Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Door of Invitation

Peninsula Community Church

Door of Invitation

June 26, 2016

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

In the past few weeks we have looked at the door of hope and the door faith. We found that through Christ the door of sorrow, disappointment, and trouble can be turned into a door of hope. The fact is there is nothing beyond the power of God to bring change. The door of faith taught us what faith is and what faith is not. Through that teaching we learned how we can step forward by faith into the things God has called us.

As I was preparing for this message, the memories of my childhood came rushing to the forefront. First of all, I remember when I grew up our doors were always open. This was in part because we needed circulation in our home as we had no air conditioning. But it was also a means by which we welcomed people into our home. In fact family and friends did not even have to knock they would just shout out to us as they came through the door. We felt safe and we felt that no one would harm us. That has certainly changed in our lifetime. I would guess that most of us never leave our doors open. Today, we are more guarded about who comes into our homes. Most of us have locks and dead bolts on our doors and many of us have an alarm system to protect us from unwanted guests.

I can also remember a day when the fuller brush man, the encyclopedia salesman, and the vacuum salesman would go door to door to push their wares. Today that has also changed. When the door bell rings how many of us answer the door with joy, especially when we look outside  and see an uninvited guest. The result is that we have become guarded, fearful, and isolated. In many cases instead of being welcoming we have instead shut people out of lives. Unfortunately we have done this to Jesus as well. We have become guarded, fearful, and isolated in our Christian experience.

It is interesting that Jesus, when writing to the church of Laodicean, wrote that He was standing at the door and knocking. The church of Laodicean was one of the seven churches of Asia Minor to whom Jesus was writing to encourage and warn them of their spiritual condition. Jesus knew their spiritual condition intimately and He was warning them, they needed to change. We see this in the fact that Jesus pulls no punches in His analysis of this church as He calls them a lukewarm church.

He does this because the Laodicean Church had everything that it needed but it had left God out of the equation. They were trying to do good things but without the One who could make it happen. They had a false sense of who they were. They were going through the motions of Christianity without the power source. They were Christian in name but were not accomplishing much for God. They professed Christ but they trusted their abilities and their riches more than they trusted the one who died for their sin. They had therefore been neutralized in their effectiveness for Christ.

This was such an egregious act that Jesus makes an amazing statement in regard to their lukewarmness. He states that He would rather that they would be hot or cold. He is warning them about towing the line in the middle. He defines this as being lukewarm. He was saying  to them that they not try to play both sides of the fence. He was saying do not be half in and half out. By being lukewarm their effectiveness as believers had been diminished because lukewarm things serve no purpose. Cold water protects and preserves food while hot water is used to cook and prepare food. Lukewarm water does neither. It is ineffective to accomplish anything of value. It is interesting that this illustration of lukewarmness here is not a matter of being a Christian or not. It is a matter of being a believer that is fully committed and dedicated to the cause of Christ.

When we read through the Bible, we find that this idea of choosing is not a new theme of Scripture. Throughout the Bible we find references to believers choosing who and how they will serve the One true God. In the Old Testament, Joshua challenged the children of Israel. In Joshua 24:14-15, in one of his final messages to the nation, Joshua encouraged them to choose who they would serve. His challenge was simple. Choose God or choose Baal but choose one or the other and don’t ride the fence. He was saying, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot claim to serve God and then serve the devil at the same time. The result will be a fruitless life that is filled with a dissatisfaction with God and others.

Jesus also reminds us of this need to choose in Matthew 6:24. He stated that “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The Laodicean Church had become comfortable with their riches and their abilities when in fact they were wretched, blind, and spiritually poor. They had in fact deceived themselves into believing that they were ok with God. With the Laodicean Church Jesus had a response that might surprise us. He stated that the result of being lukewarm is that He would spit them out of His mouth. He is saying to them their spiritual condition is not tolerable and it is unacceptable.

As Jesus does so often, however, while He reprimands the church about their spiritual condition, He offers a way of renewal and He offers hope. First, Jesus says to buy from Him gold that is refined by fire so that they might be rich in what really matters. Gold represents that which is eternal and that which lasts. Riches will be lost. Success will fail. What we have stored away will become rusted and rotted. For that reason Jesus made this statement about this matter. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21). Their treasure was in themselves and not in the riches of Christ and who He was.

