Are You a Distracted Christian?

Peninsula Community Church 

July 21, 2019

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

The question before us today is “Are you a distracted Christian?” As an athlete, Paul knew the importance of staying focused and keeping his eye on the prize. He knew that he had to stay the course or he would be distracted and would not finish the race as he would have wanted. Specifically, Paul states that the one thing he does is not focus on what is behind but he is straining, he is focused, on what is ahead. 

The term distracted in the original Greek means “to be overly occupied about a thing; to be drawn away.” Distraction is therefore the act of shifting our attention from something of greater importance to something of lesser importance. The fundamental and most dangerous problem with distraction is when we are being distracted away from God. It is here that we most often sacrifice the best for the good.

The fact is we are a distracted people. We are a busy people. If we are honest we all seem to have a bit of ADD at times. One big distraction in our life is the electronic devices we have and the 24 hour news cycle. In terms of electronic devices rather than talk, we text; we email. While these devices can be used for great purposes they can also become a distraction. The following is a few statistics that are very amazing in terms of cells phones and driving. Using a cell phone while driving caused an estimated 1.5 million car accidents in the United States in 2018 according to the National Safety Council. The United States Department of Transportation reported that cell phone use while driving kills 3,000 to 6,000 people every year. Texting while driving is a contributing cause in 25% of all car accidents which results in almost 400,000 physical injuries. Texting while driving causes 5 times as many accidents as drunk driving does. A single text results in an average distraction of 5 seconds, during which time a car going 55 mph will travel the length of a football field.

There is a second illustration that is common to all of us who drive. When you get into your car to drive you will find positioned in the center of the windshield a rear view mirror. This is an important tool to be used. If you notice the rear view mirror is a lot smaller than the windshield. The reason is that we are to spend more time looking through the windshield than thorough the mirror. If we spend too much time looking into the rear view mirror we will fail to pay attention to what is ahead. That can have a perverse effect on our lives. When I worked for Grumman, I remember on one occasion I was driving to work when I thought I saw a car on fire. I turned away for not more than 2 or 3 seconds to see what was going on. When I turned around I ran into the back of the car in front of me that had also turned to look to see if the car was on fire. Distracted driving is dangerous but being a distracted Christian is also dangerous.

As we turn to our passage, we find that Paul begins with the idea that he has not perfected this process. He still has a long way to go, but he is making head way. We find that Paul gives us three solutions or helps against distractions. He starts with the observation that we are to forget what is behind. This is critical because we can be distracted by our past and we all have a past. Paul states that we are to forget what is behind and press on to what is ahead of us. As we grow as passionate followers of Christ, it is important that we learn the lesson that Paul is teaching us. We do not forget the past, but we must never allow the past to define who we are. We learn from the past, but the past should not be the thing that guides most of our thinking. 

Now granted there are important lessons we learn from our past. For example, from past experiences we gain wisdom. We learn lessons of the heart and mind so that we do not make the same mistake(s) again. From the past, we learn how to navigate the future and navigate the pitfalls of life. The problem, however, is if we stay in the past we will miss future lessons and run the risk that we will be jammed up by the obstacles we face. 

With that said, the problem, too often, is that we are looking through the rear view mirror at what is behind us. We look back at the pain we have experienced. We look back at the words that have been spoken. We look back at the divorce and/or destruction caused by an abusive husband or wife. We look back at fathers who were not fathers at all. They conceived us, but they were not dads. We look back to see where our children have rebelled and have tested every boundary set for them. We look back and see the hurts from those closest to us. We look back at the jobs lost and the failures we have experienced. We look back and remember what we do not have rather than what we do have.

The problem with these issues is that they can become a distraction and in so doing they prevent us moving on with life and what we have been called to do and be. Once again, we do not forget the things of the past as a memory, but we do not allow them to dictate who we will be in the present. We can look back to learn the lessons but to stay focused on the past is a dangerous proposition. It causes us to hit bumps in the road and experience struggles that are unnecessary.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible, and I have many, is the story of Joseph. He had every reason to look in the rear view mirror of his life, but he did not. He could have succumbed to the rejection of his brothers when they sold him into slavery. He could have been persuaded by the false accusations made by Pharaoh’s wife and the original ME TOO movement. He could have been effected by the forgotten promises that were made to him. But Joseph did not become distracted by his past, but rather he focused on the premise and the promise that whatever he went through, the Lord was there and God had a better plan. 

Secondly, Paul also challenges us to strain toward the goal. While this is an athletic term we understand that distractions are all around us. Life itself can be a distraction. Health, jobs, people, and the busyness of our lives can serve as a distraction. In the process there are sacrifices that are made. Family relationships, job performance, friendships, and more are impacted by the distractions in our life. 

I love this quote that I found when I was preparing for this message. Jon Bloom a staff writer for Desiring God wrote We’re becoming conditioned to distraction, and it’s harming our ability to listen and think carefully, to be still, to pray, and to meditate. Which means it is a spiritual danger, an evil from which we need God’s deliverance! The fact is we are conditioned to distractions and we need help. That is why Paul calls us to strain towards the goal. The illustration here is one that an athlete that leans forward to be the first to cross the finish line. We must be intentional in clearing out the distractions and problems we face. 

Thirdly, we find that Paul tells us to press forward. Do not settle and do become complacent. The prize we are looking forward to is receiving the crown of righteousness that has been promised to all believers. That is our reward. It is the crown we will receive, but we will not keep the crown as we will cast it at His feet in the end. While this is true we must be careful about being so distracted that we cannot live in the present. 

So as we close let me give you a couple of action items that will help you to be less distracted. First, you will only grow if you keep looking forward. You cannot say, “I want it like it was before.” Growth means that you change some things. For Christians, it may be some habits. Do you have habits that lend itself to a distracted life? Change is not a bad thing and is often necessary to move into the future. In fact, change can be necessary as a part of God’s plan. 

Second, you will only win the race when you look to Jesus. You can focus on many things, but Jesus must be at the forefront of all that we do. Winning the race means that you work in conjunction with Jesus. He is your coach. He is your cheerleader. He will help you win the race. But you have to keep looking to Him and not to anyone else, or anything else. Jesus needs to be your source. To more forward, you have to be praying, reading His word, and listening to Jesus.

Third, you have to be convinced that the future is brighter than the past. You have to take all of your negative thoughts and submit them to Christ. Christians need to think into the future because God is about the future. God does not stay in the past, neither should you.

Fourth, you have to know that God still loves you right where you are. He does not want you to stay right where you are. God loves us enough that He wants us to grow and mature. God wants to help you with your future. Why? Because He wants you to reach the goal which is eternal life with Him in heaven. You cannot get there by looking back to your past here on earth. There is nothing that will separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ, not even your past. There is much more ahead of you in God’s love than behind you.

So keep looking forward. God has big plans for you as a Christian, as a father, as a mother, as a student, as a couple, as a church. God has big plans for you. Keep your head up and keep looking forward.

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What’s It Worth?

Peninsula Community Church 

July 14, 2019 

Philippians 3:1-7 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

As we begin this study today let me ask you a couple of questions. In answering these questions you will in essence take a spiritual inventory of your life. How you answer these questions will determine your focus and will perhaps give you some suggestions as to where you need to adapt your life to God’s principles. So, where is your confidence this morning? Is in the possessions you have? Is it in the talents you have been given? Is it in the mental capacity you have to make decisions and solve problems? Is it in your religious activity? Or, is your confidence fully in Christ no matter what comes? I think if we honestly evaluate these questions we will have a sense of where we are spiritually. I trust you agree with the later but the truth is we often give confidence too often to the former things. By the way this is personal evaluation and not an evaluation we are to us against others. With that said let me get into the meat of this passage. 

Paul begins with the familiar command to “rejoice in the lord.” There are more than 20 verses that use this phraseology and specifically command us to rejoice in the Lord. Paul does not beat around the bush but he gets right to the point. To rejoice speaks of our focus and what we have set our hearts on. If we focus on circumstances there is not always as much to celebrate and rejoice over, but when our focus is on the King of Heaven we have much to rejoice about. Notice that Paul states that we are rejoice IN THE LORD. We do not rejoice in our circumstances. We do not rejoice in our health. We do not rejoice in our finances. We do not rejoice in our successes. However, we do and should rejoice in the Lord, no matter what. 

