Monthly Archives: July 2018

Overcoming Strongholds

Peninsula Community Church

Overcoming Strongholds 

July 29, 2018

Joshua 6:1-7 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.” And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the LORD.”

This morning we will continue to take a look at the battles of the Old Testament. How these battles were won will give us insight into how we should fight the battles we face. As noted last week, each battle described in Scripture is different in scope, different in how it was fought, and different in how God intervened each time. God used different experiences to show how He would intervene and work on our behalf. Each battle won was in fact a miracle that only God could do, so that His name would be glorified and honored. 

Today, we will look at the battle of Jericho. As we review this story, we find an amazing opportunity for God’s power to be revealed. To understand this story, we must begin with the truth that God had commanded Israel to take the land. They had been on the wilderness journey for forty years and had crossed over into the promised land. When they crossed over into the Promise Land everything changed. In the wilderness, God provided for all of their needs. He guided them with the cloud by day and the fire by night. He gave them food, water, and their clothes did not wear out.

You see while they had been given the land, they had to possess what already belonged to them. They had to drive out the enemies that lived there so that they could set up their homes and become the nation that God had called them to be. God would be there for them as He promised in Joshua 1. Listen to the words God spoke to Joshua.“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.They are in the promise land, but they have to put into action what they had been told to do by God. They were to possess the land. 

This brings us to their first encounter which was the city of Jericho, an impenetrable city. History tells us that Jericho was a walled city with walls wide enough for two chariots to race around the top of the wall. Some historians have suggested that the walls were so reinforced that it would take even the most powerful force over a year to penetrate the wall. They also had enough provisions stored up to last them more than a year. It was a mighty fortress and Israel was ill equipped to take the city. To take the city, God had to intervene.

As Israel approached the city, we find that the testimony of God’s power and His exploits had preceded them. The residents of Jericho knew who they were and what they could do. They ran into the city for protection and safety because they knew the power of God. They knew that God was on their side. In our journey, we need to know that whatever enemy we face is more intimidated by God than we could ever imagine. 

As we look deeper into the story, we find that Joshua sends in a reconnaissance team to survey the land. He wanted to know the enemy and he wanted to know the odds that were against him. What they already knew was confirmed by the team. Their enemy was large, well equipped, and powerful. The city was well fortified and would not be easily taken. The odds were against them, but God was on their side. That is all that mattered. 

After the report is given, Joshua does what all of us need to do when we encounter an enemy that is too big and fierce. He prayed. He sought the Lord. And, because He sought the Lord, God gave him a plan to take the city. Even today, if I had received these orders I would have been concerned. I might have even laughed at the prospect of doing what He commanded. After all, no one had done this before and this was outside the parameters of known warfare methods then and now. Walk around Jericho once a day for six days and then on the seventh day march seven times without a sound or a word. Then on the seventh day and the seventh time they were to sound the trumpet and lift a powerful sound of worship to God.

They received unusual orders, from an extraordinary God. As we know, Joshua obeyed and the walls came tumbling down. Out of obedience to God’s will, the walls began to fall and they crumbled like match sticks. Not a shot was fired. Not a fist was thrown. Not a sword was used. Israel did nothing but be obedient to God’s way of doing things. Israel was victorious because God wanted His name to be made known and because of the promise to Israel that He would be with them and keep them. 

As we look at the city of Jericho, we find that it is representative of the strongholds we face. The way the battle was won was God’s way of saying that their battle was not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of darkness. This walled city represented the principalities and powers that Israel would face. But those walls fell. So will the walls and strongholds of our life, if we are obedient to God.

The question therefore is how do we overcome the strongholds we encounter? I believe that this story gives us some clues. First, we must know our enemy. Joshua wanted to know his enemy and that is why he used a reconnaissance team to spy out the land. He wanted to know the workings of the enemy. The Bible tells us that our enemy is not flesh and blood, but it is the principalities and powers in our life. The enemy we face is liar and he is the father of lies. Strongholds are developed most often by us believing and accepting his lies. Here is a truth however, the enemy of our souls seems to be a formidable enemy just like Jericho, but he will fall because he has already been defeated by God upon the cross. 

