Monthly Archives: October 2015

Caleb: They Forgot

Peninsula Community Church

Caleb: From Rags to Riches to Rags in Three Generations

October 18, 2015 

Judges 2:7,10-13 And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger.

The question for us today is what do we do when we have rebellion in our family? We will focus on the story of Caleb and the children of Israel to understand the power of rebellion. You will remember that Caleb was one of the young men who had been freed from slavery in Egypt. Caleb had also served at Moses’ side as they navigated the 40 years of wandering through the wilderness. From this vantage point he learned much about life and leadership because he was up close and personal to all that Moses went through. He learned why it was important to live in the presence of God. He learned the ins and outs of leading a rebellious people. He learned that he must keep pressing forward no matter what happens. He learned that God was always with him no matter what obstacles or issues they may face.

There is no doubt that Caleb was a man of faith and of integrity. If you remember this story, you will remember that Joshua and Caleb were partners in faith. It was Joshua and Caleb who took a stand against the rest the Jewish people. Remember the twelve spies who went into spy out the land on behalf of Moses and the children of Israel. Upon entering the promise land they saw the giants and they saw all of the barriers that could keep them from possessing the promised land. It is noteworthy that Joshua and Caleb saw the same giants and they saw the same issues as the other ten spies, but their trust in God superseded what they saw in the physical realm. They gave a good report and encouraged Moses to take the nation into the promise land at that moment. The other ten spies however gave a negative report. They swayed the others and together they persuaded Moses to wait. That started 40 years of roaming and wandering.

If we fast forward several years, we find that Caleb has become a father and a grandfather. He continued to live a Godly life and he honored God in all that he did. With a man like Caleb, you would think that his family would have followed God and would have willingly served Him but they did not. In fact, we find that it was not just Caleb’s family but the whole nation had turned their back on God and they had gone their own way. It is hard to understand why they would rebel especially in light all they had experienced. They saw the hand of God move on their behalf and they experienced the blessing of God in awesome ways. And yet they rebelled!

How did this happen? To begin with they forgot where they had come from. They forgot they had been slaves and that God had delivered them from Egypt. The problem is that it is so easy to forget where we have come from and all that God has done for us. We can forget the blessing that has been given to us and the work that has been done on our behalf. We can forget what it is like not to have God on our side. You see, they had forgotten that God had guided them through the Red Sea and through the wilderness. They forgot that God had provided nourishment when they needed it. They forgot that God had kept their clothes from wearing out. And they forgot all that God had given them, the promise land.

A second issue that must be addressed is “What changed?” Well, first they stopped worshipping God and they began to worship the idols that represented other gods. It is a sad commentary when people begin to turn from God to ways that are empty and of no value. It is sad when people turn to gods that have no power to bring healing or bring fulfillment in their life. In Isaiah 44, Isaiah sarcastically pokes fun at those who would worship idols. He questions why someone would worship something that does not have hands, no eyes, or no mouth. How personal could the idol be if it cannot speak, see, or touch? It is not personal at all and to top it off the idols were made by human hands.

Secondly, they changed the way they viewed what God had given them. They stopped saying “God’s land” and started saying “their land.” They took credit for what God had done. They became self motivated and selfish. From a Scriptural standpoint, it is clear that God does not share His glory with others. Listen to God’s own words in Isaiah 42:8 I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. I love how the New English Translation reads “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols.

They lost the perspective that you cannot be friends with sin because you will become married to it before you know it. The problem with sin is that if we mess with sin we cannot help but get marred by it. Where we attach our emotions and our feelings, we end up giving our heart to those things and we will be ensnared. We do not tend to get trapped, but we do. We don’t intend to drift away from God, but we do.

The application of this is two fold. First, it is applicable to our family but it is also representative of our nation.  It does not take much to realize how our nation has gone astray. But our focus will be on our children and our grandchildren. So how do we respond? First of all, we can not take the actions of our adult children or grandchildren personally.  This is a tough one because we love our children and we do tend to take it personal when they fail. We are called to Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). But that does not take away the pain we experience when our children fail to live up to the way they have been raised.

