Tag Archives: calling

What’s Your Assignment?

Peninsula Community Church

What’s Your Assignment?

April 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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By Faith: Obedience To the Calling

Peninsula Community Church

By Faith: Obedience To the Calling

October 9, 2016

Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Today, we continue our journey through the Hall of Fame of Faith. So far, we have examined the story of Cain and Abel, Enoch, and last week we looked at the life of Noah. Today, we look at the story of Abraham and God’s calling and promise to him. As we examine the lives of those who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame of Faith, we find that the one key denominator in all of these stories is a unswerving faith in God. Each of these success stories is based on the individual’s faith and trust in almighty God.

The story of Abraham is no different. In the text we just read, as well as the account in Genesis 12, we find that Abraham was called to pick up stakes and move to a place he knew nothing about. We find that Abraham obeyed God because of His faith. Abraham was called by God to move outside of his comfort zone and what was familiar to him. For us personally, there are times where God will challenge us and shake us so that we are moved into a new perspective, a new way of thinking, and a new calling or service to God.

As I think of this story the question that comes to mind is “How many of us love to play it safe?” Too often we choose to live in a place of comfort and contentment. We put stakes into the ground and huddle around that which is comfortable and that which is familiar rather than stepping outside of our comfort zone. Abraham was definitely called to move outside his comfort zone in order to accomplish God’s will and purpose. He was called to move to a place he did not know and to a people he was not familiar with. In fact, I would argue today that Abraham could not fulfill God’s promise where he was, he had to move. He had to go to where he could be best used for the Kingdom of God.

For us today we must recognize that God moves us out of our comfort zone for several reasons. For one, sometimes, we need to be shaken out of our comfort zones because we have become so comfortable with our current status that we don’t do anything to better ourselves or those around us. Sometimes, we need to be moved out of our comfort zone because God cannot use us as much as he can when we live in that place. God does this because He has a better plan for our life. And finally, God has to shake us from our comfort zone because in our comfort zone we can become self-centered and inwardly focused. The result is that too often we become ineffective in our service to God.

Listen to Abrahams’s story in Genesis 12:1-5. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.

Listen to the process involved with the call of Abram. God called him to leave the country of his kindred, the place of his heritage, and he was to leave his family and he was go to the land that God would show him. Think about this. We all have an infinity toward our families but what would you do if God called you to pack your bags, leave home, and go where he wanted you to go but you would not know where you were going until you got there? Would you go?

God calls Abraham to leave everything that is a part of his identity. He was called to give up his cultural identity, his family identity, and his inheritance. In a sense, this reminds us of the words of Paul in the book of Philippians and his desire to give up things for God. Paul said this But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).

Do you here the echo of the call of Abraham in these words? To make Paul’s words even more significant, we must look at the preceding verses to see that Paul had just given the church at Philippi his resume. He listed his degrees. He detailed his family heritage and his family genealogy because that was what made a man in that day important and it gave him status in the land. But in the end, Paul stated that he counted all of that loss. He counted that as rubbish or garbage when compared to what he was to gain through a personal relationship with Christ. You see Paul weighed out the fact that he wanted a personal relationship with Christ more than he wanted to be known by his degrees or his heritage. Through Paul, a new standard was being set. It was a standard that measured our importance not by our social status but by a personal dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.

As we look at this lesson this morning let me make a couple of observations. First, it is noteworthy that we do not have much of a response from Abraham.  All we know is that God called and Abraham obeyed. There is no discussion on Abraham’s part. He does not argue with God. He simply obeyed the call of God. The question for us is how many times do we argue with God about something He is calling us to do? We debate. We argue. We think of every excuse we can come up with as to why we should not do the thing or things that God has called us to. Sometimes the arguments are based in genuine issues but we if we are not careful we can argue obedience away. I would also note that God does not generally call us to give up everything necessarily but He may call us to step outside of what we are familiar with.

The second lesson here is that true obedience to God is an expression of faith in God. It has been said and I wholeheartedly agree that our faith is expressed in our obedience. We are saved by faith and not works but it is our faith that drives us toward obedience to God’s word and to His calling upon our life. So in essence, our obedience to God is in fact our faith being expressed. While our works do not save us they do demonstrate our trust and confidence in God.

James had it so right when he made the following statements in James 1:22-25. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Abraham was promised a great blessing if he responded in faith to the call of God. Abraham did his part and God did His. You see for us today the greatest act of obedience we can have is our obedience to the Word of God. We read, we listen, and we obey. In James 2:14-24 James stated the following. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Here is what James is saying. Put your money where your mouth is. Abraham was truly saved by faith but his works testified to the fact that he had faith to trust God with his life. In our story today, we see the faith of Abraham expressed. He responds to the call of God to go. Why, because he had faith. What is amazing is that Abraham did not have the whole story at his disposal and yet he was fully and completely obedient to God.

As we look at the life of faith we must underhand that the call of God does not come without obstacles and issues. God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. This was all great except that both Sara and Abraham were past their prime as it related to having children. Abraham was 75 years old. But their faith was focused not in their age but in a God who was big enough to do what He said He would do. They had a confidence in God that nothing was impossible with God. Even if he was too old, God could work in miraculous ways to fulfill His promise and His word. He was to become the father of many nations and God would fulfill His promises whatever it take.

So what does all of this mean for us today? When God calls us we can step out in faith and believe that He will fulfill His will in us. Sometimes the unknown can and will scare us. But if our faith in God is bigger than our fear of the unknown we will survive and will be sustained in great and powerful ways. Our job is to be obedient and God will do the rest. Sometimes it means that we observe a need in the church and we become the vessel and channel through which God provides and uses us to touch others. Perhaps it is serving in a ministry that we do not feel comfortable with but we see a need. We hear the call and we obey by serving Him. Are you listening because God is calling and He is speaking today.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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