Second, we must know what the strongholds in our life are. To know the strongholds, we must know what a stronghold is. Strongholds are reoccurring destructive habits that ultimately lead to our demise. Spiritual warfare’s main playing field is our mind, our thoughts, and our imaginations (2 Corinthians 10:5). A stronghold is a controlling spirit. These controlling spirits come in all sizes and shapes. They come packaged in the form of fear, anxiety, addictive behaviors, false humility, regrets, failures, self esteem, and so on. Someone has said that the things we try to hide and do not want anyone else to see is the stronghold that most affects us. We try to hide our fear, anxiety, and sin. We put up a good front and yet these things left to themselves become the nemesis in our life. They develop into strongholds. That is why the enemy we most often face is not flesh and blood, but it is a power that overwhelms us. 

Third, we must fight God’s way. We must begin in prayer and then take every thought captive to the glory of God. The battles in our life most often begin in our thought processes. We entertain thoughts that do not honor God or serve to move us closer to His purposes. You see it works something like this. We see, hear, or read something that is negative or destructive. Rather than examining the thought through the template of truth, we entertain that thought. Rather than using Paul’s template, in Philippians, we meditate on the thought or idea and rather than consider God’s way we make other choices. How should we process our thoughts? Paul in Philippians 4:8 said this. 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.

Do you see it? Our mindsets and our attitudes make all of the difference. Too often, we relive the lies and the falsehoods that have been propagated. These strongholds become the walls that surround us and the result is we do not live like we ought to. We do not respond to others like we ought to. We walk in discouragement and disappointment rather than in the victory that is ours through Christ. But, if we are obedient to God’s way, the walls can fall. Anxiety will be gone, fear will be dispelled, and sin will be forgiven. Down come the walls. 

So, what are the walls in your life? What walls have been built up so that you are captivated by the power of the stronghold? We must know that God loves us no matter what and he desires to set us free from every stronghold and bondage that is before us. 

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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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We Do Not Have to Battle Alone

Peninsula Community Church 

We Do Not Have to Battle Alone

July 22, 2018

Exodus 17:8-14 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

Throughout the Bible, we find stories of battles fought. It is noteworthy that every battle described in Scripture was different in its scope, different in how it was fought, and different in how God intervened each time. The bottom line is that each time a battle was fought and won, those in the battle had to commit to God, follow His will and His way, and trust Him no matter what they were asked to do. Many times, God had to clear the way of their fears, their hesitations, and their concerns in order to focus them totally and completely on His ability to fight for them. In so doing, each battle was won in amazing fashion and certainly not in what we would consider the usual ways. Each of these events were in reality a test to see how much those in the battle would surrender themselves to God and to His ways. 

As we review these battles, we find the battles that ensued were not a fair fight. The army confronting Israel was always bigger, more powerful, and better equipped than the armies of Israel. In a human sense, there was no way they could win. There was no way they could overcome the odds against them. In a human sense, they were already dead and were already defeated, before the battle even began. The truth, however, was that the God who was fighting for them was always greater than any enemy that could ever confront Israel and for that matter confront us. That is why John could unequivocally state in 1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 

Do you grasp that this morning? The God we serve, the God who has redeemed us, the God that is living in the depths of our hearts, has and continues to overcome every enemy we encounter. Here is the question I need to answer and so do you. “How different would I live if I truly grasped the concept that God has the power to overcome every situation in my life?” Would I live in fear and faithlessness, or would I live a humbly fearless life fully confident of God’s power and ability to fight every battle I encounter. Sadly, too often, we do not live with that expectancy.

To help us address this question, over the next couple of weeks, we will look at some of the Biblical battles found in Scripture so as to learn how they were won. We will also consider the lessons we can learn that will help us fight the battles we face with greater clarity, wisdom, patience, and grace. By grasping these lessons, we can have a greater understanding of the God we serve and who is on our side. Remember what Paul said in Romans 8. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. Notice this, we are not conquerors in ourselves or our ability, but in Christ, the one who gave His life so we could live in the abundance of all He has done. 

