Monthly Archives: April 2018

Empowered for the Mission

Peninsula Community Church

April 15, 2018

Empowered for the Mission

Acts 1:6-11 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

I love this passage. I love the fact that the Bible does not hide the difficulties and the lack of understanding the disciples exemplified in regard to the mission of Christ. Last week we discussed the issue of having a crisis of faith. Once again, here in this passage, the disciples seemed to fall short in their understanding of the purpose and plan of Christ. They continued to have the false understanding that Christ was going set up an earthly kingdom ruled by political aggression. 

The problem is that they did not comprehend that their timeline did not match Christ’s timeline. So it is with us, our timeline does not always match God’s timeline either. The disciples failed to understand this as they were still concerned about the events that were to come. They in essence wanted it to happen now, while God’s plan was something much different. This was in part because they were still struggling to face the truth that Jesus was not living up to their idea of what they thought He should do. It was a problem then and it continues to be a problem today when we try to force Jesus into our box, or into doing what we think He should be or do. While they continued to debate these issues, Jesus continued to remind them that He did not do anything outside of the will and authority of the Father. Therefore, it was His timeline and not theirs.

I am reminded that God has a timeline for your life as well. No matter what you are walking through, He will see you through every situation. The problem for us is that we are confined to time, as time as we know it, was created for us as created beings. That is why we want God to do things now, or at least by Friday. For that reason, we must be reminded that God does not need time, as we know it. He does not move by chronos time, but rather He moves by Kairos time. 

In the Greek language, in which the New Testament was written, there are two words for time. There is chronos time which is measured by our watches, clocks, calendars, and iPhones. Secondly, there is Kairos time which relates to the right, critical, or opportune moment. When we understand that God is not defined by time, but rather by opportunity and the right moment for His will to be accomplished, we will make the connection that at the right time He will show up. Peter understood this when he stated But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8). Peter understood that at times a day seems like a thousand years and vice versa. 

In the passage before us today, Jesus reminds the disciples and us that they did not need to know the “when” or “why” as much as they needed to know the “what.” It is the what that changes us. It is the what that focuses us on His plan and purpose. Until the timeline was fulfilled, Christians were called to be witnesses. That is a huge what. This is what He wanted them to do until He returned, which He will in His on time.

In Jesus final words we are called to be witnesses. A witness is one who tells a story about what they know about a person and or an event. We most recognize this when it comes to court and the legal system, especially when one is called to be a witness for the prosecution or the defense. As a witness, they must present the truth they know about a person or an event. When it come to being a Christian witness, we tell the truth about Jesus. Witnesses testify to what they know is truth and that which is real. Listen to this exchange “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name’ (Acts 22:12-16).

The disciples certainly had much to share about Jesus. They had a story to tell. As we see in the balance of the Book of Acts, they told that story. It was and is the story of redemption. They were preaching and teaching about the work of Jesus and His saving power and grace. We see this in particular with Peter, Paul, and Stephen. Every opportunity they had, they related the story of the work of Christ to those with whom they encountered. The result was changed lives and the expansion of the church and His Kingdom.

Secondly, witnesses have experiences to share. The disciples had watched as Jesus healed the blind, touched the lepers, made the lame to walk, and He reached out to those undeserving of the grace of God. They saw how Jesus had knelt in the sand and how He rebuked the Jewish leadership, that were ready to stone Mary Magdalene for adultery, when they themselves were dealing with their sins perhaps those which were just as serious in nature. He released her with the command to go and sin no more. Not only had they witnessed Jesus heal and give grace to those who did not deserve it, they also experienced the amazing grace of God, personally. After all, these were the same disciples who had rejected Christ. They were absent from the events at the cross. They ran to hide in fear, doubt, and desperation. But, when Christ rose, He came to them so they would know He loved them, had a plan for them, and accepted them right where they were. They knew His love and they knew His grace. They had much to share. Throughout their ministry together, Jesus forgave them and continued to accept them as His disciples even though they failed, they sinned, they judged others, they walked in doubt, and they never fully understood Jesus.

Not only did Jesus call them to be witnesses, He also defined the scope of their mission. They were to go into all the world and preach the gospel. While this certainly relates to the world at large, it also refers to the world in which we live. As individuals we may not have the capacity to reach the whole world per se, but we can reach the world we are in and the one God has given us. Wherever we live and whatever sphere of influence we have, we are witnesses of Christ. God has placed you in a community, you have a specific job, you volunteer for various organizations, and so on. We share through our words, our actions, and our attitudes. I can guarantee you that people are watching you and they will know what kind of witness you are. So are you a witness for Christ, or for the persecutor of the people.

Finally, Jesus not only calls us to be witnesses, He not only gives us the scope of our mission, but He also empowers us to accomplish the task we have been called to. Christ promised us that He would fill us with the Holy Spirit and He would empower us to be witnesses. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Jesus did not just give them the command to be witnesses. He did not just give them the responsibility to do so, He gave them power to fulfill what they needed to do. They were given the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill their mission. 

As a kid I loved super heroes. As some of you, I grew up with Batman & Robin, Superman, the Green Hornet, and others. Each of this superheroes either had special powers, or they had unique tools that made them special heroic crime fighters. As believers, we have been given supernatural power to be witnesses for Christ. Unlike the super heroes of yesteryear, we do not need a special costume or a Bat mobile to have power. We have been given a power to accomplish the task we need to do each and every day and at every moment.

So what does this power do? It leads us to truth. To be a good witness we must speak the truth. Even before a witness takes the stand they are sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Listen to the words of John. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:12-15).

The Holy Spirit will lead us to truth. He will allow us to speak in the authority of God. He will give us the words to speak when we need them. He will glorify Christ and point to the Father. He will give us all we need to accomplish His purpose in life and ministry. So are you ready? People today need to hear the message of hope that Christ’s brings, so will you share it?  

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

Peninsula Community Church 

Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

April 8, 2018

Matthew 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This week I have been dealing with this question. After the resurrection what do we do? How do we deal with all that transpired? How do we get past the celebration of the event and move to an ongoing celebration of life? Last week, we celebrated the festivities of Easter, the clothes, and of course all of the food. Last week we had a great service. We focused on the power and the truth of the resurrected Lord. But here is a truth, we do not and we cannot continue to stand at the empty tomb and expect life to change. We must begin to live in the reality of the resurrected Lord. We must move beyond the tomb to live life to the fullest. While this is true, as I was preparing this message, I could not help but focus on the fact that while some worshipped Jesus others doubted. This occurred after His resurrection. It is that doubt that keeps many from moving forward to live a resurrected life.

Our tendency might be to judge or criticize those who doubted. This is so easy to do. In reality, doubt is often a result of difficult circumstances and problems. It is interesting that the word doubt means “to be hung in suspense.” It means that we are at a crossroad of decision making. Decision making can negatively impact us because the results of our decision are unknown or undecided. From a spiritual standpoint, doubt is a place where God seems to be distant or seems to be unaware of what we are going through. It is a place where have more unanswered prayers than ones that have been answered. It is my guess that we have all faced this kind of doubt. We have all encountered issues that seem to have no answers or at least any easy answers. We are faced with trusting God, and the promises of God, because we do not have solid answers and there is no hope found in the circumstances we face. 

For some of the disciples, as well as others, who followed Christ, the events of the last few days and weeks had left them in doubt and struggling with a crisis of faith. They were hung in suspense as to what had happened and what was going to happen. They were hung in the suspense of wanting to have the right answers. They wanted to believe but everything that had transpired for them was a bit more than they could handle. Some of those who doubted agreed with what Christ had done but they struggled with who He was. Others knew who He was, but they struggled with what He had done. Their vision of Christ did not match up to the reality of their heart or the teachings of Christ. What they knew and believed about Jesus had been shaken and now they were struggling to keep everything in perspective, even though He had risen from the dead. You see they were face to face with Jesus, and yet they still had doubts.

We too can face a crisis of faith when the trials we encounter cause us to struggle with prayers that go unanswered. We face the pressure of circumstances that seem to not change or in fact they get worse. This can cause us to be be shaken to the core of our faith. We can even begin to question the validity of our faith. We can begin to question whether or not we have been betrayed by God Himself. We can reason that we are doing our best but He is not doing His part. These unanswered questions nag at our hearts: Is God really who He says He is? Can God do what He says He can do? We have taught others that God is good, loving, and faithful and now we wonder if that is really true.

As we consider one’s crisis of faith, I believe there are some benefits to dealing with a crisis of faith. If we choose to follow God by faith and in obedience to His Word, our crisis of faith will lead us to a deeper understanding of God and who He is. Sometimes we need to choose to follow Him by faith, even when we do not have all the answers much less all of the questions. I love what we find in 1 Kings 18:21. Elijah made this challenging proclamation “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

The first benefit is that a crisis of faith forces us to take a hard look at what we believe. What a benefit that is. In our humanness, we can become comfortable with a belief system that may or may not be correct. For example, my faith in Christ has been tested many times. There have been times where I have needed a divine intervention from God but it did not seem to be happening. It seemed that He was delaying His answer and that He was not concerned. My faith crisis was in believing that God did not really care. I had the feeling that He had forgotten me? I began to question if I was good enough. When God did answer in His time, my view of God as the faithful One was strengthened, and thus what I believed about God was confirmed. 

Secondly, a crisis of faith leads to more authentic convictions. When we experience a crisis of faith the last thing we need to do to is deny it. Instead of denying the issue, lean into your crisis of faith and face your doubts. As a result, authenticity will be a characteristic of your life. Here is the deal, God knows your doubts already, so you might as well be honest with Him about them. Only when you face the truth about your doubts are you able to move forward toward a more authentic faith. If we allow fear to rule and we deny our doubts, our faith will not be as strong as it should be. God honors truthfulness and He already knows what we are thinking. 

Third, a crisis of faith invites you to a stronger and more deeply-rooted faith. By accepting that we are in a crisis of faith, we have the capacity to admit we need God. Can you imagine the children of Israel standing before the Red Sea? Behind them was an army rushing at full speed toward them. Ahead of them was a river that was impossible to cross with a million people or more. Their leader was an old man who has nothing but a stick in his hand. Do you think they had a crisis of faith? These and other stories have been recorded through Scripture to give us hope and help us to navigate life when doubt comes and we struggle with our own crisis of faith.

When the events we face cause us to believe we cannot go on serving God, what do we do? How do we keep the Easter story alive in our heart? I believe this passage gives us some answers. This may be a different look at this passage than we are use to, but here we go. First of all, we worship. Worship is a key component to living in the reality of the resurrected Christ and moving beyond our crisis of faith. The word worship is a great word. This word comes from the old English word “weorthscipe” which means to ascribe or give value to something or someone. As we give value to something or someone, we tend to worship or value that thing or person. When it comes to Christ, He is already worthy but we must value the gift He has given us. We must ascribe worth and value for who He is and what He is about. 

The second solution is to recognize that we have been called to a higher purpose. Notice that Jesus did not distinguish between the disciples who worshipped Him and the ones who doubted. He called them all with the same purpose and calling. No matter who you are as a believer, He is calling you to find a purpose. This gives us a reason to look beyond where we are and allows us to refocus on something greater than ourselves. Perhaps one reason we are facing a crisis of faith is that we have not determined our purpose in Christ’s Kingdom. 

What does He call us to do? Here Jesus issued this command. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Notice a couple of things here. First, we are to go. This speaks of action. We are to go people and not wait for them to come to us. To go means we have an outward focus on evangelism. He called them all to go into the world. Let me make a critical point here. We are all called to share Christ with those we encounter. By going our focus is shifted from our struggle with faith to seeing those who need of Jesus and those who need hope for a better day. 

 

The third way to counter our crisis in faith is to remember, He is with us all of the time. He never leaves us. He is, has been, and always will be with us. That brings us hope and inspiration to face a better day. It encourages us to move in obedience to touch those lives we encounter. 

So how are you today? Are you living with a crisis of faith? Are living with doubt? Maybe today God wants to show you are new purpose and a new reason to focus on Him. Maybe today, He wants you to worship Him regardless of where you are circumstantially. What about it? Are you ready to soar with faith?

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Resurrection is no Joke

Peninsula Community Church

The Resurrection is no Joke

April 1, 2018 

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

This morning we celebrate Easter which is Resurrection Sunday. It is interesting that this particular Easter falls on April 1 which is April Fool’s Day. The last time this occurred was in 1956. That was sixty-two years ago. Easter will not happen on April 1 again until 2029 and after that in 2040. Following that, we will not see Easter fall on April Fool’s Day again this century. The reason for this is that Easter is set as the first Sunday after the first full moon after Spring begins. That is why Easter is on a different Sunday each year.  

Historically, April Fool’s Day has been known as the day we play practical jokes on one another. There have been some interesting practical jokes through the years. One of the funniest for me was when the BBC ran a report that they had found trees responsible for growing spaghetti. In fact, they showed a photo of workers harvesting spaghetti from the trees in order to prove the news story. Following the report, they were immediately inundated with calls from people wanting to know where they could purchase the spaghetti trees and if they could buy them with penne or lasagna. Another interesting one to me was the April Fool’s Day that Burger King offered a left handed whopper for those who were southpaws. They advertised that all of the condiments had been turned 180 degrees to accommodate those who were left handed. 

While we might laugh at these stories, there were some in Jesus’ day, and today as well, who try to classify the story of Christ’s resurrection as a hoax, a joke, or a made up story. But as we will see today, the story of the resurrection is no joke. For a moment, let me review some of the excuses and the reasoning given against the resurrection, and then we will look at the truth of the resurrection, and how we benefit from the greatest miracle ever to occur. 

