Martha who served Jesus when He visited their home. These sisters, who loved their brother, brought this devastating news to Jesus. They were filled with an expectation that Jesus would respond to their need. After all Lazarus was Jesus’ friend also. But Jesus does the unexpected. He says to them do not worry, I will be there in two days. Can you imagine the sinking feeling in their heart? I can imagine their response might be hey Jesus, Lazarus does not have two days. Our brother is dying and he needs your intervention. He needs you now. Heck, we need you now.

We do not know Mary’s heart here but I wonder if she had thought “remember me Jesus.” I was the one who anointed your feet. Jesus, it’s me. Don’t you remember all that I have done for you. While everyone else was eating and enjoying themselves, I served you. While my sister was busy making dinner and serving the guests, I was anointing your feet and wiping them with my hair. Doesn’t that count for something? She pulled the “I deserve it card” on Jesus. The reality is, we do not deserve any of the blessings of God, but He gives them anyway, because He loves us and He is a grace giving God. Now many times do we play that card?

With that said let us look at a couple of lessons from this passage. First of all, suffering is undeniable. We cannot deny the existence of trouble and the problem of sin in this life. Trouble and difficulty happens to us all. It does not matter who you are or what you have done. One of the problems with society today is they attempt to deny the existence of evil or have misdefined what is evil.

The second lesson for us is that suffering is unavoidable. If you are alive and you are breathing you will have problems. You will suffer. People do dumb things. Things happen. Problems exist. Jesus said that in this life you will have problems. Every book in the New Testament deals with the issue of trials and difficulties in some way. One of the reasons we suffer trials the way we do is that people have rejected the truth of God. When truth is rejected, the foundation to understand God is removed. The result is suffering.

In Romans 1, we find that when people reject the truth, there is a consequence. The people of Paul’s day rejected God and they rejected truth. This resulted in futile thinking, becoming  foolish, and action that came from an impure heart. Notice, God gave them over to these mindsets which are opposed to God’s way of thinking. God allowed them to follow their own desires because they were not willing to follow and obey the truth.

The third lesson for us is that no matter what happens, Jesus has not forgotten us. He always knows best and He can take the worse of situations and bring them in alignment with His purposes. One of the problems is that many times we begin to believe that our suffering is a measurement of God’s love for us. But that is untrue. It is a lie that is propagated in our hearts to cause us to reject God and turn our focus away from Him. Jesus loved Lazarus which is a recognition that the suffering he experienced was not incompatible with His love for him.

To show that God is in control notice the two statements made by Jesus. These statements remind us that He is all knowing and He is all wise. Two things exposed here. This situation was a pathway to bring glory to the Son of God so they might believe. The point was that Jesus was to be glorified through this difficult situation. The glory of God is the manifestation of his presence and is a manifestation of His presence in people’s hearts and into their situations. That is and has always been the plan. The end result was to be a stronger believe in Jesus.

Let’s bring this closer to home. We were all shocked by the news of last Sunday night. So many lives were negatively impacted by the shooting. But there is another side to the story. You see when we experience a dark moment in our life we can focus on the problem and the suffering and miss what God is doing.

What we do not always hear on the news is the positive accounts of God’s grace. The focus has been on the shooter, as it should be, but we can miss other stories within the story. There were great stories of heroism through this event. While the shooter represented the worst of us those who stepped up to help, even under the worst of circumstances, showed the best of us. Whether it was the war veteran who placed his thumb in the wound of one of the victims to stop the bleeding, to those who used their personal clothing to stop bleeding. We saw those who used their personal cars to transport people they did not know to safety and to the hospital. We have heard the story of those who shielded others and were killed themselves.

There is another aspect of this that bears mentioning as well. We have a friend, Dave Early, who founded a church in Las Vegas. Dave has since turned the church over to one of the cofounders, Chris Martin. Chris made the following observation. This crime has brought people together like nothing else. They are sharing their goods, they are donating blood, they are passing out water. They are distributing food. The city is active with the grace of God. People are more open to hear the message of hope found in the Gospels. People are focusing their attention toward God like never before. The son of God is being glorified and people are believing in Jesus.

The final lesson is this. Through every situation we face and through every difficulty we encounter God’s glory can be revealed. As His glory is revealed, we learn to trust God more and in a deeper way. Remember the end of the story. Lazarus was dead, but with a word from Jesus he rose. He was alive and he walked out of the grave healed and whole.

I cannot help but think of Joseph’s words in Genesis. He suffered. He was rejected by his brothers. He was sold into slavery. He was falsely accused. He was thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. He was forgotten and lived in the reality of broken promises. But in the midst of the story every time a difficulty occurred, we find that the Lord was with Joseph. In the end, listen to Joseph’s own words. “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Genesis 50:19-21).

God’s glory was revealed and faith was built in Joseph’s brothers. Mary and Martha were able to experience God’s glory and their faith was built. Today, we can be impacted by the trials of life but we can also be encouraged to see the glory of God and have our belief in God restored. Rather than focus on all that is bad and wrong, we can focus on God. He is at work. He has not forgotten you. He is with you. He wants to glorify His name and He desires that in the process that your faith will grow.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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