Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Power of a Grateful Life

Peninsula Community Church

The Power of a Grateful Life

November 27, 2016

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Last Saturday at our men’s breakfast I shared this passage briefly. When I left the breakfast I felt the push of the Holy Spirit to share this for thanksgiving Sunday as well. As I continued to pray and meditate on the passage, I felt encouraged even more to do so.

I think the reason for this in part is that there is so much around us that can rob of us of a grateful heart. We are faced with economic issues. So many are being overworked with little return on their investment. Sin is being manifested it seems without any boundaries. People and relationships are being tested beyond measure. There are health issues, job problems, spiritual issues, addictions, and moral failures that all lend themselves to an ungrateful heart.

Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi details for us how we can maintain a joyful, grateful heart. It exemplifies those things we are to focus on to create an atmosphere and a attitude of gratefulness. We should note that Paul does not write this from the advantage of a problem free life. In fact, his life was anything but problem free. Paul had been beaten. He had been left for dead. He was on board a ship that crashed. He had friends turn against him. His ministry had been rejected. The Jewish leadership did not accept him and in fact they had great disdain for him. He had been thrown out of several cities and towns because of his ministry and lifestyle and upon the occasion of this letter to the church at Philippi, Paul now found himself in prison. He had been thrown in prison because of his ministry and his work associated with the kingdom of God. He did not choose this way of living but instead he was forced into prison because of what he stood for and how he lived his life. Based on his circumstances, he should have been the most ungrateful person in the world but he was not. Instead of ungratefulness the theme of the book of Philippians, is joy.

As we read this passage, we find four key items that lend themselves to developing a grateful heart. First of all, we are called to celebrate what God has done. Paul calls us to rejoice and then he emphasizes that call by repeating himself. As we have noted on a number of occasions, when something is repeated in Scripture it means that it is important. Paul instructs us that we are called to celebrate what God has done because in doing so we will exhibit a lifestyle of joy and gratefulness. Paul states that we are to rejoice in the Lord Always. This means that our rejoicing in the Lord should be an ongoing process of worshipping Him and recognizing the place of God in our life.

Here is the rub for us, however. How can we rejoice when the events of life are not going well? Does that not seem impossible if not at least very strange. The point Paul is driving home is that we do not rejoice in the events or circumstances of our life but rather we rejoice in Christ. The fact is life is not fair and life is certainly filled with problems and difficulties. That is why our rejoicing is not in the events, circumstances, or even the people in our life. Our rejoicing should be focused on the Lord, who is Christ.

There are a couple of things about the Greek word used here for rejoice that bears comment. First of all the root of the word CHAIRETE, to rejoice, is the word for “grace.” This is important because at the root of our ability to rejoice is grace. We recognize that He, God, has done so much for us and when we recognize this it ushers us into place of praise. So the first way to maintain a grateful heart is to rejoice in God even when we do not feel like it.

A second idea expressed in this word is that the command to rejoice is in the present tense and the active voice. That means that it can be translated: “Go on being glad in the Lord.” In other words rejoice and keep on rejoicing in the Lord. Do not stop. Our rejoicing and celebration is not conditioned upon what we do or what happens to us. It is a work of grace within us. It is a gift and a gift worth receiving. It is a gift worth grasping and taking as our own.

A third comment worth noting is that there is a difference between earthly happiness and spiritual joy. Earthly happiness is produced and maintained by events, by things, by experiences, and these often involve money, moods, and materialism. Spiritual joy is a product of one’s relationship with God through Christ and is a constant in our life. Earthly happiness on the other hand fluctuates greatly as things happen or do not happen.

The second item that lends itself to having a grateful heart is that we are called to respect others. Paul calls us to let your reasonableness be known to everyone. What Paul is saying is that we must treat people with respect. When we have a grateful heart we tend to treat others in a more reasonable way. When we are grateful, emotions like jealousy, anger, and distrust are diminished. As I was preparing this, I came across this statement, Gentleness breathes grace into the midst of tension. Remember the truth of Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Here is the point, grateful people tend to be patient people. Grateful people tend to be gracious people.