Secondly, Jesus paints a picture of Him standing at the door and knocking. He stands at the door of your heart because He wants to abide with you and not just visit. Before we look at this let me clear up a couple of misinterpretations or misunderstandings of this passage. Too often this verse is interpreted as if Jesus is knocking on the door of the sinner’s heart but that is not who Jesus is concerned with here. He is knocking on the door of the lukewarm believer who is settling for a wishy washy and uncommitted way of life.

Secondly, it has been suggested by some of America’s great pastors that Jesus was not just passively standing at the door but rather He was pounding on the door with a sense of urgency.  He meant business with the church. He loved them enough that He was willing to get serious about their condition and He was unwilling to settle for anything but their best. Jesus was standing at the door of the believers heart to usher in a new day. His desire was to come in and abide with them. In John 15 we are reminded that if we abide in Him, He will abide in us. He in fact desires to live in relationship with us. He desires to reside with us and not just visit us. This is important as we tend to treat visitors differently than we do people who reside with us.

Listen to this statement by Pastor John Piper. Christ did not die to redeem a bride who would keep him on the porch while she watched television in the den. His will for the church is that we open the door, all the doors of our life. He wants to join you in the dining room, spread a meal out for you, and eat with you and talk with you. The opposite of lukewarmness is the fervor you experience when you enjoy a candlelit dinner with Jesus Christ in the innermost room of your heart. And when Jesus Christ, the source of all God’s creation, is dining with you in your heart, then you have all the gold, all the garments, and all the medicine in the world. You have healing and the result is that you are an overcomer through Christ.

Finally, we witness, through this action of Jesus, that no matter how you have lived your life He is standing at the door of your heart and He wants to come in and dine with you. We are reminded that there is nothing that you can do to get Christ to stop loving you. You cannot get Christ to hate you. He loves you and He desires a personal relationship with you.

So how do you buy gold when you’re broke and spiritually drained? We do so by praying, and trusting the promise: ‘I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.’ When He dwells in the innermost room of our affections, He brings us the power to conquer selfishness and live for others.”

So what do we do with this message. We invite Christ to reside in our hearts and not just visit with us. We open the door to our hearts and invite Him in to live with us. Perhaps your relationship with Christ has become stale and so it seems that Christ is distanced from you. Perhaps you have never opened your heart to Christ. Regardless of where you are today if you will open the door of your heart, He will come in and He will dine with you. He will spread a table of riches and nourishment that cannot be gotten by any other means.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Door of Faith

Peninsula Community Church

The Door of Faith

June 12, 2016 

Acts 14:27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Good morning! Last week we began a series on four Biblical doors that are critical to our walk in Christ and our ministry to the world around us. I want to continue looking at these doors this morning. Last week we looked at the door of hope. We were encouraged by the fact that our valley of trouble, discouragement, and sorrow can be turned into an opportunity of hope (Hosea 2:15). We also realized that God does not waste anything in our lives. In fact, our sorrow and our trouble can actually be used by God for our good and the good of others (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).

Today, I would like to look at the second of these doors. It is the door of faith. Just as much as hope is an important part of our life so is faith. We are reminded in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. This is an incredible concept. Faith is the basis for all that we do. Faith is the requirement to accept Christ but it is also a requirement to live our life to its fullest. Faith is the mechanism by which we please and honor God with our lives.

Before we look at this passage, specifically, let us take a moment and understand what Biblical  faith is. We begin with Hebrews where the writer states Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Hebrews 12:1-2). Faith at its core is a belief in and an assurance in the creator of the universe. It is a belief that there is more to life than what is visible to us now. It is a belief in One who not only created the heavens and the earth but also created us in His image. That is a powerful truth but one that can be hard to grasp. Though it might be hard it is necessary as it is the very essence of our faith. In this passage we find that faith is the substance or assurance of the things hoped for. It is what our hope is made of as it is the conviction about things not seen. It is a conviction that God will do what He said He would.

While faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen we must also see that Biblical faith does not reject or deny reality. You see true faith is never based on a false premise or idea. In fact, I would suggest that real faith is a recognition of truth and one’s reality. Once we know truth and what is real, then faith calls us to trust God in spite of the reality we are experiencing. By basing our faith on truth we are less likely to be discouraged by the event or the reality of the situation we face. Let me illustrate this. If I have a headache, I cannot deny the fact I have a headache. Denying the headache does nothing to heal it.

To exercise my faith, I must first admit the truth that I do indeed have a headache. When I recognize I have a headache I can take something for it and I can pray and trust God for the headache to go away. I lived this out a couple of weeks ago. I woke up with an incredible headache across my forehead that ran down to my lower neck. I could hardly think straight as a result. I took Advil. I tried to sleep but nothing helped. Because of the reality of the headache I continued to ask God to remove the pain. You see my faith did not deny the pain but rather it moved me to pray and trust God to take care of it. And He did.

There are also times when we must take a step of faith without knowing what the future holds. In some cases there is no evidence of what God is going to do or even what the outcome will be but we trust God, trust His will, and His purpose for our life anyway. We step out in faith with the knowledge we have and let God take care of the rest.

Finally, we must understand that faith is not an opportunity to do or get whatever we want. I love what Max Lucado had to say about this. He stated that “faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.” That is so true. Our wants and desires must be submitted to God who is faithful and is ready to fill us with His power and grace. Sometimes we falsely believe that faith allows me to desire anything and that He somehow has to submit to my demands. That is not faith. A number of years ago we were looking to buy a house. We were told by someone that we should find the house we wanted, then stand in front of the house and demand that God would give us the house. To them anything else would be a lack of faith. But that is not faith, faith is an understanding of truth and a reaction to God’s grace and to His will.

Let us now turn to the passage before us today. One of the greatest steps of faith to be made is to receive Christ as our Savior. In terms of faith, it is a two-fold process. It takes faith to receive Christ and it tales faith to share Christ with others. To be honest it is in the sharing of our faith that our faith is often tested the most. Paul is communicating that a door of faith has been opened to the Gentiles. This was no easy task but faith had been given to them which resulted in a door of receptivity being opened.

To understand this we need to understand the history of the Jews and Gentiles at this time. First of all the Gentiles and Jews were not friends. In fact, they were antagonistic to each other. It was a bit of an interesting phenomena. The Jews did not want to share the gospel with the Gentiles and the Gentiles certainly did not want to hear the Jew’s gospel. This was in part because the Jews were making it so hard for the Gentiles to come to Christ as they were adding all of these extra steps to the process. For example, the Jews wanted them to be circumcised but the Gentiles rejected that and in the process they rejected Christ as well. But God had a different plan for the Gentiles. He was about to open the door of faith to them that would allow them to accept Christ. God used two men in particular to change the course of history for the Gentiles. This is one of those monumental times in the history of the church. The actions of these two men now echo thorough the hallways of history. And as a result we are sitting here today as believers in Christ because of these men’s response to God.

Cornelius and Peter were ordained of God and started a revolution. They revolted against the norms of the day and were obedient to God’s calling upon them. In Acts 10 we have their story. As we read the story, we find that Cornelius, a converted Gentile, was in prayer and God gave Him a vision of one who could come and bridge the gap between the Gentile system of belief and the Jewish believer’s system of belief. By virtue of a vision received by Cornelius he went to find Peter and invited Peter to share the message of Christ. The amazing thing is that at the same time Peter had a vision as well. He had a vision of a blanket being let down from the sky containing all of the foods that were forbidden to be eaten by the Jews. What Jesus was saying is that Peter was to move outside his comfort zone. He was to go to those who were not like him.

One of the great hindrances to finding an open door of faith is that we do not share Christ because it does not fit into our comfortableness. Peter was called to move outside his comfort zone to share Christ with those to whom he was called. He had to give up his religious traditions in order to bridge the gap between the Jews and the Gentiles. Notice he did not compromise the message he simply modified the approach. In so doing, the Gentiles came to know Christ and the Jews and the Gentiles were united together by faith.

A second point here is that they also had to move outside of the way it had always been done. You see the Jews wanted the Gentiles to come to Christ through Judaism and not through the work of Christ. Jesus recognized this when He stated that “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:7-13). Note here that Jesus said that He is the door. He is the avenue by which we come to Christ and it is the same avenue that those around us will come to Christ as well. He is the door. He is the way to heaven. Any other method of salvation is an open door for the thief to come to rob, steal, kill, and destroy. Coming to faith by any other door will cause there to be a false sense of hope and a false sense of one’s future.