Secondly, we find that Paul gives us a comparison between those who have a different focus and spiritual mentality and those who are passionate followers of Christ. These marginal Christians focus more on the acts they perform than the condition of their heart. The result is they are driven to do things that force others to believe their doctrinal positions even when those beliefs are not Biblical or godly. These folks in particular had focused their spiritual attention on the rite of circumcision. They overemphasized circumcision and under emphasized salvation through Christ. Their entire spiritual experience was wrapped up in the rite of circumcision. In other words, some people take great joy in their moral and physical achievements. They feel so secure in these things they are just like the Pharisee who thanked God he was not like other men because he fasted twice a week and he tithed regularly (Luke 18:12).

Paul did not soften his qualification of such people. He warns the Church at Philippi that they are like dogs. In Paul’s day this was a very harsh word for people. It was a very derogatory word. He continues to warn them about evildoers and those who mutilate the flesh. They had taken a God given connection to the covenant and used it to manipulate and destroy others. They loved to enact the letter of the law, but they missed the spirit of the law. For them the measure of one’s spirituality was circumcision and the outward expression of faith rather than the change of heart that comes through true salvation. That was a problem in Paul’s day and it continues to be a problem today. We can easily focus on religious acts that are good, but in so doing we can minimize our relationship with Christ. Remember, Christ himself dealt with having a right perspective in prayer, giving, fasting, our works, our worship, and more. 

As Paul does so often in his writings while he presents one side of the equation, he then presents a second side to the issue. Paul retorts with For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. Notice here that he does not deny the rite of circumcision but he confirms while we are a people of the circumcision, we are more than that. We worship by the Spirit of God, we glory in Christ, and not the outward expressions of our faith. 

This is a reminder of Jesus’ words to the woman at the well as they discussed to whom worship is due and how that should be worked out. In John 4:21-24 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Our worship and our acts of service must be focused in the spirit and truth rather than false self worship and manmade rules. 

Paul then makes this incredible statement. He says that he does not put any confidence in the flesh. What he was saying is that while he held to the rite of circumcision, he did not put his confidence in that particular spiritual act. He did not have a confidence in his flesh because he knew that his flesh was not an accurate measurement of his spiritually. Therefore, Paul’s confidence was not in the flesh, but in his relationship with Jesus Christ. 

In business one of the important documents that gives a measure of the health of a company or business is a profit and loss statement. This document gives a snapshot of the company’s finances. In this passage, Paul is in essence giving us a P&L statement for his life in Christ. On one side of the report is his family heritage, his education, and his religious resume. On the other side of the report is his relationship with Christ. As Paul reviews all of this, he comes to the conclusion that his goal and passion was to find his joy in his relationship with Christ. That was what was most valuable and necessary for him.

Indirectly, the question he answered was this. What if everything you counted as important was suddenly taken away from you? What if all of your family, friends, job, and all income sources were destroyed and done away with. If we compared these losses with what life has to offer, we would be men and women most miserable. But as passionate followers of Christ we must view this loss in comparison to the gains we have in Christ, realizing that everything in the world without Christ is nothing. While some things are a loss, when compared to our gains in Christ there is no loss at all. 

In essence, this speaks to our value system. We can hold onto the world with one hand and in so doing we lose Jesus and we lose more than we bargain for. If we do not have Jesus we have nothing because one day all of this will disappear, will be burned up, and will fade away. But what you have done for Christ and your relationship with Christ will last for eternity and that is what matters most. It is noteworthy that Paul does not discredit any of these things but he calls for us to put these things into their proper perspective and order. It is Christ first and everything else will follow (Matthew 6:31-34). Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

That is why Christ told his disciples not to return and bury their dead once He had called them. Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:18-22).

Jesus was not being insensitive to their need, but He knew that it would be so easy for them to get distracted by the cares of life and concerns over burying their family that they would miss the opportunity to follow Him. In those days, the son was obligated to be with the father and take care of the business until the father passed away and the son received his inheritance. If this is true, then the problem was more about the son getting his inheritance than obeying the command of God to follow Him. In many ways, their intentions were right, but their priorities were wrong. 

As we close, what does all of this mean practically? Let me give four things. First, it means that whenever I am called upon to choose between anything in this world and Christ, I choose Christ. Second, it means that I will deal with the things of this world in ways that draw me nearer to Christ so that I gain more of Christ and enjoy more of Him. Third, it means that I will always deal with the things of this world in ways that show that they are not my treasure, but rather show that Christ is my treasure. Fourth, it means that if I lose any or all the things this world can offer, I will not lose my joy or my treasure or my life, because Christ is all.

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Whine or Shine 

Peninsula Community Church 

July 7, 2019

Philippians 2:12-16 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

This week we have been celebrating our independence as a nation. It has been a week of food, fireworks, and remembering the cost paid for our freedom. The great paradox of history is that there are times that we must go to war in order to achieve peace and freedom. That seems so strange but it is a fact of life. Today, we will look at one of the great paradoxes of Scripture; God’s Sovereignty and man’s freewill.

In theological circles there are two extreme views of Sovereignty and freewill. There are those who believe that God is in absolute control (and we know that theologically He is) but there is presumed to be no responsibility on our part. We just sit back let God do it all. After all, He does not need our response nor does He need our assistance. On the other side of the coin, there are those who believe that it is up to us and us alone. They presuppose that God only responds to us as we work and we work hard by keeping all of the rules and laws which most have been man made and not God ordained. To them, salvation is entirely a work of the human spirit and soul. 

As only Paul can do, he provides a balance to the paradox of these belief systems. In so doing, he assists us in our understanding of what can be a complex issue. I do not want to over simplify this, but Paul presents us with an answer that underscores that we need to do our part and simultaneously God will do His part. The fact is He is at work in us. He is always working, but we must step up and put into action what we believe and what we know to do. We do our part and God empowers us, not as a response to what we do, but because He is working in us. Regardless of what we do, He is always at work. That is what we call grace. In this passage, there is the merging together of man’s free-will and God’s sovereignty. 

For the next few moments let us dig into this passage. It is here that Paul informs us of the seriousness of doing our part. He commands us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is a serious process and one that requires us to be invested in the process. This aspect of working out our own salvation is not a deterrent, but rather it points us to the necessity and the seriousness of working out our salvation. The words used here for fear and trembling add major importance to the process of working through this. The idea of fear, as used here, gives us the perspective that we must work out our salvation out of reverence to and with reverence of God. We want to honor God, therefore, we act and respond with reverence to who He is, to His character, and to His sovereignty. Trembling, on the other hand, gives us the awareness we need to have of our own weakness and propensity for sin. In other words, left to our own devices we will mess this up. Without Him we are miserable failures, but with Him we are successful warriors in Christ. 

It is here that Paul flips the coin so we see the other side of the theological paradox. While we do our part, God is at work doing His part. While we are working out our salvation, He is working in us. He does not fling us into existence and then expect us to make it on our own. He works with us, which means He helps us to navigate through an understanding of our salvation. God does this in order to bring about His will and purpose in our life. Once again the goal is for God to be glorified through us and in us. He wants us to succeed. He does not leave us fatherless or without the assistance we need to achieve the righteousness of Christ. He is at work in us. 

Notice that Paul states that we are to work out own salvation. It is a personal journey. We cannot ride the coat tails of others. We cannot blame others if we are not growing in Christ. It is our responsibility. The act of taking responsibility is one of the dynamics that is missing in our world today. We blame others. We make bad choices and push the responsibility of those choices off on someone else. We refuse to take responsibility for our actions. It is here that Paul provides us with insight into how we should live this out. These are not inclusive of everything we need to do but he gives us five action points to consider.

