What’s Your Assignment?

Peninsula Community Church

What’s Your Assignment?

April 23, 2017

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

Today we will be taking a look at the interaction Jesus had with His disciples just before He ascended into Heaven. This short interaction gives us insight into the calling and the priority He placed on everyone who is a passionate follower of Christ. In His interaction with the disciples, He confirmed that He had not come to establish an earthly Kingdom but one that was to be deposited in the heart of every passionate follower of Christ. His greatest and utmost desire had been and continues to be to reign in the hearts of believers. You see by reigning in our hearts He empowers us to change, change our families, change our communities, and eventually change our government. It all begins in the heart.

Secondly, Jesus confirmed that the Holy Spirit would come to give us the power to be witnesses to those around us. We get to be on mission with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. How awesome is that? As I prepare this message, I am thinking about the theme music from “Mission Impossible.” I am also thinking about the fact that you and I have been chosen for a special assignment. We have been chosen to be ministers of grace to our families, our communities, and our different spheres of influence. If you and I accept this mission, and we should, we will be given everything we need to succeed.

However, there is an important difference between Mission Impossible and our ministries as witnesses. In the movie Mission Impossible if things went south, the organization disowned the team and would act as if they never existed. But as a believer in Christ, if our mission goes south, Jesus will never forget us or abandon us. It is for that reason Jesus promised that if He went away, as He was about to do, He would return. The one truth we can hold onto is that He will not forget us nor will He forsake us.

So with that in mind let us dive into this passage and unpack the truth in this text. In this passage, we find two truths that should encourage us and cause us to focus on God’s initiatives and His work in our life. But before we investigate these statements let me give you one key insight into the success of the church. The calling to follow Christ is for the individual but it is also for the corporate body called the church. Here is the truth. As individuals we are a part of the universal body called the church but we are also connected to a local body. In our case, we are connected to Peninsula Community Church. Because the local church is made up of individuals, the success of the church comes as individuals seek God’s will and His destiny for their life. In the body of Christ, each individual does their part to make the church a success in the sense of providing ministry. We all have a role to play. We all have a calling to achieve and that calling is possible through the truths revealed through this passage.

The first truth exposed here is that the disciples continued to question Jesus about His Kingdom. With all that had transpired, the disciples continue to exert a false expectation about His kingdom. Listen to their question. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” The answer Jesus gave perhaps threw them a bit because He responded by saying “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” In essence, I believe that Jesus is saying stay focused on truth. Focus on the present and not the future or what is to come. Once again, they missed the concept of the kingdom and they lacked an understanding as to the fullness of what Jesus was saying.

Too many times, we can be distracted with issues that do not mean much or at least are not relevant to our ability to accomplish the will of God. While the disciples were still looking for an earthly kingdom, Jesus was trying to establish a spiritual kingdom where He would rule and reign. His kingdom was not made with hands but one established in the hearts of men. You see the disciples wanted something they could touch and feel. They wanted something they could see, but the Kingdom of God was an invisible kingdom made up of individuals who had been given membership into this kingdom by way of the new birth.

Today, we can invite Jesus into our hearts to establish His kingdom within us. In so doing, we are called to live as kingdom people. Peter understood this when he said But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). As the chosen of God, we have the privilege to live as kingdom people.

For that reason, Jesus makes a second statement. In setting up a spiritual kingdom in our hearts and calling us to live as kingdom people, He also fills us with the Holy Spirt to be witnesses of Jesus’ kingdom. We are to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the world. Notice a couple of things here. First, He has empowered us to be witnesses. Notice that He does not state that we should preach, teach, or do any other work. He calls us to simply to be witnesses. He is saying in essence, be the salt and be the light. In other words, the Holy Spirit will shine through us to touch others. The Holy Spirit within us will impact others as we engage them and interact with them. It is noteworthy that we do not have to become the salt or become the light, we are the light and we are the salt because the Holy Spirit is living and abiding in us.

To understand this concept of being a witness, we must examine what it means to be a witness. First of all, we are a witness of Jesus by our actions and the way we interact with the people we encounter. The question to be asked is do we represent Christ in a positive way or do people have an unfavorable view of Him because of our actions? When we walk into a room do we brighten the room or is there a cloud of darkness that precedes us? How do we represent Jesus in terms of our language? Are we encouragers who speak the truth or are we given to unhealthy criticisms, fits of anger, gossip, and lies? These actions and attitudes do not bear a very good witness for Him. In fact, they destroy the witness of Christ.

With that said, we must realize that we are always giving a witness. We can be giving a positive witness for Christ or we can be a witness against Christ. How many times have you watched a court room murder movie or show when the witness for the prosecution turns into a hostile witness and becomes a witness for the defense. If we are believers, we must seek to be a positive witness for Christ. We must choose whose side we are on.

As witnesses, we can be assured that God is using everything in our life to bear witness to who He is and what He has done in us. People are watching how we handle stress, false accusations, hurt and pain, and whatever else comes our way. They look to see how real we are. Do we live a fake a life where we are hypocritical in our approach to life? Do we force others to tow the line while we take advantage of others and do the minimum of what is required? Do we cut corners? Do we act in dishonest ways! Do we lack integrity in the way we handle people, our business, and our work ethic. How is the witness of your actions for Christ?

We also bear witness by what we say. How do we communicate Christ in our life? Is our language and our actions disconnected? Is our speech seasoned with salt?  Do we carry a big stick? And, do we use it to beat the word into people’s lives or do we season our speech with the grace of God? When we are asked about Christ do we come across as arrogant or do we express the love of Christ? Do we draw people to Christ with our speech or do we push them away by our actions and by our words?

As we consider all of this, we must remember that we can be a positive witness for Christ because the Holy Spirit is in us. He, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses. We are empowered to speak truth. He can use us even when we do not realize it. You see my desire is that the Holy Spirit would be so evident in me that what people experience is the Holy Spirit through me but I also desire that His work would flow through me naturally but in a supernatural way.

This is how it works. The Holy Spirit takes our personalities, our experiences, our successes, our failures, our education, and all that we are to speak a message of hope to others. I have often said that the experiences you have can be used to touch others. You will reach people I can not reach because you have experienced things I have not experienced. God wants to use everything in our life as a means to reach those who God has destined for you to reach. God has positioned you within the sphere of influence you have been given so He can work through you.