So in the final analysis we find that a door of faith was opened for the Gentiles so that they could be born into the family of God. With that said let me make a couple of final observations in this regard. First of all the door of faith was opened by Christ alone. It was not Christ and something else as in the case of circumcision. It was Christ. So it is for us today. Salvation comes from Christ alone. We don’t work for it we simply receive it.

Secondly, the Gentiles were reached right where they were. They did not have to change to receive Christ. They did not have to become Jews as Christ accepted them just as they were. And because Christ received them where they were, He imparted to them the fulness of God by way of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ saved them and filled them with all that He was.

Thirdly and finally, Cornelius and Peter were found faithful and as a result there was an echo of faith extended through the centuries to where it has touched us here in this little town of Selbyville. In the moment they were faithful they acted on the calling of God and they became bridge builders between not just the Jew and Gentile but between the lost and Christ. That is our call today. We can pray for an open door of faith for us as well. We can pray that we too can share our faith those around us. We will see them go through the door of faith and enter into a relationship with Christ. Then will receive all that God has to offer.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Comforted to Comfort

Peninsula Community Church

June 5, 2016

Comforted to Comfort 

As I was preparing this message I was drawn to the doors that are represented through the Bible. In fact studying this I came across four doors that I believe are critical to our growth and our understanding of the love of God for us. These four doors also represent the ministry we have to those around us. I trust that you find them as interesting and powerful as I do.

The four doors that I am speaking of are represented by the door of hope, the door of faith, the door of opportunity, and the door of invitation. Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at these doors and how they apply to our life. Before we do that, let me make a couple of brief observations about doors as a whole. First of all, doors are designed for privacy. For the most part doors keep some things in and other things out. In so doing doors provide an opportunity for protection and safety. Doors often define who we are and our status. In our home we all have those doors that no one outside the family will go through. And finally, doors represent a future for us because we never venture into our future unless we go through the doors presented to us.

With that said lets us look at the first door which is the door of hope. In Hosea 2:15 we find these words. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. On a first read of this passage this may not seem like much but we must understand that the term or word for Achor means trouble or sorrow. So what is Hosea communicating? He is saying that the Valley of Achor or the valley of trouble and sorrow will become a door of hope. In other words, our sorrows and the trouble we experience can be the very thing that God uses to bring hope and life to us and subsequently to others.

Perhaps the best way to understand this is to go back to the original story that Hosea is basing his comments on. After the Children of Israel had crossed over into the Promise Land they had to confront the city of Jericho. Before they battled Jericho they had been given specific instructions on how to do battle with the first city they encountered. This came by way of prayer and by seeking God’s will as to what they were to do. As we know, they obeyed God’s commands and the walls of Jericho came down just as God had promised. They were obedient and God was faithful to protect and to do battle on their behalf.

Now lets fast forward to a few weeks later where we find Israel facing yet another city (Joshua 7). They now had to encounter the city of Ai which was another stronghold they needed to defeat. But as we read the story we find there are a couple of issues. First, during the battle with Jericho we find them seeking God and seeking His will about the battle. But at Ai there is no record of them praying or seeking God before they went into battle. It appears they were relying on their past exploits to get them to where they wanted to be. Instead of seeking God they just moved a head into battle. They were in fact prideful and lived like they did not need God. And as a result they lost big time. They were routed out of the city and many of their soldiers were killed.

Secondly, we find that not only did they not pray and listen for God’s will but one of their members were defiant and disobedient to God’s plan. God had commanded that during the battle of Jericho they were not to take any spoils of war. They were to depend on God for His provision and His protection. But they disobeyed. One member of their community disobeyed God big time. The man was Achan and he took from Jericho a fine garment and some of the gold and silver. This may not seem like much today but it was a matter of specific disobedience to God’s command. And God could not allow disobedience to reign in them.

Rather than trust God they began to trust their own ingenuity and their own abilities. The result of Achan’s disobedience and him taking of the spoils of war was that he and his family were stoned to death. This was a difficult time for Israel. Because of the sorrow and difficulty faced by Israel they named the place where Achan was stoned the Valley of Achor. As we noted before the name Achor means sorrow, disappointment, and trouble. Achor was an appropriate name because of the sorrow, the disappointment, and the trouble they were experiencing. They lost the battle at Ai, they lost loved ones, and now one of their own had to be killed because of disobedience. They were in sorrow! They were in trouble! The Bible defines this emotional moments as their hearts being melted and becoming as water (Joshua 7:5). What a illustration? They were destroyed emotionally. It was from this place of pain and hurt that Hosea proclaimed though they are experiencing deep pain and hurt God would transform the valley of Achor into a door of hope. The very trial they experienced would be used to deliver them.

But how does this apply to us? First of all my guess is we have all had a Valley of Achor experience. We have all faced disappointment and discouragement. We have been filled with sorrow because of the events of our life. We have experienced lost hope. We have all experienced our hearts feeling like they have melted and we have beed weakened by the pressures of life. But there is a promise of hope and life. God has promised that He will make our Valley of Achor a door of hope.

Perhaps you are going through a deep valley at this moment in your life. As a Christian, you might question God’s concern for you while you are walking through your personal valley of sorrow. Adoniram Judson, a great missionary to Burma, was in prison because of his faith. In prison he was taunted by his Burmese captors. They continued to ask him again and again, “How does your future look to you now?” Their desire was to further his discouragement and to use his sorrow against him. That is exactly what the enemy does to us. The enemy attempts to take our sorrow and use it against us. But in Judson’s case he had a strong faith in God and the Word of God. His response was this.“My future is as bright as the promise of God.” Judson depended on God and He trusted God to keep His promises. That is what he focused his future on.

While we might take a journey through the valley of sorrow we do not have to fear nor do we have to take up residence in the Valley of Achor. Why is that? It is because God is with us. He, Jesus came to give us life and to heal our brokenness. He came to give us a door of hope. Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah 61:1-4. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—  to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. To fully understand this passage we must know that in Isaiah’s day everyone knew when you were in sorrow and in trouble. How? you would put on sack cloth or burlap. You would smear ashes around your face and you would mope around town as if you were on your death bed.

I do not know about you but I am blessed by these words. My brokenness, my sorrow can be healed by God. No matter what I go through God can heal the brokenness and the sorrow I experience. Instead of ashes, we are given a beautiful headdress. We have been given the oil of gladness instead of mourning. Instead of a faint spirit we have given a garment of praise. The result is that we are called oaks of righteousness. This means we are strong and we can endure the trials of life. Here’s the deal through Christ we overcome.

But there is another aspect that bears our discussion in terms of the door of hope. It is that our sorrow and the difficulties we face are never wasted. What we think is our worse moment, God turns it around for our good. Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

What is the plan of God? It is to encourage us and to deliver us so we can be a blessing to others. Carter Conlon the pastor of Times Square Church in Manhattan stated that “One of the reasons we will have tribulation in this world is because it is often the only way people around us will ever know that God is real. You and I will have to walk through the same fire, the same flood, the same difficult days as everybody else. However, the difference is that we have an inner source of strength that will carry us through and give us a song of praise.” What he is saying here is that in our tribulation we become real before those we encounter. By being real and allowing God to be real through us we have an opportunity to speak into others lives.

Let me let you in on a secret. One of the greatest tools for evangelism you will ever have is your testimony. We have all experienced God’s grace and His work in our life. You may not be a theologian but you have a testimony. You may not know the Roman Road but you know what God has done in you. You may not know the Scripture, but you know the promises that God has fulfilled in you. People want to know that we are real and that we serve a real God. We help them see that by sharing the sorrow we have experienced. We do so by letting God shine through us so that others see God and know His grace to us. You see you suffer so that others will see that you are real and that God is real as well.

This is not some mixed up plan from a diabolical God but it is a tool that He uses to bring life and to open doors of faith, opportunity and invitation to others. It glorifies God. Notice in the passage in Isaiah that read earlier. The Bible says that He gives us the oil of gladness, the beautiful headdress, and the garment of praise so that He will be praised and honored. That is our goal. That is our purpose to honor God and to let Him be honored through us.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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