As I was preparing for this, I was wondering, how often do we live in less than the full power of God? I think that too often we try to live off of the crumbs and the morsels rather than pulling up to the table to live within that which has been prepared for us. Some years ago, a man had saved all of his money to travel to America. This happened before the invention of airplanes. He purchased his ticket and the day came to board the ship and head to America. 

Each evening he would retire to his room where he would eat the canned fish and crackers that he brought with him for the trip. Towards the end of the trip, he was on one of the decks and he met the captain of the ship. The captain introduced himself, and after some discussion the captain stated that he had missed him at dinner each night. The man seemed confused and explained that he could not afford the meals and that that he had brought his own food. The captain shook his head in disappointment and said you must have misunderstood. You see your ticket includes the meals each day. The sad part of this is the man was not living from the fullness of what was already provided for him. How many times do we do this? Sometimes we face battles only to be reminded that we have an abundance of blessing from God.

Today, we will briefly look at the battle fought by Israel against the Amalekites in Moses’ day. In this story, we find that Israel encounters the Amalekites at Rephidim. They were about to go to war. It did not matter what they did, they were going to have to face this enemy. So based on the news that war was unavoidable, what does Moses do? He commands Joshua to choose men and go and fight with Amalek. What did Moses do personally? He went up on the mountain with his staff or rod, as well as with Aaron and Hur. From there, he watched the battle below, but he was not inactive. Notice that as long as he kept his arms lifted with the rod in his hands, Israel was winning the battle, but as soon as his arms were lowered, they began to lose. As the day progressed, Moses became tired. He was weary. He needed help. Aaron and Hur stepped up and became the support he needed in that moment. 

This speaks to us that we do not have to be martyrs when it comes to the battles we face in life. We need to allow people to come around us to hold us up when the battle is overwhelming us.  We need to remove the mask of self-sufficiency and admit we need help. You see the enemy loves to get us to do a couple of things when we are tired and battle weary. First, we have a tendency to give up and concede the battle. The problem is that the enemy realizes that if he fights hard enough we will concede, so, he learns not to give up his fight. He will continue to fight us with all that he has because he knows we will eventually give up. But we do not have succumb to this, but rather we can stand and when we have done all to stand, we can stand in the armor that God has given us. 

Secondly, we often engage in battles that are not ours. Here we see the battle was Joshua’s to win. Joshua was the warrior and Moses was the intercessor. Joshua was the one who was to fight the battle, but Moses was to pray and to support Joshua and the warriors. This can be the hardest position to be in. There is a battle but it is not our battle. There is an illness. There is a personal issue. There is problem. And there is nothing we can do but pray. But prayer is the most powerful tool in our arsenal.

Thirdly, we may not give up, but we begin to isolate and hide. In isolation, we are a target for the enemy to attack us and minimize the work of God in us. Sometimes isolation is good for a time of reflection and prayer, but too often we can become so isolated that we do not let anyone in to help us. We reject the help of others and try to fight all alone.

So what do you do? It is at this moment that we have a choice to make. Will we isolate, or will we engage with others who can assist us? One of the greatest problems we face is the pride and fear of going it alone in life. It is prideful to say we do not need anyone to help us. Fear also moves us to fight alone because in fear we do not trust others. We believe we are tough, independent, and capable of handling things on our own. Conversely, we need to take off the mask of self-sufficiency, pride, and fear to acknowledge that we need help.

I am reminded of the story of one of the greatest preachers in history, Charles Spurgeon. Many of you do not know him, but his sermons today continue to be referenced by modern pastors. He pastored one of the largest churches in London, England for years. People were coming to Christ and the church was growing every year. He was a successful pastor in every sense. While on the outside his ministry seemed to be effective, inside he had a battle raging. You see, he dealt with a heavy depression. You see, he was being criticized for his ministry. Even though the church was growing, he often felt ineffective and felt that he was failure. At 22 he was preaching and a prankster started yelling fire. Chaos ensued and that night seven people died because they were trampled to death and 28 others were severely injured that night. His wife proclaimed that she thought he would never preach again. 

With all of this, he knew he could not fight this battle by himself. So, he asked a group of intercessors to meet in the room just below the platform where he would be speaking. Their job was to pray for him as he was ministering the gospel. They were in essence lifting his hands in battle. They were supporting him. The result was he was able to preach with even greater victorious power.

So this morning, are you isolating yourself when you really need help? Do you feel trapped because you are engaged in what seems to be a losing battle? Does it feel the weight of the world is on your shoulders? Do you feel overwhelmed? You see as powerful as Moses was, he needed help. He needed people to come into his life. Rather than isolate, we need to invest in others who will share hope and will encourage us. Do not be afraid to let others in. The fact is fear is a liar. Because of fear and anxiety, we isolate and we disconnect. Moses gives us the example however that we need help. We need people to engage with us as we fight the battles we face. Will you?

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Control is an Illusion

Peninsula Community Church

Control is an Illusion

July 15, 2018 

Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Last week we looked at Jehoshaphat and how God protects us and keeps us. The focus of our study this morning will be on what happens when we do everything right, and God does not hold up to His part of the bargain? What do you do when it feels that God has let us down? Or at least we think He does! What do you do when things are out of our control? In other words, what do you do when you lose control of a situation, event, or person?

This issue of control is seen in the story before us today. Three of the four gospels have some version of this story that impacts the disciples. Let us look at this story and then make a few comments. After a day of ministry, we find that Jesus tells the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake. Jesus joins them and off they go. On their journey, they encountered a storm! Imagine this picture with me. Jesus commanded them to get in the boat and go to the other side. He is right there with them. He commanded, they obeyed.

Jesus was with them, and yet they encountered a fierce storm. It should be noted that this was not a normal storm. We find the disciples were greatly afraid. To understand their fear, we must remember that most of the disciples were fishermen and they had been out on this same lake many times before. They had encountered all kinds of storms in the past, but this storm was a different storm altogether. It effected them to the core of their being. We find the storm was so massive and powerful that water was overflowing into the boat. This could result in the boat sinking and them losing their lives. They were afraid. How many times have you faced a storm that rushed in and overpowered you? It was so powerful that you risked death or you felt like you would drown.

In 1980 I had boarded a plane that was headed from Atlanta to La Guardia airport. I was in God’s will as I was traveling around the US for the ministry that I was leading. It was a normal day but after we took off the weather turned nasty. I had flown many times before and was on other planes when other storms had hit but this flight was different. The plane we were on began to be tossed. We continually felt the storm causing the plane to rise, fall, and shake. I can tell you there was some fear that arose and I was not feeling very safe. I had never worried about crashing before but that thought crossed my mind many times during this flight. I was so excited when we finally landed at LGA. I literally got on the ground and kissed it. 

In this story, we find the disciples had been obedient to Jesus’ command. They had gotten into the boat and had begun to travel to the other side of the lake. What they did not anticipate was the storm that was to blow in. You see they could control the boat. They could control their actions, but they could not control the storm, nor could they control the outcome of the storm.

Even though the disciples were right where they were suppose to be, they encountered a great storm. They were in this situation because they were in obedience to Jesus’ command. One of the great lies propagated by the enemy is that if we encounter a storm, there must be something wrong with us. The enemy of our soul loves to take the storms and issues of life that are beyond our control, and use them to demoralize us and make us feel that we have failed or we are in some state of error. There are times when the storms we face are a result of our actions or our decisions. We face storms because of our failures and because of the sin in our life, but in this case they were right where God wanted them to be. 

