Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Power of the Word

Peninsula Community Church

The Power of the Word of God

January 10, 2017

Psalm 19:7-11 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

As we have done for the last several years, we have provided you with a read through the Bible guide for you to use as you read through the Bible this year. Today, I would like to share some thoughts on maximizing the effectiveness of your reading time. I have chosen a passage from the Old testament that I believe focuses our attention on the value of the Word of God in our life. The reason I focus on this is that I have learned that we will engage in the things that we value. So today we will focus on the value of the Word of God with a goal of helping us to engage more effectively with our reading.

Before we get into the meat of this passage, I want to make a statement that may seem odd but it is nevertheless true. We must never lose sight of the fact that the Bible is so much more than the printed pages we have before us. We must have an awareness that the words represented on these pages represent God himself. The word is God breathed and represents the very essence of God. Through the pages of Scripture, God is revealed to us. Through the pages of Scripture, the mysteries of life are revealed. Through the pages of Scripture, the great questions of life are answered and we have at our disposal a road map to live life to its fullest.

With that said, let’s look at Psalm 19 for a few moments. In this passage, the Word of God is described by several adjectives. It is the law, the testimony, the precepts, the commandments, the fear, and the rules of God. Each of these adjectives define a significant purpose of the Word for our lives. Notice that this is not just any Word, it is the word of the Lord. It is not just law it is God’s law. It is not just any testimony, it is the testimony of God. So you see it is not just written words, but they are God’s words given to us personally.

The Word is also described as being perfect. It is sure! It is right! It is pure! It is clean! It is true! And it is righteous! Notice also that through this passage, Scripture is not seen as passive but rather it is very active in our lives. How does it do this? Well, the Psalmist tells us that it revives the soul. It changes us from being simple minded to being filled with wisdom. It causes our heart to rejoice. It enlightens the eyes of our hearts so that we can understand truth and righteousness. The word of God also endures forever. Finally, the Word of God is righteous, it can be trusted.

So, let’s look at these phrases. First, the Psalmists says that the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  We understand the law defines Scripture as God’s law for man’s conduct. His law is the binding standard by which we are to live. Therefore, we gain an understanding as to how we are to live life on earth and in relationship with others. The word defined as perfect is not the same as flawless but it carries more of the idea of completeness. In other words it is all-sided. The Word of God is comprehensive and it is complete. It leaves nothing out. It is perfect! And because it is perfect, it is the perfect resource to restore the soul. That is why the writer of Hebrews penned these words. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  We can bank on the fact that the Word restores the soul which is the inner person. The law of the Lord is a perfect resource to transform and restore the soul.

The second idea presented here is that the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. In other words the Word is God’s self-revelation to us. By reading the Word of God we come to a greater understanding of who God is. You see a testimony is a personal witness to one’s own experiences. Through Scripture, we find God’s testimony of who He is. Thus, through the Word of God we find the heart, life, and personality of God revealed.

The testimony of God is also sure. That is, it is reliable and trustworthy. And what is the impact of this? It makes the simple wise. As we have discussed in Sunday School, we know that to be simple is to be ignorant. It also carries the idea of being opened minded. We hear this so much in our society today but this is not a good thing. To be open minded means that one does not control what comes in or goes out of their mind. To be open minded about everything creates an inability to discern, to distinguish, or to separate truth from what is false. That is not something to be proud of. Conversely the Word of God allows us to distinguish what is truth. It assists us to  know what we should allow in and at the same time what goes out of our minds. The word of God teaches discernment and discrimination. That produces wisdom in us.

The third aspect of the word is that the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. Precepts are principles, doctrines, and truths that guide our hearts. The Word of God gives us truths that are to be believed and trusted. The word here says that the precepts of the Lord are right. To understand this, we must understand that the word “right” does not mean right vs wrong as much as it has to do with the direction one is taking. Therefore, the passage teaches us that the precepts of the Lord give us direction for our lives. For that reason we can rejoice. When you walk on the right path you experience a heart of joy. David had this to say in this regard. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). The Word can and must direct our steps.

The fourth item here is that the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. We must understand that the commandments of God are commands and not suggestions. This is not a book of good thoughts or nice ideas, they are the commands of God. The word “pure” carries the idea of clear. The word is clear to those who seek it. The effect of the Word is that it enlightens the eyes. Because the commandments of the Lord are pure, our eyes are enlightened to the ways and direction that God desires for us to take. The bottom line is that the commandments of the Lord give us clarity to life’s issues and situations.

