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The Journey of Love

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey of Love

December 10, 2017 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Journey of Hope 

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey of Hope 

December 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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A Thankful Heart and the Will of God

Peninsula Community Church

A Thankful Heart and the Will of God

November 19, 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

As I was preparing for this message, I read an interesting quote by Willian Arthur Ward. He stated “Gratitude can change common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” A grateful heart has the power to establish a positive direction and outlook on life. A grateful heart causes us to have a positive mindset. The opposite is true as an ungrateful heart leads to a negative mindset.

While last week we looked at the call from Paul to rejoice in every situation, today, we will focus on the attitude of gratitude and thankfulness. This is a command of Paul who understood the power of a grateful heart. He understood the power of contentment. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content (Philippians 4:11). Once again, Paul makes a seemingly impossible statement. Give thanks in all circumstances. Giving thanks can be a difficult proposition because like rejoicing there are some things that make it more difficult than others. Paul is not saying that we have to be thankful in regard to the individual circumstances we face, but rather we should our focus our gratefulness on the one who is able to redeem every circumstance. We are able to give thanks because we have a confidence that Christ will make a way through every event we encounter.

As I was preparing for this message, my mind drifted to a story found in Luke 17:11-19. This story focuses on ten lepers who approached Christ for healing. This is a story of contrast between nine who did not give thanks and the one who did. Listen Luke’s version of the story. On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” 

To understand this encounter, it would be helpful to review the disease known as leprosy. In Jesus’ day, leprosy was a kind of catch all classification for any infection or skin problem. While leprosy was a catch all, there were serious cases of leprosy where the disease would cause open sores. Being left untreated a person with leprosy could potentially lose their fingers, toes, ears, and nose. There is an assumption here that this was a critical case of leprosy in these ten individuals.

In this passage we should notice a couple of things. When they approached Jesus they were desperate. They were at the end of their rope, so to speak. Notice they stood at a distance from Christ and yelled to Him. They were not being rude or disrespectful but this was in reality a common action by lepers as they were forbidden to be near healthy people. Because of the magnitude of their disease they lived lonely and isolated lives. They were rejected by their friends, family, and society. But they had heard about this man who was known to do some powerful miracles. It is noteworthy that rather than being fearful, Jesus reached out to them. Normally, they would stand at a distance to cry for food or money, but now they had a different reason. They were hoping for more than a few cents in change or their next meal. They expected a miracle.

Upon their encounter with Jesus, He commanded them to go the priest to show they had been healed. It is noteworthy that they were not healed immediately but only as they acted upon Christ’s command. By their action they were healed. This is a noteworthy thought for us as God’s answer to prayer often comes as we are obedient to His will. You might ask as to why Jesus would send them to the priest. He did so because the law of the land in that day required anyone diagnosed with leprosy to be pronounced clean by the priest. As noted, leprosy in that day could be a simple rash or it could be full blown leprosy. If it were a simple rash, it would often clear up on its own. For that reason, the priest needed to pronounce them clean. All ten of the lepers, in obedience to Christ and the law of the land, left to go to see the priest.

When they left, they were focused on getting to the priest but one of the lepers stopped and turned back to give thanks to Jesus. He knew he was healed, but he also knew that it was in direct correlation to the command to go to the priest by Jesus. He recognized something the other nine did not. Notice, also that this was not a simple thank you, but was an exuberant praise of thanks. Listen to Luke’s own remembrance of the occasion. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. 

He turned back and began to praise God with a loud voice. He was excited about the fact that he was clean from the disease that held him bound, isolated, and desperate for answers. He wanted everyone to know he was healed. He was filled with joy and that joy overflowed into thanksgiving and praise. Not only did he turn back. Not only did he give thanks, but he also fell at the feet of Jesus. This was the highest sign of praise and honor that could be given to anyone. He, with a loud voice, fell upon his face to give praise and to honor the Lord.

As we look at this story, notice that this particular leper was a Samaritan. On a first read this may not mean much to some, but the reality is that the Samaritans and the Jews did not get along too well. The Samaritans were Jews who had been left back at home when the Children of Israel had been taken into captivity. They had intermarried with the Babylonians and were no longer considered to be Jews by those who had returned from the captivity. In fact, the division was so great they started their own church and set up their own doctrines. You might say it was the first recorded church spilt. So we have the most unlikely man in the group stopping to give thanks. How awesome is that? It tells us that no matter who we are, Christ will touch our lives.