For that reason we must pray for God to use us! We must pray for God to provide divine opportunities to share His love and grace with others. I can tell you that if you ask for the opportunities, He will open some amazing doors to share your faith with others. When this happens, the Holy Spirit takes our efforts and empowers them to be so much more effective. We do not move in our own power. When we are honest and allow the Holy Spirit to move through us, we will find there are times God will use what we do or say without us even knowing that He is using us.

Personally, I have been amazed at how many times the Holy Spirit has used me when I did not even realize it. Just this week, I have been amazed at the opportunities I have been given.

Several times the door of opportunity has been opened and I have been a vessel used by God to encourage others. In most of these cases I did not even realize the impact I was making until later in the week when they would call or someone would share they had talked to that person. To be honest I did not feel I did very much at all. I was simply present and shared my life with these folks in the moment.  The promise for each of us is that if we seek Him, He will do the same in you, I can promise you that He will.

So as we close today would take some time to ask God to direct your steps. Would you ask God to work out some divine appointments this week? Ask and you will receive.

 

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 Rose – Conquering Unforgiving and Doubtful Hearts

Peninsula Community Church 

He Rose – Conquering Unforgiving and Doubtful Hearts

April 16, 2017

Luke 24:36-43 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you! “But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat? “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Today is the day we celebrate the risen Lord who died for our sins but rose again so we could experience the fullness of all that God has given us. Too often, the problem for us is that life gets in the way of what Jesus has done. Our busyness, our fears, and our sin all seem to keep us from being the kind of person we ought to be. But we can realize that Christ’s gift to us covers a multitude of sin and wrong.

If you know the story, Jesus hung on the cross and he died there without much support from those who had promised to be with Him. They ran. They hid. After His death, they began to feel the realization of what they had done. They were filled with regret. Their hearts ached. They could not wrap their minds around the events that led to this moment in time. After His resurrection, it was in this environment that Jesus entered their pain and their emotional turmoil. It was here that Jesus showed up.

In our passage today we find that Christ provided a practical illustration of forgiveness by going to those who failed to stand with Him when it counted. During His ministry, He had preached the power of reconciliation and He had ministered the power of redemption and forgiveness. Now when the disciples where at their lowest point, He showed up. Jesus chose to go to the very ones who had denied and forsaken Him. I read a statement this week that said the cross reveals sin at its worse and the love of Jesus at its best. That was true then and it is just as true today.

In our study, we will look at three of the disciples who were a part of Jesus’ life. These three walked with Jesus, heard his teachings, saw the miracles, and witnessed His heart up close. Even with this history and experience with Jesus; Judas, Thomas, and Peter all failed in big ways. It is interesting that they were all called by Christ, they heard the same message, witnessed the same miracles, and yet they responded in different ways for different reasons.

The first of these men was Judas who was deceived. In this story, we find that Judas is a sad commentary of one who is misguided and deceived by the power money. It appeared that he loved money more than he loved people. He manifested a greedy heart and it was his greedy heart that eventually destroyed him. From reading the Biblical account you might remember that Judas was the treasurer for Jesus’ ministry. He handled the money and he often had a lot to say about the finances of the ministry. He was also very critical of how others handled their finances especially when he thought they were wasting their money according to his standards. He was critical even when they were providing a gift or an offering to honor Jesus.

It is noteworthy that Jesus knew his heart and He trusted Judas to handle the finances of his ministry. This was the same Judas who heard the teachings of Jesus on the rich man and how hard it was to get into heaven when one tries to serve two masters. Jesus had warned His disciples that they will serve one but not both because it is impossible to serve both God and money. Even though he heard this and other teachings, he lost focus and was deceived by the power of greed and money.

In the end, we find that Judas made an agreement with the religious leaders to give up Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver. We might think this was a great price but thirty pieces of silver was not much money in his day. In fact, thirty pieces of silver was the price of a common slave. Judas accepted the deal and put the plan in motion. Judas led the religious leaders to the Garden of Gethsemane where he betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Immediately, he realized what he had done. He tried to go to the leaders to undo what he had done but they would know hear it. The deal was done and the price had been paid. It is amazing how often we realize the depth of our sin after we have committed sin. The depth of that sin haunted him until he found himself on a hillside where he threw himself into the cavern below and took his life. It is noteworthy that he died in the very field that had been bought with the thirty pieces of silver he returned. The leaders could not use the money as it was blood money so they bought a field for those who were destitute and poor to be buried in. It was here that the consequences of sin came full circle. It was here that Judas died alone, rejected, and tormented by his guilt.

The greatest issue here is that if Judas had waited, Jesus would have come to forgive and set him free. That is what Jesus does for us. The unforgivable sin is to not receiving the forgiveness of Jesus. Judas missed that because of the heaviness of his guilt. From a personal standpoint, Judas is not much different than we are. We sell Jesus out for much less than thirty pieces of silver. Let me ask you! What would you sell Jesus out for? Would it be for pleasure? Would it be for financial gain? Would it be for popularity? Would it be for some success? Would it be to cover up who you really are? But if we turn to Christ no matter how desperate or how much we have veered away from Him, He will receive us, forgive us, and restore us. Don’t wait to do that. Like Judas we might find that it is too late.

We now turn our attention to Thomas. He was known as the doubter. He doubted Jesus. He doubted his faith. He doubted the promises of Jesus. He lacked faith and therefore he missed much of what Jesus had done and He was doing in the moment. He struggled with his faith and often doubted his acceptance by Jesus.

For us personally, we can doubt. Many struggle to receive Christ and they struggle to receive His grace as a result of their doubt. The truth about doubt is that it is often based in fear. We doubt what we fear and we doubt what we don’t understand. The problem is that if we are not careful we can reject Christ because of our doubt. In contrast, our doubt can lead us to explore truth and in exploring truth we actually find Christ. Thomas doubted but his doubt led him to explore the truth. He wanted to touch and feel Jesus’ wounds. He was looking for the truth and he found it as he looked for the truth in Jesus’ wounds. Because he could touch the wounds of Jesus he trusted and believed that Christ was indeed the risen Lord.

For some, this may seem like an act of unbelief but in reality what Thomas was asking for is that Jesus would remove his doubt. By touching Jesus’ scars, he was assured that Jesus was real. Many today want to know that Jesus is real. In their doubt they are seeking truth. If that is you then I would suggest that you ask Christ to reveal Himself to you. If we ask, He will answer. He will show His grace and His power. So ask and you will receive. Touch His hands and His feet. Reach for grace and see that it is real and dynamic.

