Triumphant Entry – Jesus Showed Up!

Peninsula Community Church 

Triumphant Entry – Jesus Showed Up!

March 25, 2018

Matthew 21:1-9 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

I love this time of year! For one, I love March Madness. One reason I do is the way the NCAA handles their basketball tournament. Every year they include teams that would not be considered under other circumstances. This allows teams that are not very strong on paper to play those who are much stronger. We have seen this played out this year when the sixteenth seeded team UMBC (University Maryland Baltimore County) beat UVA (University of Virginia) the number one seeded team. The tournament was stunned by the win by UMBC and more stunned by the loss of UVA. This was the first time a sixteen seed team beat a number one seeded team. Because of the many upsets they say as of the second round, of this year’s tournament, every bracket has been busted.

The triumphal entry of Christ reminds me of March madness in the sense that the unthinkable occurred. This man, who came as the Savior of the world, showed up not as a warrior, as some had hoped for. He did not show up as a King, as the Jews had wished. He showed up, but in a totally different way than anyone ever thought or had believed He would. In some people’s minds, Christ was a sixteenth seed who did not have a chance to win, but He did and that is the beauty of this story. He showed up! He gave Himself! And by the way, He won the tournament!

The steps taken by Jesus were somewhat strange, but it was all in the design of God and a part of His plan. Jesus asked the disciples to go into the town and get a donkey for Him. He told them where they would find it and what they would say when they found it. The disciples obeyed and found the donkey tied up and as instructed they asked the owner to loan it to them, which he did.

For some, this seemed to be strange, but as Jesus did so often, He wanted to communicate the truth of the Gospel in a purposeful way and in a way we would never forget. He was specific in His choice of a donkey rather than a white steed. He chose not only a donkey, but this was a fold of a donkey, so in essence, He rode an untrained, unbroken donkey baby. It symbolized two things: humility and peace. The very act of riding the donkey was amazing as you cannot ride an animal before it is broken. This is especially true of a baby donkey that is to be ridden through a yelling crowd! Humanly speaking, no rider could do this, but Jesus showed up and in the midst of all of this, an unbroken young animal remains totally calm under the hands of the Messiah who controls nature, and stills the storm.

First, the donkey was symbolic of humility. As we know in reading about Christ, we find that Christ’s entire life was characterized by humility. He was known as being meek and lowly. He stated. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). While most people confuse meekness with weakness, that is not the character of Christ. Rather than weakness, meekness is in reality strength under control. His act of entering the city was just that, it was an act of strength under incredible control. He could have rushed into the city with proclamations of His greatness, but He chose instead to enter the city with humility. He could have overcome the opposition with a word, but He chose instead to walk out the events of the next week without anger or revenge.

Secondly, the donkey resonated the symbolism of peace. When a warrior would return from battle He would normally ride a grand horse and would be followed by a processional of soldiers as well as prisoners in chains. This would symbolize the victory and battle won, but instead of a steed Jesus came riding on a donkey which was a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Jesus showed up. He came. He came with humility and He came in peace.

It is noteworthy that some have suggested that this act by Jesus was no accident. Historians have suggested that as Christ was entering Jerusalem, Caesar was arriving back into town with his own triumphant entry, but his looked so different. He rode a steed with a large army following him and behind them was the mass of enemy soldiers that had been captured. While Caesar came into town with the fanfare of a warrior, Jesus came with the fanfare of a servant. Christ rode this colt and those around Him began to honor Him by placing their coats on the donkey and then proceeded to throw their coats and palms before Him. They began to shout Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 

As awesome as this was, there was some problems. The problem is that they were worshipping Him for all of the wrong reasons. Many of those in the group had a mob mentality rather than a personal acceptance of who Christ is. Many in the crowd wanted a super champion. They wanted a king to rule them. They wanted a warrior to fight for them. The problem was that they were projecting onto Jesus what kind of God they wanted, but that has never been effective. Rather than trying to recreate and reinvent God, we must surrender to who He is already. He is God and that does not change. He showed up, but not as a King or a warrior. He showed up as a servant, ready to give himself on their behalf.

Like the crowd, we can celebrate Jesus for the wrong reasons. We can try to pigeon hole Jesus into our vision of who He should be and what He should do. When He does not live up to our expectations, we hold that against Him. We can turn against Him, as the crowd did, when He does not live up to our expectations. Remember one week He was being praised, four days later He was rejected and there were calls to crucify Him.

He showed up! He showed us the way of victory. He did not come to fight the war we wanted him to fight, but to fight the war that we did not even know we were in. And so, we call this the triumphant entry of Jesus, not because He came and conquered nations and empires, but because He came and conquered sin and death. He showed up in all of his humility to bring peace, not from a military or political perspective, but from the soul. He showed up to give us life, eternal life with Him.

He still shows up today to lead us in triumphant processional as found in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. Colossians 2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

He still shows up today in the most interesting places. He shows up on our job, in our home, our car, our schools, and more. He shows up in our need and desperateness. He did it then and He still does it now. He shows up to change our lives. He shows up to make a difference in us. He shows up to conquer death and all sin in us.

There is an action on our part that is required. If we are going to trust God with our lives, we must receive Him for who He is, and not what we project Him to be or want Him to be. Perhaps we need to get off our high horse, and get onto our donkey. Instead of pride and arrogance, we need to humble ourselves in peace. To do so, we have to move away from fame and power, and move towards service. We have to step away from self-centeredness, and move to treating others how we would want to be treated. It means we choose humility over arrogance. Gentleness over violence. Generosity over greed. And then, we will begin to change.