When he returned, Jesus made an incredible pronouncement. “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” To read this in our modern translation you might miss the depth of the meaning of the verse. In the Greek, Jesus uses a play on words. At first, the Scripture says they were cleansed. The word used for cleansed is a medical term that means the disease was healed. When He responded to the Samaritan the word He used meant to be saved. The word could also mean healed but it often took on the deeper meaning of spiritual healing or salvation. What Jesus was communicating was that he had not only been healed physically, but now his faith had made him whole and complete, as well. So the nine received healing for their body, but the the tenth received healing of his soul.

So what do we learn from this? First, we should be thankful for the work of God’s goodness. God is always working on our behalf, if we look for it. This is the kind of thankfulness that leads us to worship God. You see the other nine lepers had received the benefits of Jesus but failed to extend gratefulness. Thus they failed to worship the One who provided the healing. We can miss the opportunity to worship and give thanks for His goodness because we fail to recognize all that He has done and is doing. A thankful heart increases our awareness of God’s purposes. Without a grateful heart, we tend to be self-centered and self-focused. Without a grateful heart, we can neglect giving God thanks. Without a grateful heart, we can forget all that He has done. Notice the leper was filled with thanksgiving and gratefulness. That is the motivating factor for his returning to worship and give thanks to Jesus.

Secondly, a thankful heart also keeps us from the destructive influence of bitterness. This is especially true as we continue to face difficulties and problems in our life. Without a grateful heart, that looks to Christ, we can easily be negatively impacted by the issues we face. The fact is it is hard to be bitter and thankful at the same time. Hebrews 12:15 we are reminded that we are to See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. The best way to do this is to live with gratitude and thankfulness in one’s heart. Without a grateful heart we can miss the grace of God.

Thirdly, a thankful heart prevents us from falling into pride. When we have a grateful heart, we are able to maintain a right perspective in life. It helps us keep our feet on the ground. With a grateful heart, we are humbled because we know that all we have comes from above. In Obadiah 1:3, we find that the pride of your heart has deceived you! A thankful heart keeps us humble and focused on the gift giver.

Fourth, a thankful heart permeates our circle of influence with faith. As with rejoicing, a thankful heart is a testimony of God’s grace. People watch how we handle the crisis in our life and as a result Christ will be glorified in us. When we walk with a grateful attitude people will see us. They will see us as complainers or worshippers. Worshippers draw people to Christ, complainers push people away.

So how is your heart today? Do you have a thankful heart?

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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A Joyful Heart and the Will of God

Peninsula Community Church

A Joyful Heart and the Will of God

November 19, 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

For those who are passionate followers of Christ, one of the issues that concerns us is knowing  God’s will. What is His will for me personally? What does He want me to do? Here in this passage, Paul presents an argument for one aspect for understanding God’s will. Specifically, this passage focuses on three primary aspects of our attitude and mindset toward life and the issues we encounter. We see here that he commands us to rejoice always. We must pray continually. We must give thanks in every circumstance. In so doing, we fulfill the will of God. Today and next week, we will review these three principles to understand how they apply to our life.

For today, let us look at the command to rejoice always. Rejoice! Always! When you hear that what is your initial response? If you are like me, you might ask a few questions. First, Paul, do you really mean that? Do you know what I am going through? Do you know what I have experienced? Paul, if you knew all that I am going through, you would understand that I cannot rejoice with all that is going on in my life right now. You must know that my situation is different! But that is the paradox of this command. Rejoice always! Rejoice when things are going great. Rejoice when things are turned upside down. Rejoice when things are normal. Rejoice and keep on rejoicing. In our natural self, this seems impossible and may seem like a contradiction but through Christ we are empowered to rejoice in every circumstance.

Because of Paul’s command to rejoice always, you might look at Paul with a bit of disdain. You might think that he is disconnected from reality. But listen to Paul’s own words in regard to what he experienced in his ministry. Paul stated Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).