 

The third item to consider for having a grateful heart is that we are not to stress over things, events, or people. Paul calls us to not to be anxious for anything. Wow! Can you imagine that Paul would dare say such a thing? Do not be anxious for anything is the command of Paul. How can Paul even think such a thing? Does he not know what we are dealing with? Does he not know the problems we have? For Paul this is not just a passing statement, it is a commitment to trust God. This is a reminder of Jesus’ own words in Matthew 6. Do not worry! Do not be anxious. It is a matter of trust in God’s ability to supply our needs, take care of the problems we face, and help us with those in our life that are hard to be grateful for. Once again, this call to a life without anxiousness is only possible as we focus on God and what He has provided for us. A lack of anxiousness also flows from a heart that is grateful because we recognize that God will supply our every need.

Listen to the words of Christ in Matthew 6. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Do not be anxious! God will provide all that we need.

The final item needed to have a grateful heart is that we are called to be focused on a heart of gratefulness. Paul calls us to prayer and supplication with a thankful heart. Being grateful is a matter of focus and where we place our affections. We are less grateful when we focus on ourselves and what we don’t have rather than on what God has already given us and provided for us. We are less selfish when we pray with an attitude of gratitude. From a heart of gratefulness we pray with expectation but not a selfish heart. Instead, we pray with the amazement of all God has provided.

At the end of this passage we see God’s response to a grateful heart. Paul states And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. In this, Paul describes two outcomes of walking in gratitude and thankfulness. The first response from God is that He will give us a peace that surpasses all understanding. Have you ever experienced that kind of peace? Have you experienced a peace that is almost indescribable? It is a peace that overwhelms us when we are overcome by the difficulties of life. It is a peace that controls us when what we want to do is explode and lash out. It is a peace that comforts us and establishes a patience and control in us that does not come from any other source.

How valuable is living at peace? I don’t know about you but to live in peace with myself is critical. I can live at peace because I live content in the Holy Spirit. That does not mean that I do not desire things or want things, it simply means that my desire for things never exceeds my ability to give thanks for what he has already been given. Think about this. When I live a grateful life I am less likely to want what I cannot have as I am so fully grateful what God has already given me and what God has already done for me.

The second response of God is that by living with a grateful heart God will guard our hearts and minds. Think about this, by having a grateful heart God protects our hearts and minds against the onslaught of negativity and the lies that are so often propagated by the enemy of our souls. Gratefulness transforms our heart and our mind.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be negative? We begin to look at the negative things around us and soon we sense we are becoming even more negative. A number of years ago we had a fellow that worked with us. He was always so negative and he was a bit of a hypochondriac. One day one of his buddies had enough of his negativity and decided to make a bet with his friends that he could get him to go home before lunch because he was sick. The bet was on and sure enough he was headed home by lunch. When questioned, the fellow who made the bet said it was simple. I continued to tell him that he did not look good and that there was a major stomach bug going around. He believed the lie.

The enemy loves to magnify the failures and difficulties of life but a grateful heart magnifies the glory of God. The enemy magnifies the problems but a grateful heart magnifies the good of life. We must be careful here because this never means that we deny the problems we face but rather they are always defined within the context of what God has done for us and a grateful heart.

As we close today I would like to do something a bit different. Instead of praying for anything I would like for us to take a moment and give thanks to God for what we have. In giving thanks we are motivated to gratefulness and praise. So, let us give thanks today!

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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By Faith: The Triumph of Faith

Peninsula Community Church

By Faith: The Triumph of Faith

November 20, 2016

Hebrews 11:32-40 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Well we are at the end of our journey in the Hall of Fame of Faith. It has been a fun adventure and we have learned so much about faith and about those who exhibited their faith under very difficult circumstances and situations. As we come to the end of this chapter, we find that the writer of Hebrew realizes there is not enough space or time to write about everyone who exhibited faith qualities in the Bible. Because of this, he summarizes many of the examples of faith in just a few words. It is almost like he posted a collage of people who were considered to have walked in faith to save time. For many of the stories there is no name associated with them, or there is a name without any detail to what they accomplished. All we know is that at the core of their story is a faith in God.

