Tag Archives: Christmas

The Journey to Peace

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey to Peace

December 24, 2017 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Simplicity of Christmas

Peninsula Community Church 

The Simplicity of Christmas 

December 22, 2016 

Luke 2:8-20 – And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Wow! It is hard to believe that Christmas is just a couple of days away. Hopefully by now all of your gifts have been purchased, they have been wrapped, and are now under the tree. I also trust that the busyness of the season has not yet tired you out and that you still have some strength left to actually enjoy Christmas.

As we read the Christmas story we find that it is a complex story with a simple message. While the message is simple, the story does present some complex issues.  The virgin birth still rocks our imagination and ability to comprehend how such an act could occur and yet the virgin birth is the lynch pen in the story of God coming to earth. Not only do we have to get are minds around the virgin birth but then we have to deal with the fact that the Son of God came to earth in the form of human flesh to save us from our sin. We have a virgin who was sexually pure and yet she was impregnated by the Spirit of God as the conduit for Him to come to earth. These are not exactly simplistic issues. Like Mary we ask “How can this be?” We are amazed at these events and the theological implications they present. These and other truths of Christmas are complex issues which theologians have spent their entire lives trying to understand and explain. They debate, discuss, and argue the nuances of the various ideas and thoughts associated with these complex theological issues.

While there are certainly things in the Christmas story that are very complex, there is so much of the Christmas story that is filled with amazing simplicity. Think about the story if you will. We have a simple girl who is Mary. She lived in a simple time. Life was not very complicated for her.  She lived in the simple town of Nazareth. She made a simple pledge to marry a simple man named Joseph. They had committed to live a simple life together forever. They were not socialites. They were not wealthy. They were not people who held a high social status. They were not complicated people but they were not stupid either. While they did not have social status of any kind they were chosen by God and that is all that mattered. They understood and accepted their calling to be the mother and father of the King of the world.

When Jesus was born it was a simple birth. There was nothing unusual about the birth itself. A seemingly simple boy was born in a the simplest of places, a manger.  In fact, His birth was so simple and unassuming that most people of that day never realized what happened. Jesus was not born in a hotel room surrounded by the modern comforts of His day, He was born in a manger where cattle lived. There were no media involved. The Bethlehem Gazette was no where to be found and there were no paparazzi around the stall where He was born. There were no trumpeters or pages to announce the birth of Jesus. The people of His day missed the most amazing event of their day because they were busy paying their taxes and prepping for the feasts. Most people continued to live their life as if nothing had happened and nothing had changed. And yet that is exactly what happened. His coming to earth was so complex and yet at the same time it was so simple. It was and still is the great paradox of the day. The complex met the simple.

How simple and yet how sublime is God’s means of salvation! Who would have thought that Messiah would be born as a baby, and in such humble circumstances! Many would have and still stumble over the angel’s directions (2:12): “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger” which was a feeding trough! It smelled like a barn. It is most likely that the place was filled with noise and contrary to the Christmas carol I am guessing that the baby Jesus did cry as He was just as human as any one of us. Think about what you would have done if you were God. I know if I had been in control I would have sent the Savior to the earth as a full grown man, a mighty warrior riding on a white stallion. Or, He would have been born in the finest palace and not in a barn. He would have been wrapped in the finest purple garments and would be laying in an ivory and gold cradle. He would not be in a barn surrounded by smelly sheep and the noise. He would have been attended by servants and the newspapers of the day would have heralded His birth as the greatest news of all time. But that was not the choice of God. He chose the simple so that everyone person could receive the gift of the Savior.

To understand the simplicity of His birth, we must consider who was first invited to come and celebrate the event. The first guest to see Baby Jesus symbolized the simpleness of the message. It is noteworthy that one of the first groups to be called to the scene of the manger were the shepherds, a simple people with a simple way of life. We should note that this does not mean they were dumb or stupid, it simply means they were a group of people who did not put on airs.

In terms of occupation the shepherd’s main objective in life was to guard the sheep. They were to keep the sheep safe from wild animals and from hurting themselves. They were simple people with simple goals. In many commentaries it has been suggested that it is very probable that the very sheep these men were tending in the fields were being prepared for slaughter at Passover in Jerusalem a few months later. If that is true then how symbolic is that the shepherds who were watching the Passover lambs would be invited to Bethlehem to view the Passover Lamb of God, provided for the salvation of the world.