Did you get that? Paul had been beaten five times. He had been beaten with rods three times. He was shipwrecked three times. He faced all kinds of dangers where ever he went. He had experienced hunger and thirst. He had gone without food. He experienced extreme heat and coldness. Every day he carried with him the anxiety of leading the churches he was given. I think we could agree that Paul had suffered his share of difficulties. And yet, this was the same Paul who commanded us to rejoice always. For us, while we may not have experienced anything to this degree, when we do have difficulties, and it can feel like a beating and an attack.

So with all that Paul experienced, how could he rejoice? How could he call us to rejoice? What was his rational for such a command? As you study Paul’s life, you will find that he issued this command because he understood that his joy was a not response to his experience or his circumstance, but was a response to the One whom he served. The fact is, he could rejoice because he knew who he served and all that Christ had accomplished on his behalf. He recognized that his strengthen came from God. The truth is the work of God within us allows us to face difficult times with a heart of rejoicing.

With that in mind let us make a couple of observations about rejoicing. First of all, joy is a matter of the heart. It is based in the truth that I can trust God in every area of my life. Therefore, an attitude of rejoicing is an outcome of trust. When we trust, it is much easier to rejoice in all things. Trust is the confidence that all things will work out for God’s pleasure. That is why Paul could state And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). When we trust God with our life, we will be less likely to complain and to grumble about the issues we encounter. When we trust God, we will be more faithful to His purposes.

Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:8-12. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. It is through this passage that Paul details the reason we can rejoice in Christ.

Paul was convinced, no matter what came his way, he could endure and he could do so with a joyful heart, because he was convinced that God would keep what had been entrusted to him. The word convinced carries the idea having been settled in one’s mind of a truth or an outcome. You see rejoicing is not just a feeling, it is a truth that supports our reaction to life’s difficulties. Paul could rejoice and could encourage others to rejoice because he had settled in his mind that God would come through for him. To understand this, we must look at the meaning of the word in the original Greek. The basis of the word convinced means “to trust” or “to be worthy of trust.” The word also means “reliability” or “certainty.” It is the root of the word “faith” or “to have faith in.” You see when we trust God and we have a certainty that He has our best interest in mind, we will be convinced Christ will complete His work in us.

How do we develop our trust in God? We read the Bible and allow the bible to change our hearts and our outlook on the future. In Scripture, we find so many who we were in deep trouble but each time God made a way for them to escape. We pray. That is why Paul also commanded the church to continuously pray because it is through prayer that we focus our attention upon the one who can help us navigate whatever we are facing. Lastly, we share testimonies with one another because it is through our testimonies that we overcome and therefore that gives us hope. The result is that we have the power to rejoice in every circumstance not as a feeling but as a truth.

Secondly, this is not some sadistic or head in the sand view of God but rather it is seeing our circumstances through the eyes of God. Rejoicing is not just an act of positive thinking nor is it the denial of the truth. Real faith begins at the point of truth and reality. So we do not rejoice just to rejoice but we do so because we are confident of the power of Christ to see us through every circumstance of our life. Too often, we develop a stoic approach to life where we will not allow ourselves to be effected by the issues of life.

This does not not mean that we dance through life proclaiming that I am rejoicing! We do not communicate that I am happy when the world is falling apart around us. That mindset does not help us but in fact most often causes us to complain and gripe rather than rejoice. To deny the issues of life does nothing to move us forward in faith. In fact, it harms us and keeps us from experiencing the healing of God. So this is not a command to negate emotions and refuse to acknowledge those emotions, but rather is it to envelop those negative situations with a mindset of joy that is based in a unswerving trust in God.

Thirdly, Paul realized that it is easier to rejoice when we have an eternal perspective about life. Again, listen to Paul’s words. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Why is an eternal perspective important? It is important because the trials we experience now are limited in their impact when we compare our total existence to eternity and the glory that is to come. It is important because the things we seen and experience are transient. They are in flux and cannot be trusted but God can be trusted in every circumstance. What is a problem today will cease to be a problem tomorrow. The difficulty we face today will be the answered prayers of tomorrow. Th absence of hope will the intervention of the Holy Spirit in days to come.

John Piper had this to say about joy. Our joy is based in the knowledge and acceptance of knowing that our sins are forgiven now and that we can experience the kingdom of God now. That knowledge sustains our ability to strive toward a future entrance into His eternal kingdom. Our joy is a result of not what we experience but what we hope for. It is anchored in a life and a way of existence that has been promised to us.