As we read this passage, we find these folks faced hardships and difficulties that were unbearable but their faith helped them to overcome every obstacle and every problem. What we learn today confirms what we have already experienced in the other exhibits in the hall of fame of faith. No matter what they faced they continued to focus on the one who was faithful and trustworthy. That is the lesson for us today. While the characters changed in the story and the circumstances that led to their difficulty changed, the focus of their faith did not change. Their faith in God helped them make it through whatever came their way.

That is what we must do also. No matter what comes, we must stay focused on the one who does not waiver or change. That is what we see in Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (and how do we do this, we do so by) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. No matter what comes into our lives, we must stay focused on Jesus who is not only the founder/author of our faith but He is also the perfecter of our faith. Therefore, Jesus does not only originate or begin our faith He also brings it to completion. The word here for perfecter or finisher means to make complete. That means we do not need anyone or anything else to give us spiritual faith. We do not rely on people or circumstances to establish our faith in God it is God’s doing and His work in us that brings faith and then brings our faith to a level of completion.

Do you get this? Jesus is the one in whom our faith is founded and He is the one who makes our faith complete. Without Jesus there would be no faith. So when we lack faith we turn to Christ. How do we accomplish this? We stay focused on Jesus. We keep our eyes on Him. You see we will go where our eyes take us. Have you ever been concentrating on something in front of you when you have been driving and then find yourself drifting off the side of the road when the car in front of you turns off. We must focus our attention on the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God. When we do that we will follow Him. That is why we are commanded to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, your strength, and your mind. 

Secondly, focusing on God may cost us but God will keep you. How do I know this? I know this because of the story of Daniel. This is just one of the many stories in the collage of faith at the end of the tour. By faith, the mouths of the lions were shut so that they could not cause him any harm. The amazing story here is that Daniel was taken into captivity by the Babylonian empire. He and others of Israel were chosen because they were young, smart, and good looking. The desire was to train them in the ways of Babylon but God had other plans for them. In the process, Daniel found favor with the king and was raised to a position of authority within the king’s court. Things were going well but those around the king became jealous. In fact the word that as used was “maliciously jealous.” They wanted to see Daniel taken out. As a result Daniel was forced to choose between worshipping the monument built to honor Nebuchadnezzar or to continue to worship God almighty. His choice was a life or death choice. He had to choose between worshipping God and worshipping the false gods of Babylon.

Even though he had to make a choice he was a righteous man and he trusted God with his life. His faith was counterpoised against the will of the King and what Daniel’s convictions called for. Daniels’s faith and his trust in God was being tested. For Daniel this was a crisis of faith. Would he make the right choice or would he succumb to the temptation to gain favor through compromise? For many of us that is the great challenge of life. Will we obey God or will we compromise our beliefs to gain favor with those around us or who those might impact us in either positive or negative ways?

If you have read the story, you know that Daniel made a choice that could cost him his life. He refused to bow down to worship the idol that had been erected. He chose rather to worship his God whom he trusted. For Daniel he did what was right in the sight of God but he was punished anyway. Others close to the king made sure he knew that he had not bowed his knee. They were jealous of Daniels’s relationship and it was their opportunity to exact revenge. There is a lesson here for us in that it is somewhat easier to accept punishment when we know we deserve it but it is extremely hard to receive a punishment when we know that we stood for truth and have done the right thing. It is much harder to navigate the issues of life when we know that we have done the right thing and still experience the negative effects and reactions of the issue.

If you know the story, you will remember that Nebuchanezzar was forced to put Daniel in the lion’s den because it was his edict that Daniel transgressed against. The next morning when the king came to look in on Daniel they expected the worse but as they opened the gate they were amazed at what they found. To their amazement Daniel walked out of the den without a bite mark or a scratch. God had intervened and the lions had not touched him. This reminds me of the words of Peter who stated that the enemy of our souls is like a roaring lion who is seeking who he can devour. The enemy can growl, roar, and swipe his claws at us but if we remain faithful he cannot harm us. He can frighten us and scare us but he can not take away our faith.

The greatness of this story is found in Daniel’s response to this miracle. Daniel proclaims O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths (God gets the glory for this), and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces (Daniel 6:21-24)

Notice something about this story. Daniel’s faith in God propelled him into the lion’s den because he would not compromise but it was also his faith in God that saved him. Because he was a righteous man and a passionate follower of God he was righteous in his thinking, his attitudes, and his focus. He trusted God and God came through big time. God kept the lions at bay. If you do not believe this look what happened to those who were found guilty of setting Daniel up. His accusers were thrown into the den and the lions did not hesitate to devour them. It is as if God wanted them to know that the reason that Daniel was saved was not a lack of appetite on the part of the lions but the glory of God that kept Daniel safe.

Finally, our focus is on Christ but it is also on what is yet to come. As we read at the end of this passage we find And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. What the writer is saying is that there is something much better for us. The future is ahead and God has great plans. While we have to live life in the present we do so with a future in mind. The problem is that we get so trapped in the present that we miss what is ahead. We can be so trapped in what is happening now or in the past that we miss that God is moving and working on our behalf for our future.

Most of those who are listed in Hebrews 11 never saw their dreams totally fulfilled but that did not stop them from being obedient. They were waiting for a day that they would come and they would live with God forever. Their faith was based in the hope of God but also in the future promise given to them. They looked to the day that Messiah would come and they looked for the day that their eternal home was prepared for them. They realized that this world was not their home. It was only a stopping off place. God had a better place and He had a better life for them.

In the final analysis, the overall lesson of the Hall of Fame of Faith is that we must trust Christ and He is worthy of our trust. He is the Lion and the Lamb that sits on the throne and is fighting for us every moment of every day. He is with us and that means everything. So in the few moments we have left I would ask that you focus your attention on Christ. No matter what you are facing turns your eyes toward Jesus. He is faithful and He is trustworthy.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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By Faith – Living as a Community of Faith

Peninsula Community Church

By Faith – Living as a Community of Faith

November 13, 2016

Hebrews 11:29-30 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

As we continue our adventure through the Hall of Fame of Faith, we come to a section of the study that moves us from focusing on an individual’s faith to the corporate faith of the people as a whole. So far, we have looked at the faith of individuals who stood tall among their peers. By faith they encountered major tests in their lives which they all passed. You see while one’s personal faith is critical we need to also recognize that corporate faith is just as critical and important. Notice in this passage, there is no mention of any one single individual. Instead, we find the Israelites were recognized as a whole for their faith. In mass, they had a faith that would sustain them and keep them. Their faith was based on a strong trust in God and what God had accomplished for them already.

In the Biblical economy of things, we find there are many stories related to the value of corporate faith. At the same time, we have stories where a negative response to faith was demonstrated. Remember the twelve spies (Numbers 13:25-14:5). Two of the spies walked in faith while ten of the spies were faithless and saw the size of the giants rather than the largeness of God. We find that ten of the spies gave a bad report and caused the people to lose faith. So instead of taking forty days to enter into the Promised Land it took them forty years. You see God had to move them to a place where they could trust God completely and God used the wilderness journey to make that happen.

There was also a time when Moses was on the mountain top where he received the Ten Commandments. Because it seemed that Moses was taking too long to come off the mountain, Aaron and the people decided to take things into their own hands (Exodus 32:1-16). Instead of following after God, the people decided to make a golden calf to worship. They refused God’s way and devised another way to reach God. These stories show us that on these two occasions the children of Israel lacked the faith they needed. They moved together as one body even if it was in the wrong direction. I am so grateful that in our passage today we have two stories of victory and a communal approach to faith.

In the first story, they had faith to follow Moses through the Red Sea and in the second story they were able to fight against Jericho without a shot fired, so to speak. They were obedient and God came through for them. As they approached the Red Sea everything was against them. The odds of them making it across the Red Sea was not very good. They were blocked in by Pharaoh’s army who was charging hard towards them. Pharaoh’s army would surely kill them or arrest them so that they would have to return to the bondage of Egypt. In Exodus 4:10-14 we find that they were filled with fear and regret. What were they going to do? They were struggling but when Moses spoke to them they were able to refocus their attention on God.

They also needed a miracle and that is just what they received. As Moses raised his staff into the air, the water began to part. Suddenly in front of them there was a pathway of escape but God did more than part the waters. He made it so that the ground they were to walk on would be dry enough so they could cross over on solid ground. As the enemy approached and tried to navigate the same path the Israelites had gone through, Pharaoh’s army was destroyed because the water returned to its original place. You see the Children of Israel had great faith while Pharaoh’s army had great courage but courage is never enough to succeed, we need faith and our faith must be focused in the right place.

The critical point here is that the Children of Israel journeyed across the Red Sea together. They walked on dry ground that had been wet and muddy just a few moments earlier. It is also noteworthy that they did not go ahead of God as they would have been bogged down in the Sea. They did not lag behind as they would have been sucked into the sea when the waters returned. They moved as one body in perfect rhythm to God’s timing. The Psalmist spoke of this kind of unity in Psalm 133:1-3 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

The lesson here is that it is good and pleasant for the people of God to dwell and move as one body. There is a godly anointing (the oil on the head) that comes from walking in unity. There is a refreshing spirit (the dew of Hermon) that comes as we serve together and we walk together. Notice this is not only a good idea for the body of Christ to walk as one body but it is an absolute necessity for this to occur. As believers, there is a power in being a community of believers rather than flying through life as a solo artist. You see we are stronger together than we are apart. By navigating through life together we get the privilege of encouraging one another in the faith. Can you grasp the opportunity that availed itself to the Children of Israel? Together they could encourage one another on the journey. They could pray for one another. They could pick up one another when they fell. They helped each other carry their burdens and the loads that weighed them down. They cheered each other in the midst of struggle and even possible death.

The classic passage that expresses this is found in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. The word picture that comes to mind here is the coal briquette from the fire that gets dislodged and finds itself alone. Once this happens that ember begins to die out and it begins to lose its power as a source of energy and fire. Once reintroduced to the fire, the ember begins to burn brightly again. So it is with us, we can choose to be alone in our walk of faith but if we are not careful we will find ourselves isolated and the fire of the spirit can begin to dim. Helen Keller stated that “Alone we do so little, together we can do so much.” There is no greater place for this to happen than in the body of Christ. We are stronger together than when we are isolated.

In preparing this message, I can across an article entitled “Not Alone: More than A Slogan.” The article referenced a study completed by Eric Klinenberg for his book entitled “Going Solo.” His premise was that Americans are moving toward living solo and isolated lives more than any other time in their existence. He noted that 32 million Americans live alone. This represents 28 percent of all households. In cities like Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Fransisco, and Minneapolis 40% or more of all households contain a single occupant. Five million people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 34 live alone. This is 10 times more than in 1950. He noted that the largest category of single people are the middle-aged group of 34 to 64 year olds. He also notes that many times just because one is living in a house with others does not mean that they are connected and in a viable relationship. Too often in our homes today, we sit at the table with our cell phone, computer, iPad, or TV on and do very little engaging of those around us. Then after dinner we splinter off into our bedrooms or other places in the house with no engagement with one another or communication.

It is also noteworthy that the word for church is “ekkelsia.” This word means the called out ones. It is represented as an assembly and gathering that was focused on a unified vision. As a church we are unified around the cross. We are not unified around our specific personalities or the gifts God has given us. God brings all of our gifts and personalities together to form a body that can move forward to accomplish His will and His purpose. Together as one force, we can accomplish almost anything. Couple that with the power of faith, the work of the Holy Spirit, and we are invincible. Notice what the early church did together. They met regularly to have times of fellowship, to pray, and to study the word of God (Acts 2:42-47). The result was they were empowered, encouraged, and strengthened.

While this message is focused on the unity of the body and the faith that comes from community, it is noteworthy that each one of us have to make a choice to be a part of the community of believers. We must choose to do our part and engage with the community. It means that we must do our part to make the community a success as we trust God and follow after Him. As we come to know Christ, we make a decision to join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to accomplish God’s purposes and His will. As we skillfully use the gifts we have been given, the body grows and becomes more powerful as we fulfill God’s plan together.

Paul recognized the power of coming together and working together when he stated And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Now as we go back to our passage this morning I am reminded that as a body we have some Red Seas that we must cross and some Jericho walls we must tear down. First of all, we have been called to reach this community for Christ. Sometimes this can feel like the Red Sea or a Jericho wall. People are closed off and not open to receive from God the best gift ever. As I look at this, I recognize that reaching our community can be like crossing the Rea Sea. We know it is what God desires but we can be filled with fear and the task can seem impossible. As we come together and each of us do our part, God will part the waters and we can cross the Red Sea and God will get the glory. As we face our Jericho where walls seem to be built up and many seem so fortified we must remember that no wall is impenetrable when God is on our side and we make a decision to move together as one body.

A second part of this is the fact that as the days we live in become more dark and it seems that evil is in charge, we need each other more than ever. Listen to Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We need to be in the business of encouraging one another and challenging each other toward love and good works. That can only happen as we are working within the context of community. May we cross our Red Seas and may we tear down our walls together as one body and one community of faith.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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By Faith: Faith Wins

Peninsula Community Church 

By Faith: Faith Wins

November 6, 2016

Hebrews 11:23-28By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

Today, we look at the story of one of the most iconic members of the Hall of Fame of Faith. As many of us will remember, Moses’ story was memorialized best by Charlton Heston who played Moses in the epic 1956 movie “The Ten Commandments.” When we consider all of the Old Testament characters, Moses is one of the first characters most people think about. We remember him most because of the plagues, the parting the Red Sea, and that God gave him the Ten Commandments but there is so much more to the story. His entire life was lived in a way that God was honored. He went from riches to rags, not because of bad decisions but in fact because he chose wisely. Each stage of his life allowed him to learn more about life, people, God, and most of all about himself.

As we look at this story, we will find four key areas where faith triumphed in Moses’ life, but in each case Moses’ stress led to an exhibition of tremendous faith. From a personal standpoint we all need faith when the stressors of life impact us. We all have them but the stressors of life do not have to cause stress. Instead of stressing us out, we walk and move in faith which brings to us to a confidence in what God can and will do in us and for us. Moses’ life was filled with stress points but all along the way we see that faith triumphed over fear.

So with that in mind let us look at the areas of stress in Moses life as detailed in Hebrews 11. The first stressor was a choice between life or death. At his birth, the faith of Moses’ mom was on display. To understand her faith, we must recognize there was an edict that all males born to Hebrew women were to be thrown into the Nile River and killed (Exodus 1:22). Additionally, if anyone harbored or protected one of these babies they were to suffer death as well. This edict was initiated by the new Pharaoh of Egypt who did not fully appreciate the relationship that Egypt had with Israel. His edict was based on the fear that the Israelites would outnumber them and one day would attack the Egyptians and overtake them.

You see, while fear motivated Pharaoh’s actions, faith in God motivated Moses’ mom’s actions. It should be noted that she was not ignorant or naive. She was keenly aware of the edict that had been mandated when Moses was born but rather than being driven by fear, Moses’ mom was driven by faith. She trusted the one who would protect her son. What a contrast of attitudes. Fear versus faith. Here is the promise for us. Faith wins every time. While Moses’ mom was very aware of Pharaoh’s edict, her love for her son and her faith in God outweighed the thought of what might happen to her or her baby. Her actions remind us of Paul’s admonishment to Timothy. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:6-7). 

In a selfless act of faith she built an ark. She sealed the ark so the water of the Nile would not seep into the ark. Once completed she placed Moses into the ark and went down to the river. At the riverside, she gently pushed the ark into the water and she let it go. Many have asked how this showed faith. One pastor stated the greatest sign of her faith was evidenced in the fact that she did not tie a rope to the ark. She simply let it go and trusted God. Moses’ sister, Miriam, is asked to watch after the ark as it floats down the river. When the ark finally came to its resting place, it was Pharaoh’s daughter that found the ark. Miriam took this opportunity to step up and proclaim that she knew a woman who could be the nurse maid for this child. Amazingly mom and baby were reconnected and God’s plan for Moses’ life was set in motion. Faith wins.