Now we turn our attention to Peter, the denier. Peter was one of those kind of people you would love to hate. He was tempestuous. He was arrogant. He was quick on the draw. He was quick to respond but was also quick to fall short. Whether it was walking on water, drawing his sword to cut off the soldier’s ear, or promising an undying commitment to Jesus, he made promises he could not keep. He had great intentions but his intentions fell short almost every time.

It is amazing to me that Jesus sought out Peter, yes Peter the one who denied Him. Jesus confronted Peter with the question, “Do you love me?” It is interesting that in the Greek language there are two words that are used for love. Two of those words are used here. The first word is “Agape” love which is the highest form of love possible. The second word for love is “Phileo” love which is friendship love. When Jesus asked Peter if he had the highest form of love possible for Jesus, Peter responded that I love you with a friendship love. I love you as a friend.

We might be quick to judge Peter for this but I wonder if Peter had learned his lesson about making statements and promises that he could not keep. Rather than responding in arrogance, he was now responding in humility. Notice that Jesus asked this same question three times, one for each denial Peter made. Jesus also on each occasion called Peter to feed His sheep. Jesus had forgiven Peter and was now calling him to a new ministry. It is noteworthy, as well, that Jesus not only called him to feed the lambs but also to strengthen his fellow brethren. Here the one who had denied Jesus three times was now being called to a greater ministry.

So instead of rejecting Peter, he was received by Jesus who gave him forgiveness and a new calling. How powerful is that? Rather than turning Peter away, he received him which healed Peter’s sense of betrayal and rejection. After the resurrection, we find that Peter became the new leader for this new fledging church. Peter the one who failed big time was now the leader of a new movement called Christianity.

So which of these characters best describe you. Are you a Judas who is selling Jesus for a few dollars or pleasures that will fade away and in the end be destroyed? Let me let you in on a secret, you may feel like a Judas this morning and you feel there is no hope but because you are here and the fact that you are alive this morning says that there is still hope. He is here now and is willing to forgive you of every sin and every wrong you have committed.

Are you a Thomas who is filled with great doubt and concern about what is truth? Instead of rejecting Jesus, use your doubt as a means to seek for Jesus this morning. Ask Jesus to come and prove Himself. If we ask He will come, He will prove Himself as the real Son of God.

Are you a Peter who has made promises that you have not been able to keep? You may feel that you have denied Him and that there is no hope for change. Because of your failure and broken promises you may feel that Jesus will not accept you, but I can assure you that Jesus is asking you the question of whether you love Him. He has a mission for you and He desires to give you a new calling and restore your destiny.

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 Last Words of Jesus on the Cross

Peninsula Community Church 

The Last Words of Jesus on the Cross

April 9, 2017

Luke 23:34, 42-43, 46 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments… And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise…” Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Throughout history one’s last words have meant something and are powerful epitaphs to the one speaking the words. For the guys who were at the men’s conference this year you might remember that Pastor Eric shared a few last words spoken by men of history. Benjamin Franklin lay dying at the age of 84. As his daughter tried to help him change his position in bed so he could breathe more easily, Franklin uttered his last words. “A dying man can do nothing easy.”  Samuel Clements stated that “Some die at 27 and then they are buried at 72.” General Sedgewick during the battle of Spotsylvania in 1864 made this somewhat arrogant statement. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…” Unfortunately he was looking over the parapet at the enemy lines when he was shot and he was not able to finish his sentence. The redneck’s last words were “You hold it and I will light it.” I also love a couple of tombstone inscriptions. The first says “Here lies Charlie McCraw, He was quick on the trigger, but slow on the draw.” Then there is the one that says “Here lies an atheist, all dressed up, and nowhere to go.”

While these are funny last words, the words of Jesus were nothing to laugh at. The words Jesus spoke upon on the cross were powerful words that still affect us today. They continue to challenge us some 2000 years later.  For the next few moments, let us look at His words, the meaning behind the words, and how these words can apply to our life today. Altogether, there are seven sayings that we will review this morning. This is by no means an exhaustive study of these sayings but will serve as a launching pad for our discussion and for your ongoing consideration.

The first of Jesus’ last words was a word of forgiveness. “Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). In any circumstance, these words are powerful but in the context of the moment they were even more powerful. These words were spoken when the very son of God was being tortured and was about to give His life for mankind’s sin, and that means every sin committed or to ever be committed. In the best of circumstances, these words are hard to utter but here is Jesus in one of the most difficult times of His life and yet He was able to muster the strength to proclaim forgiveness.

It is noteworthy that this forgiveness was extended to those who probably deserved forgiveness  less than anyone else. The reality is that in this special moment in time Jesus was modeling the very thing that He requires from us. On multiple occasions Jesus calls us to forgive others. In Luke 6:28, Jesus calls us to pray for those that abuse us and that is exactly what He does. He not only preaches forgiveness, He models it in one of His last acts before His death.

With this in mind there are two lessons learned from this. First, through Jesus we are empowered to pray for those who mistreat us and abuse us. They may not deserve it, but forgiveness can be and should be extended to them. Those who were beating, mocking, and spitting on Jesus did not deserve forgiveness but Jesus forgave them because it was the right thing to do. It also speaks to us that we may not deserve Christ’s forgiveness but His forgiveness is bestowed upon us not because we deserve it but just the opposite. His forgiveness is bestowed on us because of grace which is the undeserved gift of God. For that reason, we can receive God’s forgiveness and we can forgive those that do not deserve forgiveness.

The second statement of Jesus is focused on salvation. “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). What a powerful word to the thief who could not do anything to merit the gift of God. After all he was hanging on a cross just like Jesus. He did not have time to attend a church. He did not have time to accomplish any works of service to purchase his way into heaven. The only thing he could do was to call out to Jesus who received him. Too often we believe that we have to work for our salvation by being good enough or achieving certain things but the thief on the cross could not do any of these things. By an act of faith, Christ forgave him and gave him a promise of being in heaven with Him. The work was accomplished by faith. He asked, Christ gave, and the thief received.

Another amazing aspect of this story is that the thief did not receive Christ in Christ’s glorified state. In fact, it was the oddest of all times that he made a stand for Christ. Jesus was in fact at His lowest point in life. He was at His weakest and most frail moment and yet it was in this moment that the thief responded to Christ’s invitation. It was here that Jesus received the thief not as a thief but a born again transformed believer in Christ. If He can do that in His weakest state of being, imagine what Jesus can do in His glorified state as He sits at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us.