Fourthly, our joy becomes a testimony to God’s grace in difficult times. In effect, our joy becomes a tool for evangelism and a witness to the power of God. we do not deny the existence of difficulty, but we embrace the power of God to help us endure every difficulty. You see too many Christian’s today want people to believe they do not have any issues. Somehow, they believe that it detracts from who they are. Somehow they believe that it diminishes who God is. But the opposite is true. People are looking to know that the God we serve is real. People want to know that this stuff works. Having a realistic view of God, and the joy that comes from knowing Him, we become witnesses of how to negotiate life to the fullest.

As we close, we must know that joy is not manufactured. It is a result of who we know. It is a result of His work in us that is being worked out through us. In knowing Him, we are strengthen and we are filled with a joy which is an attitude of being convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. That is worth rejoicing.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Second Chances

Peninsula Community Church 

Second Chances

November 12, 2017

Jeremiah 18:5-8 Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at the potter and the clay. In our study, thus far, we found that God has a purpose and He has a plan for each of us. The question today, however, is what happens when that plan goes awry. What if we fail? What if we fall short? What if we blow it big time? What if we become unfocused and fall into sin or into a failure that feels insurmountable. The reality is, if we are honest, I am sure that we would all have to admit we have been in need of a second chance. We have needed a do over.

I believe this passage shows us, there are two ways to approach God. I also believe how we interpret this passage will be determined by our view of God. If we view God as a mean, angry God, then we will focus on the destruction God planned. If we view God as a loving, forgiving God, then we will focus on His forgiveness and His power to give a second chance. For me, I choose the later and I choose to see God as the God of the second chance.

Through this passage, we come to a conclusion that, sometimes, God allows difficulties to come in order to move us toward His purpose and His plan. These difficulties can overwhelm us and can cause great pain. The truth is, these difficulties come most often because we failed to follow God’s plan, His will, and His way. We also see that these things are never meant to destroy us, but to direct us back to Him. That is where our view of God makes a difference in our approach to God.

When we view God as a loving and forgiving God, we will know that when we see failure and hopelessness, God sees new beginnings. We see mistakes and failures that throw us off track and derail our dreams, but God sees fresh starts. We see the mess we have made, but God sees an opportunity to renew and rebuild us. The enemy’s lie has been and continues to be that we are unforgivable and that we are too far gone to receive God’s grace and love. The enemy’s lie is that we will be forever in the place of despair, because that is just the way it is.

As I was preparing for this message, I thought about the game of golf. In golf, there is what is called a mulligan. A mulligan is a chance for a do over. For those who are golfers, you know how it works. You hit a bad shot and you have the right to hit another ball. The goal is to make your second shot much better than your first shot. It is a second chance. It is a do over. Just like golf, God offers us a mulligan in life. He overs us a do over. He offers us a chance to get it right and do a better job by His grace.

As we think about this subject, we find that Scripture is filled with those who experienced second chances. Let’s take a moment to look at a couple of these. First, we have King David who was a murderer, a liar, and an adulterer (2 Samuel 11). David the called of God. David the one who had it all, failed big time. He took Bathsheba and through an ungodly relationship, she became pregnant. To make matters worse, he tried to hide the sin by having her husband come home and give him some time with his wife, so he would think it was his child. When that did not work, he arranged to position her husband on the front lines where he was sure to be killed. Then the “kind and gracious king” could take her as his wife, thereby hiding his indiscretion.

As we read the story, we find that his sin grew deeper and began to effect more and more people. That is the problem of sin. It grows deeper and it has a larger reach than we might ever imagine. But, here is the amazing thing, although his sin seemed to be too great, he was able to experience the grace of the God and was given a second chance. How do we know this? We find that God sent Nathan to speak into David’s life to bring change (2 Samuel 12:1-15). God used Nathan. David came to his senses when he realized the magnitude of his sin.

Here, David was at a crossroads. He could receive the message of grace or he could reject God. I often wonder about David! What was his mental state? Had he reached a point where he felt he had made it into the clear and that he was successful in his ruse and cover up. Too often, we think we have done a good job of hiding our sin only to find it is exposed later, and sometimes it is exposed when we least expect it. For David, I wonder if he was dealing with the weight of what he had done. I wonder if he felt the weight of his sin. Regardless, what we do know is that David confessed, repented, and was given a second chance (Psalms 51).

The second illustration is Jonah who walked in disobedience. Remember Jonah. He was called to the people of Ninevah, but rather than obeying, he ran to Joppa (Jonah 1:1-3). Now to be honest, his reason for running was justified in one sense. Ninevah was one of the major cities in the kingdom of Assyria. The people of Assyria and the city Ninevah were horrific people. They were brutal people. They would skin people alive. They would cut their enemies up in pieces and then send them to their families and cities with notes warning that this would be their fate, if they messed with them. They would cut the heads of the opposing kings off and parade them around their victory celebrations.

In Jonah’s rebellion, he boarded a ship and headed to Joppa. He ran from God, but God sent a storm. The men on board, who were not believers, began to call to their gods, as the storm was more fierce than any storm they had faced. The decision was made to throw Jonah overboard when they recognized his disobedience had caused the problem (Jonah 1:4-16). Then God brought a whale along to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17). Three days he was in the whale’s belly. For three days, Jonah had an opportunity to think about his future and his destiny. On the third day, the whale had gotten tired of Jonah and he was vomited upon the shore (Jonah 2:10). Jonah then ran to Niniveh, preached the word of the Lord, and the whole city came to know God (Jonah 3:4-5). He was given a second chance.

And then we have Peter, who was filled with fear. How many times have we fallen short or failed to accomplish God’s will because we are filled with fear? Peter was overcome by the fear of the people in Jerusalem. He was worried about his future and he was worried about how the judgement against Christ would impact him. Although he failed and was motivated by fear, he was given a second chance. Jesus went to him specifically after the resurrection and called Peter to feed his sheep (John 24:15-19). We see the fulfillment of that throughout the Books of Acts.

So, how should we respond to the second chances of our lives? First, we must repent. To repent means that there is a change of action that leads to a change of heart. We must remember there is a big difference between repentance and confession. Confession is important, but it is not the end all. Confession puts things on the table, but does not bring healing. We live in a nation of confessors, but not so many repenters. Repenters not only confess their sin, but they work toward change. When God honors you with a second chance, by His grace, we need to take advantage of that and change, so that the recurring sin or issue does not continue to happen. Billy Graham noted that we cannot know the God of the second chance unless we recognize the wrong we have done or the sin we have committed. We also need to be aware that God’s grace is not a get out of jail free card. We must never cheapen God’s grace by continuing to recklessly commit acts that diminish who we are in Christ and wound ourselves or others.

Second, we change what we can change. Too often, we are trying to change things that are beyond our power to change. We expend a lot of energy trying to change that which is outside our ability and scope to change. We try to change people and we try to change their actions, but this can be a frustrating adventure. We cannot change others, but we can certainly change ourselves. In the end, it requires personal responsibility to change what is wrong in ourselves.

Third, sometimes we need encouragement and help along the way to recognize that God is at work and He is giving us a second chance. We can miss what God is doing in us and through us. Paul reminds us to help restore those who have been caught in a sin (Galatians 6:1). Perhaps you need a Nathan. Perhaps you need a boat load of unbelievers to set the record straight. Perhaps you need a personal encounter with Christ to motivate you to change. However it comes, we must change. Know this as well, while we cannot change others, we can be a resource for encouragement and hope as others navigate the results and the stigma of sin they face.

In all of this, I am reminded of Lamentations 3:21-23 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. His second chances come by way of His mercy which is a response of His faithfulness. Listen to Jeremiah, he calls this to remembrance and it brings him hope. There is hope in God no matter what I do or fail to do. His mercy is always there. It reminds us that no matter what I might have done yesterday, I have a fresh start today, because His mercies are new and His faithfulness is great. He is a God of the second chance. So today, where do you need a second chance? Is it a sin you have committed? Is it a broken relationship? Is it a failure that you have experienced? Is it a mistake? God knows and is already sending you His mercy, if you receive it.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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He has Plans for You!

Peninsula Community Church

He has Plans for You! 

November 5, 2017

Jeremiah 18:1-6 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.God is working on the clay. What is God doing? Potter’s house is the church. Where the father is molding and making vessels of honor. God wants to fill you and pour you out every day.

This morning we continue to look at the potter and the clay. For this time our focus will be on the potter and His work in our life. In this passage, we must once again consider that God is the potter and we are the clay. As such, we know the potter has a purpose and design in every vessel He forms and shapes. We are those vessels. We are vessels with a purpose.

As the clay, we must have an understanding that the potter has a purpose for every piece of clay in His hands and that means God has a plan for each us. Too often, what we see is the lump of clay. What the potter sees is a flower pot, a cooking vessel, or other useful vessel. We see clay, but He sees a vessel that has a purpose. We see brokenness, but He sees wholeness. We see age and health issues, but God sees a purpose. We see retirement, but God sees a new beginning. Therefore, we can be assured that He has a plan for us, and we can know that He has a purpose for our life. The difference is in our perspective. The difference is in what we focus on. Do we see ourselves simply as clay, or do we see ourselves as having great potential and worth no matter where we are in life?

Here is a truth we can bank on, you will never be happy until you fulfill the purpose you were created for. To accomplish this, we find that life is more rewarding and it is certainly more exciting. You see God did not take up pottery as a hobby. He did not set out just to make a few varied pots or vessels. He was purposeful in how He designed each and every one of us. Know your purpose and you will be blessed. Know what God is doing in you and you will be more satisfied with life.

In this regard, let me make a couple of quick observations on the value of having a life filled with purpose. When we have a purpose, we are able to focus more on what is important. When we have a purpose, we can be more effective in what we do. When we have a purpose, we are less likely to be distracted. When we have a purpose, we are less likely to lose hope. Finding our purpose is critical as studies have shown that people who lose their way and have no purpose in life can be more susceptible to suicide, depression, and moral failure. They can begin to believe the lie that they do not have a purpose and therefore do not have a reason to live. Therefore, without purpose, we die emotionally, mentally, and yes, even physically.

I am amazed at how much the Bible says about how God created us. You see, we do not just simply exist, we exist for a purpose. We exist as a vessel created by God for the purposes of God. Find that purpose and you find joy. Find your purpose and you will find your passion. It has been said do what you enjoy, you will never work a day in your life. God knows what makes us tick and what you can achieve when you partner with Him and look at what He is doing around you.

Jeremiah encapsulates this in Jeremiah 1:4-5. Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Notice three things here. First, Jeremiah was formed in His mother’s womb. In the womb, he was formed and within him was all of the DNA Jeremiah needed. He was a mixture of his mom and dad. He certainly was the combination of the genetics from all those who have gone before him. But, God also added His purposes and His calling to the mix.

Second, God consecrated Jeremiah. God set Jeremiah on a course of action where he would could fulfill the plans and purposes of God. To consecrate, means to dedicate formally to a divine purpose. God not only consecrated Jeremiah but each of us have also been consecrated for a divine purpose. This divine purpose comes in all sizes, shapes, and ways but it comes. This answers the why question, and the what are we here for question!

Third, Jeremiah was appointed to a task. He was called to be a prophet that would be in place to guide the people of Israel. There is no doubt that God has gifted us and wants to use us in His kingdom. The amazing thing is that when we are obedient to what we know to do and we are obedient to fulfill the calling of God upon our life, He will add to us and may call us to different places and different things.

We are also reminded in Psalms 139:13 that it was God who formed our inward parts and that it was Him who knitted us together in our mother’s womb. Here is the amazing thing, while we are certainly formed by our DNA and the coming together of an egg and seed, God is able to add into the mixture special gifts, abilities, and talents. You see from the beginning of time He has a purpose and plan for us.

And then in Isaiah 44:1-5 we find “But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”

Again, as we consider these words we find that the One who formed us in the womb will help us. That is why there is an ongoing process of being placed back on the Potter’s wheel to shape us into the person we are becoming. When we follow Him, the promise of God is that He will strengthen us. When we are faithful to fulfill the plan God has for us, we will be like water being poured out on a thirsty land. We will be refreshing to those we encounter. Those around us and our families will be impacted in a positive way. God will bless and He will accomplish His will.