The second stressor Moses faced was the choice between enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin and following the heart of God. Because of his faith, Moses was positioned to choose the ways of God rather than the ways of sin. Moses chose to side with the people of God who were being mistreated rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. His faith moved him to focus on God rather than on the sin of the world. John Piper said this about Moses’ faith. “Walking by faith means defeating sin’s pleasures with the promise of a superior pleasure in God.” How powerful that is?

By refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Hebrews 11:24), he was refusing the privilege and power that was his by way of being Pharaoh’s son. What a choice but it was a choice that was made in faith because he had no clue of what the outcome would be. The Bible tells us that Moses chose “to be mistreated with the people of God” and “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth” (Hebrews 11:26) than anything that Egypt or pharaoh would have to offer him. He knew that the pleasure of sin would only be a temporary pleasure. In the end the sin he might enjoy for a season would leave him empty in the end. Faith wins.

The third stressor for Moses is that he chose to leave Egypt rather than stay in the comfortableness of Egypt. He had no clue where he would go but he left Egypt because he desired to be obedient to God’s plan. Until this point, all he knew was Egypt. He had lived there all of his life. While Egypt was his home there was something within him that drew him to a different place and to a different vision of what could be. God led Moses from the beauty of Egypt to the barrenness of the desert where he would learn to trust God more. He left the riches of a kingdom where all the wealth of that kingdom was at his disposal to serve God with a few sheep and a staff. Does that sound familiar? Do remember that it was Christ that left the riches of heaven to come to the earth.

There was a second reason that God moved him to the desert. He needed to learn the way of the desert because God’s ultimate plan was to use him as the leader who would guide the Children of Israel through the desert. In the desert his life was not over. God was orchestrating and positioning him to accomplish God’s future purpose for Moses. Moses would return to Egypt to become the spiritual leader of the nation of Israel. Nothing in Moses life was wasted. Everything he experienced would be used by God to bring about His purpose and His plan. The lesson for us is that we may not understand the plans and workings of God in our life. In the midst of the problems, the changes, and the detours we may think God has blown it or He has somehow missed a moment but God does not make mistakes. He uses our experiences and the detours of our life for His glory. He positions us to be used by him. Faith wins.

And finally, we find Moses returning to Egypt where he chose to take the spiritual leadership of the children of Israel rather than viewing things from the back seat. Because of his experiences and the life lessons he acquired, we find that he was the right person for the job. He had learned faith from his mom. That faith kept him and sustained him through some very difficult times. As noted, nothing is ever a waste in the economy of God. Every circumstance is an opportunity for God to be glorified and for His name to be proven trustworthy. I am sure there were days where Moses thought his life was over and that he would never be successful. I am sure there were times that Moses thought that he had missed the mark. After all why would God not use him in Egypt before he had to leave Egypt? Whatever the reasoning, God had a plan and God was about to fulfill that plan. What was His plan? It was the deliverance of Israel.

We know the story. Moses returned to Egypt where he began to lead the people of Israel. He confronted Pharaoh with the command to let God’s people go. Each time Pharaoh resisted his resistance was met with another plague or sign that God was in control. The final sword in the side of Pharaoh is that God chose to take every first born child in Egypt. It is noteworthy that God used the very thing that got Moses to Egypt in the first place to convince Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go. God used the death of children to change Pharaoh’s heart.

For the children of Israel, they were given an opportunity for redemption if they would offer a lamb to God and would apply the blood of that lamb to the doorposts of their homes. That night when the angel of death swept through the land of Egypt all of those who had the blood applied escaped death. That night, death ravaged the land but Israel was safe. Through the brokenness of Pharaoh’s heart he relented and let the people of God go free. They had their liberty. They had their freedom. Faith wins.

Today, as we gather around the communion table we look back to another person who was sent to us as a deliverer. He came not just as a deliverer but He came as the lamb Himself. He came to offer Himself so that when His blood is applied to the doorposts of our hearts, we find life and not death. That is why we can come today in celebration of His death and resurrection. So as we take this cup and we take this bread, we are reminded that the Israelites were redeemed and the death angel passed over them because the angel of death could not pass over the blood to touch them. Today death can stand at our door but it can not touch us. When death comes it is a blessing to the one who is in Christ. Paul said to be absent in body is to be present with the Lord. What Paul is saying? He is saying that in the end faith wins!

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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