As we look at the Christmas story, we find that the message of Christmas really is a simple message. When we remove the mystic of the virgin birth, the questions of how God could come to earth, and we simply accept the fact that He did, we find that the message is not as complicated as we make it and it is certainly more simple than we make it. The simple message is that God brought salvation to humankind by taking on human flesh Himself and He did so without sin. He bore our sin to satisfy the call of punishment for the sin we have committed. While on one hand the story is complicated and complex but the message is simple.

How simple of a message does God bring to us today? Let me share fours ideas presented by the message of the birth of Jesus. First, God loves us and has a plan for our life. God loved us enough that He sent His most valuable possession to us to redeem us and to change our lives. The problem too often is that we believe that God could not love us because of what we may have done or not done. There is no doubt that God loves us. We find this in one of the most popular scriptures in the Bible. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).

Man is sinful and is separated from God. The second part of this message is that everyone of us have sinned. No one is righteous. None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,

not even one (Romans 3:10-12). For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:22-25).The one who says he does not sin is a liar according to the scripture (John 1:8). This sin has separated us from God so that our fellowship with Him has been broken.

God sent His son to die for our sins. But God had a solution. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us ( Romans 5:6-8). His solution was to send His son to earth as the great redeemer to save men from His sin and for that matter save mankind from himself. No matter who you are or what you have done He died for you and there is nothing you have done that will change that.

God wants us to receive the gift of forgiveness. The simplicity of the message of Christmas is that we can receive the gift of salvation given to us by God. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved (Romans 10:9-10).  While our lives our so very complex the acceptance of salvation does not have to be. We confess to Him our sin, short comings and failures. We repent which means we agree to not do those things again. And we begin to live a life changed and different from what we have known before. That is why the greatest gift you can give and the greatest gift you can receive is the forgiveness of God on our behalf and then choosing to live a life that honors God and represents who He is.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What Do You Give Jesus for Christmas?

Peninsula Community Church 

What Do You Give Jesus for Christmas? 

December 18, 2016

Matthew 2:9-11 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Our story today picks up where we left off last week. The wise men moved from their encounter with Herod to find the Christ child. We do not know how long the trip was from the visit with Herod to actually encountering the Christ child but we know that it took some time. They were looking for the one sign that would lead them to the Messiah. When they saw the star that was pointing the way to Christ they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Their reaction to the star showed the intensity of their expectation and their desire to see this child. The passage here states that their joy was exceedingly great. Their joy overwhelmed them and they expressed their joy in their worship.

As they entered the stable where the Christ child lay, they presented Him with gifts. Each gift presented showed the value and honor they were giving the Christ child. They presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. For most of us, at a first read this does not mean much but each of these gifts in the economy of the day had great value. The gift of gold was given to the Christ child as a way to honor Him as the King of this world. They recognized what many did not see in their day. He was the king of the world and they chose to honor Him as such. The second gift they brought was the gift of frankincense. Frankincense was given to Him in recognition of his position as the high priest. Frankincense was used by the priest when he went into the temple to present the people before God. It was in essence one of the symbols and tools for worship. They gave Him myrrh because myrrh was used as an embalming oil. They recognized that He was to die for the world. Their gift was a prophetic statement of what was to come. The wise men had a vision for this child more than the scholars or the religious leaders of their day. They gave gifts that spoke to His royalty as King, His priesthood as the intercessor for the people, and the one who would die for our sins.

When we give gifts, especially here at the Christmas season, we try to give gifts based on who the person is and how much we love them and know about them. But what do you do when you have to buy a gift for the person who has everything and can buy what they want when they want it? As I was preparing for this message, I was thinking about this Christmas season and what gift could I give to Christ. This was a difficult thought process because certainly Christ has everything He needs and what He does not have He could create as He has the power to do so. After some thought, I realized the answer was already given to us. The greatest gift we can give to Christ is ourselves. 

The greatest gift we can give to God is to say, “Lord, I give You my life. I give You my talents. I give You my abilities. I give You my dreams. I give You my future. I give You my weaknesses. I offer myself, all of myself, to You.” Our posture should be one of outstretched hands and open palms to give Him our life and all that we are. Any other approach communicates that we are approaching God with clinched fists or clinched teeth which speaks of resistance and rejection.

Too often we hold back from God just in case. We hold back from God because the last time we fully trusted someone they wounded us, the betrayed us, and they failed to live up to their promises. So we approach God the same way. We approach Him with fear and the apprehension that He will fail us, let us down, and in the end we will be left wounded and destroyed. But I can assure you that God will never fail you or let you down.

Paul in Romans 12:1-2 perhaps defines the giving of one’s self as a gift to God better than anyone else. Paul states I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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.

What is the gift Paul is referring to here? It is the gift of ourselves as a living sacrifice. Our gift to God is a resistance to being conformed to this world but rather a focus on being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Rather than settling for the status quo, we begin to adjust our lives in order to follow the ways of God. Each day we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. The result is that our way of thinking, the way we act, the way we perform our duties in life begin to be transformed so that we are much more like God in what we do. Can you imagine what life would be like if we truly committed ourselves to God and refused to be conformed to the world’s image of ourselves?

Let me sum this up by saying the best gift we could give God is to live the life He has designed for us to live. It means that we walk in forgiveness and healing so that we are free to be all that He desires. I know what you are thinking because I have thought it myself. It is too hard and it is impossible for me, there is just too much to overcome. But when we give ourselves to Him, He will begin the work of healing and restoration in us. That is His plan and it is has been His plan from the beginning of time. But how do we do this?

First of all the passage before us says that we should offer ourselves to God because of His mercy. Paul presents God’s mercy as the strongest argument for giving ourselves to God. When we fully recognize all that God has done for us the only response worthy of Him is to give Him our whole being, our whole mind, soul, and spirit. We were all sinners and sin had deadly consequences but while we were yet sinners He died for us. His mercy moved Him to give Himself so that we would be forgiven of our sins in total: those we committed, those we are committing, and those we have yet to commit. It was His mercy that saved us, redeemed us, and began a process of restoration. It was His mercy that will sustain us.

Secondly, we must offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. What an oxymoron. We are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. Most sacrifices of the Old Testament were slaughtered before they were sacrificed. Paul, however, is calling for us to present ourselves as living sacrifices not as dead lifeless ones. The expression of a living sacrifice is used as the backdrop to the Old Testament sacrificial system where an animal would be sacrificed for the forgiveness of one’s sin. You see in the Old Testament man offered an animal but in the New Testament man was to offer himself. We are to be the sacrifice God receives. Because we are living sacrifices, we are to be a living sacrifice wherever we go. This means at the office, at school, in our homes, and wherever we go we should live as as a sacrifice to God.

Thirdly we must offer ourselves to God through transformation and renewal. We best demonstrate our commitment to God by refusing to conform to the world by being transformed through renewed minds. When we give ourselves to God it is reflected in how we live. Worshipping people are changed people and that is reflected in their walk, their talk, and their personality. When we give ourselves to God we live as transformed people who live Christ-centered lives and not self-centered lives.

Finally, we offer ourselves to God all of the time. Living implies life. Offering ourselves cannot be contained in a one-hour service on Sunday. A living sacrifice implies a sacrifice that is alive and continuous in action. It moves from one activity on Sunday to all of our activities: each relationship, each task, each opportunity, each problem, each success, and each failure. Even the most common of deeds become an act of worship. Real worship is the offering of our everyday life to God.

In the final analysis, the best gift we can give to the one who has it all is ourselves. It is a choice we make but that is what He desires and that is what best reflects our love for Him. Today, as we gather around the Lord’s Table we are reminded that He loved us enough that He gave Himself completely to save us and redeem us from our sin.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Surprise of Christmas

Peninsula Community Church

The Surprise of Christmas

December 4, 2016

Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. 

I do not know about you but I love Christmas and the mystic about the holiday. There are presents under the tree that have been carefully chosen and wrapped to maximize the surprise as the gift is opened. I am sure, like me, there have been times when you opened a gift thinking that it would be one thing only to find it was something totally different. What a surprise when you open the one gift that you have been longing for and you have no clue about the gift.

The story before us today is a story of surprise. In the story there is an event that takes a young woman in Nazareth totally by surprise. Mary, this young virgin teen, was engaged to Joseph. She was going about her daily tasks and was living life as she always had. She was preparing for her wedding day and helping around her home, just as she would have any other day. When she arose that morning she never would have guessed that she would receive a message that would shake her world and change her for the rest of her life.

Before we look at some of the specific details of the story, let me review some of the background to the story. Mary and Joseph had been engaged which was the first step in the marriage ritual for the Jewish people. There was a commitment to stay pure in terms of their sexuality. There was a commitment to begin to plan and put their household in order for their wedding day. In essence, according to Jewish law being engaged or betrothed meant they were already married but there was a process they had to follow in order to consummate the marriage on their wedding night. According to Scripture both Joseph and Mary had been faithful to their vows.

Mary was a young girl in the town of Nazareth. There was nothing special about Mary that would have given any indication that she would have been chosen by God for this amazing task. I don’t know why but God often chooses to use some of the most unknown and unrecognizable people to bring about His will. She lived in Nazareth a small town with no notoriety. Nazareth was not the kind of town that people expected to have a miracle take place. In John 1:45-46 Nathanael asked the probing question “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.” There was not much respect for the small town of Nazareth.

Can you imagine the moment this event occurred? She was minding her own business and suddenly an angel was greeting her. Gabriel met her with an amazing greeting that was about to rock her world. Speak of a surprise! How surprised do you think Mary was? The angel’s message was simply “You are favored and the Lord is with you.” The Greek word kecharitomene is an amazing word. It is made up of three parts. The root of the word is the word “grace.” We know that grace is the unmerited favor of God that is supernaturally endowed upon us. The suffix of the word is mene which indicates that Mary is the one being acted upon. Mary was not the one who brought herself into this state of grace but it was an action of God. The prefix ke indicates that the action has been completed in the past with its results continuing in full effect in the present. In other words, the work of grace has already been given and had been worked out on her behalf.

She was the recipient of great grace. In other words, she was having this encounter not because she somehow deserved it or had somehow merited the visitation. She was having this interaction for only one reason. She had been chosen by God. God saw her not as a young virgin girl but as a chosen vessel He could use to bring about His will. She was not perfect, but as we know from Scripture no one is righteous in themselves (Romans 3:11) because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). She was no exception as she was chosen not because of her works but because of the work of God.

As you might imagine she was troubled by the announcement of the angel. It is noteworthy that she was not troubled by the angel or fearful of the angel but her fear and trouble was in the announcement itself. How would you have reacted to such news? She was to be the mother of Jesus. She was chosen to be the vessel through which Jesus, the Messiah, would be born and would change the world. Spiritually, God desires to do that through us today. He has chosen us as a vessel through which He can be manifested and His name can be known. He came to live in us so we would be like Him and the world would experience Him through us. We have His favor!

The angel responded to her fear by saying to her “Do not be afraid.” That is an amazing statement when you think about it. Here is Mary being approached an angel and Mary’s response was “How can this be?” In essence, what she was saying in the modern language is “Are you kidding me? Are you serious?”  The reality is that Mary was awestruck by the calling she was given. What was she going to do? She was perplexed by the news which speaks of her humility and honesty. Then again, it’s not every day that one gets a cold call from a divine messenger.

We do get this from time to time. It can be a moment in a sermon or in a conversation. It can be during a quiet walk in the woods or in prayer that God taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey you. Yes, you the favored one!” It forces us to question ”Me? Favored? By God? You must have mistaken me for someone else.” No matter how many times or in what form we hear, “yes it is you and you are the favored one,” we have the hardest time believing we are the ones being addressed. For some, it is because their relationship with God is grounded in fear. For others, it is because their faith is overshadowed by the problems of life and the largeness of the calling.

Mary had so many questions and concerns. After all she was a virgin and how could she become pregnant without breaking her marriage vows? What would Joseph think? What would Joseph do? It was in his power to legally divorce her. If this happened, the community could reject her and in fact they could stone her if they chose. But once again, Gabriel responds with an amazing statement. He stated that the Holy Spirit will come upon her.

Here is what Gabriel is saying. While you are fearful and concerned, the Holy Spirit will come and fill you. Yes this is an amazing task for you to accomplish. It is an amazing calling but the Holy Spirit will be there to guide you and help you all along the way. When you falter He will be there to assist you and help you. The angel states that the Lord will be with her and that the Holy Spirit will come upon her. The angel is saying He is there and she is covered. She will be protected. When you think about this we see the Trinity at work. Jesus will be in her. The Holy spirit will be upon her, and God will be along side of her. How amazing and wonderful is that.

As Mary is pondering the question of how can this be, the angel makes another amazing statement. “Nothing will be impossible.” Then he announces that her aunt Elizabeth is pregnant. She had been deemed too old to have children but with God nothing is impossible. What Gabriel was saying is, if God can take a worn out, old, barren woman who is past her prime and give her a child, a miracle can be done in you as well. There is nothing too hard for God. If God can touch Elizabeth, then He can surely pregnant a young healthy virgin. In this story there are two great miracles: the birth of Jesus and the birth of John the Baptist.

In the final part of this verse we find Mary’s response and what an awesome response it is. She says: “Let it be according to your word.” She relents and accepts God’s calling and purpose for her life. What she his saying is God I don’t understand it and I don’t know how to put all of this in perspective but I trust you and I receive your word and your calling. I accept your grace and power to see me through this.

Notice the connection between the call of Mary and the presence of God in this story. We are reminded that His name would be called Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). From the beginning of His life He is with us. The entirety of the Godhead is available to us for guidance, protection, and being guarded. When God calls you He does not make a mistake. He knows you and He knows where you live. He does not come and go; He is is with us always.

So what do we do with this story? We make it our own. We see that God can do the impossible in us. Are you expecting? Do you know that God can surprise us and call us to a miraculous walk with Him? The grace of God is seeking you today to let you know that He is in you, upon you and along side of you to reveal Himself to you. It may in the mundane that He comes but He is there.

Know this, you are highly favored because you have been called by God. He chose you because He had a plan and He knows you. His grace comes to us not because we are worthy but because of God. In every circumstance and stage of life, His grace comes. The enemy of our soul would rather you think that you are a failure and that there is not hope. But that is a lie. The enemy wants us to believe that there is no hope, that we have failed, and we are not worthy but that is not God’s calling or purpose for us.

Here is a second idea that we need to know about the grace of God. He knows where we are and He knows us, knows our problems, and He knows the depth of the pain and heartache you are experiencing. He knows your fears. He knows your doubts. He wants to come to you today and give you His grace. He wants to touch your heart. In the video we watched early in the service it is so easy to neglect and walk right by the gift of grace that God has given us. But don’t do that today. Open your heart to God’s grace. Mary did!

If you need or want the grace of God today I ask that you open your heart and do what Mary did. Her final reply was “Let it be according to your Word!” Whatever you need to do today “Lord I am asking you to do that. Give me grace to endure. Give me grace to speak truth in love.” His grace is a great grace and it is all we need today.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

He Came to Live With Us

Peninsula Community Church

He Came to Live With Us

December 22, 2013

Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 

When we read this portion of Scripture there is a need to understand the context in which it was written. You see Mary had received the news that she would be the vessel through which Christ would be born. In her and through her the seed of God would become man. In those days, the Jewish custom and the Rabbinical law allowed a man to select a bride. Once selected there would be a period of time of up to one year between the betrothal and the actual wedding. This is what we would consider to be the engagement period of our day. Today, we would give the bride a ring and there would be an exchange of commitments. The act of betrothal was a big deal in that day as both families would have promised wedding day gifts that usually involved property, money, and/or cattle.

During the betrothal period, the couple would promise to remain pure. This was a season of preparation for both the groom and the bride. It was a time to plan their wedding as well as to begin to prepare for their future home together. If the betrothal law was broken, divorce papers were to be filed and the wedding was to be cancelled. To file papers for divorce was a serious matter as it would be an embarrassment to the groom and to the families involved. This was an esteem and pride issue for the family, so this was a big deal. If the divorce papers were initiated as a result of unfaithfulness, the bride to be was to be stoned to death. While this seems unfair, it was the law of the land in that day.

It was this context that Mary approached Joseph to tell him that she was pregnant with God’s son. It is easy for us to look back at this story now and think that this would not have been a big problem. But it was. Once Mary shared the news, Joseph was conflicted because he loved Mary. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand he knew the law and what was required of him but he also loved Mary. He wanted to honor his family, but he also wanted to protect his bride to be. Joseph was conflicted and filled with fear. 

The angel proclaimed the birth of the Messiah to Joseph. You see it was in this context that the angel came to Joseph and encouraged him with the words before us today. The angel came to Joseph in a dream. As he is sleeping or at least trying to sleep, God speaks to his heart. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us.) Matthew 1:19-22. 

The angel in essence is saying you can trust Mary and you can trust God. The angel is saying to Joseph, look she has not broken any law, she has remained pure and holy. That is why God had chosen her to be the mother of His son. 

Jesus – He will save us from our sin. In the angel’s communication he identifies two names for the Messiah. The angel stated that his name shall be Jesus for He will same His people from their sins. This is an awesome promise. Jesus came not just to forgive sin but to redeem men from their sin. There is a big difference in forgiveness of sin and redemption from sin. Forgiveness can be given to anyone but just because one is forgiven does not mean that they have been delivered from their sin. In fact it is possible for one to stay in their sin and to continue to live bound by the forces that come from the effect of the sin they have committed. But Christ came to redeem and to set man free from their sin and not just forgive them. Through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus still lives with you and has the power to deliver you from the grip of any bondage. No sinful habit, painful past, or present struggle is too difficult for the God-Man to overcome. 

The second name the angel used is just as powerful. While the angel proclaims that his name shall be Immanuel, we don’t see this name used widely in the New Testament. It appears that rather than a name that would be used, it serves as a descriptive term of who Christ would be. The term is “Immanuel” which means that God is with us. It is noteworthy that one of the most common promises in the Bible is that God will be with us. We see this promise given to Moses before he led the children of Israel out of captivity. We see this promise given to Joshua before he led the children of Israel into the promise land. We see this as a promise to his disciples and to the church when he said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is with us; that is a promise.

Listen to this, what the angel is saying to Joseph through this passage and by way of identification with the Messiah was to not be afraid of the future or what people may say because I am with you. 

While this passage is written to Joseph it is a critical for us to receive this passage into our life and understand that it is for us today just as it was for Joseph in his day. God was with Joseph and He is with us today. Joseph changed because he knew now that God’s will was being fulfilled in Him. He knew that Immanuel was with Him.

Immanuel, God is with us in the moments when we are confused and conflicted about the circumstances we face. God is there to give guidance. When things go awry and while we can be confused and conflicted, God is there through His spirit and through the Word to give us guidance and direction. What do you do when you are confused or conflicted? Do you go to God’s word? Do you pray? Do you seek godly counsel from those you know that love God? Through these resources, he reveals that He is with us.

Immanuel, God with us is when fear has overcome us. Have you ever experienced that gripping fear that binds you and keeps you reduced to faithlessness? When I was a kid, I always hated to take the garbage to the road. I would slowly drag the can to the curb and then I would run back as fast as I could. I told my mom about how scared I was. The next time I took the garbage to the road, I was not scared. Do you know why? My mom stood in the doorway and watched me take out the garbage, just knowing she was there I felt secure and safe. Know this, no matter what you walk through, God is there, you call feel safe and secure because He is watching over you. 

Immanuel, God with us when we are discouraged. When we are discouraged we turn our minds and our thoughts to the fact that is with us and that He will see us through. Discouragement is a mind game that is so destructive. Discouragement can lead us to a false image of who we are. Discouragement can lead us to want to give up. Discouragement can lead us to run and hide. But God is with us to bring hope and life.

Immanuel, God with us when we do not know what the future holdsThere is nothing more frightening than an unknown future, but with God we can be at peace. The angel spoke to Joseph in essence and told him don’t worry. You do your part. Marry Mary! I will take care of the rest. 

While God is with us when we face emotional difficulty, there is one other benefit to understanding that God is with us. When God is with us the way we view life is changed. I know that I am an overcomer by His word and by the fact that God is with us. When I realize that God is with me it changes the way I act. It changes the way I live. It changes the way I think. This is a positive because as a passionate follower of Christ, we have a desire to please him and to honor his name. 

Do you know that He is with you this morning? Do you know that He loves you? Do you know that he holds your future? Do you know He is with you wherever you go? Whether you believe it or not, He is there. Whether you feel Him or not, He is there. Whether or not you know Him, He is there and he desires to draw you to Him. That is a powerful promise and what a hope.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

God’s Gift of Family

Peninsula Community Church

November 25, 2012

God’s Gift of Family – An Introduction

One of the things I have found about families is that almost every family has that one person who is different. Sometimes there is one member that is the trouble maker or they march to a different beat. For other families there are those who are the “black sheep” who put a black mark on an otherwise normal family. We all have these family members. But over the next couple of weeks we will observe that Christ also had family members that fit the above description.

Text: Matthew 1:1-6 – The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah …

My goal over the next several weeks is to focus on the five women Matthew references in his genealogy. But before do that, I would like to make some preliminary observations about the text. My desire is that through this series you we will see and recognize and bring to light the awesomeness of God’s grace and mercy.

If we do a quick read on this text we can miss much that is hidden within these words. So, today, we will mine some of the truths that exist within these words. To understand them we must dig beyond just the words that are written to understand the historical and Judaic meaning of the passage.

As we dig into the meaning of this passage, we must first recognize a specific reference that Matthew makes. First, it is important to note that including women in a Jewish genealogy was not a common practice in those days. In most of the genealogies of the day the emphasis was upon the man as evidenced in Luke’s record of the genealogy of Christ. The reason given for this most often was that the Jew was looking for Messiah to come and they knew that Messiah was to be a man. It was for this reason that the emphasis was most often on the male role. In this study it is also interesting to note who Matthew did not include. He did not include Sarah, Leah, Rachel and many others who may have presented Christ’s family in a better light.

Secondly, it is critical to note that Matthew’s gospel focused on the kingdom of God. This is important because it has been said that if you want to understand the kingdom you must read Matthew’s gospel. Matthew, in God’s wisdom, presented the kingdom of God as a future event that would be consummated in Christ’s second coming and the establishment of His kingdom for eternity. Matthew also emphasized that God’s kingdom was present now and could be experienced now by those who would follow God’s commands through obedience. This is seen in the Lord’s Prayer Christ prayed “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is also interesting to note that Matthew on a number of occasions presented an illustration of what the kingdom of God would look like when he would state “The kingdom of Heaven or of God is like….” And then he would resent a scenario.

There is a critical need for believers to realize that the kingdom of God is evident now and the full power of the kingdom is available to them. We can call on God to reveal his kingdom power into every situation that we face. When His kingdom is revealed we experience His grace and His power. Things happen when God’s Kingdom comes.

In reference to this passage, however, we have another truth that is evident. By including these women in the text Matthew is reminding us that the Kingdom of God is open to all who will come to Him. It does not matter about one’s past or what one may have done in the past. The door of the Kingdom is open to them. Secondly this is a reminder that the Kingdom is not open to just the Jew but to the Gentile as well. The Kingdom is available to the Jew and the Gentile; the slave and the free; and both man and woman.

Thirdly, in Matthew’s gospel he focuses on the women in these stories but by implication it also focuses on the families of these women and their male counterpoint. The fact is God’s family is filled with dysfunctional people who are not much different than us today. In fact, many of the stories of the Old Testament could be torn right from the pages of our newspapers, movie scripts, TV programs and the latest steamy novel. It should be an encouragement to us today that God allowed us a glimpse into His family. It should encourage us that He allows the curtain to be pulled back so we can see His family up close and personal.

That brings us to a fourth observation. The Holy Spirit is not afraid to deal with some uncomfortable issues in the Scripture. He could have chosen to ignore these stories or he could have pressed the delete button and removed these stories from the Bible. But rather, He addresses those things that relate to real life.

For educators and psychologists there is a term they use called “disequilibrium.” What they say is that we often learn more when we face things that unsettle us or that shake us out of our comfort zone. It is at this moment that we must either adjust our paradigm of understanding or we adjust our emotions to accept the issue.

It is interesting to me how the stories related to these women cause us to ask questions and deal with issues that we would not normally deal with in Scripture. Let’s briefly look at these ladies:

Tamar – Tamar’s first husband, Er died. He was taken by God because of his evil ways. Her second husband, Onan, died, as well as, a result of disobedience and the evilness of his ways. Judah, Er and Onan’s father, had promised her his third son who was too young to be married. He unfortunately did not keep his word and Tamar took things into her own hands and dressed up like a prostitute because she knew that Judah would succumb to the temptation of prostitution. He did and she trapped him by his actions. This sounds like a story from modern TV or the movies doesn’t it.

Rahab – Rahab was a prostitute. While Rahab was a prostitute God used her to guide Israel to victory. Rahab was such a critical part of the history of Israel that she is listed in the hall of fame of faith in Hebrews 11.

Ruth – Ruth was a foreigner who lost her husband and was left in essence without a home or a future but there was a kinsman redeemer. And she became the mother of Boaz who became the father of David.

Bathsheba – Bathsheba lost both her husband and her son because of David’s dishonesty and lies. While Bathsheba was not completely innocent she submitted to the wishes of the king which if she had disobeyed him her own life would have been at stake.

Mary – And finally, we have Mary who was different from most of these other ladies. She was an innocent young girl who should have never have been chosen. She was in essence a nobody but she was a somebody chosen by God to be the mother of His only Son.