Too often the result is that we become quagmired in the mindset of quilt and failure. When this is the mindset, our judgment is off. The result is we end up saying and doing things that we regret or we just add to the guilt and feelings of failure we already have. Now granted we may not have always done the right thing and we ourselves may have fallen short of the glory of God in our lives but we cannot and should not be loaded with the guilt that we are responsible for the decisions that our kids and grandkids make. They are responsible for their decisions and their actions. By making it personal, we begin to look for outcomes that bless us and satisfy us rather than those outcomes that honor and please God.

Secondly, become an intercessor on their behalf. When it comes to the behaviors of our children and grandchildren one of the greatest things we can do is to stand in the gap by way of intercession. Ezekiel understood this when he stated And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none (Ezekiel 22:30). God is looking for people to fill the gap. Will he find you faithful and standing in the gap for your children? Prayer is essential and it is a powerful tool to change the life of those we love because God can do more in minutes than we can do in a lifetime. We can and must stand in the gap for our kids and our grandkids. It is a necessity.

As we consider this there are four keys aspects to prayer. When we pray we must pray regularly. We must be consistent in our prayers. We must pray offensively. We must pray that God would place them in contact with those who love God. We pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers. We must pray defensively. We must pray that those things and those people that do not honor God would be removed from their life. We must pray intensely. We must be intense about praying for our children and our grandchildren.

Thirdly, be honest with your children and grandchildren about your struggles and shortcomings. Too often, we can present ourselves to our children as if we had no problems or concerns. We can sanitize our lives and the way we live so that others think that we are perfect and have no issues. As they get older share with them your struggles and shortcomings. But also share how you have overcome these things and the stand you took to make better choices.

Fourthly, remind them of God’s past works in them. Sometimes the problem exists that we forget what God has done in us and we need to be reminded of that. Sometimes we need to help others to be reminded of the graciousness and power of God in them. Speak prophetically over their lives. Speak words that encourage and point them in the direction of hope and life. Regardless of the child and the person, we can always find things to point to the work of God in their life.

Fifth, we keep hope because change will come. We can become discouraged because we do not feel much is happening in their life. We must have hope and we must look forward to what God has for our children and for our families. We must remember that God can do more in a moment than we can in years of worry. In verse 16, we find this encouraging verse Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. While the judges came and went, they were there and God used them to bring change. There was hope and as we know while Israel went through a season of difficulty and a season of backsliding we also see that God interviewed and they began to follow and honor God again.

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Naomi: Emptiness to Fulfilment

Peninsula Community Church

Naomi: Emptiness to Fulfilment

October 11, 2015

Ruth 1:1-5 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

As we dig into the details of this story, we see in the opening act that Bethlehem is facing a major famine. People were out of work and they were searching for food. As they looked across the valley toward Moab, they saw the outskirts of Moab and they saw that Moab had not been effected by the famine. In fact, Moab was green and vibrant with life.

Because of the famine in Bethlehem, Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, made a choice to go to Moab. Their intent was to go there and ride out the famine and then return to their home. They went there to “sojourn.” The term sojourn means to stay somewhere temporarily. It was never their intent to dwell or live there. Once in Moab, however, their circumstances changed and instead of sojourning there temporarily, they made Moab their home. They lived there for ten years. In taking up residence there; they began to live like the Moabites, they began to participate in the Moabite rituals, and they were sucked into the lifestyle of the Moabites.

As I prepared for this message there seemed to be one primary theme that ran through the commentaries and resources I used. The underlying theme was the compromises made by Elimelech and Naomi as they moved to Moab. It is noteworthy that the very thing they were trying to avoid was the very thing they had to face. Elimelech left his home to avoid dying and yet he died in Moab and his death was followed by the death of his two sons.