For the disciples, notice here they were powerless to control the storm nor could they control Jesus. It is noteworthy that even the best of us can be overwhelmed by the storms of life. We can be a old salt as a Christian so to speak. We can navigate almost anything but then there is that thing, that one event or series of events that rock our world and unsettles us to the core. Lack of control can result in fear which is a powerful emotion. All of us deal with such things at some moment in time. There is the fear of loss. There is the fear of the unknown. There is the fear of pain. There is the fear of death. There is the fear of a hostile world. The result of fear is that we can either be motivated to act in positive ways or it can paralyze us.

Because of the entrapments of the enemy, we are all prone to wander from God’s plan and purpose for our lives. I love the old hymn Come Thou Fount of Blessing. There is a line or two in there that speaks to this. The writer states Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. The point here is that we often try to control that which we cannot control and that is tiring and wearisome. It is fruitless.

We are most often effected by what we cannot control. When we feel we have lost control our world gets turned upside down. The fact is we all love to control things to some degree or another. We all love to have things in order and we love to control our destiny. The problem is when our plans do not always work out, we can get bent out of shape and feel distraught.  

Where was Jesus in all of this? He was asleep on the stern of the boat on a cushion. He was not effected by the storm but the disciples were. They panicked and they called to Jesus. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Notice, they felt that Jesus is not responding to their needs. The disciples who were seasoned fishermen and were acquainted with storms and problems on the lake panicked. For them, everything was out of control. They could not control the storm and they could not control Jesus. 

I wonder if they thought, Jesus, we did our part but you are not living up to your part. We got in this boat because you told us to. If we are honest, we probably all face a moment where we feel that Jesus has failed us. We question whether Jesus is actually with us and whether He is in control. Sometimes, when the pressures of life are overwhelming and seem to overpower us, we can believe God has failed us. We can feel that God is not doing His part. We too can proclaim and at times scream in our hearts, “Oh God where are you?” 

Listen to the words of the disciples. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” There is so much in this statement. Do you not care? Are you just going to sleep through all of this? Do you not see what is going on here? It is at this point in our walk with Christ that our faith is tested. Do you ever feel that way? 

Notice what Jesus does after this. Scripture says And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Notice that in a moment Jesus spoke to the wind and there was calm. The storm that moments before was overflowing into the boat, was now calm. The storm that once seemed as if it was going to sink the boat, was now carrying them across the lake to the other side, which was their destination to begin with. While Jesus may seem distant, He is there all of the time. He is on the journey with us. He is near to us. He has not left us nor has He forgotten us. 

Jesus addresses their faith and their fear. Rather than trust Him, they had moved in fear. You see faith and fear are opposed to one another. Faith is opposed to fear and fear counteracts our faith. Fear causes us to be out of focus. For the disciples, they had seen the miracles of God, they had received the teachings of Christ, but these things had not impacted their faith. We can go to church every Sunday. We can go to conferences. We can read books. The question, however, is “Have we grown in our faith?” What we do must cause us to develop a greater faith in Christ. 

In this story, I am amazed at the response of the disciples, once the storm is calmed. You would think they would have been overjoyed but instead they are afraid. But this is a different kind of fear. Their fear of the storm turned to an awe inspiring fear because of what Jesus just did. He spoke and the winds ceased and the storm was abated. And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

They were amazed and they walked in the awe of the miracle God had provided. Their fear turned from worry to being overwhelmed with the power of Jesus to control the storm. Their loss of control turned to victory, and their confidence in Jesus to control every problem we experience. So let me ask you? Where is Jesus? Do you feel He has left you? The truth is He has not left us. He is in the boat. He is at peace. He is in control. We can rest in that. 

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Keep your Eyes on Jesus

Peninsula Community Church 

Keep your Eyes on Jesus

July 8, 2018 

2 Chronicles 20:12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

What do you do when the odds are against you? What do you do when the problems of life are overwhelming you? This is what we know from our passage this morning. The land of Judah was in turmoil. They felt powerless and overwhelmed because the armies that were coming against them were powerful and they showed no mercy. In this story, Jehoshaphat gives us insight into how we should respond to the overwhelming difficulties in our life. Let’s look at a few of these this morning. 

When you read all of 2 Chronicles 20, you find a couple of things that assist us when we go through the difficulties of life. In verse 2, we find that Jehoshaphat began with an honest appraisal of the realities they faced. He received a report that a great multitude was coming against them. Sometimes, we can ignore the truth and the reality of what we are facing, but that does not help us in the long run. It only delays healing from the pain, and it can delay the blessing of God. When we acknowledge the issue, we can focus our attention in the right direction. 

My question this morning is what report have you received? What overwhelming news has come to you that has rocked your world? Have you received bad health news? Have you received bad news about a relationship? How about overwhelming financial issues? We all have those things that attack us and keep us wondering what is next. When this happens, are you acknowledging the truth? Are you living in the present reality? Or, do you deny the issues?

Notice Jehoshaphat’s response! He was afraid. What would you do? How would you respond to a coming battle that is sure to devastate you and kill off many that are with you? There was not much to be excited about. This enemy were a formidable army and they were about to do major harm. Jehoshaphat did what most of us would have done. He was afraid. You see fear itself is not the problem, it is what we do with the fear that makes the difference. 

So what did Jehoshaphat do with his fear? He began to pray and to fast with the intent to align his heart and his mind with the heart and mind of God. Elmer Towns, one of the cofounders of Liberty University, along with Jerry Farwell, has written a number of books and articles on fasting. He stated that “we do not fast to get prayers answered as much as we fast to know God.” He describes fasting as that which leads to an intimate knowing of Jesus Christ. Because of Jehoshaphat’s call for prayer and fasting, notice what happens next. Jehoshaphat begins to extol the testimony of all that God has done in the past in an effort to build faith in the present. Through pray and fasting, he was reminded of the goodness and the power of God. 

It is then that Jehoshaphat makes a powerful statement. He said this because their heart was aligned with God’s heart and because they were reminded of all that God had done for them. He proclaimed “We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.” What a powerful statement of faith. What is he saying? He is saying, yes I see the armies. I see the power of their forces. I acknowledge my fear and my concerns. I recognize that we could be overwhelmed and destroyed. And yet, with all of that in mind there is one thing I can do. We might not know what to do, but we can keep our eyes on God. 

Think about this. Jehoshaphat is saying we do not have a clue, but we have God. He is saying I do not have any answers, but we have God. He is saying this problem is bigger than us and greater than anything we can do, but we have God. The conclusion of this matter could be devastating, but we have God. We are afraid, but we have God. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on God. We trust Him!

Some years ago we had a man in our church that owned a party fishing boat. One day we had been out in the Atlantic fishing the wrecks for black fish and sea bass. Suddenly, on the radio we began to hear chatter about a severe storm that was blowing in and that we needed to return to the dock as soon as possible. You see the inlet we had to go through was rough even on a good day. Now there was a severe storm. Carl, the captain and owner of the boat, asked that I join him in the wheel house, which I did. 

Sure enough the storm came in and the inlet was swirling and the waves were beating the shore with great power. On either side of the inlet were large rocks that would destroy the boat, if we collided with anyone of them. The captain was not deterred. He aligned the boat to go through the inlet and off we went. We were getting tossed around, but he kept his focus and made it through the inlet. How did he do this? He kept his eyes on the boat’s instrumentation and GPS. Though the storm was rough, and I admit I was scared, the captain kept his focus on the instruments. We made it through the inlet and safely to the protected waters of the bay.

When I talked to him later about this event, He stated that he had faith in his equipment and by focusing on the equipment, he navigated the storm. So it is with us. we need to focus on God and He will direct our steps. You may not know what to do, but you can focus on God. He will keep you no matter what. He will move you safely to the protection of the bay. 

Listen to the words of 2 Chronicles 20:14-17. They speak to us more than anything else.  And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

Did you catch the key to this passage? Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. The battle they were facing was not their battle, it was God’s. How many times do we try to fight battles that we were never intended to fight? We try to work things out, and sometimes we try to get involved where we should be allowing God to work out the situation. Notice they were to stand and see the salvation of the Lord. They were to stand in faith and by faith. They were to let God fight their battles. If we will allow God to do so, we can give every problem we face to Him. We can surrender our will to His will, and we will see Him fight for us.

Notice that Judah did not do nothing, they were moved to action but look at the action they took. ’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” Notice what they did. They did not just sit on the sidelines. They engaged, but not in the way that we might think. They began to worship God. They worshipped Him with song, and they worshipped Him with their praise. They prayed, they trusted God, they realized that this was God’s battle, and they praised God with the words of song and worship. Notice that all of their actions aligned their focus on God and His work in their lives. 

Then the most amazing thing happened. God confuses the armies that were set against them and they began to fight amongst themselves to the point that they utterly destroyed one another. They were destroyed but God was glorified. The people praised God and God came through. They focused on Him, and He won the battle. They turned their eyes upon God, and He came through big time. 

How about you? Are you fighting battles that are not yours? Have you become focused on things other than God? Have you forgotten the blessings of God on your life? 

I love the story of Peter and the fact that He walked on water. Why? Because he had his eyes on Jesus, when he stepped from the boat. He was focused on Jesus. Notice that as soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus, he fell into the water and was overcome by the storm. While he remained focused on Jesus, he was walking on water. Peter, Peter was walking on water. How awesome is that? What changed in his condition? He was distracted by the waves. He took his eyes off of Jesus. He lost his focus and into the water he went. 

In the end we must keep our eyes on Jesus. We may not know what to do but we can trust God. We can stay focused on Him. We can worship God with songs of praise and songs of worship. We can pick our battles and not fight the ones God already has under His control. 

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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Cost of Freedom

Peninsula Community Church 

The Cost of Freedom 

July 1, 2018 

Ephesians 1:7-10 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

As we read this passage, we find that Paul details two primary benefits we receive as believers in Christ. We know this is written to believers because he begins the verse with “In Him.” This phraseology is used to signify that we are in Him because of salvation through Christ. So as believers, we receive two amazing gifts or benefits. We are redeemed and we are forgiven. 

In regard to being redeemed, we find this is a word that means to buy back or pay a debt. In New Testament times, the term was a reference to slave trading. A slave could be set free if the right price would be paid on their behalf. It was a stiff price, but for those who wanted it, they could make it work. Once the freedom price had been paid, the new owner could release that slave. The slave was now free and never had to fear being sold into slavery again. 

Christ went to the cross as the spotless lamb to give Himself to purchase us from the slavery of sin. He was the sacrificial lamb that was slain so that the penalty of sin could be paid and we could be free from the power of sin. He did this by shedding His blood and paying the ultimate price. As Paul says here, He lavished us with the riches of His grace which paid in full the greatest of all gifts, our spiritual freedom.

This idea of the Lamb of God has been a theme of redemption from the beginning of time. Even as far back as Abraham and Isaac, you will recall that God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. He would be the one who would populate the world. Isaac was the promised son that God had given to Abraham to fulfill this promise. But there was a problem, God tested Abraham and commanded him to take Isaac and sacrifice him on an altar. 

Can you imagine the scene as they are climbing the mountain? Isaac is asking his father where the sacrifice is and Abraham’s answer over and over was God will provide. Abraham had a confidence in God, that if Isaac was the promised son, that God would provide an appropriate sacrifice. Abraham placed Isaac on the altar in obedience to God and drew his knife. God called to Abraham and showed him a lamb caught in the thicket. That lamb became the substitutionary sacrifice for Isaac. That is what Jesus did for us. Because the wages of sin is death, we deserved death, but Christ became our substitute and the wages of sin were paid for through His sacrifice. 

If we fast forward a few hundred years, we find the children of Israel under Egyptian rule and they have been for over 400 years. What started as a good relationship between Joseph and Pharaoh, quickly denigrated to one that set the Egyptians against the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel was in bondage and were slaves to the Egyptians. But God had a plan, God sent a messenger and a deliverer. Moses confronted Pharaoh, and after administering nine plagues, God had a plan to redeem the nation of Israel and to set them free. 

