The Journey to Peace

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey to Peace

December 24, 2017 

Luke 2:11-14 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

At Christmas, we often ask people what they would like as a Christmas present and inevitable some will say they wish for world peace. In most cases, what they are asking for is a cessation of all conflict, violence, and war. While this is a noble request, there is a problem. Since the creation of mankind there have been struggles and conflict, and there is no end in sight as long as human beings are in this world.

To understand peace, it would be helpful for us to know and understand what real peace is all about. When we consider the word peace, it is my guess that a variety of ideas come to mind. For example, as noted before, some would suggest that peace is the absence of all conflict. Others, would suggest that peace is not having any problems and being free from stress. Contrary to these ideas, the meaning of peace, from a scriptural standpoint, is not just an absence of conflict but represents a much deeper and richer meaning.

In Scripture, we find two primary words used for peace. In the Old Testament, the word for peace is Shalom, and in the New Testament the word for peace is irḗnē. It is noteworthy that both of these words can mean a cessation of conflict, but both Shalom and irḗnē go beyond a cessation of conflict to mean wholeness and completeness. In John 14:27, Jesus stated, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Jesus understood the mindset of the day. They wanted a cessation from conflict, but Jesus was bringing wholeness of mind and heart. Jesus recognized that life will have its issues, but if you seek the kind of peace He brings, you will not be afraid. For that reason, Jesus could honestly tell His disciples not to let their hearts be troubled (John 14:1).

In our passage this morning the angels make a powerful, life changing proclamation. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Jesus came to bring peace but not the kind of peace that most people expected. As with the wise men, most were looking for a warrior/king but they found a baby. Most thought He came to end conflict and war, but He came to make people whole and complete. His mission was to provide the means for spiritual wholeness, so regardless of the circumstances or events that come, there will be peace.

As we look at the concept of peace, I would suggest that Christ came to give peace in three areas of our life. First, we have peace with God. Christ came to reconcile us to God so we would be at peace with Him. Notice the words of Romans 5:1-2. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And then in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Paul says, All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Through reconciliation, we now have peace with God. We are no longer His enemies. Our relationship has been restored, and we are now whole and complete. We are restored because Christ gave Himself for us. Our sin, all sin, every sin, is covered by the blood of Christ. We no longer live disconnected, disjointed lives. The Greek word irḗnē means to bring together and that is exactly what Christ did, He brought us together with God.

Before Christ, there was no way to span the gulf between us. There was a wall of separation, and there was no way for us, as sinners, to be united with a perfect holy God. We were separated  because of our sin. Our relationship was broken, but He came and died to restore our relationship with God. When we have a right relationship with God, we will experience real peace! Without a right relationship, nothing else will be right. It all begins right here.

Listen to the words of Paul in Ephesians 2:13-17. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Secondly, Christ came to give peace within. This emotional peace is the peace of God. When I have peace with God, then I get the peace of God inside me. Paul again is our inspiration in this regard. In Colossians 3:15, Paul states, And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. Here is the deal, God wants the peace of God to rule our hearts. He wants His peace to motivate us, guide us, and determine where we will focus our attention. Listen to this quote by Rick Warren. For those with a broken heart, God gives us comforting peace. For those with a confused heart, he gives us guiding peace. For those with a shamed heart, he gives us forgiving peace. When we have a worried heart, he gives us confident peace. He provides peace for every problem.

Thirdly, He gives us peace with others. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:16, Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. Here is a truth you can take to the bank. If you want to strengthen your relationship with others, like your spouse or your kids, strengthen your relationship with God. The only way to have lasting peace with others is to be united with God. It all works together.

This Christmas, as we sing and talk about peace on Earth, know that God wants to give you real lasting peace in each of these three areas. Peace is an attainable dream, as it is a free gift from God and it involves our inner being but, how do we maintain peace? To answer this question, we must understand our focus will determine our outlook and will determine how we live in peace.