Before we judge them, however, we must understand that when we are in despair, we can also be tempted to run and make choices that are not consistent with what is right. You see they forgot that God was still in Jerusalem. Somehow they forgot that God was going to be with them no matter what was to come. It is interesting to note that in our previous study of Joseph, we find that Joseph did not choose his future but Naomi and Elimilech make the choice to leave. By leaving they set themselves up for failure. Charles Stanley said this about compromise. Whenever Christians compromise their godly principles, they walk dangerously close to a deadly land mine. In compromise, we can lose perspective in terms of what is right and godly.

Elmer Towns in his book “Great Lessons and Great Blessings” suggested four things that Naomi and her husband did that resulted in compromise. First of all they left the land of promise for a land of compromise. Jerusalem and Bethlehem was a part of the land that had been promised to the Jewish nation. They left what was rightfully theirs and went to a foreign land. They left the very place that God had given them. God had promised to keep them safe while they resided there. Their desire to go to Moab was in fact a revelation of the level of trust they had in God.

Secondly, they left the temple in Jerusalem for a land of idols. To understand this we must understand that Jerusalem was representative of God’s presence and His glory. To leave Jerusalem in that day was to leave the very presence of God. It is one thing to leave the place we should be, but it is another to turn to other gods and expect them to fulfill the need in our soul. Once in Moab, they looked to the Moabite gods to satisfy them and to provide for them.

Third, they left the fellowship of God’s people for unsaved heathen. When things get tough in our life it is easy to isolate ourselves from The Church and especially other believers in our life. We can turn to the ways of the world to seek advice and get answers. But in so doing, we can find ourselves empty and still wanting and needing answers.

And fourth, they ran away for their problems, and sought an easy life. Rather than face their problems, they ran away. They ran to a place where they hoped they would find help. They had hoped to find a easier way of life. But they ended up facing death and they faced death not once but three times. Too often in our lives, we can believe that the grass is greener on the other side but when we get there we find that it is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Does that sound familiar? How often does compromise cause us to make decisions in the moment that seem good but turn out to be everything but that. The problem with compromise is that it leads us to places we don’t want to go, to do things we should not do, with results we don’t want to have. What is compromise?  Compromise according to Webster’s Dictionary is the acceptance of standards that are lower than what is desirable. As a verb, the word means to cause one to become vulnerable or to function less effectively. One might say that the outcome of compromise is that one becomes vulnerable to failure, deceit, and the potential for sin.

To compromise one’s integrity lowers one’s standards, weakens one’s character, hurts one’s personal testimony, and hinders one’s prayers. Here is the problem! We can be sucked into compromising situations because when we have lowered our standards. When there is no immediate fall out from the compromise we can be lured into deeper compromise. The fact is we never intend to compromise but we do.

While the theme of this story is compromise, a secondary theme is very evident as well. The lesson we learn from this story is that we can blow it big time and yet God will give us a second chance to do the right thing. No matter what failures we may have, God can use us to make a difference. Even though Naomi and her husband compromised and lost it all, God was gracious and provided for Naomi in ways that she could not have imagined. She lost her husband and then her two sons. She was destitute and lost.

But Naomi adjusted her life and did the right thing. Once the famine was over she returned home to Jerusalem and she took her daughter-in-law, Ruth, with her. She was given a second chance. God used this negative circumstance to bring about His will and purpose. Her daughter-in-law Ruth was to be the channel through which Messianic prophecy was to be fulfilled. Ruth the Moabite would be the great-great grandmother of David who would be the great, great, great grandfather of Jesus Himself. It is of note that Ruth, a heathen woman of a nation who was hostile to the Israelites would be found worthy to be the great great grandmother of King David. In the end Naomi’s emptiness was turned to fulfillment.

So how do we avoid compromise? First of all, we must begin every day with prayer. This is our opportunity to talk with God, to hear His heart, and to understand His will for our lives. By beginning each day with prayer, we invite God to lead our lives and we commit ourselves to be obedient to where He leads us. By doing so, we will more likely avoid compromise.