While we know we are formed and shaped by God and He continues to do that work, we have a problem. It is called sin and it is called life. After birth, we are influenced to behave and act a certain way by those around us. Words are spoken! Negative events occur! Pain happens! Problems occur! We are discouraged, beaten up, and the issues of life begin to pile up! The result is that we become distracted, and we begin to miss out on what God is doing. These things begin to reflect how we respond to the purposes of God. We are driven to seek out other purposes, but it does not work when we try to set our own priorities apart from God. So, we must find out what He is doing in us, celebrate that, and embrace God’s purpose for our life.

To keep us focused on His purposes for us, He is continuing to form and shape every vessel in His hands. When we are falling short or life is effecting us negatively, God graciously puts us on the wheel to reform us and shape us into the vessel that can be used for His Kingdom. We can resist this process because we somehow think that God is mean, and He is only concerned about breaking us, harming us, or causing us pain. But this process is not intended to harm us, but to give us value and a purpose. He is lovingly shaping us so that we become a vessel of honor. We can become bitter and angry, or we can learn and grow by His grace and power at work in us. That is why Jeremiah speaks to this and reminds us of His plan. Listen to His words.

Jeremiah 19:10-14 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Finally, notice that in the illustration of the potter and the clay that He always works from the inside out. He puts his hand down in the pottery where he is pushing and stretching us. He is after our heart. You see unless we have the right heart, we will continue to seek out things that are not in alignment with His purposes. Because of the absence of character and integrity, we may be prevented from getting the things we want. We settle for less than God’s best. Take care of the heart and the mind will follow. Our actions will follow our heart, as our words are a testimony of what is in our heart. So how is your heart? Is it leading you to follow God’s plan? Perhaps if it leading in a different direction you need to check your heart and allow God to put you back on the wheel of formation and transformation.

Finally, let me share a story I read just this week. Thomas Edison came home one day with a letter from his teacher. His teacher told him that only his mother was to read the letter. When he asked his mom what it said, she stated that it said that he was a genius and that the school did not have the capacity to train her child. For that reason, he should be taught at home. As we know he went on to become one of the greatest inventors of our time. When his mom passed away, he found the letter from the school. As he read the letter he was amazed that it said “Your son is mentally deficient and we cannot allow him to attend our school any more. He is expelled.” We all have a purpose and God has called us to make a difference. You may not be a Jeremiah. You may not be a Thomas Edison, but you are you and that is all that counts.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Brokenness to Wholeness

Peninsula Community Church

Brokenness to Wholeness

October 29, 2017

Jeremiah 18:1-6 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Today, we will continue to look at the subject of the potter and the clay. We will focus on a couple of lessons we learn from this story. To appreciate these lessons, we must recognize that we are the clay. This is confirmed by Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. There is no doubt that we are the clay and He, the Father, is our potter. Whether we realize it or not, we are the works of His hands. Even from the beginning of time, He has been forming us and shaping us.

Remember the story of Genesis, the beginning of all things. In Genesis 2:7 the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Someone has stated that we are nothing more than dirt and water mixed together. He formed us and shaped us into the distinct person we are today. We are set apart from all other parts of the creation because God breathed His breath into mankind. It is that breath of life that sustains us. It is God who continues to shape us into what we are becoming.

Robert Morris, of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas, stated that the word “formed” carries the idea of being molded by squeezing into shape. When God formed man, He squeezed him. Man was formed out of the dirt. He molded and shaped our physical body. Today, He continues to mold and shape us, but He works more with our character and personality. For that reason there are times we can feel like we are being squeezed. Does it feel that way to you?

One of the themes evident in this passage is that God uses the pain of brokenness to grow us and develop us into what He desires. The presupposition is that in brokenness, we actually grow, if we allow God to work is us. So, if you will bear with me, I would like to make some observations regarding this discussion. I must admit that the basis of this comes from a message from Robert Morris. I am using his skeleton but adding my thoughts to the skeleton.

First of all, clay can only be molded by water. During the time of this writing, water was the primary source to keep the clay wet. From Scripture, we understand that water represents the Word of God. When Jesus stood before the woman at the well, He stated that if she knew the gift that stood before her, she would never thirst again. He was referring to the water of salvation and the fact that He was that water (John 4). He, being the Word, is what we need to be molded and shaped by God.

