Monthly Archives: March 2019

Reap What You Sow

Peninsula Community Church 

March 24, 2019

Galatians 6:6-10 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

I love this time of the year. It is a time for us to see life again as Spring returns, flowers bloom, and it is a season of new beginnings. In just a few weeks, we will celebrate Easter and the power of the resurrection to fill the emptiness in our lives with His grace, healing, and a future. This is also the season that farmers begin to plant their crops for the year. They will begin by plowing the ground. They will determine what they will plant in which fields. They will select the seeds they will use. They will plant or sow those seeds because that is the only way for them to have a harvest. And then they will wait for the harvest.

I am not a farmer but my guess is that when a farmer chooses his seed, he does not just choose any seed. He chooses that seed that will provide the best reward for their time and energy. The reason this is done is that they what to reap an abundant harvest. It is a funny thing about the sowing and reaping process. We can only reap that which has been sown. If you do not sow, you will not reap. Secondly, what you reap is always greater than what you sow. We sow one seed, but from that one seed comes much fruit. Thirdly, there is life in the seed, but that life cannot be energized and revealed until it is planted in the ground. 

That is why this is such a powerful verse. It is here that we learn about the idea of sowing spiritual seed. From this passage we learn much about how we are to do life. We learn what it means to sow in a way that brings an abundant harvest of righteousness. With that said let me make some observations about this passage. 

First, do not be deceived. What is the deception? The deception is thinking that what you do does not matter. We can be deceived into thinking that our actions and our words do not matter, but they do. We can be lured into thinking that we do not influence others, but we do. We can be deceived into believing that our lives do not make a difference, but they do. We influence others and we make a difference with those around us by our actions, by our words, and by our life. As we discovered last week, the enemy loves to deceive us in order to destroy and minimize our influence for good. The enemy will cause us to believe that what we do does not matter, but I can tell you that God wants to use you for His glory and what you do matters and it matters much. 

Second, to reap you must sow. While it is true that we should not be deceived, we must also understand that we will reap what we sow. In terms of sowing there are a couple of things that we need to consider. We must be aware that the size of the harvest will be determined by how much we sow. We sow a little and we will reap a little. Sow much and we will reap much. Listen to Paul’s words. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). This works in our friendships. It works in our giving. It works in how we treat others. It works in how we invest our lives into the ministries we have been called to. In other words, do not hold back from sowing good seed. Sow generously and faithfully because you will reap generously.

Third, you choose what you will sow. There is a choice to be made. Will you sow righteousness or unrighteousness? Your choice will determine what you will sow. You will sow righteousness or you will sow unrighteousness. In return you will reap either righteousness or unrighteousness. Listen to Paul’s words. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. If we sow negative seeds, we will reap negative harvest. If we sow good seed, we will reap a good harvest.

Listen to Hosea’s words Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. (Hosea 10:12-13). Solomon also had a word about this process. He states Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor (Proverbs 22:8-9).

We do not have to look far to see what has been sown in our generation and how those things have impacted our culture. Abortion, euthanasia, gender identity, high divorce rates, gay and lesbian rights, gun rights, voting rights, immigration, mass murders, killings of police officers, and so on all represent the seeds that have been sown into our society. We have sown unrighteousness and we are now reaping the results of the unrighteousness that has been sown. We are dissatisfied with life. We are walking aimlessly looking for answers, but cannot find any because we are looking in all of the wrong places. We are reaping the effects of uninviting God to be at the forefront of our society. We are reaping the effects of marginalizing God in society and the public forum. He has been removed from school, and the ten commandments have been stripped from the halls of our institutions. We are reaping what has been sown. 

But there is hope in that we can sow seeds of righteous. By sowing seeds of righteousness we can reap the benefits of increased righteousness. We can change the cultural around us as we sow righteousness into every situation we encounter. One of the first questions in this regard is “Are you a victim or a victor?” Depending on how you answer this question will determine what you will sow and subsequently what you will reap. When we live with a victim mentality we tend to sow into ourselves and not into the world. We become wrapped up in our problems so that we fail to see the victory that is us. 

When we live as a victim we tend to sow that mentality into others. When we are living as a victim we tend to discourage those around us because we are too focused on our personal victimization. We blame everyone else for our problems and fail to see what we could do to change things. We drag others into our misery in hopes they will feel our pain but there is hope.

That brings us to our next point. Do not be weary in doing good. Have you ever gotten tired of doing the right thing? Have you ever wanted to take revenge? Have you ever wanted to forget trying to do right because it does not seem to be working. Paul challenges us to not grow weary in well doing. Do not get tired of doing what is right.

The farmer must trust the sowing process and so should we. Notice that the farmer does not worry about what will come forth. He knows if he sows well, he will reap well. At the right time the seed will germinate and will produce fruit. We too must trust that if we do the right thing, blessing will come and we will be rewarded with a harvest at the right time. Sow in righteousness and be faithful to that process and in due season you will reap a harvest of righteousness. 

Fourth, sow seeds of goodness to everyone. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Paul here expresses how we should sow good seed. Paul suggests that we should do good to everyone, especially those who are a part of the household of faith. Do not stoop to the level of those around you.

Paul had a great word in this regard. Listen to his words. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (When someone persecutes you sow seeds of blessing). Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:14-21).

So let me ask you what are you sowing? Are you sowing righteousness or unrighteousness? Have you gotten tired of waiting for the harvest? Do not be weary. Stay strong. Do what is right because it is right. Honor God and sow good seed. Keep sowing! 

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Breaking the Power of Offense

Peninsula Community Church

March 17, 2019

Mathew 5:21-24 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

This morning I want to deal with the issue of offense and anger in our life. Over the last few weeks I have been encountering this topic in many different ways. In our men’s study we have been dealing with the Biblical principle that we do not have the right to be angry or least stay angry. I also heard a message from Steve Furtrick from Elevation Church about letting go of our offenses. It seems that wherever I turn, this subject has been popping up. So, it seems to me that God is saying something to us, or maybe He is just communicating with me personally.

I love our passage this morning because Jesus does an incredible thing as He speaks to His disciples. He turns up the heat if you will. He infers here that our hearts are critical to everything we do. It is not just the actions we take, but it is the motivation of our heart that makes the difference. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” In this passage, Jesus raises the bar on murder when He says that it is not just a matter of the act of murder that makes it murder, but if we hold anger against another person we are guilty of murder. Why did Jesus do this? He knew that if we allow anger and offense to fester it will result in emotional, mental, and verbal murder. 

You see. Jesus understood a powerful principle that effects us as believers in Christ. Jesus communicated through this passage that the horizontal and the vertical relationships in our life must be in sync. The vertical relationship is our relationship with God. It is the specific connection we have with Him. It is how we respond to Him and how we show Him our love. The horizontal relationship is our relationship with those around us. As believers, the way we deal with people must match our love for God. We need to show love, forgiveness, and grace just as Jesus did to us. The problem however is that there is a disconnect between our relationship with God and our relationship with others. We cannot say we love God and hold anger or offense in our heart when God has forgiven us of so much. 

Steve Furtrick has suggested and this is confirmed by Scripture that we need a mirror more than we need a magnifying glass. We need to look within and deal with the condition of our heart before we look outside ourselves to control or judge others. The problem with living with a magnifying glass mentality is that we attempt to deal with everyone else’s problems and do little to fix our own problems. As we talked last week, if we are not careful, we will try to fix the speck in someone’s eye while we are walking around with a huge log in our eye. Too often, we think that everyone else is sick and we are offering others the solutions to problems which are actually within us. Jesus words speak deep into our spirit and tells us to get our act together before we judge others or hold onto an offense. 

Jesus continues this discussion by saying that when we are angry we tend to say things and react to things in unhealthy ways. Jesus speaks of insulting our brother. He stated that in the cultured His day you would be liable to the council. Even more hateful is to call someone “Racca” or fool. I do not know exactly what Racca means but it was the very worse thing you could say to someone. In fact, Jesus says that it was so egregious that the one using the word would be condemned to the fire of hell. That seems drastic but it illustrated how powerful offense and anger was. Jesus is saying that if we do not deal with our anger a living hell will erupt within us. What starts in the heart does not stay in the heart. What starts in the heart often flows from the heart and hurts others. In fact, when we are hurt, angry, or offended we probably have said or at least thought of saying some things that would cause us to be judged if anyone heard us. 

If we do not deal with an offense we will build a fence that will divide us and separate us.

Do not forget that this is the primary tactic of the devil. He is the enemy of righteousness and real relationships. Remember it is John 10:10 that reveals the mission of the devil. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. The enemy’s role has been and continues to be to divide and destroy. If he cannot destroy, he will divide. He often uses the smallest of offenses to divide us and eventually destroy us. 

You know how it works there is a small offense and you feel you handle it quite well or so you think. But not too far down the road there is another small offense that is added to the previous offense. Then there is another small offense that is added to the previous offense and suddenly the offense has grown and is now bigger than life. The garbage was not taken outside. The underwear was left on the floor, again. You did not say I love you. You did not acknowledge me. Whatever the incident, we become offended and if we do no deal with it that offense begins to grow into anger which leads to bitterness, resentment, and hatred. The result is that we shut people off and we shut them out because we are hurt and do not want to deal with them anymore.

The progression is one that moves from small offensives until we are walled in by offense. When this happens the enemy has been successful in dividing and destroying us. It happens in families, on the job, with neighbors, friends, and it happens in our marriage. When you think about marriage it is the prime example of the kingdom of God. That is why the enemy is so ready to divide and destroy marriages. Someone has said that many divorces are not a sudden act but a series of offenses or wrongs that are never dealt with. It is a death by a 1000 cuts. This happens in all of our relationships when we do not positively respond to the offenses we encounter. 

As we look at this subject we must understand that we will encounter offensive situations but to be offended is a choice. Here is the point. We can be offended or we can choose to let go of the offense. Unconfessed offense and anger leads to a life that is less than we should have, but a life that surrenders offense is ready to let go of every sin. For that reason Jesus tells us that we are to leave our gift at the altar and go be reconciled with our brother. The solution to offense is forgiveness. Notice this occurs while we are at the alter. Why do we communicate with God? It is because in our communication with God, our hearts are exposed. That is why it is critical that we spend time with God.

This week I had a number of opportunities to be offended. Some were bigger than others but some were small. For example, I was in line at the checkout and the lady in front of me cut me off to get into the line. I felt my blood pressure start to rise when she began to pull stuff out of her cart and she had 31 items in the 12 item lane. And then, she needed a pack of cigarettes and began to discuss the kind of cigarettes she wanted after the cashier brought the wrong ones to her three times. After all of this, she fumbled with her pocketbook and could not find her money. Then the credit card she finally used was not any good. Meanwhile, there I stand with my two little items that I wanted to buy, get out of the store, and get back home. 

My initial response was to feel the hair on the back of my neck begin to bristle but then I remembered our study on Tuesday night, and listening to Steve Furtrick’s sermon. I realized that I had to let it go. Was it an opportunity to be offended? Yes! I had every reason to be angry and offended that this was going on right there in front of me, but I had to make a choice. Rather than being offended I chose to let it go. I admit that it was not easy, in fact I wanted to be angry but knew I could not based on what God had been teaching me. 

The question sometimes is what if I cannot resolve the offense or hurt. This could be because of a death, a divorce, or other major separation that may have occurred. The principle for us is that what we cannot resolve, we can release. This is not always an easy thing to do. But it is necessary. We cannot always resolve every problem, but we can release the hurt and pain. That is the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to let go of the offense and the anger we confront. That is why Paul made the following statements. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:31-32. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. And then in Colossians 3:8. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

The final point I wold like to make today is that once you are free do not go back. Paul in Galatians 5:1 paints us a picture. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Since this is a decision, we must decide that we will not go back to the offense. The temptation for us is to return to that offense because in the offense we can justify our anger, bitterness, and hurt. That has a binding effect on us. God wants us to be free and released from the burden of offense so that we can live free and whole.

As we consider this we must remember the One that is our greatest example. He was offended. His friends denied Him. His closest ally betrayed Him. He was falsely accused. He was beaten for a crime He did not commit. But when it mattered and He was about to take His last breath, He communicated this line that challenges us and convicts us, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Forgive them! That sometimes is the hardest thing we can do or request of God. Forgive them. But it is Jesus that empowers us to speak those words. They are words of power and grace and they are freeing. He died so that we could be free from our offense and from the power that offense holds over us. Let it go and be free. 

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Liberalism and Legalism Balanced by Grace

Peninsula Community Church

Liberalism and Legalism Balanced by Grace

March 10, 2019

Romans 6:10-14 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Over the next few weeks I would like to look at a couple of subjects that I believe will inspire us and help us in our growth in Christ. It will help us in our ability to reach people with the lifesaving message of the Gospel. Through these studies, I would like to look at what the men have been focusing on in their study on Tuesday nights. The challenge will be to let go of offense. We will look at the idea of reaping what we sow. Finally, we will look at the power of fear and how that can keep us from being the person God wants us to be.

Today, however, I want to focus on four ways to deal with the culture we encounter. First, we can compromise our beliefs to address the culture. Second, we address the culture by cloistering ourselves and moving to the margins by way of legalism. Third, we can address the culture by becoming apathetic about what is going on around us. This can produce an attitude of giving in and giving up as there is no faith or hope that things will change. I will also submit to you a fourth way to address the culture and that is through God’s grace. That will be our focus today.

Before we begin let me share some critical information that is a wake up call for the church. I have been reading many reports that show that most churches in the US are declining or or they are stagnate. In fact, I just read a report from the North American Mission Board of the SBC that reported that 85% of their churches are stagnate or declining. The consensus is that North American churches as a whole are declining or stagnate. 

Fortunately, there is another side to this story that must be considered. It is a sobering thought that those churches that are growing are growing because they are engaged with the communities they serve. They are not just a church in the community but they serve the community around them. This does not mean they are standing on the corner preaching but rather that they have a heart to see culture change one person at a time. They are reaching the unreachable. They are praying for their community. They are speaking God’s love. They resist judgement toward those they encounter. And, they sincerely love those in their community. They practice Christ’s last commands to His disciples. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” Go is the great commandment. 

With that in mind let’s look at these issues. First, there is legalism. Legalism can be defined as the effort to control and manage sin. The truth of the matter is that we were never called to control or manage our sin or someone else’s sin for that matter. We were to called to forgive and allow the grace of God to fill us with the righteousness of Christ. That is what Paul is saying in the passage before us. Just because God calls us to be instruments of righteousness does not give us the right to control sin, especially the sin in others. Legalism leads to the judgement and criticism of others. We must use the instrument of righteousness correctly. Write this down. True righteous is not what we do as much as what we are. Here is the point. We can dress right, talk right, act right, and yet our hearts can be far from God or His purposes. This is most critical as we attempt to reach our culture. Remember the story that Jesus told. 

In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus had this to say on this subject. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Notice what He says. We are trying to get the speck out of the other person’s eye while we have a log in our own eye. It never works. We need to deal with the log in our eye before we can consider the speck in someone’s eye. Legalism seems to always points out the sin of others and judges others for their sin rather than recognizing one’s own sin.

The other problem with legalism is that it tends to cause us to cloister together and make it hard for anyone to get into our little circle. We make it hard because we are quick to judge and beat our chest that we are not like the tax collector who was in humble prayer at the altar of God. Listen to Jesus’ words. ”Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:9-13)!

The second way we can address the culture is to compromise. Here we try to minimize sin in an attempt to reach the culture. You might say that legalism over emphasizes sin while liberalism under emphasizes sin. We ignore sin or worst yet we begin to engage in sin thinking that we will somehow be better positioned to reach our culture. The problem however is that we lose our influence in the very culture we are trying to reach. The problem is that without recognizing sin and wrong we cannot change or move toward a healthy environment. If there is nothing to change why would anyone want to become a Christian. 

We do not have to look very far to see how this is effecting our culture today. Whether we are looking at the abortion issue, euthanasia, gender identity, legalization of drugs, legalization of prostitution, and so much more we find that there is a minimization of sin and a distortion of truth. We find many who have a form of godliness but they deny the power of God to bring change and bring salvation. They would rather compromise than speak truth in love. They would rather look more like the culture than be in a position to bring change.

The third way to address the culture is to become apathetic. The problem here is that we come to the place where we do not care about people. We can lose our love for people and come to the place where we do not care if they are hurting or need help. We are in our own little world and that is all we care about. Sadly, we do no believe that God can bring change or bring salvation. This is really a state of faithlessness. 

But there is a better way and that is through the way of grace. Grace is a powerful tool and a powerful means to reach people with the gospel and make an investment in our community. Through grace we do not judge because we know that except for the grace of God we would be lost. If we are honest we would have to admit that we just sin differently than others because the fact is all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Roman’s 3:23). 

In our passage today we find that Paul issues a challenge to us and that is the consideration that we are dead to sin and alive to God. Think about that idea! We are dead to sin but alive with God. In our sin we are dead but in God we have life. Because of that we are commanded to present ourselves as instruments of righteousness versus instruments of unrighteousness. That is what it means to walk in grace. 

