Monthly Archives: January 2017

Living Like Christ – What’s In Your Future

Peninsula Community Church

Living Like Christ – What’s In Your Future

January 29, 2017

Jeremiah 29:10-14 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

As I was considering the message for today I was moved by a number of ideas and thoughts. As I continued to pray, I was moved by the fact that it seems that so many people today are discouraged, depressed, and are feeling disenfranchised spiritually. The truth of the matter is that the enemy of our soul loves to get us into this stupor of depression and lost hope. It is a place where hope and faith are darkened and any forward movement in Christ is stifled. While this is true, the fact is this was never God’s intent. His intent was that we would live free and hopeful lives dedicated to serve God with all of our hearts.

We must remember that the enemy is no slouch when it comes to discouragement. He knows better than anyone the well timed opportunities he can use to discourage and cause us to feel desperate and depressed. Not only is the enemy at work but we are guilty of filling our minds and hearts with information that tends to pull us down rather than building us up. While we might feel discouraged and desperate for change, it is this desperation that drives us or at least should drive us to God. God uses the issues of life to get us to refocus on Him who is our hope.

As we look around us, there is so much to discourage us today. Financial issues, physical issues, emotional issues, relational issues, spiritual issues, political issues, and health issues all  seem to contribute to lost hope and depression. While these things are a reality it does not mean that is where He wants us to stay or live. The truth is, we can move beyond the issues and hold onto the One who makes us whole and complete. In the Old Testament, God responded to the despair of Israel by proclaiming that He had given them a hope and a future.  Because we know that all of Scripture is used to teach us the truth of God’s ways, we know that this promise is extended to us as well.

In the passage before us, there is so much that speaks to us today. First of all, notice that Jeremiah records that God proclaims that When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. What is being said here is there will be an end to the Babylonian captivity. The children of Israel had been dealing with this burden for seventy years and there seemed to be no hope for an end to the captivity but God promised that an end was to come.

The point being made is that we will have seasons of difficulty. We will have seasons where there seems to be no hope or no promise of a future. Our future is darkened by the events and the circumstances in our life. For Israel, God was offering this promise and yet they were still in their captivity and would be for seventy years. Notice they were in the middle of the captivity when this proclamation and promise was made on their behalf. The truth for us is that whatever issue we are facing most of them will only last for a season. The fact is we are not immune from the difficulties of life but God provides a way of escape. Sometimes this is a physical deliverance and sometimes it is an emotional deliverance. Either way we are delivered. In the end, it does not matter if we will face issues but it is how we handle them that defines who we are.

In addition to this, we find that not only will they make it through the captivity but God makes s series of promises to them about their future and the hope they have. Look at what is promised to the Children of Israel. The first of these promises is that God will keep His promise. The point here is that God is faithful and He keeps His word. God will keep them and will bring them back to their rightful position and place in the economy of God. One thing we can be sure of is that God keeps His promises to us. You can take that to the bank. He never fails us and He never gives up on us.

There are a couple of things that are noteworthy in this. First, the captivity is not the total story. It is certainly a part of the story but it is not the story itself. The issue you are walking in is a part of the story of your life but it does not have to be the story. The fact is their story does not end in captivity but it ends with promised victory and the promised welfare of the people. And as we know through history they were delivered and restored. I am sure there were moments when the Children of Israel thought their life was over and there was no hope beyond that single moment in time but God in His wisdom knew there were better days ahead. I am sure they thought the promise of being the chosen nation through which the Messiah would come was over but God never forgot and He did not give up on them.

Secondly, God promises them that He has a plan for them. The promise here is that what they are going through will not be for nothing. You see this is a promise but it is also a reminder that God has a plan for them. They were chosen as a nation through which Messiah would come. There is a plan in all of this. In the sovereignty of God there is a plan for them to be better and to achieve more for God than if they had not gone through the captivity. God has chosen us to also reveal the Messiah to all we encounter. In captivity, we can forget that God has a plan for us as we become discouraged and the light of the gospel is diminished in our heart.

Thirdly, God’s plan is to prosper them and He has plans for their welfare. He has plans not for evil but for the betterment of their life. As we look at this, we should make one observation about the word for welfare or prosperity. The word used here in the Hebrew is the word “shalom” which means peace. This is an important interpretation of this word as God’s plan is not just richness or a lot of money but his desire is to bring peace. You see there is so much more to prosperity than money or riches, peace is the focal point of what God is doing.

Fourthly, God has a plan for a future and hope. You see when we walk in peace, we don’t need riches per se. Peace will steer us to a proper perspective on our hope and future. The fact is without God’s peace there is no hope or a future. There are a couple of passages in the Bible in regard to understanding this peace.

Psalms 4:6-8There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Isaiah 26:3-4You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

At the end of the Jeremiah passage we find there is a balance between God’s sovereignty and our free will. God will restore us and give us a future but we have our part to play. Here is what Jeremiah defines as our part. First of all, we are to call upon the Lord and we are to come and pray to Him. Prayer is always the greatest option at our disposal. Prayer is a matter of refocusing our attention from the issues to focusing on the One we know is able to take care of the problems we face. It places us in a mindset where we draw upon the grace of God and the power of God. Praying moves God but it also moves us into the place of understanding God’s will and purpose for us. By focusing in prayer, we shift our attention from the problems we face to the One who can resolve all issues of life.

Secondly, we must seek God. We don’t just seek after what God can do but who God is. The promise is that if we seek Him we will find Him. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus says the following. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” We are to ask, seek, and knock, and then we will receive, we will find, and when we knock we will have doors opened. This speaks of a persistent faith that never gives up and never gives out. That is our part of the plan.

The promise from God is that we will find Him and what we feel we have lost will be restored. That is the blessing that God gives. He gives us wholeness and completeness in what we do. So what are we saying today? We are saying that we will face issues in life. These issues  will feel much like captivity and desperation. It is interesting that when we are caught in the battle, it is hard to look to the future. We view everything through the eyes of the moment and the longer we deal with these battles, the harder it becomes to look to the future. We can be deceived into believing that this is the only world we will know and we can begin to give up on God and people. That is the defining mark of the enemy’s tactics in our life. He blinds us to the truth and prevents us from moving ahead to a better day.

In the end, God wants to deliver us from the captivity we face by giving us peace. It is a love and peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that comes from God. It is a gift that we receive when we seek Him and pray to Him.

John 14:27-29Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

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.

So here is the deal this morning. We are facing and we will face great difficulty but in the midst of the difficulty God’s peace can overflow us and fill our hearts with peace. Peace may not change the circumstances but it certainly changes our outlook and our focus. Sometimes our lives feel like they are out of order and confused. It seems that nothing makes sense but when the great conductor of our lives steps to the podium life makes sense again. Watch this video if you will and then we will close in prayer.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Living Like Christ – What is Love?

Peninsula Community Church

Living Like Christ

January 22, 2017

Matthew 22:36-40“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

For some time I have been working through this question of what does it mean to be Christlike. As I have navigated this thought process I have discovered and rediscovered some principles that I would like to share with you so that together we can grow and be more like Christ in all we do.

Before we look at the meaning of this passage perhaps it would help us to understand the context of the passage. In Jesus’ day it was not uncommon for the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the religious leaders to debate and argue the meaning of the law and which law or laws had more relevance to their life. In fact, the religious leaders of that day would often be divided and segregated around the laws they elevated as important. We might look at these religious leaders with disdain but we do the same thing so often. We try to elevate one law or commandment above another to show our spiritual superiority to others. We can also elevate one law that is our pet peeve and devalue other laws that do not seem to apply to us. I can remember growing up in the church as a teenager that it seemed that my spirituality was measured more by my outward appearance than the quality of  my heart.

In our story today, we find that a young lawyer asking Jesus just such a question about the law.  The lawyer’s basis for the question to see which law Jesus valued and which law he would place above the other laws. When Jesus gave His answer He surprised the religious leaders. Rather than selecting one law to be raised against all of the other laws, He summed up the whole law in just two statements. He stated that the law was simply defined as loving God and loving others as we would love ourself. He did not elevate one law above another but in essence He was saying that all of the law is important and what is most important is the attitude and mindset of keeping the law.

To understand this approach to the law, we must have a proper understanding of the meaning of love. To begin with love is not defined by selfishness and self-motivation. True love is a concept that is foreign to us in many ways because the word love has been abused and misused. Too often it is a ploy of guilt and dishonesty. How often have you heard someone say, “if you loved me you would do X”? A young man in the backseat of his car with a young girl might say “if you really loved me you would have sex with me.” That is bribery and guilt and that has no place in the scheme of love. Love and guilt never cohabit together. They are mutually exclusive and they are no way cut from the same cloth. Another negative response to love is the fact that a false love can become very self-centered rather than God-focused or others focused.

As we study the Scripture we find that the root of Christlikeness is love thus everything about Christ exudes love including His mission, His calling, His actions, and His thoughts. He committed to give Himself for us was so that we would not have to die. His gave us forgiveness. His gave us grace. All of life was centered and focused in a love that is so amazing that we cannot truly understand the truth of love with our finite minds. It is unfortunate that with our faulty view of love we cannot comprehend the full majestic love that He extends to us. His love is Agape love which is the highest form of love there is. Agape love is a self-sacrificing love. It is the love that is expressed in the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. It is the love that is expressed when Paul commanded husbands to love their wives as Christ so loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-29). It is a selfless kind of love. It is the kind of love that Paul uses to challenge believers to put others before themselves (Philippians 2:3). Once again all of this is evidenced through the sacrificial giving of Jesus’ life on the cross. Listen to the words of 1 John 4:13-21. In so many ways this passage sums up the gift of love given to us by God.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

I do not believe that it is coincidence that Jesus used the term agape love to underscore His summation of what the greatest law would be. You see a right perspective of God’s love allows us to keep His law in a way that would not be possible apart from His love. You see love is the motivating factor of our obedience. Love motivates us to keep God’s law because we love Him, we love others, but we also love ourselves. In fact, we are a conduit for God’s love. People will not know God’s love apart from His believers exhibiting love to those around them.

In this passage, Jesus suggests that the law of God is summarized by loving God. Notice that He defines love as an investment of our heart, our soul, and our mind to loving God. We do not hold anything back from loving God completely and in total. It is a full commitment to love God with all that we are. Think about it if you will. We love God with our heart, the seat of our emotions. We love God with our mind, the seat of our intellect and our thoughts. We love God with our soul which is our identity and what we have been called by God to be. Notice something in this passage. We love God with all of our hearts and our minds. Love is not just seated in our emotions. It is also seated in our minds. True love does not divide the heart and the mind. Too often we think that love is solely an emotional response but that is so far from the truth. True love is based in the knowledge of God.

Secondly, we are to love others. The problem that exists is that we can say we love God but if we do not love people one could question one’s commitment and love for Christ. Without love we cannot actually live like Christ. Before we can love others we must have a genuine love for God. The fact is when we love people more can be done through love than through any other means. Love draws believers and non believers alike to Him. As representatives of Christ, we are to lead people toward reconciliation with Him. To do so love must be our most powerful vehicle. If they see in us the same attitude and lifestyle as Christ, they will be drawn to us, and we then point them to Him.

To accomplish this, let us consider some of the ways Christ showed His amazing love in the New Testament. First of all, He forgave the woman who had been accused of adultery and He confronted her accusers with their sin. This was a great act of love and grace. He could have been legalistic in his approach but the law of love manifested itself and she was won to Him. Through His love a multitude of sin was covered but note He did not deny the sin nor did He compromise with the sin. He, however, was willing to forgive and cover the sin and win the soul.

The woman at the well is another example of Christ’s love. He told His disciples that He had to go through Samaria. This was unheard of for the Jews as they did everything in their power to avoid this one city. There was no love loss between the Jews and the Samaritans. To put it mildly they hated each other. During the Assyrian captivity some of the Jews stayed in Israel and in so doing they ended up intermarrying with the Assyrians who had invaded their land. They were considered to be half-Jews and a half-Jew is no Jew at all. Once in the village, Jesus encountered a woman who came to draw water from the well. There was all kinds of reasons for Jesus to reject this woman. First, no man was to talk with a woman directly. Specifically they were not to speak to Samaritan women under any circumstance. By His love, He spoke to her and offered her a drink of water that would satisfy her thirst forever.

Of course the greatest act of love was Christ’s willingness to go to the cross where He died for everyone’s sin. That is the highest love possible. The innocent one who had no sin was willing to take on all of mankind’s sin so that He could offer them forgiveness and eternal life. That is love. That is complete love. That is the love that God wants us to exhibit. He wants and desires that we exhibit that kind of love. He wants us to love ourselves not in a narcissistic way but in who we are in Christ so that we can be a conduit of His love to others. You might say that it is impossible to do so but with Christ all things are possible. As we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind we find it is easier to love the unlovable. Embracing God’s love helps us to give grace to the unlovable.

But we have a problem. Too often we are not motivated by love but rather from selfishness and self-centeredness. The problem too often is that we do things for personal praise and success rather than to extend true love to those around us. The problem is exasperated by those we encounter who seem to be unlovable but when we recognize the love of God and we exhibit His love things begin to change.

So how do we work this out? Where we have failed to love others we must repent and change our ways. Remember we do not have to compromise our beliefs but we must show love. The problem we have is a false view of love in that we believe that loving a person in sin is accepting that person’s sin. We can love the person but hate the sin. You will never run out of opportunities to love by faith. Agape kind of love is an act of the will, not just an emotion. You love by faith. By faith, you can claim God’s favor and exercise the act of love. In daily life, your love will be warmed by joy, watered by tears, and spread by the winds of circumstances.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

 

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Our Focus for a New Year

Peninsula Community Church

January 1, 2017 

Our Focus for a New Year

Philippians 3:12-16 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.

It is hard to believe that we are entering a new year. It is so amazing that it seems like it was just yesterday that we were entering 2016 with all of its promises and the unknown of a new year. As the year unfolded so many of us have experienced deep emotions and events that have rocked our world. For some health news has changed the course of our life. Others have experienced the death of a loved one. Our hearts were broken and still suffer the pain of death within us. Still others have seen relationships fall apart and they are trying desperately to restore or at least get over the broken relationship. For some, we have battled the fears and disappointments of life and many issues that have discouraged and disheartened us. On the flip side many of us have encountered new friendships and many of us have overcome past issues that have brought pain and heartache. I have also spoken to some of you that have experienced incredible spiritual growth perhaps for the first time in your life this past year.

Today, as we stand on the threshold of a new day and a new year we look back at 2016 and we all have our memories: good and bad. We all have had those things that have impacted us in a way that we will never be the same again. As we look to the new year, the fact is we don’t know what 2017 will hold for us but we know that He, God, will hold us as we begin this journey. As we pause here at the start of a new year may we realize that we have a clean page and a new chapter to be written. The past is behind us and the future is ahead of us.

The passage we just read is one of the most popular verses used at this time of year. I must confess that I have used it a number of times myself. In fact, in looking over my notes from the past, I used this passage last year at this time. I struggled a bit with using it again but felt that this was the word that God wanted to speak to our hearts today. The reason is that this passage is one that speaks of new beginnings. It is one that calls us to recognize the goals we have and the vision that drives the motivation of our heart and our actions.

As a reminder, we see in this passage that Paul continues to press on as he does not settle for the current status in his life. He continues to press forward. He presses into Christ and grows in his relationship with Christ.  Paul states that a part of his success has been that is able to forget what lies behind and he continually strains forward to what lies ahead. To be honest he did not actually forget what is behind him, he simply did not allow the things in his past to dictate his future. Instead of looking back, he presses toward the vision and hope of a new day. And finally, Paul does not just press forward, he presses toward the goal of fulfilling the calling of Christ which is Christlikeness.

So with that in mind let’s unpack this passage together this morning. The first thing we notice here is that Paul is still working toward perfection. Paul unveils the fact that he has not reached perfection yet but he is continuing to live a life of being perfected. What we must understand in this regard is that our perfection is not so much in what we do or not do but it is about what we are becoming. Paul’s ultimate goal was to become more like Christ in everything.

The word’s of Paul in Philippians 3:8-11 give us some insight into Paul’s mindset. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 

Paul’s greatest desire was to be more like Christ and that is what we need today. That is the goal of our Christian existence. It is to exemplify Christ in all we do. The old adage “What would Jesus do?” is still apropos except that it should be more of what does Christ exemplify? Who He is more important than what He does! It is noteworthy that Paul wants to make this perfection his own and not someone else’s. It is a personal perfection. He can press toward perfection because he is in Christ. It is noteworthy that this is the same Paul who persecuted Christian believers for their faith. Paul is making the point that the same zeal that pushed him to pursue Christians he now uses to pursue Christ.

If you read just a few verses prior to the one we read today, you will see that Paul suggests that he is willing to give up everything that gives him any kind of religious or social status. His degrees, his genealogy, his education, his religious affiliation, and his successes did not define him. It was not an issue of whether or not these things were important or whether they had value but he wanted to define his life by his relationship with Christ. In essence, he did not want these things to get in the way of him getting to know Christ as that was his primary goal.

His greatest desire was to be more like Christ in every way. For that reason Paul stated that he was willing to forget what was behind him and he desired to strain toward what lies ahead. If we are honest, the fact is it is impossible to forget what has happened to us in the past. That is not so much what Paul is referring to. For example, for many of us we can focus so much on the past that we are hindered in our future growth. We are negatively impacted by an overdose of past regret, sin, and hangups. The enemy of our soul is so good at reminding us of our failures, our fears, and fruitlessness that we become powerless to secure a future hope. The enemy of our souls is so good at getting us to focus on our failures because he knows that we will not move ahead with any kind of faith. Fear can control us to the point that we never make any changes that will help us.

It is for that reason that Paul says that he strains toward the goal of maturity in Christ and Christlikeness. The idea of straining carries the idea of not giving up; that is there is a constant and consistent focus on moving forward in our relationship with Christ. Paul’s use of the word strain is not a mistake as we must press forward so that we are not bogged down by the past issues of life.

The problem too often is that we can give up before we cross the line to victory. This happens when we are overly focused on the past and not the future that is before us. A couple of stories illustrate this for me. For those that are a bit older you will remember that the big thing to do in the early to mid-70’s was streaking. There were a few of our high school friends who decided to do this at one of the grocery store parking lots. It was a parking lot that you could begin running on one end run all the way through to the other end to the car awaiting them. The problem of course is that one of the guys became so consumed with the cheering crowd around him that he did not see the grocery cart corral in the middle of the parking lot. Needless to say he ran into the upright bar full speed and he knocked himself out. He ended up on the asphalt without a stitch of clothing on. He became side tracked rather than pressing toward the goal. As second illustration is the story of Desean Jackson who received a pass and had a clear shot to the goal line. But at the 2 yard line he did the unthinkable. He dropped the ball as he began his celebration too early. He did not score the touchdown and in fact he lost the ball to Dallas who recovered what was considered to be a fumble.

The idea presented by these two illustrations is that we must stay focused and we must press onward to the goal of becoming more like Christ. With that in mind, what do we need to focus on individually and corporately? First, we must focus as Paul did on becoming more like Christ. The first action to be taken in this new year is to become more like Christ so that we exemplify His life in all we do. You see it is about becoming and not so much about doing as a focus. Secondly, we need to be about the business of lifting up Jesus in all we do. We lift Him up by our testimony, our actions, and our concern for others. Thirdly, we become more like Christ by reading His word so we understand who He is and what He exemplifies.

Fourth, the greatest focus we can have in 2017 is knowing Him and making Him known. I posted in the last e-blast that I would love to see the church double our attendance by the mid part of this year. The best way to make that happen is to make Jesus known. We make Him known in our lives, in our services, and in all that we do we must make Him known. After all, Jesus said it best when He stated that if He is lifted up then He will draw all people unto Himself. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” We can not and must not lift the church up as much as we lift up Christ the Lord of the church. We can not lift up ourselves as much as we do Christ. He must be the focus and the one that we are lifting up. We have the promise that if we lift Him up that He will draw men to Him.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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