The fifth item noted here is that the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The word fear carries with it the idea of reverence, awe, or worship. In other words, the Bible shines a light on how we are to worship God in Spirit and in truth. The Bible is in fact a manual on worship. Notice that it says that this worship is clean. It is pure worship. It is undefiled worship. It is true worship. And what does this kind of worship do for us? It endures forever. The music style may change. The buildings may change. The people of worship may change but the truth of worship does not change. The person and object of our worship does not change. The Bible teaches us how to worship God and we can trust it because it endures forever and our worship should endure as well.

Finally, the judgments or the rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. The Bible gives us God’s verdict on everything in life. It is decisive. In a world of lies and in a world of  deception, the word of God is unequivocally true. The word of God produces comprehensive righteousness. This is the one document that sanctifies and purifies our soul. The fact is Scripture will not lead us to wrong or inappropriate decisions or to wrong actions because it is righteous. It will teach us how to live in community with one another.

So how do we apply this to our lives. As you do your reading this year, I encourage you to consider a couple of things. I suggest that you to ask some questions. First of all what is the passage communicating. Is the passage a law and therefore points out a way of living life that protects and guards us? Is it a testimony of God’s grace, His love, and Him just being God? Is there a precept that needs to be understood in order to regulate our behavior or our life’s goals? Is it a commandment that must be obeyed? Is there a rule to be followed? Does it represent the awesomeness of God’s character and His power? As we search for these nuggets, we will see the value of God’s word for us and it will come alive in us.

This is where journaling or taking notes is important. As you read Scripture, note what is being said and understand what it is saying to you, specifically. If you are new to the Word, I suggest that you find someone who is more mature so that you can ask them the critical questions about the passages you read. I would suggest that it is important to be in a small group or attend the Sunday School class on Sunday. It is there that our questions can be asked and discussed.  It is there, in community, that we can grow and become all that God desires for us.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Peninsula Community Church

Looking Back and Looking Forward

January 3, 2016

It is hard to believe that we have turned the page into a New Year. And yet, it seems that it was just yesterday that we turned a new page on the 2015 chapter of our lives. As we have turned the page into anew year, we must remember that the pages of our life for 2016 are relatively blank. Yes, we may have the same problems and the circumstances but the decisions we now make are all new.

Paul in his writings to the Church at Philippi understood this. He stated Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained (Philippians 3:12-16).

As we read this passage Paul says that he forgets what lies behind and he strains forward what lies ahead. We must realize that Paul is not saying that we should not remember the past but that the past must not dictate our present activity or our future responses to life’s issues. We have all been affected by problems and issues. Some of these are larger than life and others are those dripping faucet issues that are irritants more than anything else.

To use the vernacular of the day “Life Sucks.” Life is not fair. Life is filled with both joy and sadness and at times both occur at the same time. Life is filled with the unknown, unexpected, and the unrealized. The problem with life is that we do not know what the future holds, it is the unknown. We also know that life is filled with the unexpected. There are always great surprises both good and bad. And finally, life is filled with unrealized dreams and hopes. But as we enter a new year we can begin with a clean slate and we have the privilege of writing a brand new chapter in our life.

So with that in mind let us look at couple of things this morning. First of all we look back in order to remember what God has done on our behalf and to remember where we have come from. There are some in the church community that would tell you that we should never look back because that is somehow a lack of faith. Now I understand in part why they would propagate such a teaching, as we can be so focused on the past, that we fail to move into the future thus we fail to accomplish God’s will in the present. By being absorbed with the past, we allow the unknown, the unexpected, and the unrealized dreams of our life to determine our current state and the kind of future we will have.

While Paul states that he does not look back, the Bible is also replete with passages that encourage us to remember. To remember, we must look back at what God has done in us and around us. That is the reason I have asked these folks today to share their testimonies about what God has done in and through them in 2015. It is a way to look back and remember. We remember not so much the pain or the problems as much as we remember the grace of God and the power of God at work in our world.

In 1905 George Santayana wrote the following in his book The Life of Reason. “Those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This quote has been contributed to Winston Churchill who used a variation of the quote when he stated that “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” The idea here is that when we forget what God has done and the victories that have been won, we can forget the lessons learned in the process. You see there is no experience in life that does not afford us the opportunity to learn and to be instructed. Every experience in life gives us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, understand those with whom we interact, and to know more about God. This does not diminish the pain, the hurt, or the anger but it does put things into a better perspective for us.