Let me ask you a question. Are people drawn to you, or are they pushed away when it comes to spiritual discussions? Jesus is our model. Sinners and saints were drawn to him because He was a real man dealing with real issues. That was grace. He met them where they were without judgement or condescension. He loved them enough to give everyone seeking grace that gift. 

In life, I find that the instruments we have can be powerful and bring life or they can bring destruction. The same instrument can cause life or it can cause death. It is for that reason that I believe that God gave us grace in order to use the instruments of righteousness the way we should. 

Through grace we will have a correct view of sin. Rather than cloistering ourselves together and maximizing sin, we will walk in grace. Rather than compromise and minimizing sin, we will develop a proper perspective of sin. Rather than apathy we are awakened to a new reality and a new way to live and connect with our community. We are grace receivers and we are grace givers. 

Let me close with a story I read just this week. A man went to church. He forgot to switch off his phone and during the the prayer time his phone accidentally rang. The pastor scolded him. The worshippers admonished him after the prayers for interrupting the silence. His wife kept lecturing him on his carelessness all the way home. One could see the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation on his face. After this he never set foot in church again.  

That evening, he went to a bar. He was sill nervous and trembling from his earlier adventure. He spilled his drink on the table by accident. The waiter apologized and gave him a napkin to clean himself. The janitor mopped the floor. The female manager offered him a complimentary drink. She also gave him a huge hug and a peck while saying, “Don’t worry man. Who doesn’t make mistakes?” He has not stopped going to that bar since then. We have the chance to give grace to others and touch this world with the gospel, the good news. 

So how is your grace today? Are you just a receiver or are you a giver of grace? 

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Give Honor Where Honor is Due

Peninsula Community Church 

Give Honor Where Honor Is Due

March 3, 2019 

Romans 13:7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

We have dedicated this day to say thanks to all of those who serve our communities so faithfully. To our firefighters, EMS providers, paramedics, police, fire police, and dispatchers we say thank you for your dedication to keep us safe and provide care when we need it most. So today we give honor where honor is due. 

As we honor our first responders today, I am proud to consider myself among those who serve this community. As a member of the Selbyville Fire Department and chaplain for the Sussex County Paramedics, I am pleased to be a part of this elite group of men and women. For that reason, I know just a bit of what they go through and the difficulties they face on any given day. 

For the members of our fire departments, we often forget that they are volunteers. During the night when a call goes out they are aroused from your bed to answer the call. They respond willingly and quickly so as to come to the aid of those within this community who are in need. Let me illustrate this for you. Just two weeks ago there was a fire in Bishopville and because of the conditions at the fire, ten or more fire companies were alerted. Oh did I mention that it was 3:00 AM Monday morning with rain and near freezing temperatures outside. But they responded. Three EMS crews responded as well as they had to transport four patients from that fire to the hospital. They could have slept in and allowed the alarm to go unanswered, but they responded. And many of those who responded went home just long enough to shower, change clothes and go to their full time jobs on Monday. 

The paramedics represented here today while they may be full time never know what they will be called to and when they will be called. It could be a difficulty breathing, a cardiac arrest, a diabetic emergency, or the fourth call that tour to the same frequent flyer. They are called and. they respond. Once they have responded they return back to the station to complete their reports and if they have a busy night or day they may have several reports to be completed which means overtime and perhaps missed time with their families only to come in for their next shift.

Our police officers serve us tirelessly. You may not like it when one of them requires your signature because of an infraction but these men and women respond to calls day and night. Many times there is no way to know what is ahead of them and yet they respond faithfully because they are called to serve. I chuckle because many think that Selbyville is a quiet little town, but you might be surprised what goes on around town that requires a police response.

Then there are the unsung heroes, our dispatchers. They are that calming voice that settles our nerves and talks us through a difficult situation until help is on the way. Not long ago I spoke to a dispatcher who stated that the toughest part of his job was to be on the end of the phone and feel like there is so little that they could do. They felt frustration in those times.  

Over the last year the fire companies, paramedics, and police have responded to things that would make many of us in this room cringe. They have responded to suicides, fatalities in car accidents, assaults, fire calls where they found people who had expired because they could not get out of the house. They have been to dog bites and people bites. They have responded to altered mental statuses, cardiac arrests, and more. The EMS services have responded sometimes to the same house multiple times over a given period of time just to help someone up off the floor because the patient has fallen. They respond to the drug addict that has overdosed three times that week. But they serve and they answer the call willingly and faithfully. 