The third saying from the cross focuses on relationships. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home“ (John 19:26-27). In this we hear the heart of Jesus for relationships and connectedness. Jesus wanted to be sure that his mother was taken care of. He also wanted John to know that he too would be in relationship with his mother.

John Piper suggested that this was a powerful saying for a number of reasons. First of all, if Jesus was so eager to care for his mother in her hour of need, how much more is he eager to care for his disciples who hear the Word of God today and do it. Secondly, if Jesus could provide for His mother in a moment of his deepest weakness and humiliation how much more can He care for us in His present power and exaltation. Think about it, He is at the right hand of the Father and is praying for us every moment of every day.

The fourth saying of Jesus was one that expressed abandonment. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). The lesson here is that the holiness of God could not look upon the sinfulness of man. The word “forsaken” used in this passage is one of the most appalling words that could be used. It is one of the most tragic words in all of human speech. God could not look upon the sin of mankind because at that moment Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself and the father had to look away. He could not bear to look upon His son as HE took all of our sin and all of the sin of mankind upon Himself.

It is here that you might question the lesson for us in this. It is my belief that Jesus experienced what we experience in our lives. He felt the coldness and divisiveness of abandonment. We experience it as marriages break up. People leave us. Businesses shut down. Kids rebel. Friends reject us. You name it and we can experience the feeling of abandonment on a number of levels. While we experience abandonment nothing compares to the moment that Jesus found Himself abandoned by God. This was necessary for us so that He would be tested and tried by every experience known to mankind. He passed the test so we could pass the test as well by depending on the one who suffered it all for us. He know us and He knows what effects us.

The fifth saying of Jesus on the cross is “I Thirst” (John 19:28). Most commentators suggest that this was a saying of distress. Jesus after a long day and night of insult and pain was now thirsty. Jesus the King of Kings had to deal with the emotion of need. It is noteworthy that the one who was the everlasting water cried out in thirst. This was Jesus’ great moment of distress. For us this means that we can be honest with Him when we are distressed and in need. Jesus knows the pain of need and the power of distress upon our lives. And better yet He knows what we need! He knows how to quench our thirst.

The sixth saying of the cross was “It is Finished” (John 19:30). Here we have the greatest words of triumph ever spoken. The Greeks could boast in being able to say much in little. If one word would do the trick that is all they would use. That is what Jesus did here. Wrapped up in these three words is all of salvation’s plan. Through these three little words the work of salvation was now complete. Through these three words we can be assured that there is nothing that can be added to the work of the cross. It was complete in its self. He paid the ultimate price for our sin. The curse of Adam and the power of sin was being dealt with by the one new Adam, Jesus.

Through this three little words all of the prophecy regarding Jesus’ death had been fulfilled. Through these three little words His suffering was complete and the goal of His incarnation had been reached. The atonement for man’s sin was now a reality. As a result, man no longer had to depend on a high priest who was tarnished by sin but he could go right to the Father who would hear and answer every prayer. It was here that we find the end of our sins and the fulfillment of the Law’s requirements and best of all we find here the destruction of satan’s power. It is finished. It is complete.

The seventh saying of the cross was “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). This relates reunion and restoration. Jesus was now reunited with God and His place in heaven. The one who was once separated because of sin was now restored. This speaks to us in powerful ways as the overarching need we have is to be in right relationship with God. Through Christ’s death we have the power and the ability to be restored to right relationship with Christ. Remember the passage we read last week. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2). And then here is more we can read about this. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).

The work was finished. We now have power over sin and we have the power to have a right relationship with God. So how are you doing today? Which of these sayings speak most to your heart? Which of these sayings minister hope and life to your need?

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Jesus Came to Bring Peace

Peninsula Community Church 

Jesus Came to Bring Peace

April 2, 2017

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

This week I was watching Fox News and they reported on a new app available to people who have annoying coworkers. You know the kind who interrupt us with stories that waste our time and cause us to be annoyed because we cannot get any work done. The APP is called Nope. You download it to your PC and when of these annoying people come around you, you simply click on the icon and it will call your phone with a message and commands to follow which makes it sound like it is an important call. The goal is to bring peace to your surroundings. Don’t you wish real peace was that easy. Just click an icon and peace would be ours.

As we look at this passage, we see three key benefits of following Christ. First, we have peace with God through Jesus. Secondly, through Him we have obtained access by faith into His grace. Thirdly, we endure the difficulties of life because of the hope we have that has been produced by His love. What a powerful foursome of God’s blessing: peace, grace, hope, and love.

While all of these are critical, this morning I would like to focus primarily on the concept of peace. I am sure you have seen the bumper sticker that says “No Jesus, No peace; Know Jesus, Know peace.” The idea presented here is that without Christ we cannot know real peace. That is a true statement but too often we attempt to gain peace without Christ. Without argument that is definitely an impossibility. From the time of the Garden of Eden until now, mankind has sought to gain peace in so many ways. The problem is that too often these ways of finding peace leave us empty and desiring more of peace.

The reason for this is that too often we have a faulty view or understanding of peace. Therefore, to understand real peace we begin with the most noted word in the Hebrew for peace. The word is “shalom” which can mean “peace” but it also can mean “completeness,” “soundness,” “welfare,” “tranquility,” “contentment,” and “friendship.” More directly, the word shalom refers to peace with God through a covenant relationship. The covenant relationship has been established by God and has been fulfilled in us by the work of the cross and our acceptance of Jesus as the master of all peace.

Here is the reality of peace for the Jewish people and it should therefore be a reality for us. Peace means more than a cessation of hostility and bad circumstances. The Jews of Jesus day had unfortunately made peace all about freedom from the oppression of Roman domination. This was so far from God’s intent for peace and yet it is for that reason that Jesus made a statement that has baffled some. In Matthew 10:34-35 Jesus stated Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

What Jesus was saying is that the Jew’s definition of peace was off and incorrect. You see peace is not about a cessation of hostility or problems, even though the Jews believed this was the case. You see rather than bringing outward or earthly peace, Jesus was in fact the lighting of rod of dissension, trouble, and division. This reaction to Jesus was a result of the motivation of those around Him and the rejection of His message. The bottom line was that just because of who He was and what He stood for, He would cause people to react with hostility and rejection. He would, in fact, be the source of more unrest and unsettledness than already existed.