When we are riding a donkey, it becomes much easier to not take ourselves so seriously, to laugh at ourselves, to honestly evaluate our brokenness, to find rest from trying to constantly prove ourselves as powerful and worthy. When we step down from our high horse, and onto our donkey, we relinquish our entitlements, our preferences, and our selfish desires. What entitlements can we hold on to, if Jesus, as the King of the World, gave them all up. He showed up and He still does today. Do you see Him? Has He shown up for you?

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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To Find Yourself, You Must Lose Yourself

Peninsula Community Church

March 18, 2018

To Find Yourself, You Must Lose Yourself

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

In the text that leads to the passage we just read, we find some insight as to why Paul uses the words he does. Listen to 1 Corinthians 6:1-10 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases.  Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

While he defines one’s life before Christ in verses 1-10, Paul makes a powerful statement in verse 11. And such were some of you. Paul is saying you did these things but not any more. You were sexually immoral, you were greedy, and you walked in ways that did not honor God, but not any more. You were, but not now. You did, but no more. You have been changed and now walk in a way that honors God. This was the basis of Paul’s word of hope in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he stated “we are a new creation in Christ.” We are not just becoming, we are, because of what Christ has done in us.

Here Paul suggests three key actions that have taken place in our life that position us to live this new life in Christ. We are washed. We are sanctified. We are justified. Let’s take a look at these for a moment. First, Paul states that we have been washed. What Paul is saying is that sin defiled us. It created a sense of dirtiness in us, but Jesus has washed us and has purified us. We see this in Isaiah 1:18.“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

The idea of washing represents the salvation that is ours through Jesus Christ. The reason we no longer do the things we use to do is that we have been washed by the water of salvation and by the blood of the lamb. The undeniable truth is we are clean. We are restored. You see, unless we are washed, we will continue to be governed by the old ways of doing things. Recently, I replaced the filters at our house for the heating system. All of them were clean except one. That filter was clogged and dirty. The result was that it prevented air from flowing through the filter the way it should. The system was not as effective, as it could be, as a result of the dirty filter. So it is with us when we have been soiled by the sin and the cares of the world. We become ineffective. We must be washed so that we do not live as we did, but as Christ now sees us.

Secondly, Paul states that this is not you any more because you have been sanctified. John Piper has stated that ”Sanctification” is a very irrelevant word, but it is not an irrelevant reality. It’s like a hundred technical medical terms. Nobody but doctors use them, but your life depends on the reality they stand for. The word “Sanctification” comes from two Latin words: sanctus which means holy, and ficare which means make. So to sanctify means to make holy. 

In Biblical sanctification there are two components. First, we are purified and cleansed, but we are also set apart for service. We are not just cleansed to be put on a shelf, but we are cleansed to be used in the Kingdom of God. We are set apart for a purpose. Oswald Chambers said this about sanctification. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the nature that controlled Him will control us. And then he asks Are we really prepared for what that will cost? It will cost absolutely everything in us which is not of God.

You see sanctification calls for us to change our behavior and our ways. It calls us to act differently and to conform our ways to God’s ways. To be sanctified is to be set apart and to be cleansed from sin and wrong attitudes. Sanctification is something that happens to us but it is also a choice. We choose to die to the old ways of doing things. We die to self, so we become alive with Him. We cannot live unless we die. We cannot truly live life completely until we give up our failures, our sin, and our attitudes that prevent us from accomplishing God’s will. That is why we are not them. That is why we do not live like them any more. We are sanctified.

Thirdly, Paul stated that we are justified. To be justified is to remove the penalty of sin and the guilt associated with sin. Too often, we try to carry the weight of past sin. Instead of freedom, we live in the bondage of past sin which has already been forgiven by Christ. We are not them nor do we live like them because we are justified and are free to live the way God planned. In the movie US Marshall we see the infamous Sam Gerard going after Mark Sheridan who was framed for the murder of two government agents. In the end, Sheridan was found to be innocent and at the end of the movie he proclaims “I am righteous.” In other words, I have been justified. The false guilt is no longer mine to carry.

But how does this all happen? Colossians 3:1-3 gives us insight into what needs to happen. 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. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. In Romans 6:6 we find that We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. In Galatians 2:20 Paul reminds us that I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The real issue here is we must reorder our lives in alignment with God’s will and His ways. Prior to salvation, we lived in alignment with the enemy’s purpose and plan, but no more. Now we are in alignment with His word and His purposes. The problem sometimes is that we fail to envision what it means to be a passionate follower of Christ, thus we make little progress toward living the life we have been called to. The undeniable truth is that the ruined can be made right. The evil can be turned into a testimony of grace. Our failures become a doorway to grace and mercy.

The goal in denying self is to totally surrender our hearts, minds, lives and more, so we no longer live but Christ lives and reigns in us. What does that mean to us? We must deny ourselves. We must make choices and decisions that honor God. Self denial in fact summarizes the entire Christian life. In considering self denial, it must never be confused with self rejection.

The Scripture reminds us of the power of this process. Matthew 10:39 states Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. And then in Matthew 16:25-26 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

The problem is that when we attempt to master our life apart from Christ, we actually lose our life. However, when we die to self and live for Christ we will for the first time be able to do what we want to do or should do. This means we are free to steal, lie, and murder all we want to but we will not have a desire to do so. Conversely, we will be truthful, transparent, helpful, sacrificially loving, and will do so with joy and will be motivated by the desire to do so. Our life will be caught up in God’s life and we will now want what is right and whole.

This means we will come to the place where we will trust that His way is right. We will keep on entrusting ourselves to the One who judges righteously (1 Peter 2: 23). That is, we lose our life and so in reality we save it. Erich Fromm rightly said, “The most widespread misunderstanding is that which assumes that giving is ‘giving up’ something, being deprived of, sacrificing. People whose main orientation is a non-productive one feel giving as an impoverishment.” What he is saying is that we have a tendency to look at what we might be giving up rather than what we might gain.