In Scripture, I am reminded of a passage that says Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. Our first responders have that kind of love for our communities and they have that kind of willingness to serve us. They put themselves on the line every day. They do so physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Our passage today is an important one because it speaks of giving honor to those who deserve honor. I am convinced that our first responders deserve that from us so I ask that you stand and show them honor today.  

As we show you honor today I would summit that as a first responder the best way to receive honor is to honor yourself. This is not just a matter of being a first responder but a matter of life as a whole. As a First Responder, we all witness and see things that we we cannot unsee. I am sure that we all have that call or two that has forever been etched in our minds and it does not take much to bring that memory to the forefront of our minds. 

Statistically, first responders are more susceptible to PTSD and Vicarious trauma than any other people group or profession. In fact, first responders exceed the threshold of PTSD than any other population group including war veterans. Death by suicide is more prevalent in First Responders than in any other people group. Why is this? In part, I believe it is because as first responders we tend to be type A people. You have to be in order to survive. That is why you can rush into a burning building when everyone else is rushing out. That is why you can do C-Spine on the patient inside the car that has been demolished in a crash and blood is running down their face and covering your turn out gear. 

But that same zeal and emotion that causes us to rush in can cause us to close up and not communicate what is going on in side of us. We believe we are tough and we are. That toughness  can cause us to believe that we do not need to talk to anyone. Too often we are taught to suck it up and move on but the memories of the trauma are still there. The nightmares continue. The thoughts of self destruction begin to surface. It is in that moment that we need to turn to someone and do the scariest of all things and that is to ask for help. Take that desire to rush in and use that to get the help you need. None of us are invincible. This includes not just first responders but everyone under the sound of my voice today.

With that in mind let me give you a couple of things that can help us through these moments. First, we need to talk to someone. Talk to a friend. Talk to a counselor. Talk to a pastor. Talk to God. In my life, personally, I have found that God is always open to hear us. Sometimes we believe that we have to be just the right kind of person for God to hear us, but Scripture tells us that if we will call upon Him, He will answer. God is only a call away and it is the best 911 call you can ever make. The problem too often is that we either think we are not worthy of asking Him for help, or we believe that He will not listen because of a lifestyle, actions we have taken, or a belief system we might hold to. But let me let you in on a little secret, God loves you. He has loved you. He loves you now. He will never stop loving you. So what do we need to do. We need to accept His love and ask Him for help. 

Second, the feelings we experience are normal. The feelings we have and the emotions we express are normal in terms of the work we do. The Scripture speaks to this in a powerful way. In 1 Corinthian 10:13 Paul states No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. The point is this. What we experience is normal and we should therefore not wait to get help, because we feel we are different or what we experienced is an isolated event. 

Finally, it can be hard to ask for help. As first responders the very thing that causes us to be able to do the job we do so well can also prevent us from getting the help we need. It is called pride. The scripture tells us that pride comes before the fall. As a whole First Responders, nurses, and EMS providers in particular are the world’s worst patients. I am included in that number. 

Two years ago I had a pain in my side. It was an excruciating pain that would not go away. So, I thought about it. I knew that the ambulance would take about five minutes to get to me by the time I called, it was dispatched, and a crew responded. And then I thought why should I take an ambulance out of service to transport me to the hospital when I could drive myself. I was also listening to the scanner and knew that 105 and 103 were already out on a call so that meant that extra time was needed to get them on scene, so I did what I counsel everyone else not to do, I drove myself to AGH. By the time I got there, I realized I had just done the craziest thing I could have. I was pouring in sweat, my heart rate was up, and my pain was getting worse the closer I got to the hospital. When they took my blood pressure in triage it was 210/110. I was at stroke level.  You see I thought I was keeping an ambulance in service but it was really my pride that caused me not to make that call. Plus I think I did no want anyone else to know I was in pain.

I challenge you today that if you need it, get help. Speak to one of the chaplains at your fire house. Speak to your peers. Get counseling. Be your own first responder and get the help you need. It will be the most important call you will ever respond to. Speak to God, speak to someone. I say this because I love and appreciate all that you do and I am proud to be counted as one of you today. You are my brothers and sisters as a First Responder. Know that I pray for you regularly and know that you have a church community that supports you and prays for you. We are here for you. We desire to see you be the best you can be. Let us pray!

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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