If we are not careful we can also miss the power and purpose of Christ’s mission. If read between the lines we find that Jesus was communicating that He was not interested in setting up a Kingdom in Jerusalem. He was, however, very interested in setting up a kingdom in our hearts where He would reign supreme and peace would be evidenced within us regardless of the circumstances and problems around us.

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

Notice a couple of things about Mark’s story. First, Jesus had said to them that they were to go to the other side by boat. This was God’s will for them. He was going with them to the other side of the lake. They would make it to the other side. The second thing that happened is that a storm arose and began to rock the boat. They were afraid and called out to Christ who was sleeping in the stern of the boat. He was at peace because He knew they would make it to the other side. His disciples on the other hand were not at peace. Notice Jesus’ word to them. “Where is your faith?”

It is almost like Jesus is saying “look I am in the boat with you. Do you think I will honestly let something happen to you?” With Jesus on board the odds were good that they would make it to the other side. You see, I believe the problem was that they had their eyes more on the storm than they did on Jesus. Too often we get caught up in the problems and the cares of life to the point that we get our eyes off of Jesus. When we get our eyes off of Jesus, we loose our peace because our focus is driven by the problem and not by the one who can resolve the problem.

Remember when Peter got out of the boat to walk on the water (Matthew 14:28-31). Remember that he takes several steps toward Jesus. He was doing what no other human being had done before or since. Peter was walking on water. There were no stones under his feet There was no bridge. There was no trick photography or magical illusion happening. He was walking on water. He was doing the impossible. Imagine the picture with me. Peter is doing so well but then He looks down and sees the waves lapping at his feet and in he falls.

Why does this happen? It is because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to look at the waves which brought fear and anxiety to his heart. Imagine this, if Peter not taken his eyes off of Jesus he would have walked all of the way to Jesus and back but he became distracted and fell into the water. The amazing thing is that Jesus did not push Peter down or leave him to his own devices. Jesus reached down and picked Peter up. That is the power of Christ’s peace is us. When we become aware that we are living out life by our own means and we get our eyes on the circumstances around us, we fall short of God’s glory but He Jesus does not condemn us. He reaches down as far as He has to to pick us and restores our peace.

That is why Paul wrote the words he did in Romans 5. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We attempt to maneuver through life on our own and when the waves of difficulty come we are are captivated by the problem rather than by Jesus. The reality is however is that He reaches down to us wherever we are and he lifts us up because He has given us His grace to stand and stand tall. The winds may blow and the waves of difficulty may be lapping at our feet but we can remain focused on Jesus. In so doing, we can make it through every difficulty. We can arrive at the moment in our life where we can actually rejoice in the difficulties we face because we are walking in His peace and in His grace. We walk in the unmerited, undeserved, unwarranted gift of God, His grace which brings peace.

How does this all happen? What is the basis of this reality for us? It is that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. It is the love of God that motivates us and constrains us toward a life of peace and one that is full of grace. As we focus on the Lord’s Table today, I am moved by the fact that God’s work through His son has brought us peace. This peace is a result of Him bringing us forgiveness of past sin, present sin, and all future sin. Through that forgiveness, we receive His peace which sustains us no matter what we go through.

Why? Andy Stanley states that we receive the peace of God so that we might be at peace with God. Peace with God paves the way to peace with ourselves and equips us to make peace with others. The bottom line is this. He wants us to focus on Him more than we do our problems. He wants us to understand that when we walk in peace, we walk in completeness and wholeness. Peace is possible and peace can be a reality in our lives.

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 Came to Give Us Eternal Life

Peninsula Community Church

He Came to Give Us Eternal Life

December 15, 2013

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

I love Christmas decorations. While in New York, one of the things we used to do after our Christmas Eve service was to load the family in the van and head off to look at homes that had decorated their homes to the point that the International Space Station could see the light emitted from the home. I would often think about the time it took to place each of those lights in the exact location so that they would achieve the intended purpose.

After seeing those light displays, I would turn to the task of placing the lights on our Christmas tree. How could they do what they do when it always seems so complicated to simply get the lights onto our tree. I am not sure if you have had this problem before but you take out all of the ornaments and the lights out of the storage container and as you are placing the lights on the tree you find they are tangled to the degree that it becomes a frustrating nightmare. And then finally, you get them untangled and placed on the tree only to find out that one of the bulbs is blown so that now the whole strand of lights is out. Of course finding the one light that is causing the problem is like finding a needle in a haystack. Things like this can complicate the season. It can put a dampener on the way we feel and the way we look at Christmas.

The fact is Christmas can be complicated in so many ways. There are so many events to attend. There are presents to buy. There are family members that will visit that we do not like but we have to play nice with them because it is Christmas. We buy gifts for people we don’t like with money we don’t have. Then we have to try to buy a gift that you know someone really wants but you have to buy it and and then wrap in such a way that it will be a surprise for the one opening it. And then, there are the gifts we get that we are not sure what they are about or what use they serve. For a while the singing fish was popular. What do you with a singing fish? Even if it sings “Sweet Home Alabama” what do you do with it?

While Christmas can be complicated, the message of the Gospel does not have to be. While the Christmas story is really a simple story about the good news, somehow, we have complicated the story and the message that Christ came to give. Too often, we blame those outside the church or we criticize those who have not accepted Christ for not accepting the message when the problem comes down to the fact that we have complicated the message to the point that it fails to bring the joy and the answers to life that it was intended to bring. We, therefore, cannot blame them for our own failures and our ability to complicate the message.

So how do we simplify the message? How do we stop complicating the gospel?

The first thing we need to do is realize that Christ came to bring good news. In reading the Christmas story in Luke’s account of the Gospel, we find that the Angel proclaimed that Good News was coming to earth. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you:you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:10-12).

The second thing we need to do is to realize that the Good News is that Christ came to bring us eternal life. If we return to our text, we see the Good News is that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to give us eternal life. Look at this with me. He, God, loved. He, God, gave. We believe. We receive. It is that simple.

We have complicated the message because although we say eternal life is freely received, we can intentionally or unintentionally set so many parameters and rules that must be met before we can receive the gift He has given, that it complicates the decision of the unsaved. One of the first parameters we set is that you must straighten up and fly right before you can accept this gift. Rather than coming to Christ with all of our failures and short comings we can lead people to believe that they must change or be at a certain place in their life to be accepted by Christ. The fact is, we come to him just as we are but we also come to Him with an understanding that He will not allow us to stay where we are. He will bring the change in us and through us that God must do. Look at who Jesus ministered to in the bible: the hungry, the prostitute who was used and abused, the leper who was rejected by the religious leaders and society, the tax man who was one that people wanted to have a relationship with, the lame, the cripple, the religious leaders, the fisherman who were simple minded men, and many more. He never asked them to change before He touched them or called them into service. He came to them in their fallen state and ministered to them right where they were in the moment. That should bless our heart and encourage us. It should spur us on to service in and to him.

Second, the good news is not about joining the church. In fact, it is not about what we would consider the church at all. Too often, we have complicated the message by inferring that salvation and church membership or at least church attendance are on equal terms with salvation. This is an inaccurate statement and belief. Salvation and church attendance are not the same. Salvation is not contingent on our attendance at church. You can attend church and never be saved. But, I will say that when you are genuinely saved, you will have a desire to be with God’s people.

Third, we can present salvation as the rite of being born into the right Christian family. The fact is we are not Christians by physical birth but only by way of spiritual birth. Once again we can receive eternal life and be a part of a pagan family or we can be a part of a Christian family and never come to fully understand eternal life. We come to Christ by accepting his gift and then we begin to follow his plan as noted in the word.

The third thing that we need to understand is that eternal life is less about a destination as it is about a relationship. We have looked at what the good news is not, now let us look at what it is. In our passage today, John states that the gift of God is eternal life but what does that mean to us? I have to be honest with you. This has been one of those theological areas that has baffled me in many ways. What is eternal life? We say the believer will have eternal life but doesn’t every one really experience some form of eternal life? There is a heaven and there is a hell. That is a fact.

So if everyone experiences some form of eternal life, then what does it mean when we say that we will have eternal life? To answer this question let us look at another passage. In John 17:1-3, John includes the following words of Christ in his writings. When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

If we understand this correctly, we see that eternal life is less about where we will live when we die but how how we live before we die. It is all about having a relationship with God the Father and God the son. Look at what Christ Himself says. This is eternal life…. that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent. Eternal life therefore is not a destination, it is a relationship. It is a relationship with the one and only God.

Finally, we need to understand that to receive eternal life we must not just believe in but we must also believe on Christ. How is this relationship established? To understand this let us return to John 3:16 for a moment. Here, Jesus says that whosoever believes in Him should have eternal life. It is interesting to note however that the Greek used here does not say “believe in” Him. The Greek uses a prepositional phrase that means to “believe on” or “believe toward.” It carries the idea of trust.

The fact is we can believe in many things. We can believe in Santa Claus. We can believe in the Easter Bunny. You see we can believe in something but never have a relationship with that something or that someone. We can believe those things exist but they may never have an impact on our lives. The idea that is given in the verbiage of the Greek is that to have eternal life we must believe on or believe toward Christ. The idea expressed here is the idea of trusting. Do we trust Him with our lives? Do we trust Him with our bank account? Do we trust Him with our relationships? Do we trust Him with our future? Do we trust Him with the unknown?

You see I can believe this stool will hold me but I must exercise a measure of faith and place my self on the chair to understand whether or not this stool will sustain my weight. I can believe in the stool but I must exercise my faith by believing on the stool and acting out my faith by sitting on the stool. I give this stool all of my weight, with a believe that it will hold me and will not fall a part under my weight.

That is what it means to believe in Christ. We begin a relationship with him through accepting him. We grow in the relationship by reading His word which is His letter to us. We also grow by finding people who love God with all of their heart and then hang out with them.

So today, if you do not know Christ begin this morning by realizing that finding Christ does not have to be complicated. Secondly, understand that receiving the Good News is about eternal life and eternal life is about having a relationship with Christ. It is believing on Christ and trusting Him to do what He said He would do.

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March 27, 2017 · 5:20 pm

The Impossible Made Possible

Peninsula Community Church

The Impossible Made Possible 

March 26, 2017

Nehemiah 6:15-16 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

When I was a younger, one of my favorite shows on TV was “Mission Impossible.” The basis of the show was that an elite covert operations unit carries out highly sensitive missions subject to official denial in the event of failure, death or capture. Remember the famous line. This tape will self destruct in 5 seconds.

Another memory I have is the song “to Dream the Impossible Dream.” For Joe Darion, the author of the song, being a one-hit wonder might be enough if your single stroke of genius turns out to be one of the most enduring, often recorded songs in the history of popular music. The song made its debut in the 1965 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. The song has been sung by the Temptations, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and many more. Listen to the words. To dream the impossible dream. To fight the unbeatable foe. To bear with unbearable sorrow.  And to run where the brave dare not go. To right the unwritable wrong and to love pure and chaste from afar. To try when your arms are too weary to reach the unreachable star. This is my quest to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far. To fight for the right without question or pause. To be willing to march, march into hell for that heavenly cause. And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest. And the world will be better for this that one man, scorned and covered with scars, still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable, the unreachable, the unreachable star. And I’ll always dream the impossible dream. Yes, and I’ll reach the unreachable star. 

When we first encountered Nehemiah and experienced his call to return to Jerusalem, those around him would have believed that rebuilding the wall would have been almost impossible. The city was in ruins, the people were discouraged, and the rulers were abusing and using those in Jerusalem through unfair trade practices. Rather than being encouraged toward a future hope and destiny, they were being held back and pushed down. The task seemed to be too big and beyond human capacity to accomplish or at least accomplish much that would make a difference. But Nehemiah was of a different mind set and a different heart. Rather than being discouraged or doubtful, he stepped up to the plate to lead the task of rebuilding the wall. How could he do this you might ask? He did so because he had a confidence and trust in God’s ability and power to do the impossible.

When we look at the passage before us we find a remarkable story. First of all, we see that the wall only took approximately fifty-two days to rebuild. What seemed impossible was made possible. How amazing is that? The walls that were in shambles and torn apart were rebuilt in less than two months. What is even more amazing is that this was accomplished without power tools or advanced equipment to assist them. They did this all by hand and with the animals that were at their disposal.

Even with the jeering, ridicule, false accusation, and the mocking hurled at them, they were able to do the impossible because they kept their eyes on God and trusted in His undeniable and unwavering ability to accomplish what He said He would. Together, they overcame the worst of difficulties to do the impossible and rebuild the wall.

It is also amazing when you look at the span of wall that we are talking about. It has been estimated that the wall in Nehemiah’s day would have been approximately 2.5 miles long. To put that in perspective our house is almost exactly one mile from the Maryland state line. So the wall would be more than two times that distance. The wall was also forty feet tall and in many places was more than twelve feet wide. Some have tried to minimize the miracle of this by suggesting that they did not have to rebuild the entire wall but just part of it. Even if that were so, it was  still amazing that in fifty-two days they cleared the rubble, dealt with the stoppage of work when they were discouraged, and were able to rebuild the wall.

Do you think God had anything to do with that? I am sure He did. In fact, even the enemies of Judah recognized that God had intervened. One of the lessons we learn from this miracle of God is that although the miracle is for us, it is not just for us. It serves to glorify God and to make His name know upon the earth. I suggest to you that Paul understood this when he proclaimed Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). When we are comforted and when God does the impossible it is not just for us but is to be shared so that the world knows God’s power. You might easily replace the word miracle for the word comfort.

I am also reminded of Jesus’ words at the tomb of Lazarus. When those around Him became excited about the fact that He did not seem to be responding fast enough, He made the following statements. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (Luke 11:4). What seemed like a delay was actual in God’s design so that He could get the glory. Much of what God does is so that His name is glorified and we just happen to receive the benefits of His actions.

The second statement in the passage is Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him (Luke 11:14-16). When God does the impossible it is so that our faith in Him is strengthened. By way of the miracles of God we are encouraged and challenged to move forward.

In this, we recognize that when God does the impossible it is often outside our time table. It is beyond what we think should happen most of the time. I am amazed in the book of Mark at how many times the term “immediately” is used. There are times when God moves in ways that seems so slow and then there are times where He moves so quickly that we are amazed when it happens. Too often, when we have to wait for the immediacy of God it can feel like His has forgotten us. But know this, God is at work in you and in your circumstances no matter the speed of His answers.

In reading this passage, it is noteworthy that the people who were against the building of the walls and those who were the enemies of Judah were afraid and their self esteem was impacted. After all, they had been in the city and had power, rulership, and authority which was now being tested and in fact they were losing their power. Here is a fact. Not everyone will receive the impossibilities of God in the same way. Even in the best of circumstances fear can be the result.

The Bible is replete with the stories of the impossible situations that God intervened in and the impossible became possible. In each case, God did what He did so that He could get all of the glory and the honor. Imagine the surprise of Sarah, Elizabeth, and Mary who were all promised miraculous births. Sarah and Elizabeth were too old and Mary in essence was too young, but God did the impossible in them. He opened the barren womb and brought life to that which was dead. I do not think these miracles were a mistake in the Bible because they teach us that God can bring life out of that which is dead. God can bring hope when things seem hopeless.

Both of these ladies desired nothing more than to have children. Sarah was given a promise and without a son that promise could not be fulfilled. While she thought God had forgotten her, He did not. Elizabeth was left with the scar of barrenness which was a thing of disgrace in her day. The hope of every Jewish woman was to give birth because their son might be the Messiah. In both cases, in the natural things seemed hopeless but God intervened and brought forth life out of that which was dead. In Genesis 18:4, God asked a question that He already knew the answer to but He needs our reply. “Is there anything too hard for God?” The answer He deserves and the answer He wants is there is nothing too hard for Him.

When the angel Gabriel approached Mary, Elizabeth was already pregnant. This was a testimony to what God could do. It also provided the backdrop of Mary’s miracle. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:36-37). The angel was saying “If God can touch a barren womb that has already passed its prime I can do a miracle in you.”  Chuck Swindoll said “Elizabeth’s barrenness and advanced age was a double symbol of  hopelessness which became the means by which God would announce to the world that nothing  is impossible for Him.”

Remember the old song we used sing. “God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see and He will make a way for me.” This morning I believe that God wants you to know that there is nothing impossible with God. Whether it is a wall that needs to be built (Jerusalem) or one that needs to be torn down (Jericho) God can do it. Whether there is a need to quicken a womb that is deadened by age and barrenness (Elizabeth and Sarah) or it is one that is young with hope and life (Mary), God can do the impossible. Whether it is to bring forth life or to raise the dead (Lazarus), God can do the impossible. It is not a question of whether He will, but whether we will position ourselves for a miracle.

Nehemiah trusted God in the midst of incredible odds. Sarah laughed but she trusted God. Mary realized that God was about to do something bigger than herself and proclaimed “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” May we like Mary proclaim I am your servant and let the miracle be according to your word. 

Here is the bottom line. Trust God. Surrender to His will. Be patient. Do not lose hope. If He  made a promise He will fulfill His purpose in us. I found this statement by Robert G Ingersoll, in his book “The Ghosts and Other Lectures.” “Take from the church the miraculous, the supernatural, the incomprehensible, the unreasonable, the impossible, the unknowable, the absurd, and nothing but a vacuum remains.” What is noteworthy about Ingersoll was that he was known as the Great Agnostic. He was agnostic in his belief which meant that he simple did not know or want to know, therefore did not believe but what a profound and powerfully truthful statement by a nonbeliever.

Remove the miraculous and all you have is a void that will be filled by something but if we reach out to God for the miraculous He will come and He will touch our lives. Edwin Cole once commented that “Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles.” So do we expect God to do the impossible? Do we expect God to show up? He does the impossible to touch the expectant heart. Today what impossible task do you need God to handle? He is ready. Call to Him. Trust Him. He will work and He will do what only He can do. The impossible can be made possible by God. To God be the glory.

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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Rebuilding the Broken Places of Our Life

Peninsula Community Church

Rebuilding the Broken Places of Our Life

March 19, 2017

Nehemiah 4:10-14 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

As you take your journey through life have you ever found yourself being strong and making great head way in overcoming problems and rebuilding that which is broken, only to find yourself in a weakened state at other times. It happens to all of us at some point in time. Life can be an ongoing process of ups and downs. It is an ebb and flow. You know how it is, you start to make great head way and then there is some event or circumstance that sends you spiraling downward.