Let me explain it in this way. To live a healthy life I must make choices about what I eat and what I do with my life. I must die to my desires. Years ago my idea of a snack and sometimes even lunch was a bag of potato chips and a large soda. As I wanted to improve my health, I chose to not eat chips and drink soda any more. Prior to this decision I did not even consider this, I just did it. But after the decision, I would often struggle to make the right choice, but now I do not desire those things. They do not tempt me any more, as I have died to that desire.

When we die to self and God begins to control our existence we are more aware of what brings pleasure to God and what honors Him. Being dead to self is the condition where the mere fact that I do not get what I want does not surprise or offend me and has no control over me. We will, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.”

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What is Hidden Will be Revealed!

Peninsula Community Church 

What is Hidden Will be Revealed!

March 4, 2018

Genesis 3:8-13 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

How many played hide and seek as kids? We probably all did this at some point in time. It was fun to run and hide. The one who was it had to hide their eyes and then count to fifty or whatever the predetermined number would be. Once the counting was over, the person who was it would try to find those who hid. The goal for those who hid was to make it back to base before they were found or tagged. I remember a time when we were playing hide and seek with our kids. Michelle had hidden so well we could not find her. So, the kids and I went downstairs to watch TV and one of them would run upstairs from time to time, as if they were looking for her. She was not happy with us because we did not look for her. While this is a game, hide and seek in real life has a different consequence. This is especially true when we play hide and seek with our sin and our shortcomings.

This morning we continue to look into the subject of spiritual transformation by focusing on the sin that is in our hearts. This discussion is important to transformation as sin causes us to do strange things. It causes fear and shame, it causes us to hide from the realities of our life, and it causes us to blame others for our circumstances. But, “how did we get this way?“ To understand this we must turn our attention to the Garden of Eden. It is here God in His wisdom created mankind with the ability to choose right from wrong. He created us with the ability to decide what we will choose to do. Because of the ability to choose, we must not under estimate the power of free will. Because of free will, we have the ability and freedom to make bad choices and do things that are opposed to God’s way of thinking.

The natural outcome of our wrong choices or sin is seen in this story. The natural inclination is to hide our sin and shortcomings as a result of fear and shame. The problem revealed  is that we are afraid we will be exposed for who we are rather than for what we want people to think we are. When it comes to the transformation of the heart, we cannot be truly transformed until the hidden things of the heart are revealed. We cannot stop at just knowing the truth without setting into action the inward changes that redeem our mindsets and give us a new hope.

As we review the passage before us today, we find that Adam and Eve were frightened, they covered up their shame, and they try to hide from God. What a statement! No one taught them this, but they were motivated to do so because of their sin. This was amazing because as a creation of God they had ever thing they needed. As a creation of God, they had no concerns or cares. As a creation of God, they lived in the Utopia most people only dream of today. They were  a creation of God and were created as a perfect being, but now they were filled with fear.

This action exposed a process that is so common to the work of sin. We see something we want. We covet that thing, person, or attitude. We take hold of the item and then once we have indulged in that pleasure, we try to hide the results of our actions and the sin we have committed. It is amazing how skilled we can be at hiding sin. We are so good there are times we hide our sin so deeply, we believe we have taken care of it, only to find it has festered which effects us later. Unfortunately, when sin is hidden it can be exposed at the most inopportune time. Scripture reminds us that we can be assured that our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

Notice four reactions of Adam and Eve to the sin they committed. First of all, they hid. The first response to sin tends to be to hide the sin rather than expose it. The greatest way to hide is to deny. Dallas Willard suggests that denial is a form of rationalization. We rationalize our sin and try to justify its existence. We try to suggest that it is not hurting any one but ourselves. We try to suggest that everyone else is doing it, so, it is okey for us to indulge. We even try to say that no one will ever find out about it so it is okey. We regionalize our sin, but I want you to know that if you are renationalizing your sin, you probably need to expose it and deal with it.

The second response to their sin was that they were afraid. Hidden sin leads to a distorted view of God. When we refuse to confess our sin and wrong doing, we often have a view of God that is less than what God intended. We believe that God is a God that punishes us and is just waiting to wipe us off the face of the earth. Rather than accepting the forgiveness of God, Adam and Eve were guilty of walking in fear and trying to hide their sin.

The third response is they were ashamed of what was up to that point a natural way of life. Because they recognized their nakedness for the first time, they were now ashamed. The remedy they chose was to cover themselves in an effort to remove the shame. As then, shame has always had a powerful effect upon us. It demoralizes us and causes us to be ineffective in many ways. It can also cause us to overcompensate for the hidden areas of our life.

John Piper in dealing with the subject of shame had this to say. “Because sin is alive in our bodies and because we are beset with weakness, the kind of shame we often experience is a potent combination of failure and pride. We fail morally (sin), we fail due to our limitations (weakness), and we fail because the creation is subject to futility and doesn’t work right. We also fail to live up to other people’s expectations. And because we are full of sinful pride, we are ashamed of our failures and weaknesses, and will go to almost any length to hide our sin from others.This means pride-fueled shame can wield great power over us. It controls significant parts of our lives and consumes precious energy and time in avoiding exposure.”

The fourth response is they blamed others. Notice a critical factor here. Rather than take responsibility for their sin, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. They refused to take ownership of their sin and their part of the issue. Please note you might be hiding your sin, if you are blaming others. In blaming others, we try deflect our problems from ourselves. If we can make someone else be the cause of our sin, then we can put that on them and therefore we fail to take responsibility.