In this regard, let me share a couple of ideas with you about having a fresh start in 2016. First of all stop making excuses and stop allowing past experiences to affect where you are and what you do.  In Proverbs 28:13 Solomon makes an invaluable contribution to this discussion. He states that Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. To not allow God’s forgiveness to flood our hearts is to shut off God’s mercy and grace. Too often we use our past to limit our success in the present. We can use the problems of the past as an excuse to not allow God’s grace and mercy to heal us. We then become stifled and stunted in our growth. How many people do you know seem to live their life looking backward? They count their losses, their regrets, and their failures. No wonder so many  live in defeat.

In the film “The Mission,” Robert DeNiro plays a mercenary who has taken asylum in the local church after killing his brother in a fit of jealous rage. He leaves the church and heads to a mission post located above the waterfalls in a South American jungle. Because of what he has done, and how bad he feels, he ties himself to a several-hundred pound net of items that represents his sinful life. He feels compelled to drag this sack of sin around with him as a way to do penance for what he has done. Have you ever felt like that? I suspect that some of you are tethered to some transgressions this morning. Others of you are gasping under the guilt of things you did several years ago. What do you do when you realize that you’ve messed up? How do you stabilize your life when you experience more ups and downs than the stock market? Do you grab some rope and hitch it up to your sin pile and start dragging it around? Or, is there something better? We can accept God’s forgiveness and let go of the past.

The second thing we can do is to take an inventory of our lives. Take some time to list the issues you face but also list the successes. I am sure that if you will take some time to do this you will find that there have been more successes than you might imagine. By taking inventory, we can have a picture of the realities of life but we can also have a picture of God’s grace and His mercy.

Thirdly, act in faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. What are you hoping for? What do you need to happen in 2016? What changes need to be made in your life? It all begins with faith. By faith we see mountains moved. By faith we see lives changed. When we walk in faith we do not always see positive movement but we continue to walk in faith. To lose faith is to be condemned to a lifeless journey. To lose faith sets us up to be beaten up by the obstacles, the circumstances, and the people in our lives.

Fourth, we must refocus on what is the reality of our life. When we are confronted with the problems of life we can become distracted and overwhelmed. But, as we begin this new year we must refocus our attention, our dreams, and our hopes on God’s will for our lives. The problem that occurs sometimes is that we have a picture in our mind of what life should be. That is not a bad thing as we need to have a dream. We need to have to things that we hold onto and that we hope for. The problem occurs when the picture in our mind is faulty or is based on a false reality.

Last week I mentioned how I have a dream that some day I will stand on a platform and play the drums or the guitar like a mad man. I would do rifts and drum sets that would cause people to stand and cheer. While this is a dream, I also know the reality of life. I am not musically inclined in that regard. I have taken piano and guitar and I was not successful in either. Sure I can dream about this but my focus must be on what God has called me to do.

The fifth thing we can do is to renew our trust in God. The fact is when life’s issues confront us we can loose hope and our trust in God can be shaken. Out trust in God is impacted because we can believe that God has failed us or He has let us down. We can become angry with God and dissatisfied with the actions that God has taken on our behalf. When that happens we need to refocus our trust on Him.

A number of years ago I was involved in a car accident. On my way home from church late one Friday night I had a pedestrian run out in front of me and they collided with my car. It was a surreal moment. There in my windshield was the face of this young man. My windshield shattered. He slid down the hood of my car onto the ground with no movement. My initial thought is that he was dead. But as I exited the car I began to see movement and then he jumped up to run. That accident effected me more than I imagined as I lost trust in my ability to drive in the sense that any time I saw a pedestrian on the side of the road I tensed up. I felt panic. And I became fearful that they would jump out in front of me. I had to overcome this fear. To do so, I had to trust that I could drive. I had to realize that the accident was a one time event.

You may have faced some uncertainty and difficult issues in your life. Most are probably outside your control or you ability to change and yet they are still real. They still happened. They have shaken your faith so much that you must learn to trust again. How do you do this, you do so by taking one step at a time, one decision at a time, and one problem at a time. We remember that God is still alive. He is still omnipotent. He is still saving. He grace is still amazing and He is still on the throne. We have a new chapter to write. May we do so in a way that we live in freedom and may we be empowered to live not in the past but in the present and with a hope for a new day.

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

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized