Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Journey to Peace

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey to Peace

December 24, 2017 

Luke 2:11-14 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

At Christmas, we often ask people what they would like as a Christmas present and inevitable some will say they wish for world peace. In most cases, what they are asking for is a cessation of all conflict, violence, and war. While this is a noble request, there is a problem. Since the creation of mankind there have been struggles and conflict, and there is no end in sight as long as human beings are in this world.

To understand peace, it would be helpful for us to know and understand what real peace is all about. When we consider the word peace, it is my guess that a variety of ideas come to mind. For example, as noted before, some would suggest that peace is the absence of all conflict. Others, would suggest that peace is not having any problems and being free from stress. Contrary to these ideas, the meaning of peace, from a scriptural standpoint, is not just an absence of conflict but represents a much deeper and richer meaning.

In Scripture, we find two primary words used for peace. In the Old Testament, the word for peace is Shalom, and in the New Testament the word for peace is irḗnē. It is noteworthy that both of these words can mean a cessation of conflict, but both Shalom and irḗnē go beyond a cessation of conflict to mean wholeness and completeness. In John 14:27, Jesus stated, Peace 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. Jesus understood the mindset of the day. They wanted a cessation from conflict, but Jesus was bringing wholeness of mind and heart. Jesus recognized that life will have its issues, but if you seek the kind of peace He brings, you will not be afraid. For that reason, Jesus could honestly tell His disciples not to let their hearts be troubled (John 14:1).

In our passage this morning the angels make a powerful, life changing proclamation. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Jesus came to bring peace but not the kind of peace that most people expected. As with the wise men, most were looking for a warrior/king but they found a baby. Most thought He came to end conflict and war, but He came to make people whole and complete. His mission was to provide the means for spiritual wholeness, so regardless of the circumstances or events that come, there will be peace.

As we look at the concept of peace, I would suggest that Christ came to give peace in three areas of our life. First, we have peace with God. Christ came to reconcile us to God so we would be at peace with Him. Notice the words of Romans 5:1-2. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And then in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Paul says, All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Through reconciliation, we now have peace with God. We are no longer His enemies. Our relationship has been restored, and we are now whole and complete. We are restored because Christ gave Himself for us. Our sin, all sin, every sin, is covered by the blood of Christ. We no longer live disconnected, disjointed lives. The Greek word irḗnē means to bring together and that is exactly what Christ did, He brought us together with God.

Before Christ, there was no way to span the gulf between us. There was a wall of separation, and there was no way for us, as sinners, to be united with a perfect holy God. We were separated  because of our sin. Our relationship was broken, but He came and died to restore our relationship with God. When we have a right relationship with God, we will experience real peace! Without a right relationship, nothing else will be right. It all begins right here.

Listen to the words of Paul in Ephesians 2:13-17. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Secondly, Christ came to give peace within. This emotional peace is the peace of God. When I have peace with God, then I get the peace of God inside me. Paul again is our inspiration in this regard. In Colossians 3:15, Paul states, And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. Here is the deal, God wants the peace of God to rule our hearts. He wants His peace to motivate us, guide us, and determine where we will focus our attention. Listen to this quote by Rick Warren. For those with a broken heart, God gives us comforting peace. For those with a confused heart, he gives us guiding peace. For those with a shamed heart, he gives us forgiving peace. When we have a worried heart, he gives us confident peace. He provides peace for every problem.

Thirdly, He gives us peace with others. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:16, Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. Here is a truth you can take to the bank. If you want to strengthen your relationship with others, like your spouse or your kids, strengthen your relationship with God. The only way to have lasting peace with others is to be united with God. It all works together.

This Christmas, as we sing and talk about peace on Earth, know that God wants to give you real lasting peace in each of these three areas. Peace is an attainable dream, as it is a free gift from God and it involves our inner being but, how do we maintain peace? To answer this question, we must understand our focus will determine our outlook and will determine how we live in peace.

In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul hones in on how peace is worked out in us. Listen to his words. 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. If we do this, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Isaiah 26:3 states You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Notice, we have the Holy Spirt to help us focus our mind upon Him. That is where our peace will come and there it will be maintained. Paul in Colossians 3:1-2 states If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

When we focus our attention, our hearts, our minds, and all we are in Christ, we will find peace even in the midst of the storms of life. This is seen most vividly in the life of the author of one of the all time great hymns of the faith. In 1870, Horatio Spafford’s only son died of scarlet fever. In 1871, his major real estate investment burned to the ground in the great Chicago fire. Then, in 1873 he was devastated by the news that all four of his daughters had died in a shipwreck in the Atlantic. As he was in route to Europe to meet his wife, who had survived, he was shown the spot in the mid-Atlantic where his daughters had perished. He was suddenly overwhelmed by an rush of the peace of God. With tears streaming down his face, he recorded his feelings.

In that moment, he penned these words! When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. Why could he say “It was well with his soul?” He was complete in Christ and that served to give him all of the peace he needed, even though he had lost almost everything in his life. So, how is your peace? What are you dealing with today? It begins with a relationship with Him and from there everything else springs forth.

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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The Journey of Joy 

Peninsula Community Church 

The Journey of Joy 

December 17, 2017 

Luke 2:8-11 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

Let me begin this morning by asking you a question. Here it is. In life, what brings you the most joy? What ignites your heart with passion? I am sure that if we polled this room we would most likely get all sorts of answers and responses. I am sure that some would say their kids or grandkids bring the joy. Some would say a specific trip they have enjoyed. Others would say a certain meal or a dessert would bring joy. Still others would say sitting before a fire with a good book brings them the most joy. The fact is each of us has a different opinion as to what would bring us joy. This morning, I propose, however, that the greatest doorway to joy is a personal relationship with Christ. It does not matter what specific items or events bring joy, if those things are not founded in a relationship in Christ.

As we review this particular Christmas story this morning, notice if you will, the shepherds were in the field minding their own business. They did not expect or anticipant a visit of any kind, much less the kind of visit that occurred. You see, there was nothing extraordinary about these men. They were shepherds and perhaps the lowest of all people on the totem pole of social standing. People did not visit shepherds. In fact, most people did not associate with shepherds, as they tended to be an isolated nomadic group of people who hung out with people just like themselves. And yet, this is to who God chose to bring the proclamation that Christ was born.

If you will, look at their response with me. It is probably no surprise that their initial response was one of fear. Now these were tough burly men who had confronted lions and bears without giving it a second thought, but this encounter was a bit much for them. They were filled with fear because of the activity occurring that dark night. So, why were they afraid? For one, angels were speaking to them and that by itself was enough. What would you do if you encountered a real angel or angels in the middle of the night with a choir singing behind them? I would imagine there would be some fear expressed.

It is also noteworthy that this circumstance was enhanced by the fact there had been no word from the Lord for 400 years. Can you imagine that? There had been no word from the Lord for 400 years. This was a dark time in terms of a visitation from God. But now at the appropriate time, and at the right moment God chose to come to the lowly shepherds. Listen to the words of Paul but when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5). At the right time Christ came to earth, and this was the right time.

The fear they were experiencing was happening on multiple levels. Their fear was a natural reaction this encounter. The angels were aware of this fear and they countered that fear with a message “Fear not…! Fear not…!” What a statement in comparison to the circumstances. Can you imagine what the shepherds thought? All this is happening and you want me to not fear. You just rocked my world and you want me to act without fear? You see this declaration to not fear was not some passive, unrealistic command, but was founded in the truth that God was up to something. To understand this, we must read the rest of the proclamation as this is directly connected to the birth announcement of Christ. The angels announcement was Do not fear, because, we bring you good news of great joy and this message will be for all people.

It is noteworthy here that the answer to their fear was a message of joy. This was a message that would counter the fear and anxiety of the moment. Even today, it is a joyful heart that neutralizes fear. For that reason, it is hard to be joyful and to be fearful at the same time. The fear I am talking about is the kind that brings bondage and prevents us from any forward movement in life. It is the emotion that for many has prevented them from experiencing life to the fullest. It is a fear of the future. It is a fear of failure. It is a fear of outcomes. It is even a fear of the good that God does. We fear that somehow we are undeserving of His blessing.

Know this fear binds but joy releases. That is why the Old Testament writer said that weeping may endure for an evening but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Another writer spoke with conviction when he stated that the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy is an internal reaction to delighting in Christ. As we delight in Christ, He exposes us to His joy which is already resident in us.

Remember the movie the Wizard of OZ. I know that we all have our favorite movie around Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom’s was the Wizard of OZ. Watching this movie was an annual event for us. If you have seen it, you will remember the main characters in the movie. There was Dorothy who had lost her way. There was the scarecrow who had no brains. There was the tin man who had no heart or emotions. Then there was the lion who had no courage and was afraid of his own shadow. As you watch the movie, you find that they made it to the great city of OZ where they made a request of the great wizard. They asked that he would give them a brain, a heart, and courage. But what we find in the end, is that each of them already possessed these characteristics, they just needed to allow them to be released into their life.

Today, the enemy of our soul has robbed us of joy and has filled so many with fear. One of the lessons of the movie the Wizard of OZ is that what we desire is often already in us. That is a Biblical principle and I am here to tell you that all that you need is already in you, spiritually. You see joy has come as a child but more than that it is a fruit of the spirit that is resident in our hearts because of the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Christ came, He died, and He sent us the Holy Spirit who would provide us with joy as it is one of the fruit that is resident in us as we receive Christ as our Savior (Galatians 5:22).

Since joy is a fruit of the spirit, we understand that it is therefore a work of grace for us to receive that joy. It might be noteworthy that we find that joy and grace come from the same root word in the Greek. The Greek word for joy is CHARA and the Greek word for grace is CHARIS. You see it is by grace that we have joy, and it is the joy we experience that shows us the grace of God in our life. It seems like a bit of circular thinking, but it is the truth as they are intricately connected in our spiritual being. Rather than walking in fear, we can walk in the joy provided to us by the grace of God. Rather than working at producing or manufacturing joy, we can realize that joy comes to us as a gift of God by way of His son. The fact is we have the potential for a joy-filled life because of God’s amazing grace.

Know this, Christ is the source of our joy. Most exciting announcements bring immediate happiness, but afterward, the emotional high evaporates, leaving us unchanged. However, when we believe the good news of Jesus’ birth and we accept Jesus as our Savior, the joy is lasting and it is transformative in its power. As we abide in Him like a branch in a vine, His life flows through us, and the Spirit produces fruit in us (John 15:4, 11; Gal. 5:22-23).

Perhaps the problem with our joy and the power of fear that overwhelms us is that we are looking to the wrong sources to provide our joy. So, where are you looking for joy? Are you trying to control the events of your life and the actions of the people you are invested in, only to find that the end result is more sadness and pain. How many times have we looked to things to provide us with joy to find that it is only a temporary joy that is easily lost, when the thing we look to is destroyed or no longer available? The reason for this is that joy, true joy, is not something we create but something we receive from a heavenly father that so desire. Listen to this: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13). Our joy is a direct result of the relationship we have with Christ.

He is the source of our strength. When the shepherds heard about the Messiah, their elation propelled them into action. They could not keep the news to themselves. Christ’s joy is powerful, and as was true of the shepherds, it should likewise transform and motivate us to serve Him. A joyful life is the most appealing witness you and I will ever display to a lost and hurting world. People are searching for joy in all the wrong places, so when they see us going through pain, trouble, and conflict with calm contentment and peace of mind, the door opens to share the message of a Savior who came to give new life.

Finally, even if your circumstances aren’t perfect this Christmas, do not give up on your joy. It is a precious gift from Christ, and He wants you to live in joy to the full this day and every day. Just  remember, Christmas is just a preview of what awaits us in heaven. There we will have uninterrupted and uninhibited delight in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That alone is a reason to celebrate, but we do not have to wait until heaven. We can experience that now through Christ. Are you ready? Is that the life you want to live? Let us pray.

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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The Journey of Love

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey of Love

December 10, 2017 

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Last week we looked at the idea of the wisemen taking a journey to find the Christ child. They looked for one thing, but found another. They were looking for a king and a warrior, but what they found was a baby and what a baby He was! This child was about to do what no other person in the history of the world could do. He was about to save the world and bring to each person who trusts Him hope, love, joy, and peace.

Last week, we looked at the idea of hope and the light that shines into the darkness. This week we will look at the power of Christ’s love that came to set us free. From the early writings of the New Testament, we find that John recognized a truth that is needed in our life today. We need love. We need true love and not a facsimile or imitation love. As John penned these words, he recognized the source of our love is the One who came to save us. Listen to the words again. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

The passage begins with for God so loved. He loved. He loved the world. This term world here is the term KOSMOS. It was a word that meant universe and/or adornment. In the New Testament, it was also used to describe man in his fallen state that resulted from the sin and the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Thus, we could say that God so loved mankind that even in his fallen state He sent His only Son to save man from his failures and from being a fallen creation of God.

Notice too, that He did not come to condemn the world. The world was already condemned and was living life in shambles. Most were well aware of their difficulties and their sin. Additionally, many were living hedonistic lives apart from God. While proclaiming to be fulfilled, free, and at peace, they struggled with their identity and self-esteem. The fact is, they were living life devoid of real love. Does that sound familiar in our society today?

The blessing we have is that in our self-centered, self-focused life, we can find that His love reorients us to His purpose and plan. His love reorients us to the destiny He has for us and He empowers us to fulfill the purposes we have been created to achieve. So what kind of love does Christ offer? To understand this it would behoove us to consider the words used in the Greek to define love. Unlike our English language, the Greeks had four words to describe love.

The first of these words is Eros. This is defined as erotic love. This is the love that is engaged through body chemistry and is relegated to feelings. Eros love is focused on others but only as others fulfill their desires. The motto of this kind of love is “I love you because you make me happy,” but “if you cease to make me happy, then I will no longer love you.” This kind of love is based on a characteristic in the other person that brings pleasure, but if that characteristic ceases to exist, the reason for love is gone. Eros love looks most often for what it can receive and not give. Many of us have experienced this kind of love. As long as we are giving and we look a certain way, we are accepted and loved. As long as we meet another’s expectations, we are loved. But let changes come and that love is diminished.

Secondly, there is Phileo love which is a brotherly or friendship love. This speaks of affection, fondness, or liking. Phileo love responds to kindness, appreciation, or another’s love. It involves giving as well as receiving, but when it is strained it can collapse in a crisis. How many have had a friendship fall apart because of a disagreement or problem? What you thought you had was quickly destroyed.

Thirdly, there is Storge which is the love that has its basis in one’s own nature. This love is based in one’s natural affections. It is the natural movement of the soul for a husband, a wife, a child, or even a dog. It is a quiet, abiding feeling within a man that rests on something close to him and that he feels good about. If Storge love is not centered in Christ, our feelings can cause us to move toward unhealthy and immoral love. We see this today in many of the issues we face. Romans 1 speaks of a generation that would seek that which goes against their nature because they reject the truth. Their passion for unnatural affection has lead them to be be deceived and destroyed. Their hearts have been darkened.

Then we have Agape love. Agape love is focused on the preciousness of the object loved. This speaks to the character of God! It carries the idea of prizing. It is not kindled by one’s personal merit or worth. Agape love delights in giving. Agape love keeps on giving when the one being loved is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, and unworthy. It is unconditional love. Agape love desires only good for the one loved. It is a consuming passion for the well-being of the other person. So let us look at our text this morning in view of Agape love.

First of all, His love is based in the preciousness of the object loved. He loves us because He believes that we are precious in His sight. Remember the song we sang in children’s church so many years ago. Jesus loves the children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children.

We are precious because we are a creation of God. Therefore, we have value and we have significance. One of the great lies of the enemy is to get us to believe that we are less valuable than we are, or that we do not have any significance in this life. I can tell you this morning that you are precious in His sight and He extends His love to us as a result. The Psalmist said “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Who is the “we?” It is you and I. If we agree that we are a creation of God, then we must accept that we have value and significance. We must rise up and live like we believe it. We are not talking about a sense of false security or pride, but rather the truth enveloped in Christ’s love for us.

You see value is given to person or object by the one who adores or loves it. In the case before us today, God loves us and has added great value to us as a person. That is Agape love. Agape love places a high value on us as a person. In 1973 I bought a used 1970 Dodge Charger. I paid $900 for it. That was considered to be the value assigned that car, at that time. In 1976, when I left for Bible college, I sold the car for $4000. The value in someone’s mind had gone up. Today, I have seen similar 1970 Dodge Chargers sell for over $100,000. Why? Because someone has given a greater value to the car. Let me tell you, we have a Father and an elder brother named Jesus who has assigned value to your life and no matter what someone else tells you, and no matter what you think, you are valuable and you are worth more than you know.

Secondly, this kind of love is not kindled by meriting His love nor is it based on one’s idea of self-worth, but it is solely the action of one doing the loving. Here is the amazing thing about Agape love. It is not conditioned on the one receiving the love, it is fully based in the one giving the love. With that in mind, think about this. The perfect, eternal, faithful God has loved you and has assigned value to your life, no matter what you may have done. No matter what condition you are in, you are valuable to Him. It is for that reason that no matter where you are, He is reaching out to you. How can a car that was worth $900 in 1972 be worth over a $100,000 today? It is because someone saw value in the car. Most of these cars have been rescued from backyards, junkyards, and from the side of the road. The car had nothing to offer but the master mechanic stepped up and repaired the brokenness in the car. That is what Christ has done for us. He saw us on the trash heap of life, He saw value in us and He came to save and redeem us.

Thirdly, Agape love delights in giving. There is an amazing joy that comes in giving to others. Know this, God counts it all joy to love you and give you all you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He delights in you. Think about that, the God of heaven delights in you. He loves you and wants to minister to you in a way that will enrich your life. He does not withhold His blessing from those He loves, but rather He lavishes His love upon us. John succinctly stated See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are (1 John 3:1). The Greek shows us that the work has already been done. He has lavished His great love on us as a completed work. We do not work for it. We simply accept the work already done on our behalf.

Fourth, Agape love keeps on giving when the one being loved is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, and unworthy. It is unconditional love. Here is the most amazing thing about God’s love. It is unshakable. The greatest fear in our life is that we have failed God or that somehow God cannot or should not love us because of what we might have done. This also means that there is no place to hide from the power of His love. The Psalmist stated that he could run to heaven or to the depths of the earth but there He finds God and where God is, there is His love (Psalm 139:8).

Fifth and finally, because of Agape love, He desires to have a relationship with you. He is not interested in an Eros love relationship that is secure as long as you are pleasing Him. He does not love you for what you can offer Him and when you cease pleasing Him He will discard you. He is not looking for friendship love that might be diminished when there is a problem or a difficulty. He is not looking for a love based on the naturalness of our nature that can easily change based on the condition of our heart. Christ is looking for a deeper relationship. He is looking for a personal, real, ongoing, and life changing relationship with you. It is out of this relationship that we realize that He loves us and that He has our best interest in mind. In this relationship, we can experience His love and the magnitude of His grace to us. It is because of this love that He promises not to leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). It is because of this love that we can also be assured that we cannot be separated from the love of God.

Let me close with this verse, so that we hear for ourselves the power of God’s love in Romans 8:31-39. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is Agape love defined!

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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The Journey of Hope 

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey of Hope 

December 3, 2017

John 1:1-5  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This message will focus on the hope that is ours in Christ. It is His light that shines into the darkness and brings hope into the darkness. His light of hope shines into every area of darkness in our life. The fact is, there is no place we can hide from the light of hope, if we allow Him to shine in us and through us. You see, we can reject the light, or we can hide the light. It is our choice, but if we allow it, His light can and will penetrate the darkness of our hearts and in so doing hope will arise.

Listen to the words of Paul as He expresses the grace and gift of God to us all. In Ephesians 1:15-21, Paul states, For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called youNotice here that Paul is praying that the eyes of their heart would be enlightened or in other words He was praying that the light of truth would permeate very part of who they were in order to reveal truth and bring hope.

The fact is the issues of life can darken our hope. Here is the thing about darkness. Darkness brings out fear in the unknown. Darkness causes us to lose our way. We can become disoriented. Darkness can cause us to feel disconnected from the world around us. When I was eleven years old, I had been moved from my mom and step-dad’s home to my aunt’s home. Before that I lived with my step-father who was abusive mentally, physically, and emotionally. Because of that, I would often have nightmares during the night. I awoke one evening from one of those nightmares and was trying to find the door to my room. Because of the darkness that surrounded me, I struggled to find the door. Because I was disoriented, I began to knock things off my dresser. I knocked a picture off the wall and I began to get more emotional and more excited.

As we look back at the birth of Jesus, we find that life was not too different than it is today in many ways. As then, we are confronted with financial problems, the moral degradation of society, the overreach of a government bent on control, and a struggle to have a hope in the future. For many of us, the issues at the forefront of the news can cause us to lose hope and we can begin to lose perspective in regard to truth. I do not know about you, but I never thought that in my lifetime we would be dealing with some of the issues we now deal with.

Who would think we would be debating what restroom a male or female should use? Who knew we would be debating whether our children can or should self-identity their sex without parental consent, if the school determines the parent is hostile to the child’s decision. This discussion is happening here in Delaware right now. If the current statute in Delaware passes, it would allow children to use whatever restroom they choose and they would be allowed to play on whatever sports team they desire as long, as it fits their self-identified sex. They can even have their name changed on school records to align their names with their self-identified gender definition. Not only do we have these issues, but now we are facing a plethora of accusations of sexual misconduct with so many top leaders and entertainers. Men have been emasculated and no longer lead their family with integrity and grace. When we add to all of this to the mix of health issues, financial issues, relational issues, and spiritual issues, we are candidates for the darkness of the soul to take hold. The result is lost hope.

The wise men and the shepherds were living in desperate times. There was not much to give them hope, but one day there was a light from heaven, a star in the east, that shined brightly and directed them to the one that came to give hope. They followed the star and the star led them to the place where the Christ child lay. Here is the interesting dynamic in this story. They journeyed to Bethlehem with one thing in mind, but they left Bethlehem with a different impression. They went looking for a king, but found a child. They wanted a warrior, but found a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. This little baby would have more to offer than they could ever imagine. Through Him they found hope, love, joy, and peace. Today, we too can find hope, love, joy, and peace through Him. As the wise men did, we can and should look to the light that shines into the darkness.

In the story of Jesus’ birth, we find that the wise men went to search for the Christ child. They went with an expectation, but what they found was even greater. I have found that all of Christmas is about the unexpected becoming reality. How many each year make a Christmas list? List or not there is an expectation of what you might receive. I can remember one of my favorite gifts as a child. I wanted a bike. Any bike would do. When I walked into our living room that Christmas morning, I was amazed to find a Huffy Dragster with a banana seat, high handle bars, and a sissy bar on the back. This was the super duper bike of the time. That one gift was so far above my expectations.

The fact is we must have some level of expectation in order to make room for the light of Christ and the hope that comes to those who open their heart to the light of Christ. That is why Paul prayed for the heart of their understanding to be opened. You see there is balance between our expectation and the power of the Holy Spirit to enlightened our hearts with truth and hope. With expectant hearts, we will begin the journey to find the Savior. With expectant hope, we will seek Him. That is what the wise men did and they found so much more than they thought they ever would. With expectant hearts, we will let Him into every area of our lives.

As the light of truth is illuminated in our heart, we are given permission to take the first step toward hope in Christ. Perhaps to take this journey toward truth it would be beneficial to have an understanding of Biblical hope. The word “hope” in ordinary English vocabulary is generally distinguished from certainty. We would say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I hope it happens.” It is kind of a hope without any certainty that it will work out. When you read the word “hope” in the Bible, it has a different nuance to its meaning. In 1 Peter 1:13 Peter says “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 

Biblically, hope is not wishful thinking. Christian hope is based in the fact that God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass. So let’s look away from the circumstances that confront us, look to Christ, look to the promises, and hold fast to them. Hope comes from the promises of God rooted in the work of Christ. That is the hope we have. Our circumstances can be shaky. Our understanding in who God can be diminished. But as we begin to allow the light of hope to fill our hearts we can be restored and renewed. If are not there yet, perhaps you need to give yourself permission to seek the hope and His light that dispels darkness.

That is the hope that comes to us in this Christmas season. So, today, your hope in a better day may be shaky. Your heart may be darkened, but remember the story I told earlier about my awakening from the nightmare. The rest of story is this. With all of the noise I was making, I had awakened my aunt who came to my rescue. When she opened my bedroom door, the light of the hallway came flooding in. Immediately, my fear was gone. The disorientation of my heart was redirected to the light. This was all because the light flooded my present condition. Not only did the light flood my room, but my aunt entered the room and hugged me. Her presence comforted me, the darkness was gone, and hope was restored.

2000 years ago God saw the darkness and the power of the darkness to overcome men’s lives. That is why He sent His son (John 3:16, 17). That is why He came as the light of the world (John 1:1-5). That is why John so beautifully portrays Jesus as the light of  the world. That is why Jesus came to transfer us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13).

Here is the truth. In this life we are in the need of the light in our hearts. Christ who came 2000 years ago still lives as the light that shines into the darkness. His light shines into the darkness where darkness is dispelled and hope begins to arise. If you are struggling with hope today, maybe today you could allow His light to shine into your heart. Remove the blinders and let His grace pour in.

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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