So what is the answer? Let me give you two things for your consideration this morning. First, we must allow the light of the Gospel to shine into the darkness. Rather than hide from God and hide the sin in our hearts, we must expose the sin and bring it into the light. Dallas Willard stated that “The only path of spiritual transformation today lies through illumination. The prophetic illumination of the human soul in its lostness is emphatic, starkly clear, and is repeated over and over again, from Moses and Samuel to Jesus, Paul, and John. This illumination must be gratefully and humbly accepted and applied to oneself above all.”

To do this, we must take ownership of our sin and not deflect or hide it. We must allow the light of the Gospel to penetrate the darkest areas of our hearts. It is not by accident that Scripture is replete with verses that speak to the power and necessity of letting the light shine into our hearts. The only path to transformation lies in the power of illumination to expose the hidden areas of our hearts.

In Psalm 119:11 we find the Psalmist proclaim I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. And then in Psalm 119:105 he states Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. John in his writings also addressed Jesus as being the light in John 1:4-5. 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. In 1 John 1, John says This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Secondly, we must understand that sin does not make one worthless, it only causes us to be lost. The problem with hidden, unconfessed sin is that it can create a mindset that we are failures and there is no hope but that is not God’s plan. Listen to the promise of Scripture. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1). And finally, James stated, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16). There is healing and there is power in bringing our sin into the light.

Ruth Graham, Billy’s daughter, during Billy Graham’s funeral, stated that she had failed big time in her life. Her first marriage ended in divorce. She fell in love with a second man. She married this man after being warned by her family to not marry him. She married him and within 24 hours she knew something was wrong. In less than five weeks she left him. She knew she had to go home and face her dad. She took the long two day ride home and as she wound her way up the road to the house, she found her dad standing there. Rather than condemning her, he took her in his arms and welcomed her home. There was no guilt and no shame exhibited. By Billy’s reaction she experienced a better understanding of who God was. That was her father and that was her God.

Today Jesus is standing with open arms to receive you. There is no guilt, shame, or condemnation only acceptance and forgiveness. He invites you home to receive His love and grace.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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First Responders – Some Step Up when Others Step Back

Peninsula Community Church 

First Responders – Some Step Up when Others Step Back

February 25, 2018

In preparing for this message this week, my heart was turned to this passage in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Paul had this to say Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

First Responders are an amazing breed of people. They rush in when others rush out. They run to when others run away. They provide care to those who they do not know and they seldom get the honor and praise they deserve. In fact, in our world today, we find an environment that has become increasingly more threatening for our first responders. It might be a paramedic/EMT being put in a choke hold or being attacked physically when answering a call. It might be firefighters in Baltimore being shot at when answering a call for help. It might be police officers who are attacked more often than ever. We have seen this played out in my home town of Mobile, Alabama where an officer was shoot and killed. And now even closer to home, this week an officer was killed when he came to the assistance of someone in need while off duty.

Today, while others may not honor you, we pause to say thanks. We pause to say that we are grateful that you faithfully serve in your assigned duties. Most people do not understand the world of first responders. They so not understand that with a volunteer fire department system that you are not at the station waiting for that person’s call. You are home sleeping or having dinner with your family. For the police officer or paramedic, you may be at the end of your twelve hour shift when you get that priority call that now puts you into overtime and tons of paperwork, only to come back and put in another twelve hour shift later that day or the next day or evening. It might be the Ambulance crew who runs all night, only to come back and do it all over the next night. That is why we say thanks this morning.

The passage before us defines the life of a first responder in many ways. Let me explain. Paul lists five characteristics of those who have courage, and it certainly takes great courage to be a first responder. Paul tells us that the first characteristic is to be on your guard or to be watchful. Being on guard and watchful is critical to the life of every first responder. Their life, the life of those serving along side of them, and the public demands it. As I have learned, one of the most valuable pieces of training a first responder receives is to do scene size up as they approach the scene. Whether it is entering a home on a medical call, heading to a fire, or being called to a motor vehicle accident, first responders must evaluate and do scene size up to assure their safety and the safety of those around them. They must be on their guard.

Not only are first responders to be watchful, but Paul calls for us to be watchful and to be on our guard each day for our lives. We are to be on guard against those things in life which seek to destroy us. We are to guard our ourselves from those actions and mindsets that often cause more harm than good. We are to guard our hearts so that we protect our families and those we love. In essence, we are to size up the scene of our hearts to see if there is any wicked way in us that might hinder us from being the person we need to be. In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon reminds us to Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

The second characteristic is to stand firm in the faith. First responders all have faith. In fact, without faith, it would be impossible for a first responder to do his or her job adequately. While there are first responders who do not focus much on religion, there is a need for faith in caring out their job. Every first responder has learned to have faith in their training, their equipment, and their partner or fellow first responder. Without that faith, they would not be able to do their job! Without faith, first responders would be paralyzed and left wondering if they were taught correctly! They would hesitate using their equipment. They would wonder if their buddy has their back! The hesitation could cost them their lives or the lives around them.

I would submit to you today that while we have faith in these things, there are some situations where one’s training, one’s partners, or one’s equipment is not enough. It is in those times we will need faith in God to do what only God can do! In our spiritual walk, we must have faith in our training, and faith in our brothers and sisters in Christ to be there for us, but there will be times when even with all the book knowledge and training, we are not going to understand what to do next and we are going to have to rely on a faith in something bigger than ourselves. I suggest that is Almighty God!

A third characteristic is to act like a man or have courage. In Biblical times, the phrase “act like a man” meant to have courage. In the language of today, it means to put on your big boy or big girl pants and face the challenge before you. In other words, be courageous. Courage has been defined as “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.” If you are on your guard and standing firm in the faith, then you will have the ability to do difficult and even dangerous things, because you will know you have done all you could do to be prepared and be ready. You will know you have trained for as many scenarios as possible, and you will have faith in that training and those who work beside you. However, all of that training is no good if you never put it into action.

I submit to you this morning that trusting God with your life allows you to have a courage to face things you would not be able to face alone! Sometimes our human pride keeps us from admitting we need God. Somehow, we think it is not cool to depend on anyone else but ourselves! This kind of thinking is not only dangerous spiritually, but is very dangerous in the first responder community.  A person who is not a team player and decides to go it alone, is at a huge risk of hurting himself or someone else. Sometimes, the courage we need is the courage to admit we need each other and that we need God!

The fourth characteristic is to be strong. If we are going to be men and women of courage, we will have to be strong. Physically strong, mentally strong, and spiritually strong! Many times a first responder is called upon to do things that take great physical strength. They need to stay physically fit and strong! As we have already stated, they also need to be sharp mentally. First responders have to make quick decisions and judgments that can literally mean the difference between life and death at times. First Responders must also be spiritually strong! They see so much! Without a spiritual and moral center they can be quickly overwhelmed and become cynical and can lose hope. There are many things that first responders wish they could unsee or unexperience but they cannot. They need a strength beyond themselves to make it. That strength is available in a relationship with Christ.

Now we come to the last characteristic of our text which is is to do everything in love. The truth is, the job of the first responder can be a tough one. It is easy to grow hard and callous and not care any more. When you have run that third or fourth call for an overdose only to find it is the same person you gave Narcan to and transported just the week before and then three times before that, it can begin to work against you. The problem, however, is that when we stop caring, we stop doing our best. If you are not motivated by love, you cannot do your best!

I realize first responders have to have a certain toughness emotionally when dealing with things, especially while on scene. The problem is that many times first responders cannot let their emotions take over or they will not be able to do their job. This does not mean they do not care. It does not mean they do not have feelings. It does not mean they think about and even lift a prayer for those they have helped. But from within there is an attitude of that can literally make the difference between life and death! Because a person who loves what they do and the people they serve, will go out of their way to do the best job they can. On a side note, I can tell you that those that serve this community care and desire the best outcome for your life.

As I close, let me tell you that courage is a Christian character trait. This means that courage was a character trait in the life of Christ. One day He stepped up when others stepped back. He did this because He loved those He came to serve. Jesus stepped up when everyone else fled the scene. Remember the story at the end of Jesus’ life. His disciples were nowhere to be found when He needed them the most, but He stepped up and gave His life for all of us and He would do it again and again if it would help. Jesus knew what was coming and He willingly laid down His life in order for us to be saved. I like to call it the ultimate rescue.

Jesus was and is a first responder. At the appointed time in history, He was called to deal with a messed up world. Rather than change the world per se, He came to change our hearts. He came and He did all that to save us and bring salvation to our hearts. It is noteworthy that while every one else ran, He rushed in and put His life on the line so you might live. That has not changed and He is ready to rush in and make a difference today, whatever you need.

He rushes in to give us peace when we live in turmoil. He rushes in to bring strength when we are tired. He rushes in to bring hope when we have lost our way. He comes as the first responder to rescue us no matter where we are. All we have to do is place that 911 call and invite Him to come and He will respond. Do you need Him to come as the first responder of your heart to minister to you, today? He is here and is ready. Just sound the alarm of prayer and He will respond.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Spiritual Transformation of the Heart

Peninsula Community Church 

Spiritual Transformation of the Heart 

February 18, 2018

Romans 7:15-21 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

How many can relate to Paul here in this passage? How many struggle in the battle between wanting to do what is right but having the tendency to fail to do or to live up to what is right or good? The truth is for too many there is a real battle that rages within us. It might be the amount of food we eat, the amount of alcohol we drink, the way we treat others, or what we think or feel about  ourselves. No matter the issue, the battle rages, but there is a way of hope and it is called spiritual formation or transformation. That is what we will focus on today.

 

Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, there has been a need to deal with the heart and man’s reactions to life itself. This has been the inescapable human problem since the fall. Unfortunately, this problem has no human solution although many have tried to do so by way of human means. Some have tried psychiatry, drugs, and many other things to bring change. I do not discredit these resources because there is a need in many cases to have such things available. Unfortunately, too often, these things become the only source investigated, but in the end they do not always bring permanent change or transformation. The fact is, we need a work of God in us to make this happen in a more permanent and effective way. For example, this week we have witnessed another mass killing. The immediate response by many has been to call for more gun control, but this is not a gun control issue. It is a heart issue. The shooter’s heart and mind had been formed by disappointment, rejection, and low self-worth, and he had come to a place where he would have used whatever means possible to create mayhem and murder.

While the need for transformation is an inescapable human problem, I am afraid that as a whole Christianity has been ineffective in imparting answers to the vital questions of human existence. Now before you misunderstand what I am saying, let me explain. Too often, the Gospel has been liberalized or the message of the Gospel has been softened to the point that it does not bring real change. While the Bible has been and continues to be the source of hope for change, too many do not effectively preach the whole counsel of God in a way that meets the need of man. As Christians, we do not hold the Word as being precious and relevant to our needs. Therefore, many Christians have rejected the Gospel as a source of help, hope, and change. The end result is that we present an ineffective and powerless Gospel by the way we live.

The answer to inner transformation must also be more than the church I attend or the denomination I serve. When we are asked about our relationship with Christ, too often our patented answer is to relate to the church we go to or what denomination we have joined. We often say we are Methodist or Presbyterian or I attend PCC. The answer to our spirituality and Christianity must go deeper than religious associations. We attend an awesome church, but this church in itself is not a solution to permanent change. The real answer must come from a heart aligned with God’s will and His purposes.

A second problem is that we can be so focused on the outward expression of change that we miss the deeper issues of the heart. Too many hold to an inaccurate view that by simply changing the outward man, the inward man will follow. While there is some validity to this, too often this kind of change falls short of its intended purpose. The problem is that while we might change the outward man, the inner man is not necessarily changed which leaves us without the proper motivation for additional change. That is why Paul’s spiritual honesty in Romans 7 is so important for us to consider. There is an ongoing battle in doing what is right, We do what we do not want to do and we do not do what we should be doing.

So what is spiritual formation? For the Christian, spiritual formation refers to the Spirit driven process of transforming our inner being in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ Himself. The result is that what is within us is manifested outwardly. Remember that “out of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15:18-19, Mark 7:21, and Luke 6:45). We speak and act from what is contained and stored in the heart. While the fruit of a changed heart is an outward manifestation of inward change, we must not just focus on the outward manifestation of change. We must align our inward man and our outward expressions of faith to God’s word. With that said, the outward expression of change must never be accomplished at the expense of the spiritual renewal of the heart. When the external becomes the supreme measure of one’s success or spiritual growth we risk not having real or effective change inwardly.

In Mark 8:36 the Scripture tells us For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? In other words, what good is it to gain notoriety, riches, and outward perfection and lose our souls in the process. I also love 2 Corinthians 3:18 which says And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. In the Old Testament man could come into the presence of God without having their faces covered. In the New Testament that changed and now we are invited into His presence without a veil. In His presence change comes and it is from there that we reflect the glory of God in our life. Paul refers to this to as being changed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to the next. This happens one step and one victory at a time.

A number of years ago in the Bronx, there was a problem with people vandalizing abandoned apartment complexes. The city, under Mayor Koch’s leadership, decided to handle this problem by applying decals to the windows which gave the appearance that the apartments were occupied. The goal was to deter vandalism and diminish the number of homeless living in the apartments. As you might guess, this action, a costly solution, did little to change the problem. While having the best of intentions, they were in essence trying to change the outward but the inner problem was not addressed or changed.

This is where we must emphasize that growing into Christlikeness is not based on human attainment. It has been and continues to be a gift of grace. The liberty that is ours in the Spirit motivates us and moves us toward acts of righteousness. Action alone is not enough without the Spirit at work in us. Let me explain this in this way. We can make a decision to be more loving and then try to act more patient and kind, but in the end we fail to be as loving as we desire which can be frustrating and painful. Merely trying to act more loving will lead to despair and defeat, if there is no corresponding transformation of the heart. The same is true of faith. We can try to live an outward faith, but we can fall short without an inward positioning of our heart toward God and His goodness, regardless of what is happening around us.

Since this is a work of grace, this transformation should not be a burden. Grace should be the answer to the weariness of trying to do better and live right. How many have been frustrated at trying to do good but fail over and over? That is Paul’s argument in Roman’s 7 and that is why Paul begins Romans 8 some much needed encouragement. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

Notice the law was weakened by the flesh. The law was powerless to bring permanent change. The law can be correlated to the outward expression of action. For that reason outward action on its own is powerless but the Spirit of Life can and will set you free. Why is this? It is because the Savior, the Son of God, took on the flesh and sin and He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. He gave us the Spirit that can now leads us to transformation.

Here is the beauty of all of this, God the Father, gave us grace through the death of His Son, who abolished sin by the cross and the power of sin over our life in the resurrection. He also sent His Holy Spirit to reside in us so that we could be guided to truth and reality. He speaks into our heart and He brings change to the inward man so that we manifest that change on the outward.

So how are you doing this morning? How is your heart? Are you being changed inwardly or are you only working on the outward expression? Is God more important you than your church or your issue? Let us pray!

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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How’s Your Heart?

Peninsula Community Church 

How’s Your Heart?

February 11, 2018 

Proverbs 4:20-23 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

Today, we hear a lot about the health of one’s heart. We measure cholesterol, triglycerides, heart rate, heart beat, and so on to determine heart health. The fact is, we have many ways of determining the health of our human heart, but how do we perform an appropriate evaluation of the spiritual heart.

Over the next few weeks, I would like to talk about the spiritual heart and how we can be assured that our spiritual hearts are in good shape. So, how do we measure the health of our heart? How do we know when we are healthy? These and other questions will be addressed during this series. To understand this process, let me make a few comments that will point us in the right direction as we have this conversation.

First, we must understand that too many today are not living according to the plan of God. When man was created in the Garden of Eden, he was created in the image of God. Think about this for a moment. Adam and Eve lived in a perfect environment. There was no sin. There was perfect harmony between them and with the world around them. They did not have arguments. They did not have to work, as God provided all they needed. Man’s greatest task was to name the animals and make sure that he was managing what God had given him. They were in essence living in the Utopia that so many long for today.

As we know by reading the story, man failed at the basic level of obedience. They had everything they needed, and yet they allowed the one thing that was beyond their reach to master them. Along with their desire and craving for what they could not have, and the enemy’s use of well timed opportunities and half truths, Adam and Eve were deceived. This changed mankind forever.

When that occurred, mankind moved away from God’s original intent of creation to live in a fallen state of mind and heart. The result has been that instead of living in the freedom that is ours in Christ we have allowed the issues. problems, sin, and the devil’s influence to form and shape our life. From the fall until now, mankind has been formed and shaped by so many forces. Think about it. We are being formed and shaped by the events of our life. We are shaped by both the positive and negative things that come. How many live in regret, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and so forth, all because of the events that have affected their life? How many live with emotions and feelings, and believe that this is just the way it is going to be without any hope for change?

Here is the point to be made. In God, we were created in His image, but because of man’s fallen state we are being formed and conformed into an image that was never intended by God. That brings us to one of the key points we need to make about this process. Because we have been formed and conformed to the world’s image, a non biblical view, we can also be transformed into a new creation. Scripture is replete with examples and admonition toward this process.

In Ezekiel, we have been promised that He will exchange our hardened heart with a heart of flesh. In other words, through the intervention of God’s work in us, we can begin to live again. You see with a hardened, stoney heart there is not much life. With a broken human heart there is a lack of blood flow to the rest of the body. As with the physical heart, when our arteries begin to harden, our life is diminished and without an intervention death or long term damage is possible. So it is with our spiritual hearts. We cannot live the life God chose for us when we are living life from the standpoint of a harden and callous heart.

Listen to Ezekiel’s words in Ezekiel 11:19-20. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Notice the process here. They will be given a new spirit and their heart of stone will be replaced with a heart of flesh. Think about it, a stoney heart is not very sensitive to God’s movement. But with a heart of flesh, we are more sensitive and responsive to the work of God in us. Notice too, the response to this change of heart. Those with a fleshy heart will be empowered to walk in His statures and the directives for living life. Notice, He will empower them to walking in obedience and in following His ways.

You see many times we struggle to fulfill His purposes. Perhaps, and just maybe we struggle in these areas because there remains some areas of hardness which has been untouched or unchanged. Here is the point, so often we allow God to touch certain parts of our heart, but we guard and secure our heart so that we do not allow God’s touch in other areas of our heart.The truth is God wants all of your heart, and He especially wants all of the hardened places of your heart.

Because we have been formed and conformed it is so easy to allow negative stimuli to impact us. Let me explain it this way. Have you ever had a difficult experience with someone. Perhaps you loved someone and you had a deep relationship with that person. At some moment in time that person let you down. Perhaps they lied to you. Perhaps they betrayed your confidence. Perhaps they destroyed your relationship. Perhaps they chose someone else over you to love. You were devastated.

If this happens once, we can take the pain and usually deal with it, but if this happens more than once, we can begin to believe we are defective and that no one could ever love us. What begins to happen is that we can refuse to let anyone into our life, because we are afraid we will be hurt again, even if there is no evidence of that possibility. The result is that it becomes very hard for us to have any significant relationships. We have been formed to believe that their is no hope and no chance we will ever have a positive relationship.

Perhaps we have been formed and conditioned to turn to food, alcohol, or other addictive behaviors to bring peace and hope. The result of this conditioning is that we never really deal with the issue of life. We just cover them up and whitewash them so they are never really dealt with. But here is the truth. God wants our heart and He wants all of us because He has answers to the deep hurt and pain we experience.

That is why Romans 12 is so important to us. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). Paul counsels us to be transformed. How is that accomplished? It is done by the renewal of the mind. You see it is the mind that affects the heart more than anything else. Have you ever talked yourself into a certain way of thinking or action? Has that thought or action later produced a negative response that wore you down rather than building you up. The point here is that God through Christ wants to transform your heart and your life. What we have allowed to be formed in us God wants to transform.

As we close, let me share a couple of thoughts. I must admit that I have borrowed these from Ed Stetzer, the President of LifeWay Research. First, change comes by having a new life and not turning over a new leaf. Too often, we think if we just try harder, or do more, or act differently, we will be changed. God’s intent has always been a total change and not just a different action. The Scripture tells us that if you are in Christ, then you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The past is gone and the new has come. The fact is too often we are trapped by the past: past hurts, past mistakes, and past events. Perhaps, today it is time to move to a new day of freedom and life.

Secondly, real change is a process and not a destination. We never stop changing. On this side of heaven we do not arrive at perfection, but we recognize that we are always in a process. We are on a journey of progressive growth. Paul was keenly aware of this principle when he stated “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Notice, Christ will continue this work until the Day of the Lord. This might be His second coming or His coming to you to bring you home, but He will keep the work going on your behalf until the end of your life.

Thirdly, real change is a process of letting go and grabbing hold of a new way of  thinking and living. It is allowing God to transform the way we look at life and at each other. Listen to Paul. He says, But that is not the way you learned Christ! Assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24). We must choose to follow God and to put off the old way of dealing with life. After all the goal is to become like Christ and be able to live in true righteousness and holiness, and not some false or surface righteousness or holiness.

So today, where are you stuck? Where have you roped off a piece of your heart like in a museum? Today is the day to begin the process of letting go and let God heal you. For some it may an instant result. For others it may take time, but God will heal if we open our heart to Him. And by the way if we ask Him, He will come to your aide and help you.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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How Is Your Vision?

Peninsula Community Church

February 4, 2018 

How is your Vision?

Habakkuk 2:1-3 I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Well, I finally get the chance to preach this message today. I have attempted to do so for the few weeks but God had a different plan. Today, you will get a variation of the original message I had planned. For me, and for many of you, I know that January has been an interesting month with the sub zero weather, the snow, building issues, being away for Christmas, health issues, and so forth. For us the weather, building issues, trips and gall bladder surgery all effected us. But we are so glad to be back in the saddle and look forward to see what the rest of the year of the will bring. Here is what I know with all of this, this is going to be a great year. God is up to something exciting, and I am so glad to be a part of what He is doing.

I would not be truthful if I did not acknowledge my disappointment with some of the issues we have faced. But, while I have been disappointed in the weather and health issues, I have not given up. I have not faltered. I had my doubts at times, but never to the point of surrender. Admittedly, there were times where I felt a bit like Paul when he stated that we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).

One of the lessons I have learned is that disappointment does not have to end us but it can be God’s way of bringing us to the next phase of our life. God can turn our disappointments into opportunities to grow us in our understanding of Him, our purpose in His kingdom, and how much we really need to rely on Him for our sustenance and ongoing peace. It is taught me that I need more people around us that are willing to step up to the plate and help us. You see that has not been your issue but mine as it is some times easier to do things on my own that it is to get help. So I will be asking for more help from this point forward.

What I have determined is that our focus or our vision will determine the outcome of our life. With that in mind let me begin with a story, one of which I have personally experienced. Several years ago I went to the eye doctor and he found that I had some deficiencies in regard to my vision. To remedy this, he prescribed a new pair of glasses for me. When the glasses arrived at the office, I went to the doctor who fitted me and set me up with the glasses. That day when I left his office and put the glasses on, I experienced something amazing. Suddenly, everything was in focus and as I began driving with the new glasses, I found I could see in a way that I could not do so before. Trees were crisp and I could read signs before they passed me by. What changed? What changed was that my vision was now being focused through the lens of a new pair of glasses. Because of the glasses, I could now see clearly.

The two passages we have this morning are perhaps a couple of the most popular scriptures related to vision. In Habakkuk, we find that Habakkuk was not idle. In fact, he was quite busy as he was taking his post on the watch stand. The issue in this passage was not his activity as much as it was his vision and his focus. In his busyness he sought the Lord, and he received this word.

The lesson for us today is two-fold. Busy lives do not equate to success. We can be busy and miss what God is doing. To determine where we are to go and what we are to do does not mean that we jettison our responsibilities. The key is where are you focused and what lens you are using to focus your life on. Are you looking through the eyes of God to determine your vision.

It is noteworthy that this word came at a time when things were not going well for the Israelites. You see, God can give vision when things are going well but He can also give vision when they are not going so well. In fact, if you look at the first two verses of this book, we find that Habakkuk was troubled by what he saw in the land. He was frustrated and he questioned whether or not God was even involved in their lives. As we read, however, we begin to see Habakkuk’s heart change as he hears from God. Habakkuk moves from burden to blessing, from wonder and worry to worship, from restlessness to rest, and from focusing on the problem to focusing on God’s Person.

So the first critical note about vision is that vision must come from our interaction with God. When we spend time with Him, He will fill our heart with truth and He will direct our hearts and minds. If we do not spend time with God the chances are our vision will be motivated by our flesh, our feelings, and our friends. From his time with the Lord, Habakkuk received a word from God that would reposition him and place him in alignment with God’s purposes. This leads us to Habakkuk 2:1-2. From his interaction with God and from his honesty, the Lord gave him the following response.

First of all Habakkuk was to write the vision down. To write the vision down, is to know the vision and understand God’s purpose through it. Too often, we are wishy washy because we do not know what He wants us to do. The result is that we lack vision and thus we lack hope and we lack focus. For that reason our second passage today shows us that where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law (Proverbs 29:18). A right vision is based in the law of God which is the word of God. A right vision is connected to the knowledge that comes from knowing God. You see a vision is not some abstract set of action items but it is directly connected to a knowledge of God and His will. Too often we think up ideas then want God to bless them. We tend to begin with a presuppositional idea of what we think God wants and then we try to fit our thinking into the will of God, but Habakkuk’s vision came from His relationship with God and His word.

Zig ziglar has stated that a lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem for most of us. We all have twenty-four hour days. It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau stated that “to be everywhere is to be nowhere.” We need to know where we are headed. We need to know what we are called to do. I love this quote as well. Not all dreamers are winners, but all winners are dreamers. Your dream is the key to your future.

Secondly, the vision must be plain so it can be easily communicated. The problem for too many of us is that we tend to complicate the things of God to the point that we do not understand what He requires of us. The vision of God should be plain and easily communicated to others. What is your vision? What is God calling you to do today? Let me say this, God is not schizophrenic and yet to listen to some you would think so. Every time you speak with them they seem to be headed in a different direction.

As we grow in our vision we must be aware that a person who has the vision of God is not devoted to a cause or to any particular issue. He is devoted to God Himself. By being devoted to God we are more likely focused on what matters and less on the trivial pursuit of our own ideas or ideals. When we are devoted to God we will be less motivated to self-centeredness. We will be less argumentative and will be more willing to work with others to accomplish the will of God. You see each of us are a part of the fulfillment of the vision for our church, even though we do so from different gift sets and abilities.

The third part of the vision is that we must be patient and not be discouraged as it takes time for the vision to be accomplished. We can give up too soon or get distracted when we are impatient. This is especially true in our quick fix, instant world. You see there are times where God is working behind the scenes to bring about His will and His purposes. But too often we try to help God out and that usually does not work too well.

So let’s make this practical and bring it home here this morning. Our vision here at PCC is to grow people and reach people for Christ. The vision is simple: grow strong committed disciples of Christ and reach people (unchurched and unsaved) for Christ. The vision remains the same. It does not change frequently, but we must also establish some goals as to how we will accomplish the vision.

More specifically we want to:

  1. Continue to grow our teaching and discipleship opportunities. Personal spiritual and practical growth is paramount to the success of the church by way of men’s and women’s ministry, life groups, Sunday school, Sunday morning preaching and worship, and other opportunities that come our way.
  2. Have specific intercessory prayer opportunities.
  3. Look for ways to reach our community for Christ both the unsaved and the unchurched.
  4. Continue to grow our children’s ministry: life kids, nursery, youth.
  5. Provide opportunities for regular fellowship so that we grow relationally and dynamically.

So what is your vision? What has God called you to do? If you focus on God and get into His word, I am convinced that He will show up and will lead you to a bigger plan and purpose than you have dreamed of.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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