The first action point is to do all things without grumbling or disputing.  One of the ways Paul suggests we work out our salvation is to avoid grumbling and arguing. We are to glorify God in all we do but when we complain and argue we do not glorify God. Throughout Philippians and many of his other writings, Paul suggests we are to give thanks and we are to rejoice in every situation. This is juxtaposed to being a complainer. What Paul is saying is that grumbling and complaining does not suit us as passionate followers of Christ. So, let me ask you, are you a glass half full, or you glass half empty kind of person? Do you immediately look at the reasons why something cannot be done, or do you see the possibilities ahead even if it is difficult or hard? Are you more negative or more positive in regard to life’s circumstances? Do you complain more than you give thanks and you rejoice?

Remember the story of the children of Israel. They grumbled and complained. No matter what God did for them they complained. They argued with God. They looked back more than they looked forward to the promise. They grumbled about the food. They grumbled about the leadership. They grumbled about the living conditions. They grumbled about God. But God was still at work. In spite of their complaining, God led them to the promise land, but it took them longer and the price was much greater than it needed to be.

The second action item is to be blameless and innocent. The fact is we do not always toe the line. We often fall short, but the key is that we must be bold enough to admit when we are wrong and that we need help. God is not looking for perfection, but He is looking for those who are willing to make things right. Listen to Ephesians 4:28-32. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. These are powerful words that help define the life of a passionate follower of Christ.

The third action item is to be without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. Notice that we are to be without blemish in the context of a crooked and twisted generation. There is no doubt that our nation is crooked and twisted in many ways today. There are many who have an immoral and depraved look at life. For many upside down is right side up, and right side up is upside down. We are certainly living in a time where people are not speaking the truth and are couching things within their own terms and in their own way. 

We are also living in a twisted and perverse generation where sin abounds and sin has become an acceptable way of life in our culture. Who would have thought we would be living in a time where people are allowed to choose their sexual identity rather than one assigned by God the father. Who would have thought we would be discussing the abortion a child even after it is born. Who would have thought we would be discussing assisted suicide in our lifetime. There is so much happening sinfully and morally but we do not have to live that way. In fact, Paul gives us an admonishment that we must not live that way but rather we need to be without blemish. I am convinced if Christians around America and the world would work out their salvation with fear and trembling, life in America would be different and the tide of liberalism would be turned.

The fourth action item is to shine as a light. Paul reminds us that we are lights in a dark world. We do not to become the light, we are the light. Because we have Christ in us, we are the light, because He is the light. We are the light in a dark world. If we allow Christ to shine through us we will see the darkness dispelled. In Mathew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Did you catch what Jesus was saying. In essence, He was saying let Christ be revealed so that your good works are seen and God is glorified. Remember this as well, if your light is shining you do not have to tell anyone. They will know it. 

Finally, the fifth action item is to hold fast to the word of life. This is the clincher in the process of working out our salvation. We must hold fast to the word of life. The phrase to hold fast means to hold your position and to hold your gaze. In other words, you must have a conviction about the truth of God’s unchanging and adulterated Word. You must be able to defend that truth. You must hold your gaze and focus on what is important. In order words, do not be distracted. Do not be deterred from being a student of God’s Word. 

During the Civil War the story is told of Joshua Chamberlain and the men of the 20th Maine. They were already beaten down by the war. They were a bedraggled group of men who had picked up stragglers from other companies who had been decimated by the war. Chamberlain was assigned to cover the far left flank of the union army at Gettysburg. His orders were to keep the Confederates from moving in and taking the high ground. He was ordered to hold that ground, and He and his men did so against all odds of success. That is the idea portrayed here by the words hold onto the word of Life with everything we have. It is a matter of life and death for us spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Hold to the word because in the word is life and power.

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The Marks and Motive of Selfless Living! 

Peninsula Community Church

June 30, 2019 

Philippians 2:1-4 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

What if I told you that there is a way to have deep joy in your life? This question is a critical one because there are so many who want to have joy but they do not know how to obtain it. In this passage, there is a principle for Christian life that bears our consideration. In living out the truths of this principle, we find that we will have greater joy and fulfillment in Christ and in our life as a whole. As we unpack this passage, we find that Paul details and outlines what our motivation in life ought to be. It is noteworthy that Paul accomplishes this as he does so often. He contrasts two ways of responding to life by giving us two negatives and then one positive. He then points us to One who is the greatest example of how to live this out.

As we dig into this passage, we find that Paul challenges the church in Philippi to complete Paul’s joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, and living in unity. In other words, Paul is saying that my joy will be complete when I see that you are getting along. This is not easily fulfilled because we battle with the sin nature that calls us to grab credit and puff ourselves up. We are motivated to get what is coming to us. Rather than love and unity, there is a sinful push to be honored and praised for what we do. We work in competition with one another, rather than in the unity the Bible calls us to. 

I was reminded that while we are called to have the same mind, same love, and unity; God has created us so differently and with different gifts and talents. This is a wonderful thing, but the reality is that we often circle our wagons around what makes us different, rather than what makes us who we are as a body of Christ. Too often, we are offended that our opinion is not received or we are taken back that someone has an opinion that is contrary to ours. We would rather gossip and argue than walk in healing and in forgiveness. 

You may not realize it but that is why we have it in the Covenant Member’s Agreement that as members of PCC we will seek unity. We promise we will not gossip about one another. We will seek to resolve our differences. Our Covenant calls us to protect the unity of the church. We do so by placing a higher value on seeing our church succeed in Christ than on seeing any of our personal preferences instituted. We will resolve any interpersonal problems in a loving and Biblical manner. We will submit to the leaders God places over us. We will wholeheartedly subscribe to the purpose, vision, and doctrinal statements of PCC. Finally, we will refuse to engage in gossip and evil reporting. That is the essence of Paul’s words here. We seek oneness and wholeness and not division and competitiveness. We are one body and we want to support that in any way we can.

As we return to this passage, we find that Paul states that we should Do nothing with selfish ambition or conceit. This is not a new teaching but is actually an echo of the words recorded by Matthew in Matthew 6 and Matthew 20. Matthew was struck by Jesus’ words. To summarize we see that the world works one way but not us. We understand that we will be rewarded for the things we do. We will either be rewarded here on earth, or we will be rewarded in heaven. Jesus, in essence, gives you a choice in how you will be rewarded. You can be rewarded now through the praise of men, or you can store your rewards in heaven. It is noted that our rewards here are short lived because we will always have to prove ourselves. We are always have to do more because we never do enough or feel satisfied enough. The eternal rewards, however, are not destroyed by rust, moths or other decaying means (Matthew 6:19-20). They last for an eternity. 

It is noteworthy that on several occasions Jesus alluded to a powerful understanding of this motivation. They do this, but not you! Notice that when it came to prayer, people would pray great grand prayers to make them look more spiritual than others (Matthew 6:3). There were those who made sure that everyone knew that they had given to the church and how much they had given (Matthew 6:7). They would fast and walk around in such a way that everyone knew they were fasting so others would know how spiritually pious they were (Matthew 6:17). They would lord their leadership over others and would let everyone know who was in charge and who the boss was (Matthew 20:25-28). Jesus’ response was to say this is how they lived their lives, but not you, because that is not the way a passionate follower of Christ functions. They are in competition. We serve one another. We give and pray in secret. We fast so that no one suspects that we are fasting and what is done in secret will be rewarded in the open. 

You see when we exhibit the characteristic of self ambition we are prone to self exaltation. Have you ever been around someone who boasts about themselves all of the time? Even if someone wanted to praise them they do no give the opportunity for that to happen. They praise themselves and lift themselves up so that others are sure to know what they have done. They do not give anyone else the chance to do that. They want the credit and are quick to let everyone else know how great they are. They are opposed to the Scriptural mandate to let others praise you (Proverbs 27:2). 

Secondly, Paul states that we are not to do anything with conceit. Conceit is defined as a false estimation of one’s self. In essence, people can begin to believe their own press and love it. In preparing for this I came across an interesting statistic. Did you know that 93 million selfies are posted on some media source every day around the world? That is amazing to me. It has also been shared that deaths from taking selfies are 5 times great than being killed by a shark. 

Consider this simple test in terms of being conceited. This test is between you and God. When you walk into a room does your attitude and body language communicate “Here I am.” “I have arrived.” “I am so glad you get to see me.” Or, do you communicate “man, there you are.” “It is so good to see you.” “I am so glad you are here.” Do not forget that it was selfish ambition and conceit that caused satan to be kicked out of heaven (Isaiah 14:10-17; Revelation 12:7) and it will cause is to fail and fall short as well.

While Paul gives us two negatives he also offers a counterpoint to selfish ambition and conceit. We are to walk in humility. How do we do that? We do so by counting others better and more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:4). We find ways to bless others and lift them up rather than looking to build ourselves up. We look for the good and not the bad or the wrong in others. So, how much time do you spend looking to find things to criticize about others, so that we puff ourselves up and make ourselves look better?

Humility is a big and powerful thing! Listen to James words. But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Did you catch that? God will actually oppose those who walk in pride and self proclamation. The opposite is true as well. He gives grace to the humble. So let me ask you which side of the equation do you want to be on. I do not know about you but I want to be on the grace side and not the opposition side, because you cannot win when God is opposed to you.

As we start to bring this to a close let me give you two illustrations of humility. The first is my time in Mobile. I heard a story this week that only a hand full of people knew about. In fact, no one in the family knew about this event until they were meeting with the funeral director to prepare for my dad’s funeral. Several years ago a young mom and dad had a child that died as an infant. They did not have money to buy a burial plot, so my dad gave up one of his five plots so this family could have a place to bury their child. There was no fanfare. There was so self proclamation. He just did it and no one knew about it. The fact, however, is that Jesus knew, and today my dad has received his reward for that hidden gesture of grace and hope to a hurting and grieving family.

Paul supplies us with a second illustration by showing us one of the greatest examples of living in humility. Listen to Paul’s words. Rather than walking in selfish ambition and conceit, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Did you catch what Paul said? Paul challenges us to have the same mind as Christ. What Paul is saying is that we need to walk in the humility that is modeled by Christ. Notice what Jesus did. He did not try to usurp authority. He humbled himself by leaving the confines of heaven to come to earth. He lay aside His Deity which means that He did not function as God here on earth, but as man. In so doing, He was tempted in every way we were but without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He was obedient.  He was obedient to the cross which was one of the most humiliating and shameful deaths of any available at that time. In the end God exalted Him. 

So here is the take away for us. We can walk in conceit and selfish ambition or we can walk in humility. One gives us an instant reward, or so we think. The other gives us an eternal reward and models the way Christ lived and modeled life for us. God will exalt you in due season (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). God did that for Christ but He will also do that for us. When we live humbly and we do not walk in selfish ambition or in conceit we will do more for the kingdom and not less. We will be a greater witness for Christ nor less. We will honor Christ with our life and our message. 

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What is the meaning of life?

Peninsula Community Church 

June 9, 2019

Philippians 1:21-26 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

To live is Christ, to die is gain. What a powerful statement! What a statement of resolve! Someone has said that we cannot truly live until we are ready to die. What I love here is that Paul is honest in his appraisal of the situation. He is honest when he says that he would rather be with Christ in heaven but he knows there is a plan for his life here on earth. There is a tearing and pulling in his heart. He is battling being ushered into the ultimate life with Christ in heaven and living life in abundance here on earth. What he is saying is that no matter what happens He wins. He wins in this life because his life is in Christ and that means everything. If he dies, so what, because to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). You see Paul wins either way. 

It is this understanding of life that allows Paul to be secure in knowing the meaning of life for him and his purpose in life. The fact is throughout history mankind has been searching for meaning in life. They want to know that their life will count for something. They want to know that when they die they have made a difference. The question of course is what does that means to each individual and how is that played out for each person. 

We just celebrated D-Day, the invasion at Normandy. The men who stormed the beaches at Normandy served their country well. They were willing to give their life because they knew it meant freedom and overcoming the force of Hitler’s army. They knew they had to take the embankments ahead of them. They had to overcome the machine gun nests. They knew they had to make a difference. Their life had meaning and all of society owes them a debt of gratitude. 

To fully understand Paul’s attitude, we must look at the historical perspective in the day that he writes this passage. Of note this was not written by Paul in the palace or by the lake where he was fishing. This was written from prison. It was written in A. D. 61 when Paul was in the Roman prison awaiting trial before Caesar. He had been arrested as an insurrectionist against the Roman Empire. He faced the real possibility of losing his life for his faith in Jesus Christ. He knew that Caesar had the power of life and death and that he would use that power without hesitation. That is the circumstance that Paul is writing this message to the Church at Philippi. 

It is also noteworthy that this was not always Paul’s mindset. When we are first introduced to Paul, in the book of Acts, he was not a follower of Christ. He was totally the opposite. He was an enemy of the Christian community and was a passionate follower of Caesar and the Roman government. At the hands of Paul many died a horrible death. It was Paul that stood on the sidelines as Stephen, the passionate deacon of the early church, was stoned to death (Acts 8). 

But God had a plan for Paul’s life. God saw something in Paul that was needed for the kingdom of God. It was God who had created Paul with this innate ability to lead and an innate passion to serve wholeheartedly. To capture Paul’s heart, Paul had a miraculous encounter with Christ. It was so miraculous that Paul was knocked to the ground and was blinded by the glory of God that was revealed in that moment.

You see this story is really a tale of two men. Both men were fully dedicated to the cause they supported. Prior to his conversion to Christ, Saul was passionately committed to killing and eradicating Christians from Roman society. When Stephen was stoned, Scripture states that those who did the stoning took their garments and laid them at the feet of Saul. This is significant for two reasons. In part, they had to remove their outer garments in order to stone Stephen, but they also recognized Saul was their leader. He was the one who ordered the stoning of Stephen. 

This same man, who had been an enemy of God, was now a friend of God. He understood the power of transformation more than anyone else in his day. He understood the power of a changed life. He was transformed from being a murderer to being a healer. He was transformed from being a purveyor of death to being a minister of grace, life, and salvation. He was moved from honoring and serving Caesar, the god of Rome, to honoring and serving the God of the universe and all of creation. He was a changed man.


Paul was transformed in his thinking and in his understanding of what was important. He knew his focus was now on serving the living God. That is what gave his life meaning. Two times he alludes to the primary purpose of serving Christ and that is to bring glory to Christ. As believers we are to glorify His name. Listen to Paul’s own words. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. Did you catch that? Paul’s desire was that whether he lived or he died he wanted to honor Christ and His sacrifice for him. 

We see this again in verse 25-26. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Paul wanted to glorify Christ but He wanted others to glorify Christ by the way he lived and the witness of how he handled the stressors in his life. In other words, he wanted to glorify Christ in order to motivate others to glorify Christ. That is where our life really begins to have meaning. Our life has its greatest meaning when we live, act, and speak in a way that brings glory to Christ.

So let us bring this home in order to understand how to apply this into our life so that our life has maximum meaning and purpose. Here is the deal, our life has the most meaning when we are glorifying Christ in our life and when we are encouraging others to glorify Christ. When we are pointing people to Christ, we are then living with meaning and purpose. 

So, the question for us today is how is my life glorifying Christ? Do I glorify Him on my job? Do I glorify God in how I handle my finances? Do I glorify God in how I give to support the ministry of God? Do I glorify God in my private time, when no one else sees what I do? Do I glorify God in how I deal with my children regardless of how old they are? Do I glorify God in my community? Do I glorify God in the way I treat my wife? All we do must glorify God and lead others to glorify Him and not the opposite. 

Paul knew that what he did here in this life would affect his future. You see we cannot live meaningless lives here and expect to live through eternity with joy. Paul understood a principle that we need to understand. How we live now affects how we will live for eternity. Imagine this cord in my hand is eternity. Imagine this cord is so long that it circles the globe a number of times. (Francis Chan illustration) That is a great distance, but when compared to eternity it would be just the beginning. 

This red area that I have marked here represents the timeline of your existence. It is only an inch or two on this long cord. For that reason we have but a small imprint on the scope of eternity. That is why what we do here is so important. Paul knew that, and he knew that he had committed himself to live for Christ and that no matter what happened the rest of his life in eternity would be okey. His greatest desire was to reach others for Christ and to model how to glorify Christ. 