What are the broken places in our lives? I would suggest a few here this morning. I am sure that you can add many others. Misplaced theology can cause a broken place in our life. We end up with a false view of God which causes a false view of ourselves. We are broken when our faith is tested beyond measure and we feel there is no hope. We are broken when the relationships we are in are broken. We are broken by false expectations of life. We are broken by misplaced desires and lust that over takes us. We are broken by illnesses that catch us by surprise. We are broken by our addictions which seem to control our every move. We are broken by emotional and psychological weaknesses that deter us from living the destiny that we were given by God.

We have all been broken in some way, at some time. It is for that reason that we will deal with the question of how to deal with the broken places of our life. In this study, we will look at just a couple of tools at our disposal. Before we look at the solutions we will look at three of the tools often used by the enemy to discourage the rebuilding process. These tactics are used to defeat us and keep us from rebuilding the broken places of our lives.

To begin with, we must recognize that the enemy does not want us to rebuild the broken places in our lives. He knows that when we do this, his access to our life will be cut off or at least minimized. Therefore, he will do everything in his power to stop and distract us from doing what is necessary to rebuild the broken places. You see the enemy knows that if you rebuild the broken places in your life, you will be an effective power house for God and he cannot stand for that or even the possibility of your success. He knows that he is defeated every time we rebuild  a broken place in our life. He is afraid of a healthy, healed believer in Christ.

So what does the enemy do? One of the tools the enemy uses is the tool of ridicule and mockery.  Sanballat resorts to this tactic to stop the rebuilding of the wall by distracting them from their purpose. It is noteworthy that Sanballat had nothing to add to the process so he resorts to mockery and ridicule. Mockery and ridicule can become the dripping faucet of discouragement. His goal in ridiculing and mocking is to bring hopelessness and to cause the builders to give up on the task before them.

Notice that Sanballat did not directly stop the work of building the wall, he simply offered discouragement and confusion. He knew that he did not have to stop the work if he could discourage them. Here is a fact that we need to know. The enemy of our soul cannot touch us unless we give him the authority and give him room to do so. We give him access by allowing sin to go unconfessed. We give his access by believing the lies spoken against us. We give him access by failing to recognize our destiny in God.

Peter understood this spiritual dynamic when he penned these words. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:8).

In getting to know Christ, we come to terms with the ploys of the enemy to discourage and cause us to become disconnected from God’s grace, His mercy, and His love. By resisting the devil and turning to Christ, He will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. Right now the way may seem rocky and may feel like you are on the ride of your life, but hold on because you are His child and He loves you more than you will ever know.

A second ploy used by the enemy is to cause confusion. When ridicule and mockery does not work the enemy then tries to engage with tactics that create confusion, doubt, and regret. When we walk in confusion, it is hard to know what to do and what the answers really are. Paul dealt with this issue when he stated that God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). The underlying motive of all that God does is peace. It is the foundation and the basis of everything He is and does. The truth is, while the world can be falling apart around us we can still walk in peace.

You see the enemy loves to rob us of our peace by causing confusion which leads to doubt and desperation. On the other hand, God came to give us peace and not confusion. My guess today is  that if you are walking through a season of confusion then we need to identify the root cause and it is not God. Is there an unconfessed sin in your life, or is the enemy using confusion to distract and deter you from God’s purposes?

A third ploy used is to get our attention upon how much rubble there is. Sometimes when we are confronted with issues in life we can become overwhelmed with all that we are dealing with. The rubble around us relates to the health issues we face, the people we have to deal with, the financial struggles we face, or the unknown of the future. If we are not careful, the problems can mount up and we can be overwhelmed by all of the problems we are facing. The result is that we lose sight of the promise of God and we begin to believe that there is no hope for a better day.

The rubble we face becomes greater than the faith we have in God or in ourselves for that matter. To make this practical, we begin to believe that we are too messed up and that we have too many problems for our walls to be rebuilt. We get focused on what is left to be done rather than on what He has already done.

So how did Nehemiah deal with these things? First, Nehemiah encouraged and challenged Judah to continue to move forward. He knew that if they became stagnate that the work would never get done and they would never get the wall rebuilt which was paramount to their success and protection. So, they returned to work. They continued to move forward. They did not give up or give in. They continued to fight the battle. It is here that I am reminded of the words of God in 2 Chronicles 20. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). We can rest in and be assured that He will fight the battle, if we allow Him to.

Here is an interesting note, however, even though they knew the battle was the Lord’s and they had a confidence in Him, they also knew they needed to be prepared for battle, if necessary. That is why Nehemiah gives the order to be armed for battle but they were not to stop working. Therefore, they worked with a sword in one hand and a brick in the other. The understanding here is that whatever we are engaged in there will be a spiritual battle. We never stop focusing on Christ and His power to redeem us. The fact is, we can become so focused on the task that we forget that we are in a spiritual battle or we can be so focused on the spiritual battle that we never get anything accomplished. Nehemiah knew there was a healthy balance between the two.

Listen to the words of Paul in Ephesians 6. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:10-15).

Notice too that while each one was responsible for their part of the wall and they were responsible for their own protection, they did not work alone. They recognized they were a part of a bigger project and plan. They worked together. They knew that it was a team effort. They worked side-by-side with the same goal and aspirations. They were not divided or disconnected. Their mission was to rebuild the wall so that they could come to live in a new normal. What Nehemiah did was pretty amazing. When anyone needed help or they were being overrun by the enemy they were to sound an alarm by blowing a trumpet. This meant that everyone was to rally to that point so as to protect that part of the building.

How does this apply to us? The fact is there are times where we need help to rebuild the broken places of our lives. The easy thing for us to do is to isolate and think we can do this on our own, but God has placed us in a body of believers for a reason. When we are going through a difficult time, there is a need to rally those around us that will support us and help us through the battle. We need people of faith to rally along side of us and help us through the battle. The problem too often is that we want to isolate and separate ourselves but we need one another. That is not to say that we do not need time along with God but when we isolate ourselves too often that is where we begin to live and that causes us to be defeated before we get started. That is where we can give room for the enemy to control our lives.

I love the Scripture that is on the front of our bulletin today. Don’t panic I’m with you. There’s no need to fear, for I am your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady and keep a firm grip  on you (Isaiah 41:10). Know this, God wants you to rebuild the broken places of your lives. He wants to bring you healing, restoration, and power. He is there to get you through the storm. He will help you rebuild. He will guide the restoration of your life. Give Him your worries and your cares. He will make a difference. In the final analysis, we need to recognize that the battle has already been won for us. We are redeemed and set free by God. Remember that all of our sins and past failures are under the blood.

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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