In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul hones in on how peace is worked out in us. Listen to his words. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. If we do this, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Isaiah 26:3 states You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Notice, we have the Holy Spirt to help us focus our mind upon Him. That is where our peace will come and there it will be maintained. Paul in Colossians 3:1-2 states If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

When we focus our attention, our hearts, our minds, and all we are in Christ, we will find peace even in the midst of the storms of life. This is seen most vividly in the life of the author of one of the all time great hymns of the faith. In 1870, Horatio Spafford’s only son died of scarlet fever. In 1871, his major real estate investment burned to the ground in the great Chicago fire. Then, in 1873 he was devastated by the news that all four of his daughters had died in a shipwreck in the Atlantic. As he was in route to Europe to meet his wife, who had survived, he was shown the spot in the mid-Atlantic where his daughters had perished. He was suddenly overwhelmed by an rush of the peace of God. With tears streaming down his face, he recorded his feelings.

In that moment, he penned these words! When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. Why could he say “It was well with his soul?” He was complete in Christ and that served to give him all of the peace he needed, even though he had lost almost everything in his life. So, how is your peace? What are you dealing with today? It begins with a relationship with Him and from there everything else springs forth.

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The Journey of Joy 

Peninsula Community Church 

The Journey of Joy 

December 17, 2017 

Luke 2:8-11 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

Let me begin this morning by asking you a question. Here it is. In life, what brings you the most joy? What ignites your heart with passion? I am sure that if we polled this room we would most likely get all sorts of answers and responses. I am sure that some would say their kids or grandkids bring the joy. Some would say a specific trip they have enjoyed. Others would say a certain meal or a dessert would bring joy. Still others would say sitting before a fire with a good book brings them the most joy. The fact is each of us has a different opinion as to what would bring us joy. This morning, I propose, however, that the greatest doorway to joy is a personal relationship with Christ. It does not matter what specific items or events bring joy, if those things are not founded in a relationship in Christ.

As we review this particular Christmas story this morning, notice if you will, the shepherds were in the field minding their own business. They did not expect or anticipant a visit of any kind, much less the kind of visit that occurred. You see, there was nothing extraordinary about these men. They were shepherds and perhaps the lowest of all people on the totem pole of social standing. People did not visit shepherds. In fact, most people did not associate with shepherds, as they tended to be an isolated nomadic group of people who hung out with people just like themselves. And yet, this is to who God chose to bring the proclamation that Christ was born.

If you will, look at their response with me. It is probably no surprise that their initial response was one of fear. Now these were tough burly men who had confronted lions and bears without giving it a second thought, but this encounter was a bit much for them. They were filled with fear because of the activity occurring that dark night. So, why were they afraid? For one, angels were speaking to them and that by itself was enough. What would you do if you encountered a real angel or angels in the middle of the night with a choir singing behind them? I would imagine there would be some fear expressed.

It is also noteworthy that this circumstance was enhanced by the fact there had been no word from the Lord for 400 years. Can you imagine that? There had been no word from the Lord for 400 years. This was a dark time in terms of a visitation from God. But now at the appropriate time, and at the right moment God chose to come to the lowly shepherds. Listen to the words of Paul but when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5). At the right time Christ came to earth, and this was the right time.

The fear they were experiencing was happening on multiple levels. Their fear was a natural reaction this encounter. The angels were aware of this fear and they countered that fear with a message “Fear not…! Fear not…!” What a statement in comparison to the circumstances. Can you imagine what the shepherds thought? All this is happening and you want me to not fear. You just rocked my world and you want me to act without fear? You see this declaration to not fear was not some passive, unrealistic command, but was founded in the truth that God was up to something. To understand this, we must read the rest of the proclamation as this is directly connected to the birth announcement of Christ. The angels announcement was Do not fear, because, we bring you good news of great joy and this message will be for all people.

It is noteworthy here that the answer to their fear was a message of joy. This was a message that would counter the fear and anxiety of the moment. Even today, it is a joyful heart that neutralizes fear. For that reason, it is hard to be joyful and to be fearful at the same time. The fear I am talking about is the kind that brings bondage and prevents us from any forward movement in life. It is the emotion that for many has prevented them from experiencing life to the fullest. It is a fear of the future. It is a fear of failure. It is a fear of outcomes. It is even a fear of the good that God does. We fear that somehow we are undeserving of His blessing.

Know this fear binds but joy releases. That is why the Old Testament writer said that weeping may endure for an evening but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Another writer spoke with conviction when he stated that the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy is an internal reaction to delighting in Christ. As we delight in Christ, He exposes us to His joy which is already resident in us.

Remember the movie the Wizard of OZ. I know that we all have our favorite movie around Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom’s was the Wizard of OZ. Watching this movie was an annual event for us. If you have seen it, you will remember the main characters in the movie. There was Dorothy who had lost her way. There was the scarecrow who had no brains. There was the tin man who had no heart or emotions. Then there was the lion who had no courage and was afraid of his own shadow. As you watch the movie, you find that they made it to the great city of OZ where they made a request of the great wizard. They asked that he would give them a brain, a heart, and courage. But what we find in the end, is that each of them already possessed these characteristics, they just needed to allow them to be released into their life.

Today, the enemy of our soul has robbed us of joy and has filled so many with fear. One of the lessons of the movie the Wizard of OZ is that what we desire is often already in us. That is a Biblical principle and I am here to tell you that all that you need is already in you, spiritually. You see joy has come as a child but more than that it is a fruit of the spirit that is resident in our hearts because of the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Christ came, He died, and He sent us the Holy Spirit who would provide us with joy as it is one of the fruit that is resident in us as we receive Christ as our Savior (Galatians 5:22).

Since joy is a fruit of the spirit, we understand that it is therefore a work of grace for us to receive that joy. It might be noteworthy that we find that joy and grace come from the same root word in the Greek. The Greek word for joy is CHARA and the Greek word for grace is CHARIS. You see it is by grace that we have joy, and it is the joy we experience that shows us the grace of God in our life. It seems like a bit of circular thinking, but it is the truth as they are intricately connected in our spiritual being. Rather than walking in fear, we can walk in the joy provided to us by the grace of God. Rather than working at producing or manufacturing joy, we can realize that joy comes to us as a gift of God by way of His son. The fact is we have the potential for a joy-filled life because of God’s amazing grace.

Know this, Christ is the source of our joy. Most exciting announcements bring immediate happiness, but afterward, the emotional high evaporates, leaving us unchanged. However, when we believe the good news of Jesus’ birth and we accept Jesus as our Savior, the joy is lasting and it is transformative in its power. As we abide in Him like a branch in a vine, His life flows through us, and the Spirit produces fruit in us (John 15:4, 11; Gal. 5:22-23).

Perhaps the problem with our joy and the power of fear that overwhelms us is that we are looking to the wrong sources to provide our joy. So, where are you looking for joy? Are you trying to control the events of your life and the actions of the people you are invested in, only to find that the end result is more sadness and pain. How many times have we looked to things to provide us with joy to find that it is only a temporary joy that is easily lost, when the thing we look to is destroyed or no longer available? The reason for this is that joy, true joy, is not something we create but something we receive from a heavenly father that so desire. Listen to this: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13). Our joy is a direct result of the relationship we have with Christ.

He is the source of our strength. When the shepherds heard about the Messiah, their elation propelled them into action. They could not keep the news to themselves. Christ’s joy is powerful, and as was true of the shepherds, it should likewise transform and motivate us to serve Him. A joyful life is the most appealing witness you and I will ever display to a lost and hurting world. People are searching for joy in all the wrong places, so when they see us going through pain, trouble, and conflict with calm contentment and peace of mind, the door opens to share the message of a Savior who came to give new life.

Finally, even if your circumstances aren’t perfect this Christmas, do not give up on your joy. It is a precious gift from Christ, and He wants you to live in joy to the full this day and every day. Just  remember, Christmas is just a preview of what awaits us in heaven. There we will have uninterrupted and uninhibited delight in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That alone is a reason to celebrate, but we do not have to wait until heaven. We can experience that now through Christ. Are you ready? Is that the life you want to live? Let us pray.

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The Journey of Love

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey of Love

December 10, 2017 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Journey of Hope 

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey of Hope 

December 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Thankful Heart and the Will of God

Peninsula Community Church

A Thankful Heart and the Will of God

November 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Joyful Heart and the Will of God

Peninsula Community Church

A Joyful Heart and the Will of God

November 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Second Chances

Peninsula Community Church 

Second Chances

November 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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