Secondly, we must make God’s word our standard for living. We must know and understand what God is saying and what purpose he has for our life. His purpose is revealed through the Word and is given to us so we know how to live for Him. David cried to God and said How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalms 119:9-11). The secret to avoid compromise is the Word.

Thirdly, we must make God a priority in our life. Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church made what seemed to be an unusual statement but when understood it is an accurate one. We must be in love with God more than we are in love with the Bible. We must know Him and love him more than we love what He has written. Understand what I am saying. We can love the Bible and reverence Bible more than we reverence our relationship with Him. Pastor Morris noted that he had a handwritten note from Pastor Jack Hayford. It was a great note of encouragement and of Jack’s love for one of his disciples. Pastor Morris stated that he loved the letter and kept it near him but He loved Jack much more than He loved the note Jack had written.

Fourth and finally, we must obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Once we have prayed, read the word, and have made Him a priority in our life, we must obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we connect with God, we will find that the Holy Spirit will speak more and more often. And as we learn to discern His voice, we will be more prone to follow after Him and avoid compromise in our lives.

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Joseph: Dysfunction, Detours and Destiny – Part 4

Peninsula Community Church

October 4, 2015

Joseph: Dysfunction, Detours and Destiny – Part 4

Genesis 48:1-6 – After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And it was told to Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to you.” Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed. And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession. ’ And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.

Today, we finish the series “Joseph: Dysfunction, Detours, and Destiny.” We began this series by looking at the dysfunction in Joseph’s family and the passivity of his father Jacob. As we come to the conclusion of this study, there is one last aspect of this story that needs to be shared. In Joseph’s day, it was important for the father who was dying to gather his children around him and pronounce a blessing on each one. We find Jacob doing that in his latter days. There is a sense in the way Jacob did this that he was saying I have blown so many opportunities to be the father over this family I should be, I don’t want to miss this one last opportunity to love them. Perhaps, I can undo some of the pain and hurt I have caused.

In our culture, today, we do not always understand the power of blessing as much as they did in Jacob’s day. For Jacob’s sons this was a big deal. This was huge. The blessing was in essence an opportunity for the father to speak words of encouragement and life over his children. The blessing was a means to present their children with a future dream and hope. It was in essence a prophetic word. The blessing not only included words but it also included touch. The father  would usually extend his right hand and place it on the son’s shoulder. This was an act of honor and respect for his son. Upon doing that he would pronounce a blessing that encouraged and gave that child a picture of what his future could look like.

As we read the story before us, we find that Jacob blesses his sons but he also does a couple of things that were outside the norm of their day. For one, he blessed Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim and adopted themas his own. It seems he wanted to be sure that they were to be treated fairly by his other sons. We cannot forget that Jacob loved Joseph and his brothers had resented that so he wanted to be sure that they were taken care of. The second curios thing is that Jacob blessed Ephraim, the youngest son, first. This displeased Joseph and he reacted to his dad’s choice.

Listen to the story from Scripture. When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying,“By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh. ’”Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow (Genesis 48:17-22).

Did you hear the words of blessing? Jacob knew what he was doing. He prophetically stated that the younger brother would be greater than his older brother. The younger son would become a multitude of nations. Notice that he was not critical of the older brother, but Jacob was sure that Ephraim would be a greater nation. Jacob wanted to be sure that Ephraim understood that this was the destiny to which he was being called. To make this a tangible blessing, Jacob gave Joseph’s two sons a significant peace of property where they would live and ultimately reign.

With all of that said you may ask how does this apply to my life? Well let me say this. While we may not have an official rite of blessing in our society, we need to be in the business of blessing those in our lives. Parents should bless their children. Grandparents should bless their grandkids. Husbands should bless their wives and vice versa. Here is the bottom line. The principles of blessing can transform marriages, friendships, and adult-siblings and grown children for that matter. We must look for ways to bless and not curse or destroy. And we must do so before we are on our death bed. It must be a regular occurrence.

John Trent counselor and author has suggested five key things to consider ways to blessing others. These include 1) meaningful and appropriate touch, 2) a spoken message, 3) attaching high value to the one being blessed, 4) picturing a special future for him or her, and 5) an active commitment to fulfill the blessing.

Let’s review these for a moment. Meaningful touch is the act of physically communicating warmth, acceptance, and affirmation by touching the other person in a meaningful way. In the Old Testament, before a word was spoken, there was the laying on of hands, a hug, or a significant touch. Appropriate touch is a powerful, non-verbal way to communicate our love and affirmation. If you read the blessing Jacob gave to his sons, you will see that he kissed his grandchildren. He held them close, and he placed his hands on them.

Studies have shown that meaningful touch elevates the hemoglobin in the blood. When this happens, the cells in the blood are able to carry more oxygen which invigorates body tissue. A study at UCLA found that men and women need eight to ten meaningful touches a day to maintain emotional and physical health. This does not mean that we touch our spouses or children repeatedly ten times so we can check that off of our list. There is much more to it than that. Touch must communicate love and respect.

A spoken message is the verbalization of love and acceptance. We need both touch and spoken words to communicate our love, affection, and affirmation. We must understand that words have the power to build up but they also have the power to destroy. Solomon one of the authors of Proverbs knew this well when he stated that Death and life are in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Spoken words are critical as individuals are not left to fill in the blank in terms of what we think of them. Through the verbal communication of our love and appreciation others will know they are valuable.

In many homes today such words of love and acceptance are seldom received. Too often, we can believe that love is communicated simply by our presence. What a tragic misconception? A blessing fulfills its purpose only when it is actually verbalized. It must be spoken in person, or written down. For a child and for that matter an adult who is searching for affirmation and blessing, once’s silence communicates mostly confusion. Children who are left to fill in the blanks when it comes to what their parents think about them will often fail the test when it comes to feeling valuable and secure. So speak words of life and hope today.

Attaching high value sends a message to our children and loved ones that they are seen as valuable and accepted. This involves the words themselves. To bless another means we believe that the person you are blessing has incredible worth and value. Even an imperfect person has value. In short, you are helping others see that they are special, useful, and have great value. Use word pictures if necessary to help them understand your love. Tell them that you love them more than just at holidays and special events. Speak life over your loved ones. The idea here is that we don’t just use random words but we look for those things in one’s life where we can encourage them and help them see their own value. That is what Joseph did to Ephraim. He saw something in him and he communicated that vision to him.

Picturing a special future involves helping our children and the people around us know that God has awesome plans for their life and he has something wonderful for them to do in the future. When we touch, we use words that attach high value, there comes a response in a child or loved one’s heart that can be nothing short of transformational. When the light of understanding is turned on in their heart and mind and they catch a glimpse of how God has made them, they can do more than they ever dreamed in living out a God-honoring future. God did that for us when he spoke through Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29:11. I know the plans I have for you…

Finally, an active commitment communicates a willingness to do everything possible to help the one being blessed be successful. Genuine commitment is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person that says as long as I have breath, I will be there to seek to build these five elements of the blessing into your life and life-story. Why is active commitment so important when it comes to bestowing the blessing? Words alone cannot communicate the blessing; they need to be backed with a willingness to do everything possible to help the one blessed be successful. We can tell a child, “You have the talent to be a very good pianist.” But if we neglect to provide a piano for that child to practice on, our lack of commitment has undermined our message.

Parents today, in particular, need to rely on the Lord to give them the strength and staying power to confirm their children’s blessing by expressing such an active commitment. They, too, have God’s Word through the Scriptures as a guide, plus the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Can you imagine with me for a moment how different life would be if we were all giving words of life to those around us? Now I know there are some in this world who seem too far gone but that is never the case. Look for ways to give life giving words and hope to them as you encounter them. Don’t lie to them, but sincerely look for ways to give and communicate blessing to those in our lives. What they do with those words and actions are their choice but you have honored God and you have accomplished you part in the task.

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