The children of Israel were instructed to take a unspotted and unblemished lamb. The lamb was was to be killed and the blood of the lamb was to be applied to the doorpost of their home. The idea was that the death angel was to pass over them because the blood of the lamb had been applied to the doorposts of their homes. They would not be affected by the death angel. The wages of death would not affect them because they would be redeemed by the blood.

As we fast forward to the New Testament, we find that John the Baptist makes a highly provocative statement for his day. As he sees Jesus approaching, he proclaims “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” How blasphemous this was in His day, but how true it was. Jesus was being ushered in as the one and only lamb that could redeem the world and set us free from our sin. He was the perfect lamb, that had been tasked with this mission. John the Baptist recognized this and in that moment he spread the word about Christ’s mission, His purpose, and His identity. 

As we know now, Christ died a brutal death upon the cross. In so doing, He secured our freedom. It cost Him His life. The slave price was paid for us and Christ secured our freedom once and for all. He died so we could be free. He died so we did not have to face the penalty of death or the penalty of our sin. Because the wages of sin is death, without Christ we would have to face death as a consequence of the sin we committed. But through Christ we have been redeemed. We were bought off the slave market. We were bought with the most precious price that could ever be imagined. It was a price that had to be exacted, so that His will and His purpose could be achieved through mankind and that was the salvation for those who choose Christ. 

Secondly, through the death of Christ we have received forgiveness. The mental bondage that comes from our sin has been erased. We have been forgiven. Imagine that every sin, every mistake, every failure that occurred has been forgiven. This is not something to be taken lightly. God removes our sin from us. Listen to David’s response to God’s forgiveness. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:10-12). We are forgiven and that means that God now deals with us in a different way. He does not deal with us as sinners, but as saints who are moving toward the perfection God is working in us. 

There is a story about a Catholic priest in the Philippines. He was a much-loved man of God who carried the burden of a secret sin he committed many years before. He had repented but still had no peace. He had no sense of God’s forgiveness. In his church, there was a woman who deeply loved God and claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Jesus and Jesus spoke with her. He tested the woman by saying to her, “The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask Him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary.” The woman agreed. A few days later the priest asked, “Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?” “Yes, He did,” she replied. “And did you ask Him what sin I committed in seminary?” “Yes.” “Well, what did He say?” “He said, ‘I don’t remember.’” This little story reminds us of the fact God forgives and He forgets our sin, even if we do not. God reminds us I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins (Isaiah 43:25).

That is what Jesus did for us. The pile of sin’s bills in our life were too much for us to handle. We were weighed down under the legal requirements of that sin and the sins we committed. But, Jesus went to the cross and He paid the debt we had, so the sin we once experienced could no longer effect our life. It was paid completely and in total. The bill of sin is now stamped with the words debt paid in full. 

A number of years ago we had purchased a car from a friend. Because we could not afford to pay for the car in full, we arranged interest free payments with him. We had paid about one third of the cost when he invited me out for lunch one day. As we were talking at lunch, he took a piece of paper from his pocket and on the paper were the words “paid in full.” You see he took the debt we owed and forgave us of the debt. It was our debt, but he forgave us and we were debt free.  

How did Christ pay our debt? He did this according to the riches of his grace. Here is the point Paul is making. No matter how great the debt, no matter how much you think you owe, the riches of His grace is more than enough to redeem us from our sin and He forgives us of every sin ever committed. 

Today, we are often reminded of past sin. The enemy of our soul loves to remind us of what we have done. He loves to remind us of our past failures. He loves to condemn us and try to get us to look back rather than look to what Christ has done and that our future is bright because of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. 

When satan comes to condemn you with past sin, you have the right and the privilege to hold up your list of sin and the paid in full receipt. Your sin has been covered by His blood and you are fully forgiven. How powerful that would be if we could walk in the vision of who we are in Christ! It would save us from returning to our old way of life. It would prevent us from being stagnated in our current existence, because we are being reminded of past sin that has already been forgiven. 

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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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