After the resurrection, some tried to say that Jesus had not actually died, He had just fallen asleep and had passed out due to the severity of His injuries. In their minds, He never rose, because He never actually died. Others suggest that His disciples had stolen the body of Christ and thus made up the story of the resurrection to hide the truth. Another theory proposed is that the disciples and His witnesses so loved Him and were so distraught they actually hallucinated His resurrection. Others suggest the disciples were so overwhelmed with sadness and regret, they only imagined that He had risen. Still others questioned the validity of the witnesses and what they actually saw. If the witnesses could be discredited, then the news of the resurrection could be discredited.

We hear a lot today about fake news but this is not a new idea. This goes back to Jesus’ time where false news stories were being filtered through the town to cover up the truth of the resurrection. The stories go on and on, but these stories beg the question that if these things were true, then why would the disciples put their lives on the line the way they did. To propagate such a lie cost them so much. The message of the resurrected Christ cost them their lives, their homes, and their future. So, why would anyone propagate such a story knowing that it would cost them everything. The reason of course is that this was not a lie, it was the truth and they continued with this message because it was a message of life and hope.

With that said, let me give you three reasons why the resurrection is no joke. First, of all our faith is based in the truth of the resurrection. Paul stated, But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. Paul tells us that if there was no resurrection then our preaching and our faith is all in vain and is useless.

Here is the fact, by faith and through the preaching of the word, we know life’s disappointments, injustices, and failures can be overcome, because He is alive. Remember the story. On Friday, there was a lack of hope. There was not too much to celebrate. Christ was dead and was now lying in a borrowed tomb. The disciples were filled with regret and fear. Their faith had been shaken. And now rather than being strong and passionate about Christ, they were hiding in the darkness of a closed room. 

But on the third day, He arose and immediately went to the disciples. Why? He wanted to strengthen their faith and refocus then on the mission He had called them to. They did not have to cower in fear, regret, or lost hope any more. They now could walk in faith that is empowered by the risen Lord. 

For us today, because He is alive, we are assured we can have a relationship with Him. You see you can not have a relationship with a dead man. He is alive and wants to come to us. He wants to move us from fear to hope, from regret to promise, and from lost mission and to new assignments. Everything Jesus taught and lived for depended upon his death and resurrection. All the promises and prophecies in the Bible depend on the resurrection. The whole history of God’s plan to restore his relationship with man and woman depends on the resurrection. It is not overstating the fact to say the resurrection of Jesus is the single most important event in the history of the world. Your life and mine depends on it. Thank God it is no joke.

Secondly, the resurrection is no joke because through the resurrection we have power to overcome the work of sin. Paul states, And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Jesus not only overcame death but He overcame the power of sin. Through the cross we have forgiveness of sin. That is an awesome proposition but we need more than forgiveness, we need deliverance. The resurrection not only reminds of this, but it also paves the way for us to conquer sin. The power of sin can be broken because of the resurrection. 

From the beginning of time the lie propagated by the enemy was that we would die. There is truth to that when we live without Christ. In Christ, however, we do not have to face death, at least like others might. Because of the resurrection, all of the trials and injustices of Good Friday were redeemed! All of  the things that bring us death were redeemed by when Christ rose from the dead. The greatest evil ever done by mankind, the created crucifying the creator, has been redeemed to be the greatest good the world will ever know, the resurrection. Jesus is alive and that makes all the difference in this world! No matter what you experience whether pain, sin, mistreatment, or whatever it might be can be redeemed and be made right. The resurrection is no joke.

Thirdly, the resurrection is no joke because it gives us hope for the future. We have eternal life with Christ. Paul stated Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. This life is not it. To believe that suggests that we are to be pitied. Paul is saying it is so sad to believe that there is nothing beyond our life here. So many believe we live and then we die, but we are promised life beyond our current existence. We have a life beyond this world. 

You see while the miracles of the gospels were powerful, they pale in comparison to what is to come to those who are believers in Christ. At times, we can look at this world today and see that there is not much to get excited about. Think about this. Every person who ever received a miracle from Jesus died as we all will some day. His greatest victory was not the miracles He performed, but His resurrection. Miracles are only temporary, but the resurrection gives permanent hope. He comes for us that we might have life beyond this life. 

Too many in the world today do not have hope. A part of the problem is that many tend to only see things through the lens of the present. Others have lost hope and do not trust Christ. But He can and should be trusted. He promised He would rise and He did just that. It is the resurrection that sets Christianity apart from the world’s religions. We serve and celebrate the risen Lord today because He is alive. This also means that when He makes other promises in His word that He will keep those promises.

One of those promises is that if we turn our hearts and lives to Him, He will accept us and receive us. He will move us from hopelessness, regrets, frustration, to having a life filled with hope and peace. That is His mission and that is the work He accomplishes in each of us. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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