You see there is a lot that I do today because of my past, but I am learning to do more because of my future. It means fulfilling the call to honor God in all I do. When we see Jesus we will receive reward or will we regret the things we did. How did I use my time? How did I use my finances? Too many today want to live for themselves and do no worry about eternal issues. They believe that they can live any way they want to and that will be okey. But one day, they will have to give an account of what they have done. This short space of time called our lives changes everything. 

The choice is to glorify self or glorify God. To glorify yourself is to receive your reward now and not in eternity. We see actions being taken today to satisfy oneself and to make a name for oneself. These things will be burned up in the end of time but what is done for God will last forever. What we do on this red line makes all of the difference. So how is your red line? Are you more focused on your self or on what is ahead. Is your focus on the past and its failures or do you focus on what is to come in your life and the glory that is to come? So, how will you live your red line.

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He will Finish what He Started 

Peninsula Community Church 

June 2, 2019

Philippians 1:3-11 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at the Book of Philippians to understand the power of joy in our life. To accomplish this we will choose key verses in the book as a means to discover the power of joy. For today, we will look at one of the great facts about God. What God begins, He will complete. In understanding this truth, we gain a greater view of the character of God. In so doing, we grow closer to Him and we learn to trust Him more. 

I am always amazed at the promises that are made by people that are not kept. Many people promise the world, but they do not keep their promises. Sometimes they have good intentions, but life gets in the way. How many times do we hear stories of contractors who promise the world, but fail to produce to the level of their promise? When this occurs, we can feel deceived and disenfranchised by these empty promises. 

But let me let you in on a secret. There are those in the world that break their promises, but God does not operate that way. Paul knew that and he wanted the church at Philippi to know that He that began a good work in you will complete it! Here is the deal, God does not start something and then leave us hanging. God does not make promises only to break them. God does not forget His promises nor does He allow the cares of life to get in the way of the promises He made. God keeps His word. In this, we have the security we need to endure whatever might come our way and it opens the door for us to experience overwhelming joy no matter the circumstances we face. 

Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi speaks a lot about the power of joy in one’s life and the source of that joy. Paul is saying that this principle gives us hope and brings us peace as we navigate the issues of our life. Paul was confident that God finishes what He starts. I was reminded this week that God did not bring the nation of Israel halfway through the wilderness and leave them there. He brought them through the wilderness to the promise land. The sad part is this journey took longer than it should have. They complained and argued with God all the way through the process. They denied God and followed other gods, even when God was blessing and providing for them. This blows me away that they would have been so insensitive to what God was doing. It is so sad that their journey should have taken 40 days not 40 years. Their lack of faith and their disobedience caused their entrance into the promised land to be delayed. But it did not deter God from fulfilling His purpose for them. He finishes what He starts.

It is important to know that our decisions have consequences. While our decisions may delay God’s promises, it does not stop God from fulfilling His promises. In fact, it was through the delay that the Children of Israel learned much about God’s character and much more about themselves. It was through the wilderness journey that their hearts were revealed so God could bring healing and hope to every heart. It was through the journey that God prepared them to fight the battles that were yet to come. It was through this journey that God was able to take the Egypt out of their heart to prepare them to be the powerful army that would take the land promised to them. Yes, they had a long delay, but God finished what He started.

In our passage, Paul uses some powerful words to express this principle. Paul emphatically states “I am sure of this.” “I am confident.” The Greek word used here for confident is PEITHO. It means to come to a settled persuasion concerning some truth or fact so as to be persuaded or convinced. The word suggests that a conclusion has been reached on reasonable grounds. The apostle’s observation of what God had done among the Philippians and his reflections on the ways of God, led him to form this judgment. Paul was entirely convinced of this truth. He had no doubt. The bottom line is that Paul was convinced that God would complete the work He started in the hearts of the church of Philippi on the day of their salvation. 

The perfect tense of the verb indicates that Paul had come to this settled persuasion, but he remained confident of God’s desire and ability to continue the transforming work in the lives of the Philippian believers. He had no doubt about their salvation or their security. It is noteworthy that Paul’s confidence did not rest on the Philippians themselves, but on God, who would preserve them and enable them to reach the goal set by God. 

God is at work in His people. He is changing the thought patterns and the preferences of our sinful nature, so that we love what He loves. He is retooling our brain. He is reconstructing the broken places of our lives with infinitely greater skill than the world’s foremost micro-surgeon.  He is not going to give up on us and the process He started. This promise is nothing more than the New Covenant promise of Ezekiel 36:26-27note. ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you, I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes.’”

The basis of Paul’s confidence was in the fact that it was begun by God. He knew and held God’s promises with high esteem. He knew that God’s promise would be permanent. Had it been the agency of man, he would not have such a conviction.

So how do we apply this practically in our life? First, note where the work takes place. It is in you and not among you or on you. Paul is reminding us here that the real work He is doing is in us. He is in the transformation business and He will not give up on transforming us from the inside out.

Second, we can be assured that He will not get tired or get weary in this work. I love the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. Here is an amazing truth that bears our attention. God does not grow weary in His work. He does not give up. 

The reason God does not give up or weary is that He sees something in us that we do not see in ourselves. Someone witnessed Michelangelo chipping away with his chisel at a huge shapeless piece of rock. The man asked the sculptor what he was doing. Michelangelo replied “I am releasing the angel imprisoned in this marble.” So it is with us. He is working to release and construct us into His special being. He sees who we are before we know who we are.

Third, through the work of Christ we are counted as perfect in Christ but one day we will be presented as perfect. In that day, there will be no sin, shame, anger, guilt, fear, or disappointment. There will be nothing broken about you in that day. This promise means that God is working stuff out in us right now. He will not give up and He will complete the transformation that He was begun. At the point of salvation we are new creations and He is working that out in us for our benefit and for His glory. 

Fourth, God wants you to know that the failures of your life do not stop the perfecting process He started. The sin that you committed and have asked His forgiveness for does not stop the process. Paul’s joy in and hope for the Philippians was not only about completion on the last day, but about progress today, as well. Do not lose heart. Do not give up. We think we have blown it and we have failed, but God uses that to teach us, strength us, and move us to a better place. Remember Israel? 

Jesus did something pretty amazing. He gave us the cross and the empty tomb to remind us that He does not give up on us. Today we celebrate communion. The communion elements also remind us that He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He does not give up on us. He completes what He starts.

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Peninsula Community Church 

May 26, 2019 

John 3:16-21 “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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

This weekend has been established as a national holiday to celebrate Memorial Day. It is the day we honor those who have given their lives so we can live free as a nation and as individuals. It is noteworthy that Memorial Day began shortly after the Civil War in 1856. The families and survivors of the Union Army were passionate about honoring those who gave their life during the Civil War. They would visit and place flowers on the graves of those who died. After World War I and all wars after that, those who died were honored. Memorial Day serves as a reminder of the price paid for our freedom. 

For so many, this weekend is associated with the beginning of summer, but the reality is it is less about the start of summer and much more about the lives who were sacrificed for our freedom. It is a time to remember why they died. Today, we are reminded these men died so we could be free. They died so we could worship and speak freely, even if we do not agree with the worship or speech of another person. They paid that price with their lives. On a side note, it is so sad that those freedoms are being encroached upon and being eroded in big ways. 

Last week we noted that to understand discipleship we needed to know the why more than the how of evangelism and discipleship. The how and mechanics of what we do is important, but the why of what we do is even more critical. Without the why, we can become mechanical and programmatic in our approach to discipleship. For a few minutes this morning I would like to consider the why of discipleship and evangelism. In other words, we will look at why we do what we do.

Last we week we were reminded that while salvation is important, growth in Christ in terms of discipleship was the focus of the “Great Commission.” So, why do we disciple others? Why does it matter? Why should we share Jesus with those we encounter and within our sphere of influence? The answer lies in this passage before us today. We are called to be disciples and we are to disciple others because of John 3:16. We do so because God so loved the world. 

This sin filled, depraved, godless world has been and still is loved by God. He loved it so much that He sent His son to die on the cross not for one sin but for all sin. This is the most incredible part of this passage. He did not die for some people, He died for all people. He died for the world, the whole world. He died for all mankind regardless of social standing, financial standing, or even one’s looks. Thank God for that. There is not one person who was not on the mind of Christ when He hung on the cross. We are all covered by the sacrifice He gave. 

Why did He do this? He did so in order that every person who would believe in Him might have eternal life, and not just eternal life but abundant life. You see Jesus did not come to help us just escape hell. He did not die so that we could join a Christian social club. He died so we could live and live freely in a world that seeks to shackle us with fear, anxiety, and deceit. He died so that anyone who would believe in Him and accept Him would be received as His child. Through acceptance of Christ his or her name is written into the Book of Life. 

We must understand that salvation is not automatic. You must choose to accept Christ as your Savior. The sad part is that not all will be saved because they will refuse to choose Him. Instead they will reject Christ and His provision for abundant life. The truth is that not every person will be saved but the opportunity for salvation is available for all people. This includes the worst of all mankind and it includes the best of all mankind. We must all accept Christ on our own and for ourselves. We cannot depend on our friends or our family. We must accept Him personally. 

Because of God’s love there is great misunderstanding of some doctrine that is being propagated by some in the church today. There is so much that is based in human ideology and not God’s theology. I have stated this before. We must be assured that our presuppositions are formed by Scripture and not the other way around. We must not allow our presuppositions to determine our beliefs, but we must allow God’s word to form our beliefs. When we start from the basis of our own beliefs, and we are looking for Scripture to give us answers to support our beliefs, we have failed to allow the Word of God to be the roadmap of our life. In a world that is encouraging us to jettison all absolutes and live by our own moral compass, we as believers need to heed the call of God to live by the word and not our own beliefs. 

With that said, I would suggest to you that there are four motivating factors for our work in discipleship and evangelism. It is these motivating factors that define for us the why of discipleship. First of all, the love of Christ compels us. As we look at this passage let me let you in on a secret. God did not create the world, sling it into existence and then forget about it. He loved the world before its foundation. He loved the world when mankind failed in the Garden and sin came rushing into their minds and hearts. He loves the world just as much today as He did then. It is that love that compels us to share Christ with others. It is that love that constrains us to accomplish His will. Listen to Paul’s words. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died (2 Corinthians 5:14 NIV). In the ESV the word is Christ’s love controls us.

So, why do we do this? We do so because the love of Christ overwhelms us. We do so because the love of Christ motivates us to speak truth in love to those we encounter and to those to whom we have been given influence. When we embrace the love He has for us and that love overwhelms us and motivates us to share our faith with others. 

Second, we are commanded by Christ to disciple. The love of God experienced through the work Christ done on our behalf motivates us to obey God’s call to be discipled and to disciple. If you remember, last week we found that Jesus commands His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Peter says to all Christians, “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV). 

We disciple because it is a part of the plan executed by God. Think about this, God could have used any means possible to share His love. He could have just spoken directly to those around us. But for some strange reason, He chose us. He chose this imperfect, sinful creature created by God to be the vessel He would work through to touch people and to give them the word of hope. 

Third, a love for the lost compels us. A love for the lost should compel us to have compassion for those in need, and everyone’s greatest need is eternal salvation. We saw before that it is love that should compel us as a motivation for discipleship. To effectively accomplish this we must have a love for those to whom we are being sent. 

To understand that love we must consider how richly God has loved us. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him (1 John 3:1). Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11).

And finally, we disciple because we have a love for God. Our ultimate motivation in evangelism must be to see God glorified, and God is glorified when the truth about Him is known and made known. Thus our desire should be to glorify God by proclaiming the truth about Him as often as we can. This motivation will sustain us when our love for others may run dry. If we are to faithfully evangelize despite rejection, opposition, and even persecution, our deepest motivation must be to glorify God. You see perfect love casts at all fear. When our love for God overwhelms us, we are motivated by faith and not the individual we are sharing hope with. 

So why do we disciple others? We do so because of the love of God who sent His son and the love that is manifested in our hearts.

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Make Disciples

Peninsula Community Church 

May 19, 2019 

Matthew 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Acts 1:7-8 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.”

In the movie Citizen Kane, the last words Charles Foster Kane utters on his death bed are the words “Rosebud.” These words served to frame the movie’s narrative and provide the key to understanding the man’s tragic but world-changing life. In Jesus’ final days, He also spoke powerful words to His disciples that frame the narrative that would guide the rest of their life. These words continue to guide us and direct us as passionate followers of Christ, even today. You see Jesus gave us a “Great Commission” that helps us focus on our purpose and the reason we live in this world torn apart by sin and the depravity of mankind. It gives us purpose beyond our existence today.

The statements before us answer the life long question that so many ask. “Why am I here?”  “What am I suppose to do with my life?” “Can I really make a difference?” Mark Devers in his book “Disciple Maker” has suggested that disciplining is a ministry of how, but it is really a ministry of why. Discipling others involves modeling faith and godliness with our lives. Paul called those in Philippi to imitate what he had done and the life he lived (Philippians 3:17). Effective discipling also imparts the reasons for believing in and living for Jesus. Paul called Timothy to entrust to others what he had learned from Paul (2 Timothy 2:2). So discipleship is in fact a means to show why the way of Christ is the way to go. It is to answer the question “why Christ.” “Why should I believe?”

The truth is we are always disciplining. We are always effecting others. To disciple others we  must be passionate followers of Christ ourselves. Anyone can imitate Christianity for a while without any real conviction, but that kind of “faith” will not last, and it will not save. False Christianity is a hindrance to people receiving what they really need. The fact is those who look to us need the truths we believe, the truths behind how we live, but they need more than just a good person to follow, they need Jesus. You can never teach anyone all the how’s, but when you teach them the why’s, you prepare them to exercise wisdom and generate their own how’s long into the future.

As we look at the words contained in this passage, we find that through these words Jesus laid out three exclusive means to be disciples for Him. I say exclusive because this is reserved for those who have experienced a saving knowledge of Christ. These three elements include the following. He gave us a plan. He gave us a promise. He empowered us to accomplish the task that He called us to do. That is what I love about Christ. He never calls us to anything that He does not equip or prepare us to accomplish. Hudson Taylor the great missionary to China had one of the greatest quotes ever. He said Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. How many times have you been assigned a task but were not given the tools or power to accomplish the task? God never does that. He always provides everything we need.

So what is discipling? Mark Dever suggests that “At its core, discipling is teaching.” He says, “Your discipling should help people understand more. Through discipling, you want people to know why Christians pray, why we share the gospel, why we join the church, why knowledge of God’s sovereignty impacts how we live, and more.” To do this we must have been impacted by the Gospel message ourselves. We must have been changed by the radicalness of the Gospel.

A careful observation of this passage reveals that the only command in this text is really to make disciples. While go is a command. Teach is a command. Baptize is a command. In the original language, the major command here is to make disciples. All of these are the actions to be taken in order to disciple those around us. In essence, the passage could be translated something like this . As you are going, make disciples. As you are teaching, make disciples. As you are baptizing, make disciples. The emphasis, the pinnacle of this passage, is on discipleship. We reach people and bring them to a knowledge of Christ and help to deposit in them a hunger for more. 

As we consider these words, let us look at what He has done for us. First of all, Jesus gave us a plan. The words we have before us are just as powerful and just as important as they were 2000 years ago. Notice what He communicates to His disciples. “Go therefore and make disciples.” This is more than just winning someone to Christ. It is turning hearts to the ways of Christ. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you in such a way that people would want what you have. I think, based upon this text, Jesus would say there are three things that are true for disciples. Disciples have been adopted by God, disciples are being formed by God, and disciples are empowered by God for life and mission.

We have focused at times so much on the evangelism aspect of what God wants us to do, we have missed the discipleship aspect of what He has called us to do. Not too many years ago one of the largest churches in America, Willow Creek Church, realized an important missing component in their ministry philosophy. They had done a good job of bringing people into the church through evangelism, the problem was that they had not been as successful in discipling those who came into the church. 

Listen to Hybels own words. ”We made a mistake… What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and became Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self feeders. We should have gotten people (and) taught people how to read their Bible between services (and) how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.” Hybels indicated that the emphasis on programs and meetings did not produce disciples. Did you get that? Programs and ministries do not produce disciples. We must engage the gospel personally to grow in Christ. 

The problem was that while the church was growing, they were not making disciples. While there is something to providing an atmosphere that encourages people to come to the church and feel welcomed. It is another to provide opportunities for people to grow and become disciples. How do we know that people are disciples of Christ? A true disciple of Christ makes disciples of others. That is disciples make disciples. That is why it is noteworthy that Christ commanded us to make disciples and not just evangelize. Evangelism therefore is a subset of discipleship because without accepting Christ, discipleship is ineffective. 

Jesus said that we are to go into all of the world. The question however is where is our world? In other words while we all have a sphere of influence sometimes we need to move outside that sphere of influence to reach others. The world is our ministry. Where ever God plants you, that is your field of service for Christ, that is your world. No matter where you are, make disciples of all men. It is not your job to be selective, but to reach those you are given the influence to reach.

Secondly, He has given us a promise. He will be with us. He will be there and will guide your words and your voice. For this reason, we do not have to fear or for that matter worry about what we will say or do. Be confident in the fact that He is with us and that He is watching out for us. Be confident that He is leading us and directing our steps. Man makes plans in his heart but God directs his steps. 

Thirdly, He has empowered us. Jesus promised that He would not leave us without empowering us to accomplish the task at hand. He has empowered us by way of the Holy Spirit. There are some in the world who have a mistaken idea of what the Holy Spirit does and what His role is in our life. Based on Acts 1 His responsibility is to empower us to evangelize and disciple others. 

How does He do that? We only have to look at some of the amazing stories of the Book of Acts to see how this is worked out in us. Peter stood and preached a message where 3000 came to know Christ in one service. The disciples were empowered to meet daily in homes to encourage one another, teach the word, and share life with one another. The Holy Spirit also empowers in miraculous ways. Remember when Peter and John just walked by people and their shadow alone healed those they encountered. Stephen was empowered to preach a powerful message while men had stones clenched in their hands and were about to throw them at him. 

While these things are sensational, the Holy Spirit’s task is simply to empower and make a way for us to share Christ in every day life and existence. It is that simple. It is not complicated. Know this that Jesus has a plan for your life and He has promised to be with you so that no matter where He leads you He will be with you. He has imparted to you His Holy Spirit so that you are empowered to do what He calls you to do. 

So what do we do with this. We recognize that Jesus has a plan. We recognize that He has promised to be with us. And He has empowered us to accomplish His task. Let’s go for it. 

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Moses’ Mom: A Story of Faith and Courage

Peninsula Community Church

May 12, 2019

Exodus 2:1-4 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.

What is the most courageous thing that you have ever done? Perhaps it was to climb a mountain. Maybe it was scuba diving. The sky is the limit as to what you might consider courageous. The interesting thing is that one person’s courageous might be another’s normal. For some it is to do something outside the limits of who you are as a person. Perhaps the most courageous thing you have done was to be a mom to your children or your adopted children. The story before us today is just such a story of courage and faith. 

The story of Moses’ mother is a compelling story of a mother’s love, her trust in God, and her faith in the story that God was writing for her and for her son. She trusted and loved God in the midst of some very difficult situations. To understand this struggle we must see that she lived in a time where Pharaoh, the leader of Egypt, had made an edict that all boys born to Hebrew families would be killed. His motivation for murder was out of the fear, that the children of Israel were growing so fast, that if Egypt were to go to war Israel would fight with their enemies.

Under these circumstances we find that Moses was born to two loving parents who knew God and served God graciously and magnificently. Little did they know that this little boy would be a great leader. But the odds were against him. With that said let me make a few observations about this story that will help us when the world seems to be against us as well. While this is a mother’s day message, this applies to everyone who is a passionate follower of Christ. God is for you and will give you the courage you need to face whatever is thrown your way.  

First of all, Moses’ mom was specifically chosen for the task of raising Moses. God purposely placed Moses into her hands. He saw something in her that qualified her for the task. He saw her faith and her trust in God. It is noteworthy that she did not know the story that God was writing. She did not know that he was to be the leader of Israel. She did not know that he would be the deliverer of her people. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that he would be the one that God was going to use in such powerful ways. Think about it. Israel had prayed for 400 years for a deliverer. In this “kairos” moment, Moses was born and he was born to be the answer to Israel’s prayer. 

This morning I want you to know something very special. You have been chosen as the mother of your children. God saw something in you that qualified you for this great task. You may not always feel it nor will you always believe it, but it is true. In fact, you may not always be as successful as you would like, but you have been called to nurture, protect, and disciple those who have been given to you. You are called to be a mother and your children have been chosen by God to be your children.

Secondly, Moses’ mom chose life. She was definitely pro-life. She could have chosen to allow the societal norms and pressures of her day to dictate what she did with Moses. She could have allowed him to be killed at the hand of Pharaoh. This would have been the easy thing to do, but she chose life. Rather than follow the law of man, she followed the law of God. She knew that He would protect them. She knew that He had a plan. Some here, against great odds, have chosen life and that is honorable. For some, the events leading up to the birth of your child may not have been the best, but you chose life and that is commendable and it is to be honored. 

Let me make a side note here. I am aware that some have made the decision to abort a child and you have struggled with that decision but God wants you to know there is grace and forgiveness at the cross. There is hope for you and it begins by forgiving yourself, as God has forgiven you. Too often, we allow the guilt of past decisions to rule our lives in the present. That is not God’s plan for you today. 

Thirdly, in this story her name is omitted. It is interesting that God chose not to reveal her name here. Sometimes we feel that we have lost our identity, but God never forgets us because He calls us by name. Let me ask you “Do you ever feel that you are not recognized for what you do as a mom?” “Do you ever feel that you are just a shadow in your home?” “Do you feel under appreciated?” “Do you feel that you have lost your identity as a person?” 

I do not know if this ever happened to you, but as my kids got older I was no longer Bob Odom, but I was Kate and Joshua’s dad. I lost my identity. But let me remind you that though you feel that you have lost your identity, God knows you and God knows your name. The fact is she had a name and it was Jochebed. The name Jochebed means “Jehovah is glorious.” She lived up to her name as she was trusted Jehovah no matter what the circumstances of life might bring or what the leaders of Egypt required. She trusted in God because He was God.

Fourthly, Moses’ mom had a courageous faith. Even under difficult odds she walked in faith. She trusted God. After all the edict to have the new born males killed had been pronounced before she became pregnant with Moses. When Moses was born, rather than have him killed, she hid him until he was over three months old. Can you imagine the fear and the stress she experienced every day? I am sure that she would worry everyday that the door of her home would be opened and in would walk the Egyptian police to arrest her and to kill her son. Even in her fear, she still trusted God. Her faith in God was stronger than the fear of the edict that had been made.

Finally, she put her faith into action. This is most vividly seen in the steps that she took. After hiding Moses for three months, she took a basket and placed insulation around it so it would be protected from the water and from the effects of the river. She placed Moses into the basket and then she walked to the Nile were she placed the basket in the bulrushes. I am sure that she had tears flowing down her face as she pushed the little ark into the water. 

This was an amazing step of faith in that the river itself was a source of death. There were crocodiles and other animals in or near the water that could easily destroy him. Even today National Geographic reports that 200 plus people are killed every year in the Nile by crocodiles alone. Not only did she worry about the crocodiles but this was also a place where the women of Egypt would come to bathe. This in itself was a threat to Moses because if the wrong person came to the water’s edge Moses could have been killed. 

It is noteworthy that the word used here for the basket is in essence the same word used for Noah’s ark. It was a place of safety and protection. When she pushed the ark into the water, I believe that her faith was revealed more in what she did not do than in what she did. Notice something in this story. When she approached the water she placed the basket into the water and pushed it into the river. As I have read this story one thing stands out to me. No where in the story do we find that she tied a rope to the basket. She released the ark with her son inside into the water but more so into the hands of God. 

This leads me to the final point I would like to make. When we walk in God’s faith and love there is a time where we have to let go and let God control the outcome of our children’s lives. She did not tie a rope to the basket because she trusted God to protect him and keep him safe. Here is the issue, too often as our kids grow we want to hold onto the them and try to control the outcome of their life. But there is a point we have to push the ark into the water and let go. In letting go, we are saying that we trust God fully and completely. This does not mean that we don’t worry. Even Jochebed worried. Jochebed was concerned. We see she had her daughter stand by the river to watch over Moses. But, nonetheless she released Moses into God’s hand. 

We need to know that our children will make mistakes. Too often their mistakes come as they test the boundaries that we have set for them. They test the waters because they want to make the truths they were raised with their truths. Sometimes we will find that our kids will try to do the right thing but they will do it the wrong way. They will fail, but that does not mean that we are failures as parents. That is a lie from the enemy. 

Finally, and most important, God loves your children more than you ever will. This is where trust comes in. We must surrender our children to the God who loves them more than we ever could. That is what Jochebed did. She trusted God. She loved God and she loved Moses. But she had resigned in her heart that God loved Moses more than she ever could. That is why she could push the ark into the water and let go. That is faith. That is courage.

How about you this morning? Do you have enough faith to let go? Do you have enough trust in God to give your children to God? It is not easy but it is right. We can still pray for them. We can still intercede on their behalf but we must let go. 

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The Gift of the Second Chance 

Peninsula Community Church 

May 5, 2019

John 21:15-17 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

After the resurrection Jesus had a number of encounters in order to show that He was alive and that the promise of His resurrected life was a reality. We looked at one these encounters last week but we will investigate one more this week. The encounter of Jesus with Peter deserves our consideration because there is much that we can learn from this interaction. 

If you remember the night leading up to the crucifixion and for that matter during the crucifixion  itself Peter could not be found. Peter, the strong willed one, had emphatically stated that he would never deny or reject Christ. He made a promise, but that promise was quickly forgotten. Peter’s heart quickly turned and he fell into the trap of denying Christ, not once but three times. When he denied Jesus the last time, the memory of the words spoken by Jesus came flooding in. “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” 

The Scripture says that when the reality of what he had done hit him that he went out and wept bitterly. That is probably one of the saddest verses in the whole Bible. Of all the tears you can cry, bitter tears are the worst. With tears of grief, they at least carry within them the love you have for the person you have lost. But bitter tears? Bitter tears carry shame, humiliation, and deep regret that stings and it stings deep within one’s spirit. I wonder if, for the rest of his life, every time Peter heard a rooster crow it brought him back to that night and he was reminded of how he rejected Christ.

In response to this Peter reverts back to what is common and safe. He goes back to what was comfortable. He goes back to what is familiar. He went back to fishing. He went back to work, because he thought his days as a disciple of Christ were over. You see it is not an unusual thing to revert back to what was rather than what is. I have found that to be true at different times in my life. When we transitioned from the ministry in New York to Virginia, my first inclination was to seek a secular job, or a job where I did not have to be a pastor. I was tired. I was weary. The truth is I was burned out because I had given 100% plus to the ministry. That was and is the way that I operate. I give everything I have to the things that I am involved with. So I thought it would be nice to do something different, but Jesus and I had an encounter, and He would not allow me to to do that. He had a different plan.

While Peter is out doing what is familiar, as the morning dawned, they had not caught any fish. I wonder if Peter, who already felt the failure of denying Christ, is now feeling that he cannot even do a good job at what he was most equipped to do. I question if at this point he was feeling that everything around him was falling a part. When we run away, things usually do not get better they often get worse. Peter was reaching the end of his rope.

It was here that Jesus showed up in the chaos of Peter’s life. Sadly, as with the men on the road to Emmaus, Peter nor the other disciples recognized Him. Even though they did not know Him, He instructs the disciples to put their nets out on the other side. Think about how amazing this is. How could this be? Only a few feet marked the difference. It was the difference between a harvest and an empty net. What made the difference? The difference was that Jesus told them to do it. They were obedient to his command even though they still did not recognize Him as the Christ. When they listened to Him, they hauled in a bunch of fish, 153 to be exact. It was only at this moment that John looked and recognized the Christ who was alive. 

The question for us is how many times do we try to do things in our own strength? We are working hard, but little is accomplished. Maybe there is little honoring of God, but there is a lot of striving by our own hand to accomplish things that only God can do. One reason Jesus did this was so to remind the disciples that they were powerless to accomplish much without Him. Even when we do not recognize Jesus in our circumstances, He still moves on our behalf. 

And then we find that Jesus does the most amazing thing. When the disciples land on the shore Jesus prepares the disciples breakfast. He has a fire going and he has made some bread and fish. He invites them to eat. Recorded here are perhaps the most important words in all of Biblical history. “Come and have breakfast.” The significance of this cannot be overlooked or over estimated. They are a bunch of scared, broken, rejected men, and Jesus does the unimaginable. He invites them to have breakfast with Him. 

The last time they were together for a meal was the Last Supper and it was there that so much had happened. It was there that Peter had emphatically promised that he would never reject Jesus, and yet he did. It is important to notice what is not in the story. The risen Christ does not remind the disciples about their betrayal, their desertion, their denial, or their doubt. Jesus does not ask them to confess their failures. There is no recrimination, no anger, and no resentment. There is only, “Come and have breakfast.” There is only mercy, only nourishment, and an open invitation to a new life. How amazing is that? 

There are times where Jesus scolds the disciples, and challenges them in their walk of faith, but this is not one of those times. You see Jesus knew their heart, and He knew the struggle in them was very real. They did not need condemnation, they needed love. They did not need to be reminded of their past, but a reminder of their future. They knew their past, He knew their future. They needed a vision of what could be and not what was. You see Jesus is all about restoration. He knew if Peter was to play the crucial role in the early church, he would need to be restored. Peter needed to understand that although he had forsaken Christ, Christ had not forsaken him.

Notice in verses 12-13 that after the breakfast Jesus asks Peter a direct question. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” What things was Jesus referring to? He was referring to that which Peter fell back on: fishing, his career, his friends, anything else in his life that became a substitute for following Christ.

It is noteworthy and helpful for us to see the word play that is taking place in this passage. Jesus uses the word AGAPE for love. This is the highest love of the will, love that implies total commitment. Peter who was painfully aware of his disobedience and failure, felt too guilty to claim that type of love. His brash pronouncements were now a thing of the past. He was broken and humbled and fully aware that his actions had precluded him from making such a claim to the highest love. Peter answered by using the word PHILEO, a less lofty term that signifies affection. He also appealed to Jesus’ omniscience, reminding Him, “You know that I love You.” How does Jesus respond to Peter? His response is simply a command to feed His lambs. 

It is noteworthy that three times Jesus asks Paul this poignant question. “Do you love me?” The first two times Jesus uses the word AGAPE. The last time He asks, Jesus uses the word PHILEO. Jesus understands that within Peter there is a brokenness and hesitancy to commit beyond what he can do at this time. Here is the truth for us. Jesus will meet you where you are. He would rather we be honest than make a commitment that we cannot keep. He would rather that we speak truth than have false worship or a false commitment where we will fail and fall short. 

As Andreas Köstenberger (Professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) notes, Perhaps at long last Peter has learned that he cannot follow Jesus in his own strength and has realized the hollowness of affirming his own loyalty in a way that relies more on his own power of will than on Jesus’ enablement.… Likewise, we should soundly distrust self-serving pledges of loyalty today that betray self-reliance rather than a humble awareness of one’s own limitations in acting on one’s best intentions.

So what does all of this mean to us? What is the application to be made in our lives here today? First, there is no failure too big that God cannot redeem. No matter how broken or how much we believe we might have failed, God can and will redeem us. Notice that Jesus went to them and they responded to Jesus’ invitation. 

Second, we can run and hide but we cannot escape the calling of God. No matter where you run, He will find you. It is easy for us to fall back on what is easy and comfortable. Jesus never calls us to be comfortable. He calls us to be obedient and to be responsive to His will. 

Third, God loves us and will meet us where we are. He wants to have breakfast with you. He wants you to pull a chair up to His table and have a meal with Him. This is because He wants to have a relationship with you more than anything else. He does not want you floundering and trying to survive in your power. He wants you to succeed. He is the God of the second chance.

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