We must also recognize that it is the water of the Word that is the only thing that can mold us into a vessel of honor. Without the water of the Word, we will dry out and begin to crack and fall apart. We must also realize that while we are saved by God immediately, the process of being molded takes time. In fact, it is a lifetime of molding. Note in our passage that when the clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand he put it back on the wheel again and reworked the vessel into something even more usable. Truthfully, we are always in the process of being molded and shaped by a loving potter who knows the outcome and purpose for which we are being formed.

The second observation is that the clay has to be separated before being molded. To produce a usable vessel, the potter cannot leave any junk in the clay. If there is something left in the clay, it will cause problems later in the process. It could be small rocks, sand, or tiny limbs. If these things are not removed, they can cause huge issues down the road.

You see, God must pull everything out of us that does not look like the vessel He is forming. He is also taking everything out that will cause weakness later. He knows if He does not remove the junk then we will not be as useful as we could be. Without removing the junk in our life, we are susceptible to failure and breakdowns later. Within us are anger, pride, jealousy, insecurity, fear, and so on. Pride is one of the biggest issues, because we must admit we need Him. If you allow pride to remain in your life, you will fall.

The third observation is the vessel that is formed comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors. We have different influences, talents, desires, and experiences. We must stop judging other pots and comparing ourselves to other pots. It is pride for a pot that is not finished to talk about another pot. We must know that we are not the potter and, as such, we do not know the purpose or plan the potter has for the other pots around us. We must trust that the potter knows what he is doing. We judge others on so many levels. We judge people on their race. We judge people on their social and financial status. We judge people on how they look or do not look. We must not arbitrarily judge others, as we do not know what God is doing in them. Besides that, we have enough to worry about in our own pot to worry about what they are doing.

The fourth observation is that clay has no input to its outcome. Listen to this interesting passage in Isaiah 29:16. You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding?” Sometimes, we try to exchange roles with the potter. We attempt to tell the potter what we want Him to do. In Isaiah 46:9, we find people often try to argue with God. In this passage we do not see the clay speaking to the potter. It never says “What are you doing?” Or, “I know a better way!” Some of us need to stop telling God what is best for us. We need to stop telling God what is best for the pots around us. Sometimes we do not like the pots around us, so we ask the potter to take a little off here, squeeze a little more here, and do a little more there. But we must remember that the Potter is in control of every pot. We must yield to Him. So, stop resisting and saying you know a better way.

The fifth observation is that the clay must go through the fire. The clay in its natural state is soft and the clay gets real muddy when the water is added. To resolve this, the clay must be cured and perfected through fire. For us, this happens through the difficulty of life. When we go through a fire, we are not to be surprised. If you put gold in a fire, the impurities come to the top. When the impurities come to the top, the refiner scoops out the impurities so that the gold is continually purified. So, how do you respond to trials? How you respond may define the impurities of your heart. When the impurities are revealed, we must allow God to remove these impurities so that we are made stronger. After this is complete, then God turns up the heat a bit more. We go from the wheel to the fire, back to the wheel, and then to fire.

The sixth observation is that the clay has a breaking point if it stays in the fire. If it gets away from the water too long it will dry out and be negatively impacted. The problem is that in the trials of life we can resist God, but if we are without of the word we dry up. If we are out of His presence, we dry up. We dry up physically. We dry up emotionally. We dry up mentally. If the common things of life are irritating us, then we might be dried up. We need to add the water of His word to our hearts.

In the final analysis, God is control and He has a plan for you. He is working in you, even if you do not see it. He is molding something new and fresh out of your life. God works in us and sometimes it is through brokenness that we grow the most. It is through brokenness that we become more pliable and more available for God to deposit His grace and His power in us. Sometimes, there are some impurities in our life and through brokenness God delivers us from those things. We experience what appears to be a crushing blow and we feel the pain of the moment. But, God uses the pain and when we accept His grace and we surrender to His way, He produces in us an enlarged capacity to understand God’s will and purpose in us.

In 2 Timothy 2:20-21 Paul states Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. There are honorable vessels and there are dishonorable vessels but even the must dishonorable vessels can be redeemed and positioned for honorable usage. The enemy loves to deceive us into thinking that whatever state we are in now and whatever we have done is what defines us, and nothing will ever change, but we are always being shaped and molded into something better than what we are in the present. In the end, His goal is for us to be like Him, being a reservoir for His presence.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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