Finally, all of these stories remind us of the grace and mercy of God. It is so awesome that these stories are a part of Christ’s family. Each of these dysfunctional families and situations are welcomed and invited to be a part of the kingdom and is a part of Christ’s heritage and family. Each of these women was a great grandmother of Christ. They were a part of His family. Each of us has similar those stories in our families. These stories remind us that the dysfunctional and broken are welcomed into the kingdom. They are invited into the family of God. That includes us. We are all invited but not all will accept the invitation.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How to Have a Merry Christmas All Year Long!!!!!!!!!

Text: Luke 2:15-20 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (ESV).

To understand how to have a Merry Christmas all year long we must turn to the characters of the Christmas story, for they teach us much about having a Merry Christmas all year.

  •  Mary teaches us that to have a Merry Christmas all year long we must keep the ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­AMAZEMENT of who Christ is in our heart. Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

What does the word “ponder” mean? The word ponder is a word that comes from an old Greek word. It means placing together for comparison. This meant that Mary took the events and the words that had been spoken to her into her heart and she began to meditate upon on these words and what they meant to her. She “thought” of these things often and anxiously. The word “ponder” means to meditate, to consider or examine attentively or deliberately. meditate implies a definite focusing of one’s thoughts on something so as to understand it deeply.

What does the word “treasure” mean? The second word used here is the word “treasure.” The word means to protect or defend. It is to place great value on the focus of one’s affections. To treasure does not represent shallow emotions but emotions that are rooted in the depths of one’s desires and hopes. To treasure Jesus up in our heart we must make room for Him and not allow the cares and issues of life to crowd Him out. For Him to dwell in us means we can know His love and generosity. The problem too often is that we cease to be amazed at God’s grace and His majesty, not for what He can do for us but for who He is alone. The issues of life can begin to crowd Him out so that He does not seem so amazing any more.

What do you focus on? It has been said that what we focus on we will worship and what we worship we will serve. And what we serve will begin to control our lives. Have you ever been driving on a long trip and you begin to focus on the car in front of you? If you have ever done this then you know that if the car in front of you starts to veer off the road, you do too, because you are focusing on that car. You must look beyond the car to avoid a problem.

Those who are farmers understand this best. If you want to plow a straight line you don’t look down at the ground but you fix your eyes on a point in the distance so that you will plow straight.

 Jesus said this in Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. So where your focus is your heart will follow.

So where is your focus today?  Make it your new year’s resolution to follow Christ all year long.

  • The shepherds teach us that to have a Merry Christmas all year long we must SHARE what we have heard and what we have EXPERIENCED. Luke 2:17 And when they saw it, they made known the sayings that had been told them.

We must not only make room for Christ and never cease to be amazed at who Christ is but we must share His gift of love and generosity with others. We must share His message.

If we found a great restaurant we would want to share it with everyone we encounter. If we watched a great movie we would tell everyone. If we bought a new gadget that helped us save time we would share our joy in finding the new tool.

To have a Merry Christmas all year long we must make it a point of sharing your faith with others this year. Do you have a story about God’s grace? Where have you seen Him move in your life? How have you changed since knowing Christ? Is there a passage of scripture that you have read that has changed your life? Use these things to share with others.

  • The Magi teach us that to have a Merry Christmas all year long we need to SEEK FOR HIM each day and find ways to worship Him in our heart which for us is in essence developing a relationship with Him. Matthew 2:2 We have come to worship Him.

God desires to have a relationship with us by way of our worship because He loves us and He enjoys us. The idea of worship here is founded in the fact that He desires intimacy with us. Can you imagine if I never talked with Michelle, my wife, nor ever spent time with her? Our relationship would deteriorate rather quickly. It would not necessarily mean that we did not love each other it would mean that we were out of fellowship and that our relationship was not growing.

To have a Merry Christmas all year long be a believer that worships Christ in all that you do. Worship Him with the way you live, the way respond to others and how you live when no one else is around. It in this regard that our character, who we are when no one else sees us, is a worship to God. Irwin McManus said that Jesus is not as impressed with our talents as He is our character. You see our character will speak louder than any word ever spoken.

To show our love to God we must seek Him and seek to worship Him at all times.

Conclusion:

What can you do to have a Merry Christmas all year long? Is Christ still amazing to you? Do you share with others what you have heard and seen? Do you search for Christ each day by worshipping Him as Lord?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized